Why Wouldn’t Kyrie Want to Play with LeBron?

July 22nd, 2017

The news Kyrie Irving broke yesterday blew away all other NBA talk. One of the two best players (if you don’t know the other one, you’d be better served to discontinue reading this blog and do something – anything – else) from the East Coast champions – as well as the 2016 NBA champions – told the Cavaliers he wanted to be traded. What??? A case can be made that Irving is as much a reason for Cleveland’s success as LeBron James. So why would he want to break up that “ol’ gang of mine?”

The first word was he wanted to be on a team where he was more of the focal point. Sounds plausible. Kinda. But, while some fans might say his move based on the Cavs’ lack of roster changes, i.e. not improving it as other teams are doing, the real reason is more long term.

Just as the gossip behind Leslie Alexander’s sudden sale of the Houston Rockets was a visionary move (that he sees the television money is drying up so he’s chosen to get out while the gettin’s good), Irving’s request is based on a move he envisions – say, after next season. It’s not that Kyrie doesn’t want to play with LeBron. Actually, he doesn’t want to play without him.

The NBA rumor mill, which runs 24/7/365, has it that James will most likely bolt the ‘Land by the lake (the city he loves) to play with friends he vacays with or at a team in a city (which is closer to a much larger body of water) where he has a home, er, mansion. That would leave “Kyrie’s team” with several long term contracts of guys whose talents don’t particularly mesh with his, meaning they’re more half court types as opposed to the up tempo game Irving prefers. And, oh yeah, devoid of the game’s best player. So, for all intents and purposes, it looks like Kyrie Irving is taking a page out of Les Alexander’s book.

However, all NBA moves aside, the bottom line in all of the NBA movement and chatter is:

“Nothing really matters because, for the immediate future, no one’s beating Golden State anyway.”

Paul George for Klay Thompson – Really?

July 15th, 2017

There was a story recently about a proposed trade between the world champion Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers in which the Dubs would have obtained Paul George in exchange for Klay Thompson. Many people questioned why the Warriors would even consider such a deal. Count me in that group.

First of all, it was the Pacers who proposed it, knowing they were going to lose their franchise baller. As far as why the Dubs had to (briefly) listen, there are pluses for George in the comparison between the two outstanding players. While each guy is 27, the former Fresno State star is taller, longer and a better ball handler. In addition PG13 is a big time defender (as is KT). Although Thompson is a confident player, George’s reaction to the proposed deal showed his ego is rather healthy.

When George was asked about the rumor, his response was somewhat revealing. “Yeah, I think that would have been a Chris Paul to L.A. situation where they got denied at that trade,” referring to the deal then-NBA commissioner David Stern nixed because of “basketball reasons” or, left unsaid, it would have made the Lakers too good. Instead Paul still landed in LA, but with the Clippers.

As far as George making the Warriors too good, consider this: had Draymond Green realized that LeBron James was punking him (out of the frustration over realizing he was going to be on the losing end of an other Finals) and heeded the advice of elementary teachers everywhere, i.e. “keep your hands to yourself,” Golden State would most likely be the latest franchise to three peat. Talent obviously is a major reason for championship teams but a lot of teams have talent. Good coaching is a must to win it all – as is chemistry.

How many times has the chemistry of the squad from the Bay Area been mentioned when those championships are discussed? Sure, Paul George is taller, longer and, possibly, more skilled than Klay Thompson (worse history of injuries, however). Fans of the Washington State alum will bring up the game in which Klay scored 37 points in a quarter and 60 points in 29 minutes (dribbling only 11 times). My Klay Thompson moment, though, was in the recent NBA Finals.

Lost in many Warriors fans’ memories is how poorly KT shot (winning does that to a memory). There was one possession, in particular, I pointed out to a few guys who were watching the game with me. Thompson took an ill-advised, i.e. bad shot that, as those shots tend to do, missed. Wasn’t even close. His reaction was a dream to any coach. Rather than hang his head (or, as so many NBA guys do, bitch at the official), he sprinted back and played brilliant lock-down defense on Kyrie Irving. That possession alone showed that Klay Thompson is exactly the kind of guy anybody would want on a team.

