Winners, losers from first day of NBA free agency

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Life comes at you fast. NBA free agency comes at you faster.

Within minutes of free agency starting, teams were announcing deals (which in no way were worked out before the start of free agency through back channels, that would be tampering, and no team would ever do such a thing… cough). By the end of the first day of free agency Stephen Curry had the richest deal in NBA history, Blake Griffin had decided to remain a Clipper, and suddenly Philadelphia was looking real in the East (knocking on wood everyone stays healthy).

Here are our three biggest winners and losers from July 1, the first day of NBA free agency.

WINNERS

1) The Golden State Warriors. The NBA’s best team is keeping the band together — and they should. Signing Curry to a five-year, $201 million super max deal was easy, that’s the no-brainer. LeBron is right, Curry is underpaid (relative to what he generates for the franchise, not compared to reality outside of sports, but that’s another larger discussion). More importantly, the

More importantly, Joe Lacob and the rest of Warriors ownership stepped up and bit the bullet on a massive coming tax bill to keep the core of this team together. The Warriors re-signed Shaun Livingston, retained David West, then upped their offer last minute to keep Andre Iguodala — something Iguodala confirmed.

Now Kevin Durant will reach a deal with the Warriors, a 1+1 deal for a few million less than his maximum. Next year, Durant will opt out and get a max contract (likely starting at about $36 million), and the Warriors will be at least $15 million over the tax line and headed into paying the repeater tax in a few years. Keeping the Warriors together is going to eat into the profits of the Warriors, and credit ownership for being willing to pay that to keep the NBA’s best team together.

2) Jrue Holiday. He had the Pelicans up against it. With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins on the team (the latter in a contract year), they need a quality point guard to run the show and get them the rock. Holiday certainly fits that bill, but he had multiple suitors. He was going to make at least $20 million next year. The problem for the Pelicans was if they let him walk they only had about $12 million to replace him, and that was going to mean a serious downgrade in talent they couldn’t afford. So the Pelicans came in big, five years and $126 million. Holiday took it, he wanted to stay in New Orleans, but he wasn’t taking a discount to do it. That’s a lot of money, credit to the man for getting paid.

Now, let’s see how this experiment works in the Big Easy.

3) J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers. We all talk about the great young core with all that potential in Philly: Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and on down the line. Then you hear about GM Bryan Colangelo wanting to bring in veterans and think, “please, don’t screw up the process, it’s working.” He didn’t, and the Sixers still got their veterans.

They land J.J. Redick for one year at $23 million (that figure is why Redick is a winner). Is that overpaying? Sure. But it works. The Sixers have the cap space, Redick fits a position of need, and he’s one of the best shooters in the game, plus this is just a one-year deal. Next summer the Sixers have their cap space back. Redick will give the 76ers shooting that spacing the floor for Simmons’ and Fultz to do their thing, but he’s also a perfect mentor off the court — this guy was a huge college star who had to totally rework his body and game to fit in as an NBA role player, and he busted his butt to do it. This is the work ethic and mentality Philly wants to show those young players, show them what it takes. Same things apply to the signing of Amir Johnson — one year, $11 million, very professional and respected by everyone.

LOSERS

1) Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors keep the band together. Paul George goes to Oklahoma City in a trade, despite both the Cavs and Nuggets being down with a three-team trade that would have brought PG13 to Cleveland. The problem was the Pacers didn’t want that, they kept moving the goal posts, then sent him to the West (people around the Cavaliers are convinced Indy wanted George in the West, because why else would anyone want Victor Oladipo over Gary Harris?).

Maybe most concerning: LeBron James is sitting out the recruiting process this summer. Those concerns about him leaving in 2018 are legitimate.

2) Detroit Pistons. On the court, I like the signing of Langston Galloway on this team. He can play either guard spot, he can shoot the three, he’s a good defender, and while $7 million a year is mildly overpaying it’s not unreasonable. The problem is by using some of the mid-level exception to make this happen, the Pistons have hard-capped themselves at $125 million. If another team comes in with a max offer for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope the Pistons are going to have to shed $3.4 million to match it. And the hard cap will limit in-season moves. Stan Van Gundy has tied his own hands, and it’s going to be a problem down the line.

