The Mark Jackson story, day 2

by on Mar.27, 2014, under Warriors

Last night I suggested that Steph Curry could play a role in the Mark Jackson story. And today he broke his silence and weighed in. He gave Jackson his total support, and said the he expected the front office to consult him on any coaching change. That’s a big deal.

Meanwhile, Mike Malone commented on the Yahoo story. He admitted there was friction, but denied that there were long silences between the two.

Marcus Thompson II wrote two good stories on this today:

  1. Tough spot for Warriors’ Mark Jackson
  2. Warriors Stephen Curry Sending a Message to Warriors Management?

From the second story, the players were surprised when Scalabrine went missing. So whatever the beef was, it wasn’t spilling onto the practice court, eh?

Lionel Hollins had a falling out with a longtime assistant at the end of last season. Terry Stotts and George Karl used to be BFFLs, but don’t talk to each other anymore. It happens.

OTOH, there’s the cautionary tale of Van Halen. Everyone assumed that David Lee Roth was the crazy one when Eddie Van Halen canned him. But when Eddie fired easy-going Sammy Hagar a decade later, it made us all pause and reconsider…

Anyhoo, the story is evolving.  Curry’s endorsement is huge, I think.

 

 

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Where there’s smoke…

by on Mar.26, 2014, under Warriors

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a very supportive post about Mark Jackson. I’m not taking any of it back. But it is looking more and more like Jackson is on the way out. Here’s what I see:

There have been whispers all season that this a make-good year for Jackson. He has one more year (after this) on his contract. No raise or extension has been offered. Jackson works cheap, so paying him off won’t hurt. It would be just like Joe “The Magician” Lacob to replace Jackson while crowing about his commitment to winning.

Jackson just “re-assigned” assistant Brian Scalabrine. Scal is one the most popular guys in the NBA. If Jackson, who hired him last summer, can’t tolerate him, what does that say? Nothing good, for sure.

Last week, Bill Simmons pointed out that the Warriors front office thought it put together a championship contender last summer.1 Only the Warriors are not contending for the top of the West. As the season winds down, they are in a five-team game of musical chairs: 4 teams get into the playoffs, and one stays home. I guess we know what happens if the Warriors tumble out of the playoffs…

Reaching the second-round last year was a real feel-good ending to the season. It won’t be this year. If the Warriors lose in the second round, it better be a 7-game epic struggle. Anything less is bad news for Jackson.

No one from the front office has run out front to defend Jackson. That is probably all you need to know.

I’m not at all certain that Jackson can be trivially replaced. The Warriors get a lot of mileage out of team chemistry. Jackson is a big part of that.

The wild card here is Steph Curry. He could invoke his superstar privilege and swing things one way or another. Or he could say nothing, which also sends a signal.

If Jackson does go, who replaces him? There are some good names out there right now: The Van Gundys, George Karl, Lionel Hollins. Lawrence Frank will probably be available (he was a candidate last time). And Mike D’Antoni will probably be there too. I think Lacob was hoping to get at D’Antoni last time, but Mike D hung on to coach the Knicks for 1/2 a season more. I’m not a Mike D fan, but that’s a whole other post…


1 Simmons’ recap of the Warrior’s summer:

The Trade: Golden State traded the Richard Jefferson–Andris Biedrins–Brandon Rush expirings plus unprotected picks in 2014 and 2017 to Utah for cap space, a prolonged handshake and five autographed copies of Karl Malone’s upcoming autobiography,Hunting for Little Mexican Girls.

Retroactive Verdict: The Warriors made that trade to (a) clear enough cap space to sign Andre Iguodala, and (b) contend for the 2014 title. They aren’t contending for the 2014 title, just the “Ridiculously Entertaining, Perpetually Frustrating, Probably Headed For A First-Round Exit And A Coaching Change” title. Everyone wants to play them in Round 1. Everyone.

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Three things about Mark Jackson

by on Mar.06, 2014, under Warriors

Mark Jackson is a very different coach. One of a kind, really. There is a lot of talk about replacing Jackson, so let me point out three things:

  1. Jackson has turned the Warriors completely around on defense. In large part, because he won’t stop talking about it. (And also, in part, because the front office delivered Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala to him.) In any case, give the man credit: he promised a better defensive team, and he delivered.
  2. Jackson manufactures irrational confidence. No other coach does this. Bill Simmons has talked extensively about the importance of irrational confidence guys. But in Simmons’ world, these guys are born, not made. You can acquire one, but you can’t create one. Unless you are Mark Jackson.
  3. Players love Jackson. Not just the 15 guys on the Warriors roster, but all 400 guys in the NBA. EVERYBODY LOVES MARK! Iguodala jumped through hoops to play for Jackson. If Dwight Howard spent 10 minutes mulling the Warriors’ offer last summer, it probably had something to do with Jackson. Whatever you think of him as a coach, he is a powerful offseason figurehead.