To make such a trade might have been viewed as visionary, i.e. not standing pat even after winning two titles in the past three years. On the flip side, it could be a case of out-thinking yourself or thinking your (front office) moves have more to do with the players’ and coaches’ performances. My point of view is that the suggested trade would be much more risk than reward. We’ll never know, as only one event can take place but, although it was the conservative route to take, the Dubs made the wise decision.

Coaches who have success often have career choices to make. Usually they have to do with improving life style, aka “chasing the dollar.” When asked, the late Jim Valvano used to give advice coaches who were considering changing jobs. He’d ask the coach if he was happy with the job he currently had. If the guy he was speaking with answered yes, his response was identical to what should have gone through the minds of the Warriors’ decision-makers regarding trading Thompson for George:

“Don’t mess with happy.”

The Definition of a Big Week

July 12th, 2017

Certain days have more impact on a person’s life. I “enjoyed” my 69th birthday last month so there have been some momentous days/weeks/years of my life – both good and bad. One of the worst days was the emergency surgery to remove the disk at T 10/11 which was cutting into my spinal cord. While the surgery kept me from spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair, the resultant damage to the nerves and muscles has caused me to live in constant pain since 2002.

This current week can be a real “game changer” for me. Monday I had three meetings at Stanford Pain Management which has been a kind of second home for me – not by choice. The first one was an appointment with my pain psychologist (friends kid me that, after she meets with me, she books a session for herself).

I was originally scheduled to have five sessions with her but Monday was my 12th – and I have two additional in the next three weeks (with no end in sight). During one of my prior visits, I had electrodes placed on my trapezius muscles to measure stress levels. Pain and stress seem to be partners. My levels registered around 30 (normal is less than five). When I asked the doctor if she’d seen others at, say, 50 or higher, her answer told me what I had suspected.

“No,” she said. “30 is the highest I’ve seen for stress at that level.” However, with me facing the screen and actually seeing my results, I could manage, through concentration and relaxed breathing, to get my stress levels down below five. She told me that at my next session (Monday), the electrodes would be placed on my lower back and the machine would measure my pain/stress while standing. That was of great interest to me because the majority of my pain emanates from exactly there and the most painful thing for me to do is stand. Walking is brutal but not as bad as simply standing in one place (running has been out of the question for years).

Sure enough, at our get together on Monday, she placed the electrodes on my lower back, then told me to stand against the wall with my butt, shoulders and head touching the wall. The problem is, due to decades of bad posture and, probably some hereditary issues, with my butt and shoulders against the wall, my head doesn’t come close to it – even if I try to force it back. “Forget trying to get your head to touch, just stand so I can get a reading,” she said.

Out of the corner of my eye, I looked to my right where she was seated and thought I saw her head move as she let out a (barely) audible gasp. She then told me I could sit. Sitting, for me, is a major relief, e.g. it takes three hours to drive to the facility at Stanford, yet when I get to the waiting room, I can’t wait to find a seat. “Out of curiosity, what were my levels?” I wondered.

“A little over 300,” was her reply, “which isn’t bad – for someone who’s lifting something heavy. That’s when you want your muscles to contract. Yours are constantly in a state of contraction.” With some relaxation techniques, I was able to relax my muscles and lower my levels. She gave me some “homework” (standing for 30 seconds, attempting to “untighten” my lower back muscles and told me she’d like to eventually get me on a “walking program” – not exactly music to my ears).

My next appointment at the clinic was to reduce the level of morphine in my (implanted) pain pump. I am experiencing what’s called hypersensitivity, a condition in which the pain meds react in a reverse manner, i.e. they cause more pain than relief. I’ve weaned myself off of an incredibly powerful pain medicine (so powerful I used to get it in micrograms) and am now doing the same with the other painkiller (morphine) in it. My level is now a mere 1.2 milligrams.

