The value of a mega-weight lottery

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Since I spent the morning talking about why we still need to weight the lottery, I thought I’d also touch on one of the union’s other proposals, which could be implemented for the 2012 draft if we get a settlement.

Back in June, the union brought up the idea of giving lottery teams additional picks, Henry Abbott, who is also very much on board the “owners and management who are bad at their job should be punished not rewarded” wagon, thought that it wouldn’t hurt the other teams, or the league, but the fans. No, really.

You know who’d get the short end of that stick? The third party known as the fans, specifically the fans of teams that just simply don’t know how to build a winner. More good draft picks would be a way for the worst GMs and owners to compete without getting any better at their jobs. This is like performance-enhancing drugs for the worst front offices in the league.

As fans, we root for the great competitors, right? Those who do best at their jobs? I’d argue the league ought to encourage teams similarly. If the Clippers didn’t have Blake Griffin walking through that door, as a reward for losing, wouldn’t Donald Sterling have to do some soul-searching about how he runs his team, and maybe come up with a more competitive approach?

via Bribing bad teams with more picks – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

Well, for starters, I’m of the opinion that as fans, we root for teams. Ask a Royals fan if he’d be angry if the Royals won a World Series because David Glass is a terrible owner, or if Bengals fans would be mad if they won a Super Bowl because Mike Brown is the devil.  Would Clippers fans be throwing their championship DVDs in a flaming pile next year if Blake Griffin becomes the best basketball player on Earth and the Clippers miraculously win a title? No. They’re just going to be happy that they got to see their team win a title.

The other problem is that there’s an idea that if you win, you must be good at your job. Show of hands, who thought before this season that Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace were good at their jobs? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, and Orlando. Otis Smith traded for Rashard Lewis, knowing that it was far too much in the sign-and-trade, was building around Hedo Turkoglu and hoping Jameer Nelson would become an All-Star (and he did! Kind of.). But the Magic won, so it was perceived they were run well. Now? Not run well. Difference? Two years and converting bad contracts into worse contracts. The Knicks traded everything including 30 percent of the Statue of Liberty to Denver (they actually own the torch). They started Jared Jeffries. They made the playoffs.

In short, a lot of this stuff is completely and totally random. So why would loading up on draft picks for terrible things help things? Because it makes the hole not so deep for teams that can dig themselves out while not necessarily rewarding the truly terrible. One of the biggest problems is that teams have to make it through rebuilding processes and because they don’t want to suffer the horror of a true rebuilding year until it’s absolutely necessary, teams will enter purgatory, sticking with marginal contracts to get a few wins which end up being expensive in terms of moving forward and don’t help them. But they don’t have the talent to get by. But multiple picks gets them out of this. It means that if a team drafts well, they’re not trying to suffer through a painful year, but going forward aggressively. And if that team elects not to go completely young, they can trade the secondary pick for better players. It just means that the hole isn’t quite so deep to get back to contention. Younger, better teams. Fans like those, right? Especially on, you know, their teams?

But what about rewarding those terrible owners like Herb Simon, Dan Gilbert, and Michael Jordan instead of icons of purity like Mark Cuban, Micky Arison, Jerry Buss, and James Dolan?

Here’s a question. Let’s say you don’t live in the state of Minnesota. And let’s say you concur with the vast majority of the known universe that if there’s a way David Kahn can find to screw up a decision, it’s 80% likely that he will. Do you feel that with an extra pick that David Kahn will magically be able to win a title? Or instead, will he do something like, oh, I don’t know, draft two point guards back to back, one of which won’t come over for two years and the other will be a complete bust and he’ll hire a coach whose system specifically limits the impact of the point guard? Oooor, will he do something like draft a combo forward when he’s already made two trades to acquire combo forwards?

How about the Bobcats? They’ve been pretty terrible at the draft (until this year, am I right Biyombo-Cult?). But wasn’t part of the reason they kept trading picks for players was because all the players they drafted were busts? The question here is if you honestly think that the draft isn’t a complete crapshoot a decent percentage of the time. Sean May? 2005 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Averaged a double-double. Emeka Okafor? Part of the reason for the Hornets’ resurgence. Adam Morrison? Naismith Award winner, USPBWA POY award winner, averaged 20 points per game. I’m not saying you don’t have to project how they’ll adapt to the pro game,  saying sometimes it’s impossible, and that if the misses hadn’t destroyed the Bobcats’ chances so much, maybe they wouldn’t have put themselves in the equivalent of a $20k credit card hole.

