Associated Press

Report: Lottery reform will really help teams in middle of lottery

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Tanking in the NBA is a problem more of perception than reality — Adam Silver and the league office doesn’t like that there are portions of team’s fan bases rooting for their team to lose. It doesn’t like that tanking is openly discussed on radio shows and online. Combine that with the resting of star players on the road, and in nationally televised games, and the league sees sports talk radio talking points as real problems for the league’s image.

Spreading out the NBA’s schedule is done, and with that the resting of players’ in those high-profile games will decrease (of course, if teams want to sit LeBron James or Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard in a nationally televised game, they will just say he has a sore back/ankle/shoulder that needs rest).

Lottery reform looks like it will pass as well, even though it’s putting a band-aid on a broken leg. The league’s new rules will decrease and flatten out the odds at the top of the lottery, and it will reward the teams more in the middle, according to a new report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

 The worst three teams’ odds would now have an equal chance at the No. 1 overall pick: 14 percent. Presently, the teams with the three worst records have descending chances of 25 percent, 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent. Also, the worst record can drop as far as No. 5 in the new lottery proposal, down from No. 4….

Teams in the Nos. 7-10 range will have a stronger chance to move up into the top three picks, ESPN has learned, with No. 7’s chances improving from 15 percent to 23, No. 8 from 10 percent to 19 percent, No. 9 from six percent to 15 percent and No. 10 from four percent to 10 percent.

He adds that the odds for the three teams at the top of the lottery — picks 11, 12, and 13 — increase only a couple of percentage points, which the league believes means teams will not try to tank their way out of the playoffs and into the lottery. There is extra money in terms of ticket sales and revenue — at least $5 million for a couple home games — for teams that get into the postseason, and that money can matter to teams.

That said, teams are still going to tank for picks. The league seems to be chasing the ghost of Sam Hinkie with this proposal, trying to make it less likely teams go on a multiple year deep dive, but that was never really a problem anyway — few owners would have the stomach for that, and the one that did (Joshua Harris in Philly) eventually bowed to the pressure from the league and others and canned Hinkie as GM. No GM is trying to put his job at risk with a rebuilding plan.

Tanking will continue because teams need one of the game’s franchise changing stars — of which there are maybe 10 in the league at any one given time — to compete at the highest levels, and for 24 or so markets the only way to get that player is via the draft. What’s more, land that player and thanks to the CBA, teams control that player for four years at a very affordable salary, then thanks to extensions/restricted free agency the team can keep that player for another four or five years. They have this great talent locked in for at least eight or nine years (for example, Kevin Durant spent nine years in Seattle/Oklahoma City before moving on, same with LeBron the first time he left Cleveland, and that list goes on). Now with the “designated player” designation — call it the Kevin Durant rule — teams are more likely to keep that star for another four or five years beyond that.

If you really want to end tanking, make rookie contracts two years then they become unrestricted free agents. Now the motivation to tank for a pick goes away, but of course, small and mid-market teams would rightfully complain about that because then they will have a very hard time keeping talent around.

Bottom line, if you have a truly elite player you win more basketball games, and for most teams the only way to get that player is the draft — so tanking will continue. It’s a smart strategy to rebuild.

The new lottery odds will pass, and they are not a bad thing, but it is far more about perception than reality. And you can be sure there will be unintended consequences.

Report: Andre Iguodala nearly left Warriors for Rockets

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Remember those mid-June rumors about Andre Iguodala already agreeing on a salary to re-sign with the Warriors?

The tide sure changed in a hurry.

Iguodala put out word that he was open to leaving, pressuring tax-conscious Golden State. He met with the Lakers, Spurs, Kings and Rockets.

Houston particularly intrigued him despite reportedly offering just four years, $32 million. The Rockets could have offered $37,658,880 with the mid-level exception, though they wanted to save a sliver to give Zhou Qi a four-year deal – and that still would’ve fallen short of other offers. They also discussed signing-and-trading for Iguodala, but they pitched him on a defensive unit that included him, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza. What else would Houston have intrigued the Warriors with?

And would Iguodala really have left Golden State, an all-time great team that positioned him to win 2015 NBA Finals MVP and a team that played near Silicon Valley?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

The Warriors had been in the dark for a day and a half and contacted representatives of free-agent small forwards Rudy Gay and Gerald Henderson as a contingency plan. But Myers immediately hopped on a plane from the Bay Area and Kerr was already in Los Angeles, having recently visited with free agent Nick Young. They didn’t know it, but Iguodala’s objective in sitting down with them was to personally say goodbye, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.

Myers and Kerr came prepared to offer him a fully guaranteed, three-year deal worth $45 million and reiterated that their latest offer still wasn’t indicative of what they believed to be his true worth. Their hands were just tied.

There was little hope for a resolution at this point. Iguodala wasn’t budging from his request to make at least $16 million per year. If the Warriors didn’t improve their offer, he was signing with the Rockets, sources said.

After an hour, both sides departed and a breakup appeared likely. Iguodala’s camp proceeded to discuss their options. The Warriors’ top reserve was inching closer to becoming a top reserve for the Rockets. But before Rosenthal was to call Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Antonio and Golden State to notify them of his client’s decision, sources said Iguodala elected to make his final, most defining move yet: calling Golden State one more time.