This led to my third appointment of the day – with my pain doctor. Our strategy is to, after one more reduction of morphine, remove the pain pump. I originally had a pump implanted in 2005 and, after the battery died, had it taken out and replaced with a new one (2010). He told me that our goal is to rid myself of the foreign object taking up residence in my lower, right abdomen in late August-early September, depending on his schedule.

Yesterday was a visit to my yoga instructor (whom I’ve seen since before the emergency T 10/11 surgery). Now, however, I take private lessons from her. All I do at this point is restorative yoga. She has a ton of patience and has been wonderful with me. Her “job” is, mainly, to help me find an inner calm. She also assigns me homework.

Today will be a visit to my personal trainer. The work he has me do is intense (at least for me it is) and the main goal is increasing my flexibility. With all the surgeries I’ve had (13 in all, 10 of them on my various parts of my back), one issue is there’s an inordinate amount of scar tissue built up, as well as the fact, I’ve never been particularly limber. He’s assigned two sets of homework (one of them, thankfully, only twice a week).

Following that, I see my physical therapist (there are actually eight people on “Team Fertig” – the aforementioned five, plus a massage therapist, regular doctor and an alternative medicine doc who you’ll hear about next). My PT consists of trying to bring me back to basic functional movements, e.g. to try to undo some of the structural imperfections that decades of poor posture, etc. has brought me. He, too, has homework for me and it’s the most challenging of all. One thing that keeps me going is each of the above tell me I’m improving.

On Thursday I have a trip to Monterey to check in with my alternative doctor who used to be a devotee of Western medicine but noticed that he (and his fellow docs) were either prescribing pills or, if the pills didn’t do the trick, using surgery to “help” patients. He felt there had to be another way and is considered brilliant by no less than five doctors and chiropractors I’ve known. I’ve undergone a blood spinning (PRP) session with him and, on Thursday, as opposed to another PRP, he’s decided to administer an epidural, albeit more aggressively than those I’ve had in the past (from other doctors). The reason for this course of action is I work Michael Jordan’s basketball camp beginning July 28 (the only 10 days a year I “work”). I’ve been involved with it for 15 years and the epidural he’s giving me is in an attempt to “calm down my pain” at least for the 10 days I’ll be there. In terms of more radical medicine, I’m scheduled for stem cell treatment with him in mid-August.

Also, in an attempt to not leave any stone unturned, there will soon be a ninth member added to my “team” – a hypnotist (also from Stanford and also highly recommended). I’m set for three consecutive days with him right after I get back from MJ’s camp.

If you’re still reading this post (you are a true fan or else have entirely too much time on your hands), a thought of “why would someone put this in writing” must have crossed your mind. The answer has a lot to do with something called catharsis. But if you are still with me, I truly appreciate your level of intrigue, if not concern.

The slogan that Alcoholics Anonymous uses is perfect for me and, for that matter, everyone:

“One day at a time.”

What’s the Future Hold for Humankind?

July 8th, 2017

Bloggers are warned not to post on topics of which they don’t have a deep understanding as well as not to put out something purely emotional. This one violates both “rules.”

Anyone who has a Facebook page has surely noticed that, while there are many, many pictures and posts that are uplifting, more and more, it’s become a site to do battle between people who simply have differing opinions – and make the comments nastier and more personal. Some people are blaming this turn of events (or praising, depending on which side you’re on) Donald Trump. Never before has there been a president who reacts to criticism by going on social media and attacking those people or groups that denounce, condemn or, simply, chide him and his opinions, policies and decisions.

Maybe folks – pro or anti-Trump – are feeling it necessary to use offensive remarks when someone makes disagreeable comments toward something they favor. Leadership expert Stephen Covey’s fifth habit (of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood” has gone the way of the buffalo, replaced by “Shut the Hell Up, You Idiot, You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About.” Also gone is another Covey tenet, i.e. “let’s agree to disagree, agreeably.” Now, it’s more like “I’m right, you’re wrong and if you want to debate the issue, strap it on because it’s going to be a no holds barred discussion – civility be damned.”

