Zach Randolph wants Pau Gasol money

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There’s no denying the fact that Zach Randolph has made a pretty substantial difference in Memphis this year, even if the actual differences in Randolph’s game are anything but. Zeebo’s arrival in Memphis was met with zero expectations, and thus when the Grizzlies experienced an unexpected amount of success this season with Randolph as a 20-10 guy, it was seen as a redemption story.

The catch, of course, is that Randolph isn’t redeemed because he hasn’t changed. The Grizzlies are a better team than expected because of Marc Gasol’s leap, Rudy Gay’s incremental improvement, and O.J. Mayo’s continued ascent into awesome. And, notably — this is where you come in, Zach — because Randolph is a much better player than Hakim Warrick and Darrell Arthur. Zip, bang, boom, and you’ve got a roster that could finish the season with a .500 record with one more win after claiming just 24 victories last year.

Just don’t assume that any of that team success has changed Randolph, who is putting up the same numbers he always has albeit with slightly rosier results. With all that in mind, I hope you’ll understand my cynicism over Randolph’s want for a Pau Gasol-style extension. From Chris Tomasson of FanHouse:

Randolph might not know the exact details of the three-year, $57 million extension Gasol’s brother, Lakers big man Pau Gasol,
signed last December that runs through the 2013-14 season. But Randolph
does believe he’s worthy of getting a similar extension.

“Definitely,” Randolph said.

Randolph said in an interview with FanHouse before Monday’s game at
Denver he wants to sign an extension this summer, and has told Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley his desire to remain with the Grizzlies beyond
when his contract expires in 2011. He brought up the link to Pau Gasol.

“Me and Pau Gasol got signed to the same deal when he was in Memphis
and I was in Portland,” said Randolph, whose contract actually is
slightly less, with Randolph making $16 million this season and $17.33
million next season and the Lakers star earning $16.45 million and
$17.82 million in those seasons. “We got the same contract, and it got
extended. … I hope (to get the extension done this summer). I’d
definitely like to get it done.”

Zach Randolph isn’t Pau Gasol, and he isn’t worth Pau Gasol money. He’s still one of the league’s lesser defenders, and on a dollar-for-dollar basis he could be the worst. Plus, I don’t know if I’ve made this abundantly clear: he’s still Zach Randolph. He hasn’t even been worth Zach Randolph money over the last few seasons, as his game has been picked apart piece by piece and he’s been ridiculed in every media outlet imaginable for his generous contract.

Yet now, because Randolph’s team is actually winning a few games, he’s suddenly validated that deal? Right. Then again, maybe this is pointing to what has really been Zeebo’s issue all along: a lack of self-awareness. He wouldn’t be the first NBAer to overvalue his own contributions, but through all of Zach’s darker years, it’s never seemed as though Randolph even began to grapple with the possibility that something he was doing was wrong. It’s as if in Zeebo world, 20-10 is its own impenetrable logic, and they of the 20-10 cloth can do no wrong.

Well they can. This really isn’t meant to come off as much of as a complete smear campaign, though I’m sure it reads that way. Randolph has a place and a value in the NBA, and all things considered he’s still a very, very productive player. He’s just not quite worth the price tag he’s trying to put on himself, nor quite the redemptive hero he’s made out to be.

Pacers’ Lance Stephenson will get his chance, but coming off the bench

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Indiana is Myles Turner‘s team now. Gone from last season are Paul George, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague, Aaron Brooks and more. More than just Turner, everyone on the Pacers’ roster is going to get a chance to shine.

That includes Lance Stephenson.

But he will do that coming off the bench, coach Nate McMillan told the Pacers’ website.

Coach Nate McMillan said he has a starting lineup in mind heading into training camp, but wouldn’t reveal it. He did acknowledge, however, that Lance Stephenson likely will start the season as the sixth man…

“I hope he can establish (that role),” McMillan said. “A sixth man is like a starter, and he can be a guy who can do a lot of things with that second group with his ability to handle the ball, score the ball. He’s an unselfish player.”

Stephenson was only with the Pacers for a few games at the end of last season, but he was their second best player in the postseason brought an energy and toughness the team lacked. He hit threes (62 percent for the Pacers), played hard, and looked more like the guy Indiana had years ago than the guy who has bounced around the league since. But that was a very small sample size, it’s something else to do this over the course of a season.

Indiana is rebuilding but they did not bottom out and tank, they brought in guys who can handle the ball such as Victor Oladipo (the George trade), Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph. Stephenson is going to have to accept and find a role behind and with those guys. But he’s going to get a chance, and he has played his best ball in a Pacers’ uniform.

Suns’ center Alex Len expected to sign qualifying offer, head to camp

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In the free-spending summer of 2016, Bismack Biyambo got a $72 million contract. Timofey Mozgov got $64 million.

