Chris Paul is simply the latest consumer of the NBA arms race that started in Boston

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cpaul_sits.jpgIn 2007, the Spurs won their fourth title inside of a decade. They defeated a LeBron James-led Cavs team that featured Sasha Pavlovic as the fifth-leading scorer on the team. The arguable second-best team was the Phoenix Suns who would immediately begin a spiral based off of the hyper-reactive initial moves of Steve Kerr. The Mavericks were in there, with Josh Howard as a pivotal component, a player who now has yet to secure a team for next season.

The Spurs were masters of overcoming odds but were not considered dominant, despite their jewelry. There was parity, there was dilution, there was no true superpower.

And then the arms race began. In reality, we can trace all of this back to Joe Barry Carroll.  Carroll was such an attractive first round pick that the Warriors traded the rights to the third-overall pick to Boston. While Carroll would wind up flittering in and out of the league and Italy, the Celtics would use that third-overall on Kevin McHale in 1980. 27 years later, McHale would trade Kevin Garnett to the Celtics for a platter of players, the crown jewel of which was just traded for a series of late first-round picks.

Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to go along with Paul Pierce. And a new superpower was born. The Celtics’ power was pretty evident from the start. Torching the league up and down. Until the new year. The Lakers, having barely survived a near-Kobe-trade-demand meltdown realized that they had to improve. That good wasn’t good enough. And then somehow, the Grizzlies helped create Voltron 2. With Pau Gasol in place, the Lakers immediately became #1a in the league. This was in addition to Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher, and Lamar Odom, mind you. Later, the Celtics would add Nate Robinson and Rasheed Wallace. The Lakers would add Ron Artest for the MLE.

Good? Good was now average. Great was now “pretty good.” And elite was the standard.

And that’s how it went for three years. The Cavs would try and add value players without ever going for the home run. The Nuggets and Mavs would each make moves they thought would bring them to the elite level. More and more you’d hear the phrases “what they need to beat the Lakers/Celtics.” It was no longer about building a complete roster, it was imperative to get as much size and as much talent. That’s always the goal of building a team, right? Previously the idea was one superstar, one supporting star, and then role players. Now you needed multiple superstars just to compete.

Which brings us to this summer. After three years of watching teams with that kind of starpower win titles while they wallowed with one-star teams, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James elected to no longer stand by and watch other teams go to battle with that kind of firepower. They combined their forces and now have a team that should challenge those other elite teams. (Boston has to get old at some point, right? Right? Right?!)

And sure, the world hates them. Chicago. New York. New Jersey. Especially Cleveland, with the fire of a million suns. But past the terrible PR moves and the horrendous decision making and the woeful soundbites is a sense that these three aren’t trendsetters. They’re not doing anything unheard of. They’re simply taking the game they’ve been handed and upping the stakes.

Which brings us to Chris Paul. Paul has been a model citizen for years. In 2008, with the Hornets pushing the Spurs to seven games, the future couldn’t be brighter. But since then, he’s watched two things. He’s seen his own team spiral into the frustrating position Cleveland and Miami have been, and he’s seen three of his best friends team up to combat the team of older veterans he’s seen dominate the league. And Paul wants a piece. Paul understands the new world that Boston and LA have created, and wants a piece of it. Paul’s not asking for a trade to anywhere with solid collections of talent. He wants to slide into a contender. He’s seen the present, and the present means starpower.

Amar’e already made multiple pitches for another Big 3. The Magic are trying to formulate as such. And the Lakers and Celtics are still the favorites, along with the Heat. This arms race is in full swing. Driving up contract prices, making franchises desperate, and forcing small market superstars to position themselves on superteams.

Most blame selfishness, laziness, desperation for the behavior of this group of friends and their multi-star machinations. But in reality, they’re simply products of their environment. Chris Pauls’ potential trade was put in motion decades ago. You can even start with Joe Barry Carroll.

Report: ‘Several prominent’ Cavaliers express concern about aging, defenseless, redundant roster

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The Cavaliers look like they can’t hang with the Warriors, which is troubling enough for a team with championship aspirations.

But for that realization to come during a miserable 2-8 stretch only puts more stress on the Cavs, who already appeared to be ripping at the seems. LeBron James is performativity howling at his teammates. They’re pointing the finger back at him. Coach Tyronn Lue is talking about personal agendas.

And tensions aren’t easing.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, multiple players acknowledged growing discontent and a strong sense of concern that unlike past seasons, the team does not have the capability to fix its problems and get back on a championship track.

