Kurt Helin

FBL-US-BARCELONA

Things Pau Gasol thinks are funny: Him, Kobe finishing careers with Barcelona

10 Comments

There is 0.000001 percent chance of this happening (go ahead, use your Dumb and Dumber line here), but I found this tweet too funny not to pass along (plus, it’s August, what else is there to talk about?).

At this point, I seriously doubt Pau Gasol — or, for that matter Marc Gasol — decide to finish out their careers returning to play a year or two for Barcelona in the Spanish ABC League and eating some Escalivada. For them, however, it remains a faint possibility.

For Kobe Bryant? Are you kidding me?

Yes, he spent part of his formative years in Europe while his dad played there, but those were some of his dad’s peak years. Kobe isn’t going to pull his daughters out of school and away from their friends for a year like that to extend his career (he’s doing pretty well financially). Moreover, he’s not going to play for a year at a lower level of competition than the NBA just to grow his brand — he doesn’t need to add EuroBasket champion to his resume. Even if he were going to sell out overseas, he’d go do it in China, where he all but walks on water (and sells more shoes).

As much as Gasol found this amusing, I find it funny somebody even bothered to ask him.

Kenneth Faried focused on defense this season

Oklahoma City Thunder v Denver Nuggets
7 Comments

Last season Kenneth Faried came in on a high — he had been the full Manimal for Team USA at the World Cup, and he rode that to a four-year, $50 million extension. But while Coach K liked and knew how to use Faried, Brian Shaw was a different story. Shaw asked Faried to do things on offense he couldn’t do well, kept changing his role, and the coach was understandably frustrated with Faried’s defense, so he jerked his minutes around. With that Faried’s trademark energy came and went.

Faried looked better under interim coach Melvin Hunt (after Shaw was let go), averaging 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and shooting 52.5 percent in the final 19 games of the season. Faried showed off an improved post-up game and that fueled his famous energy on the glass and around the court. New Nuggets coach Mike Malone needs to harness that Faried, the one Coach K found (although that USA team was loaded with other players that were a higher priority for defenses, giving Faried space to operate). If the Nuggets are going to get out and run more (as Malone has said) then Faried should thrive, he can finish the break or sprint to the post and be effective either way.

Faried said his focus this season is on the other end of the ball. From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post.

“My defense, I’ve focused on that,” Faried said in a phone interview from Johannesburg, where he played in NBA Africa Game 2015 on Saturday. “I’ve been watching film on guys that I consider my toughest matchups, and I’ve been able to dissect them so that when the season comes around I’m able to guard those players — and become the player I want to be, and that’s hopefully defensive player of the year one day and first-team all-defense.”

 

Faried has the physical tools to be a solid defender, but the manic energy that served him well on the other end of the court was both missing and just misguided on defense. It improved last season, and if Faried can continue to turn that around he becomes a much more valuable player.

And a more valuable trade asset.

Faried was shopped around all summer, and you can be sure Denver isn’t done seeing if there is a suitor for him. The Nuggets want a locker room culture change and moving Ty Lawson was just step one, Faried could be on the move as well. He makes a lot of money and is an undersized four — one who has started to show he can be more than an energy glue guy — and the Nuggets think there will be a market for him.

In the past, when Faried has been on the trade block his play has noticeably dipped — he’s not been able to compartmentalize his life and keep the off-the-court stuff from impacting his play on it. Maybe he has matured and gotten used to that side of the NBA business.

Malone got the most out of DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, he may be able to do the same for Faried. If so his trade value goes up — as will the difficulty of the decision for the Nuggets because maybe he will fit with their future.

Especially if his defense improves.

Can Washington get Bradley Beal to take less than a max contract extension?

Charlotte Hornets v Washington Wizards
14 Comments

Is Bradley Beal a max player?

The answer isn’t simple. Remember that there are levels of max player (nobody is saying Beal is Anthony Davis). Beal is both looking for an extension of his rookie deal and is certainly a core part of Washington’s future. Those kinds of guys get max money. On the down side, he was inconsistent last season and has missed time for three straight seasons due to a stress reaction in his leg. On the upside, he shot 40.9 percent from three last season, and he led Washington with 23.4 points a game in the playoffs. This is a guy invited to Team USA mini-camp this month — Mike Krzyzewski sees his value.

The sides are talking, and you can be sure Beal and his agent Mark Bartelstein are asking for the max.

But for Washington there is another complication — Kevin Durant. The Wizards need the cap space to try to bring next summer’s biggest free agent home to play in the nation’s capital (although that is a longshot), and a max deal for Beal makes that difficult, as Zach Lowe explains at Grantland.

The Wizards need about $25.5 million in room to fit Kevin Durant on a max contract, and if they sign Beal to a max-level extension, they would have almost precisely that amount left over. Playing the math that tight is dangerous, and makes it hard to fill a workable roster unless ring-chasers come aboard at massive discounts. The Wiz would be safer following the path San Antonio took with Leonard, only they haven’t built up the cachet that allowed the Spurs to say, essentially, “Trust us. Hold tight as a cheap cap hold, and we’ll make it worth your while.” Washington needs to nurture the good vibes, and that means at least coming to the table.

Beal may want his money now, and his side will surely propose a max-level extension. He hasn’t played up to that level yet, but 22 year olds with silky strokes and some grit on defense don’t readily accept less.

You can be sure this is where the negotiations are right now. The Wizards are likely offering just less than the max by a few million, just to give them some financial flexibility. Beal is asking for the max.

Will Beal take a little less for financial security, considering that stress reaction history? If he stays healthy this season, other teams will throw max money at him next summer when the system is flush with television money teams need to spend.

But is Beal going to bet on himself to stay healthy and have a big year? Or does he take a little less and four years of security?

The lesson of this free agent summer was guys went for security over potentially slightly larger paydays down the line. Don’t be surprised if Beal does the same.

Kobe Bryant says he feels good, strong heading into next season

BET Experience At L.A. LIVE
7 Comments

Kobe Bryant has played 41 games over the last two seasons due to injury, but he’s not about to let injuries dictate the end of his career. He’s back and ready to roll when Lakers training camp opens in late September in Hawaii.

But is his body ready for the grind? He told Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports that it is.

“The body is good. I feel good. … My lower body is solid. There are no question marks on what I can do. My body and my legs feel extremely strong and healthy. That’s the big difference. My upper body, I’ve been doing the weights and stuff like that. I’ve been kind of building up the upper body strength. The biggest change is I feel very, very solid in my legs.”

File this under “what did you expect him to say?”

What we know for sure is that Kobe put in the work to get ready. There is no doubt he’s done the rehab, spent time in the weight room getting stronger, and spent time in the gym working on his moves and getting up shots.

What we don’t know — what nobody knows — is how his body will respond to the grind at age 37 (he turns that later this month).

For his sake, I hope he’s got one more good season in him, one more tour where his body stays healthy. One more season where we get to see his polished game — the footwork in the post, the ability to get to the elbow and get his shot. He was given impressive physical gifts, but nobody worked harder to get as much out of those as Kobe. I want to see all that on display for one more run.

Then he can drive his Ferrari off into the sunset with no regrets.

Blake Griffin vs. Marvin the Martian in dunk contest/Nike ad

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers
6 Comments

It’s another sign that Space Jam 2 is coming.

Blake Griffin and Marvin the Martian have teamed up to sell the new Jordan Brand Superfly 4s, and the ad is pretty good. I’m good with Griffin winning a dunk contest where he doesn’t jump over a car.