Another change in attitude in this country is, when someone is denied something they want, to accuse the decision-makers of prejudice. The United States is a melting pot but, instead of coming together with a national pride, what’s in vogue is to claim discrimination. The most recent example is a major league umpire who is saying he – and others – were passed over for World Series assignments. The suit says, “The selection of these less qualified, white individuals … was motivated by racial, national origin and/or ethnic considerations.” The entire article was posted on Facebook, followed by comments from both sides.

Not surprisingly, the terms “white privilege” and “playing the race card” were brought up in comments. Every comment was one group charging the other – with examples (no doubt, both real and imagined) from each side. Minorities said whites had no idea what it was like being a minority while the whites’ return salvo was the over-correction of, for one, job selection – with their side currently the one being discriminated against. Reading the back-and-forth comments, you’d think the country is about to head into Civil War 2.0.

Until you realize that the people who post comments are the fringe element of society, e.g. maybe 2% on either side, meaning 96% of the citizens don’t feel this way at all. What is frightening (to me) is that there is this segment of the nation that “loves to hate” those they feel are against them.

Why this behavior scares me is because of the book I’m currently reading, entitled Our Final Invention. It deals with artificial intelligence (AI). Brilliant people have been doing amazing things with computers – except that some people (equally as brilliant) fear the new universe is spinning out of control. Examples are computers beating chess masters and IBM’s Watson beating the top Jeopardy winners at their own “game.” To make something like that happen, there must be an element of competitiveness programmed into the computer. The main issue is that emotion can’t be factored into the computer and AI soon becomes ASI (artificial super intelligence).

Technology advances at a much higher rate than does human intelligence so what we face is that computers will eventually overtake human knowledge. What I’ve attempted to explain – and, admittedly done a poor job – is that there will come a time, not in my lifetime but in that of future generations, possibly as soon as that of my two 20-something year old sons, when humans will have lost control of their own destiny.

What would save us is the tapering of AI until there can be assurance that such a phenomena cannot occur, e.g. that compassion can be part of the ASI. The alarming aspect is that attitude of the aforementioned 4%. There is no willingness of cooperation between those two factions, just as there is no sense of teamwork between certain nations. Therefore that the battle for ASI will continue, independent of consequences.

The reason to worry comes from the following quotation in the book made by Samuel Butler, an English poet and author:

“Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them, more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question.”

Note: Samuel Butler lived in the NINETEENTH CENTURY.

The Story Behind the Story

July 4th, 2017

Just watched the ESPN 30 for 30 about the early days of the Orlando Magic. What was interesting was the behind the scenes happenings when Shaquille O’Neal became a free agent. The reasons for his move to the Lakers were facts I’d not known until now.

With free agency in full swing and players moving – or staying – there are issues that go unsaid to the vast majority of the NBA fans. An example is what went on with Chris Paul. Ask any one who has followed the career of the point guard many say is the best of the best floor leaders.

When Paul unexpectedly signed with the Houston Rockets (the unexpected part was not the signing with another team, even a Western Conference club, but that the winner of the CP3 sweepstakes was the Rockets), what was reported was a rift existed between the point guard and his coach, Doc Rivers. Actually, the problem wasn’t about Rivers, the coach, as much as it was his son, Austin. While rumors abounded the younger Rivers received preferential treatment, the alleged straw that broke the camel’s back was a proposed trade which would have brought Paul’s close friend, Carmelo Anthony, to the Clips. One of the players headed to New York was, you guessed it (or, if you follow NBA gossip, you know), Austin Rivers.

Stories vary as to why the deal didn’t go down. One was that Doc rejected it. Another was that the president of the Clippers (also Doc) knew how desperate the Knicks were to unload Melo and his contract that he squeezed them for more assets. There was, also allegedly, a three day window for the Clippers to respond. The bluff backfired and, rather than upping the ante, New York pulled the deal. For the record, Doc’s explanation was that there was never a deal.

