When some of us argued that Brian Shaw was the best coach to take over the Lakers after Phil Jackson left, the reasoning was simply that you don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.
The Lakers are still (theoretically) in a championship window. They had been playing the triangle for years and while not all the players in the locker room liked it the roster was largely built to run it. Kobe Bryant fit well in it. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum could work well in it. No other system really fits Derek Fisher anymore.
But Jim Buss wanted to put his stamp on the organization, so all things Jackson were out and in came defensive minded Mike Brown. And the Lakers are playing good defense — even after the Heat ran all over them the Lakers are sixth in the NBA in points allowed per possession. Problem is they are 19th in points scored per possession. Even when Kobe goes off, the Lakers offense is pretty average.
You get what you ask for, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register reminds us all.
But the same reasons I gave for lobbying the Lakers to give Shaw the job in May remain valid: The Lakers’ motivation for this season was already there from wasting last season, and they could’ve been set up to do everything they already knew – just better – with renewed hunger, the same triangle offense and a healthier Kobe Bryant.
By choosing Brown, the Lakers embraced massive change, which is generally a very good thing only when things are already very bad. We are seeing now just how rough the ride has to be in starting from scratch.
“It’s under construction,” Kobe Bryant said late Thursday night of Brown’s offense. “Still working on the blueprints, actually.”
The good news for Lakers fans is that the Lakers are playing good defense so far this season. If they had done that last season maybe things turn out differently. The other reason for optimism is that as they play more games and the season wears on, they will start to figure out the offense more and how to exploit mismatches. The Lakers could and should have dominated the Heat in the paint on Thursday, but they didn’t set up scoring chances in there well enough or often enough. The result was a thumping.
When you start things over from scratch, you get some of those. It’s what the Lakers ownership asked for.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.