50 Observations about NBA Free Agency

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From time to time, I drop random observations because it’s too long for a tweet and too short for a full post. Also because it allows me to crack jokes, which is really the reason I’m here. That and the money. Mostly the money. Anyway, it’s been a crazy week of free agency. Here are 50 observations about what we’ve seen.

1. Despite all the hand wringing over the vast majority of these deals, there has been a significant level of restraint exhibited. Gone are the eight-figure averages that would so commonly permeate second and third option player extensions, replaced by reasonable three-year deals.

2. Nothing is more exemplary of this than Nick Young. In 2009? Nick Young would be showering the money oil off of him from sleeping in a gigantic bed of money with cash sheets. Joe Dumars alone would have offered him the gross national product of Botswana.

3. Instead, Young gets a one-year, $6 million contract. Lou Williams is still on the market. O.J. Mayo, Brandon Rush, Courtney Lee, shooting guards are actually not being snatched up like they’re gold mines. It’s incredible.

4. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t bad deals being tossed around.

5. In totally unrelated news, Jeff Green got four-years, $36 million.

6. I argued on Twitter that were the fourth year non-guaranteed, I wouldn’t have objected to a $10 million per-year average for the Celtics. They had positional need for Green, had already invested a lot in his future, and their inability to sign outside free agents created a boondoggle for them.

7. That said, it’s still an overpay and there isn’t a single metric or piece of hard evidence to suggest that Green is worthy of this deal. It’s either going to turn out as one of the best or worst contracts Danny Ainge gambled on. And this is a guy who brought in Rasheed Wallace and Shaquille O’Neal.

8. On the other side of it, you have to love what the Hornets did with the sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson. Getting a versatile big who can spread the floor and actually rebounds, the Hornet managed to get more than what the Magic will likely get for Dwight Howard, in exchange for Gustavo Ayon. Not a bad day at the office.

9. I have concerns about Anthony Davis being forced into playing the 5, but with today’s NBA shifting smaller and smaller in terms of lineups, you have to think it’s at least worth a shot to pair Davis and Anderson without putting Anderson at the 3.

10. The Sixers managed to have a great and terrible week at the same time. Lavoy Allen, what a steal! Spencer Hawes, what were they thinking? Nick Young, great job! Considering entering the Kris Humphries sweepstakes, why? It’s an up and down week for Philadelphia, but that Allen contract really stands out as a steal.

11. Just to review this, the Rockets had Aaron Brooks and the Suns had Goran Dragic and then the Suns sent Brooks to Houston for Dragic and a pick, and now the Suns have signed Dragic and the Rockets are talking to Brooks and the Rockets got a pick back (in a trade of Kyle Lowry). They’re working backwards. I’m excited for the Suns to trade for Shawn Marion and Houston to introduce Yao Ming.

12. Dragic is going to have a lot on his shoulders assuming the Hornets match the offer for Eric Gordon. Marcin Gortat seems like a good idea, but when you’re actually there and he’s your second best player, that’s a problem.

13. Thank Goodness they have Michael Beasley to provide stability and common sense to the floor.

14. Everyone’s rooting for Bandon Roy, but when he steps on the floor, there will be gasps and a lot of nervous people. Hopefully he’ll accept a low-impact role where he can just shoot, and everything works out.

15. The Mavericks aren’t desperate, at least not as desperate as they seem. They still have Roddy Beaubois who showed a lot last season. They’ll likely have Ian Mahinmi, who really has shown some things. They’re in talks for Ramon Sessions. And, you know, Dirk Nowitzki. They are a well-placed trade from getting a core together. They’re out of title contention for the foreseeable future, but they likely will not be horrible.

16. Eric Gordon has done some pretty substantial damage to his image with all this nonsense. It’s one thing to want the money. It’s another to want the freedom. But Gordon wants the money, and the freedom, despite having elected not to sign the qualifying offer to make him a free agent.

17. On top of all that, he wants to use that freedom to join a team with Michael Beasley and Marcin Gortat instead of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. OK.

18. Gerald Wallace at 4-years, $40 million looks great next to Jeff Green, 4-years, $36 million.

19. Gerald Wallace 4-years, $40 million looks horrible next to Ryan Anderson, 4-years, $36 million. Wallace’s best days are behind him. That contract is going to look massive in three years compared to production.

20. But not as massive as Joe Johnson!

21. It should be noted, with or without Dwight Howard, the Nets will more than likely be paying each team under the cap enough to subsidize their own D-League teams for a year in 2015. Between the Nets and the Knicks, teams will be able to afford their own MLE’s for free.

22. The Grizzlies will have both Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur next year, which is going to be like having clones on the floor when they play together in a small-ball lineup. There aren’t enough elbow jumpers in the world. Good pickups for Memphis, though, and on a budget.

23. Ray Allen, in a world where the Magic are willing to deal with the Nets, the Suns are willing to trade Steve Nash to the Lakers, and Jason Kidd joins the Knicks, is the only one with a true sense of vindictiveness and you have to appreciate that, unexpected though it may be.

24. The Magic are clearly moving towards a rebuild, letting Ryan Anderson go. So we can expect them to be cautious and hesitant with move…. wait, what’s that? They re-signed Jameer Nelson on a long-term, medium-money deal? Oh, OK then.

25. The Knicks are in such a bind with Jeremy Lin. They can’t move him because he’s too valuable from a marketing standpoint, and yet matching is insane because they’re never going to give him the ball anyway. #ISOMELO

26. If Rashard Lewis signs in Miami, please consider how good the Heat’s garbage time lineup featuring Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier, and Juwan Howard would be in 2003.

