The value of a mega-weight lottery

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Since I spent the morning talking about why we still need to weight the lottery, I thought I’d also touch on one of the union’s other proposals, which could be implemented for the 2012 draft if we get a settlement.

Back in June, the union brought up the idea of giving lottery teams additional picks, Henry Abbott, who is also very much on board the “owners and management who are bad at their job should be punished not rewarded” wagon, thought that it wouldn’t hurt the other teams, or the league, but the fans. No, really.

You know who’d get the short end of that stick? The third party known as the fans, specifically the fans of teams that just simply don’t know how to build a winner. More good draft picks would be a way for the worst GMs and owners to compete without getting any better at their jobs. This is like performance-enhancing drugs for the worst front offices in the league.

As fans, we root for the great competitors, right? Those who do best at their jobs? I’d argue the league ought to encourage teams similarly. If the Clippers didn’t have Blake Griffin walking through that door, as a reward for losing, wouldn’t Donald Sterling have to do some soul-searching about how he runs his team, and maybe come up with a more competitive approach?

via Bribing bad teams with more picks – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

Well, for starters, I’m of the opinion that as fans, we root for teams. Ask a Royals fan if he’d be angry if the Royals won a World Series because David Glass is a terrible owner, or if Bengals fans would be mad if they won a Super Bowl because Mike Brown is the devil.  Would Clippers fans be throwing their championship DVDs in a flaming pile next year if Blake Griffin becomes the best basketball player on Earth and the Clippers miraculously win a title? No. They’re just going to be happy that they got to see their team win a title.

The other problem is that there’s an idea that if you win, you must be good at your job. Show of hands, who thought before this season that Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace were good at their jobs? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, and Orlando. Otis Smith traded for Rashard Lewis, knowing that it was far too much in the sign-and-trade, was building around Hedo Turkoglu and hoping Jameer Nelson would become an All-Star (and he did! Kind of.). But the Magic won, so it was perceived they were run well. Now? Not run well. Difference? Two years and converting bad contracts into worse contracts. The Knicks traded everything including 30 percent of the Statue of Liberty to Denver (they actually own the torch). They started Jared Jeffries. They made the playoffs.

In short, a lot of this stuff is completely and totally random. So why would loading up on draft picks for terrible things help things? Because it makes the hole not so deep for teams that can dig themselves out while not necessarily rewarding the truly terrible. One of the biggest problems is that teams have to make it through rebuilding processes and because they don’t want to suffer the horror of a true rebuilding year until it’s absolutely necessary, teams will enter purgatory, sticking with marginal contracts to get a few wins which end up being expensive in terms of moving forward and don’t help them. But they don’t have the talent to get by. But multiple picks gets them out of this. It means that if a team drafts well, they’re not trying to suffer through a painful year, but going forward aggressively. And if that team elects not to go completely young, they can trade the secondary pick for better players. It just means that the hole isn’t quite so deep to get back to contention. Younger, better teams. Fans like those, right? Especially on, you know, their teams?

But what about rewarding those terrible owners like Herb Simon, Dan Gilbert, and Michael Jordan instead of icons of purity like Mark Cuban, Micky Arison, Jerry Buss, and James Dolan?

Here’s a question. Let’s say you don’t live in the state of Minnesota. And let’s say you concur with the vast majority of the known universe that if there’s a way David Kahn can find to screw up a decision, it’s 80% likely that he will. Do you feel that with an extra pick that David Kahn will magically be able to win a title? Or instead, will he do something like, oh, I don’t know, draft two point guards back to back, one of which won’t come over for two years and the other will be a complete bust and he’ll hire a coach whose system specifically limits the impact of the point guard? Oooor, will he do something like draft a combo forward when he’s already made two trades to acquire combo forwards?

How about the Bobcats? They’ve been pretty terrible at the draft (until this year, am I right Biyombo-Cult?). But wasn’t part of the reason they kept trading picks for players was because all the players they drafted were busts? The question here is if you honestly think that the draft isn’t a complete crapshoot a decent percentage of the time. Sean May? 2005 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Averaged a double-double. Emeka Okafor? Part of the reason for the Hornets’ resurgence. Adam Morrison? Naismith Award winner, USPBWA POY award winner, averaged 20 points per game. I’m not saying you don’t have to project how they’ll adapt to the pro game,  saying sometimes it’s impossible, and that if the misses hadn’t destroyed the Bobcats’ chances so much, maybe they wouldn’t have put themselves in the equivalent of a $20k credit card hole.

The Cavaliers are looking at another painful year working with Kyrie Irving and incorporating Tristan Thompson while trying to liquidate the rest of their roster. Another pick, and they’re more easily able to drop their dead weight and can move back towards contention, if they use the players correctly. That’s the key here. You can draft all the players you want, you still have to be able to use them correctly.

The multiple-pick lottery is unlikely to get moved on. The owners are only really interested right now in anything they can suck pennies from. The idea doesn’t fix the BRI split or help with making sure owners can’t lose money. But it’s an interesting idea and one that deserves further consideration than it will warrant in a league-fanbase that continually moves towards the idea of punishing a team that goes through a losing season, despite the idea that every franchise, no matter how well run, eventually goes through one.

Clippers reportedly plan on playing Kawhi Leonard more than Raptors did last season

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Kawhi Leonard was the poster child for load management last season.

The Raptors essentially let him set his own schedule in a return from the quadricep tendon issue that cost him the previous season (and, ultimately, helped ruin his relationship with the Spurs). Leonard played in just 60 regular season game — and it worked. He was a force in the playoffs, leading Toronto to its first-ever title and winning Finals MVP again.

So the Clippers are going to follow that same script, right? Nope. Expect to see more Leonard, according to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.

There are likely a couple of reasons for this. One is that Leonard may be feeling a little healthier and that he can take on more now. With a deep Clippers roster (especially once Paul George returns from his shoulder surgeries) it’s also possible the Clippers can limit Leonard’s in-game minutes, he averaged 34 a game when he played, which was top 20 in the league.

The bigger factor is the West is so deep with good teams the Clippers simply can’t have him sit as much and still get a good seed. Toronto could let Leonard rest and still won 58 games and had the two seed. That’s not how the West — with the Lakers, Rockets, Jazz, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Warriors — is going to go. The Clippers are going to need Leonard to win games most nights, and they certainly want to get a top-four seed and be home to start the postseason.

Leonard may play more early in the season and get more rest on the back half, once George returns to form and takes over some of the load on the wing. But he’s going to play.

The Clippers simply need him.

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

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Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

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The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

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Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.