Cavaliers’ move for the future could easily backfire


The Cleveland Cavaliers will have another lottery pick with which to establish a young core for the future, but they had better hope that in their trade deadline deal — which netted the Clippers’ Baron Davis and the aforementioned pick for Mo Williams — the only price they pay is measured in salary committed and cap damage. There’s a fundamental danger in trading appraised assets for mere opportunities (draft picks), and though the draft may be the best way for Cleveland to execute a proper rebuild, the decision to acquire Davis in order to add another reasonably high pick in this summer’s draft could end up doing the Cavaliers franchise considerable damage.

The Cavs’ decision to take on considerable salary — which will only clog up their cap space for the next three seasons, eventual buyout or no — in their current state is questionable enough, but the decision to take on the considerable salary of Baron Davis is another issue entirely. Kurt already touched on some of the pitfalls; Davis is largely unmotivated, insists on launching shots he has no business taking, and sees active defense as a mere suggestion. The on-court damage Davis could (and likely will) do to his team is considerable.

That starts with Ramon Sessions, who has undoubtedly been the brightest spot for Cleveland this season. If there’s any piece to build around on the Cavs’ roster it’s Sessions; J.J. Hickson is still far too inconsistent and is lacking as a shot creator and as a defender, and the rest of the pieces in Cleveland are either aging, injured, or underdeveloped. Sessions was all this team had, and now he likely won’t even start for the team that should be his. Acquiring Davis doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Sessions as a Cav, but it certainly makes the idea of a long-term marriage between player and team a bit more tenuous.

But it gets worse. Davis is the kind of player who — due to his personality and contract size — can immobilize a franchise. The combined $28.7 million Davis is owed over the next two seasons is fairly crippling, and while the exchange of massive contracts this season has proven that no player is untradeable, moving such players often requires paying a price of a different kind. When things inevitably get sour with Davis, the Cavs will do their best to find a taker for him, but that task will only get more and more difficult as contracts like Davis’ become increasingly anachronistic. A new collective bargaining agreement is expected to completely do away with deals of that size, and while that doesn’t necessarily make the prospect of moving Davis down the line an impossibility, it makes the proposition much more difficult.

Williams’ deal was much more movable than Davis’ is and will be, and that fact creates a set of problems separate from the impact of the differences in their salary. This is as good as Davis’ value gets. If he’s moved sometime in the next year, the Cavs will likely have to offer incentive to the team that takes him, just as the Clippers did here.

Cleveland cashed in on Williams’ value, and what they received is a chance to draft a player they like and the right to pay Davis exorbitant sums of money for the next three seasons. They gave away an asset for an opportunity in a game that’s stacked against them (stars can certainly come out of the mid-lottery, but it’s not the most likely outcome), and to have an extra pick in what many are calling a particularly weak draft class. That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Chris Grant to produce with his pair of lottery picks this summer. Only positive ends can justify these means, and anything less would not only mark this trade as a failure, but also make Davis’ price tag even more painful.

Stan Van Gundy goes off on officials: “We got absolutely screwed all night”

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The Pistons were likely to lose to the red-hot Trail Blazers on the road, and that came to be Saturday night 100-87, Portland 12th straight win. The Pistons shot 38.8 percent for the game and had a dreadful offensive rating of 93.8 (points per 100 possessions).

Portland is one the top five defensive teams in the NBA this season, but that’s not what Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy thought was the problem — he laid the blame on the officiating.

That’s going to be a fine.

Van Gundy is frustrated — with this game and with this season. So are Pistons fans, and seemingly so is Detroit owner Tom Gores after his lukewarm vote of confidence in Van Gundy recently. They should be, this team is a disappointment and the Blake Griffin trade was a big swing that has yet to work out. The Pistons are going to miss the playoffs. Around the league, the sense is that Van Gundy will lose his GM job to former super agent Arn Tellem, who was brought in to guide the Pistons into their new building but now whose talents would better serve the basketball side of the operation. The only question is will Van Gundy still be coaching in Detroit next season — just coaching, like Doc Rivers with the Clippers — or of the change will be more sweeping than that.

