Author: Kurt Helin

Los Angeles Clippers Media Day

New Jamal Crawford documentary as much fun as Crawford’s game (VIDEO)

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When J Crossover gets it going there are not many players in the league more fun to watch.

That’s how Jamal Crawford earned his Sixth Man of the year awards (including last season).

But there is a lot more to Seattle’s Crawford, and this very well done Ball is Life documentary touches on a lot of it. Crawford is one of the NBA’s good guys, but a guy who has had a nomadic NBA career (six teams and 13 different head coaches). With the Clippers he seems to finally have found a home on a contender, but the more interesting story is his roots. I love all the high school footage.

This documentary is a little more than 20 minutes, but worth it. Carve out the time.

Phil Jackson breaks down the Knicks roster. He’s high on Shumpert, says Carmelo must move ball

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks

One thing Phil Jackson has promised would change with him in charge of the Knicks has already come to fruition — he is a lot more open. Knicks GMs used to appear in public about as often as the giant squid, but Jackson has kept an open, running dialog with the New York media.

He’s even gone so far as to break down the Knicks roster.

He did it for, and while there are no shocking insights here I can’t remember another GM/president doing this publicly with their team.

A few highlights, starting with Carmelo Anthony:

“Carmelo Anthony is obviously the team’s only certified All-Star. It’s also no secret that Melo has to keep the ball moving, but he’s committed to doing this. Passing has never been a great strength of his, but in the triangle he’ll be able to have check-off reads like a quarterback looking for his first-option receiver, then his second and then his third. There’ll be plenty of iso opportunities for Melo, and in the triangle it’ll be very difficult for defenses to double-team him.”

On Iman Shumpert:

“Even though Iman Shumpert was in [former Knicks coach] Mike Woodson’s dog house for much of last season, he’s one of my favorites because he’s simply our best on-ball defender at the 2 position and also against the bigger 1s.”

On J.R. Smith:

“The 2 position is our deepest, and J.R. Smith is easily the best athlete on the team. But J.R. has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. He has to trust that the triangle will create good shots and to avoid searching for his own shot.”

On Samuel Dalembert:

“I’m encouraged by how well Dalembert played against the Spurs in the playoffs (with Dallas). However, throughout his career he’s been very susceptible to foul trouble, so his floor-time will most likely be limited to about 26 minutes. Even so, we’d like him to be a 10-and-10 player.”

That’s optimistic for Dalembert.

I love that Jackson did this, and he tried to be positive in his assessments. I don’t think by January Knicks fans are going to be as forgiving with these guys. Learning the triangle takes time, it takes trust of your teammates, and it takes the right kinds of players to fill roles. Players the Knicks are not exactly flush with.

If the Knicks are going to find their way into the playoffs in the East, it’s going to be because Derek Fisher got the team to play improved defense. Anthony will still put up points, the Knicks will score, but that is not the end of the floor where they really need to make strides.

Commissioner Adam Silver talked television money, what it could mean for potential 2017 lockout

Adam Silver

If you’re hoping the NBA can avoid a lockout in the summer of 2017, Adam Silver did not make you feel particularly good on Wednesday.

The big news out of the NBA Board of Governors meeting (the owners and their committees) was the rejection of a draft lottery reform proposal. However much of Silver’s post-meeting press conference focused on the massive influx of money coming into the system in the new $24 billion television deal the league just signed and how that will impact things going forward with the owners and players.

Silver said it was too early to think about the next CBA talks (even though you know they are planning for it already) and that even with the new CBA there are issues.

“So what this new television money will mean, of course, is that teams will have a greater opportunity to be profitable because remember, this money doesn’t come into our system until 2016 and ’17,” Silver said in his press conference broadcast on NBA TV. “ We still have roughly a third of our teams that are not profitable under the current system, despite revenue sharing.”

The opportunity to be profitable was one of Silver and then Commissioner David Stern’s big talking points during the last CBA negotiations and lockout. The owners won big in that negotiation and, in their view, came closer to a system where every team has the opportunity to be profitable and every team can compete for a title. After the public press conference Ken Berger of pressed the Commissioner on how exactly that should play out. Does every team have to be profitable?

“No,” he said. “No, because the caveat has always been, if well managed. And I would also say, if you don’t have a hard-cap system, for example, one of the teams that isn’t profitable are the Brooklyn Nets. That’s an election they’re free to make under our compensation system. They’ve elected to be unprofitable. My preference would be to have a harder cap, where teams couldn’t elect to spend so much more than other teams.

