NBA free agency: These bright lights may or may not inspire you

4 Comments

Thumbnail image for Knicks_logo.gifThe team that plays in the World’s Most Famous Arena in the Greatest City on Earth is not exactly having a blockbuster start to free agency. They had their meeting with LeBron in Cleveland, a location they obviously would have preferred to avoid. Showing James the glitz and glitter of New York would have been much more advantageous for Donnie Walsh and company, but alas, they did not get homecourt advantage.

Worse yet, they were upstaged by the Nets. The New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets. Jay-Z, a trusted mentor, stuck around to chat with LeBron after their meeting. Reports say James came away very impressed (I know, I know, reports have said everything including James is actually a cockatoo). Conversely, Brian Windhorst reports that he wasn’t blown away by the Knicks, and multiple reports indicate the Knicks are now pursuing Amar’e hard to try and lure LeBron. Their big pitch yesterday centered around how New York could make him a billionaire if things which are unlikely go just right, and that Mike D’Antoni’s system is the answer.

I’m a huge fan of Seven Seconds or Less and even I know pitching offense-all-the-time to a guy looking for championship rings who has been ousted by top defensive squads every season for the past five years is a bad idea.

The most damning thing about the way the first 36 hours of free agency have gone for the Knicks is that the big pitch, the ultimate trump card, the grand reveal has not worked. The key to LeBron James wasn’t supposed to be that complicated. That’s why with the Nets offering a clothing line from Jay-Z and Russian business connections from Mikhail Prokhorov, with Pat Riley slinging the words “it takes three to win” as his core component, and with Cleveland bombarding James with words and images of what he would emotionally do his home area, the Knicks’ whole concept was pretty simple.

“New York rules.”

That’s it.

That was the whole idea. To be fair, they had little other choice. The Knicks were so decimated by Isiah Thomas’ screwed-up reign at the helm that they just recently had the last draft pick he swapped out used by the Jazz. And in order to get rid of all the contracts he picked up they had to swap with Houston for the next eleventy billion years. And they cleared all their cap space specifically to sign multiple top free agents. But the problem is, what’s left?

D’Antoni is selling a system which didn’t win him a championship. That’s fine, the triangle at one point was unproven and sketchy. Eventually, D’Antoni may reach the promised land with the run-and-gun. And he can win games, that’s always been true. The issue is that you have to bring the whole house, the kitchen sink, and your gold tooth to James. That’s what the Nets did, laying out a comprehensive marketing plan built around people he knows and respects. You have to convince him you are 100% dedicated to building a dynasty with him and you know how. The Heat are doing that today with a pitch that says “You can be the icon of the greatest combination of talent in the modern era.”  The Knicks?

They had to say “Our city is really big, and really rich, and really awesome.” That was the pull. And it’s a relevant point! They weren’t wrong to go with that approach. But it says a lot about where the Knicks are and where they think they are for that to be their approach. They pushed on their best issues: D’Antoni and New York. But even that’s been compromised by the Nets’ Brooklyn relocation looming.

Again, the Knicks didn’t do anything wrong here. They relied on the things that best speak to them. And there’s still a great chance for them to come out winners here, if they can swoop in and get Amar’e now that the Suns have elected to let him walk (signing Hakim Warrick was a pretty big goodbye card) before the Rockets come dashing in with a sign-and-trade. They could still get LeBron.

But it does say something about this market, about the times we live in. Simply pitching the greatest city in the world isn’t enough. You have to have the best talent, be willing to spend the most, have a great city, great management, great coaching, and pitch all those things the right way.

Come to think of it, makes that yellow and purple tint to the championship rings make more sense, doesn’t it?

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

REUTERS
1 Comment

Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

Ezra O. Shaw /Allsport
4 Comments

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

Elsa/Getty Images
5 Comments

The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
8 Comments

After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.