Requiem for David Lee

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.

 

Igouadala as MVP

Andre Igouadala was named the Championship MVP, an unlikely, 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.

 

 

Champions

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.

Scott Brooks got Kerr’d

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.

 

Bob Myers – Executive of the Year

Bob Myers  is executive of the year, according to NBA media voters.

Here’s how I rationalize this:

Danny Ferry is on Double-Secret Probation. So you can’t vote for him.

The active, swing-for-the-fences GMs didn’t actually achieve much this year. Only one of Danny Ainge, Sam Presti, Ryan McDonough, and Donnie Nelson over-achieved this year: The Celtics shocked the world by making the playoffs. Everyone else flamed out.

Flip Saunders should win the award, for stealing Andrew Wiggins from Cleveland. His genius will not be acknowledged for several more years.

David Griffin can’t win for a) having Lebron fall into his lap; b) exploiting fire-sale deals from Denver and NY.

Similarly, Pat Riley can’t win for “discovering” Hassan Whiteside and blundering into Goran Dragic.

So that leaves… the GM of 67-game-winner-GSW: Bob Myers!

Make no mistake, the 67 wins loom huge. As the NBA hands out awards, the lack of recognition for the season-champ is embarrassing. If James Harden is announced as the MVP next week, how will the national media explain GSW?

So… Bob Myers. The thing is, from my perspective, no front-office I can recall has been less ego-centric. The Warriors are a true committee of voices: Lacob, Lacob, Schlenk, Myers, West, and Riley.

Let’s review the current, roster, shall we?

Bob Myers can claim full credit for exactly two guys: Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush. Enough said.

Steph Curry was drafted by Larry Riley, under the thrall of Don Nelson, and while working for owner Chris Cohan.

David Lee was acquired by Larry Riley, during the ownership transition from Cohan to Lacob.

Klay Thompson was also a Larry Riley selection, now working for Joe Lacob et all. Most people credit Jerry West with that selection.

The Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut trade, was, ostensibly, another Larry Riley trade. Bob Myers would be named GM shortly thereafter.

Myers gets credit for Harrison Barnes, I suppose. Although that looks like a consensus decision.

Igouadala was a Myers acquisition. It cost two 1st-round picks to make that happen. Jury is still out…

Mark Jackson was hired on Riley’s watch. And fired on Myers’, as I wrote earlier, for reasons above Myers’ pay grade.

But Steve Kerr, technically, is a Bob Myers hire. Again, I’d call it it a consensus pick (or a Joe Lacob pick). But let’s give a dog a bone.

Maybe Larry Riley is the Executive of the Year?

 

David Lee, tragic hero.

Hey, no surprise that I am a David Lee fan. I wrote this.

To my mind, David Lee is a tragic figure. Like, as in, Greek tragedy.  That’s how tragic.

The basketball world passed him by. During the shank of his career. That is not his fault!

We want our big guys to be 3-point threats now. I understand that. The 3-point line has changed basketball, not necessarily in a good way. Analytics is part of the story. Lee does not shoot 3’s. And he does not block shots (the so-called “help-defense” issue).

All of which makes Marcus Thompson II’s post particularly poignant.

Look – Lee is a great Warrior. It is easy to dismiss him now, when the game has passed him by, and the Warriors have a durable, capable replacement for him. But let’s not forget that Lee played hard for Keith Smart, and then again in the tank year. He is the best power forward the Warriors have had since Chris Webber. Coaches love him, owners love him, and everyone in the locker room loves him.

That’s why I really hope that the Warriors win him a ring this season. For brutally practical reasons, they will work hard to trade him in the offseason. To do that, they will have to send him to a re-building team, along with draft picks. If he is lucky, the new team will offer a mid-season buyout, so he can go join a playoff team.

In any case, the rest of his career is going to look like Amare Stoudemire with the Mavs: back-up forward on a cheap contract.

Here’s a fun question: Where will David Lee end up in 2016-17? It’s tricky, because you have to project out 2 years. Let’s assume:

  1. He won’t sign with a bad team, because he wants to win, and bad team want young guys.
  2. He won’t sign back with the Warriors, because that would be awkward.
  3. He won’t sign with a good team that won’t play him. He is not quite ready for elder-statesman duty, although I could imagine that in his future.

So… here are my guesses:

Starter minutes:

  • Spurs – if Duncan retires after next year, and the Spurs want to do a quickie-rebuild around Kawhi Leonard. This is Lee’s dream scenario.
  • Hornets – because Michael Jordan is re-committed to veterans, and still thinks it is the 1990s.
  • Celtics – because Danny Ainge will be looking to win in 2 years, and no one on that roster today looks like a great power forward.

Backup minutes:

  • Blazers – Need a backup for Aldridge.
  • Rockets – because Morey will continue to shuffle the deck chairs.
  • Thunder – because Sam Presti likes good-guy vets to ease the workload on Scottie Brooks.
  • Griz – because Z-Bo is already old, and Lee would give them a nice platoon.

Teams that will be bad going into 2016-17: Wolves, Kings, Sixers, Nets, Mavs.

Teams that are only interested in stretch 4s: Cavs, Heat, Warriors, Suns, Spurs (if Duncan is still there).

