Tag: Dion Waiters

David Blatt

Cavaliers coach David Blatt thought coming to the NBA ‘was going to be a breeze’


When the Cavaliers hired David Blatt to coach the team last summer, it was a very different job than the one he ultimately got.

Blatt was hired long before LeBron James made the decision to return to the franchise, so Blatt believed he’d be charged with rebuilding around Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and the first overall pick in last year’s draft, Andrew Wiggins.

Things changed immediately once James came to town, obviously, and the Cavs started adding pieces around him that would put them in a position to contend for a title, and do so immediately.

Because of the franchise’s sudden change of course, Blatt encountered a far more difficult transition to the NBA than he had initially envisioned.

From the Associated Press (via SLAM):

Blatt — a wildly successful coach in Europe before getting his long-awaited chance to lead an NBA team for the first time last season — was a panelist on Monday at a scouting school in Las Vegas, part of a group that was discussing some of the ways coaches prepare for games at various levels. And he detailed several differences between the European game and the NBA one.

“When I came to the NBA I was under the impression that this was going to be a breeze,” Blatt said. “I’ve been coaching for 23 years at the highest level in Europe. I coached in the national-team environment, coached professional teams, coached Euroleague teams and I thought I thought I knew basketball and I thought I knew how to coach. Which, in my mind, I did.

“But I realized that when I came over here it was a very, very different game with a whole new set of problems and a whole slew of things to deal with inside and outside of the game.”

That “outside of the game” part is what was likely the biggest issue.

Blatt was forced to try to manage the ego of the game’s greatest player, and by most accounts, he failed miserably. LeBron threw him under the bus and diminished his coach’s importance more than once, which forced Blatt to do what he could, while acquiescing to his star player consistently.

The Cavaliers did get to the Finals, though, and Blatt will be back on the sidelines next season — which means he was more than smart enough to eventually figure things out.

Knicks re-sign Lou Amundson

Shelvin Mack, Lou Amundson

The Knicks acquired Lou Amundson as a throw-in in the J.R. Smith-Iman Shumpert-Dion Waiters trade, and they promptly waived him.

Then they re-signed him to a 10-day contract. Then another. Then eventually for the rest of the season.

New York apparently just can’t quit him.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

The New York Knicks and veteran big man Lou Amundson have agreed to a one-year, $1.65 million deal, Amundson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Saturday.

Amundson’s minimum salary next season is $1,362,897, so unless that’s some generous rounding, the Knicks used cap space or the room exception to sign him. The best projection seems to be they used cap space, which leaves the $2,814,000 room exception for someone else.

At 32, Amundson had some nice moments for the Knicks providing hustle last season. He even started 35 games. With Robin Lopez signing in New York, Amundson should see a lesser role, which should serve the Knicks well. He was overextended at times last year.

Amundson is fighting aging, but fewer minutes against starters should help.

As long he can remain so energetic, he’s nice to have around.

NBA Draft Winners, Losers: Miami, Minnesota come away looking good


Trying to assess winners and losers in the immediate aftermath of an NBA Draft is a fool’s errand — we are at least three years out from really knowing who did well. Think back three years, would anyone take Dion Waiters in front of Damian Lillard if you redid the 2012 draft?

That said, we’re going to give it a shot.

I’ll start with this comment: I’m not putting the Knicks in the loser category straight away. Porzingis was not who I would have picked but the guy has upside and a lot of teams like him. If the Knicks can develop him — which is another question — they have a steal. But this is a franchise that has tried the quick fix for years, I don’t completely hate them trying to get the best guy by going slower. If James Dolan lets them stick with it.

Here are our winners and losers from the 2015 NBA Draft.

WINNER: The Miami Heat
(Justise Winslow at No. 10, Josh Richardson at No. 40)
Winslow is the guy the Knicks should have taken at No. 4 (unless you think the Knicks are good at player development suddenly), but instead he falls right into Pat Riley’s lap. He can defend multiple positions at an NBA level right now, plus he showed some versatility to his offense at Duke. He’s going to get most of his offense in transition — the Heat want to run — and he shot 41 percent from three last season. Winslow fell to the perfect team for his style of play, and the Heat catch a big break.

This was going to be the NBA draft with the wild trades, all sorts of player movement, crazy surprises and… not so much. Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr. got traded, but that’s not exactly the kind of wild thrills we had in mind. Look for a lot more movement come the start of free agency on July 1, but this draft did not live up to the hype.

