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Berri’s 10 most overpaid players list has hits, misses

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It’s a fun mental exercise to make us feel smarter than GMs — who are the 10 most overpaid players in the NBA?

Dave Berri — the co-author of The Wages of Wins and the economics professor who has consulted with NBA teams — came up with a list for CNBC that got a lot of play over the weekend. It’s got some obvious hits, but there are some misses as well.

Berri has his own system for valuing players called “wins produced.” I think it’s a flawed system (as is the still superior PER by John Hollinger) because any system that tries to distill the contributions of a basketball player down to one single number will not work. There is no single Holy Grail number out there. Defense isn’t accounted for well, to use the easy example and not get bogged down in math. These metrics (I use PER) make a nice snapshot but are not a complete picture.

That said, Berri uses his wins produced to figure out come up with how overpaid he was — how much money did he make divided by how many wins did he produce.

It’s an interesting list. But I have issues with a few guys on here.

1. Rashard Lewis (Wizards). He made $21 million last year and nobody sane will argue this is not the worst contract in the league. The Wizards chose not to use their amnesty on him and if they don’t next year they can pay him $23 million in the final year of his deal (they may try to use that as trade bait). Lewis played in 28 games last season averaging 7.8 points per contest and shooting below 40 percent.

2. Kobe Bryant (Lakers). Kobe is open to being on a list like this because he made $25 million last season (and $27 mil next season and $30 mil the season after that). And while Kobe has started to slide back from his peak he was still second in the league in scoring at 27.9 points per game, can play a complete game when he wants to. He is a lock as an All-Star. Also it should be noted that is actual value to the Lakers franchise in marketing and draw far, far exceeds what he gets paid. To me, that keeps him (and a few others below) off this list.

3. Antawn Jamison (Cavaliers). He made $15 million last year for a struggling Cleveland team and while he’s not bad — 17.1 points but shooting just 40 percent — he doesn’t board or do a whole lot else. He’s average at this point in his career but got paid handsomely to be that.

4. Amare Stoudemire (Knicks). He made $18.2 million last year but you can certainly argue he was overpaid as he was marginalized by the system — this has become Carmelo Anthony’s Knicks team and everything runs through him. Stoudemire kind of got the scraps once Mike Woodson turned the team over to ‘Melo. For the Knicks, he is overpaid. But he still shot 48 percent, scored 17.5 per game and in the right system could be a powerful force.

5. Chris Kaman (Hornets). He made $12.2 million last season at the end of a deal he got with the Clippers and he was overpaid. That said, Kaman has value as a solid NBA big — he scored 13.1 points per game last season, is an efficient shooter who plays within himself and is a solid rebounder. He has value, just not $12.2 value.

6. Mehmet Okur (Nets). I have no problem with this, he made $10.9 million last year and was so useless that when traded to Portland at the deadline a Blazers team that could use some help inside cut him rather than have him play for them.

7. Corey Maggette (Bobcats). No argument here, the oft-injured wing player was paid $10.2 million to come in and score for Charlotte and he played in just 32 games. He scored 15 a game when he did but shot just 36.7 percent.

8. Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks): He made $17.3 million last season and he’s on Berri’s list but not mine. Granted, Nowitzki was not as efficient this season as the title year but still 21.6 points per game and a guy who can knock down threes. No, not a lot of rebounds or much else, but is that why anyone signs him. A PER of 21.8, I can live with that. Plus, like Kobe, his value to the franchise far exceeds his salary.

9. Deron Williams (Nets): He made $16.6 million on a dreadful Nets team last season. He scored 21 points per game, averaged 8.7 assists per game and shot 40 percent from the field. I think this is less about Williams and more about who is around him to help, but Berri puts him on his list anyway.

10. Tyrus Thomas (Bobcats): He made $7.3 million last season while giving Charlotte 5.6 points per game on just 36.7 percent shooting. He was part of a long list of Bobcat problems last season.

Timberwolves new CEO knows exactly what he’s getting into

This 2016 image provided by the San Francisco 49ers shows Ethan Casson posed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. In 1998, Casson called sports teams all over the country asking to get a foot in the door. The Minnesota Timberwolves answered, giving him an entry-level position. Almost 20 years later, Casson returns to the franchise as the team's new CEO hoping to help a team that has struggled on the business side almost as much as it has on the court. (Terrell Lloyd/The San Francisco 49ers via AP)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) In the winter of 1998, Ethan Casson started calling professional franchise after professional franchise, begging them to get his foot in the door in any capacity.

One night, a human resources employee for the Minnesota Timberwolves picked up the phone and Casson talked his way into a meeting. He flew from the East Coast, met with several Timberwolves executives and, during the third quarter of a game against the Golden State Warriors, was offered an entry-level position on the business side of the operation at $24,000 per year.

“To think that what started as a cold call of me begging an HR person to let me come in and prove my worth 18 years later turned into me coming back as a CEO is amazing and certainly very special to me,” Casson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Casson had to sell his car and some other possessions to raise the money to pay for his move from Boston to the Twin Cities, but the leap of faith has paid off. Six years after he left the Timberwolves to climb the ladder with the San Francisco 49ers, he is returning as CEO to breathe new life into one of the NBA’s struggling operations.

Timberwolves President Chris Wright remembered the impression Casson left in those first face-to-face meetings.

