The Damian Jones experiment is over.

Damian Jones tore his pectoral muscle last night. He will miss the rest of the season. That is a tough break for a nice kid. I wish him all the best.

That said…

I spent the first three quarters (pre-injury) last night realizing that the Damian Jones experiment failed. Don Nelson used to say that you need to see 20 games to evaluate a team. Well, we finished number 26 last night. Time to draw conclusions.

My conclusion: he’s not going to make it. He is lacking too many skills. He is obviously not effective now, and I don’t think he ever will be. It was pretty telling to learn that the Warriors were in the hunt for Tyson Chandler a few weeks ago.

Jones works hard. He’s a good guy. He has tremendous size and athleticism – he dominates the G-League. But there are a couple dozen small basketball skills that he lacks. Jim Barnett catalogs his flaws every game. He has bad footwork, stone hands, bad instincts, gathers before shooting.

The lack of skills gets exposed at this, the highest, level. Jones gets pwned each night by real NBA centers.

Maybe most damning of all – he won’t shoot unless it is a dunk. That is what got Andrew Bogut sent away. Enter Zaza and David West, guys that weren’t afraid to shoot a 12 footer. And JaVale, who wasn’t afraid to shoot from 3 (though we wish he didn’t).

This is bad news for Bob Myers. The Warriors will have invested three years and millions of dollars on the guy. Their next 5-year plan surly included an affordable center in his 20s. DeMarcus Cousins will eventually appear to save this season. But next summer, they’ll be calling guys in their 30s again, hoping to patch together another “center-by-committee” (to borrow a term from Fitz).

The Boogie Cousins no brainer fit

Boogie Cousins will sign a 1-year deal with the Warriors for $5.3MM.

The NBA media-sphere is simultaneously aghast at the concentration of talent, and worried to death that Cousins won’t fit with the Warriors.

These worries about fit are all based on the past. You know what the Securities and Exchange Commission says about the past?

Past performance is no guarantee of future results

Cousins played just 48 meaningful games for the Pelicans, and hundreds of meaningless games for the Kings. How do we know what he is? How do we know how he fits?

The great Marcus Thompson says:

You don’t come to the Warriors these days without humility helping steer you.

Instead of looking for all the ways Cousins could fit-out, consider how he might fit-in:

  • On offense, he can be an offensively-minded version of Andrew Bogut.
  • On defense, he can internalize the teaching of basketball-yoda Ron Adams.
  • Worst case, he provides scoring punch when the starters are sitting.

What if Cousins proves to be the injection of curiosity and enthusiasm the Warriors need? What if he channels Moses Malone, and leads them to a fo-fo-fo-fo postseason?

I think these Myers/Kerr/Curry/Green/Thompson/Durant/Iguodala Warriors are like Cesar Millan’s good dogs: they can domesticate any outlier.

And that, really, is the Warriors true super-power.

Next Steps 2017 – Raptors

Masai Ujiri threw the team he built under the bus, declaring that they need a “culture change.” Hrmm… Here’s what I’d do:

  1. Let Kyle Lowry leave. I know! This is big! But the Raptors have already enjoyed peak Lowry. He is 31 years old, and “listed” at 6’0″. The Raps need cap room and 3-point shooters. Time to move on.
  2. Dump Jonas Valanciunas. It will probably cost a 1st round pick. Do it. You need the salary space.
  3. Ask Serge Ibaka if he is willing to play full-time at center. If so, pay what it takes to retain him. He shoots 3s and blocks shots.
  4. P.J. Tucker is a quality bench player. Try to retain him.
  5. More 3-and-D wings please. The Raptors need to scare people from the 3-point line. Let DeRozan penetrate and create chaos, and give him shooters as an outlet valve.

Here’s what I’m saying: Lowry and Valanciunas are the past. Raps need to move into the future, or consign themselves to second round exits.

The Boogie Trade

A couple of things Bill Simmons said in his podcast today moved me to reply:

The Jimmy Butler Conspiracy Theory

Is Butler more available than the press has reported? And are the top traders hoarding assets to make their best offer? And that’s why the Kings got so little for Boogie?

This is fun theory. We’ll find out how true it is in a few days…

Pelicans put the Kings on the clock?

Simmons, as usual, preached patience. Why, he asked, take the Pels offer now? Surely, it will still be there on Thursday? Meanwhile, maybe another team warms to the idea of having Boogie.

Simmons then answered his own question: The Pels put a deadline on their offer. Case closed.

Er… really? Again, this is a sweetheart deal for the Pels. They’d do this over and over if they could, right? I don’t doubt that they announced a deadline, I just can’t believe the Kings took it seriously.

But then, why trade now? Hmmm….

Give me a 1st-round pick, or give me death!

