With the lockout having deprived the NBA world of summer league and a proper free agency period, fringe stories have all but taken over the scene. The overseas inklings of any relevant NBA player have become news, and while that’s certainly pertinent information if the lockout ends up costing the league games, it’s not exactly the same as the NBA-shifting domestic player movement that could go on in a typical off-season.
Instead, the news cycle has been filled with Ron Artest to the brim. He’s provided headline fodder in almost every capacity, with his latest being an out-and-out guarantee that L.A. will win the 2012 championship. Via Mark Medina of the L.A. Times:
[The Lakers’ 2010 title celebration] may all feel like a distant memory considering how the Lakers ended the 2011 postseason with a four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. But Artest guaranteed to ESPN Los Angeles’ Stephen A. Smith in a 40-minute interview Wednesday that the Lakers will again pop the champagne bottles after winning the 2012 NBA title. Assuming there’s a season of course.
“Win it all,” Artest said when asked what will the Lakers do in the 2011-2012 season. “Win the whole thing. That’s a guarantee.”
The guaranteed victory is kind of a big deal in sports, but largely because such comments are deemed to be “bulletin board material,” for opposing clubs or representative of some kind of hubris. This particular instance is neither, really; Artest’s guarantee is far too early to be relevant to any NBA opponent, and more indicative of Ron being Ron than any real overconfidence. If you put a microphone in front of Ron Artest, he will say things. Some will be silly, most will be earnest, and a few will be surprisingly wise. This is undoubtedly the former, but not really telling of anything save that Artest likes his team and their chances. Which, y’know, he should, considering that the Lakers are still a stacked club with a legitimate shot at the 2012 crown — should the lockout allow such a thing to even exist.
I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.
There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.
Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.
This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.
Now we know what time the wild times start.
Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.
Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.
Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.
“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.
“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”
Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.
Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?
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.