Hornets’ coach gives savage, frank assessment of Willy Hernangomez

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When Willy Hernangomez was not getting much run with the Knicks this season, especially as injuries opened up space in the front line rotation, there were questions as to why. Then the #freeWillyHernangomez movement popped up.

Eventually, Hernangomez was traded to the Hornets where… he barely plays. He’s gotten more than 10 minutes just once since coming to Charlotte.

What gives? Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford didn’t hold back when answering that question to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“If you were in one place and didn’t play much, if you want to play more in the next place, I’d say work harder and kill myself,” Clifford said at the Hornets shootaround at the Players Association’s midtown headquarters. “The reality is he wasn’t playing here for a reason. He’s got to change things…

“He’s not up to speed on what we’re doing to play a lot,” Clifford said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him. He’s smart, but he’s not this high-flier, phenomenal, natural athlete able to make up ground. He’s got to be on top of things, especially on the defensive end. If he’s not detailed defensively, he’s not that [athletic] guy…

“To be an every-night player, and I’ve told him this, he’s got to improve his shooting,” Clifford said. “He is right now, in my opinion, a back-to-the-basket player who can pass. But the reality is his passing doesn’t come into play until they have to get close to him and know he’s not going to knock down a shot. And he’s not a knockdown shooter.”

Well then.

Just to be clear he’s got to put in a lot more effort, become smarter on the defensive end, and improve his shooting. That’s a healthy off-season checklist.

Hernangomez has another year on his contract at a very reasonable $1.5 million before the Hornets have to make any kind of decision on him, which means whoever is the new GM in Charlotte he will choose to keep Hernangomez around. For now. He flashed potential his rookie season with the Knicks, when asked to play strictly to his strengths, but Clifford and the Hornets — and basically every other team in the NBA — is going to ask more of him.

Clifford was clear, as no doubt he has been clear to Hernangomez (Clifford is as straight a shooter as the league has). The ball is in Hernangomez’s court.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis denies drug charges while eating Popeyes on a charter plane

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Best. Denial. Ever.

Last month, former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore by Jimmy McNulty and Lt. Daniels with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a police report. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute.

Davis has declared his innocence in the best denial video ever — eating Popeyes chicken and flashing cash and a championship ring.

I have no idea whether Davis is guilty or not, I was not at a Hampton’s Inn outside Baltimore last month. The court system will sort that out, that is what it’s there for.

But I know a brilliant video when I see one. This is it.

Report: Michele Roberts to seek second contract as players’ union head

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Michele Roberts entered the NBA’s player union in a tumultuous time — long-time union president Billy Hunter had been ousted in a rancorous fight, the union felt adrift, and negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were looming (and players felt they had been screwed in the last CBA, following the lockout).

Roberts, the first female head of a professional sports labor union, settled things down. She cleaned up the union finances and made them more transparent to players, she worked hard to establish relationships with the players, and while she rattled some sabers with the NBA in negotiations, she also worked in a non-combative way with Adam Silver and team (unlike the Billy Hunter/David Stern relationship) and got a deal done the players liked without a lockout or labor mess.

Roberts’ contract with the union is up, but she is going to ask for a new deal — one she likely gets — reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN…

Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said.

NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.

Roberts also has a good relationship with the star-heavy executive committee of the union — CP3, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and others — making it likely she gets a new deal.

As for what’s next, at the front of that list Roberts is working with Silver and others on reforming the NBA’s one-and-done rule (it was supposed to be part of the CBA negotiations but was too big and complex an issue to fold into that timeline).

Neither the owners or players can opt out of the CBA for four more years (and if neither side does it runs a couple more beyond that) so labor peace will continue in the NBA for a while.