“I told him we’re going to find a place for you in this franchise because you are exactly the type of person that we want build this franchise around,” Wright said.

Casson’s first stint with the Timberwolves lasted 11 years. He worked his way up to senior vice president of corporate partnerships and met his future wife here before leaving for the 49ers in 2010.

When he arrived in the Bay Area, the once-proud 49ers were in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought. Their revenue had dropped to near the bottom of the league and they were playing in an outdated stadium that couldn’t compete with the shiny new ones popping up around the league. He leaves after helping to secure a 20-year, $220 million naming rights deal with Levi’s for the new stadium and rebuilding the franchise’s business operations.

The Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since 2004, the longest active drought in the league. That futility has contributed significantly to plummeting revenue and a dwindling season ticket base.

“I’m not saying it’s apples to apples, but I certainly feel I’ve been on a six-year journey that involved a lot of similar themes,” Casson said. “And I’ll apply all of those lessons to this next phase of my career.”

Casson replaces Rob Moor, the longtime CEO who stepped aside to work more closely with Wolves owner Glen Taylor’s other business interests. At 42 years old, Casson is part of a youth movement coming into the organization. Taylor also brought in 41-year-old New York real estate mogul Meyer Orbach and 35-year-old Chinese entrepreneur John Jiang as minority owners, and he hopes the three of them help bring a new perspective and energy to the business side that mirrors the vibe youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are bringing to the team.

“I was very aware and respectful that taking on this role wasn’t about coming in and fixing things that were broken,” Casson said. “I don’t look at opportunities like this as somethings not working. I look at it as an opportunity to reset and plot out a different course or a different version of a course that moves the business forward.”

The challenges are real. The Timberwolves’ competitive dormancy buried them in a crowded sports marketplace. Tickets have been hard to sell and the NFL’s Vikings, the NHL’s Wild and MLB’s Twins are competing for the corporate dollars.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” said Wright, who is entering his 25th season with the Wolves. “I’ve tried to do it what I consider the best way for the franchise given all of the different sort of environments we’ve found ourselves in over the last 12 years as we’ve not been making the playoffs. And I think Ethan is going to just bring a completely fresh, new look to all of that and lead us in the direction we need to be as a club in the 21st century.”

The Wolves have one of the most promising young cores in the league, a brand new practice facility in downtown Minneapolis and have begun renovations on the dusty Target Center.

“There’s a lot of momentum in and around the organization that made it very exciting for me as a fan and now as someone who is coming back as CEO,” he said. “That will come and go. The renovation will eventually be complete. The team will stabilize and be competitive. You still have to make sure the business model is sustainable and drivable. That’s what we’re going to be.”

Joel Embiid arm wrestled Justin Bieber in a club? Yup. There is video.

THERMAL, CA - APRIL 16:  Professional basketball player Joel Embiid attends the Levi's Brand and RE/DONE Levi's presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 16, 2016 in Thermal, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Tequila Don Julio)
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Joel Embiid is officially 7’0″ tall and 250 pounds, although when you see him in person now that number seems low, he looks thicker and stronger.

Justin Bieber is a 5’9″ waiflike person.

So of course, they arm wrestled at the club Hyde in Los Angeles. It went about as you’d expect. Here is some video, hat tip to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie (arguably the best arm wrestler in the NBA media).

If you’re about to make an “at least Embiid didn’t get hurt” joke, be more creative.

Hopefully, we get to see what Embiid can do on the court this fall, where the competition will be a lot tougher than any Canadian pop star.

Larry Sanders asks in Twitter poll what team he should play for next season

Larry Sanders
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Larry Sanders is talking about getting back into the NBA. He walked away in 2015 to say he needed to deal with anxiety and depression, to find a balance in his life. Recently he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders this:

“But I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.”

But where? A lot of teams could use an athletic big who averaged 1.4 blocks per game over the five years he was in the NBA, although with the conservative nature of NBA front offices they will not want to take much risk (Golden State reportedly thought about it and decided not to offer him a contract).

Sanders decided to ask Twitter where he should go, putting Twitter’s poll feature to good use.

The question becomes, where is there mutual interest from any of these teams?

If Sanders and his agent can win a team over in an interview, the contract will be small and the number of guaranteed years is not exceeding one (if even that). From the perspective of an NBA team, Sanders has to prove himself again.

But never underestimate how many chances big men get in this league.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Warriors’ just re-signed Anderson Varejao leaves Brazil to have back examined in USA

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16: Anderson Varejao #18 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Anderson Varejao was spending the past couple days helping his nation prepare to host the 2016 Olympics in less than two weeks, including carrying the Olympic flame.

#tochaolimpica #varejao #olimpiadas #rio2016 #brazil #sampacool 😍⚾⛳🎾⚽🏀🏁🏂🏆🏊🏇

A video posted by Marcus Bado (@marcusbado) on

But now he is on his way back to the United States to have his chronically bad back examined. Again. From Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.

The Warriors re-signed Varejao on a one-year, veteran minimum contract where he will make $980,431. He is expected to back up Zaza Pachulia at the five spot, although his run would have been limited (which is good, he’s not terribly effective anymore).

A variety of injuries — back, Achilles, wrist — have meant the most games Varejao has played in a season since the 2010-11 season is 65. Last season that number was 53, the final 22 of it with the Warriors.

If Varejao can’t go or is limited, the Warriors may look around at other options. But the pickings are slim at this point.