Phil Jackson plays the pot calling kettle black

34 Comments

In 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers completed one of the most one-sided trades in the history of the league, sending Kwame Brown and what was, at that point, complete unknown Marc Gasol to the Memphis Grizzlies (along with Javaris Crittenton…yeah) for franchise player Pau Gasol. Coaches and league personnel were flabbergasted at the questionable nature of the trade between the Lakers and the team formerly managed by Jerry West, who you may recall was a Lakers’ great (there is no known connection with West in the deal, but it’s interesting nonetheless).

But in a league with the cap structure the NBA has, you’re going to see moves which are financially motivated in which the players the worse team receives are completely irrelevant. It would appear, though, that the Lakers’ head coach isn’t a big fan when it isn’t his team that gets a game-changing component.

In an interview with FanHouse’s Chris Tommasson, Phil Jackson called the “loophole” which is allowing Zydrunas Ilgauskas to re-sign with the team he’s been with his entire career a ‘sham’ and ‘charades.’

“It’s a sham of sorts to make that kind of trade. You’re not really
trading a player. You’re just trading a money situation. It’s a sham,
and I think it’s a disrespect for the league and the players to be
involved in this type of a thing.”

Okay, Phil. Got it. It’s totally fine for your team to take advantage of teams needing to clear cap space, but not anyone else. Got it.

It’s still difficult to see what the problem is with this setup. Ilgauskas has been with Cleveland his whole career, and gets to return. We have a contender that got stronger. The Wizards saved a ton of money and have the ability to restart their franchise and maybe build towards contention. This trade was not bad for the league. It was only bad for those who are competing with Cleveland for a championship. And they’re not really in a position to be objective, just as Greg Popovich wasn’t with the Gasol trade.

Maybe Jackson should focus more on pulling the lifeless corpse of Derek Fisher into something resembling a point guard in time for the playoffs.

UPDATE: Apparently I did a piss poor job of explaining things, so let’s take another crack at this. The Gasol trade and the Ilgauskas trade were quite clearly different because Ilgauskas came back to the Cavs, whereas Kwame Brown, vital component that he is, did not. The difference there is assumed.

But what Jackson is complaining about is not the loophole. He’s complaining about “just trading a money situation.” Which is precisely why the Memphis trade went through. At the time, Marc Gasol was nothing more than a throw-in. The major component was cap space for the Grizzlies. And further more, if it benefited the Lakers to do a trade of this type, they would do it, just the same as Doc Rivers, Greg Popovich, or any team in the league would.

The point is not that the trades were identical in function, but in formula.

Bucks bring in Christian Wood for training camp, give him chance to make roster

Getty Images
2 Comments

For three seasons now, Christian Wood has bounced between the NBA and G-League (he played for the Sixers, who cut him to bring in Elton Brand, and Charlotte). He has been trying to improve and show he has NBA skills — a 6’11” forward who has a face-up game, an improving outside shot, and his defense seems to be coming together. He’s still just 22 years old.

The best he looked was playing for the Bucks at Summer League in Las Vegas this year, where he averaged 20.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game, shot 55.4 percent, and made the All Summer League First Team.

That got him a training camp invite to Milwaukee this fall.

The Bucks have a final roster spot open, and they have now signed Woods and Shabazz Muhammad for camp, giving them a chance to compete for it and impress new coach Mike Budenholzer. (Tyler Zeller also is on a non-guaranteed and could get that spot.)

Budenholzer likes bigs who can shoot and space the floor, and Woods shot 30.4 percent from three in Las Vegas — not earth shattering, but he’s a more willing shooter from the outside than Muhammad. It’s going to be an interesting battle to watch in Bucks training camp. In Las Vegas, Woods looked like an NBA player, but Vegas can be a desert mirage, he needs to carry that play over to training camp to get a roster spot.

Kyle Kuzma on LeBron James’ Lakers: “a lot of people are underestimating us”

Getty Images
2 Comments

Just how good are the LeBron James led Los Angles Lakers?

