D.J. Foster

Indiana signing Paul George to max deal is a no-brainer

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Well, we all saw this coming. Paul George burst onto the scene last year for the Indiana Pacers, won the Most Improved Player award, carried the Pacers deep into the playoffs, and established himself as the future of the club. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Pacers rewarded George tonight with a nice payday.

Whenever I see a max contract being finalized, I ask a few general questions to get an idea of whether it was the right move:

1. Is the new max player the best talent on the team, or does he have the potential to become the best player on the team in the near future?

2. Can you win (or at least be very competitive) for a title with this guy as your best player?

3. If he hit the open market, would he receive a max contract?

For George and Indiana, all the answers are yes. No brainers, even. George is a true two-way player with an expanding set of skills, and the fact that he’s only 23 years old allows you to dream on his potential. With Danny Granger on an expiring deal, George will take over as the number one option offensively yet again, and he should form a potent tandem with Roy Hibbert for years to come.

Indiana virtually had no choice but to give George a max extension, so any argument of value seems silly. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute though, and float this out there. Would you give Kawhi Leonard a max contract? Probably not, right?

Last year, George and Leonard had nearly identical PER’s, with George at 16.8 and Leonard at 16.4. Leonard was much more efficient, notching a true shooting percentage over .60 percentage points higher. The two players put up similar rebounding percentages (George 11.3, Leonard 11.1) as well, but the main difference was that Paul had the ball in his hands quite a bit more, so his assist totals and usage percentage blew Leonard’s out of the water.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because so much of perceived value relies on opportunity. We only caught a glimpse of Leonard as a top scoring option in the playoffs last year, so we’re not sure if he’s capable of handling the full load. But because of Granger’s injury, we’ve seen George handle the load for a full season. It wasn’t always pretty (the Pacers were 20th in offensive efficiency, after all), but there were definite flashes of brilliance. And his defensive abilities and length are absolutely vital to Indiana’s scheme, and are a must-have with LeBron James around.

Still, for George to be worth this max extension, he’ll have to keep improving. His development can’t stagnate, and although it’s highly unlikely it will, he wouldn’t be the first player to receive a max deal and fail to live up to the expectations that come with it.

Is this a good move by Indiana? Again, of course it is. This was the only option. Going forward, however, the onus falls on George to replace the potential he’s getting paid for with improved production down the line.

Knicks invite Josh Powell to training camp; everyone is bummed it’s not Ricky Davis instead

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The New York Knicks have basically worked out everyone who has ever touched a basketball this offseason, and that’s led to a lot of speculation over who was getting the golden tickets to training camp. As fun as it would be to imagine Ricky Davis hanging out with Metta World Peace and J.R. Smith on the bench this year, we might have to settle for Josh Powell instead.

Powell is all those things Zwerling said about him, but the battle to make the Knicks roster might be tough. New York already has 12 guaranteed contracts on the books, two partially-guaranteed contracts, and now with Powell, three non-guaranteed, make-good type contracts. With only 15 spots (or possibly 14) available, Powell will have to beat out some competition in camp, and Mike Woodson has expressed that he really likes a few other guys, like big guard Toure’ Murry.

Powell could make the roster though, especially since big man Jeremy Tyler is sidelined and rookie forward C.J Leslie is always a threat to check out mentally. Powell is a grinder, and for a team already overflowing with personalities, it might be a good idea to bring in someone a little more – I don’t know – reserved. Sorry, Ricky.

 

Shaq doesn’t care for the Pelicans name, might not know what a pelican is

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Shaquille O’Neal is not overly fond of the Pelicans nickname. This is not an uncommon opinion. Shaq’s reasoning for not liking the new name, though? Pretty spectacular.

“It’s a terrible name. I told Charles on TNT, I don’t think I’ve seen a Pelican before. Pelicans, are they that big white bird? I would had named them Tigers, Crawfish or something. Pelicans — no. But I wish them well.”

Via John Reid on NOLA.com

So many questions for you, Shaq. You really haven’t seen a Pelican before? It’s Louisiana’s state bird. You went to LSU. They were in Finding Nemo. You have children. Come on, Shaq. You yelled about Birdman for the entire postseason and now you know nothing about birds? Nice try. Are you undercover again?

Seriously, though, man. Crawfish? That’s your suggestion? Something cool like Tigers, or maybe crawfish? Pelicans could probably eat crawfish, bro. I don’t know if that’s true or not because I haven’t watched the Discovery channel in a really long time, but you don’t go down the food chain in search of a better nickname. You just don’t.

