Jerry West is the trusted voice of experience in the NBA — he’s a Top 50 player, a former coach, the GM that built the Showtime Lakers, drafted Kobe Bryant, and a guy who since he came in as consultant and owner in Golden State has seen that team take off. (He did a better job in Memphis than he gets credit for, but he was not exactly perfect there.)
West has seen it all — and he thinks Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is as good as anyone he’s ever seen.
West was on ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd show Tuesday, part of his interview transcribed by Dan McCarney on the Express-News’ Spurs blog.
“I’ve never seen a better coach than Gregg Popovich. He does less than more. But having said that, when he gets less, he develops it into something really good. They have a great development program down there.
“For a coach coming into this league, if they don’t hire people who are really competent, to take these young kids who haven’t made it somewhere but have talent and build a system they can prosper in, but more importantly to get these kids shoot the ball. When they got Kawhi Leonard, he was not a shooter. It tells you the significance of what they’ve done internally to improve their team.”
The point about system and development is huge. In a league where you are drafting 19 and 20 year olds, the ability of a staff to develop talent means a lot, it’s how you sustain success. Remove the Heat’s one-off building method out of the equation and look at the NBA’s Final Four — the Spurs, Pacers and Thunder all have drafted well and developed well. They have found talented guys not in the top handful in the draft and developed them well. They’ve built wisely. It’s the model for every small and mid-market team.
But nobody may every do it as well as Popovich.
[MORE: Popovich pokes fun at LeBron, Heat during Spurs’ championship parade]
The Los Angeles Clippers still have Paul Pierce under contract. Not many minutes for him, but he has a roster spot.
Pierce probably wants come back but is thinking it all over, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
Pierce has been debating this with himself for a while now.
Pierce saw a dramatic drop off in production and how much he was used last season by Rivers. Pierce averaged a career-low 6.1 points per game on an also career low 48.9 true shooting percentage. His PER of 8.2 was also a career low. You get the idea. By the end of the season Pierce was mostly an afterthought for Doc Rivers (although he did start one game after Blake Griffin was out and the Clippers’ playoff dreams were toast).
Pierce would be more mentor than a key player on the court, but he would be on probably the third best team in the West, a team that capable of making a deep playoff run. Does he want to do that for one more season? You know Doc would welcome him.
Andrea Bargnani said he would’ve played “for free” to prove himself with the Nets last season.
That would have been about the right price.
Bargnani suffered through a miserable season — full of injury, poor individual play and losing. Brooklyn eventually bought him out.
Now, the entire NBA might be finished with the former No. 1 pick.
Bargnani signed with Spanish team Saski Baskonia.
At age 30, he faces a long road back to world’s top league — if he even wants to try. Bargnani is a one-dimensional jump shooter, and he doesn’t even shoot that well.
It was ridiculous for the Knicks to trade a first-rounder for him, and that was three years ago already. Bargnani is only further from his peak now.
Maybe he carves out a niche in Europe, where his lack of physicality is less likely to be exposed. But Bargnani is no longer an NBA player.
The Heat signed Dion Waiters to a room-exception contract.
Heat president Pat Riley, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:
“Dion is not a Room Exception player. He wanted to play for the Miami Heat and chose to forgo other more lucrative financial opportunities to be a part of our championship organization. We are very honored that he made the commitment to come to South Florida and sign with us. Dion is young, athletic and explosive, which fits in with our roster. He will add a great dimension for us at the off-guard spot. I really like the depth and versatility that we now have in our perimeter positions. Welcome aboard Dion!”
I’m really curious about those “more lucrative financial opportunities.”
The Thunder didn’t think Waiters was worth his one-year, $6,777,589 qualifying offer. They earmarked that money for a Russell Westbrook renegotiation-and-extension and don’t define the market themselves. But every team has other uses for its money than paying Waiters, and none deemed Waiters a priority.
How much could Waiters have gotten next season if he signed a multi-year deal rather than the 1+1 he inked with Miami? The whole “Waiters betting on himself” narrative falls apart if nobody was willing to bet more more on Waiters.
The 24-year-old is talented. But his ball-hogging, drifting focus and me-first attitude can be infuriating.
It behooves Riley to paint Waiters as more than a room-exception player, because that enhances Riley’s reputation as someone who lures free agents for less than market value. A big-time compliment from the influential Riley might have even part of Waiters’ contract negotiation.
But there’s a reason Waiters signed for the room exception. It has something to do with the type of player he is.
The Clippers don’t just play second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. They play second fiddle to the Lakers in their own arena.
Unless the Clippers want to move from the NBA’s second-biggest market, the former isn’t changing.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
The Clippers want to escape the Lakers’ shadow. Leaving the Staples Center wouldn’t turn the Clippers into L.A.’s team, but it’d give them a new avenue for attention — and revenue.
Of course, if the Clippers stay in the Staples Center, they’ll want the best terms possible. Leaking interest in a new arena only helps their bargaining position.