The biggest skill Derrick Williams needs to develop? Passing.

Leave a comment

There’s a number of reasons why this logic is flawed. I’m aware of that going in. When we’re talking about a coach, for some reason, we automatically want to assign the same roles to his or her new team as his or her old team. So for Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom is Horace Grant. For Larry Brown, his rookie is every other rookie he’s ruined the hopes and dreams of. But this all disregards the fact that coaches adjust to their rosters, and that not every team is successful.

So when we start to talk about Rick Adelman, it’s all about that Kings team. That’s where everyone goes. That Houston team that made playoff appearances but never made it to the WCF mostly due to injuries but also because of a mismatched roster? That isn’t factored into the equation. There was no Mike Bibby in Houston, no Jason Williams. Kyle Lowry and Rafer Alston before him both had strains of that creator-shooter guard, but nothing really tangible. Chris Webber? Vlade Divac you can I guess kind of see the vein to Yao but in reality, Yao was a whole different beast that you built around.

And yet, the comparisons are booming for Adelman’s new team, the Timberwolves, and those early 00’s Kings. From A Wolf Among Wolves:

While it’s not exactly like looking into a mirror when you put this Wolves squad and the 1999 Kings roster side-by-side, there are a lot of similarities between the two. With the obvious Vlade-Darko jokes aside, the impact Rubio will make on this team is pretty identical to what Jason Williams put out there for the Kings. It wasn’t so much production as it was an attitude of having fun. J-Will unleashed an unbridled enthusiasm that is missing with most teams, let alone a team that just brought in veteran cogs. The difference between the two is Rubio is actually a pretty decent defender and he seems to know his shooting limitations.

Looking at the wings of that 1999 Kings team and the wings the Wolves will have out there next season, there are even more similarities. The Wolves’ combination of Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster reminds me an awful lot of the Tariq Abdul-Wahad-Corliss Williamson-Vernon Maxwell-Peja Stojakovic quartet the Kings had. Williams is like a freak hybrid version of Corliss Williamson in that he doesn’t really have a position, will probably be stronger than most of his matchups and can hurt you from various spots on the floor. The big difference is Williams could be a good 3-point shooter as well. Wes Johnson fits into the mold of Tariq in that he is extremely athletic, should be a constant alley-oop target from the pass-happy point guard and can be a pretty good defender. Webster is a younger, better version of the Vernon Maxwell the Kings enjoyed but should provide the same type of experience and perhaps more leadership than what the Kings received from the two-time champion. And then there’s Wayne Ellington stretching the floor the same way that Peja provided (remember this is pre-awesome Peja, not eventual Peja).

via A Wolf Among Wolves.

Zach Harper there goes on to talk about comparisons and he is eventually lead to Kevin Love being the Chris Webber comparison. Talented big man that can score and hit from range. Makes sense.

But in reality, Love’s closer to Divac with his passing ability, range, size, and rebounding. He won’t play center as much and if he does it will be in small lineups. But the comparison I keep envisioning to Webber’s role is that of their rookie, Derrick Williams. An athletic stud with skill who can play either forward spot. Williams and Webber both entered the league at 20 (assuming we get a season). Webber was listed at 6-9, Williams at 6-8. Webber averaged 19.2 points per game at Michigan his sophomore year, Williams 19.5 at Arizona. Webber was a better rebounder, as near Hall-of-Famers tend to be. But for Adelman’s purposes, Williams needs to develop not dizzying array of face-up or post-up moves, or his perimeter shot, but his passing.

Webber’s assist totals weren’t sky-high. At Michigan his last year there, he averaged just 2.5 assists per game. That’s not crazy high. His career NBA average is 4.2. Good, no doubt, but not extremely so. But with the Kings, Webber averaged between 4.1 and 5.5 assists per year, with a high of 5.4. It was his ability to pass from the high post that replaced Jason Williams as the central playmaker, along with Divac, re-configuring the offense and how it was managed. Williams is considered a small forward, but his bulk and frame suggest that he can work in the high post as effectively.

