Author: Kurt Helin

NBA All-Star Game 2013

Kevin Durant is right, top NBA players are underpaid with max salaries


It’s kind of hard to get your head around this in the sense that the NBA minimum rookie salary is likely more than most of us will make in a year ever. Let alone saying a guy making $20 million or more is underpaid.

But the NBA’s true elite max players are underpaid.

Not your Gordon Hayward kind of max deals, I’m talking the games real draws — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and a handful of others. It’s not a question of what Kobe might bring the Lakers on the court anymore, it’s a question of what he brings the Lakers as a business — filled expensive seats and luxury boxes, sponsors flocking to the team, frankly that massive Lakers cable deal doesn’t exist without him in Lakers colors. Even has the highest paid player in the league, Kobe is likely brings in three times his salary to the Lakers.

LeBron James has hinted at some in the union wanting to do away with max contracts, and Kevin Durant chimed in on that Tuesday, as reported by Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman.

“Look at it like this,” Durant explained. “Kobe Bryant brings in a lot of money to Los Angeles, that downtown area. People go to watch the Lakers. Clippers are getting up there, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and those guys are bringing in a lot of money as well. Look at Cleveland, look at Miami when LeBron was there. These guys are worth more than what they are making because of the amount of money they bring to that area. That’s a conversation you can always have, but until it’s changed you never know what will happen to it.”

Kobe has said the same thing.

They’re right, the elite players in the NBA are underpaid, which allows for a real (but shrinking) “middle class” in the NBA.

If the max contract is removed what you will see is a handful of very highly paid guys and a lot of other guys on minimum or near that deals, there will be no middle class of the NBA, few guys getting $4 million to $8 million a year. But some NBA players want that max contract idea removed.

Some owners are okay with this. Why? Because if you really want to do away with “super teams” of players getting together (like with LeBron in Miami and now Cleveland) then you let LeBron get paid what the market will bear. In LeBron’s case that would be north of $40 million a year right now, and with a salary cap of $63 million this season you simply couldn’t put a good team around him anymore. Even with the cap going up under the new TV deal a GM would have one hand tied behind his back (and as that cap goes up the value of LeBron/Durant/etc. to a franchise goes up).

My guess is in the next deal you may see the percentages of the cap allowed to go to a max player go up, but I doubt the max salary number goes away. The NBA owners also don’t want to be handing out baseball-sized contracts.

Tracy McGrady knocks down game winning three in China (VIDEO)


That is vintage Tracy McGrady. The basketball player version (we’re trying to repress memories of the baseball version).

Isolate him on the wing, pound the ball into the court while the clock ticks down to the final seconds, use your strength and quickness to create a little space, then knock down the shot.

McGrady is part of the USA Legends Tour in China (other names you might know include Jason Williams and Aquille Carr) and with the game on the line it was T-Mac who had the ball. Which made for a fun trip down memory lane.

(Hat tip to SLAM)

Paul Pierce talks about how he ended up with Wizards — he thinks they can reach the finals

Paul Pierce

It was the strangest, most unexpected move of the summer — Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards.

We’re always going to picture Pierce as a Celtic, so any color any other than green seems strange, but he bolted Brooklyn (or, more accurately, they didn’t try to bring him back) and there were a number of teams interested in him.

But it was then Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell who sold Pierce on going to the nation’s capital. He’s a fit on paper, but he had to be convinced.

