Why Linsanity may have been worth more to Houston than New York

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When the New York Knicks told Jeremy Lin “don’t let Raymond Felton hit you in the backside on the way out,” the talk was a cacophony of shock. Whether you agreed with the move or not, it was a huge surprise that the Knicks wouldn’t match the offer sheet for Lin. If you thought Lin was worth it, you were shocked the Knicks would let a star like Lin walk after everything he did for the franchise last year. If you thought he wasn’t worth it, you were surprised Dolan actually made a decision with consideration for the money.

More than anything, people on both sides were shocked that Dolan let Lin’s marketing potential head to the Lonestar State. Lin was a huge center of attention, which meant money, last season, and merchandise for Lin sold out everywhere. How could the Knicks let something with that kind of marketing potential go? ESPN, in a five-part series this week, noted that that element was considered by the Knicks and it sheds some light on how the league’s financial structure affects these things.

Furthermore, the Knicks calculated that Linsanity might not be worth as much as assumed. While the value of the Lin phenonemon has been much discussed, the Knicks saw it differently from most observers. Their season-ticket sales were strong and their sponsorships were stronger. Any money from the sale of Lin jerseys or Knicks’ merchandise around the world goes into a leaguewide pool, with the Knicks getting the same portion as any other team, according to revenue-sharing rules. Likewise, their share of the league’s TV contracts would not change whether Lin was on the team or not, no matter how many people in New York or Asia were watching.

via NBA — Jeremy Lin Six Degrees Of Separation, New York Knicks – ESPN.

Essentially, Lin wasn’t going to help MSG sell tickets. The Knicks already sell out. It’s the gift and curse of Knicks fans. They’re great, in that they show up no matter how bad the team is and go bonkers when the team is any good and/or has any stars. But it also means the Knicks don’t have to make moves with consideration to selling tickets, because they don’t have to worry about it. But a lot of teams make bad moves trying to sell tickets. The Brooklyn Nets just spent $300 million on a team that isn’t a title contender in order to push ticket sales. And that’s the right move for them, but MSG isn’t in the same bucket.

Likewise, not being able to make any money off the revenue stream of merchandise, and in fact subsidizing the other teams has to have very little appeal to the Knicks. Yes, there are other revenue streams involved with Lin’s popularity that don’t get put into the league pool. But again, the Knicks have already maximized those streams. That’s the real problem. It’s like trying to get someone who’s loaded a gift for their birthday. What do you get the team that has everything (except a title, an offense, and a star willing to relinquish control)?

Houston, on the other hand, can use Lin’s star power. His fame will help them sell sponsorships and put butts in seats. The only person that really loses money in this configuration is Lin, who won’t make as much in Houston off his fame and that trademarked “Linsanity” term as he would in New York. But he got a great deal, and that marketing money will dry up eventually.

So maybe this deal, while not all about the money at all, as ESPN’s feature illustrates, wasn’t so bad on the financial end for anyone. But it’s interesting to see the dynamics in play.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

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When announcing last month Kawhi Leonard was out indefinitely due to a lingering quad injury, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed the idea his star forward would miss the rest of the season:

Apparently, Popovich’s expectation has changed.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

The Spurs (35-24) are third in the West despite Leonard playing just nine games. Popovich has done a great job (maybe Coach of the Year-worthy). LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season in a leading role. Pau Gasol leads a supporting cast of players good in their roles.

But San Antonio’s ceiling is so much lower without Leonard.

He’s an elite defender who shuts down opposing scorers on the perimeter and can comfortably switch inside. He can isolate offensively to score efficiently, and he spaces the floor off the ball with strong 3-point shooting. Those are all skills that translate to the playoffs.

Without him, the Spurs rely too heavily on older, slower defenders. That’s ripe to be exploited in the postseason.

Teams might even jockey to match up with San Antonio – the most vulnerable-appearing Western Conference team in line to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Leonard returning. Popovich could just be trying to shut down speculation. He clearly doesn’t like discussing this issue.

But the Spurs are the most cautious team on injuries. If Leonard risks further injury, they’ll keep him sidelined.

This injury has already caused tension. This won’t help.

Mark Cuban’s fine third-largest known fine in NBA history

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While explaining how he told his players the team was better off losing this season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “I’m probably not supposed to say this” and “Adam would hate hearing that.”

Cuban was right.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Cuban $600,000 for “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” The league doesn’t announce all its fines, but that’s the third-largest known fine in NBA history.

The leaderboard:

1. Timberwolves, $3.5 million in 2000 (signing under-the-table agreement with Joe Smith)

2. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, $2.5 million in 2014 (making racist comments)

3. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $600,000 in 2018 (saying he told his players the team is better off losing)

4. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $500,000 in 2002 (criticizing officiating)

4. Knicks, $500,000 in 2006 (fighting Nuggets)

4. Nuggets, $500,000 2006 (fighting Knicks)

4. Vladimir Radmanovic, $500,000 in 2007 (injuring his shoulder while snowboarding)

4. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars, $500,000 in 2010 (leaking confidential league memos)

4. Heat owner Micky Arison, $500,000 in 2011 (tweets during the lockout breaking rank with other owners)

I’d be on Cuban (and/or the Mavericks) getting yet another spot on this list following the investigation of the franchise for a culture tolerant of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. That one will probably be deserved – not just the league trying to preserve the illusion of pure competition amid a system that incentivizes losing.

Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for telling team “losing is our best option”

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Of all the hot water Mark Cuban is in right now with the Mavericks and the NBA league office, this is probably the smallest tub. And the least expensive fine.

Cuban recently went on Julius Erving’s podcast, House Call with Dr. J, and said:

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, “Look, losing is our best option.” Adam would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”

You were not supposed to say that — the NBA Wednesday fined Cuban $600,000 for “for public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Cuban’s not wrong, it’s just a matter of perception. The NBA has worked very hard to lessen the image that teams are tanking for draft position (why do you think there was pressure on the Sixers to replace Sam Hinkie?), they don’t need an owner saying it’s the smart thing to do. Even though it is. Teams tank — it is still the only way for a small or medium market team to get a superstar, get high in the draft and hopefully pick one (it’s not that simple, ask the Magic) — but the league wants at least the facade that all of its teams are competitive. All the way through the end of the season.

As you read this, the bottom eight teams in the NBA are within three games of each other for the worst record — and a higher lottery slot. Does anyone think any of them are not going to roll out young, less-talented rosters in the name of development when the real goal is to lose as many games as they can the rest of the way? Most scouts think there is some real talent at the top of this draft, and teams are going to try to get up there and get it.

Just nobody can talk about it.