Several prominent players, speaking on condition of anonymity to ESPN, Cleveland.com and The Athletic, expressed doubt that the problems — an aging roster, defensively challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players — could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.

The Cavaliers have one preeminent player: LeBron. It’d be disingenuous to frame this article this way without including him, and I doubt McMenamin is doing that.

These concerns are perfectly valid.

Cleveland is the NBA’s oldest team, weighted by playing time, in a decade. That doesn’t bode well for building up steam toward and in a long playoff run. This is an even more extreme version of the problem LeBron’s last Heat team succumbed to.

Isaiah Thomas is a defensive liability, and Kevin Love – playing a lot of center – isn’t a rim protector. Several other players – LeBron, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Jose Calderon, Channing Frye and Derrick Rose – are well past their defensive peaks, which weren’t necessarily high in the first place. The Cavs’ defense ranks 29, ahead of only the Kings.

Wade, Calderon and Rose can’t all serve as lead playmaker while LeBron sits – leaving the other two without clear roles when everyone is healthy. Smith and Korver would both be spot-up 3-point specialists if Smith were hitting shots. Jae Crowder and Jeff Green look similar (a compliment to Green, but a telltale sign of how underwhelming Crowder has been). Frye is a lesser version of Love as a stretch five. Tristan Thompson can’t get going, and Iman Shumpert can’t get healthy.

To be fair, the Cavaliers are 26-17 – hardly bad, but not quite championship-caliber. This portrait of doom and gloom is accurate only when measured against the highest of expectations.

The Cavs can still trade the Nets’ first-round pick to upgrade the roster, though they’re reportedly disinclined to do so. This report sounds like a plea from top players for the team to reconsider. And if owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman don’t, it’ll read as LeBron framing his exit in free agency next summer.

Danny Green tugs down Dennis Schroder’s shorts (video)

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We collectively made a federal case out of J.R. Smith untying shoelaces.

We probably ought to at least question what the heck Danny Green was doing to Dennis Schroder here.

At least Schroder got the last laugh with 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the Hawks’ win over the Spurs.

Chris Paul says Clippers should play through Lou Williams, which sounds like a slight of Blake Griffin

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After the Clippers’ win over the Rockets last night, Chris Paul didn’t go after Blake Griffin just through a back entrance into the Clippers’ locker room.

He also seemingly went after Griffin in his post-game interview.

Asked to assess playing against his former team, Paul:

They’ve got Lou Will. Lou Will is the guy. You know what I mean? That’s the go-to guy, the guy that they should play through and stuff like that. He having a great year, and he tough. He tough, man.

Williams is having a great year, especially by the standards of career as a solid sub-star. But Griffin is a bona fide star – a tremendously skilled scorer, ball-handler and passer for a power forward. He’s clearly the Clippers’ go-to player when healthy. It’s great Williams stepped up when Griffin was injured, and Williams can run second units while Griffin is healthy. But Griffin is the go-to player.

I can’t read Paul’s intent. Maybe he genuinely disagrees and believes the Clippers should play through Williams. But – given Paul’s nd Griffin’s history and how heated last night’s game was – it sounds as if Paul is just trying to create friction within his former team and take a dig at Griffin. That’d be petty, but… yeah. Nobody would put that past Paul.

NBA Twitter had fun with Rockets, Clippers, secret tunnels

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This Clippers/Rockets story is so perfectly today’s NBA.

It’s not about the game itself (game-related stories draw far fewer eyeballs/traffic than off the court stuff). It involves drama and confrontation between star players with grudges and a guy who forced a trade. And while the players postured, there was never going to be an actual fight and everybody knew it, still the LAPD was called in.

It’s all perfect fodder for Twitter.

Just a quick recap of events. The Clippers win Monday over the Rockets at Staples Center got chippy — Blake Griffin got into it with Mike D’Antoni after running into him, Griffin and Trevor Ariza were ejected after some words where Austin Rivers was involved. After the game, Paul led a group of Warriors — James Harden, Ariza, Gerald Green — down a secret tunnel behind the locker rooms, went to the back door of the Clippers’ locker room and started to confront the Clippers. Except, nothing really happened but a verbal exchange, security broke it up and the LAPD was called in. That last part just about made Shaq fall out of his chair on Inside the NBA.

All this while Clint Capela knocked on the front door of the Clippers locker room and had it shut in his face.

This story was perfect for NBA Twitter, and it had a field day. Including the big names.

Everyone got in on the act.