Summer league quick takes

by on Jul.15, 2015, under Lakers, NBA

My quick take on Summer League:

  • Lakers – Larry Nance II is a bust. Sorry about that.
  • Lakers – Russell may grow up and be great. Not next year. Sorry about that.
  • Lakers – Randle has outstanding footwork. One of 5 guys in the league with post moves. But… he can’t jump. If he doesn’t figure out how to create space, he’ll be a star in China 3 years from now.
  • Wolves – Townes will eventually be everything we hoped. Not next year. Sorry about that.
  • Knicks – Porzingis will be the next Dirk. I said it! His feel for the offensive game is uncoachable. But… he is an old-school one-way player in a league that has (maybe?) left that behind. Will be fun to see him develop. Next year, analytics will show he gave up seven million points.

Everyone else… yawn. Summer league is awful basketball. And really, what do you learn? Marco Belinelli and Anthony Randolph looked like can’t miss prospects. Summer League is fool’s gold.

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How to rebuild, the Warriors way

by on Jul.11, 2015, under Warriors

We are watching a vast experiment in how to rebuild a struggling team. There are multiple philosophies. It is all quite fascinating.

Since the NBA is accused of being a copy-cat league, I thought I’d detail the Warriors rebuilding program. Other teams are free to follow along.

 

Move Example
Draft a transcendent talent Steph Curry
Lure an under-rated, sneaky-good veteran free agent, who is a great locker-room guy, by over-paying him David Lee
Draft a future borderline allstar Klay Thompson
Hire a coach that every guy in the league wants to play for Mark Jackson
Trade an over-rated player for a former allstar/defensive stalwart Andrew Bogut
Draft 3 future starters in one night Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green
Make a surprise playoff appearance, and post-season run 2012-13
Let a noted free agent (and former allstar) beg onto the team Andre Igouadala
Enjoy the best record in two decades, go to the playoffs 2013-14
Replace your successful, popular coach with an even better coach Steve Kerr
Fall in Love with the Coco, Be championship! Mo Speights, Leandro Barbosa
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DeAndre Jordan, free agent

by on Jul.11, 2015, under NBA

After at least 5 meals with Chandler Parsons, DeAndre Jordon committed to the Mavs early in the NBA free agency quiet period. Done deal.

Or not! Two days before the quiet period ended, and official contracts could be signed, DeAndre went dark, then signed back with the Clippers.

Well then…

There are many issues to unpack. Here we go…

  • There is no legal problem. NBA players cannot enter into binding verbal agreements during the quiet period, because that was waived in the CBA. Let’s move on from that.
  • Is there a moral problem? Hmmm… The quiet period is part of the CBA. Eyes wide open. There was always the potential for this outcome. It hasn’t happened before, really, because there hasn’t been FA who a) wanted to return; and b) an owner/FO ready to pursue it this far. There have been other cases of broken promises. But this one is unique.OTOH, I have some sympathy for DeAndre. He is only 26. He had conflicted feelings. He changed his mind. Within the negotiated period for changing your mind. Not evil.
  • There is, of course, an agent issue. A client was promised to a team, and not delivered. The agent, in this case, is super-agent David Falk, who has cultivated a BFFL relationship with Mark Cuban. Way, way under the radar, these men are conspiring to make things right. It just won’t wash out this year.
  • Meet the new boss. The Clippers owner and FO, as usual, engaged in a dick move. The other 29 teams saw that. There will be blowback. Again, way, way under the radar.
  • I am inclined to agree with Chandler Parsons: DeAndre was not, really, read to reach for the brass ring. He took the safer, less challenging path.
  • Let’s assume that Doc and his pals promised to start featuring DeAndre offensively. How long can that last? Look, Doc needs to win games. When it is winning time, he can throw the ball to DeAndre, or to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Who would you choose?
  • The Clippers are still embarrassingly shallow. If they failed to reach the WCF because of depth last year, how are they better next year? Answer: they’re not! The Spurs got better, the Thunder will be better, the Warriors are intact. What makes DeAndre think that the Clippers can get to the next level?
  • I cackled in glee when DeAndre abandoned the Clippers. Should I cackle harder now that he is back? Before, the Clippers knew they didn’t have enough. Now, they will talk themselves into thinking that maybe, just maybe, they do. Go Warriors!
  • The 8-day quiet period is endless. After the Clippers dick-move, expect every team in the league (and every free agent) to treat verbal agreements for the sham that they are.  There will be reform in the stupid NBA free-agency system.
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Requiem for David Lee

by on Jul.11, 2015, under Warriors

David Lee is a Celtic now. Long live David Lee!

I have already written most of what I want to say about Lee. Suffice it to say: I am an admirer.

Tim Kawakami, whose reportage I treasure, was a harsh critic. He dunned Lee’s defense. But then again, TK argued long and loud in favor of Kevin Love, who cannot guard my grandmother. My take: Love is a better shooter. Lee is a better teammate.

As I argued earlier, you have to understand Lee in context. After losing Chris Webber, the Warriors went on a 20-year journey to replace him. They never really did. David Lee came closest.

Hey, Shaq calls him “the white Chris Webber (WCW)”!

Let me cut to the chase: David Lee is a very good basketball player. And, he brings seven million intangibles to the team. Don’t be shocked if Lee returns in 4 years as the Juwan Howard of the Warriors.

Part of why I loved David Lee is that I saw a lot of my own (limited) game in him. If only I were 5 inches taller, and could jump…

As a Lakers fan, I am contractually obligated to hate the Celtics. But next year, I will be rooting for David Lee.

 

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Champs!

by on Jul.04, 2015, under Warriors

JeffDurham

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Igouadala as MVP

by on Jun.22, 2015, under Warriors

Andre Igouadala was named the Championship MVP, an unlikely, a feel-good story that will surely be recalled for decades to come.

