Trail Blazers fans will not be so forgiving. Boos will rain down on LaMarcus Aldridge next time he sets foot in the Rose Garden.
While the NBA business model is built on fans having deep emotional ties to a franchise, players and team management knows it’s a cold-hearted business.
As last season moved along the Trail Blazers knew more and more that Aldridge was going to bolt town as a free agent (he eventually joined the San Antonio Spurs to become a contender there). Now that it’s over Damian Lillard wished Aldridge well, and now Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said essentially the same thing, talking to the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn.
“I knew it was going to be a close decision — it wasn’t an easy decision for him and it came down to the last minute,” Stotts said. “I certainly respect his decision and it was a difficult one. And personally I thanked him for the three years I was here with him. He earned the right to be a free agent and we’re certainly going to miss him. But we move on.”
What else was Stotts going to say? He looks bad ripping Aldridge and that would get the attention of agents who might want to send their client to Portland in the future. Stott’s attitude is what you see around the league — it’s a business. You move on.
Portland secured Lillard with a max deal this summer to be their foundation to rebuild around — he certainly speeds the process.
Now it becomes about drafting, finding young talent, and player development in Portland. They made some nice moves this summer, getting Mason Plumlee and taking a shot on Noah Vonleh, who looked good at Summer League. It’s a different role for Stotts and staff, but if they do it well, Portland is positioned to bounce back much more quickly than other teams trying to rebuild right now.
Guys want to play in the Olympics.
There is injury risk — just ask Paul George. Players don’t get as much summer downtime to rest their bodies in the offseason. It doesn’t matter. The chance to represent the USA — and grow their personal brand on a massive international marketing stage like the Olympics — has players lining up for the chance to play in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. (Oh yea, Rio is another reason guys are lining up.)
That means those players will be at the Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas in early August. We knew Carmelo Anthony would be there even though he cannot fully participate, now you can add Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to the list. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN had the Griffin news.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin will participate in next month’s USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas and hopes to play in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a league source told ESPN.
Griffin is one of those guys who has had injury issues with Team USA. Remember in 2012 he was likely to make the London Olympics roster but tore his meniscus in training camp after stepping on John Wall’s foot during practice. His back injury sidelined him two years ago from the FIBA World Cup.
Then there are the Warriors stars.
The camp also will be crowded with guys like Jimmy Butler of the Bulls trying to earn a roster spot. Stein says as many as 40 guys could be at camp, including Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee. It’s an important place to make an impression. Players with a long Team USA history and enough talent don’t need to attend — if LeBron James or Kevin Durant want to play in Rio, they are in no matter what they do this summer.
Whoever makes the cut for Mike Krzyzewski’s team, the USA will go to Rio the heavy favorites to win the Gold Medal again. Spain — if both Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol go — will again likely be the biggest challengers.
If you haven’t been following Bobby Marks this summer on Twitter… you call yourself an NBA fan? The former Brooklyn Nets front office executive has been bringing first-hand, insightful front office thoughts and knowledge to the Twitter table all through free agency. He’s now an NBA must follow.
Sunday morning he put up a series of tweets showing how every team has built its roster using three categories: Draft, trades, and free agency. (For clarification, he counts draft-day trades of rookies as part of the draft.) I thought this was too good not to pass along.
One big takeaway — the draft matters. A lot.
Sure, much of the Spurs contending roster came via free agency, but look who is in the draft column — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili. The Clippers are not where they are without drafting Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The Warriors drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Thunder drafted Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Yes, the Cavaliers got LeBron James via free agency but does he come if they don’t draft Kyrie Irving? Maybe the most extreme example is the Pelicans, they have only one drafted player on the roster — Anthony Davis.
Fans love trades, and you can get cornerstone pieces that way (James Harden, Chris Paul, Marc Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, etc.). Free agency is exciting and sometimes big names like LeBron, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, or LaMarcus Aldridge move teams. But the draft is where most teams that have a cornerstone player got them. Winning the draft and holding on to those guys is what matters more than anything else.
The Oklahoma City Thunder seem to be the forgotten contender out West. They’ve got Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka healthy, a strong set of role players, they should be in the mix. There are questions — can Billy Donovan elevate this team as the coach? — but they should not be left off the list.
In a good sign, Durant and Westbrook got 10 of the guys together in Los Angeles for a week of workouts. From Barry Trammel of the Oklahoman (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“It was really cool,” said the president of the fraternity, fellow by the name of Kevin Durant. “It was fun, good to see everybody. Haven’t seen all the guys since the end of the season.”
Durant chatted on the phone for a few minutes Thursday about the off-season workouts he and his pals put together this week. Ten Thunder players are working out together in an old gym on the UCLA campus. Working on their games. Connecting and reconnecting with teammates and coaches, new and old….
“Feels like we’re coming in at the same time,” Durant said. “We always want that tight-knit family atmosphere. We’ve had that (in the past). It can always get better. This week was a step in the right direction for us. We all enjoy being around each other. That was the best part of it.”
NBA players, sometimes teammates, getting together in a small group (maybe three) is not uncommon. Especially at UCLA, which has one of the best off-season runs going. However getting 10 teammates together, working out and bonding in July, is very rare.
It’s a good sign in you’re a Thunder fan.
The Thunder need to stay healthy after a season where they got more than their fair share of injuries. They need Donovan to bring a modern offense to the table. They need their defense to be elite. They need the Enes Kanter/Steven Adams center rotation to work. They need some breaks to go their way in a West stacked with contenders (the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, and Rockets are in the mix, too).
But 10 guys getting together in July? That’s a very good place to start.
Gregg Popovich is an oenophile who’s got his own Pinot Noir. His love of wine is well known, but he is serious — he has a 3,000 bottle above-ground wine cellar in his home.
Now he has a little competition in the NBA wine game — Dwyane Wade has his own wine (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
Popovich makes a Pinot Noir, Wade a Cabernet. And suddenly I’m thinking of one of the monologue from “Sideways.”
(Pinot is) a hard grape to grow, as you know. It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention, and in fact it can only grow in these really specific little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it.
Pinot fits Popovich’s style perfectly.
You can decide of Wade really is Cab. Or is he more of a Merlot?