Vince Carter,

The Circle of Stupidity is complete: Suns expected to buy out Vince Carter

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This is like some crazy train of poor decision making and it just jumps from car to car to car. Let me try and trace this back for you.

Hedo Turkoglu looks awesome in the 2009 NBA playoffs, helping the Orlando Magic make it all the way to the NBA Finals. He rebounds, runs point forward, hits threes, the works. It’s a bright, bright, sun-shiny free agency day for Turkolu when he hits the open market that summer. The Magic decide to let him go by the wayside, instead opting to take on Vince Carter and his ridiculous contract which pays him $16 million in 2009-2010, largely to miss games with minor injuries, miss free throws and not be able to carry a team at all like he did back when he could… in the Mesozoic era.

The Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors get into a bidding war over Turkoglu’s services, despite many intelligent people saying this was a bad idea given Turkoglu’s age and declining abilities. Many of these people aren’t even on the internet. The Blazers think they have their man but dodge a huge bullet when Turkoglu instead opts for Toronto. Toronto pays him a huge sum of money, and he is terrible. Absolutely terrible, worse than even the harshest critics thought. He says he feels “wronged” by Toronto management (the same people that gave his elderly self that ginormous contract) and he’s eventually traded, because the Phoenix Suns lose Amar’e Stoudemire and are desperate for any forward they can get their hands on. They trade their expiring contract of Leandro Barbosa and pieces for Turkoglu, hoping he can rekindle some magic.

He can’t.

Meanwhile, the Magic have gone on and taken a big step backwards with Carter as it becomes apparent that not only is he not the high-flying, dagger-dropping Carter of old, he’s not even a vacant shell of that. He’s incapable of running the pick and roll with Dwight Howard. Let me say that again. He couldn’t figure out how to run the pick and roll with the best center in the league who is an athletic freak of nature and who’s biggest talent offensively is working in the pick and roll. Carter struggles, struggles some more, has a late season breakout game where everyone says he’s back…. and then goes right back to being Vince Carter.

So the Magic get desperate to trade him as they frantically try and hold onto Dwight Howard and prop the championship window open. The Suns meanwhile are looking to liquidate, now wanting expiring contracts, like the Barbosa one they shipped, and the Magic and Suns find themselves talking. Somehow in this process, the Suns let Jason Richardson, the younger, better player who actually contributes go in the deal, along with his $14 million expiring contract, just to get rid of Turkoglu. The Magic are willing to take on Turkoglu in order to get Richardson and because Turkoglu had had such success in Orlando. Also, they’re desperate.

So the Magic now have Turkoglu on the contract they knew they shouldn’t give him, because they opted to go after a player notorious for, well, being Vince Carter and who was aging. The Suns meanwhile, took on two more years of Vince Carter just to get rid of Turkoglu, and managed to nab Marcin Gortat, despite Gortat not being anywhere near the offensive weapon they need and regardless of their long-term prospects with Robin lopez.

The Raptors wind up with cap space. Bryan Colangelo is considered the worst of the three front offices. We haven’t even started to talk about Gilbert Arenas yet.

Anyway, the circle is almost complete as the Arizona Republic’s always reliable Paul Coro reports that the Suns are expected to buy out Vince Carter’s remaining year for $4 million instead of trying to move his final year on some other poor sap. Carter will then be a free agent in a dramatically different NBA free agency landscape following the CBA restructuring, but will inevitably get an offer from someone and probably start on top of it. The Magic will still have Turkoglu for the rest of eternity, and the Suns will pay $4 million to get rid of the player they acquired to get rid of Turkoglu, after the Raptors paid them to take him after they gave him the money the Magic knew they shouldn’t give him in the first place, which they are now paying him.

In unrelated news, NBA ownership meets with the player’s union again next week to continue discussions about how it’s the system which is unsustainable and that their economic troubles have nothing to do with their decision making on the open market.

Dave Joerger: Kings will play more small ball

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger talks to reporters during the Kings basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Joerger, who was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season, was hired by Kings to replace George Karl, who was fired by the Kings.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Shortly after the Kings chose center Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength.” Sacramento already had an abundance of centers with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. If Cousins wasn’t talking about yoga, Sacramento adding center Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick would’ve driven Cousins batty.

At least Kings coach Dave Joerger is accustomed to using two bigs, as he did with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.

Joerger, via Cowbell Kingdom:

I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.

I’m not playing big.

Oh.

This is going to lead to some unhappy campers in Sacramento. It won’t be Cousins (not for getting his role reduced, at least). But this will make it hard for Cauley-Stein and Koufos to get satisfactory playing time. It’ll also make it harder for Papagiannis and Labissiere to get minutes to develop.

Like with most things, winning is the best way to quash griping. The Kings have enough wings – Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson – to theoretically play small effectively. If Joerger goes that route, he better find success with it. Otherwise, he could get plenty of heat – including from general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke incredibly highly of his first-round picks, the players most likely to get squeezed out of a small-ball rotation.