Ahh, the “hard cap.” A more NFL style cap. A lot of owners would love that. You can bet that is back on the table from the owners in 2017. If that’s on the table the players will oppose… and here we go again.

“There’s gradations of hardness in terms of the cap as well. I wish our current cap system was harder. It’s what we proposed last time around, but we compromised.”

• The other main money topic was “smoothing in” of the money from the $24 billion television deal, so that the salary cap doesn’t just jump massively in the summer of 2016 and throw off the system. Silver said talks are underway.

“So first of all, on the television money, we have begun a discussion with the union where we would in essence  the expression we use is create a smoothing of the money in essence, rather than having in ’16’17 such a dramatic increase in the cap in one year, we would smooth the increase in. The players would still receive what becomes 51 percent…” Silver said.

“What we’ve begun discussing with the union is a plan in which, for a smoother operation of the cap, while the players would still receive every nickel of their 51 percent that year, we in essence would artificially lower the cap and then make a shortfall payment directly to the union, and then they would then distribute that money, presumably proportionately, to the players.”

Expect the players union to sign off on a version of that. Remember that teams have a spending floor — they have to get up to 90 percent of the cap — so if the cap makes a massive leap in one season that summer’s free agent class is going to disproportionally benefit (those dollars have to be spent). If you smooth this in over three or four years, then multiple free agent classes get a kick at the can and make more money.

• Silver discussed what derailed the lottery reform proposal that seemed a lock 48 hours ago:

“I think in essence, the owners were concerned about unintended consequences. I think we all recognize that we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to of course win, and on the other hand allowing what is appropriate rebuilding and a draft to work as a should, in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft, and we’ve tinkered with the draft lottery several times over the years. I don’t necessarily disagree with the way it works now. I’d say from a personal standpoint, what I’m most concerned about is the perception out there right now. Frankly the pressure on a lot of our teams, even from their very fans, to somehow underperform because it’s in some people’s view the most efficient and quickest way to get better, so I think that’s a corrosive perception out there….

“…but I think there was a further concern, too, that we’re changing the rules midcourse, that based on the current odds in the draft lottery, teams made certain selections in the draft, traded accordingly, and now we’re already in essence midseason, because we’re into the preseason already, rosters to a certain extent have been decided, and now we’re changing the rules, and I think the sense from the Board was the competition committee, one, needs to continue to make sure they understand potential unintended consequences, and also we have to come up with a timeline for implementing it where teams are appropriately on notice so that they draft and trade accordingly.”

• Silver said multiple bidders have stepped up looking to buy the majority share of the Atlanta Hawks that is up for sale, but that the current ownership’s stated timeline of the end of the year to get it worked out is likely optimistic.

• Finally, the NBA set up a new David J. Stern Sports Scholarship to “provide talented and promising students the opportunity to further their study of sports management.” Those that win the scholarship with both get $30,000 a year toward college and get to intern a couple summers at the NBA league offices.

Other highlights from NBA’s GM survey: Some thought Chicago had better summer than Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day

We hit you with the highlights of the annual NBA GM survey already — they think LeBron James is a really good player, and his Cavaliers will face the Spurs in the Finals. Really going out on a limb there.

But as always there is more interesting stuff farther down the survey and buried in some of the answers. These are the other things that jumped out at me.

• Oddest vote of the survey — 10.7 percent of GMs thought Chicago had the best offseason of any team. Hey, I love the Pau Gasol pickup too, but did those guys notice what happened in Cleveland? One GM also said Gasol was the best addition to any team this offseason… again, did he see Cleveland?

• Speaking of odd votes, one GM picked the Wizards to come out of the East this season.

• Another GM predicted the Rockets would win the Southwest division (everyone else was same and picked the Spurs).

• What player will make the best coach when he retires? GMs said Chris Paul, who got 24 percent of the vote and certainly has a great basketball mind. Who came in second was more interesting — Steve Blake. Kirk Hinrich of the Bulls was third. Jarrett Jack tied for fourth with six percent of the vote.

• When asked what one player they would want to start a franchise with of course half the GMs chose LeBron James, but more interesting is that Anthony Davis was tied with Kevin Durant in second place, each receiving 25 percent of the vote. That tells you how much people are starting to expect out of Davis. (Davis was also voted player to most likely have a breakout year.)

• James Harden was voted best shooting guard in the league with 63 percent of the vote, no surprise there. Klay Thompson was second (18.5 percent), followed by Kobe Bryant tying Stephen Curry for third even though Curry plays primarily the point (both got 7.4 percent). Then one GM voted Kevin Durant as the best two guard.

