76ers replace risk-taking front office with risk-taking front office

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Confession: I liked the Andrew Bynum trade for the 76ers.

They were a middling team capable of making the playoffs but without the proven ability to win a series unless the opponent’s top player was injured. Their roster had limited flexibility, and two starters, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, were aging.

The 76ers didn’t necessarily need to make a high-risk, high-reward move, but that was certainly a defensible plan, and that’s what they did. Obviously, it didn’t work, and the previous front office, including President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn, was pushed out.

Thorn, in an interview with David Aldridge of NBA.com (emphasis mine):

Me: So, what went wrong in Philly?

RT: We went for the stars when we went after Bynum. And it didn’t work out. And we gave up a ton of assets. Not only players, but we lost Iguodala, who was a terrific player. We lost (Nic) Vucevic, who was the second-best rebounder in the NBA. We lost (Maurice) Harkless, who has a chance to be a very good player, and we lost a future first, probably. Not for sure. But (Orlando) has the right for three years, if the first is not in the Lottery, they have the right to take it for three years. Now, chances are, it won’t be in the Lottery, and then we’ll have to give them two seconds. But we had accumulated assets. We made a major move, and it didn’t work out. Bynum never played a minute for us. And now he signs with Cleveland, and we gave up four major assets. That’s tough to overcome. And obviously the ownership was upset about the way the season went for us, and they got other people. It’s (not) a personal thing. They treated me great. I don’t have any problem with them at all. They wanted me to stay in an advisory position. But whether it’s pride or whether it’s ego or whatever, I just don’t like the way it ended. I’ve been in the league 50 years. I’ve done some pretty good things; some other things, not so good. But I’ve done some pretty good things. And I’d like to end it up on the right note. And that’s what it is for me more than anything…knock on wood, I’m relatively healthy, and I think I can help them in some ways. I’m looking forward to it.

In that same article, Aldridge also spoke with new 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie – an extremely revelatory look into Hinkie’s thinking, considering how little he’d shared with the media prior – and this quote stood out. Hinkie, via Aldridge: 

“From the first time I met the owners, they were very clear about where they wanted, and the kind of organization they wanted to build, and the kind of team they’d be proud of, and the kind of team they wouldn’t,” Hinkie said. “I’ve only thought about getting to there. It’s just a league that doesn’t reward treading water. And so sometimes you have to take some risks, and sometimes some risks are smarter to take for some teams, and less smart for other teams.”

This seems hypocritical of the 76ers owners, but it’s not. They trust Hinkie, not Thorn.

And that makes sense.

I liked the Bynum trade. I loved the Jrue Holiday trade. Nerlens Noel, if healthy, was by far the best prospect in the draft. In the meantime, his injury will help the 76ers secure a top 2014 pick, and the Pelican’s first rounder could be high, too.

That’s a great risk on Hinkie’s part – as long as his bosses trust him.

Kevin Durant no fan of one-and-done, says he would have come straight to NBA

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With the money funneled to future NBA players through agents in the spotlight thanks to a FBI investigation (one that doesn’t even get into the money from boosters and shoe companies), the one-and-done rule the NBA has for players sending them to college for a semester of cakewalk classes one year has come back in the spotlight.

The league and players’ union are discussing changing the rule — with some input from the NCAA. If they want Kevin Durant‘s advice, scrap the whole thing — he would have come straight to the NBA if he could have.

“You want these players to go out there and play on the biggest stage. The Final Four is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, in sports, and they don’t get a dime for it. I don’t think it’s right

“If they want to come out of high school, it should be on them. You know what I mean? You can’t control everything. So if they feel as though they’re ready, that’s on them. They want to make a decision on their life, that’s on them. If they don’t get drafted, it’s on them. You can try to control it, but you’re still not really doing anything.”

Would Durant have come out from high school rather than spend a season at Texas?

“Yeah, probably. I needed the money.”

The NBA is discussing changes, and they want to see the recommendations from Condoleezza Rice’s NCAA commission. But the league’s owners are not all on the same page.

“In terms of the NBA, we’re conflicted, to be honest…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said All-Star weekend. “And from a league standpoint, on one hand, we think we have a better draft when we’ve had an opportunity to see these young players play an elite level before they come into the NBA.

“On the other hand, I think the question for the league is, in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger? Are we better off bringing them into the league when they’re 18 using our G League as it was designed to be as a Development League and getting them minutes on the court there? And there is also recognition that for some of these elite players, there is no question that they can perform in the NBA at 18 years old.”

