Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Ben Simmons is not getting a LeBron level rookie shoe deal. Because he’s not LeBron.


“The hype that Ben Simmons had entering this season was totally unfair. He was compared to LeBron James and Magic Johnson, which was insane. No 19 year old should ever be compared to two of the greatest basketball players that have ever lived. And frankly, what he’s doing this season isn’t all that different from what he did throughout his high school and international career. He’s never been able to shoot, he’s always wanted to be a point guard, he’s never had much of an interest in being a defensive menace, he’s always had short arms.”
Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk, for PBT


Ben Simmons is not LeBron James.

And he’s not going to get paid like LeBron, at least in his rookie shoe deal.

Simmons is still the likely No. 1 pick in what is considered a down draft (depending on which team lands the top pick Duke’s Brandon Ingram could be in play). But because of his unique skill set as a point forward, and because of his ceiling, the hype for Simmons got out of control for a while. Scouts said he was a guy worth tanking for, and fans ran with that idea. Upon closer inspection Simmons has fantastic potential but a world of questions about if he can reach that high, and if he wants to put in the work to do so.

Combine that with economic forces at play, and it means Simmons rookie shoe deal is not going to be a LeBron-like $100 million, something Nick DePaula laid out at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Baltimore-based Under Armour isn’t in the running for Simmons and is instead focused on spending its resources expanding reigning MVP Stephen Curry‘s shoe line as it continues to establish its footwear business. Simmons also is not looking for a shoe deal with a Chinese-based company.

That leaves just two brands for (Simmons’ agent Rich) Paul and Klutch Sports to create a bidding war for Simmons: Nike and adidas….

The idea that a sneaker brand will offer Simmons anywhere near $100 million is out of the question. A more realistic range is believed to be between what former top picks Andrew Wiggins (five years, $11 million with adidas) and John Wall (five years, $25 million with Reebok) each received on their rookie shoe deals. Both deals included several rollback and incentive clauses, which is the industry standard.

In contrast, LeBron had Nike, adidas and Reebok all at the table with serious bids, and when supply outweighs demand people get paid. That ended up being a good deal for Nike, which has done well with the LeBron signature shoe line and has given the man a lifetime contract.

Simmons is going to have to earn those deals with his play on the court.

Report: Carmelo Anthony tells Kurt Rambis to play Grant, youth more

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The traditional pattern in the NBA is as teams fade from playoff contention they increase the playing time for their younger players to get them experience.

In New York, Kurt Rambis is keeping his starting backcourt of Jose Calderon and Sasha Vujacic going while the rookie Jerian Grant and the just better Arron Afflalo come off the bench. Rambis said he would play Grant more, but also has benched him for a half when he struggled.

Now Carmelo Anthony has gone to Rambis and said it’s time to play the youth, reports Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Carmelo Anthony told reporters that he approached other veterans and then Kurt Rambis about giving more minutes to younger players for the rest of the season to develop guys like rookie Jerian Grant. “Those guys need to play, especially right now,” Anthony said according to reports. “… You can practice and do drills and one-on-one things all day long but you only get that experience by playing in an actual game. I think it’s good for them, it’s good for the morale of the team, it’s good for their confidence. Because sometimes in a situation like this, you can lose your confidence. And that’s something we don’t want.”

Give that man a gold star. Or an oversized max contract.

Experience is the best teacher. It can’t be that alone, but with the right coaching to aid it experience helps guys learn quickly. We can see that in the development of teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have played through the mistakes of their young core and have gotten better this season. Same in Detroit. Same in Utah. Same in a lot of places.

The Knicks, as an organization, need to learn how to develop talent. It’s not something they had to do in the past when they could just buy who they wanted (although they haven’t purchased wisely). In today’s NBA, player development is key and it’s why San Antonio is San Antonio. And right now why the Knicks are the Knicks.


Report: Barcelona offered Kobe Bryant chance to play for them, he said no

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Does Kobe Bryant wish he had decided not to come back this season to a struggling Lakers’ squad? Does he wish his career had ended with a different note, maybe a European farewell tour?

He was never likely to do it, but European powerhouse Barcelona made that offer, according to a report in Spanish site mundodeportivo.com, as picked up on by Hoopshype.

The offer, made last summer, was for Kobe to play only in Barcelona’s Euroleague games, which is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer where the top teams from each country’s club leagues face off against each other. It’s the biggest basketball stage in Europe, where Kobe would have played in major markets against name teams. But he turned them down saying he was not physically up for it.

The offer must have been for next season, as Bryant is under contract to the Lakers this season and I can think of 25 million reasons he was not going to get out of that deal to play in Europe. And after watching Kobe Bryant play one half against the Heat and sit on the bench in the second half wrapped like a mummy due to “general soreness” one would think he’s not going to change his mind now about a European vacation.

But if you’re Barcelona, why not try? While you’re at it, put in a call to former Barca star Pau Gasol and see if he wants to return (he will be a free agent this summer ).