The Cavaliers are looking at another painful year working with Kyrie Irving and incorporating Tristan Thompson while trying to liquidate the rest of their roster. Another pick, and they’re more easily able to drop their dead weight and can move back towards contention, if they use the players correctly. That’s the key here. You can draft all the players you want, you still have to be able to use them correctly.

The multiple-pick lottery is unlikely to get moved on. The owners are only really interested right now in anything they can suck pennies from. The idea doesn’t fix the BRI split or help with making sure owners can’t lose money. But it’s an interesting idea and one that deserves further consideration than it will warrant in a league-fanbase that continually moves towards the idea of punishing a team that goes through a losing season, despite the idea that every franchise, no matter how well run, eventually goes through one.

Close-knit Pacers’ bond gets tested with season on the line

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana Pacers have been winning together, losing together and fighting together all season.

Now they need to demonstrate their resilience once more as they try to save their season by rebounding from an emotional loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Nobody thought we’d be in this situation,” Victor Oladipo said, referring to the playoffs. “It’s important for us to stick together now because we’ve seen where it can go, where it can take us and it’s great.”

The immediate problem is recent history doesn’t bode well for the underdog Pacers, who trail 3-2 with Game 5 set for Friday in Indianapolis.

Cleveland swept Indiana in the first round last year, winning four games by a record low 16 total points. James has won 10 straight close-out games and has never lost a first-round series. Indiana, meanwhile, is trying to reach the conference semifinals for the first time since 2014.

But the Pacers don’t care about stats, projections or conventional wisdom – as they’ve proven repeatedly this season.

Following last summer’s Paul George trade, Indiana seemed bound for the draft lottery. Instead, general manager Kevin Pritchard cobbled together a rare combination of proven, often overlooked veterans, emerging stars, good shooters and willing defenders.

It turned out to be a perfect fit.

Indiana won 48 games, six more than it did with George last season, and is a win away from forcing the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs into a decisive seventh game.

Cleveland has learned one lesson the hard way: The fifth-seeded Pacers won’t go away. They won 12 times after facing double-digit deficits and eight times after trailing by 15 or more during the regular season.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise Indiana has erased double-digit deficits in four straight game and wound up taking the lead or having a chance to win late in all four in this series.

“That team does not quit,” James said, moments after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Cleveland a 98-95 win to salvage a win Wednesday after Pacers wiped out a 12-point second half to deficit to tie the score in the final minute.

Playing hard until the final buzzer has become the norm for these Pacers.

And they’re savoring every precious second, too.

Nate McMillan recently called this one of the most enjoyable seasons he’s had as a head coach because he knows what he’ll get every day – energy from Oladipo and Lance Stephenson, steadiness from Darren Collison and Corey Joseph, leadership from Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic and an eagerness to develop from Myles Turner and other young players.

With each player embracing their role, the Pacers have formed a cohesive bond.

Six players actually approached Pritchard before the trade deadline and pleaded with the GM not to make any moves because they wanted to close out this season together. Pritchard said it a first for him, and kept the team intact.

“It kind of is like a college team bond,” said Young, one of the six players who approached Pritchard. “Typically you have a lot of NBA teams that don’t bond as well as you do in college when you’re living with each other and you’re around each other all the time. You know in the NBA, you spend time with your family, things like that.

“This team we all hang out together, we go to dinner together on the road. We do everything together.”

The difference has shown.

After enduring an early and sometimes uneven learning curve early this season, the Pacers finally got in sync in early January and played better than anyone, perhaps even McMillan or Pritchard could have anticipated.

From Jan. 6 through the end of the regular season, they went 29-15 and allowed 101.3 points per game and didn’t lose more than two in a row.

They moved up three spots in the Eastern Conference postseason pecking order and headed into their latest round against James having won three of the four regular-season matchups. The Pacers even routed the Cavs on their home court in Game 1.

Since then, though, the series has been all-out slugfest and James has gotten the knockout blow in three times.

Now, with their season on the line, the Pacers need to provide a unified front one more time Friday night just to keep this season alive.

They’re ready.

“Sure, we’ve still got something to prove. No one believes we can beat Cleveland,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s about trust in what we’ve got in each other.”

More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Report: J.B. Bickerstaff agrees to three-year deal to coach Memphis Grizzlies

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We heard rumblings that the Memphis Grizzlies were looking to remove the interim distinction from J.B. Bickerstaff’s title and make him acting head coach. Now, the team has made their move.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Memphis agreed to a three-year deal with Bickerstaff on Thursday, making him the new head coach of the team.

