2010 NBA draft: How John Wall could change the world for one lucky lottery team

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jwall.jpgYour top overall pick in the 2010 draft will almost certainly be Kentucky’s John Wall, the tremendously athletic, do-it-all point guard. The guy makes beautiful YouTube highlight reels in his sleep for god’s sake, and aside from an in-development three-point stroke, is anything you could ever want from a point guard coming out of college. The hype is deserved, and all indications show that GMs across the league are buying in to Wallapalooza.

That makes the draft lottery awfully important. A number of lottery teams have been waiting for this very moment, with the hope that fate may smile upon them and grant them Wall, Evan Turner, or the prospect of their choice.

There’s a lot to be won and lost with the bounce of the ping pong balls on Tuesday night, as Wall’s can’t-miss talent could significantly alter the futures of any of the lottery teams. For simplicity’s sake (and probability’s, too) let’s focus on the top five most probable destinations for Wall according to the lottery odds:

New Jersey (25% of winning the lottery) – The Nets’ situation is a bit complicated, entirely because of the presence of Devin Harris. Depending upon your appraisal of Harris and Brook Lopez, Devin is either New Jersey’s top player upon the end of the 2009-2010 nightmare season or merely their second best. Yet if the lottery odds translate into the actual draft order, they’ll undoubtedly look to John Wall as the player to breathe new life into their franchise.

It should be interesting to see just how Tuesday’s lottery impacts Harris’ trade value. We’ve learned in recent weeks that the Nets are open to the idea of moving Devin, but obviously that option comes off the table should they not receive the #1 overall pick in the draft. Moving Harris without the Wall guarantee would be downright foolish, and should New Jersey find themselves anywhere but in the top overall spot, they’re essentially ruled out of the Wall sweepstakes.

However, the catch is if the Nets do get the top pick in the draft and the opportunity to draft Wall to replace Harris, there’s no question that Devin’s trade value would drop. It then becomes painfully obvious that New Jersey has no room to posture in trade negotiations, and their leverage in a potential deal involving one of their top players would dissipate. Maybe that means they would keep both Harris and Wall for the time being, or maybe that means Rod Thorn would simply take what he could get for Harris to offer Wall the team on a silver platter.
 
Minnesota (19.9%)
– Man, if you thought the Nets made things awkward with their dueling point guards, the Timberwolves roster is even weirder. David Kahn decided to use the fifth and sixth pick in last year’s draft on Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio, only one of which is part of the Wolves’ immediate future. Then, he went on to sign Ramon Sessions in free agency, giving Minnesota three point guard prospects on the roster.

So naturally, if the Wolves fans were to strike gold with the top overall pick in this year’s draft, Kahn would look to draft John Wall.

The most interesting thing about the Wolves’ point guards is that unlike the Nets’ Devin Harris, none of them are proven. Ramon Sessions has yet to really show that he can run a team, as his only significant performances have come in the often deceiving final stretch of the regular season. Jonny Flynn has only spent one year in the league, but he’s facing serious efficiency issues and not exactly the prototypical creator in Kurt Rambis’ triangle offense. Ricky Rubio may be finding all kinds of success in Spain, but he’s still a world away from Minny and has yet to play an NBA game.

Evan Turner is a far more natural fit, but the Wolves are desperately in need of a player of not only Wall’s talents, but his star power. It won’t solve Minnesota’s positional issues and only further exacerbates the conflict between the triangle and the team’s players, but it’s hard to see Kahn passing up another point guard in this year’s draft should the ping pong balls bounce favorably for the Wolves.

Sacramento (15.6%) – The difficulties continue. Kind of. The Kings are the first team on our list that could really have the luxury of moving the #1 pick should they win the lottery. Devin Harris is cool, Ricky Rubio is fun, but Tyreke Evans is a beast. The man is just a monster of a guard, and though I’m sure the Kings may want to give things a go with a Wall-Evans backcourt that is both completely terrifying and a bit confusing, their best option may be to let Evans shine while trading the pick to acquire talent from elsewhere.

Wall and Evans’ skill sets just don’t complement each other all that well, and you’re really looking at two relatively high-usage players that are going to need the ball in their hands to really get things done on the court. Instead of fighting through that, Sacramento could trade down in the draft of move the pick for another young, talented player on a team desperate for a point guard. John Wall could have pretty ridiculous value, and should he suddenly become available via trade, expect teams to pull out all the stops.

I think what benefits Sacramento the most, though, is that the ability to trade Wall is a luxury rather than a necessity. With New Jersey, the Nets would more or less be forced to make a choice between Wall and Harris, which as I mentioned before would diminish trade returns. However, with such a phenomenally talented duo in Wall and Evans, the Kings could just sit on the tandem to see if it works, and don’t necessarily have the same urgency to build a cogent team (remember, the Nets want to be a free agent destination). They can develop players, develop talent, and let the roster mature.