First, a bit of Chris Paul history. After his first coach, Byron Scott, was fired, Paul’s reaction was that of shock. “I felt like, maybe somebody would have at least consulted with me and asked how I felt before it happened,” Paul said at the time. “It’s not to get my approval, but we feel we should know about the decision before it takes place.” Years later, there was a trade in the works for him to the Los Angeles Lakers but, as is common knowledge, then-NBA commissioner, David Stern, nixed the deal. He was eventually traded to the Clippers.

From that time on, it seems Chris Paul decided he was going to be in charge of his career (he’s obviously a bright, trustworthy guy – the NBA Players Association voted him president of their organization – again). Well, the Clips won big with CP3 running the show (winning over 65% of their games under coach Vinny Del Negro). However, the point guard made it clear to higher ups that he didn’t have faith in Del Negro as a championship coach. It was no secret to NBA insiders – and even some others – that the main reason (person) behind VDN’s dismissal was Chris Paul.

Now it seems as though Paul has clashed with the guy he, if not named coach, was certainly one of whom he most certainly approved. Now, those same insiders are wondering exactly how long before Chris Paul tires of Mike D’Antoni (the NBA’s reigning Coach-of-the-Year). D’Antoni wants to run, run, run (not exactly up Paul’s alley) and doesn’t have an affinity for the defensive end (a philosophy the “old” Rockets’ point guard, i.e. James Harden, was in complete agreement but not so much the PG that Houston just brought into the fold).

So … Chris Paul’s history begs one of two questions:

“How long will Paul be with Houston or how long before Mike D’Antoni gets pink-slipped?”

 

NBA Rumors Are Nearly As Exciting As the Season

July 1st, 2017

When I was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, the line was that the two most important seasons for SEC fans were football and spring football (except at Kentucky of course). A similar situation currently exists for the NBA fan. Free agency has been given fans more excitement – and more hope – than the recent playoffs.

A year or so ago, Paul George was rumored to be joining the Celtics. He’d seen how their fans love their stars. Added to that was how many draft picks the Celts had (and that Indiana needed young players). It made total sense. Wait, everybody said. He’s going to Cleveland to join LeBron (and then leave with LBJ to go to the Lakers the following season). George was chasing a ring so, naturally, the wisest move would be to stay in the East.

So what happened? He went to Oklahoma City. What? Did he not hear that Kevin Durant and James Harden aren’t there anymore? Maybe he made the move to add fuel to the, what else, rumor, he and Russell Westbrook will take off the following year to, where else?, the Lakers.

The day after Chris Paul got traded to Houston, JJ Redick is rumored to be headed to the Rockets – even though the “rumor” was he wasn’t all that enthralled about playing alongside CP3, certainly not enough to take a salary reduction of greater than 50% (from around $15-$18 million – or $20 mil to the 76ers – to about $8 million). And what about the tweet from his wife a couple months ago that she had already enrolled their son in school in New York, fueling the Brooklyn talk? Only time will tell.

Blake Griffin released his list of NBA Mt. Rushmore cities, then set up a meeting with one of them, the Phoenix Suns. Also on the list were New York, Boston and Toronto. Without meeting with anybody, Griffin took a max contract (5 years, $173 mil) with his current club, the LA Clippers. If anyone doubts that when Paul left, Griffin gained leverage, consider that he managed to get that fifth year after all the injuries he’s incurred in LA.

Guys were said to be going to teams in the East because Cleveland has shown some vulnerabilities and it’s so much easier to get to the Finals in the East than the West. So Paul goes to the Rockets, George to OKC and Jeff Teague to Minnesota. Everybody is trying to catch the Warriors who, by the way, (justifiably) gave a max contract to Steph Curry, making him the highest paid player in any team sport (5 years, $201 million).

