As fears mount that the NBA lockout could drag out longer than any of us want (it already has, but that’s another story), there has been talk of NBA players on exhibition tours, particularly through places like China. Basically a Nike-fueled agent’s dream where NBA players put on a show, sell some shoes and everyone makes a bunch of money. Then the players pretend they did it just for the union.
But why just China? Why not here in the United States?
That’s the dream of Fred Smith in Los Angeles, the No. 2 man at the Drew League who is trying to convince players they can build something of their own. The idea is to start with the Drew vs. Goodman League showdown game — which has some issues of its own — and grow it from there. Sam Amick at Sports Illustrated tells his story.
“I try to explain to these players, ‘Why do you think … that ESPN, Fox, TNT — for the most part — haven’t been knocking down your door to talk to you, haven’t been looking to do interviews with you? Because they’re partners with the NBA. They’re management. You’re labor. They’re not going to come talk to you. You’re on your own,’ ” said Smith, who was on the production team for CBS’ NBA telecasts in the 1980s and ’90s, was a field producer for NBA Entertainment in the ’90s and frequently freelances with ESPN now.
“And I’m telling them, ‘You have a chance to take control of your life a little bit here.’ We’re not going to replace the NBA. … But I’m showing them how if you get on board this thing now, and get your fans on board, you could very easily create a second revenue stream for yourself in the summer, if not beyond.”
Smith is trying to get guys to invest in the game and build from there. Smith is also the guy that owns TheBasketballChannel.net, where the Drew-Goodman will be live streamed and you can watch for just $4.95.
What he needs to make this all work is some NBA guys to get on board — he’s tried to pitch DeMar DeRozan, Craig Smith and Nick Young to put up $3,000 each. After that, he could use some big-time investors. Like the kind of shoe company money that would make a China tour possible (if China lets it happen). Good luck. That is a big hurdle to clear, unless he convinces some players to really jump in publically.
The Lakers landing Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer might be their best realistic option. It’s far, far from a lock — the Knicks, and yes Celtics, will make their pitch, too — but reuniting the pair that won a title in Cleveland is on the Lakers’ radar. (Insert your own, “you know who should coach this team” Tyronn Lue joke here.)
Fueling the speculation, LeBron James and Irving were seen hanging out together at a club in Los Angeles recently. Then Friday, this happened: Cuffthelegend posted this on Instagram and LeBron liked it.
(For the record, Cuffthelegend gets some stuff right, he’s not a guy who posts stuff out of nowhere.)
Of course, NBA Twitter and the web responded to this in its usual measured, thoughtful way. Some Lakers fans think the deal is done, others mock the idea altogether.
Two thoughts on Irving and the Lakers:
• Multiple reports say Irving is open to it. Irving also has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and Boston still plans to trade for Anthony Davis and then try to re-sign Irving (even if Boston fans are done with Kyrie). The only person who knows which way Irving is leaning right now is Irving, and there’s a good chance he changes his mind in the next five weeks anyway.
• If the Lakers are going to land a star free agent this summer, it will be because LeBron was an active recruiter. These elite players have options, and the Laker front office is not inspiring confidence of late, it will be on LeBron to win guys over.
Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.
It apparently still happens.
Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:
After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”
This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.
It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.
Will Kyrie Irving stay in Boston? If not, what is Plan B?
Is Jimmy Butler back in Philadelphia next season? If he is will Tobias Harris be back?
What are the next steps to turn Denver into a contender?
I get into all of those things with the wise Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (and Celtics Blog, and Real GM), we break down those three teams recently turned out of the playoffs. We also start off talking about teams actually in the playoffs, particularly Toronto’s comeback in the Eastern Conference Finals, and how those teams can take advantage against the Warriors with Kevin Durant out.
As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.
We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.
Just four years ago, Nikola Jokic was a second-round pick still playing in the Adriatic League. Just three years ago, he was battling a struggling Jusuf Nurkic to be the Nuggets’ main center.
Yesterday, Jokic made the All-NBA first team.
Jokic has risen incredibly quickly. Before this season, he had never even been an All-Star.
That makes Jokic the first non-rookie in NBA history to make an All-NBA first team without a prior All-Star season (including ABA All-Stars).
The No. 41 pick in the 2014 draft, Jokic is just the fourth second-rounder to make an All-NBA first team since the NBA-ABA merger. The others: DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol and Marc Price.
For most players not immediately deemed to hold first-round talent, it takes a while to build stature in the NBA. Jokic made the All-NBA first team in just his fourth season. That’s way sooner than Gasol (seventh season), Price (seventh season) and Jordan (eighth season):
The Nuggets didn’t wait for this honor to make Jokic their franchise player. They gave him a near-max contract last summer, and by leading them into the second round of the playoffs, he triggered incentives to reach a max salary.
Denver has built a young supporting cast – mainly Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – to grow with Jokic. The Nuggets also signed veteran Paul Millsap, whose defense complements Jokic’s offensive-minded game.
So much is coming together so quickly for Denver, and Jokic’s honor is just the latest example.