So if you are going to replace Jackson, think carefully about the proposed replacement. The guys who are clearly better than Jackson already have jobs. Guys like Lionel Hollins and George Karl are not necessarily an upgrade at this point. (Karl lost to Jackson in his playoff swan song.) First-timers are the new trend in the NBA, but that’s really rolling the dice.

The Warriors need one more player. They can keep the coach.

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Quotage

by on Mar.05, 2014, under NBA, Warriors

Just a couple of quotes from Zach Lowe that I want to preserve in amber…

On the last days of Ben Gordon;

“Everyone knew it was a stretch for Joe Dumars to pour big money into Gordon, but nobody expected this — a total demise on the court, and a reputation as such a locker-room cancer that Charlotte intentionally waived Gordon hours after the deadline by which a player must be waived in order to be playoff-eligible. That’s cold.”

Freezing. Do not pee in Michael Jordan’s pool.

 

On Anthony Randolph (who I cannot believe is still in the league):

“Randolph is essentially the same player he was five years ago, when we were all so intrigued: a jittery, out-of-control pile of limbs that doesn’t know what to do with itself. He can’t shoot, he turns the ball over a ton, and when he dribbles, he does so without any purpose. All hope seems lost.”

Remember when Randolph was cast into the David Lee sign-and-trade? Everyone in town thought Donnie Walsh had bamboozled poor Larry Riley. Note that Randolph lasted less than a season in New York before they moved him. He’s not good. Enough said. (Also, I told you so.)

 

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Dwightmare revisited

by on Oct.22, 2013, under Lakers

When the Lakers entered free agent negotiations with Dwight Howard, they drew a line in the sand: no sign-and-trade. If Howard decided to leave the Lakers, they were going to make him forfeit $30MM in guaranteed money. End of story.

It’s hardball. And high stakes. If Dwight calls their bluff, as he did, what then? Sure, Dan Gilbert and his cabal of underfunded owners cheered the Lakers for following through. The Lakers scored points in league politics. But what did it really accomplish for the Lakers?

Like every wounded Lakers fan, I felt good about the no-sign-and-trade decision back in July. It felt like the no-bargaining-with-terrorists rule, or the cops-don’t-give-up-their-gun rule. But that was then. And this is now. Three months later, I’m in a different mood.

What if the Lakers had got out front and said, “Dwight, we love you. But if you want to go somewhere else, help us get a good sign-and-trade deal that benefits everyone.” In that case, they might have given themselves a boost in the inevitable rebuilding project. What would Thomas Robinson look like in a Lakers jersey?

Remember, a sign-and-trade forces Houston to pay that extra $30MM. Worst case scenario – Howard is worth every penny. More likely – he’s not. This would actually stick it to Houston, and make their long term cap situation worse. Advantage? Lakers!

And look, let’s get serious: the Howard situation was unique. 9 out of 10 times, a guy takes a max offer with the Lakers. I mean, it’s LA, Showtime, celebs, sun, Magic. No other city can compete. A take-it-or-leave-it policy makes sense for the Bucks, Cavs, and a dozen other NBA cities. (Remember how fast the Kings rescinded Iguoadala’s offer? The quick flash of cash is a long term strategy for dismal market teams.)  But the Lakers will probably never be in this silly situation again.

Now, as I said, I supported the stick-it-to-Dwight decision in July. But Mitch K and the Hat are paid the big bucks to be smarter and see farther than me. It sure would be nice to be working with something (draft picks?) other than cap space next summer.

 

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When cap space is meaningless

by on Jul.19, 2013, under NBA

Ken Berger:

However it works out, the roster churn in Milwaukee is just another sign that small- and mid-market teams still aren’t playing by the same rules as those in the glamour markets. Teams like the Bucks have to get talent when they can because cap space will do them no good.

Everyone looks at the coup that Pat Riley pulled, and thinks that their team can do the same thing. But they can’t, because:

  • Miami is a fun, sunny, glamorous place, even if the TV market is smallish
  • Bosh and Wade conspired to play together all along. LeBron knew they would ultimately attract a 3rd guy, and figured he should be it.
  • Pat Riley

Everyone is proud of their hometown. But you need to be realistic about how the rest of the world sees you. Until you are a contender, like OKC, your unappealing city is out of the hunt for top-shelf free agents. You need to build through the draft, trades, and overpay some journeymen. Do it right, and you turn into today’s Warriors.