What’s next? Easy, whatever you want.

“Just start a rumor.”

 

The NBA What’s the Deal with the NBA?

June 29th, 2017

In one day Phil Jackson managed to negotiate a buy out for $24 million (for himself), Chris Paul decided the best team for him is one that has a guy who just transformed himself into a ball-control, league-leading assist man and talking heads had an absolute field day with both bits of news. Controversy drives their shows and Jackson and Paul made their jobs easy.

Stephen A. Smith, as expected, jumped on the “Hooray, hooray, Phil Jackson’s gone” bandwagon (one which he initially built) but at least gave Jackson credit for the 11 NBA Championships he won as coach – as opposed to Dan Le Batard’s sidekick lap dog (whose last name is synonymous with “penis” and whose nickname means in Italian, predictably, “testicles”) – who said somebody would have coached those championships anyway, so Jackson should get no credit for winning any of them.

Of course, Jackson deserves everything negative that’s directed his way after becoming president of the Knicks. Stephen A. explained how he never wanted the job but owner James Dolan kept upping the money until he couldn’t turn it down. Honestly, how many people would say no to a multi-year, eight-figure job? It looks as though Phil couldn’t get Dolan to buy out Carmelo Anthony so he convinced him to buy out himself. Slick move if you can do it.

Word has it that, as is in vogue in today’s NBA, James Harden and Chris Paul have been (is the correct word) colluding to hook up in Houston. There is one question on the minds of … everybody. WHY? Granted, CP3 and Doc Rivers got cross ways near season’s end, mainly over Doc’s refusal to make a late-season trade which included, among others, Melo to the LA and Doc’s son, Austin, to New York. OK, that would upset many people – especially considering Paul and Anthony are “boys” (and Paul and the junior Rivers, and apparently other Clips, aren’t). But, the Rockets? Chris Paul is the ultimate alpha dog (which is why a move to San Antonio was never going to happen – they already have an alpha dog who, by the way, has multiple championships). James Harden became an alpha dog this year – and, had it not been for a rival averaging a triple-double for the season – would have won the MVP award. How is that gonna work?

Los Angeles sure looks like they got blindsided but not all is lost. First of all, kudos need to go to executive VP of the Clippers, Lawrence Frank, for scrambling at the 11th hour to grab five players and three draft picks so they didn’t lose CP3 for nothing – as has happened to other NBA franchises when one of their top players decides to bolt. Make no mistake the Clips aren’t as good today as they were yesterday but the fact they acquired a starter (Patrick Beverly), a guy or two who can be productive as a rotation player, as well as a couple who might be assets in a future trade, salvages something out of what could have been a disaster.

One thing we’ve learned. Nothing should surprise us when it comes to the NBA. Consider this: fourth draft pick Josh Jackson told the Celtics that if they wanted him to work out for them, they needed to fly to Sacramento. So the Boston brass flew cross country to do their due diligence. Whether they truly wanted the guy they eventually picked (as they claimed) or desired Jackson (who, during his only year in college, had immaturity issues, causing him to be suspended for a game), they felt it necessary to evaluate every potential player. When they deplaned, however, Jackson’s “people” informed them the 19-year-old wasn’t going to work out for them after all.

Obviously, the decision wasn’t his. Or, at least, not his alone. It’s well-known that what the top rookies are looking forward to is not their initial contract but their second contract, the one that comes after their fourth year of service. It’s rather evident that Jackson (Josh, not Phil) had people in his ear, illustrating to him how, if he were selected by the Celtics, he’d most likely be a rotation player, while if the Suns picked him, he’d probably start and put up big numbers – which would make him really big bucks after four seasons. No one knows if it ever crossed his mind that it would be, in all likelihood, four seasons of losing in Phoenix whereas the Celtics got to the Eastern Conference finals this year. If a player would rather set himself up for the big money rather than attempt to make a big winner even better, maybe that’s not the guy you want joining your culture.

