The Lakers only have two players under guaranteed contracts for next season in Steve Nash and Robert Sacre, and just a little more than $10 million in total salary committed.
That means there’s a wealth of possibilities in terms of how the team could decide to fill out its roster for 2014 and beyond, and questions will loom large next summer about how L.A. will handle its two biggest stars.
Kobe Bryant is going to be a Laker for as long as he wishes to play; the only question will be at what cost. Considering he’s eligible to make in excess of $30 million, Bryant will likely re-sign for far less if he’s serious about his goal of trying to win one more title before he hangs ’em up.
Pau Gasol, however, might not see things the same way.
From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
In the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, would Gasol accept taking a significant paycut?
“Probably not,” he said. “You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.”
Gasol has been the subject of trade rumors off and on for a couple of seasons now, and has often been the one to take the blame when things aren’t going well in Los Angeles. Just last season, he was completely marginalized when the team tried to cater to the whims of Dwight Howard in hopes of making him happy enough to re-sign in free agency.
Now that the Dwight problem has been solved, the Lakers might have another one on their hands with Gasol. If he’s healthy and plays the way he’s capable of as the featured big man, he’ll have significant value as the trade deadline approaches. Extension talks will likely occur before then to gauge Gasol’s interest in staying in relation to his asking price, but whatever happens, it doesn’t appear as though Gasol is looking to give his current team a hometown discount.
Last season, when new president Jerry Colangelo started shaking things up in Philadelphia, he brought in Mike D’Antoni to be a lead assistant next to Brett Brown. This led to all kinds of speculation around the league that the Colangelos were trying to bring back the old Suns brain trust (especially when Jerry hired his son Bryan to be GM).
However, D’Antoni jumped ship to be the head coach of the Houston Rockets.
Enter, P.J. Carlesimo.
Carlesimo is a good fit, but that’s not going to quell the rumors that the Colangelos are not comfortable with Brown (despite giving him a contract extension). The Sixers need to give Brown a legitimate shot — he’s been like a contestant on Chopped the past few seasons, given a ridiculous basket of ingredients and told to turn Mango, octopus and graham crackers into a four-star meal. He’s gotten them to play defense (at times) and started to build a culture. He has earned the chance to show what he can do with a better lineup.
Which is what the Sixers will have next season.
Late last season, Nuggets coach Mike Malone tried something — two young bigs together. Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic. It goes against the trends of the NBA, but that has worked pretty well these playoffs for Oklahoma City with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.
It didn’t work all that well for Denver — in just 92 minutes together the Nuggets were outscored by 7.1 points per 100 possessions, mostly because the offense was terrible.
But Nurkic — who came in third in the Rookie of the Year voting — wants to try it again next season, he told the Nuggets’ official Web site.
“I’m happy about the big lineup [with Nikola]. “Basketball has kind of changed. The NBA has gone smaller because of [the] Golden State [Warriors]. In the [Western Conference] semi-finals, look at [Oklahoma City’s Steven] Adams, [Enes] Kanter, and [Serge] Ibaka. They played all those guys and they see the difference. Me and Nikola have great communication because we played in the same league, we played against each other.”
He’s referring to their time in the Serbian league where the two played before going to the NBA.
While it could only be used situationally, expect Malone to experiment with this lineup more. There are some serious defensive questions (neither is exactly fleet of foot), and there could be spacing issues. But if the league moves one way, the smart teams and coaches think about counters.
Professional sports organizations are not a fertile ground for people who are both smart and not looking to fit into a traditional mold. Old-school coaches want conformity. It is a bigger deal in the more militarized operations of football teams (college and NFL), but plenty of NBA teams are not looking for guys who ask “why?” instead of “how high?” when told to jump.
Enter Cal’s Jaylen Brown, a likely top six pick in this NBA draft.
He’s already broken with tradition and not hired an agent to represent him on his first contract (the players’ union will do that for him) and that is just a piece of his personality. Marc Spears talks about it and with Brown in a fantastic piece at The Undefeated.
This is the kind of 19-year-old NBA draft prospect who, for instance, chooses to enter the draft without an agent, a young man who one NBA executive said could be deemed “too smart for the league….”
The NBA assistant general manager also said that Brown’s high level of intelligence and inquisitive nature could intimidate some general managers and coaches. He added that he is a good kid who “doesn’t fit the mold of a so-called basketball player.”
“He is an extremely intelligent kid,” the NBA assistant general manager said. “He took a graduate school class at Cal in his freshman year. He is a person who is inquisitive about everything. Because he is so smart, it might be intimidating to some teams. He wants to know why you are doing something instead of just doing it. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s a form of questioning authority. It’s not malicious. He just wants to know what is going on. Old-school coaches don’t want guys that question stuff.”
I think this is the kind of teams should want in an organization, the kind they should seek out. I’m not a fan of blind allegiance. Honestly, if a coach can’t explain why he wants you do do a specific drill or run a certain action on the court, that’s on him. Everything should have a purpose.
Go read the entire piece. His style may turn some organizations off, but not the good, modern ones. And whatever team does draft him they get quite a player. Here is what PBT’s NBA Draft expert — and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson said about Brown.
Solidly built, Brown loves to use his body to attack the basket, often leading to an above-average amount of free throw attempts. He relies on his physical ability more than skill right now, but once he has some momentum on the way to the rim, he is hard to stop. His shooting, both mid- and long-range, isn’t particularly strong right now, but it’s not like his shooting form and motion are broken. With his body, Brown is also able to move to the low post in the right match-ups, using his strength to bully his way to the rim. Brown has improved as a defender this year, and is capable of guarding multiple positions, though he still needs some work on the basics.
Andrew Bynum is 28 years old. He should be in the prime of his career, but he hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since March 15, 2014.
So what is he up to in retirement? Becoming a blond.
I got nothing. Have at it in the comments.