With the NBA labor talks blowing up, more and more NBA players are trying to find their way overseas to earn a paycheck. Here is a roundup of the latest rumors — but remember they are rumors so take a few grains of salt with them.
• Bulls big man Joakim Noah confirmed that he is seriously considering playing for Paris-Levallois (the team he rooted for growing up). He’d be joining the crowd, pretty much every French star has already returned to play there, including Tony Parker and Nicholas Batum.
• Linas Kleiza has denied that close to joining Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania. We tend to believe him — he had microfracture surgery back in February. He’s likely going to take longer to get back on the court, not rush back to play for less money in Lithuania.
• Suns guard Aaron Brooks has reached an agreement to play for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in China, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. That is Yi Jianlian’s team and they reportedly had been after Rodney Stuckey as well, according to Sheridanhoops.com. One would think that with Brooks they wouldn’t want Stuckey, too, but maybe. More interesting in all of this is the Suns wanted to bring Brooks back t backup Steve Nash, now they can’t if the lockout gets solved in time for a season (Brooks is in China until March).
• Andres Nocioni has signed to play in Argentina — but without insurance for his NBA deal. That means if he suffered an injury and was not able to play whenever the lockout ends, the 76ers could cut him and he would be out the $14.2 million he is owed on his last deal.
• Tiago Splitter made the latest rumors official and signed with Valencia.
• DeAndre Jordan, who shot down an offer from the Zhejiang Lions in China last month, is being talked to again to see if he has changed his mind, reports Sheridanhoops.com.
• Luther Head has signed to play with Jiangsu in China, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Head is the kind of borderline NBA player now that should have made this move at the start of the season. If the NBA ever gets going he could return to the league in March when the Chinese league is done.
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.