Steve Nash calls going to Lakers “surprise” but is excited

13 Comments

Even Steve Nash didn’t expect to be a Laker.

Well, he was hip to the idea before the rest of us were, but it was just a couple weeks ago that Nash was saying it would be hard to picture himself as a Laker. But things change in free agency. Fast. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak called Bill Duffy, Nash’s agent, on July 1 to plant the seed and three days latter it blossomed.

Nash went on ESPN 710 Radio in Los Angeles on Thursday and talked about the move, again emphasizing the importance of being close to his family in the decision (as opposed to going to New York or Toronto). Here are some of his highlight quotes:

• “It was a surprise. I said I think 10 days ago that it would be hard for me to put on a Lakers uniform, so for everyone including myself it was a surprise. But things happen. First and foremost the Suns decided to go in a new direction. Then the opportunity to be close to my kids was exciting to me. And I think you’ll agree basketball wise it makes a lot of sense.”

• “Frankly, the idea to be close to my son and my daughters who will be in Phoenix is my No. 1 priority. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic that I’m a good fit for the team and we have a great team and we are a contender. That’s incredible, too. But as far as getting over the hump and being able to be a Laker after being a Sun and trying to beat the Lakers in the playoffs after all those years, this was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

• On speaking to and being recruited by Kobe Bryant: “To me it was important to speak to (Kobe) to make sure he was completely on board, that he could visualize this as being a good fit and being excited about it. So I spoke to him, I spoke to coach Brown, and they were excited….

“(He can be) Someone to help handle the ball, and to lead. I think he also thought we were complimentary leaders. I’m more on the positive side, he’s more, um, as he said it “crack the whip.”

• “Kobe is still one of the all time great players in this game and I hope he does have the ball in his hands a lot. But I think it takes pressure off him if someone else can handle the ball, get him the ball in spots, maybe get him a few more easy baskets, and at the same time create offense for other guys so he’s not stuck so often having to take on one or two defenders. Perhaps we can all compliment each other because of our different skills. Maybe I can space the floor for those big guys.”

• “I feel like I’m in great shape, I know a lot about my body and I think I’ve learned a lot over the years to preserve the level of play I’m at now. I’m not worried about minutes.”

• He said a championship would not define him “but I’m dying to win one.”

• As for the ongoing Dwight Howard to the Lakers speculation: “(Howard) is a special player, a special talent for sure and I can understand why the Lakers may be recruiting him. But all I know is that for me to get the opportunity to play with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum that’s amazing. It’d be a pleasure to play with those two. And frankly that’s a lot for me to pick up there, so I’m not even going to speculate with what is going to happen with Dwight.”

• He said he hoped the Lakers would recruit Grant Hill to the team as a reserve.

Not just numbers, David Griffin says being GM means handling “noise” around team

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Analytics are a part of the job.

Just often not the most important part.

Part of what has fueled the rise in popularity of the NBA in recent years has been player movement around the league — and how much fans love to talk about the possibilities. Fans love to play GM. Those fans are increasingly savvy and understand analytics better, they know how to go to the NBA stat page and look up detailed data, and they know how to work ESPN’s trade machine. It leads to more “who says no?” trade Tweets than overpriced coffee shops in Seattle.

Ask any current or former general manager/team president — for example, former Suns and Cavaliers GM David Griffin — about the job and they almost cut off the question to say there is so much more to it than a spreadsheet. For example, keeping players happy and helping them understand/deal with social media is now part of the gig. Even in the evaluation of players, there is the eye test and other intel gathered about them, all of which matters as much or more than just the data.

“It’s got to be a marriage of all of them, you know analytics are never the answer in and of themselves,” Griffin told NBC Sports. “But there is infinitely more data available to us thanks not only to SAP but Second Spectrum… they have given us far more robust data sets to make decisions from. I think because of that people think the answers are in the numbers, but the reality is the numbers only answer the better questions you ask it to solve. I think people lose sight of that. The numbers are a part of the process, they are not the answers in and of themselves.”