That of course ended with the Warriors stepping up with a three-year, fully guaranteed $48 million contract, which Iguodala signed.

I recommend reading Haynes’ captivating look into Iguodala’s free agency in full. But keep this in mind: Iguodala won his negotiation with Golden State, and it’s in his best interest to continue a harmonious relationship with the organization. That means, if he were bluffing about leaving in order to secure a bigger offer from the Warriors, he’s incentivized not to show his cards now. He’s better off keeping up the story, making the Warriors believe they didn’t pay more than necessary to keep him.

Warriors’ Jordan Bell on defending LeBron: “I just played the best defense of my life. It didn’t matter.”

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Welcome to the NBA, Jordan Bell.

Fans that want to rip on the NBA — casual ones who clearly don’t watch the games — will say there is no defense in the Association. Which is flat-out wrong. First off, NBA defenses are far superior to the college game these same fans often laud. NBA defenses also are better than they were 20 years ago, the allowing of zones has led to defenders having to make split-second switching and rotation decisions that were not on the table for guys in the 1990s, they just had to stick with their man.

The real lesson even the best NBA defenders learn quickly is, often it doesn’t matter. NBA players are so offensively gifted they just score anyway. Good offense beats good defense.

Jordan Bell, the Warriors rookie out of Oregon, got that lesson the hard way at a recent pickup game at UCLA, where he had to cover LeBron James. Bell talked about it with NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We had an open gym in LA, at UCLA, and I was guarding him the whole time,” Bell recalled of a session last month. “It’s different than what you see on TV. It’s waaaay different….

“It’s crazy how big he is, how quick he is for his size and how smart he is,” Bell recalled. “He was standing straight up, and I’m thinking he can’t go by me if he’s standing straight up. I’m in a good defensive stance. He’s not crouching.

“But there he goes. I’m not going to say he got by me, but I didn’t realize he was so quick. For him to be standing straight up, there’s no way he should be able to move that fast. I’d understand that quickness if he got lower, but I’ve never seen anybody so quick while standing straight up….

“I thought I did a pretty good job on him, but he obviously hit some shots,” Bell said. “But he would get on the block, and I’m containing him, not letting him back me down, and he would fade away from the block to the 3-point line — and make it. And I just played the best defense of my life. It didn’t matter.”

Again, welcome to the NBA Jordan Bell.

LeBron is the best player walking the face of the earth right now, but there are a whole lot of guys in the NBA that you may think you have stopped only to find they score anyway. How many 6-foot plus guards thought they had Isaiah Thomas contained? Or big men who thought they were about to block a Tony Parker shot into the third row only to watch a floater go over their outstretched arms and straight through the net? The list of guys like that is so long.

But Jordan Bell has the skills to make it difficult for a few of them, if he puts in the work.

 

Tim Duncan announces second phase of U.S. Virgin Islands aid plan

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U.S. Virgin Islands native Tim Duncan wrote an impassioned letter this week in The Players’ Tribune urging people to help him donate to the relief effort in a often forgotten section of Hurricane Alley.

Duncan’s initial goal was to meet a $1 million donation, something that has already been met according to the You Caring donation page.

Now, the former San Antonio Spurs legend is announcing the second phase of his plan.

In a video released via The Players’ Tribune Twitter account on Sunday, Duncan asked people to continue to donate. In donating, people would be pushing Duncan to match their contributions up to $1 million dollars in the relief effort.

Via Twitter:

Additionally, according to the San Antonio Express-News, Duncan will be working in collaboration with the local Texas grocery chain H-E-B to take food and relief donations. Duncan will then charter a plane and take the supplies himself to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Via The San Antonio Express-News:

“I want to make sure it’s not a one-ditch effort,” said Duncan, who lived his first 18 years on St. Croix before moving to North Carolina to attend college at Wake Forest.

“Just, ‘Oh yeah, we went down there and did this and it’s done.’ Because the recovery process is not going to be done. It’s going to take months and even years for everyone to recover to normal life.

Organizers are asking for donations of flour, rice, beans, peanut butter and granola bars —“Things that can be eaten without electricity,” said Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank — as well as soap, detergent and paper goods.

If you would like to donate to the relief effort speared by Duncan, you can do so by clicking the link here.

Tim Duncan asks for help for US Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — Tim Duncan is asking for help for the U.S. Virgin Islands, and says he will match donations up to the first $1 million.

Duncan writes on The Players’ Tribune that he is donating $250,000 immediately to storm relief efforts after there was extensive damage from Hurricane Irma, and noting that Hurricane Jose has developed behind.

The retired San Antonio Spurs star was born and grew up on the U.S. Virgin Islands, and writes that many of his old friends are suffering.

Right now as I type this, the U.S. Virgin Islands — the place where I was born and where I grew up — has been badly damaged by Hurricane Irma. The people there, many of whom are old friends of mine, are suffering. Weather reports say that another Category 5 storm, Hurricane Jose, is close behind. No one knows what the place will look like when the rain stops.

Duncan was raised in St. Croix, which was crippled by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 when he was 13.

Duncan also says he will charter a plane to ship supplies from San Antonio to St. Croix when the weather allows, and put together a team to help manage the relief efforts.

He asks people to donate by following this link.