Kurt Helin

Washington Wizards v Sacramento Kings

Gilbert Arenas goes full hibachi at county fair hoops game, gets all the stuff animals

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Even if this is staged I don’t care, it’s the best Instagram of the NBA summer:

I would like to think that between bites of his deep-fried peanut butter-stuffed pickle, Wasabi bacon bombs, and caviar covered twinkie, Gilbert Arenas walked up to those crooked-rim hoop games at the Orange County Fair and went off like he was dropping 60 on the Lakers.

Arenas may become the next Peter Drako.

Good to see Arenas back in the news for being hysterical, rather than less pleasant reasons.

Phil Jackson says Knicks wanted Goran Dragic at trade deadline. Because he’s such a triangle fit?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:   New York Knicks president Phil Jackson watches from the stands as his team plays the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.   The Knicks won 101-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Rule No. 1 about winning in the NBA: It’s all about the talent.

Gregg Popovich is brilliant, but he’s not wearing rings without Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tony Parker and the others. Phil Jackson was the master at getting great players to buy into a team concept, but he had great players, from Michael Jordan through Kobe Bryant.

And Jackson knows if he wants to turn the Knicks around, he needs exceptional talent. Like maybe Goran Dragic — when healthy one of the better point guards in the NBA. In his conversations during the season with his old friend Charlie Rosen (now published at ESPN), Jackson talked about eyeing Dragic at the trade deadline last February.

“Goran Dragic, for one. I heard through the grapevine that he was open to coming here. We worked hard on that possibility, but the asking price was too dear. Maybe we worked on that possibility so much so that it distracted us. I mean, Dragic is every team’s current choice for a nuclear option — a guard who can penetrate and either score or kick. Guys like Chris Paul and James Harden. But, anyway, that’s not really the way I want us to play.”

As a reminder, the Jackson and the Knicks moved first, on Jan. 5, took part in a three-team trade that sent Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to Cleveland. On Feb. 19 the Suns moved Dragic to the Heat in another three-team trade, which netted the Suns Danny Granger, John Salmons, and the real prize of two future first round picks (2017 and 2021). Dragic then re-signed with the Heat this summer.

But it’s the last line that is the most interesting from Jackson: “But, anyway, that’s not really the way I want us to play.” Dragic, like any traditional point guard who needs the ball in his hands, is not a fit in the triangle.

Jackson wants to validate his vision of the triangle in a new era. He wants an unselfish team where players cut and move off the ball, where the system is as big a star as the players. Like the Hawks, I guess.

But the system is only going to be as good as the players in it. What both the Bulls and Lakers for Jackson did well was put in role players who fit and bought into the system around their elite stars. Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, Pippen, etc. would have been successful regardless of the system. We can debate whether Carmelo Anthony can be one of those elite stars, but there is no debate the Knicks need more of them. Maybe Kristaps Porzingis can be, but we’re a few years from finding that out for sure. In the short term, the Knicks did a good job getting solid role players like Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez that will work in the triangle. That’s a start.

As much as changing the culture and putting in a system, Jackson knows he needs more elite players if he is going to bring a title back to NYC. Even if that means bending the triangle a little to make them work.

Jackson knows, he can talk all he wants about system and style, it comes down to talent first. Restock that cupboard and the triangle will look great again.

Report: Thunder, Grizzlies, Mavericks interested in Mike Miller

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two
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Mike Miller signed with Cleveland for last season following LeBron James north from Miami. That season didn’t work out the way Miller wanted. Off the court, he was an important part of the locker room chemistry, but on the court he fell out of favor early with the Cavs coaching staff and averaged 2.1 points per game during the season. In the Finals, it took a lot of injuries for David Blatt to call Miller’s number, and even then it was in small doses.

Sunday the Cavaliers traded Miller to Portland. However, the Trail Blazers are expected to buy Miller out; they are a rebuilding team who made that trade to get the picks, not an aging veteran.

Once that buyout happens, where might Miller the free agent land? Marc Stein of ESPN had some potential early answers.

The Thunder? Interesting, in that Miller played for new OKC coach Billy Donovan in college and the two are still close to this day. Miller and Kevin Durant are tight.

