Nazr Mohammed has always been something of a per-minute wonder: Even though his career averages are only 7 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18 minutes per game, Mohammed has only averaged less than 11 rebounds per 40 minutes once, and his per-40 scoring numbers are also impressive.
But thanks to his up-and-down defense and historically so-so athleticism, Mohammed has generally been a role player/journeyman in the NBA. Now, after stints with the 76ers, Hawks, Knicks, Spurs, the Pistons, a rough first year in Charlotte, and a great 09-10 season that was only marred by injury, Mohammed is ready to step into the staring center spot that Tyson Chandler previously occupied:
The Hall of Fame coach wasn’t impressed [with Mohammad when he first arrived]. After being a part-time starter a year earlier, Mohammed appeared in only 39 games in 2008-09 and averaged 2.7 points and 2.0 rebounds.
Mohammed’s big contract made him difficult to trade, so he embarked on a rigid offseason conditioning program and came to training camp last year determined to win over Brown.
It didn’t work right way.
“When he got to play early I thought he was terrible,” Brown said.
Part of the problem is the 6-foot-10 Mohammed doesn’t do the things Brown likes from a center. He’s not extremely athletic, lacks a big wingspan and isn’t an intimidating shot-blocker.
“You know what his prototypical center is and I know I’m not his prototypical center,” Mohammed said. “But I know that you don’t play 13 years in this league without being able to do some good things out on the floor.”
That includes being a consistent scorer with a soft touch and an effective rebounder. He was also in great shape after his offseason workouts.
Mohammed slowly started to come on. In the same week in early February he had 23 points and 17 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers and 21 points and 20 rebounds against Minnesota.
“Maybe he got in better shape. Maybe he got stronger. But before he got hurt he was playing better than at any time I’ve ever seen,” Brown said. “He tried to defend. He ran the floor and he earned the right to play.”
With Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler having been traded away in consecutive off-seasons, Mohammed will get a chance to hold down a full-time starting spot, something he’s only done twice in his long career. We’ll see if Mohammed can make the most of his opportunity.
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.