Bickerstaff, 39, was previously the associate head coach of the Grizzlies under David Fizdale. Fizdale was fired in November, and Bickerstaff took over as interim head coach.

This has been a long time coming for Bickerstaff, who was a longtime assistant coach in Charlotte, Minnesota, and Houston. Bickerstaff took over the Rockets job in 2015 when the team fired head coach Kevin McHale.

The task ahead of Bickerstaff will not be easy. Next season he will get Mike Conley back from injury, but the roster is still in the process of being rebuilt and Marc Gasol, 33, seems like constant trade bait. The Western Conference is tough, but finally Bickerstaff gets his shot at the big job on a permanent basis.

Enes Kanter helps pardon Thunder fans who left playoff game early (VIDEO)

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Enes Kanter may be leaning toward opting in to his $18 million player option with the New York Knicks this summer (I would) but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have love for fans in Oklahoma City.

In a video posted to social media on Thursday, Oklahoma City mayor David Holt and Kanter appeared together to give pardons to the Thunder fans who left early during the team’s Game 5 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony staved off elimination with their win against Utah, giving the Jazz a 3-2 series lead as they head back to Salt Lake City on Friday night.

Kanter, who played for the Thunder from 2015-2017, says he is still friendly with many of the players on the Oklahoma City roster. Kanter also played for the Jazz for the first three-and-a-half years of his career.

Via Twitter:

I personally don’t understand leaving a game early. Your car is trapped underground or is parked six miles away on some back alley, you’re not leaving any game quickly. The train is going to be jam packed and will sit at the stadium station for like 28 more minutes after you board, no matter when you board.

Don’t leave games early, folks. Try to haggle with the people working the concession stands to give you another soft pretzel for free. Get your money’s worth.

Giannis Antetokounmpo slashes Celtics, forces Game 7 in Boston

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The Milwaukee Bucks needed a big game from Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday night. Boy, did they get it.

After a disappointing in Game 5 in Boston, Antetokounmpo was fearsome in his return to the Bradley Center for Game 6. The Bucks were able to keep their defensive intensity up, and we got the game most of us expected from Antetokounmpo in a return to his home court: complete domination on the biggest stage.

The game started out much the way we’ve seen in this series — sort of kooky. It was another low-scoring affair as the first half closed with Milwaukee leading, 49-38. The Celtics couldn’t get things rolling offensively, and were saved by baskets in the paint in the first quarter. Boston scored just 15 points in the second period, saving themselves with makes from beyond the 3-point line.

The real story of the game came in the second half. Antetokounmpo would not let up from the gas, scoring both as the Bucks center and on the break. Milwaukee’s franchise player matched up against Al Horford all night long, and the battle between the two was intense. Both seemed to want to muscle each other, and for different stretches they both got the better of each other.

Boston battled back, eventually tying the game at 61-61 with 4:21 to go in the third. The Celtics’ charge was led by Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Horford, all three of whom allowed Boston to make up a 14-point deficit. Boston played carefully, allowing their young wings to do the work. Despite not having a fastbreak point until late in the third, they also didn’t have their first turnover of the second half until there was little more than three minutes to go in the same quarter. Antetokounmpo, who couldn’t let Boston’s run continue after the tie, turned on the jets to close the quarter and Milwaukee entered the fourth period with a 9-point lead they would never cede.

The fourth quarter was much of the same, with the matchup between Antetokounmpo, Horford, and Horford’s backup in Aron Baynes. Several times, Antetokounmpo ran full speed after starting with the ball on the opposite free-throw line, going right at either Horford or Baynes. But the Bucks star wasn’t completely selfish. He managed to stave off tunnel vision, at times finding teammates on his spins to the bucket.

A lot of talk was made about Antetokounmpo’s poor performance in Game 5, a career playoff-low of 16 points on just 10 field goal attempts. The Greek Freak made sure that didn’t happen again, finishing the game with 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting, adding 14 rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton were amped up as well. Both finished with 16 points, and as a team the Bucks scored 25 points on the break, with 50 points coming from the painted area, topping Boston in both regards.

For the Celtics, Tatum led the way with 22 points on six-of-14 shooting, adding three rebounds and three assists. Terry Rozier continued his playoff emergence, scoring 18 points while nabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. Boston shot just 27.8 percent from the 3-point line.

Game 7 now heads back to Massachusetts, where we will see if Antetokounmpo can keep his foot to the floor and drive the Bucks past the second-seeded Celtics on Saturday.