In his first year as an NBA head coach, it isn’t surprising that Jason Kidd will want to have an impact on the point guard position of the team he’ll now be running while wearing a suit on the sidelines.
Kidd, one of the game’s historically great point guards in his playing days, has set a goal to have double-digit assists generated from that position, which will directly impact the game of Nets point guard Deron Williams.
From Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
“I’m going to push him. I want the best for him,” Kidd said after signing autographs at the Nets’ merchandise store in Coney Island. “When we sit down and talk about goals, team goals and also individual goals, I’m going to push him and I want to get him back to double-digit assists.”
Williams hasn’t averaged at least 10 assists since 2010-11, which represented the fourth straight season he eclipsed that mark. Last season’s 7.7 assists per game was Williams’ lowest output since he was a rookie. And as the assist numbers dipped in the last two seasons, so did Williams’ shooting percentage.
But there was a tangible turning point, which Kidd referenced Sunday. After undergoing multiple procedures to his inflamed ankles during the All-Star break, Williams dropped about 15 pounds by changing his diet and exercise routine.
Williams is certainly capable of hitting that mark — he averaged better than 10 assists per game in four of his seasons with the Utah Jazz, and averaged a career-best 12.8 assists in his first 12 games as a member of the Nets in 2011.
Health is always the biggest factor in an All-Star player like Williams’ ability to put up numbers, but assuming he’s 100 percent next season and not bothered by the ankles, Kidd could tailor the offense to make it so that his point guard is looking to pass more than he is to score — especially with new weapons Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in place in the team’s starting lineup.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.