That’s the idea behind “GM School,” a new competition show coming to NBA TV (it premieres Wednesday night at 8 ET, with repeat broadcasts throughout the week). The show takes four contestants who are data-driven, die-hard basketball fans and pits them against each other in a series of challenges to show they have what it takes to be in a front office. The contestants don’t just have to pick players to draft (out of an anonymous pool), they need to articulate why they fit with the team philosophy. They have to do a press conference.

“I thought they did an excellent job,” Griffin said of the contestants. “Being at NBA TV before this and getting to see things in a totally different light, I had a different appreciation for this process than I would have otherwise. I thought they did a fantastic job — SAP and the partners affiliated with this — of putting together four really diverse contestants who all had strengths of their own, each was unique from the other, so it was a cool process.”

Like the real GM job, this is about more than the numbers.

“It’s not just taking into account everyone thinks they understand analytics — I hope we speak to the analytics crowd — but it’s about the totality, we hope, of what the job requires,” Griffin said.

There are things that a show like this could just not do justice to with a test.

For example, how to set up an organization that can handle the volume of noise that swirls around a good team. Griffin had to deal with that first hand as the GM of the Cavaliers during LeBron James’ second tour of duty with the franchise.

“One of the things that’s critical to running an organization that’s going to be all about winning — and the only thing that will mark success is winning a championship — is that you’re naturally going to be subjected to more noise around the process,” Griffin said. There’s going to be more tension in the system — and that can be a positive thing if you make it out. You have to become really adept at dealing with adversity and turning adversity into a positive, galvanizing force.

“I think you’ve seen Golden State do that this year with the blowup between Draymond [Green] and KD [Kevin Durant]. They’ve come out of that a stronger, better version of themselves, and that’s what you have to do as an elite franchise. All adversity becomes opportunity for you.”

It’s one thing for a Warriors’ team that is now veteran and savvy to embrace adversity — and tune out the social media noise it creates around the team — and it’s something else entirely for an up-and-coming team with players who have not been there before.

“I think that for teams that are going from being lottery bound year after year to being truly elite there are several steps in that process that are very difficult and painful. And people don’t always welcome adversity…” Griffin said. “You’re not going to get to a championship caliber team from a team of young kids who were in the lottery overnight.”

Some players get thrown off seeing the media used to deliver messages about them and their trade availability — as happened a lot with the Lakers/Anthony Davis saga around the trade deadline, for example. The Lakers, as an organization, has seen more than its fair share of drama over the years and understands how to handle it, but the young core players on the team were going through this part of the business for the first time.

Griffin said the key is being proactive — talking to players to help them understand it before everything overwhelms them.

“[The Lakers] were dealing with more media and more scrutiny than most teams ever do because they are one of the flagship franchises in our league,” Griffin said. “Magic Johnson grew up in that spotlight. I doubt anything happened that they weren’t prepared for. But what happens is LeBron’s presence by itself brings that kind of spotlight. It takes some time to learn how to deal with it.

“Again, if you don’t get in front of it from a leadership standpoint, if you let it just happen, the proliferation of sports media and social media, it just creates so much around your players that, to some degree, if you’re not telling them how to decipher it, they can’t help but to take it poorly. You need to do a really deft job as a leader of getting people to ignore those things. I think Kevin Durant called it a ‘toxic’ environment around a LeBron James team. I don’t think he meant that relative to LeBron and his actions. I think he meant it just relative to the sheer volume of noise around a team. That takes getting used to.”

Handling social media and its fallout is now part of a GM’s job. Like it or not.

“All of these players are on social media, they are subject to noise from more angles and at a greater volume than any players ever have been,” Griffin said. “And because of that, I think it makes it really important that you run the kind of organization that you love each other enough that you tell each other what you need to hear. You have to have conversations. You have to be in front of those messages with Lonzo Ball ahead of time. You have to talk to Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma ahead of time. So that when those things happen, they understand it’s just a natural outcropping of being on a team of that magnitude. That it happens because you matter as a franchise.”

Whenever a GM job comes open in the NBA now, Griffin’s name is one of the first to come up. Most recently that was with the Pelicans (although the buzz All-Star Weekend is that things never really got too serious between the sides). Griffin is open to returning to the NBA, but he’s in a position to be picky about the gig he takes now.

