David Stern doesn’t see what the big deal is about players leaving their teams

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In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, David Stern put on the old jousting tights and once again decided to do a little dance around the media. In a wide ranging interview, Stern discussed his relationship with ownership, old and new, the effect of the lockout on injuries (surprise, he says there isn’t one), and most notably, the “trend” of players leaving small markets for larger ones. Stern, for his part, focuses in on Miami, and assert it isn’t a market issue, it’s a sunshine issue. Really. And that Orlando is a big market. Really.

Orlando Sentinel: When I asked you on Christmas night in Oklahoma City how you wanted the Dwight Howard situation to play out, you said, basically, that players who had put in their time in the league have the right to play where they want. They’ve earned the right to become free agents. But lets say Howard does leave Orlando for a larger market. Are you concerned that there will be a perception in small- and medium-sized markets that the teams there will not be able to hold onto their stars?

David Stern: Only to the extent that theyre fed by journalists like you. I dont remember Miami ever being referred to as a “large market.” Do you?

OS: No.

Stern: Stop right there, then. But, now, because a couple of players decided to go where the sun shines, thats now a large market. Well, guess what: Orlando, to my mind, is a large market even though you refer to it as a “small market.” Its up there in the top 10 in revenues. It has actually pretty much close to the same sunshine that Miami has, and its a preferred place for so many people to live in the middle of their careers and after their careers are over. So I think theres a small-market sort of point of view sometimes that people have a defensiveness [about]. But, to me, Orlandos a great market, and it seems to be a great place to live.

OS: With Chris Paul going from New Orleans to Los Angeles, do you not see a trend? And Carmelo [Anthony] going from Denver to New York?

Stern: Well see. But the one thing I can say to you is that the new collective bargaining agreement will speak to that with each passing year more forcefully, because what I also said to you when last we met was that as the new tax levels become effective, there will be a limitation on what any team can add. And those levels actually will hit small- and large-market teams alike, because the question is not the size of your market. Its going to be the size of your payroll.

via NBA David Stern: NBA Commissioner David Stern discusses Dwight Howard, the new collective bargaining agreement and his future in an exclusive interview – OrlandoSentinel.com.

So if Orlando is the same or better market size than Miami (and it is, by most metric counts), and has the same advantages, what is Stern pinning the failures of Orlando to keep its stars on?

But let’s leave that one.

Stern’s a cage fighter and just when you think you have him, he’s not only not in the corner anymore, he’s behind you and you’re feeling an odd feeling dripping down your leg.

It’s interesting to see him in the course of answering the same series of questions deny that there is a problem, and state that the problem, which doesn’t exist, mind you, is resolved by the new CBA. They approved a new CBA and Chris Paul wound up in Los Angeles. Dwight Howard is, in all likelihood, going to be in Los Angeles or Brooklyn next year (outside shot at Dallas, you know, that small township that Dallas is). But what may be more stunning is not just his verbal gymnastics, but the fact that after the lockout and everything we’ve learned… I agree with him.

After years of feeling that small markets were at as structural disadvantage, it’s become clear that there is an inherent disadvantage in the perception of these cities. 18-26 year-old NBA athletes don’t find Milwaukee or Orlando or Utah “cool.” L.A. is cool. New York is cool. Chicago is cool. And while these players want to win, the ability of those cities to draw other great players based on those advantages provides the excuse needed to buy into living somewhere nicer. Maybe Oklahoma City is providing a counter to that. But the fact that Stern is able to justifiably pull that there is nothing flawed in a system where Orlando is set to lose two franchise players in under 15 years is going to be an issue in this league, unless the tax escalations coming actually do have the intended effect. Until then, it’ll be Stern, sticking and moving his way through the same question with nary a blow taken.

The Sentinel does a good job of pursuit, though, and the interview is well worth the read.

Report: Boston nearing agreement to retain Marcus Smart

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When free agency began, a lot of us said that the restricted free agent market was going to be tough — not a lot of teams had cap space to start with, and those that did were not targeting players where the offer could be matched. Zach LaVine got a deal, but other name RFA were waiting, Clint Capela and Marcus Smart being the biggest names on the board.

We may be able to cross Smart off that list soon, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That is in the range of what the Celtics had wanted to pay him from the start, around $12 million a season.

Smart expected more — north of $17 million a season — and was frustrated that no offers sheets came in that would force the Celtics to match. He reportedly was “hurt and disgusted” that the Celtics didn’t come in and recruit him or make a larger offer. Welcome to a tight market, the Celtics had leverage.

Smart is one of the top defensive two guards in the league, a switchable defender who can guard any perimeter position, all of which fits with Brad Stevens’ defensive system. He also brings a high motor — he generates steals and gets to loose balls. Offensively he’s a liability — teams can help off him, daring him to shoot — but when healthy the Celtics have the players to cover that up.

