Well, at least now the NBA players union has decided on who is going to help them decide who should be executive director.
Former NBA player and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will head up a search committee to find a new executive director for the National Basketball Players Association, the union announced on Monday.
That job has been vacant since Billy Hunter was let go 14 months ago following a scathing report that questioned his management and said he made preferential dealings with family members. The union press release says the goal is to have someone in place by the start of next season.
“Mayor Johnson is in a unique position as a former player and someone skilled in the politics of negotiations to lead this effort,” said union president Chris Paul in a released statement.
“I have a deep passion for the NBA and the promise it has for everyone connected to it,” Johnson said in his statement. “Everything I’ve been able to achieve in life was a result of embracing the opportunities that I had as an NBA player.”
Johnson is a polished consensus builder — remember he spearheaded the effort to keep the Kings in Sacramento — and those are the kinds of skills needed to help pick someone for a position where a lot of different people have varied interest in who gets selected. There are agents and others that want to push back against the owners after gains the owners made in the last collective bargaining agreement, while others see those percentage points as gone and want instead someone who can hold that line and find ways to increase the league’s revenue pool. Also, there has long been an “what is good for the elite players may not be good for the average player” tension in the union and in its bargaining sessions.
Whoever is ultimately selected for this job will be the one sitting across the table from Adam Silver in 2017 when one side — probably the owners but maybe the players — opts out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. A lockout that year seems likely, at least as viewed right now, and how that plays out will in large part be about who is picked and what their view of the negotiations.
There already has been one round of searches and this past All-Star weekend in New Orleans the union’s executive committee met with two candidates: David White, former director of the Screen Actors Guild; and Michele Roberts, a respected corporate attorney.
After those interviews the union has decided to open up the process again.
LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.
Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.
“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”
The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.
Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.
All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.
Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)
However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.
Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.
If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.
If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.
Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.
What else is he going to say?
And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.
From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.
However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.
Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?
The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.
President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.
Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:
Was LaVar Ball around the team much?
“Zero,” Alford said.
Was he ever at practice?
“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”
Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?
“Never,” Alford said.
LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.
Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.
Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.