NBA free agency: These bright lights may or may not inspire you


Thumbnail image for Knicks_logo.gifThe team that plays in the World’s Most Famous Arena in the Greatest City on Earth is not exactly having a blockbuster start to free agency. They had their meeting with LeBron in Cleveland, a location they obviously would have preferred to avoid. Showing James the glitz and glitter of New York would have been much more advantageous for Donnie Walsh and company, but alas, they did not get homecourt advantage.

Worse yet, they were upstaged by the Nets. The New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets. Jay-Z, a trusted mentor, stuck around to chat with LeBron after their meeting. Reports say James came away very impressed (I know, I know, reports have said everything including James is actually a cockatoo). Conversely, Brian Windhorst reports that he wasn’t blown away by the Knicks, and multiple reports indicate the Knicks are now pursuing Amar’e hard to try and lure LeBron. Their big pitch yesterday centered around how New York could make him a billionaire if things which are unlikely go just right, and that Mike D’Antoni’s system is the answer.

I’m a huge fan of Seven Seconds or Less and even I know pitching offense-all-the-time to a guy looking for championship rings who has been ousted by top defensive squads every season for the past five years is a bad idea.

The most damning thing about the way the first 36 hours of free agency have gone for the Knicks is that the big pitch, the ultimate trump card, the grand reveal has not worked. The key to LeBron James wasn’t supposed to be that complicated. That’s why with the Nets offering a clothing line from Jay-Z and Russian business connections from Mikhail Prokhorov, with Pat Riley slinging the words “it takes three to win” as his core component, and with Cleveland bombarding James with words and images of what he would emotionally do his home area, the Knicks’ whole concept was pretty simple.

“New York rules.”

That’s it.

That was the whole idea. To be fair, they had little other choice. The Knicks were so decimated by Isiah Thomas’ screwed-up reign at the helm that they just recently had the last draft pick he swapped out used by the Jazz. And in order to get rid of all the contracts he picked up they had to swap with Houston for the next eleventy billion years. And they cleared all their cap space specifically to sign multiple top free agents. But the problem is, what’s left?

D’Antoni is selling a system which didn’t win him a championship. That’s fine, the triangle at one point was unproven and sketchy. Eventually, D’Antoni may reach the promised land with the run-and-gun. And he can win games, that’s always been true. The issue is that you have to bring the whole house, the kitchen sink, and your gold tooth to James. That’s what the Nets did, laying out a comprehensive marketing plan built around people he knows and respects. You have to convince him you are 100% dedicated to building a dynasty with him and you know how. The Heat are doing that today with a pitch that says “You can be the icon of the greatest combination of talent in the modern era.”  The Knicks?

They had to say “Our city is really big, and really rich, and really awesome.” That was the pull. And it’s a relevant point! They weren’t wrong to go with that approach. But it says a lot about where the Knicks are and where they think they are for that to be their approach. They pushed on their best issues: D’Antoni and New York. But even that’s been compromised by the Nets’ Brooklyn relocation looming.

Again, the Knicks didn’t do anything wrong here. They relied on the things that best speak to them. And there’s still a great chance for them to come out winners here, if they can swoop in and get Amar’e now that the Suns have elected to let him walk (signing Hakim Warrick was a pretty big goodbye card) before the Rockets come dashing in with a sign-and-trade. They could still get LeBron.

But it does say something about this market, about the times we live in. Simply pitching the greatest city in the world isn’t enough. You have to have the best talent, be willing to spend the most, have a great city, great management, great coaching, and pitch all those things the right way.

Come to think of it, makes that yellow and purple tint to the championship rings make more sense, doesn’t it?

JaVale McGee apparently makes Warriors regular-season roster

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 15:  JaVale McGee #1 of the Golden State Warriors brings the ball up the court against the Los Angeles Lakers during their preseason game at T-Mobile Arena on October 15, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Golden State won 112-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Steve Kerr warned us, but it’s still difficult to digest.

The NBA’s best team will have the league’s most foolhardy player.

Yes, the Warriors are apparently keeping JaVale McGee.

Golden State waived its other three players without guaranteed salaries today: Elliot Williams, Phil Pressey and Cameron Jones. That drops the Warriors’ roster, including McGee, to 15, the regular-season limit. Unless Golden State prefers to open the season with a vacancy, McGee made the team.

McGee earned the job with a strong preseason. No Warriors match his rim protection, giving him clear value in certain matchups

Zaza Pachulia remains Golden State’s starting center, and Draymond Green will play plenty at the position. But I wouldn’t be surprised if McGee outperforms an aging Anderson Varejao (whose primary skill is flopping) and a rookie Damian Jones (who’s recovering from injury) to become a rotation regular.

McGee also has potential to add comic relief to what’s already a tremendous viewing experience.

Report: Kings and Thunder were ‘seriously engaged’ on Rudy Gay-Cameron Payne trade until Payne got hurt

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 03:  Rudy Gay #8 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half at American Airlines Center on March 3, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Kings are still looking for answers at point guard.

