“I think the problem with the Knicks is that their best two guys don’t make the people around them better. You see it with the Miami’s, the Oklahoma City’s, the Bulls, their top guys make others better. If that’s the case, I’m going to make sure that my top two guys have the ball at all times.”
• SB Nation’s NBA blogs spent the week writing odes to favorite “cult” players on various NBA teams–Brian Scalabrine, Hamed Haddadi, DeShawn Stevenson (Wizards version), Arvydas Sabonis, etc. You get the idea, and you can find links to every fun post here. But Andrew Sharp of SB Nation scanned the last decade or so of Wizards history and decided it was simply impossible to name one player a “cult hero” from amid a group of candidates that included a young Rasheed Wallace, Popeye Jones, Nick Young, Javale McGee and so many others. So Sharp essentially went through the entire decade-plus worth of Wizards’ insanity, and when you see it all in one place, it is honestly a lot to comprehend.
• Ten reasons to be excited about the Bucks, who longer have what was once my favorite reason to be excited about the Bucks (Andrew Bogut). I am very much on board with No. 4 here.
“For me, in Dallas, it was like, they do the starters and everybody gets their name called. Well when you’re the sixth man, and they check you into the game, you get your own ovation,” said Terry, speaking at a high school basketball tournament held at Reebok headquarters on Thursday. “You get your own call-out. What better feeling is it than that? So, I relish in that.”
As always, Jason Terry is awesome.
• John Krolik, writing at Pro Basketball Talk, on how the Lakers’ decision to trade Shaquille O’Neal before the 2004-05 season set of a chain reaction still playing out today.
• Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times with a very early look at how the Thunder and Lakers match up:
The Lakers maintain they easily could have led in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals had they not blown fourth-quarter leads in Games 2 and 4. The claim seems overstated, given the Thunder’s superior speed and talent. Yet it’s hard to ignore what contributed to the fourth-quarter lapses. The Lakers coughed up a seven-point lead in Game 2, after Kobe Bryant committed two turnovers and Steve Blake missed a potential game-winning three-pointer. The Lakers unraveled in Game 4 for other reasons. Bryant went one for 10 from the field. The Thunder fronted Andrew Bynum in the post. Pau Gasol made a costly turnover instead of shooting a wide-open jumper that could have won the game.
It’s true that two of the Lakers’ losses to Oklahoma City were excruciatingly close, and that it’s tempting to play the “What if?” game with those losses — i.e., “It should have been 2-2 after Game 4!” But the other two Thunder wins in that serious were easy blowouts, and the nature of excruciatingly close games over long sample sizes suggests you can’t count on winning better than half of them. You can count on winning blowouts, and so the argument that the 2010-11 Lakers were close to the Thunder’s level based on the existence of two very close losses is one Lakers fans would do well to avoid. After, the Lakers in their acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard clearly conceded, “Close games aside, we are not close to elite as is.” Medina hits that point here and adds some interesting thoughts on how the Lakers might deal with the Thunder’s speedier players.
• Howard Beck of The New York Times absolutely hammers the Knicks for their continued refusal to issue any public statement about the departure of Jeremy Lin:
By [media day on Oct. 1], two and a half months will have passed, giving the Knicks a convenient and self-created loophole: That’s old news. The approved script will no doubt be, “We’re looking forward” and “We’re focused on the players who are here” and “Look, Raymond Felton lost weight!”
It almost surely will not include a meaningful explanation of why the Knicks let their most popular player in a decade leave, rather than match a three-year, $25 million contract. Commenting runs counter to the Knicks’ prevailing, almost-pathological culture of silence.
There is much more in Beck’s full post.
• If you’re interested in the NBA’s sneaker deal machinations, here’s a look at some stars who will be sneaker free agents in the next year.
• CelticsBlog reminds us that Boston still hasn’t signed Jeff Green and throws out some theories as to what might be holding up Green’s reportedly already-agreed-to four-year, $36 million deal. My educated guess is that the ideas presented here are pretty much correct.
Boston as of this second has $62,137,217 in 2011-12 salary guaranteed to 13 players, including a token $25,000 to Jamar Smith, whose deal is otherwise non-guaranteed. Green would be the 14th player, and if he signs for the full $9 million in Year 1, that would take Boston’s payroll to $71,137,217. Keep in mind that Boston has used the full mid-level exception (on Jason Terry) and thus cannot have their payroll exceed $74.3 million at any point this season under a new league rule. They also have the full biannual exception, valued at $1.957 million, which they’d presumably like to use on another big man — Chris Andersen, Darko Milicic, Keynon Martin, etc. Piling that on top of Green’s deal would take the payroll to $73.107 million. Let’s assume none of the Jamar Smith/Dionte Christmas/Kris Joseph trio end up making the roster, and the Celtics use their 15th and final spot to add a player on the veteran’s minimum. That takes them to $73,961,606, within a cool half million of the hard cap.
So they would appear safe, right? Sure. But there’s always a chance one of the minimum crew here gets hurt, leaving Boston to waive that player and search for a replacement, and that $73.961,606 figure would make it impossible to sign said replacement. This is an unlikely scenario, since one of among Christmas/Joseph/Smith may well make the team, or the Celtics may choose to hold the biannual for now and keep a roster spot open. But being as flexible with that hard cap is possible is always a good thing, which is why the Bulls nickel-and-dimed Marquis Teague to gain a few hundred thousand in breathing space. You just never know what opportunities might come up during the year. So when the full details come out, don’t be shocked if Green’s deal starts a few hundred thousand below the initially expected level–if Boston determines that would help.
Obviously, there’s also the possibility Boston is trying to work some back-end insurance into Green’s contract by making portions of the final two seasons non-guaranteed and/or loading them up with performance incentives. Boston’s offseason spending spree will have the Celtics capped out next summer and very near the cap level in the summer of 2014–and probably over it, once you factor in cap holds for Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley, set to hit either free agency or (in Pierce’s case) retirement that summer. I’ve heard (without confirmation from the Celtics, of course) that Kevin Garnett’s $12 million for 2014-15 is only 50 percent guaranteed, and if Boston could reach a similar agreement for that season with Green, they could carve out a bit of cap flexibility two summers from now.
• The Pistons could have five rookies on the roster this season. How unusual is that?
• Rob Mahoney with more on how the Princeton offense might (or might not) fit the Lakers personnel. This is an issue, for sure, but we’re (and I’m including myself here) at risk of overblowing it. It’s true the traditional Princeton offense doesn’t stress back-it-down low-post play (Dwight Howard) or constant high pick-and-rolls (Howard/Steve Nash), but as Mahoney notes, the Lakers aren’t going to run a traditional Princeton offense. They’ll create their own stylistic hybrid that makes the best use of everyone and includes elements of a dozen NBA offenses, and it will work well enough, depending on everyone’s willingness to share. Will it work well enough to place the Lakers in the top three in points per possession? That’s where the issues Mahoney brings up come into play, but if they are in the top half-dozen and improve defensively (the bigger issue with last season’s team), they’ll be fine. They have the potential to be something much greater than “fine” on offense, and the Princeton fit is only one of many variables that will determine whether the Lakers reach that potential.