Kurt Helin

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo takes Michael Carter-Williams to school at Team USA scrimmage (VIDEO)

7 Comments

One final look back at the entertaining, defense-free Team USA scrimmage on Thursday that was at the end of mini-camp in Las Vegas…

Michael Carter-Williams does not exactly have a reputation for defensive excellence on a good day, and Victor Oladipo of the Magic completely exposes that during the exhibition game. It makes for a good dunk.

Don’t expect to see either of them in Rio for the 2016 Olympics.

Charles Barkley predicts Knicks will make the playoffs

22 Comments

Last season, the Knicks were 11 games out of the playoffs. In the East, where a rotation of warm bodies and a couple of guys where you say “they’re not bad” gets you in the playoff conversation.

After a solid free agent summer — despite Carmelo Anthony’s frustration — are the Knicks now a playoff team?

None other than the Round Mound of Rebound Charles Barley said yes they are, in an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

This isn’t crazy. Or even wrong.

Let’s do a surface breakdown of the East:

Tier 1) Cleveland Cavaliers. They are the best team in the East. Maybe one of the teams in tier two can rise up and challenge them, but the Cavaliers set the bar and are the team to beat in the East.

Tier 2) Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks. This may be the most interesting grouping in the NBA next season (either them or the top five in the West) — each team has both potential and real questions. Maybe one rises up and challenges Cleveland (not Milwaukee yet), maybe a team falls, but they are all likely playoff teams.

Tier 3) New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, Orlando Magic. One, maybe two (depending on injuries), of these teams make the playoffs next season, and you can make a case for or against any one of them. There are questions about the roster and development in each case, and with veterans such as Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez, the Knicks may be ahead of the curve.

Personally, I think Detroit and Boston are ahead of the Knicks, but that is opinion, not fact. If the Knicks prove me wrong and finish higher on this curve, that is not a huge shock. Picking them to make the playoffs is not out of line.

Don’t worry, Charles Barkley will say something wildly out of line soon enough. Just be patient.

Michael Carter-Williams off the backboard to Blake Griffin for the dunk (VIDEO)

Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Leave a comment

Team USA’s Vegas showcase Thursday was an exhibition apparently played in a defense-free zone — even in the NBA All-Star Game guys try a little on the defensive end come the fourth quarter — so you get plays like this:

Michael Carter-Williams off the backboard to Blake Griffin for the finish.

You can say that’s not like real basketball, but for Team USA it does resemble the round-robin group stage of Olympic play.

LeBron James: “Our No. 1 objective right now” is to get Tristan Thompson signed

lebronthompson
20 Comments

Tristan Thompson is a restricted free agent who wants a max contract extension. The Cleveland Cavaliers are offering less than that. Considerably less according to some reports. The two sides are at an impasse and have dug in.

LeBron James just wants to see a deal get done.

LeBron both shares an agent with Thompson and doesn’t care about the tax bill Dan Gilbert would have to pay, he just wants to see his friend and teammate get paid. He didn’t phrase it that way, but he may as well have speaking to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“Our No. 1 objective right now is to sign Tristan,” James said Thursday at Cedar Point amusement park. “He’s a huge part of our team. Short term and long term he makes our team more dangerous….

“Things need to be worked out from his side and the Cavs, but we need him back,” James said. “I think our front office has done a great job this summer. The next step is to get Tristan done.”

This week Thompson’s agent ratcheted up the rhetoric, saying Thompson would consider playing next season for the $6.8 million qualifying offer but then would be gone for sure in 2017 as a restricted free agent. The two sides have until Halloween to figure out a contract extension or that is what happens.

This is an unprecedented situation because of the coming spike in the salary cap due to the flood of money from the new television deal about to wash over the league (the $70 million salary cap this season is expected to jump up to around $90 million next season). Thompson is a young big man with a skill — he is an excellent offensive rebounder. Last season he averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds a game, that bounced to 9.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in the postseason, where due to an injury to Kevin Love he was pressed into service.

Look at those numbers and you say Thompson is not a max player, he should take the reported less than $80 million on the table (he wants $94 million over five years). Most years, Thompson would have little leverage and probably takes the deal. There are no teams willing to give him a big offer sheet that would force the Cavaliers to match it, and all that money he would lose would not be something he could get back.

But this isn’t most years. Because the salary cap is going to spike next season, the max salary numbers will also and so Thompson can make his lost money back. What’s more, with an expected two-thirds of the teams in the league going to have max contract money available next summer and only a handful of decent free agents, some guys are going to get max deals that don’t necessarily deserve it. Thompson is one of those — he would get paid next summer.

The concern for the Cavaliers is the luxury tax. After re-signing Kevin Love and LeBron James, plus bringing in Mo Williams and others the Cavs are $4 million over the tax line right now. Look at it this way: If Thompson plays for the qualifying offer the Cavaliers tax bill would be around $13 million (in addition to the team’s salary), but pay him the max and that jumps to $35 million. And that is with J.R. Smith still out there unsigned and adding to the bill.

I expect the two sides to reach a deal before the deadline, maybe before camp. But because Thompson has some leverage it’s not a certainty, and Thompson’s agent can play the long game.

 

Andre Drummond went off, Klay Thompson had highlight of night in Team USA scrimmage

Andre Drummond, Michael Carter-Williams
6 Comments

It was a meaningless exhibition that had less defense then your Saturday morning pickup game at the Y. Or a Chinese league game. Or a Summer League game. If you catch an NFL preseason game this weekend, you’ll see more defense. I think you get the point.

Still, there were some entertaining moments out of the USA Basketball exhibition game Thursday night in Las Vegas — and everybody got out healthy, which is what really matters.

Andre Drummond seemed to take things more seriously and had 27 points and 16 rebounds. I kept thinking of Apollo Creed’s trainer in Rocky: “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!” Aside that DeMarcus Cousins made some plays on his birthday, Victor Oladipo and Blake Griffin made some plays, and a good time was had by all.

The guy who had the roughest night? DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors wing missed a lot of jumpers on a night when nobody was contesting them. Then Klay Thompson did this to him.

I didn’t know Thompson had that in him, although he may want to work a little on the alley-oop pass at the end.