• Best power forward was a tie between LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, each getting 25 percent of the vote. Anthony Davis was third (21.4 percent) followed by LeBron (10.7 percent). The real surprise to me was Kevin Love was fifth (7.1 percent).

• Atlanta’s Kyle Korver was picked as the player best at moving off the ball (53.6 percent), followed by the Clippers J.J. Redick (Doc Rivers loves to run him off multiple screens).

• Dallas picking up Tyson Chandler was considered the most underrated move of the offseason (17,9 percent of the vote). The Pelicans getting Omer Asik and the Clippers getting Spencer Hawes tied for second at 14.3 percent.

• Biggest steal of the draft? GMs chose Utah getting Rodney Hood at 23 (he has looked good at Summer League and in their system). The Bulls getting Doug McDermott at 11 came in second.

• Best international player not in the NBA? Tie between former NBA player Rudy Fernandez and Dario Saric, who belongs to Philadelphia and will join the NBA in a few seasons.

• Best assistant coach? Golden State’s Alvin Gentry come on down, you’re the big winner. Sort of.

Five top candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year

Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks

Eight of the last nine NBA Rookie of the Year winners have fit the same mold: A player on a bad team where the coach puts the ball in his hands and asks him to make plays and put up numbers. Michael Carter-Williams did it last year, Damian Lillard the season before that, Kyrie Irving the season before that and so on (Blake Griffin being the exception).

This season we may see another exception — the guys in the best position to win are a lot of big men who play inside.

Here are the five most likely players to win the Rookie of the Year Award.

1. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers. Consider the Blake Griffin effect — an entire season to work out, add muscle, improve your game, and an entire year to watch the NBA game up close and learn. Griffin admitted it was an advantage for him, Noel has that advantage now. Add to that the fact Noel was the most impressive player I saw in limited minutes at Summer League in Las Vegas and you have a real candidate. Noel is on a bad team and going to get plenty of shots, plus the runs the floor well on a team that will play at one of the fastest paces in the league. Noel could put up both impressive numbers and a lot of highlights. That said he’s not been great in the preseason and has battled through some minor physical issues.

2. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks. This is the guy 75 percent of general managers picked to win the award (and more than a third think he will be the best player in five years from this class). Parker entered the draft with the most mature offensive game of anyone in the lottery (he can score in a variety of ways and has a nice first step), now he goes to a young Bucks team that is going to give him the rock a lot. In the preseason that has meant some impressive nights (21 and 11 against the Timberwolves, for example). I don’t know about five years from now, but I think he will have an impressive rookie season on a Bucks team that will be very entertaining.

3. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves. Wiggins is the No. 1 overall pick, a heralded pick, a freak athlete, a guy who has shown a nice midrange game, and he seems to learn quickly. There’s a lot to like, and he’s going to put up some decent numbers as well as some real highlight dunks. The question in Minnesota is how much run does Flip Saunders give Wiggins, that team has solid veterans on the wing like Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer. Ricky Rubio is going to throw Wiggins some sweet lobs but Rubio is going to have the ball in his hands most of the time. Wiggins’ personality is to fit in with teammates, not just take charge all the time. Combine all of that and I wonder if he’s really going to get enough touches to win the award.

4. Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers. He’s going to come off the bench behind Carlos Boozer in Los Angeles, but the Lakers bench is going to be more fun to watch than the starters most of the time anyway. Randle should get a lot of touches on what will not be a good team, but will veteran-friendly coach Byron Scott really let the kid loose. Randle has been up and down in the preseason. Kobe Bryant says Randle could win it if he would just %$(*#% listen to him and not blow it.

5. Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets. The guy can shoot the rock and Lionel Hollins likes guys that can shoot the rock, he may well start and certainly will get plenty of burn in Brooklyn. That said, with his years of international experience, I’m not sure voters will want to vote for him as a rookie, plus with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez on that team there just are not a lot of touches left.

Honorable mentions:

• Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics. I put him here because one GM gave him one vote in the GM survey, and him winning is about as likely as any of the other dark horses. Smart can defend but his offensive game is a work in progress, and he’d going to spend most of the season behind Rajon Rondo anyway (unless Rondo is traded).
• Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls. A lot of fans like him, and I like his game and fit with the Bulls, but he’s just not going to get enough run — if you think Thibodeau is going to lean heavy on a rookie I’m not sure what Thibs you’ve been watching.
• T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns. If you’re looking for a rookie who can score, Warren is your man. He showed it in Summer League and preseason, he’s strong in transition and the Suns like to run.