It’s nice to see the Suns welcome one of their former players back for a free agent visit, even if the same people who sent him away via trade are the ones pursuing him once again.
Phoenix rolled out the orange carpet for Goran Dragic this week, with team employees lining his entrance route back into the US Airways Center. Near the very end of the video, that’s Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby who’s all smiles hugging Goran at the end of the line.
The trade that sent Dragic to Houston didn’t seem like a bad one for Phoenix at the time. The Suns sent the Rockets a first round pick in addition to Dragic for Aaron Brooks, who was clashing with the Rockets coaching staff after winning the league’s Most Improved Player award the season before.
Dragic was struggling with injuries at the time, and came to the team when the previous basketball operations staff was running the show. The new regime didn’t have the same investment in Dragic, and felt that Brooks would do well in Phoenix after getting what GM Lance Blanks called at the time a “fresh start.”
Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. Dragic emerged as maybe the best backup point guard in the league, while Brooks ended up in China as a casualty of last summer’s lockout. The Suns retained the rights to Brooks as a restricted free agent by extending him a qualifying offer last week.
The latest reports have Dragic and the Rockets very far apart from a numbers standpoint, so he’s not expected back in Houston next season. The Suns have the cap space to make Dragic a lucrative offer and rectify their mistake, but the team also has many other decisions to make in terms of how it wants to rebuild the roster after Steve Nash’s departure.
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.
Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)
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.
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.
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.