Dan Feldman

Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Huston Street, right, is doused with liquid by Joe Smith, left, and Mike Trout after a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. The Angels won 5-2 and Street earned his 300th career save. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Stephen Curry (to Joe Smith), Draymond Green (to Mike Trout) lose to Angels in PIG

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Joe Smith made a blind, backward, over-the-head free throw that Stephen Curry couldn’t match. Then, the Angels relief pitcher stymied the reigning NBA MVP on a left-handed 3-pointer and had suddenly beaten arguably the world’s best basketball player at a good-natured game of PIG.

“That was fun. I loved it,” a giddy Smith said afterward. “I’m not that bad. I ain’t that good either. Sometimes a little bit of luck, a lot bit of luck.”

Whether Curry brought his absolute best stuff to the post-practice contest, we’ll never know. It sure made Smith’s day to walk away a winner from the defending champion Golden State Warriors’ practice. Smith, infielder Cliff Pennington and sluggers Albert Pujols and Mike Trout attended practice Tuesday before their night game against the Oakland Athletics some 10 minutes down the freeway at the Coliseum.

And what a day to be there, with Golden State (72-9) trying to beat the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ all-time wins record in Wednesday night’s regular-season finale against Memphis at Oracle Arena.

Smith took his win in stride. He received handshakes and hugs from Curry.

“Well, you don’t go into something expecting you’re going to lose, that ain’t how you become a professional athlete,” cracked Smith. “Everything you do you want to win. But that was pretty cool. Like I told him, we positioned everybody the right way. I just got lucky, I was in front of him and there were four guys. All of his tough shots, everybody else missed. We knew somebody had to beat him. We couldn’t walk out of here without a win, you know? That’s not making ESPN.”

Oh, and Trout topped Draymond Green in a separate game:

Curry got a kick out of having the Angels in the house.

“I’ve watched Albert Pujols for years and never met him before so that’s pretty cool and obviously Mike Trout and the rest of the teammates, talented guys in their trade, so it’s pretty cool that they’d come out and watch us practice and get to chop it up for a little bit.”

But, he did say all this before losing to Smith.

Andre Drummond apologizes for sulking during Pistons’ playoff-clinching win

Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond shoots over Washington Wizards center Nene during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 8, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Andre Drummond missed a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter and sat for the rest of the game. He’d been there before, looking unhappy on the bench while Stan Van Gundy avoided Bang-a-Drumm.

But the Pistons hadn’t been there before. They were clinching their first playoff berth in seven years, snapping a postseason drought that began before any current player joined the roster.

As his teammates cheered each other down the stretch, Drummond sat and sulked at the end of the bench. He didn’t even join huddles during timeouts.

What gives?

Drummond:

Drummond, via Aaron McCann of MLive:

“I was sad,” Drummond said. “I was thinking about something else throughout the game. I obviously didn’t have a good showing during the game, but everybody has games like that. I said it a couple weeks back when I lost my best friend, that I was going to try and get into the playoffs for him. And when we did it, the emotions started running through me.”

“On my part, it was selfish,” Drummond said. “But everybody has emotions and everybody goes through certain parts of their life. We won the game, and that’s when it kind of really hit me. I couldn’t really control the feeling I had. I did apologize for the way I acted – it looked a certain way, but it wasn’t. That’s really just what it was.”

“Age doesn’t matter. I’ve been here for four years now,” Drummond said. “That’s unacceptable for what I did, no matter what the circumstances were. No, I did apologize. Something like that won’t happen again. That was selfish on my part. I should have been celebrating with my teammates.”

It’s unfortunate that Drummond’s friend died, and everyone grieves in their own ways. Drummond’s reaction – whether totally because of his loss or frustration due to missed free throws landing him on the bench – was human.

But Drummond also holds a high-pressure job that demands players put aside personal issues or channel them into their play. Obviously, that matters less when he’s sitting on the bench than in the game. But Drummond – Detroit’s best and soon to be highest-paid player – still holds influence from the bench. His teammates look to him as a natural leader given his status as the franchise’s longest-tenured player. It doesn’t help if they’re distracted, wondering about Drummond’s overt and sudden change in mood.

