PBT Awards: Executive of the Year

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

3. Mike Budenholzer (Danny Ferry), Atlanta Hawks

It’s not for getting LeBron James last summer; LeBron decided that. It’s not for the Kevin Love/Andrew Wiggins trade; LeBron pushed to make that happen, too. No, it was for the smart mid-season change of
course to get Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith in while sending Dion Waiters out. That and not panicking with David Blatt.

Officially the Hawks submitted Budenholzer — the acting GM — for this award, but Ferry deserves credit here, too. Even Budenholzer recently said it was Ferry, currently suspended, who constructed most of the East’s top team.

Brett Pollakoff

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Mike Budenholzer (Danny Ferry), Atlanta Hawks

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

While Griffin may not have had much to do with the Cavaliers landing LeBron James or Kevin Love, bringing in Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith (while jettisoning Dion Waiters at the same time) makes him worthy of the honor. It was tempting to consider the Hawks for the top spot, but Dan Feldman laid out a pretty solid case of why it wouldn’t be appropriate, no matter what moves may have been made by those in Atlanta’s front office.

Sean Highkin

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Yes, your job is a lot easier when you’re gifted LeBron James and Kevin Love in the offseason. But Griffin deserves a lot of credit for the Iman Shumpert/J.R. Smith/Timofey Mozgov trades in January that filled every need the Cavs had and were the catalyst for their transformation into the team to beat in the East.

I realize that Ferry wasn’t officially on the ballot, and that was just about the only thing the Hawks could do given the circumstances around his leave of absence. But Ferry’s done a phenomenal job since taking over the Hawks, and this was the best season in franchise history.

Ainge did a good job collecting assets, picking up a potential long-term piece in Isaiah Thomas, and getting decent value for Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

Dan Feldman

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Of course, LeBron James is primarily responsible for transforming the Cavaliers, and hometown pride guided his decision. But he was not leaving the Heat for Cleveland under just any circumstances. Credit Griffin for making the Cavaliers appealing enough and creating the necessary cap space to lure LeBron. From there, Griffin did right to cash in assets to maximize Cleveland’s chances of winning now. Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have rounded out the roster, and getting a first rounder for Dion Waiters was impressive. The verdict is still out on the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade, but Griffin had the right idea.

On that same front, Myers gets most credit for the trade he didn’t make – Klay Thompson for Kevin Love. Myers did most of his heavy-lifting with the roster in previous years, but keeping the group together was a decision, just like breaking it up would have been a decision. This year, the Warriors hired Steve Kerr and surrounded him with excellent assistant coaches – building a collaborative culture that really works. Myers is the front-office face of it.

Ainge successfully tore down the Celtics, probably getting the best haul of draft picks as possible in the process. Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Brandan Wright (who was acquired for Rondo) were the prominent outgoing players this year, but Ainge even got a pick for Austin Rivers. Ainge also wisely reversed course somewhat when Boston stayed in the playoff hunt and Isaiah Thomas became available for good value. Best of all, Ainge has created an environment where Brad Stevens has the resources and support to successfully make the college-to-NBA jump.

Gar Forman (signing Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic), Daryl Morey (plenty of mid-level roster tinkering after striking out on star free agents) and John Hammond (acquiring a first-round pick for taking quality contributor Jared Dudley, getting along well enough with Jason Kidd) also drew consideration.

Mark Cuban says no Mavericks player will wear No. 24 again in honor of Kobe

Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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Kobe Bryant never suited up for the Dallas Mavericks, but his impact on the NBA and Mark Cuban is undeniable.

As a tribute to Kobe — who died in a helicopter crash Sunday along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others — the Mavericks’ owner announced that no player will wear No. 24 for the Mavericks again.

Kobe was a nemesis of the Mavericks — back in 2005 he scored 62 points on them in three quarters, outscoring the entire Mavericks’ team’s 61 points — but had earned the respect of their players. And owner. Cuban was part of a league-wide outpouring of both shock and love for Bryant upon the news of his untimely death.

Five Mavericks players have worn No. 24 before: Mark Aguirre (1982-1989), Jim Jackson (1993-1997), Hubert Davis (1998-2001), Pavel Podkolzin (2005-2006), and most recently Richard Jefferson (2015).

He will be the last.