The question is whether he can pass effectively enough to take that role. Williams averaged just 1.1 assists per game at Arizona last season. Watching passing plays of his in Synergy, there is some potential. He’s got good control of the ball and is able to see the floor and spot his teammates. His decision making is sound for the most part and he’s got a cannon of an arm. But to become the all-around asset Webber was, or even a poor man’s version, he’ll need to be willing. Which might be difficult for him given his No. 2 status and previous role as do it all man-beast scorer.

If Williams can adapt, though, the Wolves could make huge strides, even in their first season under Adelman. With Rubio making Rubio-like plays (assuming they are pre-2010 Rubio plays and not the disappointment he turned last year), Love becoming some sort of wholly new beast with his range and rebounding ability, and Darko Milicic relegated to a bruiser, “just don’t screw up” where he belongs, the Wolves might have something. Throw in Wesley Johnson’s perimeter shooting, and the Wolves might surprise a lot of people.

Maybe Love is the closer comparison. But there has to be a more complete role for Williams than just cleaning up misses (he’s a decent not great rebounder) and filling in spot-up shots. He has the ability and confidence to be a big piece of the puzzle. But to get the success he wants, he needs to learn to give better.

Adam Silver likes NBA teams moving away from term ‘owner,’ prefers ‘governor’

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
2 Comments

Warriors star Draymond Green has objected to using the term “owner.” The 76ers use “managing partner,” not “owner,” as Josh Harris’ title.

Does NBA commissioner Adam Silver like teams moving away from the term owner?

Silver, via TMZ:

I do. I don’t want to overreact to the term because, as I’ve said earlier, people end up twisting themselves into knots avoiding the use of the word owner. But, we moved away from that term years ago in the league. We call our team owners governor of the team and alternate governors. So, I think it makes sense. As I’ve said, I don’t want to overreact, and you’ll find the word throughout memos over the past decade in the NBA. But I’m sensitive to it, and I think to the extent teams are moving away from the term, we’ll stick with using governor.

Players have gone both ways. I think a few players have actually spoken out and said the greatest thing that ever happened was when Michael Jordan was able to call himself an owner. But, of course, Draymond Green has been very public about the fact that we should be moving away from the term, and I completely respect that.

The elephant in the room: Slavery. The history of white people owning black people is the subtext to this entire discussion. Slavery looms over a league where most owners are white and most player are black.

However, the term “owner” here doesn’t refer to owning the players, but owning the team. “Ownership” has far wider historically usage than slavery. In most fields, “owning” companies – which NBA teams are – doesn’t generate backlash.

Are we too loose with the term “owner” in sports? Perhaps. It’s common to say something like, “Players should strongly consider their potential owners in free agency” rather than “players should strongly consider their potential team’s owners in free agency.”

But there are power differences between players and owners/managing partners/governors/whatever you want to call them. Unless addressing the actual underlying issues, changing terms will accomplish nothing.

Those power dynamics are why the Warriors referred to Mark Stevens as “Mr. Stevens” and Kyle Lowry as Kyle Lowry after Stevens pushed Lowry during the NBA Finals. Those power dynamics are why Donald Sterling took guests into the Clippers’ locker room to ogle players. Those power dynamics are why LeBron James is remembered as the bad guy from The Decision despite Dan Gilbert’s wild letter.

There will always be differences between players and owners. Owners have more money and staying power. But the NBA can create a better, fairer environment for its players.

It’ll just require deeper consideration than a simple word change.

Report: Knicks will roll over cap space if they don’t sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
1 Comment

The Knicks are chasing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. New York will reportedly get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard.

But Irving appears headed to the Nets, and Durant might follow. Leonard appears to favor the Raptors in a two-team race with the Clippers.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

New York still believes it’s in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, Irving and Durant. But, according to a source, the Knicks will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space if they can’t land one of those Tier A free agents.

This plan would require patience Knicks owner James Dolan has rarely shown. The Knicks have missed the playoffs six straight years. Twice during that span – including last season – they posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65). Dolan publicly proclaimed confidence New York would sign major free agents this summer.

He’d really allow the Knicks to delay winning even further?