Simmons strongly implied that any trade that lacked a near-term 1st-round pick was not acceptable. He’s probably right. That seems to be right out the current league manual for rebuilds. And yet…

You’ve got to be self-aware. If you are the Lakers, with a rich history of drafting well, hoard picks. If you are the Kings… maybe not. Get proven assets with multiple years left under contract.

A few years ago, the Warriors were talking to the Wolves about Kevin Love. The Wolves rebuffed the Warriors offer of David Lee, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green (as yet unknown). Instead, they ended up with Andrew Wiggins, and parts of no impact. (Admittedly, this turned out great for both teams – the Wolves tanked into the bottom of the lottery and grabbed Karl Anthony Towns. The Warriors won a title with a steady Barnes and un-earthed Green.)

But… Think about how it might have been… Forget KAT. The Wolves needed lottery luck. If they missed, they might have Jalil Okafor. Meanwhile, Lee/Barnes/Green would have contributed immediately, making the Wolves a contender for the bottom of the playoffs. Instead, it’s 3 years later, and the Wolves still aren’t contending for anything.

I think the Wolves could have enjoyed 3 relevant years, retained the rights to Barnes and Green (and Lee, really, if they wanted him). And still be a player or two away from making the leap. Just like today.

You know who I admire? The Grizzlies. They know who they are. They aren’t playing by the league handbook, and they aren’t trying to be clever.

No better offers?

This may be true, coming down to the aforementioned draft picks. But I found Simmons analysis too hasty:

  • He discards WAS and POR because the Kings “would insist on” Beal and McCollum. Really? Would they?
  • He discounts MIN and BKN for reasons I forget, while failing to mention they already have centers.
  • He throws aside the whole playoff field without comment. Why? Daryl Morey is suddenly not taking calls? Popovich needs to win now or else?

A thoughtful consideration the field would be interesting.

The Laker Angle

As always, I have to wonder how my beloved Lakers missed a juicy trade.

Was the lack of a draft pick the deal breaker?

Did the Lakers make their best offer (Randle, Clarkson, Nance)?

Andrew Bogut is really good

Today, the US Olympic team played Australia. The Aussies pushed Team USA to the final minute. Largely because of Andrew Bogut.

Team USA shot a dismal 35% from inside the arc. Coincidence that Bogut was prowling the paint? I think not.

Meanwhile, Australia shot an astonishing 63% inside the arc, mostly facing this year’s 1st Team All Defense center – DeAndre Jordan.

Bogut not only closes the paint on defense, he opens lanes on offense!

Now Bogut’s refusal to play offense in the NBA frustrated the Warriors FO, and me. The Warriors needed an offensive upgrade at center, and they found one in Zaza.

But mark my words – the Warriors will miss Bogut. Defense will get much harder. Opposing centers will roam free, on both ends. Watching Bogut set picks on one end, and Jordan on the other, was like night and day. Bogut blots out the sun.

I’m betting that Bogut reports to the Mavs with a chip on his shoulder (for being discarded). He will start taking it to the hole again. And the Mavs will surprise everyone by grabbing the 4th seed in the West.

 

Debriefing the draft.

I did not expect to care about the draft last night. I was wrong. As usual, the Association never fails to entertain!

 

Teams I Care About

Warriors – Social Media instant analysis gave them an A+. Lacob’s FO has actually been good in the draft. I don’t actually know about any of the draftees. I never do. I only watch NBA games. But I’m optimistic about the Warriors.

Lakers – Picking Ingram was like hitting a 2-run homer: he was consensus pick, and fills a need at small forward. The other need for LAL is a center, and they took one in the 2nd round. Mitch K also has an excellent draft record, so I’m optimistic about this one as well.

Kings – WTH? They made two really nice trades, then picked a bunch of centers. Boogie tweeted “Lord give me strength.” If they secretly plan to trade Boogie next month, this might work out. If not… wow.

 

Other Teams

Celtics – LOL! Remember when Daryl Morey got stuck with a bag of picks a few years ago? No one would trade, so he had to pick ’em. Rockets didn’t get better. This time it was Ainge on the clock, but with an even bigger bag of picks. It became obvious Danny never intended to pick, because he grabbed random guys and Euro stashes. Meet the new Celtics – same as the old Celtics.

Suns – More centers? It’s like Rob Hennigan can only evaluate one position at a time. Two years ago, he cornered the market for point guards. Now he’s after centers. Oh kay…

Thunder/Magic – Fun trade! Instant pundits declared OKC the winner, but I’m not sure. Could be win-win. Could be Magic win. This one is good bar-talk fodder until the season starts.