Drummond needn’t apologize for feeling a certain way – but it matters when his response to those feelings affects others. This is a small issue for a young player to learn from.

Mostly, Drummond is probably being too hard on himself.

Report: Some Bulls believe Jimmy Butler gets preferential treatment

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Jimmy Butler flew separately from his Bulls teammates for last night’s game against the Pelicans. It was called a family issue, and Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said Butler’s travel was approved.

Butler started and had 23 points in 11 assists in a Bulls win.

So why did anyone care how Butler got to New Orleans?

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

Some players, and I’m not saying it wasn’t a family commitment, but there were some – I know at least one player in particular, a starter – who felt like he was a bit bothered by the fact that Jimmy wasn’t on the plane. And it was a misperception. He felt it was emblematic of a little bit of the preferential treatment that a lot of people say Butler’s been getting now that he’s emerged as the best players on the Bulls from the front office and things like that.

There’s a division. There’s all types of dysfunction in Chicago. There’s kind of a division in that locker room.

The younger players see Butler as the leader. He’s clearly been their best player the last two years. They see him as the leader.

The other guys, the veterans who’ve been there, it’s not so much of disrespect of Jimmy, but they don’t see him as the team as the team leader. They remember when you were averaging two points a game.

The Bulls have at least one problem, maybe two:

  • Butler receives too much preferential treatment.
  • His teammates are so paranoid about Butler, they accuse him of receiving preferential treatment when he doesn’t.

In many circumstances, it’s not unusual for a player to travel separately when personal matters arise. Obviously, it’s impossible to judge this specific case without more information.

But Butler deserves some preferential treatment – like a high salary. He’s Chicago’s best player, and he should be treated as such. That doesn’t mean he should be above the rules, but there’s nothing wrong with the team allowing him concessions not made to others. His teammates shouldn’t resent some preferential treatment (like salary and media opportunities).

That gets complicated with Derrick Rose on the roster. He was the best Bull until injuries took a toll, though he’s still the team’s highest-paid player and point guard – statuses that naturally lend themselves to leadership. How does the team conform to both Rose and Butler?

This is why re-signing Joakim Noah might not be such a hot idea. Though Noah’s leadership deserves praise, it could naturally undermine Butler’s. Every player knows Noah as a leader. Some seem to be unsure about Butler.

Of course, if Butler is a poor leader even to the young players who look at him, that’s a whole other can of worms. But even if that’s the case, Butler can still grow into the role – if he gets a chance from his bothered teammates.

Maybe Butler needs to earn that opportunity. But I think, just as much, if not more, some of his teammates need to become more open to it.

2016 PBT Awards: Executive of the Year

LaMarcus Aldridge, right, is presented his new jersey by San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, left, during a news conference at the team's practice facility as he is formally introduced after he signed with the San Antonio Spurs NBA basketball team, Friday, July 10, 2015, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Kurt Helin

1. R.C. Buford

2. Neil Olshey

3. Stan Van Gundy

This award feels like it’s often won the previous July, and that’s when the Buford won this — he had created the flexibility to bring in a max player, then he went out and convinced LaMarcus Aldridge to come home to Texas. The Spurs just keep on being the Spurs. A number of other executives had good years, but Olshey deserves credit for putting together a roster that works in Portland, and SVG is building something for the future in Detroit that could be very good.

Sean Highkin

1. Neil Olshey

2. R.C. Buford

3. Pat Riley

Olshey lost four starters, including LaMarcus Aldridge, and somehow the Blazers are still in position to get the fifth seed in the Western Conference. He signed good role players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis to reasonable contracts and reshaped the roster around Damian Lillard without sacrificing future flexibility. Buford got Aldridge, re-signed Danny Green for below market value and somehow convinced David West to take the minimum, while making solid in-season additions like Kevin Martin and Andre Miller. Riley deserves a lot of credit for his moves on the fringes, including finding Josh Richardson in the second round and signing Joe Johnson and now Dorell Wright during the year.