But here’s the problem: The Thunder already have a roster of 14 guaranteed contracts and have yet to sign first-round pick Josh Huestis. That’s 15, the max allowed. The Thunder don’t have space for him. Memphis is at 15 as well. Someone (not me) must have pointed this out to Stein.

He wants to be on a contender, and he wants to play. The most likely way that happens is Miller starts the season on the NBA sidelines, but when injuries flare up on a team his phone rings.

What he can bring that team at this point on the court is up for debate. But the timing of this move likely leaves him standing and without a chair when the music stops and the season tips off.

Gary Vitti, Laker trainer for everyone from Magic through Kobe Bryant, to retire after next season

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks
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When Gary Vitti first interviewed for the job, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the star Lakers players for coach Pat Riley. It was 1984, and Vitti wasn’t sure he wanted the job.

He took it and for 32 years has been the Lakers trainer and confidant to players. Magic, Kareem, through Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, to the current crop of Lakers. He’s lasted through Riley, Phil Jackson, Mike D’Antoni and every other coach to come through the doors. He’s got eight championship rings.

And after this next season, the dean of NBA trainers is walking away. Hanging up his tape, as it were.

Vitti, a part of the Laker fabric, talked about it with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

“From a basketball standpoint, the greatest championship would be 1985, the first time we beat Boston,” Vitti said as he slowly consumed an open-faced gyro at an upscale Manhattan Beach restaurant near his home. “We lost to the Celtics the year before and should have beat them. A lot of my interview with Riley was him talking about that. He said to me, ‘We need to win.'”

Vitti has had a special place within the Lakers. He’s a liaison between the players and coaches/front office. He sits close to Byron Scott on the bench. It’s a job he has grown into and is passionate about. When the Lakers health fortunes turned on the team in the past few years, some of the louder than smart Lakers fans online blamed Vitti. Wiser fans knew that what happened to Steve Nash’s nerves, Kobe’s Achilles, Julius Randle’s leg, and on down the list were not on the training staff.

Vitti could have stayed on as long as he wanted. But it’s time, he said.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

If Vitti ever writes a biography of his time with the team, that will be a must read.

Report: Cavaliers trade Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller, two second-round picks to Portland

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers
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The question was not if but when and where the Cavaliers would trade Brendan Haywood — more accurately, his $10.5 non-guaranteed contract — and what would the price be.

The answers turned out to be Sunday, to Portland, and they threw in Mike Miller and a couple second round picks, for cash.

The expected trade of Haywood has been confirmed by everyone west of the Mississipi. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports had it first.

The Cavaliers will have two separate trade exceptions – $10.5 million and $2.85 million – that they’ll have one calendar year to use. The Cavaliers can use a trade exception to acquire a player under contract in a deal. Those salaries count against the salary cap, but don’t impact luxury tax payments.

The deal could spare the Cavaliers nearly $10 million in salary and luxury tax payments.

Let’s break down what everybody gets out of this and why they did it.

CLEVELAND:
• The two trade exceptions, $10.5 million and $2.85 million, which can be used to bring in a player mid-season without sending anyone out.
• The Cavaliers likely never use those trade exceptions, making this a move about saving money — almost $10 million when all is said and done. The Cavaliers are already flirting with the $84.7 million tax line without having yet re-signed Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, and probably J.R. Smith. Former Nets executive Bobby Marks summed it up well on Twitter.

PORTLAND:
• Two second-round picks. The first in 2019 is the better of the Timberwolves or Lakers picks (the Cavs have the rights to both). The second is the Cavaliers own pick in 2020.
• Portland will waive Haywood, saving his non-guaranteed money.
• Portland is expected to negotiate a buyout with Miller, allowing the veteran to hook up with an interested contender (he cannot re-sign with the Cavaliers for a year). Whatever he takes less than the $2.85 million he is owed is money the Blazers saves.
• Bottom line, the Blazers just bought two second round picks at $1.4 million apiece.

Who won the trade? It’s not going to move the needle for either team on the court in the short term. So would you prefer to save money or pick up a couple extra future draft picks?