Summer pull quotes

by on Jul.19, 2014, under Lakers, Warriors

A couple of quotes from Andrew Sharp that I want to highlight.

On the Warriors:

If they don’t get Kevin Love, there’s still a chance that they keep Klay Thompson and, long-term, turn into a team that can contend with anybody in the league. But there’s a much better chance that Love will land in Cleveland, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut will break down over the next few years, Golden State will overpay to keep Klay next summer, and Warriors fans will spend years cursing those few weeks before the draft when this team somehow turned Klay Thompson into a franchise cornerstone.

 

On the Lakers:

It’s too bad that Julius Randle and Ed Davis have to be involved in this horrible science experiment of a basketball team, but everything else is worth it just to see what happens.

It’s all building to a riot outside Jim Buss’s house.

It’s all building to a first-round pick that they’ll try to tank for but inevitably lose to Phoenix when they fall juuuuuuust outside the top five.

It’s all building to Kobe losing his mind.

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Mitch K’s Trade Emporium

by on Jul.18, 2014, under Lakers

I figured out Mitch Kupchak’s plan to rebuild the Lakers.

At first, I thought he had sunk into depression and started just signing guys. If he recognized your name, you got a fat contract.

Then, optimistically, I concluded that he was secretly tanking. He needed to convince Kobe that he was actually trying, so he grabbed recognizable names at higher-than-necessary prices. He collected shiny puzzle pieces, but from different puzzles. There is no way to fit them together. The Lakers 1st round pick is top-5 protected. This Frankenstein roster could easily contend for the 4-5 spot. Remember, the Warriors tanked into the 7th spot 3 years ago, collecting Harrison Barnes. And the Warriors didn’t start tanking until halfway through the season. Imagine what this Lakers roster could do with a full season!

Finally, today, I struck on a third option. Mitch is trolling for assets. The trading desk is open for business!

Jordan Hill? As Bill Simmons said of Celtic forward Kris Humphries last year, every team needs a $9MM expiring contract as trade filler for the big targets, If the Lakers somehow get into the Kevin Love action, know that Hill will be salary ballast.

Steve Nash? He shoots the lights out. If he demonstrates a minimum of health, a contending team might ask for him near the deadline.

Swaggy P? Small market teams like the Bucks and Wolves really need affordable, service-able guys on longer contracts. I mean, given a choice (for equivalent money), Nick Young never goes to those places. So if you are dumping Sanders or Ilyasova, or parting with Kevin Love, those are the kinds of deals you want coming back. But really, anyone would be happy to take that deal. Super trade-able.

Jeremy Lin? Okay, the Lakers did that for the accompanying 1st-round pick.

Ed Davis? Er… When I saw “Lakers sign Davis” on twitter, I thought, “Baron? Cool!” Alas…

Carlos Boozer? Lakers are stuck with him all year. So… Maybe Secret Tanking is the plan after all?

The true Lakers plan is (and always has been): 1) acquire a marquee player; 2) use him as bait to sign one or two more marquee players. The Lakers are profoundly uninterested in competing for anything before step 1 is accomplished. I mean, if it happens, great. But meanwhile, Mitch wants to collect picks (and maybe prospects) until he can either trade for, or sign the marquee guy.

If guys keep peeling off the Laker’s roster this year, you know Mitch’s plan is working,

 

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Last one out, get the lights, Lakers!

by on Jul.13, 2014, under Lakers

It was hard to name this post. I might have called it:

  • Meet the new Lakers, same as the old Lakers
  • Lakers – Keep gettin’ dem’ (season-ticket) checks

The Lakers are sitting on some significant franchise advantages:

  • an insane local TV contract, that craps money on them
  • demonstrated willingness to go over the tax
  • really great local weather
  • a large and affluent african-american community
  • a rich tradition
  • Hollywood, the music industry, celebrity culture

So… why won’t anyone play there? Why is it more popular to play for the Sterlings than the Buss’s these days? How many times do you whiff on free agency before you get the message?

Maybe the NBA has changed? When Jerry Buss (and Eddie DeBartolo) roamed the Earth, part of the thrill of owning a pro sports team was hanging out with the athletes. That hasn’t been true for a long time. A decade, at least. If the Lakers were mostly held together based on the ties that bind, and the ties died 2 1/12 years back, where does that leave the Lakers?