Dwane Casey: Jared Sullinger has Raptors’ starting PF job to lose

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 05: Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Patrick Patterson #54 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half at TD Garden on November 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Last year, Patrick Patterson declared the Raptors’ starting power-forward job his to lose.

Well, he lost it.

Luis Scola started most of the regular season before Toronto tinkered in the playoffs. Patterson claimed the job. Then, the Raptors turned to DeMarre Carroll with Norman Powel in a small-ball lineup. Finally, Toronto reverted back to Scola.

A year later, there’s still no clear, great option at the position. Scola went to the Nets. Patterson returns. Pascal Siakam and Jarrod Uthoff are rookies. First man up: Newly signed Jared Sullinger.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.

If Sullinger’s bar is defensive, he’ll have a tough time clearing it. He neither protects the rim nor moves well on the perimeter – making him similar to Scola. But Scola got the job last year with similar contributions.

Sullinger rebounds well, and he has some shooting range, though he hasn’t been selective enough with it.

Patterson’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll might make him a better fit next to Jonas Valanciunas, especially if Patterson has confidence in his 3-point shot.

There should be a place for Sullinger in the rotation, but if he’s starting at power forward, that speaks to a lack of quality options.

Report: Cavaliers giving championship rings to 1,000+ workers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 20: The Cleveland Cavaliers mascot Moon Dog cheers on the fans prior to the arrival of the Cavs players return to Cleveland after wining the NBA Championships on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers will reportedly give David Blatt a championship ring, and Anderson Varejao also has one available.

They aren’t the only two unexpected ring recipients.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

This is very cool by Gilbert. Obviously, lower-level team employees won’t receive the same blinged-out rings the players get. But this is a nice way to reward their hard work.

Not to go all Jerry Krause, but organizations win championships. Some pieces – LeBron James – matter much more than others, but everyone plays a part. Security guards keep players safe, preventing a dreadful incident that could derail a playoff run. Public-relations staffers ease the burden on players. Ushers improve the fan experience, which increases revenue and helps Gilbert afford a massive luxury-tax bill.

It all adds up, as Gilbert clearly recognizes.

Mike D’Antoni: Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony rejected my system, but new (old) approach with James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Kkobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 after the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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I can’t understate how revolutionary Mike D’Antoni’s offense looked with the Suns. In his first full season, 2004-05, they scored 110.4 points per game – the most anyone had scored in a decade. And it wasn’t even close. Phoenix played fast and scored efficiently.

That offense eventually got D’Antoni jobs in the NBA’s biggest markets and with two of the league’s best scorers, Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).

Ian Thomsen of NBA.com:

But his coaching relationships with Anthony and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles did not turn out so well. The last two stars essentially rejected his system.

“They did,” acknowledged D’Antoni. “And they were paid 20-something million dollars for it — they were successful. So I don’t blame them. Nothing’s been proven up to that point.”

The Warriors had yet to show that D’Antoni’s offense could thrive in late May and June.

“They’re thinking, like, he’s crazy,” D’Antoni said of Anthony and Bryant. “So I don’t blame them at all. This is a much better situation.”

With the Knicks and Lakers, D’Antoni edged back from his own offensive principles in part because he wasn’t sure, either. He was in a lonely place as the proponent of a style that was rejected by NBA fundamentalists. In New York and L.A., D’Antoni lacked the proof that would be provided years later by the Warriors of Kerr, who when serving as GM of the Suns had himself objected to D’Antoni’s point of view. The inventor didn’t believe fully in his own invention.

“I wasn’t that confident,” D’Antoni insisted. “It was a little bit before analytics. Everybody was telling us that we couldn’t do it, no one was telling us we could. Analytics came in and said, hey, you can do this — this is good, actually. So now you’ve got (GM) Daryl Morey with the Rockets and how they play and different teams trying to do it, and now it’s kind of caught on.

This bucks the narrative that D’Antoni’s offense can’t work with a score-first star. If D’Antoni compromised his scheme for Kobe and Melo, we haven’t yet seen it full bore with a player like that.

We will this season in Houston, where D’Antoni has turned score-first James Harden into the Rockets’ point guard.

As D’Antoni said, it’ll be easier to sell his scheme now that it has been proven to work. But as other teams adopt elements of it, he’ll have less of a strategic advantage.

The best coaches have revolutionary ideas AND get their players to buy into them. D’Antoni’s methods are no longer as cutting-edge, but he’ll have an easier time selling his players. That’s a justifiable knock on D’Antoni’s overall coaching prowess, but he still brings positives.

We’ve seen D’Antoni’s system at full throttle, and we’ve seen him coach generational scorers. To get both simultaneously will be a fun experiment in Houston this year.