<span class="vcard">Dan Feldman</span>

Al-Farouq Aminu smashes dunk on Serge Ibaka (video)


I’m not sure NBA players, as a whole, fear a rim protector more than Serge Ibaka.

But apparently, that doesn’t apply to Al-Farouq Aminu.

Report: John Calipari wants 10-year, $120 million contract to make NBA jump

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 09:  John Calipari the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats gives instructions to his team during the game against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at Rupp Arena on December 9, 2015 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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One Nets executive reportedly wants to hire John Calipari. The Kings may or may not be interested in the Kentucky coach.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

For Calipari to consider the Nets – and, yes, the Sacramento Kings, too – league sources tell Yahoo Sports that the teams have been informed of his asking price: 10 years, $120 million.

When Calipari spoke with minority ownership in Sacramento last spring, he told them that it would take an offer of $11 million-plus a year to get his attention, league sources said.

Calipari’s sell will be this: As his old Kentucky stars – DeMarcus Cousins (2018), John Wall (2019) – become free agents, he’ll have the Nets positioned to sign them. His former players have largely kept excellent relationships with him, but there are those close to them who say that most of his ex-stars remain reluctant to committing to 82 games a year of Cal’s abrasive style.

If I were the Nets or Kings, I wouldn’t come close to meeting those demands.

Calipari is far from a lock to succeed as an NBA coach. He failed once already running the Nets, and college coaches rarely translate to the pros. His best skill, recruiting high school players, means nothing in the NBA.

Pitching free agents arguably requires similar abilities. But unlike college, players rarely choose a team for its coach. I’d be shocked if Cousins or Wall sign anywhere with Calipari as the prime reason. Perhaps, Calipari could put Sacramento – where Cousins has already expressed a commitment to winning – over the top with the center, but that’s about it. And a winning NBA coach would do far more than one with a college connection.

I believe Calipari is better equipped now than he was for his previous Nets stint, but that means only so much. His overall performance also might be all-or-nothing with his ability to lure free agents. Calipari, though underrated in this regard, has hardly shown the Xs-and-Os acumen to lead a less-talented roster to success.

If the Nets or Kings are going to spend that type of money, they should go after people more likely to succeed. Start with Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford and work your way down the list. See how much money would be necessary to convince someone to leave their better job and how much compensation it’d take his current team to let him out of his contract.

Don’t target Calipari – a huge risk – with those resources.

For Calipari, this asking price is completely reasonable. If no NBA team jumps at making him the sport’s highest-paid coach, he can stay at Kentucky – the premier program in the country – and remain one the highest-paid coaches. His fallback option is great.

And just in case it works, he can try preying on the desperation in Brooklyn and Sacramento.

Kobe Bryant on farewell tour he thought he didn’t want: ‘It feels damn good’

at Philips Arena on December 4, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated in 2014 on Kobe Bryant:

Never the type for farewell tours, Bryant bristles at the idea of parading from arena to arena, receiving parting gifts and teary-eyed salutes. “No, no, no, no, I’m good,” he says, waving his hands. “If you booed me for 18, 19 years, boo me for the 20th. That’s the game, man.”

But that is not all what’s happened since Kobe announced his retirement plans in November.

Fans everywhere have flocked to watch him. Philadelphia fans welcomed him home with open arms. Fans in Washington and Boston chanted his name. Even when not at his games, fans are stuffing All-Star ballots with his name. Opposing players have sought him out. Michael Jordan recorded a tribute video.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

Sure enough, a farewell tour.

He laughed.

“It kind of turned into that, didn’t it?” he told me on his way to the bus, having run the gauntlet of good-byes and thank-yous and can-I-get-a-pictures that must have been almost as exhausting as getting his 37-year-old body ready to play in this building one last time.

“I wasn’t expecting this kind of reaction, to be truly honest,” he said. “But it’s been pleasantly surprising to me to be able to have this experience. And to be honest with you, it feels good. It feels damn good.”

Good for Kobe.

The Lakers’ last few seasons have certainly frustrated him. I’m glad he found a new source of gratification before this ride ended.

Klay Thompson: Warriors would probably be undefeated if fully healthy

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors takes a shot against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on December 30, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Warriors are 33-2. Their two losses have come:

Thompson, via Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post:

If we were completely healthy, we probably would still be undefeated, but Milwaukee caught us at a great time and they played a great game, so that’s hoops.

Give the Warriors perfect health and let them re-play their schedule 1,000 times. Some of those times, they’d be undefeated. But I believe, more often, they’d have more than two losses.

This is no knock on the Warriors, and I’m not pulling a Doc Rivers to call them lucky. It’s hard to go undefeated over a long stretch.

Measuring teams by their point difference has proven to be a better indicator of ability than won-loss record. The Warriors suffered their first major injury in their 17th game, when Barnes went down. At that point they were 17-0, but they had a point difference resembling a 15-2 team. That’s still great, but it shows how the breaks had worked in Golden State’s favor.

Now, the Warriors have the win difference of a 29-6 team. Still excellent, just not quite 33-2.

Besides, why should we presume perfect health for Golden State and not its opponents? The Warriors can blame the Dallas loss on injuries, but how many games did their opponents play at less than full strength?

Ultimately, Thompson is justified to think Golden State might not have lost those specific two games if completely healthy. But if we re-did things, the Warriors likely would’ve dropped some of their other 33 games.

LeBron James explains omitting Andrew Wiggins from Sports Illustrated letter

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 23: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 23, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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When LeBron James announced his decision to sign with the Cavaliers in 2014, he wrote in his Sports Illustrated letter:

I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters.

The absence of Andrew Wiggins – whom Cleveland had drafted No. 1 overall just a couple weeks prior – stood out. That was particularly true because it had already been reported the Cavaliers would try to trade for Kevin Love if they signed LeBron.

Did LeBron know the Cavs would deal Wiggins in the Love trade (which they of course eventually did)? Why else would LeBron omit him?

LeBron, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

“I didn’t know the kid, really,” James told Yahoo Sports. “I knew Dion. I knew Kyrie. I knew Tristan. I knew all the guys that I was playing with before. I didn’t know the kid, so it wasn’t no big issue to me.”

I mean, that’s certainly plausible.

LeBron definitely had longstanding relationships with Irving and Thompson. And Waiters said LeBron called him before the announcement and hinted at signing with Cleveland, which I don’t think LeBron would’ve done unless he already knew Waiters enough to trust him.

But it’s not as if Wiggins were a complete stranger to LeBron.

Wiggins played in front of LeBron at LeBron’s camp in 2012:

James Herbert of CBSSports.com:

here’s another thing I’ll never forget: Wiggins quietly waiting outisde of the visiting locker room at the Air Canada Centre in 2013 when the Miami Heat were in town. When James came out, he greeted Wiggins with, “What’s up? You good? How’s everything?”

Considering LeBron’s interest in acquiring Love, I’m still not completely sold LeBron left Wiggins out of the article simply because they didn’t know each other. There’s still a solid chance LeBron knew Cleveland’s plans – and that those might include trading Wiggins.

If that were the case, LeBron obviously would’ve been right.