Kurt Helin

Hall of Famer Jerry West joins LA Clippers as consultant

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PLAYA VISTA, Calif. (AP) — Hall of Famer Jerry West, fresh off helping the Golden State Warriors win another NBA championship, is now officially a consultant with the Los Angeles Clippers.

West was formally introduced at a news conference Monday with Doc Rivers, the Clippers’ coach and president of basketball operations, and Executive Vice President Lawrence Frank. He had been an executive board member with the Warriors and is expected to have a similar role with LA.

The former Lakers great and front office executive credited Rivers, Frank and owner Steve Ballmer with convincing him the other team in LA was the right fit.

“Here I am on the last adventure of my life, and I like to call it an adventure,” West said. “I believe in ownership a lot. After I talked to Steve and Doc and what’s-your-name, Frank Lawrence, I was even more convinced. I’ve known these guys and respected them.

“I like people flying under the radar. I don’t like gigantic egos. … I’ve had the privilege of watching their games. I watch every game no matter who is playing. For them to want me to come here and maybe think I can help, I’m really flattered.”

The 79-year-old West is coming in just ahead of the draft and the free agency period, when the Clippers will be focused on retaining key players, including Chris Paul.

West didn’t specifically address what he would advise the team to do with Paul and Blake Griffin.

“I haven’t talked much about that,” West said. “I think they know what they need to do. I’m going to spend the rest of this week and next week trying to find where they’re going to go. I think very definitely, they want to try to protect their assets.”

Rivers had floated the idea of West joining the organization before, so it wasn’t as jarring to West as it might have been for Lakers fans.

“I wanted to bring him in, more than this year without going much further than that,” Rivers said. “Without going much further than that, I kept bringing it up. Steve got involved and (part owner) Dennis (Wong). I left somewhere that was safe, too.”

So instead of taking a vacation to celebrate another NBA championship, West will get to work with the Clippers.

“I’ll miss Jerry,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Monday. “… I think for him it’s a great new challenge, and it’s in Los Angeles. I’ve always said to him and will always say whatever he’s happy doing makes me happy, whatever that might be. But his presence, his personality, his competitiveness, his passion for those that know him or have been around him, it’s unique.”

West called leaving Golden State one of the saddest days of his life. But the Clippers found a need for his help, and he found a new challenge. The Clippers have yet to win an NBA championship or advance to the Western Conference Finals.

“They’ve had the best team in town for seven straight years but that hasn’t been good enough,” West said. “They want to get to a different level.”

 

Rumors circulate Kyle Lowry looking to leave Raptors, he tweets “don’t believe what you read”

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The buzz that Kyle Lowry was thinking of leaving the Raptors has been all over the NBA for half a season (at least). Potential destinations from his hometown of Philadelphia (not happening now) to San Antonio have surfaced as potential destinations.

Then on Monday came this from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Sun, in a piece about the crossroads the Raptors are at (and if they should pursue Paul George):

Kyle Lowry is a free agent, and multiple league sources say the all-star point guard has been grumbling about dissatisfaction with the Raptors for months. As of mid-May other teams were being told Lowry had “zero interest” in returning to Toronto, even if the Raptors offered a maximum five-year deal. Which since the club had no intention of offering a five-year deal probably made Lowry’s declaration easier to make.

Lowry responded on Twitter.

I’ve heard Lowry is conflicted. Which makes sense, big decisions are almost never easy and obvious.

Lowry went from good player to All-Star, face-of-the-franchise guy in Toronto, and he knows if he signs a four-year deal and plays it out, they will retire his number and he will forever be a Raptors legend. That has obvious appeal. Plus, the Raptors are good – a top-three team in the East, top eight in the NBA. Plus, he and DeMar DeRozan work well together. That’s hard to walk away from.

Where is he going to go where he can make similar money and play for a contender? If he’s gong to leave Toronto to win, those teams above Toronto are largely capped out, so he would be taking a pay cut (or said teams will have to strip down their roster to get him). He could get paid and run the show for a lesser team, but is that what he wants.

The Raptors are good but not better than the Cavaliers, and Boston has moved past Toronto with plenty of room to still grow. We may have seen peak Raptors, unless GM Masai Ujiri has something up his sleeve. Maybe Lowry is enticed by what he sees as greener (and less snowy) pastures.

He’s a guy to watch this summer, but he wants you to know there’s more than a “zero percent” chance he returns.

Reports: Dan Gilbert didn’t consult with LeBron before letting GM go, LeBron “disappointed”

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Let’s say you were the owner of a basketball team that happened to employ the best player on the planet, a hometown guy who brought your club its first title ever. This player is why the building sells out, why sponsors clamor — and pay big money — to be associated with your franchise, and why the value of said franchise has skyrocketed in two years.

Now let’s say you heard said player is not entirely happy and is considering leaving in a year to head West. Wouldn’t you — for your fans and your own financial self-interest — do everything you could to keep that player happy and wanting to stay with you? So, if you were going to make a major move that could impact the team, wouldn’t you at least consult with him?

Then you’re not Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gilbert decided to let very successful Cleveland GM David Griffin go — he can say it was “mutual” or that there was just a difference of opinion, but we all know the code words — and did not consult LeBron James, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Then LeBron James himself came to Griffin’s defense.

LeBron reportedly was “disappointed” and “concerned” with this decision — and he should be. Cavaliers fans should be as well. Griffin did as well as could be expected in the GM role: He traded for Kevin Love, he made low-cost moves that were smart (bringing in J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver, for example), he got Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson to re-sign, and in the end his teams won 65 percent of their games and went to three straight finals, winning one.