Las Vegas’ Westgate Sports Book put their under/over win total at 48.5. I’ve seen predictions that range from the three seed to talk of them missing the playoffs. Nobody really knows because, while LeBron’s greatness isn’t in question, there are plenty of questions about the fit around him: Lance Stephenson? Can Lonzo Ball play well off the ball more considering his shot? Where does Rajon Rondo fit in the PG rotation? What kind of step forward will Brandon Ingram take? Michael Beasley? Is JaVale McGee ready for a larger role? Will the Lakers go small at times with LeBron at the five? (I think that could be their best lineup, if used right.)

Kyle Kuzma thinks you’re selling the Lakers’ short.

Back in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, this week for a YMCA promotion, Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN he has worked out with LeBron and they like this roster.

“We are both definitely excited about the roster and the pieces that we have,” Kuzma told ESPN on Tuesday, after visiting with 20 kids from the Safe Places program at his hometown Flint YMCA as part of the “My Y Story” content series. “And we think that a lot of people are underestimating us. It is definitely going to be fun playing with all these new guys.”

“A lot of people say we got a lot of different people, a lot of new people,” added Kuzma, who also is holding a three-day camp for children in his hometown. “But change can be a good thing. It is not necessarily always a bad thing. There’s a lot of teams in the NBA that need to work on their chemistry; we are just one of them…

“I don’t know why people kind of just rule us out because we are young,” said Kuzma, who was a first-team All-Rookie performer after averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. “We are hungry. We are competitive. Anybody that watched us play last year, we were in a lot of games.”

The big change the Lakers made this season is good — LeBron makes the Lakers a threat. Kuzma is right on that front.

However, the question has never been “will the Lakers be good?” They have LeBron and some quality talent around him, of course they will be. The questions are more along the lines of “how fast can they come together?” and “where do they slot in the West, where there are a lot of good teams?” Assuming Golden State and Houston finish as the top two seeds in some order, where do the Lakers rank against Oklahoma City, Utah, Portland, New Orleans, Minnesota, Denver, and San Antonio? And that’s without getting into teams such as Memphis or the Los Angeles Clippers who have potential if they can stay healthy. That’s 12 teams I just mentioned battling for eight playoffs slots, 12 teams capable of winning at least 45 games if not more. The margin for error in the West is minuscule.

But are we underestimating the Lakers? Depends on what the standard is. These Lakers are not contenders yet. But do you really think a LeBron James team is going to miss the playoffs?

Change of plans, NBA clears Jordan Clarkson to play in Asian Games

Associated Press
1 Comment

The Philippines national basketball team just got a lot better.

Jordan Clarkson wanted to play for the Philippines in the upcoming Asian Games (his mother is a native of that country, so he is allowed), but the NBA did not clear him to do so saying this tournament was not part of the agreement between FIBA and the NBA that allows the league’s players to take part in major international events (the Olympics, the basketball World Cup, etc.).

However, there has been a change of heart and Clarkson has been granted a special waiver.

The Cavaliers’ guard will miss his country’s first game against Kazakhstan today but will play in the rest of the tournament. As noted in the release, two Chinese players with NBA ties — Houston’s Zhou Qi and Dallas’ Ding Yanhuyang — also were cleared for this tournament.

There is a “club vs. country” tug of war in soccer and other international sports, including basketball. While players want to represent their countries — for both patriotic reasons and the fact the major international events such as the Olympics can help boost a players’ brand — teams see injury risk, coaches not necessarily looking out for the long-term health of the player, and something that can pull them out of off-season training and work on parts of their game. This time, the countries won, but don’t bet on the NBA expanding its list of FIBA events it will clear its players for.

Geeking out on NBA prospects: R.J. Barrett almost dunks from free throw line, Zion Williamson does

Getty Images
4 Comments

Duke is stacked this coming season. STACKED. They should have three lottery picks in next year’s draft. (Does that mean they are the team to beat in the NCAA? That’s not the way basketball works. But that’s another discussion.)

Duke is in Toronto for a series of preseason exhibition games, and at the end of the workout likely No. 1 pick next June, R.J. Barrett tried to show off by almost dunking from the free throw line.

Then freak of nature Zion Williamson showed him how it’s done.

That’s worth more looks.

Damn Zion is a freak of nature. Can we just put him in the next dunk contest now?