Golden State (10.4%) – Yikes. Steph Curry, Monta Ellis, and maybe John Wall? It’s a Nellieball dream, to be sure, and for a team that will soon be moving in a new direction coaching-wise, it gives the franchise plenty of flexibility in terms of point guard options.

Ellis pretty much maxed out last season in terms of his minutes and per-game production, and while he’s fairly effective in accumulating volume stats, it’s unclear whether or not he’s the type of point guard any team should want for the long haul. He’s definitely talented enough to make it work, but he needs a team built to fit his strengths and weaknesses, even if he isn’t a team’s best player. That’s a lot of hassle, and it comes with no guarantees. Ellis may not be worth it.

Curry showed off some of his incredible potential over the second half of his rookie season, and his shooting definitely allows him to play off the ball. The same is definitely true of Ellis, who was still effective playing alongside Baron Davis in Oakland. NBA diehards will let out a deep sigh should Wall fall into something of a basketball purgatory in the Bay, but he has the ability to transform a guilty pleasure team into a must-watch offensive outfit. It wouldn’t work every night out, but you’re telling me that the trio of Wall, Ellis, and Curry doesn’t intrigue you? It’s pure entertainment, even if there’s not much substance.

Washington (10.3%) – Finally, things get easier. Kind of. Take a look at the Wizards team that finished last season, and you see a squad desperately in need of a point guard. Randy Foye wasn’t that guy. Earl Boykins wasn’t that guy. Even Shaun Livingston, despite his strong play to finish the season, wasn’t that guy. That team needed a bonafi
de starter at the point.

If they land Wall, they get one. There’s only one problem: Gilbert Arenas. Gil is the main obstacle between the Wiz and rebuilding, and I’m not saying that he should completely derail Washington’s plans just by being present. That said, Arenas has been this team’s point guard, and considering the team’s willingness to work him back into the mix going forward, that makes things a bit more complex. Arenas’ contract is unmovable considering his rep and price tag, and moving the pick makes little sense for a team that needs a talent injection.

That means the best option for the Wiz may be to draft Wall and move Arenas off the ball. Or maybe they’re a team that actually looks to Evan Turner at the top spot, though admittedly that seems like a longshot. Regardless of how Turner’s game may match up with Wall’s by the end of their careers, Wall seems to be the consensus top talent in the draft. His combination of physical gifts, immediate contributions, potential for improvement, and established branding make him destined for stardom in the NBA at one of the most crucial positions. Ernie Grunfeld isn’t going to pass that up on Gil’s account. 

What’s Kyrie Irving’s problem with LeBron James?

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Kyrie Irving reportedly requested a trade from the Cavaliers because he no longer wants to play with LeBron James.

But what does that actually mean?

Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Much of Irving’s disenchantment with James was rooted in game play, sources said. James, as a once-in-a-lifetime talent, controlled the ball more than any other forward perhaps in league history.

But there were ancillary issues that bothered Irving, too, such as how James’ good friend Randy Mims had a position on the Cavs’ staff and traveled on the team plane while none of Irving’s close friends were afforded the same opportunity.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In registering his preference for a trade, league sources said, Irving divulged to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert that he’s become increasingly uneasy about a future that includes a roster constructed to complement LeBron James — a roster that could be devoid of James come free agency in 2018.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Irving wants to take his show away from James so he can grow his career (his on-court acclaim and notoriety, his brand, his voice) outside of James’ shadow.

Numerous people who’ve talked to Irving over the past month have said to cleveland.com that he told them he wanted to leave to grow his career, and it was the message Irving sent to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert when he asked to be traded last week.

These can all simultaneously be true. There needn’t be one singular reason Irving wants a trade.

It can also be true that former general manager David Griffin might have soothed Irving’s discontent. It can also be true that the Warriors’ dominance influenced Irving, as he might have been more willing to remain in a secondary role if it were more likely to result in a championship.

But so much of this comes back to LeBron, a massive presence around whom everything in Cleveland revolves.

Being the top player on a team means so many things – dictating on-court action, having the supporting cast built around you, influencing team staff, building a larger sponsorship presence. Irving can’t get any of that while playing with LeBron.

Irving led the Cavs in shots and usage percentage last season, but that happened only because LeBron allowed it. LeBron obviously retook control in the playoffs. There’s no question whose team this is.

There is also no indication Irving is fighting that. He’s not trying to usurp LeBron’s power, and Irving has molded his game the last few years to fit with LeBron.

But now Irving his exercising his own power so he can get even more the only place possible – somewhere away from LeBron.

Did Cavaliers dropping David Griffin lead to Kyrie Irving’s trade request?

