Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while mourning the loss of Harold Ramis (RIP)…..
Philadelphia 76ers on the court. My. Lord. They. Are. Terrible. The Sixers have lost 11 in a row after getting just routed by the Milwaukee Bucks 130-110. That would be the 11-win Milwaukee Bucks, which shot 57.1 percent as a team (67.2 true shooting percentage) and had an offensive rating of 130 (points per 100 possessions). They play poor transition defense, which is a big issue for a team playing at the fastest pace in the league. I’d say this is rock bottom but I don’t know that it is —Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner are gone and it’s Thaddeus Young, a rookie Michael Carter-Williams and not much else against the world. It’s hard to watch. Honestly if the 15-42 Sixers get to 20 wins this season I’ll be shocked.
Philadelphia 76ers’ rebuilding plan. If you’re going to rebuild by being bad, then be very bad. This is what organizational tanking looks like — it’s not that the players are not trying (Michael Carter-Williams was +6) but there is no depth of NBA talent on this team. Which is what Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was going for — he has loaded up on picks and as of right now the Sixers would have the second most Ping-Pong balls in the lottery. They stand a very good chance of a top three pick and can’t go lower than four. That’s what they should do in this draft — and even if they draft a real star he and Carter-Williams will learn more hard lessons next year and be bad. But after a few drafts and a few seasons it will start to come together. At least that’s the plan.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. You can’t question the man’s effort — 44 points on 14-of-29 shooting, plus he pulled down nine rebounds. He hit the trailing three that got the Knicks going, he found his groove and carried them. Every night on a roster that has deteriorated around him (don’t tell me this is all on Woodson, he didn’t make Raymond Felton take a step back, or J.R. Smith, or trade for Bargnani) Anthony is bringing it like an All-Star. An increasingly frustrated All-Star. And even when he does things right such as play good man defense on Dirk Nowitzki in the final seconds of the game, it doesn’t matter because the bounce goes the other team’s way. But you have to admire Anthony in the face of this disaster of a season.
Knicks perimeter defense. Dallas just carved it up. Yes, Mike Woodson’s odd love of switching everything and scheme (such as it is) doesn’t help matters, but he has just terrible perimeter defenders to work with (and that includes the now waived Metta World Peace, who moves in molasses and is a shadow of his former self). The Knicks play with no defensive IQ. How the heck is Vince Carter left that open all night long to drain threes? The Knicks pick-and-roll defense is atrocious — it leads to open threes or passes to open cutters every time down. I could go on and on, but watch this defense and tell me again how the Knicks are going to make up 6 games in their remaining 25 and make the playoffs.
Is this the wave of the future?
Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.
The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”
The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.
Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.
The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?
Just something to keep and eye on going forward.
It’s everyone’s favorite parlor game around the NBA: Where will Kawhi Leonard play next season? Philadelphia? Los Angeles? Somewhere else? Fans of 29 teams are posting their trade scenarios online, while GMs of 29 teams privately have tried to come up with offers that could tempt San Antonio.
The most likely answer: San Antonio.
While the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs is frayed — and with the people close to Leonard and in his ear seemingly trying to push him out the door — the Spurs would rather keep one of the five best players in the NBA (when healthy) in-house. From Tom Osbourne of the San Antonio Express-News.
Still, the Spurs hope to meet with Leonard and his representatives soon in a bid to mend fences and pave the way for Leonard to come to terms on a five-year $219 million supermax contract that he will be eligible to receive starting July 1. If attempts to patch up the relationship fail, the Spurs will be forced to explore trading a player coach Gregg Popovich once labeled “the future face of the franchise.”
The timing of that meeting has been slowed in part because of the death of Popovich’s wife and everyone involved understandably giving him all the space wants. It will happen.