“I think the blessing of doing what I’m doing relative to NBA TV is selectivity,” Griffin said. “It’s helped me be radically better at analyzing things than maybe I wouldn’t have been as good at. As I look at it now, the thing that would attract me to an opportunity is just the opportunity to be in lockstep with ownership. To have ownership, the coach, and the front office all on the same page moving forward and sharing a vision…

“You have to raise a family, and if you’re not going to come at it with that approach it’s probably not a situation that would speak to me.”

Barack Obama joined by Stephen Curry to tell minority boys ‘you matter’

Associated Press
2 Comments

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Former President Barack Obama and Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry told minority boys on Tuesday that they matter and urged them to make the world a better place.

Obama was in Oakland, California, to mark the fifth anniversary of an initiative he started after the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The death of the African-American teen sparked protests over racial profiling.

Obama and Curry had a good natured banter between them, which included the former president teasing the former MVP about his ankles.

Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper as a call to communities to close opportunity gaps for minority boys, especially African American, Latino, and Native American boys.

He and Curry talked about what it means to be a man and the struggles they had as teens.

The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is part of the Obama Foundation.

Rumor: Warriors “have internally mused” about run at Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021

Getty
9 Comments

The Golden State Warriors have a plethora of superstars, so many in fact that the league has taken an extended break from believing they can win a championship, at least until Kevin Durant heads outside the Bay Area.

Durant could be headed for the New York Knicks or some other such location this summer when he is a free agent. No doubt Golden State will want to retain Durant’s services, but in the event that they are unable to do so, they need to look elsewhere to improve their team.

The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson wrote recently that Golden State could go after Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo when he becomes available for free agency in the summer of 2021. This was just fun supposition on Thompson’s part, but it was followed up on Tuesday by some important rumoring by Marc Stein of the New York Times in his weekly newsletter:

Yet it’s likewise undeniably true that Steph and Giannis are buddies who are both represented by the same agency (Octagon) and share a mutual admiration that has resulted in Curry and Antetokounmpo selecting each other first overall with the No. 1 overall picks as captains in the first two All-Star drafts.

I can promise you, furthermore, that the Warriors have internally mused about a run at Giannis — however futile it may prove to be — in the event they can’t convince Kevin Durant to re-sign this summer. Trying to sign the most attractive free agent available is on the first page of the Golden State owner Joe Lacob’s playbook.

Look, it seems obvious to say that any team will want to take a run at Antetokounmpo if they are able. Saying that “X team is interested in [GOOD] player” isn’t groundbreaking.

But the Warriors?

We are a long way off from this getting anywhere near actually happening, but if Golden State were able to pull in another generational talent (and likely future MVP) it might set the collective NBA sphere on fire.

Antetokounmpo is only being talked about in this way because of the fact that he plays in Milwaukee, a market where stars don’t typically stay for long. But Antetokounmpo seems to enjoy Wisconsin, and the Bucks are currently the best team in the East.

Relax, Bucks fans. Your man is safe for now.

Clint Capela reportedly to return to Rockets lineup Thursday

Getty Images
4 Comments

The Rockets have gotten by without Clint Capela in the paint the past month — they have gone 9-6 without him, thanks to James Harden being a beast — but they are not the same. Capela and Harden have a connection, and in the five games before he injured his thumb and had to sit out Capela averaged 19.6 points on 59.7 percent shooting, pulling down 11.4 rebounds a game, and they were +7.6 per game with him on the court.

Thursday night against the Lakers, the Rockets are expected to get him back, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Expect it to take a couple of games to get his legs fully back under him, but swapping out Kenneth Faried‘s minutes for Capela’s is going to be a significant upgrade.

A fully healthy Rockets team, with Chris Paul back in the lineup as well, can make a push through the end of the season, and come the playoffs cannot be discounted in the West. While Golden State is a clear favorite, Houston at its best can be a threat to Oklahoma City (or whichever team you think is second best in the West). Houston needs to improve their defense to be that threat, and getting Capela back healthy is a step in that direction.