3) Los Angeles Clippers T-shirt. They got their man, but looks like the Clippers brought Donald Sterling back to design the T-shirt that staff wore at the end of their pitch to Blake Griffin.

Yes, that is a shirt comparing Blake Griffin’s time with the Clippers to Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein and Nelson Mandela. That is the very definition of tone deaf.

Michael Beasley: “I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor”

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Michael Beasley recently signed a one-year contract with the New York Knicks for the veteran minimum. Hopefully, this is just the start of an interesting year with the Knicks. I think you know what I mean.

Speaking to reporters this week, Beasley had lots to say about his potential new role with New York, his interplay with Carmelo Anthony, and his new weight loss.

Specifically, Beasley spoke of how long he had known Anthony and how much he had mimicked his game off of the star on the left side of the floor, saying, “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that, I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

Since Kevin Durant has apparently set the offseason tone for athletes being frank with reporters, Beasley did say that he was not as great on help side defense as he could’ve been in recent years. However, he said that he wasn’t as bad as people made about to be, and it appears he is going to try to make that something to focus on this season.

Beasley has also lost about 20 pounds — it appears he has cut out sugar and red meats — but the most interesting thing he said to ESPN’s Ian Begley was about his offensive production.

Via ESPN:

“I’ve came in and out of this league. Every year my per-36 [minute average] has been top of the league. And still everybody looks at me as a bust. I just want an opportunity to play more than 15 minutes. And you know if I play more than 15 minutes I’m going to score more than 15 points. And if I can do that for 82 games, that’s an All-Star level. I don’t know. I’m just talking. I just want an opportunity to play basketball. I just want the respect I deserve. Not for what I can do in the future but what I’ve done in the past. And I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

It’s not immediately clear what kind of fair shake Beasley wants here. True, he played less than 30 games in two of his last three seasons in the NBA. However, that was preceded by six seasons of at least 47 games a year. We do know who he is at this point in time, and there is a large swath of game tape and statistics that can be analyzed to prove it.

It is also interesting that Beasley brought up his per-36 numbers. It’s true that Beasley has been an okay scorer when looking at those numbers out of context. But per-36 numbers are not a direct correlary to how effective a player is on the floor. Indeed, even when he was playing starter-level minutes, Beasley’s best numerical seasons are spread all over the place when you take a look at his per-36 production.

Meanwhile, Beasley has had only one season out of nine where he had a positive value over a replacement player. That was his sophmore season with the Miami Heat at 0.2. Five of those seasons he’s taken a larger percentage of his shots from 16 feet to just inside the 3-point line than he has from 0-3 feet. He’s a career 39% shooter on those long jumpers, and 63.5% from that close-in range.

Would it be great if Michael Beasley somehow turned into a strong driving, hard rebounding, diving and passing pick and roll man? Yes. That is exactly what this Knicks team — and any team, frankly — could use.

For now, it appears it’s more likely we end up with the Beasley who says he is a carbon copy of Carmelo — long 2s and all.

Goran Dragic holds back tears after Drazen Petrovic’s mother gives Slovenian star his jersey

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It’s been a big week for Slovenian star Goran Dragic.

First, he led the Slovenian national team to the 2017 Eurobasket championship over Serbia, winning the gold medal.

Then, the Miami Heat point guard announced that he would be retiring from the Slovenian national team. Shortly thereafter, we learned that something special had taken place between Dragic and the mother of former NBA player Drazen Petrović.

Specifically, Biserka Petrović sent over her son’s New Jersey Nets kit as a gift for Dragic.

Via Sportando and SiolNET:

“It is one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received in my life” Dragic told Siol. “He was my idol. We all know what he did for Yugoslavia and the basketball world. It was a great honor for me to wear the jersey no.3” Dragic added.