This looks like it will get done and be a fair deal for both sides.

Kawhi Leonard may not want to play in Toronto, but he will. For now.

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The moment it was reported that Kawhi Leonard was being traded to Toronto for a package based around DeMar DeRozan,  a second theme followed:

Leonard did not like this.

Leonard and his uncle/management team had tried to force their way to Los Angeles — in Las Vegas for Summer League I heard rumors about him wanting to be with either the Lakers or Clippers, depending on the source. (As with everything around Kawhi’s inexperienced management, there was no clear voice or vision, so there were a lot of conflicting rumors.) L.A. never happened because the Lakers think he will sign with them next summer, so they did not throw their best players into a trade — Brandon Ingram, in particular — while the Clippers didn’t have the assets to get a deal done. The Raptors jumped into that breach.

This has led to online speculation that Leonard will sit out in Toronto, saying he is injured, and try to force another trade.

Don’t bet on it.

Why? Because if he doesn’t play next season, even the Lakers would be very hesitant to jump in with a max contract offer next summer.

Leonard played in just nine games last season due to a quadriceps tendon issue, something that dates back to the season before that (he just played through it then). There was disagreement between doctors (and the sides) about whether this was a muscle or tendon issue, but the injury was real.

Right now, teams do not know how well he has responded to treatment, outside of second-hand reports. The physical Leonard has to undergo to complete this trade will be interesting.

If Leonard sits out all or even much of another season with the same injury, how healthy he would ever be must come into question. Even the Lakers and other teams that want him would have to be cautious about a four-year, $140.6 million contract (the max they can offer) to a guy who had missed a lot of the last two seasons.

To get where he wants to go and get paid, Leonard has to get on the court and play well. He has to look like Kawhi Leonard again, or something close to it.

He knows that, so he will be on the court in a Raptors uniform. If only for a year.

 

Lonzo Ball had arthroscopic surgery on knee Tuesday, should be ready for training camp

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It’s done.

As expected, Lonzo Ball has had left knee surgery on Tuesday and is currently in recovery. He reportedly will be good to go by training camp in September.

Ball averaged 10.2 points and 7.2 assists per game last season and made the NBA All-Rookie second team. This summer he had been working hard on his conditioning and jumper before the injury.

Ball will be asked to push the pace (as he did last season) and be a secondary ball handler who can create shots when LeBron does not have the ball in his hands. They fit together better on the court than some people think (Lonzo did play off the ball some at UCLA), but the challenge for L.A.of teams helping off Lonzo to double/trap LeBron on the perimeter is real.

The Lakers also took a couple of shots across the bow of Ball — and his father LaVar — this summer. First there was the signing of Rajon Rondo, then Magic Johnson said this about Josh Hart at Summer League:

The message is clear, the days of soft-pedaling and catering to Ball are over. He must earn his starting job, and there are legit challengers for his minutes. At some point, if the balance of off-court distractions and on-court production gets out of alignment, Ball’s job and standing with the Lakers are not safe.

But for now, he just needs to get right before the season.

DeMar DeRozan expresses anger at trade to Spurs on Instagram

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DeMar DeRozan has been loyal to Toronto.

He embraced the city when former stars abandoned it and pushed their way out of town. In 2016, as a free agent, he didn’t even meet with another team, he had no intention of leaving. He said he wanted to go down as the greatest Raptor ever. A Los Angeles kid himself — born and raised in Compton — he never pushed to go home, instead becoming incredibly active in the community off the court as well as being a four-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA player on it. He has led the greatest run of Raptors basketball in franchise history.

The Raptors were not loyal to DeRozan — they are shipping him to Texas in a trade for Kawhi Leonard that is being finalized.

DeRozan reportedly hates the move and put this up as an Instagram story.

“Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand… Don’t disturb…”

It’s not the destination that has DeRozan unhappy, he did not want to be traded, period.

Leonard reportedly also is unhappy with the trade — he wanted to go home to Los Angeles. However, Lakers would not the players the Spurs wanted into a trade (Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and more), and the Clippers do not have the assets to interest the Spurs in a trade. San Antonio was holding out for other bidders, biding their time, and in came Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri with an aggressive move.

Leonard’s inexperienced management team, which did not handle this situation well, wanted him in a major market that would boost Leonard’s marketing opportunities. While Toronto is a big market — sixth largest in the NBA, bigger than Philadelphia — and is the team of a nation with fans across Canada, this is not what Leonard’s people wanted. He is a free agent next summer in 2019.

DeRozan has every right to feel betrayed — next time you think of complaining about how players are not loyal to cities/teams/fans, remember this. Loyalty is a luxury in the NBA and one rarely rewarded.

DeRozan also will come around and embrace San Antonio, the Spurs culture, and Gregg Popovich. He will help them win a lot.

Whether the Raptors can win over Leonard becomes one of the NBA’s biggest storylines of 2018-19.