New York is positioned to wait until 2020 free agency (though Joakim Noah‘s cap hit will remain on the books after an avoidable error). R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox will still be on relatively cheap rookie-scale contracts. As a second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is even lower-paid. If they sign players to only one-year contracts this offseason, the Knicks will once again have massive cap room.

But good players generally want multi-year deals. So, New York would be choosing among a far more limited pool of free agents. Another gloomy season would likely await.

And then the 2020 free-agent class looks weak. Especially with Anthony Davis already on the Lakers, there probably won’t be an attainable superstar for the Knicks. There might not even be an attainable star.

Then what? Sacrifice the 2020-21 season to gear up for 2021 free agency? Maybe Barrett, Knox and Robinson develop and send New York on a different track, but that’s far from assured.

The genius of this plan is it allows Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to keep their jobs while the team continues to stink. There would be no expectations of winning anytime soon – as long as Dolan abides.

Report: Kyrie Irving doesn’t like living in Boston

Getty
13 Comments

Has Kyrie Irving been in contact with the Boston Celtics about his free agency? We have reports that say that Irving has “ghosted” the Celtics… and of course we have counter reports that say just the opposite.

It’s hard to believe anything that swirls around Irving, one of the more enigmatic and tiring personalities in the NBA. At the very least, Irving has appeared to send signals that he is looking to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Chief among them being that Irving recently fired his longtime representation and signed with Roc Nation, which has a close partnership with the Brooklyn front office.

Boston has had a hard time getting free agents to come to play for the franchise, and that’s before they had a standing beef with Klutch Sports. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of our Irving’s problems with the Celtics was that he simply didn’t like living in Boston.

Via ESPN:

“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston. I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston — he just didn’t. By the end he had issues with Brad, by the end he had issues with Danny… by the end he had issues with pretty much all of us.”

We have heard rumors that things started to go wrong in the Celtics locker room when coach Brad Stevens seemed to openly favor injured star Gordon Hayward a bit too heavily (Hayward played for Stevens at Butler in college).

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge has the propensity to rub folks the wrong way. He makes whatever decision he thinks is the best from a basketball perspective, relationships be damned. We learned that with the Isaiah Thomas trade.

At this juncture it seems unlikely that Irving will return to the Celtics. Meanwhile, we will probably continue to get stories like this out of Boston.

Chris Paul: “I never asked for a trade” and says he’s happy to be in Houston

Getty Images
10 Comments

With Golden State laid low by injuries (and maybe a defection), Houston should be the team stepping to the front of the line saying “it’s our turn” in the West.

Instead, the Rockets two stars — James Harden and Chris Paul — are feuding, ownership is turning coach Mike D’Antoni into a lame duck, and everyone without a fantastic beard hears their name in trade rumors.

The Harden/Paul feud is real, but Paul tried to downplay it at a charity event in Los Angeles over the weekend, denying a trade request and saying he was happy to be in Houston, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. “I never demanded a trade.”

“I’ll be in Houston,” Paul said. “I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.”

The report goes on to note Paul was asked if he had to work things out with Harden and he kind of danced around that question but said the issues were around a season-ending loss. Certainly, two straight years of being bounced by the Warriors has the Rockets frustrated. However, there is also a style issue: Harden dominates the ball and likes to work in isolation, Chris Paul can’t be as efficient that way anymore and prefers a more fluid offense (and more pick-and-roll for him). Coach D’Antoni gives a lot of leeway to Harden.

Harden and Paul need to work their issues out because Paul is nearly untradable (unless the Rockets want to throw in a sweetener with a pick or young player). Paul still has value on the court — a master floor general he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game last season — but he is 34-years-old, lost a step last season, has an injury history (he played 58 games last season), and is owed $124 million fully guaranteed over the next three seasons. There simply are not teams interested in trading for Paul.

Houston could head into next season the favorites in the West. Part of that depends on how things shake out in free agency (does Kawhi Leonard come West, for example), but a lot of it is just the Rockets getting their act together. I expect Paul and Harden to figure things out, at least well enough to make it work. Mostly because they don’t have a choice. Paul isn’t going anywhere, whether he asked to leave or not.