Pierce laid out how it went down speaking with David Aldridge of

“That’s when Sam Cassell gave me a call, shortly after Trevor Ariza signed with Houston. That kind of happened so fast. He signed, and Sam called me, and [asked] what I thought. We both were in Vegas at the time, talking on the phone. Then met him for lunch. Then met him again for dinner. It took some convincing, because I never really thought about Washington. It just wasn’t on my radar. But I started thinking about it, and everything he was telling me, based on what they did last year, the guys they have here, he talked about the culture, he talked about Coach [Randy Wittman], Ernie [Grunfeld, the GM], talked to him. And I started warming up to the idea. Pretty much that same day we talked, I started warming up. This team does have some potential, now that I think about it. They probably should have beat Indiana. Everybody thought they should have beat Indiana. I was like, they have one of the best backcourts in basketball. They’re lacking experience, a guy in the locker room and on the court that can help end games. I was like, I probably can fit in. After LeBron said he was going back to Cleveland, the dynamics of the Eastern Conference, with Indiana, I was like, this is a team that could be in the Eastern Conference finals, or possibly the Finals, based on what’s here. And adding me to some of the other veterans they added, I was like, why not?”

Cassell recruited Pierce then he bolted for the Clippers and Doc Rivers to be an assistant 0n the left coast.

Can the Wizards make the conference finals? Well, if a lot of things go their way. They are arguably the third best team in the East, something that will be true if John Wall and Bradley Beal continue to grow, and if Nene can just stay healthy. Add in the veteran presence of Pierce and there is a lot to like.

Heck, Pierce seems to be fitting in already.

But Pierce and his Wizards are not better than Cleveland (despite the Cavs flaws). If Derrick Rose is 90 percent of MVP Derrick Rose, Chicago is better than Washington, too.

Still, you can see what Pierce is thinking in making this choice. All he needs is things go perfectly.

Kobe Bryant looks sharp, moves well in Lakers first preseason game (VIDEO)

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers

If you love good basketball, it can be a joy to watch Kobe Bryant.

It’s a joy to watch his impeccable footwork when get gets the ball in the post. His efficient fadeaway. The way when he faces up he doesn’t over dribble but makes a quick, decisive move. He sees the game unfold and makes small adjustments. He a master of smart basketball.

That Kobe was back Monday night in the Lakers preseason opener (a win over the Denver Nuggets). Most importantly looked healthy and moved well. He finished the night with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, had five assists but also three turnovers in 21 minutes. Kobe sounded  positive afterwards, as reported by the LA Times Mike Bresnahan.

And the Lakers fans in San Diego were into it — Kobe got MVP chants by the third quarter (surprised it took them that long).

Let’s be clear, it’s an NBA preseason game, it has less meaning than your high school algebra class. You can’t read too much into this one outing, no more than one should read into Kobe air-balling his first shot of the night. Nobody is exactly sharp or intense in these games. 

But Kobe’s comeback had to start somewhere, this is a good place and a good first step.

Along those same lines, Steve Nash moved well and made plays also. He finished with 11 points and five assists. Of course, with him the real question is how they feel the next day, but like Kobe he has to start somewhere.

Greg Anthony, Grant Hill and Chris Webber will rotate through Steve Kerr’s spot on TNT broadcasts

Chris Webber

No one man can replace Steve Kerr. Apparently.

Kerr was a fixture on one of the TNT Thursday night double header broadcasts, next to Marv Albert every week on a marquee game. Then he gave that all up to coach Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors.

So who takes his chair next to Marv? Three guys, Turner Broadcasting told Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated.

So says Turner Sports, which will soon make the official announcement that Greg Anthony, Grant Hill and Chris Webber will form a three-person rotation as TNT’s top NBA analyst alongside game announcer Marv Albert….

“We have a really deep talent roster and we plan to dig into it and use everybody,” Turner Sports senior vice president Craig Barry told Sports Illustrated last week. “We are in a unique position to be able to work through a rotation with A-grade talent. We are looking at it from a perspective that each guy brings something to the table.”

My guess is eventually one of those guys will get the job permanently. Hill is a rookie so we’ll see how he does, Anthony is solid, but personally I’m a big Webber fan. I like him the studio, I like him on broadcasts, so this makes me happy.

It is unclear when Craig Sager will return to the sidelines from his battle with adult acute myeloid leukemia, We can’t see him back soon enough.

The second TNT game will continue to feature Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller. Now, if we can get TNT to rotate guys through Miller’s chair then we will have something worth celebrating.