Since there is a little dispute about the selection, I will weigh in…

  • Iggy was the primary defender of LeBron (who had a ridiculously high usage). And he made him inefficient.  (BTW – Iggy, a renowned defender, gives up just 2 inches, 35 lbs, and 11 months to LeBron. The matchup is not as as mis-matched as you might think.)
  • Iggy was suddenly promoted to the starting lineup in game 4.
  • Iggy scored 25(!) in game 6. That sealed the deal. Curry also had a great game 6, but the Cavs surely didn’t game plan for Iggy’s points!
  • Underdog! Everyone loves those guys.
  • Curry already has a MVP. That counts for something, among the cigarette-smoking-men who pick the finals MVP.

Bottom line:

As Bill Simmons has noted,  the definition of a MVP is squishy, and the league likes it that way. I like the Igouadala pick.

 

 

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The complex and fascinating Lakers draft pick

by on Jun.21, 2015, under Lakers

Thanks to the Lottery, the Lakers surged to the 2nd overall pick. Who will they take?

I’m not actually making any predictions. I just want to point out how complex and fascinating the pick will be.

The pick will, in part, signal their plans for the future. Do they want to be a 4-out, ball-movement team? Or a 1990s-style inside-out team? Don’t laugh! The Grizzlies win lots of games with their 1990s-style game. The Cavs reverted to superstar isolation in the championship, and scared the Warriors with 2 consecutive wins. Many styles are possible.

Here’s what we know:

  • Jim Buss is on the clock. He promised a turnaround in 3 years. This will be year two. He needs help.
  • Byron Scott is coaching the Lakers. He is not sympathetic to current innovations.
  • Kobe will come back this year, then retire after the season.
  • The Lakers have chased top-shelf free agents for two summers, and come away empty handed.
  • This draft is deep, but may not have any superstars.

Given that, here are some scenarios:

If he only had more time!

Jim Buss is on the clock. He is stuck with Kobe and Byron next year. The obvious choice is Jalil Okafor. If Mitch K can backfill with two or three 3-and-D vets, the Lakers can contend for the 7-8 spot (alongside the Mavs, Pellies, and Suns).

Taking the long view.

The Kristaps kid could grow into the next Dirk Nowitzki. Or not. But imagine having the next next Dirk! The Lakers could switch to a 4-out, or 5-out system. As they say on the Mio commercial, “they could change everything.”

Stall for time.

Next summer, the Lakers will have windfall cap space. Kobe will be gone. Byron could be gone. For now, they should draft a great wing player, because wings are the future of the NBA. Frankly, off-guard is in critically short supply right now. Kobe will retire, leaving them with nothing. They will not see a pick this good for 20 years.

Trade down.

This never happens in the NBA. Never. I can’t recall the last time a top 10 pick was traded down. The cost/benefit of young guys is just too compelling.

If the Lakers want to stall for time, they could easily swap down to 5-6 and still get a quality wing in this draft. Recall this: in 2012, the Warriors drafted Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green, all on one night. That’s the kind of draft the Lakers could use.

Split the difference.

The Lakers could grab a wing this year, and backfill with 3-and-D vets, and pretend to chase the playoffs this year. Next year, they will still have cap space to chase a star, and the chance to make a coaching change (Thibs?!).

See you next week!

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Champions

by on Jun.18, 2015, under Warriors

The Warriors won it all. Without a doubt, they were the best team in the NBA this year. I am, of course, pleased. And exhausted.

And yet…

Being a Warriors fan is not really about championships. That’s what Lakers fandom is for. Warriors fandom is about constantly trying to figure out how to get over the hump. What are the missing pieces, and how can we fill them? The goal is not championships, the goal is to get over .500, and contend for a playoff spot.

Warriors fandom is also about falling in love with the guys on the roster, because they are Warriors. We can’t bear to trade anyone, because we love them like our own sons.

And now, with the Warriors poised to at least contend for the next many years, I have to change my approach. The way the Warriors are set up, with their youth and cap situation, they will resemble the Pistons of a decade ago. Or the Spurs of the last 15 years. It’s a train that will just keep chugging.

 

I’m glad the Warriors won. For sure. It just feels like the end of an era.

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Sam Presti

by on May.15, 2015, under NBA

Andrew Sharp, on the legacy of Sam Presti:

“You have to credit Presti for hitting the jackpot in the draft seven years ago. Since then, he’s been sitting at the table with a massive stack of chips, and he’s played a lot of bad hands. This year, he’s all in.”

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Scott Brooks get Kerr’d

by on May.02, 2015, under NBA, Warriors

When Mark Jackson chided the Bay Area media for looking down on 51 wins, he was not wrong…

But Joe Lacob fired him anyway, and replaced him with Steve Kerr. Who won an NBA historic 67 games!

I believe this created a “Kerr affect” across the NBA. Scott Brooks is the second victim.

The first victim was Mark’s old assistant, Michael Malone. I have no doubt that Vivek Ranadive, who hangs on the Warriors’ every move, noticed that Kerr was instantly better than Jackson. And that gave him the courage to move.

Scott Brooks is the second victim of the the Kerr affect. His players loved him, he went to the playoffs every year (except this one!). But Sam Presti thinks that another coach can take them to the next level.

As Tolstoy says, every unhappy happy family is unhappy in its own way. That’s what makes OKC fascinating. Clay Bennet was apparently content to eke out a profit while making the playoffs. Durant and Westbrook liked Brooks. Sam Presti spontaneously changed the rules of the game.

So now, OKC, and Sam Presti, are on the clock. If OKC does not advance to the championship round, Presti has failed. If one if his stars bolts, Presti has failed. There are not a lot of good outcomes for Presti, short of a championship.

 

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