27. George Hill’s five-year, $40 million deal in Indiana isn’t ideal, but it also isn’t awful. You’d like to see him cement himself as the guaranteed starter there, though, for that money. The deal is going to be very movable in about two years, though, should the Pacers need to clear it.

28. Kevin Love desperately wants out of Minnesota. Nicolas Batum desperately wants in. Different strokes, I suppose.

29. The Clippers went with such a strange combination of players. Billups makes more sense with Mo Williams traded to Utah, but Jamal Crawford is going to be so boom or bust for them. They’re also going to be short a shooter with Nick Young gone. But stars like CP3 like veterans. And Crawford’s a vet.

30. Jerryd Bayless is likely going to be a pretty good value pickup for one of these teams. He can run point and score. He’s got limitations but as a bench contributor he can provide help.

31. Love the idea of Antawn Jamison in Charlotte. Gives them a professional to set the tone in the locker room, he spreads the floor enough and he comes at a discount price on a short-term contract. That’s just what the doctor ordered as the Bobcats try and move out of the primordial ooze.

32. You have to appreciate the fact that Brandon Bass almost certainly took less money to return to the Celtics. He’s a guy who really could have helped a lot of teams. Not sure how he’ll fit once the plodding Big-2-plus-Rondo era is over, but he’s going to help them win a lot of games over the next two years.

33. Elton Brand goes from horribly overpaid player to unbelievable bargain in a single transaction. Say hello to the amnesty clause.

34. Alonzo Gee isn’t on the radar much and the Cavs can match any offer but teams should definitely explore an offer sheet for him. He’s versatile, productive, and still has some upside. He was a hidden gem for Cleveland last year.

35. Kirk Hinrich returns for nearly a quarter of what he was making in his last year in Chicago. He’ll help, though. He can manage the offense, which is a big deal with how the Bulls’ offense is. The just need someone to set the table with Rose out.

36. There’s a certain level of ignorance being displayed in the Jason Terry evaluation. Ray Allen slipped last season, but so did Jason Terry. He had more trouble creating a shot, getting to the rim, staying in front of his man, hitting the big shots. He’ll still be a huge contributor for Boston, but losing Allen and gaining Terry is more about team need and fit than overall player talent upgrade.

37. Which guy is more surprising in terms of not having a deal agreed to yet, JaVale McGee or O.J. Mayo?

38. Mayo was coveted in Memphis and can’t seem to break out of the pack to draw an offer. This from a guy who showed the ability to drop 40 as a rookie. Lionel Hollins’ hiring may have been the worst thing for Mayo’s career, even if it was the best thing for Memphis.

39. Anyone else wonder if the Nuggets are going to sign McGee to a big long-term contract and then trade him like they did Nene?

40. If the Bulls match Asik, it’s a good move. If they let him walk for the money, it’s a good move. It’s kind of a can’t lose for Chicago, which is a rarity in these situations. Asik’s good enough to pay but also not good enough to suffer for walking away from.

41. Remember when Shannon Brown was a crucial piece on a championship team?

42. Kwame Brown could get massively overpaid as a competent center or underpaid as Kwame Brown. There’s very little in between.

43. If anyone can figure out what Daryl Morey is doing in Houston, could you draw the rest of us a diagram, with flankers?

44. Andre Miller didn’t take the money, the ring chase, or the starting gig. He just stayed home. Didn’t see that coming.

45. Marcus Camby’s transformation for how he’s considered defensively over the past five years is amazing, and Benjamin-Butto-like.

46. Weird that the Blazers are playing so cool with Nicolas Batum after making his trade value essentially worth a city of gold over the past three years.

47. I have come to the conclusion that Dan Fegan is Keyser Soze.

48. In this scenario, Billy King is Verbal Kint.

49. Pivotal trade piece and free agent: Kris Humphries. Who would have seen that coming two years ago?

50. Landry Fields…. why, Colangelo? Why?

 

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

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We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.

James Harden on shooting struggles: ‘Who cares?’

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A couple of years ago, could anyone have imagined James Harden not only saying he’s willing to give up scoring to do the little things to win but then actually doing it?

That’s exactly what Harden has done through five games against Golden State, and it’s why his Houston team is up 3-2.

Harden has struggled with his shot the past two games: He has shot 16-of-47 overall the past two games (34 percent) but also 3-of-23 from three. Yet he has done a good job setting up others. In Game 5, in particular, he did a better job getting into the middle of the paint, opening up passing lanes when the defense collapsed on him. He’s also worked hard on the defensive end, played Stephen Curry reasonably well, and been a solid team defender.

With his team one game from the Finals, he’s not concerned about his shot.

“Who cares?” Harden said to reporters after the game. “I’m just missing shots. But we’re winning, and I’m trying to compete on the defensive end and do other things to help my team win. But if we’ve got a guy like Eric Gordon making shots and being aggressive, who cares?”

A lot of players give that idea lip service, but in recent games Harden has backed it up.

“It’s just the shots [are] not falling, and a lot of it has to do with how hard everybody is playing,” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Probably his legs aren’t the freshest things in the world. But he’s invaluable to the defense and offense.”

The Rockets are going to need more scoring from Harden to close this series out — Chris Paul is out for Game 6 with a strained hamstring, and it’s unlikely he plays if there is a Game 7. Eric Gordon will get the start and has lit it up the past couple of games (he led the Rockets with 24 points in Game 5), but more scoring and shot creation will fall on the Harden’s shoulders.

If the Rockets are going to close this series out, Harden is going to have to look every bit the presumptive MVP. The little things are great, but Houston needs him to get buckets now.