Petrović, who played for the Nets and the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA, died in a car accident in Germany in June of 1993. He is considered a sports hero in the successor states that make up the former Yugoslavia, including Slovenia.

You can watch Dragic receiving the jersey and his reaction in the video above. The video does not have English subtitles, but you can clearly see the emotion in his eyes and it’s pretty powerful.

Kevin Durant admits after decision to leave OKC he felt “f—— up”

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Anyone who has made a major, life-changing decision has been there — you make the call, take the steps, commit yourself to the new plan, and then start to wonder “what did I just do?”

Hopefully, usually, the decision works out. It did for Kevin Durant when he chose to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State. However, not only did he have the normal doubts the rest of us had, he had a nation on basketball Twitter ridiculously slamming him for “taking the easy way” to a title.

Durant talked about it in a feature in San Francisco Magazine, along with his agent Rich Kleiman (a story mostly dedicated to KD’s tech investments, which in and of itself is interesting).

(Durant) and Kleiman were in China for a weeklong tour of the country sponsored by Nike Basketball, and the flak he was taking from people in Oklahoma City who had once professed deep affection for him was overwhelming. “To have so many people just say, ‘F— you,’ that really does it to you,” Durant tells me, still clearly anguished. “Because I truly had invested everything I had into the people I played for…. And for those people that I know and love and trust to turn their back on me after I was fully invested in them, it was just…more than I could take. I was upset….

“That was before I met anybody from the Warriors and dove into the culture. I was basically on my own,” Durant says. “It was like you were in between two teams.”….

“We were all messed up on jet lag,” Kleiman says, turning to me, “and I was up at 6 a.m. and he calls me and says, ‘Yo, are you up?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ And he’s like [yelling], ‘Why the f— did you let me do this to my life?’ And I’m like, ‘Ohh s—, I’m coming over to your room.’”

“That hotel was rock bottom,” says Durant.

Durant’s haters will read into this whatever they want, and the world should look at them and shrug (unfortunately, Durant does not).

I’m impressed that he opened up about this. To me, this makes him more human and relatable because we’ve all had doubts after making a life-changing decision. You know LeBron James has, but he’s not going to let that show. Durant allowed himself to be vulnerable, to show this was not an easy decision for him. It was emotional.

Granted, it’s easier to do that when in a few weeks Durant will put on a championship ring. His decision worked out. Still, good on him for talking about it.

Tyronn Lue says Cavs will stick with LeBron, Love, Tristan Thompson as starters

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With the acquisition of Jae Crowder, a theory started to pop up among Cavaliers observers: Could they go small?

The idea is to start Kevin Love at center, LeBron James at the four, and Crowder at the three — that’s a mobile front line with a couple good defenders and the ability to switch a lot. It provides more options on offense and spaces the floor. Then the Cavs could bring Tristan Thompson off the bench.

That’s not going to happen, at least to start the season, according to Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, speaking to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Right now we’re just trying to get all of our pieces together and right now Tristan’s our starter,” Lue told cleveland.com. “I’m just thinking we’re going to run a lot more stuff through Kevin, more at the elbows, like we’ve done the last year and a half. Just trying to figure out with our new pieces and our new players and just see what works best for us.”

Thompson brings value and defense to the starting lineup, Cleveland needs that.

I could see a lineup of Isaiah Thomas (once healthy), J.R. Smith or Kyle Korver at the two, Crowder, LeBron, and Love working in sort of the way Steve Kerr uses his “death lineup” — just put it on the court for 10-15 minutes a night as a change of pace teams can’t adapt to. Use it in key moments to pull away, and in crunch time as needed. Golden State starts Zaza Pachulia, and Thompson is certainly the better of those bigs.

Lue has a lot of rotation decisions to make this season, both before Thomas gets back on the court and after. How to work the trio of Jeff Green, Crowder, and Kover off the bench is just one of them. With Irving gone a lot of options become available, and that should mean a lot of experimentation the first part of the season. Lue is and should be willing to sacrifice some wins now to see what works down the line, because for the Cavaliers the season doesn’t really start until mid-April.