Orlando Magic

Three Stars of the Night: It’s your world, baby.

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After trading Dwight Howard and not getting a heck of a whole lot in return, the Orlando Magic were left for dead by everyone — yours truly included. But after taking out a hot Minnesota team and improving to a very respectable 11-13 record on the season, Glen “Big Baby” Davis made it clear in a postgame rant (that likely included quite a bit of spittle) that the Magic will compete, no matter what. With that in mind, we’ve got Monday’s world-beaters all lined up for you in a pretty row. To Three Stars:

Third Star: Jeremy Lin – (22 points, 8 assists, 9-for-15 shooting)

You can’t talk about underdogs without mentioning Jeremy Lin, right? It’s funny. Leading up to the game, there was plenty of talk about how the Knicks dodged a serious bullet, how much better Raymond Felton was, and how this whole Linsanity thing was a fluke. You would think we would have learned our lesson in doubting Lin the first time around, no? Lin was electric in his return to Madison Square Garden, breaking out of his slump to score 16 points in the first half and propel the Rockets past a Knicks team that struggled to get up and down the floor. Am I implying that everything is just fine with Lin based on this one game? Of course not. I would suggest, however, that there’s a very good chance Lin won’t be as bad as he’s been early this year, just like he probably won’t be as good as he was during that magical run in New York. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

Second Star: Serge Ibaka – (25 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks)

With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin licking their chops against a Spurs team with no Kawhi Leonard or Manu Ginobili out on the wing, what are the odds that Serge Ibaka would lead the Thunder in scoring for the first time all year? As unlikely as it seems, Ibaka has very quietly been a really good offensive player this season. Ibaka’s scoring averages have spiked from 9.1 a game last year to 14.2 this season, and he’s shooting a ridiculous 49 percent from 16-23 feet — which is approaching Dirk Nowitzki territory (51 percent in 2012). Ibaka’s leap and Oklahoma City’s 20-4 record have both oddly gone under the radar, but this big night against Tim Duncan and company should at least temporarily divert some eyeballs from the disaster in Los Angeles and redirect them towards the team that’s playing the best basketball in the league right now.

First Star: Glen “Big Baby” Davis – (28 points on 13-for-17 shooting)

You won’t find many players who will balk at the chance to be their team’s top scoring option, but it’s a heavy burden to carry. Defenses game plan specifically for you. Double-teams come your way, help defense is a little faster. There’s a big target on your back. Glen Davis has never really experienced that until this year, and it’s been an interesting exercise to watch him deal with it alongside Arron Afflalo. A primary result of the increased touches has been a lot more long jumpers this year — a somewhat necessary evil given Orlando’s lack of players who can penetrate. That said though, when Davis has a lane to drive or can get the ball in good position, he’s half walrus/half ballerina in the paint, dancing around and bouncing off defenders to throw in tough flip shots. Davis was able to dominate the paint offensively, eschewing jumpers for layups all night to help the Magic pull off a big comeback at home. It was rarely pretty for Davis — and it rarely will be for Orlando — but there’s a beauty in not needing that to be successful.

Phil Jackson: ‘Today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle’

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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See whether you can follow this timeline:

1. Knicks president Phil Jackson stated his commitment to the triangle offense entering the 2015-16 season.

2. Jackson in a December interview published today, via Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak:

Today’s players simply lack the skills to play the triangle. They know how to play one-on-one, catch-and-shoot, and they’ve mastered crossover dribbles, spins, playing off of screens and step-back shots. They don’t know how to execute things like inside-reverse pivots and other basic footwork. They have no sense of timing or organization. They don’t really know how to play five-on-five basketball. It’s strictly generational.

That’s why Fish {Derek Fisher} wants to uptempo the offense. And why he spends a half-hour before practice doing lots of skills work.

3. Jackson fires coach Derek Fisher, who — according to interim coach Kurt Rambis — resisted the triangle.

4. Jackson said the Knicks would continue to run the triangle and even ran a triangle camp for New York players.

5. Jackson hired Jeff Hornacek, who has little triangle experience, and said the new coach wouldn’t have to run the triangle.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

Maybe Jackson, relying on his December thoughts, finally changed his mind about the triangle. Maybe he believes players can still be taught triangle skills and actually plans to have Hornacek use the system.

Or maybe the Knicks are just rudderless.