When asked what his plans were for the upcoming season, Jackson’s answer was:

“I want to prove to those teams that didn’t pick me that they were wrong.”

All three of those teams – one of which he refused to work out for.

TNT’s NBA Awards Show Less Than Dynamite

June 27th, 2017

After promoting its show for months, I decided to check out TNT’s NBA Awards show. Not sure what everyone else’s reaction was to the first annual installment, but it was really disappointing. Maybe it was just me but it seemed like the humor was contrived and several of the skits were awkward, at best. Even the normally entertaining Inside the NBA quartet came up short in their efforts to amuse. Possibly it could be because those guys need to be center stage, not a back up act.

The show wasn’t a complete dud. A couple high points were Bill Russell (the Lifetime Achievement Award winner) pointing at each of the five NBA champion centers and telling them that he’d “kick their ass” and the moving, inspirational acceptance speech by the (Craig) “Sager Strong” award winner, Monty Williams (whose wife was tragically killed in a car accident, leaving him to raise their five children alone). The two of them were so good – for diametrically opposite reasons – their appearances made the show worth watching. But just barely.

Maybe the problem was the award winners were correctly predicted weeks ago that the show had an anticlimactic quality to it. In addition, either TNT felt Drake was the perfect emcee for their inaugural event or a number of others turned down the gig. There have been hundreds of emcees for shows of this type and, as far as ranking them, Drake was … one of them. He had as many wardrobe changes as he said, “Make some noise for …” He seemed to be enjoying his role although, other than a couple on target quips, his performance was quite unforgettable.

Naturally, all of the above is my opinion and, chances are many people may think of it as I do of other critics, i.e.:

“Who cares?”

Random Thoughts on NBA Draft

June 23rd, 2017

Once again a record was set for freshmen selected in the first round (16). Commissioner Adam Silver says the one-and-done rule isn’t working. From a common sense standpoint – certainly from an academic one – no one can debate him on this. Many of the one-and-doners don’t even finish the second semester on campus. People who claim the year in college is beneficial have a weak case. As far as skill improvement, the NCAA limits coaches from working with players to 20 hours per week (including film work and weight training), no more than four hours per day and eight hours per week in the off season. The pros don’t answer to the NCAA. As far as using that year to mature, really?

Josh Jackson might be the poster boy for character counts, but not as much as talent. Out of all the top prospects in this class, Jackson is the only one to have any legal issues, having done damage to a woman’s car (kicking the door and taillight) who he said disrespected his friend. Added to that, the Kansas star refused to workout for the Celtics. When the Celtics brass flew to Sacramento to meet with Jackson, he stiffed them. Does anybody really believe it was the 20-year-old’s decision to blow off a meeting with a franchise that has the tradition of the Celts, as well as their roster? Now he’ll be balling in Phoenix. Does that make sense? Is it what he learned during his year in college – to surround himself with such advisors? Gotta be more to it.

Harry Giles was projected as the number one overall pick a couple years ago. Two surgeries later caused him to drop to #20. His selection will either be viewed as a huge mistake by teams that passed on him (especially if their pick was a bust) or one of the most prescient moves of all-time. Don’t worry about footnoting it; everybody who got it right will gladly inform you of their brilliance.

Kentucky had three more lottery picks, pushing the total of top 14s during the Calipari era to 17. Say what you want about Cal but he’s won a lot of games (including a national championship) and has proven he knows how to make boatloads of money – for himself and others.

According to his UCLA teammates, Lonzo Ball is a terrific guy to play with. Anytime he was interviewed, he came across as quite mature. If his attitude had to be categorized, laid back would be most folks’ description. Now, tweets are coming out from his soon-to-be-peers which show how much of a bulls-eye his father has placed on him. Speaking of the elder Ball, doesn’t it interest anyone else where all the money came from to stock all that BBB product? Could it be Lavar got a loan based on future earnings – and not his?