Dan Feldman

1. R.C. Buford

2. Neil Olshey

3. Stan Van Gundy

Buford lured LaMarcus Aldridge to the Spurs, who haven’t even felt the downside of clearing cap space to sign him. That’s because Buford convinced Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and David West to accept below-market deals and Kawhi Leonard to delay signing his max contract. Buford also unearthed Boban Marjanovic and added Kevin Martin and Andre Miller after buyouts. As far as producing immediate results – which the aging Spurs needed – this was an all-time great year by a general manager.

On the flip side, Olshey lost Aldridge but showed an impressive ability to reinvent on the fly. He locked up Damian Lillard on a long-term extension that is somehow slightly less than the 30% max if Lillard makes an All-NBA team and surrounded his new franchise player with similarly aged talent. Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis signed reasonable deals, and Mason Plumlee and Maurice Harkless came fairly cheap in trades. Even while building this younger playoff team after also losing Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo in free agency and trading Nicolas Batum (for good value in Noah Vonleh), Olshey left open enough cap room to add a first-round pick in exchange for taking Anderson Varejao before the trade deadline. This is why someone like the Hornets’ Rich Cho didn’t make my list. Not only did Olshey help his team’s competitiveness this season, he improved its long-term outlook.

Van Gundy made the heist of the season when he got Tobias Harris without giving up a draft pick or core player, and Marcus Morris also gave the Pistons value on their cap space. Reggie Jackson and Aron Baynes have also lived up to their initially criticized contracts. Plus, Van Gundy convinced Andre Drummond not to accept a contract extension, which will give the Pistons millions of extra cap space next summer. Van Gundy slightly edged Pat Riley, who nailed both his draft picks (Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson), navigated tricky free agencies with Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, got the Heat under the luxury-tax line and lured Joe Johnson after his buyout.

Report: NBA expected to approve advertising on jerseys

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks before the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP
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Adam Silver has repeatedly called advertising on NBA jerseys inevitable.

Now – after facing numerous obstacles – the commissioner is on the verge of being proven correct.

Brian Windhorst and Darren Rovell of ESPN:

NBA owners are scheduled to vote this week on putting ads on jerseys for the 2017-18 season, multiple sources told ESPN.

The measure is expected to pass, according to sources. Several teams have begun testing the market to sell the potentially lucrative ads, which would be placed in a 2.5-by-2.5-inch patch on the left shoulder.

The initial proposal to owners was for teams to keep 50 percent of the sponsorship money from the jersey ads and for 50 percent to be added to the revenue-sharing pool for all teams.

The NBA recently signed new national television and apparel deals where the ads were part of the negotiations. In 2017, Nike will take over from Adidas as the league’s uniform provider when the ads are expected to debut.

Like most, I don’t like the idea of advertising on NBA jerseys – or advertising creeping into any facet of my life. But the NBA should not operate based on my comfort. The NBA is a business that should attempt to maximize profit, which also benefits players thanks to their salaries being tied to revenue.

That doesn’t necessarily make these ads wise, though.

Will the ads diminish the prestige of the NBA? Will the ads cause fans to buy fewer jerseys? Will potential sponsors pay teams’ asking price for the ads? Will sponsors spend new money on the ads rather than diverting money already spent on the NBA?

These are practical, not philosophical, concerns.

If NBA teams feel they have found suitable answers to those questions, more power to them.

There’s also the issue of how they split up their money, but a 50-50 split – after the players’ cut, I presume – between keeping and sharing seems reasonable.

That said, the measure hasn’t officially passed. Lottery reform looked inevitable until enough owners reversed course late in the process to vote it down. If anyone has reservations about jersey advertising – or, more likely, this specific plan for jersey advertising – now is the time to convince owners.

But as Silver has said, it seems inevitable.