Darren Collison? Not for the season’s first eight games, at least.

Ty Lawson? Um…

Seth Curry? Too late.

Ricky Rubio? Not right now.

Goran Dragic? I mean, maybe, I guess.

Cameron Payne?

If it weren’t for Payne’s foot injury, perhaps Rudy Gay would play for the Thunder.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Kings were seriously engaged with Oklahoma City on a Rudy Gay deal that would’ve included the Thunder’s second-year point guard, Cameron Payne, but those talks stalled after Payne broke his foot in September, league sources said.

This suggest the Kings are not as steadfast on keeping Gay as they’ve suggested, so perhaps we’ll see more trade rumors involving him.

A deal based around Gay and Payne would’ve made sense for both teams.

Sacramento would get a younger player (22 to Gay’s 30) and someone under greater team control (three more years on a rookie-scale contract then restricted free agency rather than Gay planning to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent). Payne would give the Kings much-needed hope at point guard, and he could grow with a team trying to retool around DeMarcus Cousins.

Oklahoma City is far more capable of winning now, even without Kevin Durant, and Gay would help by replacing some of Durant’s scoring punch at small forward. Such a deal could hinder the Thunder down the road, but they seem so intent on making a statement behind Russell Westbrook this season. The bigger concern than swapping Payne’s future for Gay’s present might be Gay opting in and interrupting Oklahoma City’s bigger goals for next summer.

Alas, Payne’s injury puts such a trade on hold, if not closing the window for it entirely.

Elton Brand retires ‘for real, this time’

BOSTON, MA - MAY 12:  Elton Brand #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrates a shot in the first quarter against the Boston Celtics in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Elton Brandretired” last year, though he left the door open for a return.

The 76ers, desperate for a veteran presence, signed him last January. They even re-signed him this offseason.

But Brand wont stick with Philadelphia into the regular season.

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:

Brand had a $1 million guarantee on his contract. It’s unclear how much, if any, of that money he’ll get. The first $980,431 would come from the 76ers, any more would come from the league. Philadelphia is far enough below the salary floor to give him a parting gift with minimal team-building constraint.

There had been talk of Brand surviving from the 20-man offseason roster to the 15-man regular-season roster, but this provides clarity for the 76ers. Undrafted rookies James Webb III, Brandon Paul, Cat Barber and Shawn Long are the other likely cuts.

If this is truly the end for Brand, he had a fantastic career since the Bulls drafted him No. 1 overall in 1999. Neither his peak (seventh in 2006 MVP voting, leading the Clippers that year to their first playoff-series victory in Los Angeles) nor longevity (17 seasons, including eight averaging at 20 points and nine rebounds per game) have been properly appreciated.

J.R. Smith denies racism toward Jeremy Lin

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 19:  Jeremy Lin #17 of the New York Knicks reacts with teammate J.R. Smith #8 during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden on February 19, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Jeremy Lin sensibly noted how his Asian-American heritage has influenced his basketball career, for better or worse.

Among the negatives: It made it harder for Lin to gain acceptance as a basketball player.

But did J.R. Smith show that prejudice against Lin while they played together with the Knicks? That’s what Craig Carton claimed when Lin appeared on Boomer & Carton.

  • Carton: “Let me say directly what we think went on, and you tell me if you felt it or if I’m right. There’s the thought – and I believe this, so I’ll say it’s my thought, maybe no one else’s – that there’s a racial component that because you’re a Chinese-American player, that certain African-American players in your locker room, J.R. Smith being one of them, did not want to accept you as a ballplayer. And when you were offered money to play and this big contract comes your way, there’s resentment because of where you’re from and who you are. Did you ever feel that?”
  • Lin: “Yeah, I don’t know. That’s such a hard question, because I’ve never spoken to him or anybody directly about it. So, it’s all speculation. Do I think that – I’ve never spoken to J.R. about it. I’ve never spoken to whoever else you might think about it. And so it’s hard for me, because I don’t want come out and speculate. I will just say, the one thing I will say is that race has been a huge part of my journey ever since I was a child trying to play basketball. So, I do think there’s always that type of component that would be involved, but again, I’ve always said, it’s a double-edged sword. It comes with the good. It comes with the bad. And the bad is, yeah, sometimes I’m different. I look different, and I’m treated different, and that’s a negative thing. And in some ways that’s a really positive thing, too. Linsanity wouldn’t have been Linsanity if I was white or black or whatever. Part of the reason why it was so crazy is because I’m Asian. So to answer your question, I do think race definitely plays a part into it. I think it always has. And to what degree or to how much or to who felt what, that I can’t really specifically give a good answer for you.”

Smith responded emphatically:

I can’t speak to what’s in Smith’s mind, but I’m going to need better evidence than Carton’s unsubstantiated claim that Smith showed racism toward Lin before I believe it.