Shaquille O’Neal says he’s ‘SICK’ over losing his brother, Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal
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Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal will always be linked – as champions, as enemies and eventually as friends.

The historically great combination led the Lakers to a threepeat from 2000-2002. Their egos were too large for one team and, eventually, they broke up. But later in life, their bond – built through shared experiences – prevailed over distant grievances.

In the wake of Bryant’s tragic death, O’Neal shared his sorrow:

These photos span 17 years. Bryant and O’Neal went through so much together.

They were just settling into the next phase of their relationship – poking at each other while knowing an underlying affection existed. Disagreements had become more fun than biting.

It’s such a shame their ever-evolving relationship gets undercut so soon.

Michael Jordan: ‘Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe’

Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan
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Kobe Bryant grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. Bryant styled his game after Jordan. Bryant even wanted to sign with Jordan’s Wizards. Though they never became teammates, Bryant still developed a brotherly relationship with Jordan.

In the wake of Bryant’s tragic death, Jordan shared a heartfelt message.

Bryant once said he wanted Jordan or Phil Jackson to present him at the Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s unbelievably sad Bryant’s impending induction will come posthumously. But Jordan would be such a fitting speaker about his brother.

Kobe Bryant, daughter die in helicopter crash

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Kobe Bryant, the legendary Laker star who was saluted by LeBron James on Saturday night, has died in a helicopter crash in Southern California.

The crash took place in Calabasas, an area about 30 miles northwest of the Staples Center, where Kobe starred as a player for more than a decade. It is not far from the Mamba Academy athletic training center where Kobe was both an owner and an active participant, and where he was reportedly headed to coach his daughter’s game.

The crash killed nine people, of which Kobe was one.

Kobe was 41. He and his wife Vanessa have four daughters. Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was aboard the helicopter with Kobe (they were on their way to one of her basketball games, along with a fellow teammate of Gianna’s and her parent).

His death sent waves of sadness and shock around the NBA and beyond.

Bryant starred for 20 years in NBA

Kobe had a 20-year NBA career that will send him to the Hall of Fame (once he becomes eligible). He was a five-time NBA Champion, a 15-time All-NBA player, NBA MVP, two-time scoring champion, two-time Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Medalist for Team USA, and a player who influenced a generation who came up after him. His work ethic was legendary and was part of what rubbed off on LeBron and many others.

He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.

Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game.

He stepped away from the game and focused on storytelling, which helped him win an Oscar in 2018 for the animated short “Dear Basketball.”

Kobe became synonymous with the Lakers and their brand — the loyalty Kobe generated with his fans was unmatched in the modern NBA.

Kobe’s death came just a day after LeBron passed him for third All-Time in NBA scoring.  LeBron talked about how he had grown up idolizing Kobe and the influence Kobe had on his life. Kobe’s last Tweet was about LeBron and, appropriately, the future of the game.

More details on the crash

From the AP story on his death:

Juan Bonilla of Calabasas said he was working on his roof Sunday morning when he heard a helicopter flying low nearby. He said he thought it was a sheriff’s helicopter on a training mission. He heard nothing amiss with the engine or rotors and said he did not see any mechanical issue with the chopper. It was foggy Sunday morning, but he said visibility didn’t seem to be low at the time of the crash.

Firefighters worked to douse flames that spread through about an acre (.40 hectares) of dry brush, said Art Marrujo, a dispatch supervisor with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the downed chopper was a Sikorsky S-76.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a “go team” of investigators to the site. The NTSB typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.

“They will look at man, machine and environment,” said Gary C. Robb, an aviation attorney in Kansas City who wrote a textbook on helicopter-crash litigation.

“They will look at the pilot – was there any indication of fatigue, any indication of a training issue?They’ll scour his or her record,” Robb said. “They will look at this helicopter from stem to stern. They will take the engine to the NTSB metallurgical laboratory outside Washington, D.C., and examine it to see if there was something that malfunctioned in flight.”

Investigators will also consider what role might have been played by weather, terrain, radio towers or bird strikes, he said.

Robb said he has handled many cases involving Sikorsky S-76 crashes and regards the machine as having a good reputation.

“It is generally regarded as a good helicopter with a good safety record,” he said, “but parts fail, parts break. Anything can happen.”