 

 

 

 

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The year that “comps” died, and other free agency weirdness

by on Jul.13, 2013, under NBA

Jose Calderon, on free agency:

The truth is that I don’t know if there was exactly that many options there. Sometimes the offers come and go two hours later. It’s kind of a weird thing.

Also, this:

 

There is no rhyme or reason to the contracts this summer. None. Previous years comparables are apparently off the table.

  • Recall that Iguodala was offered $13MM per year by the Kings, who rescinded the offer when he failed to jump on it.
  • The Pelicans paid $44MM for Tyreke Evans, but Monta Ellis could only wring $29MM from the Mavs (who may have been bidding against themselves).
  • Birdman signed with the Heat for $1.7MM. And they are considering spending more on Greg Oden?
  • Chris Kamen signs for $3MM?
  • Kirilenko reportedly asked everyone in the league for 3 years, $24MM. Which makes sense, given that he opted out of 1 year, $10MM. So then he suddenly signs for $3MM?

There is speculation that Kirilenko has a side deal that will pay him later in Russia. But let’s assume, for the moment, that everything is above board. Maybe, like Calderon, he discovered that the market was weird this year, worried that the game of musical chairs might end without him, and grabbed what was available at the moment.

Say what you want about Kamen. In previous years, Kamen, Kwame Brown, and Sam Dalembert established a “going-rate” for ronin starting centers: $10MM. What happened? Kamen folded early, coming in from the cold for $3MM. Birdman followed. Big Sam is still out there. What do their agents know that we don’t? I’m still thinking this one over…

 

What happened in Dallas?

Did the Mavs really go all-in on Dwight Howard, with no fallback plan? Because that’s how it looks. They grabbed Calderon early, probably overpaying. A little later they signed Devin Harris at a bargain price. Or so it seemed, until point guard salaries kept falling through the floor… But at least they are set at the point. They also spent on a grab bag of lesser guards, flirted with Andrew Bynum and Sam Dalembert, then blew the last of their wad on Monta Ellis. Monta Ellis? They still don’t have a center, or a backup at power forward. While they dallied with Bynum, Chris Kamen signed with the Lakers. If the Mavs had gotten out front, he surely would have signed the same small deal with them.

On the one hand, they aren’t going to test Dirk’s patience with another 1-year roster. That’s the good news. The bad news is that their new starting 5 is: Calderon, Ellis, Marion, Nowitzki, and a center to be named later. That group will be challenged to make the playoffs, and has no hope for a championship.

If I were Mark Cuban, I would have had a frank talk with Dirk in June. Dwight Howard was Plan A. Plan B could be grab anyone available so Dirk can finish his career with dignity, like Stockton and Malone, Magic and Worthy, Pierce and Garnett (whoops!). Plan C would be to burn it down, trading Dirk to a playoff team. Maybe they had that talk, and maybe Dirk is okay with Plan B.

 

What is Milwaukee doing?

Okay. Last year they fired the coach that was not getting along with their star point guard. Then they fired his replacement, who was also not getting along with the star point guard. Then they hired a guy who seemed to hit it off with that guard. Then they bid heavily on a RFA who will replace said guard? Err….

But wait, there’s more. They traded one-time all-star Andrew Bogut for non-all-star Monta Ellis. Then offered Ellis a 3 year, $36MM extension, which he turned down. Next, they traded picks and good prospects for JJ Reddick. That only makes sense if you plan on re-signing Reddick in the offseason, using him to replace the outgoing Ellis. Instead, Reddick fled to the Clippers, apparently for less than the Bucks offered, and with help from the Bucks in a sign-and-trade. At this point, you’d think that they would come back hard after Ellis. But no, they let him shuffle off to Dallas at discount rates.

I should note that they hired a coach with a proven record of mediocrity (as did the Pistons). This is a team with no plan. You might lament an obvious tank-job like the Celtics and Jazz, but this looks like old-fashioned incompetence.

 

What are the Lakers doing?

Specifically, why did they amnesty World Peace? Kobe will return this year, and there is just enough left on the roster to contend (alongside the Mavs) for the 8th spot. If they can’t get terrible (hard to do with psycho-Kobe hanging around), I don’t see the point in being “more mediocre”. Mitch K better have a secret plan to trade Pau for 5 guys on rookie contracts. Otherwise, I really can’t understand.

 

 

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Dwightmare part 2 – the Lakers

by on Jul.07, 2013, under Lakers, NBA, Warriors

As I said in part 1, I got a little more invested in Howard than I should have. Just a few weeks ago, I was telling friends that if Howard walked on the Lakers, good riddance. In fact, I said that I was wholly apathetic about Howard. If he signed-back, great. If not, fine. I could be talked into either scenario.