There seems to be some momentum toward a “baseball rule” compromise — players can come to the NBA straight out of high school, but if they go to college they have to stay for at least two years. Unlike the last time high schoolers were rushing into the NBA, most teams are far better prepared to develop young players and be patient with them. There will still be busts — there are even with guys who spent years in college — but teams are in better positions to make it work.

The other thing I would want to see: If a player signs with an agent out of high school, does not get drafted, give him the chance to go to college still. Some young men are going to get terrible advice (from family, AAU coaches, friends, a whole lot of people) and they deserve a chance to choose a better path.

Report: Hawks near buyout with Ersan Ilyasova; Bucks, Raptors interested

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This is about as big a surprise as my wife crying during “This Is Us,” but it sounds like it’s about to go down.

The Hawks and Ersan Ilyasova are close to a buyout, reports Michael Cunningham at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Hawks and forward Ersan Ilyasova tentatively agreed to a buyout of the remainder of his contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. Once Ilyasova accepts a buyout and clears waivers, as expected, he will be free to sign with any other team for the rest of the season.

Ilyasova’s contract expires at the end of the season and he is eligible to become a free agent in the summer. Earlier this month, Ilyasova invoked his right to reject the trade offers the Hawks presented to him.

Where might he land on the buyout market?

A lot of teams could use a 6’10” guy who can space the floor as a shooter. Ilyasova signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Hawks this season. He’s averaged 10.9 points per game, shooting 35.9 percent from three this season, and missed some time with a shoulder injury.

Ilyasova is solid as a spot-up guy but is more dangerous as a screen setter where he can pop out and space the floor, or roll and use his size inside. He’s also good at cutting and working off the ball, plus will get a team a few offensive rebounds. He’s not a game changer, but in certain matchups, he could help teams a lot.

Report: Warriors, Timberwolves, Thunder interested in Joakim Noah if he is bought out by Knicks

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Hand me the salt shaker, I’m going to need some extra for this rumor.

My skepticism aside, let’s pass this rumor along: If Joakim Noah can reach a buyout with the Knicks, at least three playoff-bound teams have interest in him, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

According to league sources, several playoff-bound teams are closely monitoring Noah’s situation in New York and would push to sign him if Noah becomes a free agent.

The Warriors, Timberwolves and Thunder are three such teams that believe Noah, who turns 33 on Sunday, could bolster their respective rosters for the postseason.

A few thoughts.

First, I don’t question that the well-connected Isola got this from a reputable source.

My question is who leaked it? Or, better yet, who benefits from leaking it? That would be the Knicks — they want Noah to agree to a low enough buyout number that it’s a real benefit to them. The idea that playoff teams — and the leading title contender at that — interested in Noah’s services helps the Knicks make a case that he has good options where he gets on the court if he agrees to the buyout terms. Leaking this is a way to ramp up a little public pressure.

That doesn’t mean it’s not true, either. It’s not hard to picture these teams having interest: Tom Thibodeau loves bringing back former players, and both the Warriors (who started JaVale McGee Thursday) and Thunder could use help on the front line. Do any of them think Noah can provide that help at this point? He has been a shell of his former self in recent years. Would those teams actually sign Noah? Who knows, and for the Knicks they don’t care.

Noah is owed $36.5 million for the two seasons after this one, which is why trading him is next to impossible. In a somewhat similar situation in Atlanta Dikembe Mutombo took about $10 million off his salary in a buyout, would Noah do that to get on a contender? That’s what the Knicks are hoping.

Lonzo Ball on college basketball: ‘Everybody knows everybody’s getting paid. Might as well make it legal’

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The logs of payment by Andy Miller’s former agency to high school and college basketball players leaked today.

That has sparked discussions about the entire system, and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has a thought.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Simply, I don’t believe Ball about not getting extra compensation at UCLA. That sounds like he caught himself going further then he wanted and attempting to backtrack.

I can see why Ball wouldn’t want to admit getting extra benefits. He still knows people at UCLA, and an NCAA inquiry based on his comments could hurt them – and his reputation at UCLA.

But NBA players should be outspoken on this issue. They have the power to apply pressure on the NCAA’s cartel system, in which schools collude to limit compensation to athletes. As long as that system remains, college players lose out, getting only under-the-table scraps, while coaches and administrators hoard the major money.

Good for Ball for pointing out the farce. It’s easy to stop caring once players reach the NBA and gets rich, but NBA players are uniquely equipped to shine a light on the NCAA’s problems.