Adam Silver not a fan of LeBron James’, Kevin Durant’s 1+1 contracts

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - FEBRUARY 21 :  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder tries to keep the ball away from LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the third quarter of a NBA game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on February 21, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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LeBron James has signed a couple 1+1 contracts since rejoining the Cavaliers. Kevin Durant inked a 1+1 deal to join the Warriors.

The superstars are maximizing their compensation under the NBA’s salary-cap rules and extracting leverage over their teams in the process. Risky? Somewhat. If either player gets hurt, he has no long-term security. But LeBron and Durant are so good, teams would still line up to pay them max money after a major injury. There’s a reason even the next class of stars hasn’t duplicated this strategy.

But, as limited as 1+1 contracts are, NBA commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t give them a ringing endorsement.

Silver, via Cleveland.com:

“One of the unintended consequences (of doing contracts like James) I feel on behalf of the players is the fact that they end up putting themselves in this position where they’re taking enormous financial risk,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told cleveland.com. “The system is designed for guys to enter into long term contracts, so, and you can only get so much insurance. So one of the unintended consequences is they take risk beyond what we would like to see them take.

“The other thing is, the system is designed and incentivizes players to stay with the same teams,” Silver said. “At the same time I respect free agency so if they make those decisions to leave, that’s fine too. But as I said, I’d like to talk to the union about maybe modifying the system so there’s a little bit more of an incentive to stay with your existing team.”

Silver sounds like he might be overreacting to a narrow problem — something that might not even be a problem at all.

Not long ago, the NBA had a real problem: Contracts were too long, and raises were too high. Players signed long-term deals, declined over the life of them and became deadweight by the end. Teams were too often strapped with expensive unproductive players, and because those players ate up significant cap room, there wasn’t money left to sign upgrades.

So, the league has pushed to save teams from themselves. Two Collective Bargaining Agreements ago, the max contract length was seven years and max raises were 12.5%. In the previous CBA, it was six years and 10.5%. Now, it’s five years and 7.5%.

Simply, teams aren’t allowed to offer LeBron or Durant enough long-term security where that would trump a one-year deal — especially with the salary cap rising rapidly.

Last year, the salary cap rose 11.0%. This year, it was 34.5%.

The max 7.5% raises — which LeBron and Durant can’t even yet, because without full Bird Rights, they’re limited to 4.5% — won’t cut it. Even if LeBron and Durant are totally committed to staying with their current teams, there’s more money in signing a new contract each year as the max skyrockets in line with the cap. However, that opens the door for a change of heart and leaving in free agency.

The max-salary tiers also encourage 1+1 deals. A player’s max depends on his experience, and it escalates among three tiers: 0-6 years, 7-9 years, 10+ years.

Imagine the typical max player. He was a first-round pick, so his rookie-scale deal covers his first four seasons. He might sign a five-year max contract extension or max deal as a restricted free agent — which gets him to unrestricted free agency with nine years of experience. If he locks into a long-term deal that summer, he’s stuck with the 7-9 max. Wait one more year, and he can get the 10+ rate.

With both factors — the skyrocketing salary cap and tier system — working together, players are more incentivized than ever to take 1+1 deals.

That won’t remain the case, though.

The salary cap will level off as the new national TV contracts become the norm. There will still be free agents with nine years of experience who could wait one more season to lock in long-term, but that had long been the case, and nobody took a 1+1. LeBron and Durant are as likely to be outliers as trendsetters.

But if other players follow their lead, that’s not so bad. If players sign a new contract annually or even biannually, they’re more likely to be paid in accordance with their production. That’s something owners want.

Owners also want to keep their top players, and 1+1 deals allow for greater player movement. So, I see the downside for teams.

The “solution” would be mandating unguaranteed contracts — players tied to their teams long-term while the team still has the ability to drop the player if he’s not living up to his salary. Of course, that’s almost certainly a non-starter for the union.

In a world of compromise, the current system isn’t as harmful as Silver insinuates.

 

Jeremy Lin stars in Space Jam 3 (video)

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LeBron James will reportedly star in Space Jam 2.

Space Jam 3? Jeremy Lin already claimed the top role in a very, um, strange video.

Kids Jeopardy! contestant whiffs on LeBron James question (video)

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Did LeBron James lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2012 and 2013?

If you haven’t already gotten your fix of laughing at children, here’s a kid who guessed that happened:

The question, as you surely know, is who are the Miami Heat?