Will Shaq finally lower his asking price?

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Thumbnail image for shaq.jpgThe last contract Shaquille O’Neal signed was a five-year extension worth an even $100 million. He is one of the most dominant players to ever step onto an NBA court, he’s a four-time NBA champion, and he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Of course, none of that mattered when the Cavaliers played the Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. O’Neal stopped the ball on offense, couldn’t score on Kendrick Perkins, and the Celtics completely exposed O’Neal defensively. In that series, O’Neal looked like a post-up dinosaur watching a drive-and-kick league pass him by. 
The few post-up threats remaining are players like Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, both of whom are athletic enough to be effective on both offense and defense even if they aren’t being force-fed in the post. Shaq needs his team to adjust its game-plan to his strengths in order for him to be effective, and that puts him at a significant disadvantage in today’s NBA. 
With Shaq’s horrible series against Boston fresh in the minds of NBA executives, nobody wants to pay Shaq his reported asking price: at least $8 million a season, as well as a guaranteed starting spot. The Atlanta Hawks were supposed to be one of the few teams with legitimate interest in the big fella, but after sigining Josh Powell to a discount contract, they might not want Shaq either. 
It’s a shame that Shaq has been so unwilling to be flexible, because there’s a solid case to be made for signing him. Consider the following:
-O’Neal had perhaps the worst season of his career last year, but he’s also only a year removed from putting up 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, with a PER of 22.33
-Before his thumb surgery, Shaq was playing some excellent basketball. He averaged 14 points per game on 64.8% shooting in January, and 13.6 points on 59.6% in February. He never got back into a rhythm after the surgery, but he was playing like a very good NBA center before it. 
-O’Neal was signed to guard Dwight Howard and/or Andrew Bynum in a playoff series, neither of which he got to do. O’Neal will get lost trying to keep up with faster players, but he can still defend the post. The Magic and Lakers are going to make deep playoff runs next year, and there aren’t a lot of guys who can slow down Howard or a healthy Bynum the way Shaq can. 
At this point in his career, Shaq is a very good situational player. There are still some things he can do as well as anybody else in the league can, but his strengths can’t cover up his limitations as easily as they once did. Against some lineups, Shaq can be invaluable. Against others, he should hardly see the floor. If Shaq can come to terms with the player he is now, he’ll be a very good pickup for the team that signs him. If not, his pride may force him into retiring when he can still contribute to an NBA squad. 

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.

 

Jaylen Brown’s #drivebydunkchallenge video is awesome

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I love the drive by dunk challenge (if you prefer, the #drivebydunkchallenge), it would be the best thing on NBA Twitter this summer, if it wasn’t for Kyrie Irving.

But the best one yet comes from Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

He steals the ball, and the best part is the guy who comes over like he’s going to stop Brown from throwing it down.

Was it staged… I don’t want to know.