Teams that have young guys they’d rather develop: Lakers, Magic, Bucks, Pistons, Pelicans.

Special cases:

  • Knicks – Phil Jackson is going to reload the roster this summer, not next summer. Lee will be a year too late to that party.

David Lee’s Farewell Tour

Feltbot:

The showcase is over, and yet Harrison Barnes is still starting, and getting 29 minutes to David Lee’s 18.

My mind boggles, but that’s not the point. The point is that David Lee is gone. This is his last season as a Warrior.

 

Me:

 

NBA fans have short memories. So let me walk you though the storied career of David Lee.

Lee was drafted by Knicks’ GM Isiah Thomas. Isiah ruined the franchise in a series of trades. But he drafted surprisingly well. Lee was picked #30 in the 2005 draft, a bargain by any measure.

By 2010, Lee was playing for Mike D’Antoni. He hit career highs of 20-12 that year. David Stern named him an All-Star, as an injury replacement.

In the summer of 2010, the Donnie Walsh Knicks were looking to lure LeBron and friends. Lee was expendable. At the same time, Joe Lacob et al had won an auction for the Warriors (surprisingly out-bidding Larry Ellison). With the tacit approval of yet-to-be-approved ownership, Warriors’ GM Larry Riley arranged a sign-and-trade that sent fan ( and media)-favorite Anthony Randolph to the Knicks. (Donnie Walsh shuffled Randolph off in less than a season.) This was the biggest steal for the Warriors this century (so far).

There were critics. Tim Kawakami said the Warriors should have pursued Kevin Love. Good idea! Except Love was not actually available at the time.  TK also loved Anthony Randolph, who has turned into a true bust.

Here’s what I wrote a couple years after he was acquired:

Anyone who hates this guy is forgetting the long, sad history of Warrior’s power forwards. Here some guys the Warriors have tried in the last decade:

* Anthony Randolph
* Corey Magette
* Al Harrington
* Troy Murphy
* Danny Fortson
* Jason Caffey

David Lee, one-time All-Star, soldiered bravely for the Warriors:

  • 2010-2011 – Coach Keith Smart, Monta Ellis, sophomore Step Curry  – 36-46
  • 2011-12 – Coach Mark Jackson, tank year – 23-43
  • 2012-13 – Coach Mark Jackson, Curry, sophomore Thompson, Andrew Bogut – 47-35
  • 2013-14 – Coach Mark Jackson, Curry, Thompson, Bogut – 51-31

All the while, Lee was relentlessly supportive of Golden State, the owners, the team, the coaches. A true company man.

In 2013, he was prestigiously  selected to the All-Star game on the coaches’ ballot.

Last season, he was praised for his improved defense.

More than most guys, David Lee is a victim of the changing of the guard. David Aldridge wrote today:

I fell in love with basketball because of the flow between the power of a Karl Malone down low and the grace and ballhandling of a Steve Nash out front. That is no longer the NBA game.

Indeed. While David Lee was plying his trade, the league changed. Having a scoring power forward was important right up to, basically, the last two seasons. That’s when the “stretch 4” (anticipated decades ago by Nellie) became ascendant. David Lee is not a stretch 4.

The Warriors currently have of choice of two stretch 4’s (Barnes, Green), or David Lee. Lee has done everything he was asked. He has played with efficiency. He did it with dignity. He deserves a better end. But I fear he won’t get it.

 

 

Lately it occurs to me…

The Warriors are just ridiculously good. I do not know how to feel about this. It’s undiscovered country…

2-way players are now a thing. For the longest time, we had offensive and defensive specialists. We could celebrate them separately, and debate their value individually. A few good teams are still split like this. But the best teams are stacked with 2-way players…

Kevin Love – not a two way player. And you are always better off with 2-way players. That’s why Mo Speights is suddenly the best center on the Warriors. He scores, and plays D…

Jeff Van Gundy gave away the secret on Friday’s broadcast: if you want to rebuild quickly, skip the fruitless pursuit of stars. Instead, sign hard-hat, 2-way players in their prime. He listed four, including Draymond Green. I agree. If someone is smart enough to make Green a max offer, I think they will pry him away from the Warriors, and reboot their franchise. Ahem… Lakers?

What an upside-down season we are having. Best 2 teams in the West? Try Warriors and Blazers. Best in the East? Would you believe Hawks and Raptors? In a few more months, conclusions will be drawn, and the league will re-configure around those conclusions. Best to get on the bandwagon now…

Speaking of getting on the bandwagon now… There is an unprecedented number amount of player movement so early. The trade deadline has been dull for two years, so now teams just pull the trigger early. The deadline will be dull again, I’m sure…

Playing for next year (or 3 years hence, in some cases) is now a thing. A bunch of teams do it. Makes you wonder if a soccer-style 2-tier system would be best for the NBA…?

Mark Jackson – the story that will never die. At this point, Warriors fans just have to embrace it. It is one of those awkward situations where both sides are right. Jackson had a huge impact, and earned an extension, in any normal universe. But Steve Kerr is taking the Warriors to the next level, proving that Qui-Gon Jinn was right: there’s always a bigger fish…