Trade Pau Gasol. Trade Andrew Bynum and get Dwight Howard. Amnesty Metta World Peace. Blow the whole thing up.
Lakers message boards and Los Angeles talk radio was filled with those kinds of comments from a rabid fan base from before the Lakers fell in the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Los Angeles media fuels this. Even I said the Lakers needed to look at trading a big man.
But from Bill Sharman through Jerry West to Mitch Kupchak, one of the hallmarks of the Lakers front office has been patience. They don’t panic. They don’t make a move just to make a move, they wait for the right move.
That move came like fireworks over Dodger Stadium on Wednesday — the Lakers traded for Steve Nash.
With Nash the Lakers live for the moment — they instantly vault up to the level of the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are contenders.
There are things to find out yet. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will have to learn to play together and play off each other, and not unlike LeBron James and Dwyane Wade that will have some bumps and take some time to smooth out. There are questions about how Nash works with two big men. The Lakers will need to both up their tempo and add a lot more pick-and-roll with the point guard to maximize what Steve Nash can do. Do the Lakers still need to consider moving Pau Gasol to add depth and keep salaries down?
And make no mistake, there is a price to be paid for what the Lakers did on the Fourth of July. There are huge salary cap implications coming (remember Kobe Bryant makes $30 million in 2013-14) the same year Andrew Bynum’s new deal kicks in and Gasol is due $19.3 million. The Lakers also traded away first round picks they may need to help rebuild after Kobe and Steve Nash walk away — which is not that far off, Nash is 38.
But this move was not about the future. It was about the now. The Lakers are a team that judges success by trying to catch the Boston Celtics for how many banners hang in the rafters. They are a franchise about stars and exciting play and players.
In one bold move, they brought all that back to Staples Center for a few more years.
But they only got to do that because they were patient first.
Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.
The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.
That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.
Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.
It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.
Mike Budenholzer is out (and may be thinking New York). Suns’ interim coach Jay Triano and former Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale are still in the mix.
The Suns also have reached out to Jason Kidd — who was let go by the Bucks mid-season — and former Bulls and Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.
This is still early in a lengthy search process, there is a long way to go before anyone gets offered this job.
Kidd now lives in Phoenix. He’s considered a smart coach but one who falls in and out of love with players fast, pushes hard for the players he wants (and against those he doesn’t), and didn’t utilize the talent on the Bucks to its best advantage. The Suns have to ask if he is the right guy for a rebuild. He can coach, he’s going to get another chance, but do the Suns want to give it to him?
Mentioning Del Negro will lead to howls from the Suns’ fanbase, but to be fair he gets a bit of a bad rap as a coach. Del Negro won 53.3 percent of his games as a coach, and no team he coached ever finished below .500. He’s had some success developing players, starting with Derrick Rose. All that said, there are reasons Suns’ fans are right to howl: simplistic offenses, a heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and remember he broke the confidence of DeAndre Jordan (Doc Rivers had to build it back up).
Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season and are looking to replace him. The new coach will have a very good young scorer in Devin Booker on the roster and after that a lot of young question marks. This is a development job where the Suns need to hire a guy who can put in a system, then bring in more talent and stay out of the new coach’s way. We’ll see if the Suns can do that.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)
Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.
As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.
First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.
As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.
But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).
Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.
Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)
“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.
Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.
Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.
Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.
Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.
After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.