Dan Feldman

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Why Kyrie Irving probably wouldn’t sign a contract extension with Spurs

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Kyrie Irving reportedly included the Spurs on his list of preferred teams when requesting a trade from the Cavaliers.

How keen on San Antonio is Irving?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Spurs have interest in Irving, league sources say, and Irving’s willingness to commit to an extension with the Spurs makes for legitimate win-now deal possibilities for Cleveland.

Would Irving really sign an extension with San Antonio? I doubt it.

Wojnarowski frequently uses the term “extension” interchangeably with “re-signing on a new contract,” which can lead to confusion. There is often a huge difference – including here.

Irving has two years left on his current contract before a player option. Beyond that, I previously wrote about his options:

The largest extension Irving could sign within six months of a trade is one year, $21,104,148. By contrast, Irving’s max salary if he opts out in 2019-20 projects to be about $32 million.

That’d be a large income drop while granting only one additional year of team control.

Six months after being traded, Irving could sign a three-year extension worth $73,361,218 ($24,453,739 annually). If he waits until July, he could sign a four-year extension worth $101,437,733 ($25,359,433 annually).

By contrast, if Irving plays out his contract then opts out in 2019, his max salary projects to be about $188 million over five years ($38 million annually) if he re-signs or $139 million over four years ($35 million annually) if he signs elsewhere.

So, there’s large incentive for Irving to forgo an extension. Anything larger than the one-year, $21,104,148 extension would require trust between Irving and the trading team, anyway.

It would be shocking if Irving signs an extension to facilitate a trade. He’d just be surrendering so much money.

Is Irving willing to make a non-binding commitment to re-sign with the Spurs in two years if they trade for him now? Maybe, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean much to them. Two years is a long time.

Besides, even beyond the extension confusion, San Antonio doesn’t have the expendable young star Cleveland covets in an Irving trade.

LeBron James: Donald Trump has made hate fashionable again

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President Donald Trump reverted to characterizing events in Charlottesville as a clash of two sides – Nazis and other white nationalists on one side, people who oppose Nazis and other white nationalists on the other side.

LeBron James:

The protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville emerged over the decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a general who led a war against the United States by a group of states that wanted to protect the racist institution of slavery.

And LeBron is right: There have always been people in this country who hate – people who sustain the hate Lee’s Confederate army fought to preserve. Many of them feel empowered by Trump.

In an optimistic slant, maybe this will force us to confront the deep-seeded hate that too many refused to believe still exists.

At least the Raptors avoided a catastrophic slide

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I’m grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

After his team’s fourth straight playoff disappointment – even the team’s run to the 2016 Eastern Conference finals included barely scraping by with home-court advantage in the first two rounds then losing in the most lopsided six-game series ever – Raptors president Masai Ujiri declared a need for a “culture reset.”

How he planned to implement that was another question.

DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas alone were guaranteed more than $160 million. Other players were also owed enough that Toronto would have only limited means to replace its best player, Kyle Lowry, if he walked in unrestricted free agency – which seemed quite possible.

It appeared Ujiri was on the brink of pushing the button on a halfhearted detonation. It could have taken the Raptors years to tear down and maybe even longer to build back up.

And it’s not as if Ujiri had complete control. Lowry could have left and made preservation an unavailable option.

But after the foundation of the Raptors’ best era in franchise history shook and settled, they rebuilt a downsized structure atop it that includes only some of the previous furnishings.

Toronto re-signed Lowry and Serge Ibaka to three-year contracts – Lowry for $93 million and Ibaka for $65 million. The players get fairly high salaries, but at least the Raptors can move onto their next chapter in a few years. It’s a logical compromise.

Those deals came at a major immediate cost, though. Toronto is apparently unwilling to pay the luxury tax for a team that has shown no way to get past the Cavaliers. So, there was a large drain on production around the Raptors’ top players. Outgoing this summer:

Toronto even had to include a lottery-protected first-round pick and a second-round pick and incur a $1 million cap hit each of the next three seasons from Justin Hamilton’s contract for Brooklyn to take Carroll.

The only major contributor going against the tide and toward Toronto is C.J. Miles, a sweet-shooting swingman who can defend well when not outmuscled. He’ll help the Raptors. He won’t come close to replacing all that they lost.

