hayward

While rest of NBA goes West, Gordon Hayward heads East to try and dethrone LeBron, Cavs

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If you’re a basketball fan, you have to love that Houston decided to go right at Golden State, Game of Thrones style. They add Chris Paul and are trying to load up for an assault to take the throne, not backing down from a team that could go down as legendary. San Antonio is still right there and wants a healthy shot at the Warriors. Minnesota added Jimmy Butler and more to step into “we got next” mode — and also be much better now. The Nuggets just improved dramatically with the addition of Paul Millsap, too. The Western Conference is stacked.

While the rest of the NBA zigged West, Gordon Hayward zagged East.

Hayward is going to be a Boston Celtic — and Boston just became a very legitimate threat to make the Finals next season. And for a lot of seasons after that.

While much of the NBA decided to go at Golden State, Hayward joined up to go at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

It wasn’t an easy call for Hayward, leaving the only NBA city he’s ever called home, and a city and fan base he genuinely loved.

However, the lure of a good path to the Finals, his former coach, and the history of Boston proved too much.

It also is the bold, smart, long-term basketball play. Hayward set himself up well for the future (and it’s not just the max money contract he will get) — winning in a major market sets up the endorsements, shoe and otherwise, that can really drive income.

Celtics fans were dreaming of grand slam scenarios that were never likely, but the target all along was to get an All-Star level NBA wing entering his prime and put him on a team that already won 53 games last season. A team that already had an All-Star level center (Al Horford) and an All-NBA point guard (Isaiah Thomas) — and they add an elite player to that without giving up many assets (not ones that really impact the win column much).

Danny Ainge pulled that off, and he deserves kudos. Boston is set up beautifully for the future.

Boston is poised now to seriously challenge Cleveland in the East in 2018 — their motion offense gave the Cavs defense problems last playoffs (even with Thomas injured), and Hayward fits in perfectly with that. Hayward averaged 21.9 points per game last season, shot 39.8 percent from three, grabbed 5.4 rebounds, plus is a quality playmaker for himself and others. He can play the three or some small-ball four (he played the four about 30 percent of the time last season). Boston just got a lot better, filling in a position of need.

Cleveland also seems poised to crumble, maybe not next season but certainly beyond 2018 — maybe LeBron leaves, but even if he stays this team is older, slower and capped out. They don’t even have a GM right now setting up an overall vision. Also, LeBron can’t keep playing like this forever, right? (Who knows, conventional wisdom and timelines do not apply to him.) Boston’s roster already has win now guys plus two likely top top-10 picks the next two years to keep adding quality players (Brooklyn’s unprotected pick in 2018; and the Lakers 2018 first rounder if it falls 2-5, otherwise the better of the Sixers or Kings pick in 2019). Jaylen Brown is just getting started, as is Jayson Tatum. The Celtics can keep guys will need to ultimately move guys such as Avery Bradly and/or Marcus Smart, but they can do so for other players that fit. The picks could be traded. Boston has options — and that’s not an accident. That was always the plan. Boston was never only aiming for 2018, they were more focused on 2019, 2020 and the years beyond that. Ainge was working to build something sustainable.

This is a punch to the gut of Utah — sometimes in life you do everything right and it still doesn’t work out. The organization has drafted well, has arguably the best player development program in the NBA and built up guys such as Rudy Gobert, they have a smart and well-liked coach, the fans have embraced the players, and the team was on the rise. They even added Ricky Rubio and re-signed Joe Ingles to show how serious they were. Utah also could offer more money than any other team and an extra guaranteed year. (The only mistake, in retrospect, was not offering more money and years on Hayward’s last deal, which would not have been up yet, but that wasn’t the main issue here.) All that and the emotional lure of the only NBA city he has ever played in was not enough.

Utah still has a good team, but one without a shot-creating alpha, and it will be difficult to lure one to Utah. They need to step back, think about the next step, and go from there.

For Boston, this is the not the end goal, but they just got a lot closer to it — and closer to banner No. 18.

For Hayward, going East when the rest of the NBA went West was smart, bold, and set him up for the future.

Now just comes the task of living up to the hype.

PBT Podcast: Warriors, Lakers, Pacific preview with Mark Medina

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The Golden State Warriors are a juggernaut, the Mt. Everest the rest of the NBA is trying to climb this season.

Nobody is on that level yet, but the Lakers look like a team with a good foundation — and the ability to draw free agents — who could challenge the Warriors in a couple of years. That is, if Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram can live up to the hype.

Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News — a Warriors beat writer who used to cover the Lakers — joins me to discuss those two teams and their coming season, as well as the Clippers, Suns, and Kings.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

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.