LeBron had backed Griffin publicly on multiple occasions, not just in this tweet. Maybe he didn’t go far enough lobbying for Griffin to Gilbert, but he may not have seen it coming because who fires their GM — who was working the phones trying to pull off a trade all Monday — just 11 days before the start of a crucial free agency period?

Griffin also was well-respected around the league for his ability to handle Gilbert, an owner thought of as one of the toughest to work for.

This could be a way for Gilbert to save money (Griffin made less than half of the going rate for an elite GM). But not spending to keep a title team relevant is the kind of thing that might make LeBron more likely to leave. Which is why you talk to him.

Maybe Gilbert is star struck. Chauncey Billups is who Gilbert is chasing to step into the big chair.

Billups is a smart man, but he has never worked in an NBA front office before and he’s being thrown into a very difficult spot: upgrade an older, capped-out roster so it can compete with the more athletic Warriors, and keep LeBron happy. He may have former Buck Assistant GM passed over for their head job Justin Zanik by his side, but that’s still a new front office trying to find it’s feet at a crucial time.

Griffin will only be unemployed as long as he wants to be, he’s highly respected around the league. Maybe he takes a year off and does television, maybe a team grabs him as a consultant, we shall see. But he will have options.

And whoever lands him will be getting an elite GM.

Stephen Curry’s agent, father Dell told Timberwolves not to draft Curry in 2009

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You don’t have to like LaVar Ball, but know he’s the latest in a long line of parents/agents who have tried to influence where they child was drafted and played.

To make that point, former Minnesota GM David Kahn (KAAAHHHNNNN!) wrote a story for Sports Illustrated talking about one of the most infamous moments in Timberwolves draft history — when they drafted back-t0-back point guards at No. 5 and 6 in 2009, but left Stephen Curry on the board.

In 2009, just days after my May 22 hiring as President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the agent for Steph Curry told me that Steph’s father, Dell, did not want his son to be drafted by Minnesota—“No offense,” as I recall Jeff Austin, his agent saying to me at the Chicago draft combine.

Jeff Austin, who I’d known casually, had represented Dell Curry when he was a player. He had been handed Steph due to his connection to Dell and told me this was a family request. “I really need your help on this,” Jeff said, explaining why there would be no visit and perhaps even hell-to-pay. (As it turned out, this was the only time when I was with the Wolves that I ever ran into this type of draft problem.)…

So we now had the Nos. 5 and 6 picks in the draft. Taking not one, but two players who might not want to play in Minnesota? That would have taken real cojones. We took Rubio and Jonny Flynn, a ready-to-play point guard who started 81 games for us as a rookie and then fell victim to a terrible hip injury. At the time, drafting Flynn made a lot of sense: we didn’t have a single point guard on the roster and our staff had ranked him No. 1 among all point-guard prospects for not only his on-court play, but also his strong leadership qualities, a significant team need.

Despite the criticism he has taken at times, Rubio has not been a terrible pick.

Flynn, on the other hand, struggled due to more than that injury. However, he had a fantastic workout and meeting with the Timberwolves, while Curry would not come for a workout. Kahn made his call.

And a couple of titles and a couple MVP awards later, history has written the story. Just consider this a cautionary tale about how things can get done.

David Griffin to leave Cavaliers as GM; Chauncey Billups reportedly could be replacement

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David Griffin helped put a team around LeBron James that brought Cleveland its first title in 54 years. He pulled off the Kevin Love trade. He got J.R. Smith in town. He kept Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson with the Cavaliers. This year he pulled off moves to land Kyle Korver and Deron Williams to add depth. He’s done everything you could ask of a GM of a contender — he was the GM for three years, they went to three Finals, won a ring, and the team won 65 percent of its games.

Griffin was also underpaid by industry standards. He reportedly made less than $2 million a year, while GMs of other contenders make at least $4 million, usually more like $5 million. He was due a healthy raise.

Instead, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert decided to not pay that bill (and screw Griffin over in the process, we’ll get to that).

Griffin will be his own free agent July 1. Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski added details. Then Gilbert himself released a statement saying the two sides “mutually decided not to extend” his contract. Riiight.

Marc Stein of ESPN had another interesting note.

Gilbert is notoriously difficult to deal with, and around the league, people were always impressed with how Griffin dealt with him.

All this in front of a crucial off-season for the Cavaliers as they try to change their roster so they can compete with the Warriors, doing so without much in terms of cap space or tradeable assets (stuff spent already in the Cavs’ win-now mode). All with the threat of LeBron James leaving the team in 2018 looming over it.

Also, LeBron was not down with this move, reportedly. One would think if one wanted to keep LeBron with the franchise he would consult with his star on these kinds of major moves.

We’ll see what Gilbert pays the next GM, but was this really a move about a few million bucks he could cut to save (since the team tax bill will be brutal next year)?

Gilbert did screw over Griffin in this process: Orlando and Atlanta (plus Milwaukee, to a lesser degree) wanted to talk to Griffin about their GM openings. Gilbert would not give teams permission for those teams to contact Griffin about what are two of the better GM spots available. Eventually, those teams couldn’t wait and made their hires. Griffin was stuck. That after Griffin turned down higher-priced offers last summer — as did some of the rest of the front office staff — to be part of what the Cavaliers had.

It was within Gilbert’s rights, but if he knew he wasn’t going to pay the going rate, then be cool to your employees, not a…. jerk. We’ll go with jerk. But Gilbert is who he is.