In Chicago one thing is for certain: Front office execs John Paxson and Gar Forman don’t get along with their head coaches. They’ve pink slipped Scott Skiles, Vinny Del Negro and Tom Thibodeau. They finally got their man in Fred Hoiberg which, as of yet, hasn’t worked out and, after a disappointing (non-playoff) season, the coach has been put on notice by the two Bulls’ leaders that he needs to “find ways to be a better leader.”

Ask those who’ve worked in that organization and you’ll find many who describe Pax and Gar as vindictive. Which is why it was so shocking that the Bulls allowed a deal to move Jimmy Butler to Minnesota – whose head coach is Tibbs. Maybe it was the best offer Chicago had but, if anybody needs to be put on notice, it’s a couple guys near the top of that organization.

Sacramento loaded up on talent from marquis programs, each of whom is, according to those who claim to know, a quality person. Don’t necessarily look for the Kings to win big – or even crack the playoffs – but at least losing will be more palatable. Another team used to losing is Philadelphia. No longer, their fans say. “We’re bound for the playoffs!” claim the 76er faithful. Possibly, but their “Big 3” of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and, now, Markelle Fultz have played a total of 31 games – all by Embiid who missed a couple seasons (plus). Simmons took a medical redshirt year as well. Sure, if they’re all healthy, it’s a formidable trio. But, playoffs? Pump the brakes Sixer fans.

As always, there were guys who chose to leave school early and sign with an agent, only to go undrafted. While dreams are crushed, undoubtedly, there were people – who had the player’s best intentions at heart – advising those youngsters they needed more time in school, that they weren’t yet NBA material. The lesson for these guys – and, surely, those in subsequent years who will make the same (bad) decision, the NBA is telling you that you’re not ready, and:

“When the NBA tells you that you’re not ready, they’re not joking.”

Is There Any Way to Derail the Warriors’ Dominance?

June 22nd, 2017

With the draft happening tonight, there is sure to be a good deal of wheeling and dealing going on, especially if the past few days are any indicator. More trades. swapping of draft picks, out-of-the-box moves made. All in an attempt to catch – or at least somewhat close the gap between everybody and – the Golden State Warriors.

Paul George could be “rented” by the Cavs so they have someone to guard Kevin Durant (so LeBron doesn’t have to play nearly every minute at both ends). Or maybe Gordon Hayward and Jimmy Butler, along with the third pick in the first round, to the Celtics. As if that would be enough to push Boston past the Dubs. How about Jerry West to the Clips in an effort to lure James away from Cleveland (in a couple years). Hey, they wouldn’t have to give him a house, only a housekeeper.

In reality, the only way to make many (most?) of the NBA teams relevant is to go to a hard salary cap. Which, you can bet, is not going to happen. However, as long as it isn’t, a franchise (especially one in a small market) will need to be awfully lucky to vault from the middle, or lower, into contention for a championship. Not a conference championship either. As Phil Jackson said in his book, Eleven Rings, there’s nothing worse than getting to the Finals and losing. I wonder if he still feels that way?

Unless something completely unforeseen occurs, it certainly looks like, barring catastrophic injuries, the NBA world is the Warriors’ oyster. Possibly the best strategy for catching the Warriors is to do it the way the 76ers are trying. Forfeit the next 2-3 years until the guys at Golden State get old and tired of winning.

Another hope the rest of the NBA might have is, although the core group in Oakland (soon to be San Francisco) looks like it will stay together for a while, is to overpay the “others” to break up the Dubs’ bench. For now, it looks as though the boys from the Bay are having too much fun spraying $200K worth of champagne (hey, waste the cheap piss – drink the expensive stuff) but you can bet those “glue” guys’ agents will be whispering (and if that doesn’t work, shouting) in their clients’ ears to take the money. After all, 20 years from now (when you’ll still have the two rings), what would be better for your family – another ring or two (or three) or an extra $10-20 million?

In the back of the agents’ minds – make that front and center of their minds – is this thought:

“4% of more is a helluva lot better than 4% of less.”