But then it looked like my beloved Warriors might land him, and I crossed the line of rationality. I talked myself into loving Dwight, and everything he stands for.

Time to step back.

Yep. What he said.

Howard is a flawed product. That matters a lot less playing for the Warriors than the Lakers. With the Warriors, we would have been happy to be a contender. With the Lakers, it is all about championships. And Howard is no champion. He may turn out to be an accidental champion, if James Harden is a true champ, and just needs good sidekicks. Howard certainly makes the Rockets relevant for the next few years. But as things stand now, they are only the 5th best team in the West.

Still, I care a lot less about the Rockets than the Lakers. And the Lakers just got totally crushed. Because no matter how flawed Howard is, there is no one else walking through that door.  He was the one they could build around, use to bait Lebron or Carmelo, or at least pretend to be a contender, like today’s Rockets.

The Lakers are about to enter the NBA’s Twilight Zone. They will not be able to make the playoffs (or maybe they will – a team with Kobe, Pau, and 10 other guys has got a shot at the playoffs in any given year). They will not get a high lottery pick. They will struggle to attract free agents (who will want to play for a non-Twilight Zone team).

Let’s get real – Lebron is not coming. Lebron will finish his career in Miami.

So, after a lost season, who can the Lakers get next summer to re-ignite hope?

Here’s a name for you: Kevin Love. Personally, I am not a fan. But… he has cachet, he is “available” (as they say in Hollywood), and he would probably thrive in the D’Antoni system. If the Lakers re-sign Kobe and Pau at reasonable rates, land Love, and add a couple of 3-and-D wings, they can at least get in the conversation.

If they miss on Love, they should probably swallow their pride and ask the Warriors about David Lee. This would be in the nature of a salary dump by the Warriors, in which the Lakers get Lee and the Warriors get cap room. The Warriors may not be interested. But I think Lee would do well as a running 4 in D’Antoni’s system. 

Or… look at what the Mavs are doing this summer. They are reloading for a 3-year run with Dirk. But not with marquee free agents. They are signing journeymen. Is that enough to make them championship contenders? Or just enough to ensure playoff appearances?

 

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Dwightmare part 1 – Iggy and the Warriors

by on Jul.07, 2013, under NBA, Warriors

Friday was fun. I sat in front of my computer, monitoring NBA news. For much of the day, it looked like we had a real chance at landing Dwight Howard.

At the end of the day, the Ws pulled off the epic salary dump trade to Utah, and signed Andre Iguodala! Wow! And then Dwight went to Houston. Sigh.

I got a little more invested in Howard than I intended too. Taking a step back, I think the Warriors will be just fine with Andrew Bogut anchoring our center. Plus, we didn’t have to sacrifice Thompson or Barnes.

And really, the fact that the Ws got on Howard’s short list is great news (as is the fact that Iggy took less money to get here). For too long, the Warriors have shared a bunk with teams like the Bucks: players will come here, but only if they don’t have another offer, and only if we overpay. That, apparently, has changed. We are on the radar now. It helps.

As for Iguodala? I’m excited. I’ve long been an admirer of his game. I wanted the Warriors to trade Monta for him for three straight years (not possible, of course, because Ellis != Iguodala, and the Ws had nothing else to offer). He shores up the biggest weakness in the roster: lack of a quality small forward. Acquiring him at this moment is a “win-now” move, which I always support in the NBA.

And yet… When the Warriors dumped all that salary on Utah, there are other things they might have done with it.  For example, they could have re-signed Jack and Landry, and added another mid-level guy, all under the tax line. Or they could have signed-and-traded Jack/Landry.  Or… something. The problem with Iggy, as things stand now, is that the Ws paid dearly for him.  Effectively, they are paying him $48MM (fair market value) + Jack + Landry + 2 first-round picks. This will come up, over and over, in the years ahead.

If Denver does not come through with a sign-and-trade on reasonable terms, the Warriors will actually spend millions less next year than they had planned on. Less! This will also be discussed endlessly.

The Iguodala deal is not only “win-now”, it is “win-or-else”. I admire the wheeling and dealing. I love Iguodala, the player. But breaking up the band (the Ws just subtracted 5 guys from their great locker room), mortgaging the future, and limiting the ability to deal (no more expirings, no 1st round picks to trade, no good mid-level contracts to offer)? Win or else.

 

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On Doc+Garnett to the Clippers…

by on Jun.18, 2013, under NBA

Just putting a stake out there so I can say I told you so later…

The Clips do not have a thought leader. Not since they waived goodbye to Neil Olshey. They are managing by committee now, and committees can never make bold, decisive moves. So the grand Celtics/Clippers trade that is much discussed will not happen.

You heard it here first.

 

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