 

On trades…

It sucks to be a GM these days. A vast army of internet pundits awaits your every move. You will be judged instantly. And it’s zero-sum: Someone will be declared the winner, someone the loser. There are no ties on the internet.  Pile up 24 months of internet losses, and you get fired.

The result, I fear, is that no one makes a deal unless they are convinced that they will “win” the trade. I’m sure the Magic thought, “We are getting Serge Ibaka, internet darling, for marginal guys. Win!”

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge is trying to make “fair” deals for his draft picks. But no one will bite on a “fair” deal. The only hope he had was to make over-the-top offers. But he didn’t. And had to pick.

 

Bogut gets robbed

Andrew Bogut was not the first team All-Defensive center – that award goes to DeAndre Jordan.

Jordan was good. Hard to argue the point.

But… second team All-Defensive center is… Hassan Whiteside?

Really?

If I am picking centers, I am taking Bogut 10 out of 10 over Whiteside. Whiteside is not even close to the defensive presence of Bogut.

I can only conclude that the East Coast bias is in full effect. How else do you pick Whiteside over Bogut? Do you even watch the games?

By failing to reach the 2nd team, Bogut loses $2 million in bonus money. Robbed. Thanks National Media.

Stay the course

I have a bone to pick with current NBA fandom. They think that only championships count. I disagree.

What is so bad about having a good team that makes the playoffs each year? Take the Mavs, for example. As long as they are pretty good, and have Dirk, they will have TV appeal. The counter example is the recent Lakers. Even with Kobe, I could barely stand to watch.

Kevin Arnovitz made the argument in a recent article:

Is there anything wrong with being very good for a very long time, even if it means only an outside shot for a title in any given season? That’s more or less how the Mavericks won the title in 2011 — a decade of very good basketball gave them enough chances to get lucky.

Or to put it another way, is there any hope a team like this can beat a team like that? Is it time to start over?

Privately, Grizzlies officials believe that the league’s obsession with contention “windows” and the title-or-tank mindset is off the mark.

With no Conley and no Gasol this spring, the Grizzlies will take a mulligan this spring, but the formula in Memphis will remain the same until further notice: 50 wins and a puncher’s chance.

A “punchers chance” is a great way to put it. If, as Doc Rivers suggests, the Warriors got lucky last year because their postseason opponents suffered a rash of injuries, couldn’t any team get lucky?

Look at what just happened in this year’s playoffs – The Warriors lost Steph Curry for 2 weeks, and the Clippers lost Blake Griffin and Chris Paul for the season. The Blazers could very well find themselves in the WCF!

And now we are hearing calls to “break up” the Clippers. There is some logic in making Griffin available. But on the other hand, what if the Clippers just stay the course? They are a very good team. Not Warriors/Spurs good. But very good. They have another 3 years of title contention left. Also, Steve Ballmer paid $2 billion for that team. You think he wants to rebuild? And is that even possible with Doc on a long and pricey contract?

What the Spurs have shown, I think, is that continuity is good. There is an astonishingly small amount of practice time in the NBA. Having the same coaches teach the same system to the same guys over multiple years is a powerful advantage.

Obviously, the Warriors are on a whole new level of awesome these days. But before that, honestly, we just wanted the We Believe Warriors to stay together longer. We lionized the Run TMC Warriors, who never contended for championships. We fell in love with tenured players like Adonal Foyle and Monta Ellis. They weren’t great, actually, but they were ours. It was comforting to see them out there year after year.

Plus, re-builds are risky. You don’t really know how long it will take to return to form, let alone exceed.

Basketball has so much to offer fans. If you are only in it for championships, you are missing out.

70

The Warriors notched their 70th win tonight.

Only one other team in history won 70. That was the 95-96 Bulls, who went on to win 72.

If the Warriors win the last 3 games, they will beat the record. If they win 2 of 3, they tie.

Even if they lose-out, this will be historic. They will have the second-best single-season record for as long as the world goes on. Or something.

The point is… Now is a good time to pause and reflect on the historic greatness of this team. No team is great forever. The 00’s Pistons won just one championship, despite being in the East Finals 6 consecutive times.

This is what worries me.

Of course, I hope and expect that the Warriors will win the championship again this year. But after that… I dunno.

Every off-season, teams change. New guys are added via the draft or free agency. Previous brothers are discarded. It’s a brutal calculus.

The Warriors are a fragile snowflake. Yes, the transcendent talent of the first 6 players is a powerful factor. But what if you discard 2-3 of them? Are they really fungible parts? If Kevin Durant wants to join, we’ll find out.

If they stand pat, it’s not really better. Everyone will be a year older next year, and a year older the year after. There is an expiration for all players. For Andrew Bogut and Andre Igouadala, that date is near.

But look, I come here not to bury the Warriors, but to praise them! 70 is a great achievement. Let’s savor the flavor.