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Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he had the NBA’s hardest coaching job. Following that thinking, former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin might have had the most difficult front-office job.

Not only did he face the same championship-or-bust pressure and oversee the same players (and their egos) as Lue, Griffin also reported directly to Dan Gilbert, the Cavs’ sometimes-difficult owner. The Gilbert aspect is often discussed, as is working with great/brilliant/passive-aggressive LeBron James. But it has probably been undersold how high-maintenance Kyrie Irving – who requested a trade – also was for Griffin before the general manager was ousted last month.

Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Over the previous few months, the Cavs had been worried about Irving’s mindset. They knew at times he’d grown unhappy with playing a secondary role on the team. Griffin had several conversations with Irving throughout the year, sources said, trying to find ways to work on the situation.

After the season, there was a desire to arrange a meeting to clear the air from all sides, sources said, but it didn’t take place. Unlike most teams, the Cavs did not have postseason exit meetings with their players.

What followed was a whirlwind, with the Cavs putting forth a series of trade packages looking to acquire either Butler or George. Some of these talks included Irving, which upset him even more when he found out about it, sources said. Previously, Griffin had worked to keep lines of communication with Irving open, but now Irving was in the dark.

Irving’s trade request had been building for years. The reported timing is vague, but Irving might have even requested a trade while Griffin was still in charge.

Either way, there’s no guarantee the Cavs keeping Griffin would have placated Irving. But it seems an experienced voice running the front office could have only helped.

Now, the task of trading Irving or mending fences falls to new general manager Koby Altman – who must solve this issue in a spotlight he never wanted.

If only Cleveland had Phil Jackson to insist on exit meetings. Maybe this would have been smoothed over a month ago.

LaVar Ball gets technical foul, pulls his AAU team off the court, forfeits game it was winning (video)

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Magic Johnson said he’s convinced LaVar Ball’s outlandishness is just marketing and that the father of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is truly committed to developing younger players.

This didn’t look like someone who put youth player development over his own image.

With LaVar Ball’s AAU team leading by nine, he got a technical foul then pulled his team off the court:

He (kind of) explained why after the game (warning: profanity):

He also touched on his reasons in a video that, of course, quickly turns to promoting his brand:

This doesn’t mean Johnson is completely wrong, but the Lakers president seemingly misdiagnosed Ball’s priorities. What if Johnson is also wrong about Ball staying clear of the Lakers? That could create problems – if it hasn’t already.

I was never convinced, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver predicted, LaVar would settle down after Lonzo was drafted. I still believe Lonzo’s talent justifies managing LaVar, but that appears increasingly likely to be a burden the Lakers must actually handle rather than just brush off.

James Dolan’s MSG threatens to sue Steve Ballmer’s Los Angeles Clippers

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This story requires a little background.

The Forum in Inglewood was best known for decades as being both fabulous and the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, back from the Jerry West era and through Magic’s “Showtime” teams. Then in 2001 the Lakers moved downtown to Staples Center, and after that the Forum went through some rough times. It was a number of things, including a mega church for a while, but mostly it was empty. Then several years ago the Madison Square Garden company (owned by Knicks owner James Dolan) bought the Forum, fixed it up, and started booking it again. Now the Forum is one of the hot major concert/event spaces in Los Angeles again, and it’s about to get a boost because it’s adjacent to where Stan Kroenke is building the new Los Angeles Rams stadium. Hello gentrification!

Now enter Steve Ballmer. The Clippers’ owner wants out of Staples Center and the Lakers’ shadow, so he has proposed to build his new arena in Inglewood in another space adjacent to the Rams stadium — land that MSG used to lease. As you might imagine, Dolan’s MSG is not thrilled — they are already battling with Staples to fill their space, now a state-of-the-art arena is moving in down the street.

In a proxy Knicks/Clippers battle, MSG may sue to Clippers and Inglewood in an attempt to block the new building. Here is what Dolan’s attorney in the case, Marvin Putnam, told the Daily Breeze in Los Angeles.

“The mayor made it extremely clear that he needed that piece of land back for a kind of ‘Silicon Beach,’ ” said Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins, which filed the damage claim that serves as a precursor to a lawsuit. “They’re attempting to flat-out trick people.”

(Inglewood Mayor James) Butts declined to comment, and there is no proof that he made those statements. But when Madison Square Garden Co. relinquished the parking lease to the city, its approved contract states that the land would not be used for anything that would hurt the Forum’s business, according to documents.

Right now the Clippers and Inglewood are in an exclusive negotiating agreement to come to terms on the sale and plans for the property. Putnam told the paper — and the Inglewood City Council — that if the deal goes forward they will sue to block it.

It’s impossible to say how this will turn out, although as a former government reporter I will say these cases tend to be decided in favor of the side about to spend a ton of money on a new building.