Those kinds of contracts — and there were plenty more of them — had a lot of NBA big men (and players in general) heading into this summer thinking they were going to get PAID. Instead, teams learned the lessons from their drunken spending binge and the market got tight. Especially for centers.

Which leads us to the news Suns big man Alex Len is going to bet on himself and sign his qualifying offer before coming to camp, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Barring an unforeseen change of events, Phoenix Suns center Alex Len is planning to sign the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer before training camp, clearing the way to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, league sources told ESPN….

Phoenix wants to study’s Len’s progress in the 2017-18 season before committing to a long-term, lucrative contract extension to him. Len has started 80 games over the past two seasons, including 34 in 2016-17 when he averaged eight points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game.

Phoenix wants to leave its options open. Len is mobile, can protect the rim, and has some skills that would help him fit in a modern NBA style offense — he could play with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson — plus last season he improved his shooting around the rim and in the paint. However, he’s not consistent on either end of the court. He shows his potential in flashes, but the Suns need to see more.

Len will now be an unrestricted free agent next summer — he is playing for his next payday. If that can’t motivate him, nothing will.

Report: Lottery reform will really help teams in middle of lottery

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Tanking in the NBA is a problem more of perception than reality — Adam Silver and the league office doesn’t like that there are portions of team’s fan bases rooting for their team to lose. It doesn’t like that tanking is openly discussed on radio shows and online. Combine that with the resting of star players on the road, and in nationally televised games, and the league sees sports talk radio talking points as real problems for the league’s image.

Spreading out the NBA’s schedule is done, and with that the resting of players’ in those high-profile games will decrease (of course, if teams want to sit LeBron James or Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard in a nationally televised game, they will just say he has a sore back/ankle/shoulder that needs rest).

Lottery reform looks like it will pass as well, even though it’s putting a band-aid on a broken leg. The league’s new rules will decrease and flatten out the odds at the top of the lottery, and it will reward the teams more in the middle, according to a new report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

 The worst three teams’ odds would now have an equal chance at the No. 1 overall pick: 14 percent. Presently, the teams with the three worst records have descending chances of 25 percent, 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent. Also, the worst record can drop as far as No. 5 in the new lottery proposal, down from No. 4….

Teams in the Nos. 7-10 range will have a stronger chance to move up into the top three picks, ESPN has learned, with No. 7’s chances improving from 15 percent to 23, No. 8 from 10 percent to 19 percent, No. 9 from six percent to 15 percent and No. 10 from four percent to 10 percent.

He adds that the odds for the three teams at the top of the lottery — picks 11, 12, and 13 — increase only a couple of percentage points, which the league believes means teams will not try to tank their way out of the playoffs and into the lottery. There is extra money in terms of ticket sales and revenue — at least $5 million for a couple home games — for teams that get into the postseason, and that money can matter to teams.

That said, teams are still going to tank for picks. The league seems to be chasing the ghost of Sam Hinkie with this proposal, trying to make it less likely teams go on a multiple year deep dive, but that was never really a problem anyway — few owners would have the stomach for that, and the one that did (Joshua Harris in Philly) eventually bowed to the pressure from the league and others and canned Hinkie as GM. No GM is trying to put his job at risk with a rebuilding plan.

Tanking will continue because teams need one of the game’s franchise changing stars — of which there are maybe 10 in the league at any one given time — to compete at the highest levels, and for 24 or so markets the only way to get that player is via the draft. What’s more, land that player and thanks to the CBA, teams control that player for four years at a very affordable salary, then thanks to extensions/restricted free agency the team can keep that player for another four or five years. They have this great talent locked in for at least eight or nine years (for example, Kevin Durant spent nine years in Seattle/Oklahoma City before moving on, same with LeBron the first time he left Cleveland, and that list goes on). Now with the “designated player” designation — call it the Kevin Durant rule — teams are more likely to keep that star for another four or five years beyond that.

If you really want to end tanking, make rookie contracts two years then they become unrestricted free agents. Now the motivation to tank for a pick goes away, but of course, small and mid-market teams would rightfully complain about that because then they will have a very hard time keeping talent around.

Bottom line, if you have a truly elite player you win more basketball games, and for most teams the only way to get that player is the draft — so tanking will continue. It’s a smart strategy to rebuild.

The new lottery odds will pass, and they are not a bad thing, but it is far more about perception than reality. And you can be sure there will be unintended consequences.

Jeopardy uses “crying Jordan” meme for question

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You know a meme has jumped the shark when it appears on Jeopardy. (Also, the phrase “jump the shark” has jumped the shark.)

The “crying Jordan” meme reached that level this week when Alex Trebek asked a question about it.

This in no way means we should stop using the crying Jordan meme — even if it bothers MJ himself, and it does — because it’s still funny.