WINNER: The Minnesota Timberwolves
(Karl-Anthony Towns at No. 1, Tyus Jones at No. 24)
Flip Saunders didn’t over think it, he just took the best player on the board with the first pick, a guy who is going to fit beautifully with Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the young core in Minnesota. I also like the move to make a trade and land a quality point guard — he can back up Ricky Rubio… and considering Rubio’s injury history Jones may get a fair amount of run. This is a team on the rise.

LOSER: Atlanta Hawks
(Traded to end up with Tim Hardaway Jr., took Marcus Eriksson at No. 50)
I get trading out of the 15 pick (giving it to the Wizards) for the No. 19 pick, they picked up a couple of second rounders there. But then they traded that No. 19 pick too, when guys who could have helped then like Bobby Portis and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were still on the board. Maybe you can say Hardaway is better than those young stars, but he regressed last season with the Knicks and Mike Budenholzer has some work to do there.

WINNER: The Chicago Bulls
(Bobby Portis at No. 22)
They had only one pick but they made the most of it, drafting a high energy, defense first kind of guy. Tom Thibodeau would have loved him, but alas. To make up for that bulls fans will love this guy because he fights and outworks guys at both ends of the court. He defends well in the paint and on the perimeter. Offensively, put him in a modern offense (like Fred Hoiberg wants to run) and he will get you hustle points and knock down some jumpers. This is just a great fit.

LOSER: The Memphis Grizzlies
(Jarell Martin at No. 25, Andrew Harrison at No. 44)
I don’t get the Martin pick, but this was a guy the Grizzlies loved and promised very early on. Martin’s offensive game suits an up-tempo team, but he struggles when the game grinds down — and all the Grizzlies do is grind. Martin wasn’t even the best forward on his team, the Grizzlies should have taken Jordan Mickey (the Celtics got him at 34, and that helped keep them off the loser list since they badly overreached at 16).

How the Warriors and Cavaliers built championship contenders so quickly

Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving reportedly wanted Harrison Barnes. So did many Cleveland fans. The Cavaliers leaked they did, too.

The Warriors indicated they wanted Dion Waiters.

The Cavaliers drafted Waiters – who shut down workouts (before visiting Cleveland) and then shot up draft boards – No. 4 in the 2012 NBA draft. They either played into Golden State’s gamesmanship or poached the player the Warriors really wanted. Golden State took Barnes No. 7.

Three years later, the Warriors and Cavaliers are no longer sparring in the lottery. They meet in the NBA Finals – hoping to become the first team in seven years to jump from outside the playoffs to a championship so quickly.

Cleveland had the worst-ever four years preceding a conference-finals appearance, let alone the worst lead-up to a conference – or even NBA – title. Before its turnaround that begun in 2012, Golden State made the playoffs just once in 18 years.

How did these downtrodden franchises change their fortunes?

The Warriors have made the most of their opportunities. The Cavaliers have made the most most opportunities.

For Cleveland, everything starts with LeBron James.

When the Cavaliers drafted him in 2003, he immediately set them on a track toward title contention. They never reached the pinnacle, and those hopes exploded in flames of burning jerseys when he left for the Heat in 2010.

But Cleveland immediately began preparing to maximize its next championship window – whenever that might be.

They signed-and-traded LeBron for two first-round picks, the right to swap another first-rounder with Miami and two second-rounders. They accepted Baron Davis’ burdensome contract in exchange for the Clippers’ unprotected first-round pick. They dealt J.J. Hickson to the Kings for Omri Casspi and another first-round pick. They traded Ramon Sessions to the Lakers for a first-rounder and the right to swap future fist-rounders. They helped the Grizzles escape the luxury tax by taking Marreese Speights – and yet another first-round pick as bounty.

Some of those picks have been squandered. The Sacramento pick (which still has not been conveyed) went to Chicago for Luol Deng, who didn’t help Cleveland get anywhere before bolting in free agency.

But others have proven instrumental. The Clippers’ pick won the lottery, sending Kyrie Irving to the Cavaliers. They also had their own pick after a poor season, which resulted in Tristan Thompson.

Infamously, that wasn’t the end of the Cavs’ lottery luck. They won again in 2013 (Anthony Bennett) and 2014 (Andrew Wiggins). In their lone non-lucky lottery since LeBron left, they picked up Waiters.

Essentially, the idea was accumulating assets while the team was bad and then cashing in on them when it became good. The lottery helped immensely, but the underlying plan was sound.

Paying Davis and Speights didn’t bother Cleveland at the time. Spending that money on better players wouldn’t have been enough to make the Cavaliers good, anyway.