Toronto is counting on all the young talent is has cultivated to step up. Norman Powell and Delon Wright are definitely in line for bigger roles, and Pascal Siakam probably is, too. The Raptors would probably like to cut bait on Jonas Valanciunas to elevate Jacob Poeltl. O.G. Anunoby, Lucas Nogueira and Bruno Caboclo are also in the pipeline as potential rotation players.

Credit Toronto for identifying and developing this deep crop of youngsters, who allowed for the team’s strategy this summer. These players have been preparing, and at some point – ideally while still on cheap contracts – they deserved the opportunity contribute.

But make no mistake: The Raptors downgraded across the board. The supporting cast around Lowry, DeRozan and Ibaka – a trio in or near its prime – is less-equipped to help a team designed at the top to win now.

It feels like this team’s best chance of winning the East has come and gone. LeBron James is still in Cleveland. The Celtics have probably already overtaken Toronto, and the 76ers’ rise appears inevitable.

The Raptors have had a good few years. They might have a few more good ones left.

But it seems their self-imposed budget has resigned them to playing out the string on a plan that has already peaked.

Offseason grade: C-

Penny Hardaway actually called Kawhi Leonard a superstar

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Penny Hardaway saying Kawhi Leonard isn’t a superstar?

Never happened.

Hardaway was misquoted.

Hardaway on SiriusXM NBA Radio:

Superstar?

You know what? I can give Kawhi superstar, because he’s just not a guy that likes commercials. He’s not a guy that wants to be the face of the league. He just wants to get his work done.

He don’t want to talk, but that part goes along with being a superstar, though. But I would give him – he would be a superstar to me, for sure, because he handles his own with anybody in the league.

Leonard provides superstar production on the court. He doesn’t carry himself like a superstar, which as Hardaway said, can influence whether a player is a superstar, depending on how you define the term.

It seems Hardaway combined on- and off-court factors – and concluded Leonard deserves the title.

Lakers unsurprisingly most over-represented in national-TV games based on projected record

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The Warriors have more nationally televised games* than the Raptors, Heat, Pistons, Kings, Suns, Grizzlies, Hornets, Bulls, Pacers, Hawks, Nets and Magic combined.

*Counting only games on ABC, TNT or ESPN. NBATV games don’t carry the same prestige and exposure.

Fair? The NBA and its television partners think so, and that’s ultimately what matters.

The league released its schedule yesterday, and that always provides a telling look at the NBA’s hierarchy. Team strength and market size both matter for getting these marquee games.

Here’s how it shakes out this year, with:

  • ABC in blue
  • TNT in green
  • ESPN in orange

image

Using Kevin Pelton of ESPN’s win projections for each team and a linear regression, we can plot how many nationally televised games a team would be expected to have based on projected wins – and where NBA teams actually fall:

image

Team Projected wins Nationally televised games Projected nationally televised games Difference
LAL 33 23 4.9 +18.1
CLE 49.2 27 18 +9.0
PHI 33.2 14 5.1 +8.9
OKC 49.5 27 18.2 +8.8
BOS 49.4 25 18.2 +6.8
HOU 55 28 22.7 +5.3
NYK 32 8 4.1 +3.9
SAC 27.4 4 0.4 +3.6
SAS 52.6 24 20.7 +3.3
GSW 62.1 31 28.4 +2.6
WAS 47.5 18 16.6 +1.4
PHO 30.3 4 2.8 +1.2
LAC 48.9 19 17.8 +1.2
ATL 27 0 0.1 -0.1
DAL 34.6 6 6.2 -0.2
CHI 28.5 1 1.3 -0.3
MIN 50.1 17 18.7 -1.7
BRK 29.5 0 2.1 -2.1
DET 35.1 4 6.6 -2.6
POR 43.8 11 13.6 -2.6
IND 32 1 4.1 -3.1
MEM 34.6 3 6.2 -3.2
ORL 32.2 0 4.3 -4.3
NOP 44.2 8 14 -6
MIL 46.9 10 16.1 -6.1
MIA 42.3 5 12.4 -7.4
UTA 44.7 7 14.4 -7.4
DEN 47.2 9 16.4 -7.4
TOR 43.4 5 13.3 -8.3
CHA 44.1 3 13.9 -10.9

Of course, the Lakers top their expected value by double anyone else. That Los Angeles market does wonders, as does an even wider fan base. At least Lonzo Ball should make the Lakers more exciting this year. That beats all the seasons they were bad and boring and still got plenty of national exposure.

The big loser by this method? The Hornets, whose on-court projections would peg them for nearly 11 more nationally televised games than they actually received.