The Los Angeles Lakers looked like they made a pretty good deal when they were able to add Chris Kaman for the taxpayer’s mid-level exception of just $3.1 million for the upcoming season. The Lakers needed a big that could come in, know his role and complement Pau Gasol in the frontcourt — but that’s something Kaman had trouble doing alongside Dirk Nowitzki, according to Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban.
Cuban joined Norm Hitzges on KTCK-AM in Dallas over the weekend and, when asked about how bad Dirk and Kaman were on the defensive side of the ball, Dallas’s owner said it was harder for him to watch Kaman play next Dirk when the Mavs had the basketball.
I don’t think it was so hard to put Dirk and Chris on the floor together defensively. I think where we ran into problems … we couldn’t convince Chris not to put the ball on the floor. When Chris would just pick and pop, he was a top-five shooter in the NBA. Dirk and Chris playing pick and pop, pick and roll was lethal. No team could stop it. Chris had his own way of doing things, and that created some issues. It just didn’t work. Dirk and Brandan Wright played a lot better together. That’s one of the reasons we went hard after Samuel Dalembert. Sam is much more of a rebounder and he’s also a good shot blocker and rim defender.
Cuban is known for saying pretty much whatever comes to his mind, but it’s especially humorous when the business owner takes one of his players to task regarding their basketball ineptitude. His skewering of Kaman for dribbling too much is a bit overblown, though, when looking at the raw statistics provided by Synergy Sports Technology.
47 percent of Kaman’s offensive possessions came when he was either posting up or the roll man in pick-and-roll situations, according to Synergy, compared to just 16 percent coming from spot-up shooting or isolation plays for the 7-foot, 265-pound center out of Central Michigan. That would seem to discredit Cuban’s quote, but we can go a bit further: Kaman took 159 catch-and-shoot jumpers compared to just 29 jumpers off the dribble last season — meaning, if he was putting the ball on the floor, at least he wasn’t throwing up too many ill-advised shots after he did decide he can dribble.
There are plenty of reasons why Kaman wasn’t the greatest fit next to Dirk — and yes, a decent amount of those reasons came on the defensive end — but the fact that he occasionally put the ball on the floor wasn’t the primary problem.
Paul George and Russell Westbrook — now with Carmelo Anthony — form one of the more interesting teams in the NBA in Oklahoma City. Deep with quality role players and a defense that should be top 10 (if not top 5) in the league, if the three big names can learn to sacrifice and mesh, the Thunder will be dangerous.
Paul George sounds motivated to take it all on… which he should be the first day of training camp. Still, it’s a good sign for Thunder fans.
George opened up to Sam Amick of the USA Today in a lengthy interview at the start of camp, and among the topics he discussed was the trade to OKC (after George’s camp told Indiana he would test free agency next summer). Did getting sent to the Thunder motivate him?
“I took it as it was a kick in the behind, like, ‘Go ahead and go try to beat the Warriors. Go play alongside Russ and get your butt kicked against the Warriors.’ That’s how I looked at how that trade went down, because honestly we had no idea OKC was even interested or was in the trade until the trade actually happened. But again, I’m not here to trash Indiana. They have some of the best people I’ve ever met in their front office and in that organization. I grew up there. I could go on and on (with) the positives in Indiana, but that’s where my thought process and my – that’s where I, I guess, my opportunity to leave had opened up.”
There was some “go ahead and beat the Warriors” in that trade — it looks, from the outside, like the Pacers did not want George to land anywhere he wanted to go.
Thing is, as human beings, we by our nature try to make the best of situations. Even people who suffer genuine personal tragedies often come out the other side saying that it changed who they were for the better and they are happy with their new life. This is just basketball. George will adapt — and he’s on a very good team. If the bar is “can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a series” then the Thunder will fall short, as will every other team. But the Thunder are on that next tier in the NBA and could be a threat.
Plus, competitors like George always look at a trade as a challenge.
It’s going to be a fascinating season for the Thunder. We’ll see if all that talent is willing to make the sacrifices needed to win at the highest levels of the NBA.
When the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler — finally making a decision on the franchise’s direction — one of the centerpieces they got back from Minnesota was Zach LaVine. The wildly athletic two-guard had evolved into more than just a dunker, averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three — he had become a legitimate scoring threat against any defense.
Then he blew out his ACL.
How that injury impacts his game remains to be seen… so when will the Bulls see him on the court? Coach Fred Hoiberg addressed that as Chicago started training camp, as reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.
That’s just taking contact in practice. The Bulls will be cautious bringing back a guy they see as part of their future, so expect this to be closer to Thanksgiving or the end of the month before he plays. Which is the smart move to make.
Even then, ACL injuries take a long time to overcome, even for young players putting in the recovery work. It may be next season before we know if LaVine will continue on the trajectory he was on in Minnesota.
Lonzo Ball has yet to play in one NBA game, yet he has his own signature shoe line, and he — along with his father LaVar Ball and the rest of his family — have their own reality show on FaceBook. Lonzo told me he doesn’t foresee this show, nor his bombastic father, being a problem with his teammates or on the court.
Magic Johnson agrees with that. At least for now.
The head of Lakers’ basketball operations said as training camp opened that he’s not worried about the show Ball in the Family being a distraction. If it is, he’ll step in, he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
“Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said at the Lakers’ media day when asked about Ball’s reality Facebook series, “Ball in the Family.”
“Right now, I think it is awesome,” Johnson said. “His family is great. They came out Saturday, we had a big Laker picnic. … His dad is wonderful with me, and I am cool with him. … I think [Lonzo] is tired of all this [hype]. He is just like me; I just want to play and I think he wants to play, and then Saturday night [for the Lakers’ preseason opener], sold out, in Anaheim, wow!”
It’s Magic’s job to put a positive spin on things.
That said, he’s right. The Lakers (and every NBA team) have dealt with overinvolved parents before and know how to create some space for the player to focus on the game. Locker rooms have a way of sorting themselves out in these kinds of situations. Plus, the Lakers have been down the reality show road before (when Lamar Odom married Khloe Kardashian), and while that had an ugly ending, it wasn’t for lack of Lakers’ players and others in the organization trying to step in and help. (Odom just wasn’t yet in a place to accept help.)
Soon LaVar will be focused on his other sons and Lonzo, who appears practiced at tuning his father out and focusing on what is in front of him, will have the grind of the NBA schedule to worry about.
The recruitment of major college athletes — and then the steering of the handful that get to go pro to shoe companies and agents — is a sleazy business. It makes HBO’s “The Duece” look like Disneyland. It’s something sports fans know but largely turn a blind eye to until it forces its way into the headlines.
It turned up in the headlines Tuesday when four college assistant coaches from major universities were charged by federal prosecutors in a bribery scandal along with a representative of Adidas and others to steer players to specific agents or a financial handler.
Former NBA Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, now an assistant coach at Auburn, was among those named in the scandal.
Person is making headlines because he’s the biggest name in the scandal. He is charged with accepting approximately $91,500 from a business manager, who has flipped and is working with prosecutors. This “business manager, offered bribes to Person to steer players toward his services, as well as another person charged in the scandal.
Person told prosecutors he gave $18,500 of the money he took to two players’ families, according to the filings.
Person was the No. 4 pick in the 1986 NBA draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year, followed by a 13-year NBA career. He made $22.9 million over the course of his career.