To brass tacks:

The Lakers lost Dwight Howard, followed by Melo.

Did they have a plan B? Er… apparently not.

When the Mavs missed on Howard last year, it was clear they had a Plan B: sign a bunch of veterans. The Laker’s Plan B? Conserve cap space for another failing run next summer.

Let’s talk about the Kobe factor. Kobe’s contract only ever made sense in 2 scenarios:

  1. The Lakers hope to contend
  2. The Lakers need to sell tickets

All I ask, as a fan, is that the Lakers be honest with me. And plan 2) is not honest. Plan 2) is selling out lifetime Laker fans to watch the last 2 years of an amazing talent, a lifetime Laker.

You know what a good Plan B would have looked like: Lance Stepenson. A wild gamble, roll-of-the-dice. But if he turns into the next LeBron? Brilliant!

Instead we get Julius Randle, Nick Young, Jeremy Lin, and Jordan Hill, and whatever Steve Nash has left. Wee!

You know who blew it? Kent Bazmore, who could have logged heavy NBA minutes on this lame team.

I was in a forgiving mood last year, Lakers. And, yes, I will stick around to watch the end of Kobe’s career. I won’t be rooting “for you,” so much as “with you.” But if you continue to squander your considerable gifts, I will move on. The NBA is a glorious kingdom. Pity that you are no longer a part of it.

 

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Bodies are not cars

by on Jul.12, 2014, under NBA

Ever since MLB discovered the “pitch count,” sports fans have formed a “athlete’s bodies are like cars” metaphor. And it is false.

Every athlete has a certain amount of effort stored up inside. Granted. But it varies by individual. And it short-term. And it declines by year. Which means, in NBA terms, that quoting someone’s supposed “mileage” is BS.

Example: LeBron has 40K NBA minutes on his 29-year-old body. Is that relevant? Maybe.

See, every minute does not count the same. When Lebron was 20, maybe those minutes hardly affected his body. Tom Tolbert is famous for recounting how life in the NBA is a picnic.

Maybe LeBron loafed 25% of his minutes last year. How do you calculate that?

From my very-limited perspective, playing lots of minutes in any given night does not matter. Nor does playing heavy minutes every night. An NBA game is only 48 minutes of clock-time. There are lots of breaks. The country is full of guys who play more than 48 minutes a night in rec-leagues and pick-up games. Number-of-minutes is a stupid metric in the NBA.

What really wears in the the NBA is the every-night expectation. Football players play once-a-week. Baseball players take nights off without remark. NBA players are expected to show up, at top level, every night. For 82 games.  When Gregg Popovovich famously rests his plays for a game, the team gets fined a quarter million dollars. No rest for the weary.

If you really want to measure a guy’s NBA mileage, you have to gin-up some formula that accounts for:

  • heavy minutes
  • in close games
  • where the player is one of the top-2 scorers on his team
  • home or away
  • with how much rest (back-to back? three-games-in-four-nights?)

Let me know when that exists.

 

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Melo

by on Jul.10, 2014, under Lakers, NBA

He is returning to the Knicks. Of course.

Look, he is waiting around, hoping to unite with another All-Star. But it’s not happening. He can take the NY money, the LA money, or the (much smaller) Chicago money.

Seriously, as long as Jerry Reinsdorf owns the Bulls, they are:

a) never exceeding the tax
b) out of the free agent market

Sorry, not happening. The Lakers money isn’t far off from the Knicks,  Does Melo want to live in NY or LA? That is the question.

Meanwhile, the Lakers will show up here every year, hoping for the fist “piece.” The first piece is a guy who draws other guys. Melo could be that guy. But so could other (future) guys. If the Lakers miss this year, oh well. They’ll get another one. Later.

 

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Waiting for Wade (and Melo)…

by on Jul.04, 2014, under Lakers, NBA

It is the end of day three of free agency. The Heat stars have not broken radio silence. Well… mostly. Chris Bosh’s agent surfaced long enough to debunk a rumor that had Bosh settling for $11MM/year. Not happening.

So now, the whole world waits for the King, as it should. If LeBron re-signs with the Heat (probably for max-money), then Bosh can soberly decide to accept a pay cut to keep playing with LeBron. Or not. We’ll see.