Now, every roster upgrade matters, and the Cavaliers have shifted gears.

They sent away Tyler Zeller (acquired with accumulated draft picks in the first place) and another first-rounder to dump Jarrett Jack, clearing the cap space to sign LeBron. They dealt Wiggins, Bennett and a first-rounder acquired in the LeBron sign-and-trade to get Kevin Love. They used Waiters to acquire J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. That deal came with a Thunder first-round pick, which Cleveland packaged with that Memphis first-rounder to get Timofey Mozgov.

The Cavaliers have built a complete team very quickly because they and luck positioned them so strongly entering last summer. I’m sure LeBron wanted to return home, but I doubt he would have signed with Cleveland if its collection of assets weren’t so impressive.

The Cavaliers made plenty of missteps along the way, but they and lottery luck afforded themselves that imperfection.

The Warriors, on the other hand, didn’t have such room for error. They needed to – and did – operate much more shrewdly.

Golden State also relied on fortune – not of lottery luck, but health.

The Warriors traded Monta Ellis for an injured Andrew Bogut in 2012 – a highly controversial deal at the time – and Bogut didn’t play the rest of that season. Curry was also done for the year due to an ankle injury.

Golden State was essentially building around two injured players.

And it couldn’t have worked any better.

Bogut and Curry got healthy, but not before the Warriors tanked their way into keeping their top-seven protected 2012 first-rounder and Curry agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract extension.

Barnes became that pick, and Curry’s bargain extension gave Golden State a ton of flexibility to upgrade the rest of the roster. So did the team’s best 2012 draft pick – second-rounder Draymond Green, who like most second-rounders, signed for near the minimum.

The Warriors used some of that flexibility (necessarily furthered by a salary dump on the Jazz) to sign Andre Iguodala in 2013 and add Shaun Livingston last year.

They also took a huge risk – firing Mark Jackson, who’d helped the team escape its decades-long rut, and hiring first-time coach Steve Kerr. Of course, it has worked beautifully. Green, Barnes and Klay Thompson have blossomed this season, and the team is clicking on both ends of the court.

This is the culmination of Golden State’s plan, but the road gets more difficult from here.

Green becomes a restricted free agent this summer, and he’ll surely command a max contract. That would take the Warriors into the luxury tax, so they’ll have to pay big to keep this group together.

Likewise, the Cavaliers are running out of future assets to trade in for immediate help. They also have the urgent task of keeping Love, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Both franchises face difficult decisions in the years ahead.

But title windows are difficult to crack ajar, let alone prop open for extend periods of time.

Golden State and Cleveland have done both. Whatever happens in the Finals, these teams should remain in contention for the next few years.

And to think, not long ago, they were trying to misdirect each other about selecting Dion Waiters high in the draft.

LeBron James: ‘I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season’

LeBron James

The Cavaliers have made it to the NBA Finals, just as many expected the moment that LeBron James announced his return, and the deal to acquire Kevin Love via trade had been completed.

But James himself had his doubts.

LeBron was careful not to make the same elaborate championship promises that he did when leaving Cleveland the first time to join the Miami Heat. He was coming into a completely new situation, with a rookie NBA head coach and young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters who, along with Love, had never experienced the postseason.

After the sweep of the Hawks was complete, and James had time to reflect on the accomplishment, he admitted that getting to the Finals in his first season with this club was something he never envisioned.

“To be at this point tonight sitting up here talking to you guys, like I said, it’s very emotional,” James said at the postgame podium. “Could I foresee this? At the beginning of the season, I couldn’t. I couldn’t foresee us being in The Finals at the beginning of the season because I just knew that we just had to get better and I just saw how young we were and how young‑minded we were at that point in time. But I knew I had to lead these guys, and if they just followed my leadership, I knew I could get them to a place where they haven’t been before.”

Look at all that’s happened since James signed on:

– Anderson Varejao was lost for the season due to injury.

– Dion Waiters was traded out of town.

– J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov were added via midseason trades.

– Kevin Love was lost for the remainder of the season in the first round of the playoffs.

– J.R. Smith was suspended for the first two games of the second round.

– Kyrie Irving missed two Conference Finals games with a knee injury — both of which were Cavaliers victories.

And there’s probably even more that could be mentioned.

James was right to doubt whether or not his goal could be accomplished with the team he joined in July. But the one that remains standing and will play in the Finals in June should be more than capable of competing with whoever comes out of the Western Conference.