Winderman: Max contracts and amnesty, have the owners learned anything?

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With Elton Brand about to come off the market and Luis Scola about to go on the market, we’re reminded of why there is an NBA amnesty process in the first place: because of large-scale contracts that were shortsighted.

And then we have Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert and Eric Gordon getting maximum-scale offers this summer and we’re left to wonder whether anyone has learned their lockout lesson.

The reality is the new max-level deals are decidedly less cumbersome than the previous, Joe Johnson-level deals. But the third and fourth years of those contracts nonetheless quickly can turn cumbersome if those players don’t turn into perennial All-Stars.

The difference this time is there will be no second chance, no amnesty allowed on contracts signed after the lockout. This time, teams have to live with the luxury-tax consequences.

All of which leads to the debate of max contracts themselves, and the uniqueness of the NBA marketplace.

Sports, especially leagues with salary caps, are the only place where you go shopping, ask how much something costs, and the answer comes back as, “How much you got?”

Lopez, Hibbert and Gordon all found suitors with maximum salary slots available.

This by no means is advocating any sort of statistical metric, with so much in the NBA still non-quantifiable, be it the pass that leads to the assist, stepping out to disrupt the pick and roll, setting crushing screens.

But there sure seem to be enough experts around these days, between the statistical set, the executives and coaches who act as if they invented the game, the recently retired, the Hall of Famers, that perhaps the NBA needs to move to some sort of free-agency tier system, where the most deserving still could max out, but where others couldn’t hold teams hostage just because cap space happens to be available.

Each time a team amnesties a player, it is acknowledging a mistake, no matter how the press release is issued.

We’re currently in the latest round of mea culpa, teams acknowledging they either offered too much money or too many years or simply put too much faith in their medical staffs.

To a degree, amnesty is a market correction.

But the reality is that while amnesty allows for luxury-tax savings, the dollars still are being spent, teams fully on the hook for the balance of those contracts.

When the process is over, when every team utilizes its one-time amnesty allowance in coming years, the NBA needs to analyze each of the amnesty releases, crunch those numbers, establish statistical, medical and age profiles of those players . . . and then hopefully learn going forward.

Because if there’s another league-wide round of amnesty, it will mean there will have been another lockout.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter @IraHeatBeat.

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.