But wait! I think the whole thing depends on Dwayne Wade. If Wade takes a huge paycut (say, to $10MM/year), the Heat will gain tax space even as Lebron gets paid. That induces LeBron and then Bosh to re-sign.  If Wade holds out for $16MM+, LeBron may bolt (because the Heat will be taxed-out). And if LeBron leaves, will Bosh accept less than max-money himself? The whole Heat cookie could crumble in the next week.

If LeBron flees, and Melo returns to the Knicks, Bosh can get mad-money from the Lakers! Would he still stick with his BFF Wade in that case? What if the Heat won’t match the Laker bid?

After the Decision II, lots of money becomes available. Maybe Cleveland makes that max offer to Gordon Hayward after all. Lots of teams have cap space. Some of them want to win.

Four summers ago, the Big 3 conspired to take less money and form a super-team. Now, they could blow up that team with rational decision making.  There is an owner vs players angle to this as well.

Meanwhile…

There are several teams who are hoarding money for Melo. I don’t see Chicago winning this race, because they can’t/won’t clear enough cap space. That makes it a three horse race between the Knicks, Rockets, and Lakers. Too close to call.

On a related note… the Bulls will amnesty Boozer when Hell freezes over. Jerry Reinsdorf is not giving away a dollar. Not now. Not ever.

If Melo signs with the Knicks, it unlocks a lot of money with the Rockets. Mavs, and Lakers. I look for the Lakers to pull a Cuban, and load up with high-dollar, short-term contracts.

 

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On the JKidd maneuver…

by on Jul.03, 2014, under NBA

The band Extreme taught us that there are 3 sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.

Over a wild several days, Jason Kidd was resigned/fired from/by the Nets, and replaced with Lionel Hollins. Meanwhile, Kidd lands the head coaching job with the Bucks.

The media narrative:

  • Kidd over-reached, demanding the top basketball ops spot, above incumbent GM Billy King
  • The Nets refused, triggering his dismissal.
  • The Bucks, half-owned by Kidd’s former financial advisor and BFF, hired him before firing incumbant Larry Drew

My narrative:

  • Even if Kidd made an unseemly demand, and later broke the “coach code,” so what? As Zach Lowe said on Bill Simmons’ podcast, no one is going to take care of you, but you.
  • More from Lowe: Kidd was unhappy with King’s leadership/vision/supervision in January. He did not want to report to Billy King. He did not want Billy King in charge of all personnel decisions. He made his case, he asked to report to someone else, he advocated that a higher-level decision-maker be installed over King. He was rebuffed.
  • After Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher got $5MM/year deals, did Kidd want a new deal himself? Of course! Who wouldn’t? Is coaching out your below-market contract in silence part of the “coach code?” Maybe. Whatever. See above.
  • If Larry Drew is a victim, he is an odd one. Recall that he broke the “coach code” himself when he stole Mike Woodson’s job in Atlanta. Recall, also, that Drew was mediocre, at best, as a head coach. If a mediocre coach falls in the woods, does anyone care?
  • If you own a failing team, and your coach is not-great, and a better coach is available, can you hire the better guy? And then fire the no-so-great coach? Yes. (Note to Warriors fans: see M. Montgomery => D Nelson.)

Meanwhile, so stipulated:

  • Is Kidd a great human being? No. Is he a good human being?  Er…
  • Is he popular among the current players? Yes.
  • Do current players respond to his coaching? Yes.

But, hey, good-guy Lionel Hollins lands on his feet. So there’s that!

 

 

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The Sterling Dodge is doomed

by on May.24, 2014, under NBA

One day, hopefully, I will say more, much more, about the reign of Donald Sterling. But for now, I have just a small thought.

Today, Donald surrendered controlling interest to his estranged wife, Shelly. Shelly now hopes to sell the team on her own terms.

Does this remind you of the Maloofs? At the end, they needed to sell, but wanted to keep running the team. They actually brokered that exact deal for their Palms Casino in Las Vegas. So it is not unheard of…

Shelly is already on record saying she wants to own the team until she dies, and she wants her son to have a job with the Clippers for life. So I imagine this dodge is really an effort to sell to a “friendly” source, who will invite Shelly (and maybe even Donald) to enjoy a luxury suite, employ the son, and befriend the Sterlings for the next half-dozen years that they are alive and kicking.