Can the relationship be salvaged? Maybe, $219 million can mend a lot of fences. There are things the Spurs can and would be willing to do to promote Leonard more (although that all starts with him getting out of his comfort zone and building his brand, starting with speaking more in public). Also, Gregg Popovich was able to sooth LaMarcus Aldridge‘s ego when the big man demanded a trade, and not only did the player stay he had an All-NBA level season. Popovich and Leonard still have a strong relationship.
Is that enough? Time will tell, but people around the league think at best it’s a coin flip. Things are not good right now. However, the Spurs will get the first crack at fixing this before they are forced to consider a trade.
Last November, Julius Randle walked into Staples Center wearing a sweatshirt that said: “pay me.”
Yet he and the Lakers could not come to terms on a rookie contract extension — the Lakers could have had him starting at $12.4 million a year, but wanted to keep their cap space and options open. Now, it’s going to cost a lot more to keep the restricted free agent who averaged 16.1 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting with eight rebounds a game. There are rumors that the previous contract negotiations left a bad taste in Randle’s mouth and he wants out.
Lakers’ fans want Randle back. The Lakers still have rights to match any offer and the front office has said Randle is a priority. Randle’s camp is not so sure about that last part, they haven’t seen the evidence, reports Tania Ganguli at The Los Angeles Times.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told The Times on Friday that the Lakers’ front office is constantly in touch with Julius Randle’s representatives, and there has been “a mutual exchange of interest and hoping that we can work something out for both sides.”
Randle’s camp is unsure of how mutual the interest has been.
“We still have no indication of where Julius stands among the Lakers’ priorities, or if he is a priority at all,” Randle’s agent Aaron Mintz said Saturday in response to Pelinka’s comments. “We are looking forward to the marketplace in July, when we will get a clear picture of Julius’ future.”
That is negotiation posturing by Mintz, no doubt. He might as well have said, “show me the money.”
Don’t expect other teams to wait around on Randle offers while the Lakers figure out their free agent possibilities — Paul George, LeBron James (probably not him) — come July 1. Other teams are interested (Dallas among them) and are going to try to move quickly to force the Lakers’ hand.
Once those other offers are on the table, we’ll see where the Lakers’ priorities really are.
The Dallas Mavericks have been hunting for a center ever since they thought they had DeAndre Jordan, right before the Clippers locked him in a house and forced him to change his mind (that’s not really how it went down, but it makes a better story than the truth). It’s why Dallas has been linked to Mohamed Bamba in the draft — a big, defensive-minded, rim runner who could develop into a great pick-and-roll partner with Dennis Smith Jr.
However, the Mavericks may not want to wait for Bamba — or any other young big — to develop.
Expect the Mavericks to go after one of the name big men on the market in free agency this summer, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer from the NBA Combine in Chicago.
Ever since word spread in league circles in March that Dirk Nowitzki would return to the Mavericks for his 21st season, there have also been rumblings that the Dallas front office will look to make additions this summer that can put the team back on a winning track. The Mavericks can create space to sign a max free agent, and multiple league sources expect them to pursue a trio of big men: DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins, and restricted free agent Julius Randle.
Jordan has not yet officially opted out of the $24.1 million he is owed next season by the Los Angeles Clippers (although most observers expect him to). It is possible Dallas and other teams are not going to offer that much per season for Jordan, but if he can get three years starting at closer to $20 million per that’s a lot more guaranteed money. Also, does he want out of Los Angeles now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are gone and will he take a little less per year to get to a new team?
We know Dallas likes him and Jordan has a relationship with Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle from the last go around.
How much money and how many years would Dallas be willing to risk on Cousins coming off a torn Achilles? More than the Pelicans (who don’t have the money to replace Cousins with anywhere near that level player if he bolts)?
Randle showed a lot of promise as a bully inside who can run some pick-and-roll with Smith, but do the Mavericks want to try to outbid the Lakers (which leads to the question of what other free agents Los Angeles might get and how much they are willing to pay to keep Randle)?
We know this, Mark Cuban does not sit quietly on the sidelines of free agency. Expect the Mavericks to be aggressive players this summer.