Next season, Deron Williams will make a cool $16.4 million. The year after that he will make a cool $17.8 million to lead the Utah Jazz — if he picks up his player option.
Utah has been a frustrating place for Williams this season. They started out the season hot, as the cardiac kids winning all the close games. But that caught up with Utah. It has lost four in a row and the team has not been able to find a consistent footing all campaign, which led Williams to drop this line on David Aldridge of NBA.com:
“My contract’s up in two years. It’s a now or never situation. I don’t know what I’m going to do after this one.”
That is not quite a Carmelo Anthony level warning, more like a pre-warning that things are headed that direction. More Chris Paul telling the Hornets to get it together or he would push his way out.
Next season Williams could do what ‘Melo has done this year — tell the Jazz that he will opt out and will not re-sign in Utah. He’ll be low key if he does, but he is too big a star for something like that to stay low key. So could Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard has an early termination option on his deal. In an era where superstars are trying to combine and work some of that out themselves, there is a lot in play.
The warning should scare Utah to its core. This is a small market franchise that does not have the money to spend to build a Lakers-like team. They couldn’t keep Carlos Boozer last summer. They lost Kyle Korver and Wes Mathews. And while the roster has been rebuilt with some decent players — Al Jefferson, rookie Gordan Haywood — they are not the same.
What may be Utah’s one ace in the hole the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — nobody knows what it will look like, but there could be things that help Utah. The money for a max deal may be so much less than the $17.8 he is scheduled to make that he decides to stay for at least another year. Maybe there are franchise tags. Maybe a lot of things.
But right now, D-Will is not thrilled with his team and that could be the first steps in a long, painful march for the Jazz and its fans.
LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.
Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”
Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.
Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.
On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.
LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.
While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.
Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.
The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.
The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.
But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.
In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.
The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.
Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.
Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.
And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.