It didn’t work for the Maloofs…

Just saying…

Meanwhile, I am actually sad that Donald Sterling surrendered so easily. No love for Donald here, to be sure. But the NBA by-laws don’t really account for this situation. And Mark Cuban, at least, was queued up to vote for Sterling (on the basis of a narrow principle, which would have been great blog fodder). Now we’ll never know. Like so much else in the law, an un-challenged assertion wins. And that is sad.

 

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How the Warriors can get Kevin Love

by on May.21, 2014, under Warriors

The “narrative” out there is that other teams, choking on draft picks, have the pole position to get Kevin Love. I offer another scenario.

What if Gen Taylor and Flip Saunders want to win soon, like next year? Trading Love for draft picks means launching a rebuild, which means giving up on Rubio and Pekovic. And I’m not convinced that Taylor and Saunders are are ready to swallow that pill.

If the T-Wolves want to rebuild instantly, around Rubio and Pekovic, then the Warriors have what they want: long term contracts. As Ken Berger said last summer:

small- and mid-market teams still aren’t playing by the same rules as those in the glamour markets

Minnesota needs good players, good locker-room/community guys, signed to multi-year deals. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you: David Lee, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green.

Lee is under contract for 2 more years. Ditto for Barnes. Green is restricted after next season. Barnes is restricted after 2 seasons. The T-Wolves would have Lee’s Bird rights. This is what mid-market teams crave.

Minnesota could demand Klay Thompson, restricted after this season (plus Lee, and maybe a future draft pick). If that is the sticking point, I agree with Marcus Thompson II: the Warriors make that deal.

Love > Thompson + Lee.

If Minnesota decides to do a tear-down, then the Warriors don’t have the goods. But if they want to rebuild-on-the-fly, the Warriors have the right stuff.

 

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Fake Steve Kerr unguarded interview

by on May.20, 2014, under Warriors

This is a fake transcript of a fake interview between Steve Kerr and the media.  Imagine Kerr with no filter. This is what it would look like!

 

Media: “What attracted you to the Warriors?”

SK: “1) Money. They outbid the Knicks. I mean, it wasn’t even close. 2) This team is pre-built. Who wants to build a team? The Knicks are years away from contending.”

Media: “Steve, what changes to the roster do you think the Warriors need?”

SK: “Kevin Love! C’mon guys, was I speaking in code when I said we need a “stretch 4?” We need a power forward who can defend Duncan/Griffin/Z-Bo/LA on one end, then nail 3’s on the other end. How many guys can do that? His name is Kevin Love.”

Media: “What can you do to help the Warriors take the next step?”

SK: “Full credit to Mark Jackson for changing the culture, and getting this team to defend. And full credit to the front office for loading up with good players, and good people. Now we need to run a Spurs-style motion offense. Plus pick-and-roll with Curry. And we need more penetration. No more isolations or post-ups. That’s 90’s basketball.”

Media: “How will the players react to you? (Given that they loved Mark Jackson.)”

SK: “Mark was great. But let’s get real, he only had half the roster in his thrall. The other half are totally fine with me. And, really, the hardcore guys still want to play together, and they want to win. No one wants to be traded to Utah, know what I mean?”

Media: “Will you move to the Bay Area?”

SK: “Uh… sure. I’ll get a sweet condo here. But at the same time, I will keep my house in San Diego, where my wife will live. And, when the wheels inevitably come off, that’s where I’ll retire to. Kind of like Nellie and Maui.”

Media: “Mark Jackson filled the locker room with Christians. How will you relate to them?”

SK: “Phil Jackson shoved Buddhism down our throats. I know my way around spirituality. Christians are people too. Steph loves golf as much as I do.”

Media: “Who will you hire as assistants?”

SK: “Guys you’ve heard of, that’s for sure. A couple guys I played with, and a couple guys that coached me. Can I lure Lute out of retirement? We’ll see. Anyway, I won’t need the front office to source assistants for me, unlike my predecessor.”

Media: “Can you win more than 51 games, and advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs? Can you contend for a championship?”

SK: “I get $25MM, guaranteed. I’m the 4th highest paid coach in the league. It really doesn’t matter what happens next year. Or the year after. And unless we miss the playoffs for two years, I’ll be here for year three. And after that? Who cares?! I can retire to San Diego, reboot my broadcasting career (like Mark), and live happily ever after. There is more to life than winning, you know.”

 

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