Mike Brown says expect to see Metta World Peace at shooting guard

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Mike Brown has been a man under fire to start the season. His team has underperformed to the tune of a 1-3 start which has led to speculation that his job is in jeopardy.

One of the key complaints levied against Brown has been his lack of consistency with his rotations and how he’s managed personnel groupings once his starters go to the bench. Apparently, Brown is trying to rectify that according the Eric Pincus of the LA Times:

Metta World Peace will get minutes at shooting guard, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.

“That’s going to be my second unit,” said Brown.  “Metta will be the two, [Antawn] Jamison is the three, [Jordan] Hill is the four and [Dwight] Howard or Pau [Gasol] is going to be the five.”

Playing World Peace at shooting guard with the second unit comes with its advantages. Even though he’s lost a half-step (or more) on defense, he’s still the Lakers’ best wing stopper. While the sample size is small, the Lakers’ post a defensive efficiency of 97.0 when World Peace is on the floor, the best number on the team according the NBA.com.

Offensively, there are also ways this can be successful. While World Peace is struggling with his long distance shot (6-19 from thee point range), he’s made 66% of his two point field goals so far this year and is still a threat in the post and cutting to the rim. Plus, in recent seasons, he’s performed relatively well when he’s not shared the court with Kobe and can be more of an offensive focal point.

All that said, there are also some issues that could easily crop up by moving in this direction.

First off, the Lakers have a serious issue with how many minutes their key players are racking up early in the season. Kobe, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and World Peace all average over 34 minutes a game, with Pau and Kobe again near the top of the league in minutes played. For a team whose health and relative freshness come playoff time will be a key factor to their success, playing bench players less doesn’t seem to be the best solution.

Second, the Lakers signed Jodie Meeks in the off-season specifically to play as Kobe’s back up. His shooting can be a key ingredient in helping to provide much needed offensive spacing and his defense grades out as better than he’s given credit for. Not to mention how moving away from Meeks this early in the season without giving him much of an opportunity to succeed can potentially hurt his confidence and how he feels about his role.

These are big picture issues that can’t be ignored in the pursuit of more short term success. The best coaches are able to walk that line between managing for the present and long haul better than others and there are still questions about whether Brown is up to that balancing act.

Where Brown deserves credit is in realizing he needs to settle on a rotation, following through and making a decision. A fact he points out when saying:

“I’ve got to give my bench a chance, because right now I really haven’t.  I’ve been messing around with it too much trying to search for combinations. Now that I’ve found a combination that I think I want to roll with it a little bit, let’s give them a chance to see how they play before making another change.”

That said, even if he’s being decisive it still seems short sighted and a path with several potential pitfalls. I guess this is why those reports about his job being in jeopardy exist in the first place.

Report: Kyrie Irving’s top choice for trade is Spurs

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Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade, reportedly gave the Cavaliers a list of preferred destinations – Knicks, Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. But those teams aren’t all equal to Irving.

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog:

One league source told ZAGSBLOG that the Knicks were not Irving’s preferred destination, and that San Antonio was atop his list.

Irving is locked up for two more years and doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Where he’d re-sign in 2019 and his agent’s agitating could play small parts in which teams offer the most for him, but he has minimal control of where he goes.

Still, San Antonio is an interesting first choice.

Irving reportedly wants to escape LeBron James‘ shadow and lead his own team. But Kawhi Leonard is far better than Irving and already has Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich’s trust. Leonard has even turned himself into a 25-point-per-game scorer and MVP runner-up. So, even though the biggest difference between Leonard and Irving is defense (an oft-overlooked area), Leonard still shines in ways that get noticed.

So, why does Irving want to join San Antonio?

Maybe he underestimates Leonard. He wouldn’t be the first star to do so. See Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Maybe Irving has a sliding scale of priorities. Sure, he’d like preeminence on a team, but maybe he’d relinquish that to join Leonard and Popovich. At least the reserved Leonard would cede the spotlight to Irving as much as possible (which LeBron would never do), and Popovich is more respected than Tyronn Lue.

But back to reality: The Spurs lack assets beyond Leonard to trade for Irving – Aldridge would be a horrid fit with LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and San Antonio’s first-round picks are always in the low 20s – and the Cavs control where Irving goes. It’s very hard to see Irving landing in San Antonio.

Report: John Wall’s extension includes player option

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The Wizards had John Wall under contract for the next two seasons then signed him to a super-max extension that locks him in for an additional four three years.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised the Wizards gave Wall a player option considering their leverage.

Wall’s extension projects to pay him $169 million over four years – $30 million more than another team’s projected max offer over the same span. Even if Wall wanted to stay in Washington, this was the only offseason he could’ve ensured receiving the super-max rate. Had he rejected the extension now, he would have been eligible for the super max only by making an All-NBA team either of the next two years – far from guaranteed.

Still, the Wizards gave Wall everything – the highest-possible salary, max raises, a player option and a trade kicker.* There’s value in pleasing the franchise player. Wall will be the team’s third-highest-paid player for the next two years (behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal), which might have bothered Wall if not for the super-max extension about to kick in. This deal makes locker-room harmony more likely.

But it also allows Wall to hit free agency in 2022 rather than 2023. Maybe that won’t matter. Wall’s salary option-year salary projects to be $47 million when he’s 32-years-old. I doubt Wall opts out then, though it’s certainly possible.

Effectively, if Wall is worth that much in 2022, he’ll be a free agent. If he’s not worth that much, Washington committed to pay him.

*The trade kicker is unlikely to to matter unless the salary cap unexpectedly increases significantly. It can’t lift Wall’s salary above 35% of the salary cap in the season he’s traded, and he’ll likely be at or above that mark throughout the extension anyway.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.