It’s not a coincidence that the same franchises seem to win year after year in basketball (both NBA and college).
Talent is part of that, true. But even as talent changes over year after year, decade after decade, certain teams rise to the top. They have a culture of winning, something that runs from the team owner to the kid wiping the sweat off the floor during the game.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski told the Associated Press he is trying to build that at USA Basketball, which is why this summer with this team is important.
“We’re not going to get the same guys over and over, like the guys who were on the Olympic team – and we think a lot of those guys will come back for London, a number of them but not all of them. So we’re trying to develop a culture,” Krzyzewski said. “A lot of these guys have played on our select teams, or in our youth program, but it’s not the veteran team like we had in Beijing.”
The days when the USA could win any international event it entered based on talent alone are gone. Spain, Argentina and other nations have caught up, if not in the depth of talent then in the top players needed to fill out a national team.
To combat that, Team USA needs that culture. Part of it came with the “Redeem Team” of the last Olympics — a team that made playing for you country cool again. The top players are doing it. Right now, the top young players are doing it.
Now Krzyzewski and crew need to create a culture that keeps that talent coming back. Winning would help that. Winning is always fun. Gold medals are fun things to bring home. But the young American team is going to have to really earn that this time around.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.