That’s alright, though. Nicknames are hard, you’ve wasted your ammo on yourself over the years, and now you’re spent. All good. New Orleans fans have plenty of reasons to be happy though, right? Bright future, yes?

I’ll be anxious to see how many jerseys they sell. Hopefully one day they’ll get some marquee players and fill the arena up because it’s a town that wants to support something good. Louisiana, in general, if you give them a good product, they’ll get in their RVs and drive and they will support you. Hopefully, one day we’ll get two or three good players that people would want to spend their money on.

I suppose the thought of hearing, “Nice Pelicans jersey!” could push someone with Ornithophobia away from a purchase, even if the name on the front says New Orleans. As for the names on the back? Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans are pretty good players, but are they “fire up the RV” good?

But again, we need to two or three marquee players. I mean you can’t charge the prices that we charge and not give them a good product. So hopefully the first pick, Anthony Davis, and Doc Rivers’ son (Austin Rivers) hopefully have the same impact the ‘Splash Brothers’ (Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) had last season.

So New Orleans fans, it sounds like Shaq thinks your new nickname stinks, you might not sell many jerseys, you don’t have good players that are worth spending money to watch, and your hopes of making a big impact rest partially with Austin Rivers, of all people.

But, you know, other than that? Go big white birds!

Five things to know about the EuroBasket 2013 Championship Game

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Who: France vs Lithuania.

The French squad features five current NBA players in Tony Parker (Spurs), Nicolas Batum (Blazers), Boris Diaw (Spurs), Nando De Colo (Spurs) and Joffrey Lauvergne (Nuggets). Former NBA players Johan Petro, Alexis Ajinca and Mickael Gelabale are on the roster as well.

The Lithuanian squad features only two NBA players in Donatas Motiejunas (Rockets) and Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors). Linas Kleiza, who was released by the Raptors this offseason, is on the team as well.

What: Here’s what’s at stake. France has never won a European title, and it’s been ten years since Lithuania won gold. Both teams are hungry for a win, but Lithuania might have the mental edge going in. In the second round of EuroBasket back on September 11th, they crushed France 76-62 and limited Parker to just 11 points. Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and 6 boards in just 16 minutes of playing time.

When: 12 pm PT

Where: Slovenia. Keep an eye on the Bronze Medal game beforehand between Spain and Croatia for more NBA players going at it.

Why:  Here’s why you should watch. Tony Parker has played big minutes and put up big points all tournament, averaging 19.3 a game and leading all scorers. He’s been brilliant. Although you wouldn’t expect it, the French team has struggled behind the arc quite a bit, shooting 33 percent as a team. Can Parker continue to save the day offensively?

Valanciunas is the player to watch on the other end. Many have him pegged as breakout candidate this year after his summer domination, but Valanciunas hasn’t been as consistently great against much better competition. He does lead the Lithuanian squad in rebounds and blocked shots, however.

This is the very last of the best basketball you’ll see for nearly a month, and these are two great teams going at it in an emotionally charged setting. Enjoy it while you can.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson Accused of “Hating the Kings”

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Sacramento’s quest to keep the Kings made for some really fascinating storytelling. There were so many moving parts, and so many motivations that were slowly peeled away and revealed through the process. There were the clear antagonists (the Maloofs) and protagonists, and then, of course, there was David Stern.

In a book detailing how the Kings were able to remain in Sacramento, author R.E. Graswich made some statements about the motivations of each of these characters critical to the plot of our story, but it’s what he had to say about Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson that was most interesting.

“Kevin Johnson hates the Kings,” said author R.E. Graswich. “He still holds a grudge from 1987 when they drafted Kenny Smith one spot ahead of Kevin Johnson.”

Via CBS 13 Sacramento

Let’s give the author an “A+” for promoting, but personally, I find it hard to believe that Kevin Johnson still holds a 26-year grudge because a 29-53 team that was one of six other teams to pass him up chose a player over him.

Now I know Johnson was born in Sacramento and I’m sure it hurt him to see his hometown team pass him up, but don’t you think he’s gotten over that? It’s not like his career didn’t work out because of it. Don’t you think Johnson understands the impact a basketball team can have the community, and don’t you think he’s seen and heard the countless fans who begged him to do everything in his power to help them stay? Wouldn’t that eventually win out some point over being miffed all those years ago?

I suppose the reader will have to decide what’s more plausible: Johnson maintaining a 26-year grudge, or an author slinging a little mud to sell more copies.