Five Takeaways fro NBA Wednesday: Golden State survives and advances

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The takeaways have been on a vacation for a few days. Well, I’ve been on a mini-vacation for a few days (if staying with your in-laws is a vacation, that’s up for debate). But we’re back, just in time for another Warriors’ win and more Lakers drama.

1) Warriors clear last likely major hurdle between them and 73 wins by beating Utah. Most fans may have looked at the last weeks of the Warriors schedule and see those two games against the Spurs as what might keep the Golden State from their 73-win goal. I don’t think so. Gregg Popovich is going to rest guys in those games, especially the one on the road. He’s already accepted the two seed and is scaling back, plus he doesn’t want to tip his hand — the Spurs are going to play NFL preseason vanilla sets and defenses in those games.

No, the toughest test was a hot Utah team with its elite defense, when the Warriors were on the second night of a back-to-back. That test was Wednesday night. Utah lived up the billing, getting strong play from Gordon Hayward on pick-and-rolls (21 points), fantastic shooting from Rodney Hood (20 points), and great play clogging the lane on defense from Rudy Gobert (who finally got some quality minutes in the clutch). When Gordon hit a three in the final minute, it seemed like this may be Utah’s night.

But the Warriors did their version of the NCAA Tournament’s survive and advance. They got 31 points from Stephen Curry on some ridiculous shots (see below). They got another tough defensive and balanced game from Draymond Green. And they got the key game-tying shot to force overtime from Klay Thompson (thanks to the hustle of Shaun Livingston getting an offensive board off a miss and kicking it out). The Warriors overcame a cold shooting night from Harrison Barnes (1-of-8 from three), too many sloppy turnovers, and the fact the Marreese Speights/Anderson Varejao platoon at center is not primetime ready. The Warriors survived and are now 68-7. They are going to get to 73 wins, you could see the determination in this game to get it done when they could have just rolled over. But they also looked like a team where the stars could use a little rest, and that is going to be hard for Steve Kerr to balance with the drive for 73.

2) Forget all the drama off-the-court for a minute, Julius Randle hits game winner to lift Lakers over Heat in OT. Lamar Odom was sitting courtside. D'Angelo Russell was a distraction apologizing to teammates and publicly before the game. Kobe Bryant only played one half before sitting out due to general soreness. But somehow the Lakers thrived in all that drama and beat the Miami Heat in overtime thanks to a Julius Randle shot over a couple defenders. For the Heat, this is a blow — they are in the middle of a tight battle for playoff seeding in the East and this is the kind of game they needed to win. Yet Miami couldn’t force turnovers to get easy buckets, and they let the Lakers get points at the line. Then, with the game in the balance, Luol Deng let Randle get back to his left hand (the cardinal mistake in defending Randle right now) and paid the price after Randle hit the shot to win it.

3) Toronto Raptors get to 50 wins for first time in franchise history. This is officially the best Toronto Raptors team ever — no Raptors team has ever gotten to 50 wins. Until Wednesday. The Raptors got 26 points from DeMar DeRozan, and defensively kept the Hawks starters in check, which was enough for a 105-97 win. The Raptors now have a magic number of three to clinch a top two seed.

Still, this team feels like the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals last season — “great regular season guys, congratulations, but until you show me you can do this in the playoffs it’s all just window dressing.” Hopefully for the Raptors this turns out better than it did for the Bengals.

4) Lamar Odom sat courtside for the Heat/Lakers game. Kobe Bryant left him a couple of tickets, and Lamar Odom accepted — he was at the Miami/Los Angeles contest at Staples Center Wednesday. It was good to see him back in an NBA setting where there is still a lot of love for the man who almost lost his life due to an overdose five months ago. He talked with Kobe and Dwyane Wade among others, plus got a huge ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the big screen. Hopefully Odom is handling his demons.

5) Wizards playoff dreams on life support after loss to Kings.
Washington is not playing like a team trying to make a desperate push into the playoffs — they were apathetic as a team Wednesday night in Sacramento. This was a game the Wizards needed, and they came out flat. Washington turned the ball over 20 times. They had no answer for DeMarcus Cousins (29 points, 10 boards). The Wizards are now 3.5 games back of the eight seed Indiana Pacers for the last playoff spot in the East with just seven games to play. Hard to see them making that ground up (which is going to lead to changes come this summer in Washington).

By the way, the Kings got to 30 wins on the season for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Which isn’t exactly something to brag much about, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

Lamar Odom attended Heat/Lakers game Wednesday night

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Kobe Bryant left him a pair of tickets, and he picked them up and used them.

When he was shown on the big screen at Staples Center Wednesday night, there was a huge ovation.

There is still a lot of love for Lamar Odom. That was evident from the fans and the players — Odom played for both the Lakers and the Heat during his career — as Kobe, Dwyane Wade and numerous other players went and spoke with him during breaks in the game, and when it was over.

This was the first time Odom attended an NBA game since the overdose in a Las Vegas brothel last October.

There are reports Odom is still battling his demons, but whatever else is going on with him he still has a lot of friends and a lot of love from the NBA family. They want to see him do well.