Kyrie Irving

Wednesday And-1 Links: Cavaliers pick up options for Irving, Waiters, Zeller, Thompson


It’s time for our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points more than Skittles…

• If you are rebuilding with youth, rule one is to keep those youth around. That’s what the Cleveland Cavaliers did on Thursday, picking up the options on Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson (fourth year for those two), plus Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller (third year options for them). While they have picked up the option, you can expect a max five-year extension offer to come to Irving next summer.

• Celtics GM Danny Ainge again makes it sound like he has no intention of trading Rajon Rondo (of course, what else can he say?). Here is the money quote, via Ken Berger of

“It’s my job to build the Celtics, and Rondo is a big part of that. Will everything be as perfect as he would like it? I don’t believe so, but it’s not perfect for us, either, the fact that he can’t play. I think Rondo is with us. I think he likes a lot of the core guys on our team now, and I think he is optimistic and looking forward to a new chapter.”

• Over at ESPN (Insider, so you have to pay), salary cap guru put together his annual list of the most underpaid and overpaid players in the NBA. Top three most underpaid: LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. It’s obvious why Irving on his rookie deal makes the list, as for LeBron and Durant the money they generate for their teams far outstrips even a max NBA salary. The most overpaid? Kobe Bryant (his $30 million salary does him in), Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

Zach Lowe’s 32 predictions for the NBA season over at Grantland are a great read.

• Another great read: Sports Business Journal profiled Adam Silver.

• At Sports Illustrated, Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney make a stab at predicting the All NBA Team at the end of the season. They predict a logical first team: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard.

• Jazz coach Ty Corbin said he is still trying to see if Lester Hudson or Scott Machado can run the point. Which doesn’t sound good for John Lucas III (while everyone waits for Trey Burk to return).

• Chris Paul and Stephen Curry picked up a new endorsement deal — partnering with Kaiser Permanente to promote its #OwnNow program, which encourages young adults to live healthy and active lives — and to get health insurance.

• Stan Van Gundy was on NBCSN’s Sports Dash Wednesday and talked the GM poll, plus who could knock off the Heat or deny LeBron another MVP.

• Miami Heat draft pick and PBT favorite (Long Beach State!) James Ennis is tearing it up in Austrailia.

• Finally, here is seven minutes of J.J. Redick talking about fancy watches.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.