Phil Jackson says J.R. Smith displayed “delinquent behavior” before trade

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Phil Jackson speaks with a purpose and for effect. He doesn’t say things that will be published without having some motive.

Which is why what he told his old friend Charlie Rosen about the big mid-season trade in New York — which sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland for non-guaranteed contracts — was so interesting. Jackson tries to make himself look better, like the adult cleaning up the mess at the children’s table.

It’s about as direct and blunt as you will ever hear someone if a front office speak about a player on the record.

Jackson didn’t hold back talking about Smith and Shumpert in the piece posted on ESPN.

“J.R. had been exhibiting some delinquent behavior and had gotten into the habit of coming late to team meetings, or missing them altogether,” Jackson says. “Also, Shump and Tim [Hardaway Jr.] were regressing, so I decided to meet with them separately and try to find out what, if anything, was bothering them.”

Smith was first on the list. “We talked about his statement to the press that our shooting guard depth was going to be the team’s asset, but so far it hadn’t worked out that way,” Jackson says. “He was supposed to carry the scoring load for the second unit and he wasn’t doing the job. I also said that because of his unacceptable behavior, he had two strikes against him with this team. He didn’t really respond. He’s a very sensitive guy, with his big doe eyes. He looked like he was going to tear up. But he finally responded that he was going through some issues with his gal.”

Shumpert was next in line. “After he suffered a hip injury in Dallas, his game went rapidly downhill. Did he have any other issues to explain his decline? He said, ‘No. I don’t know what has gone wrong with my game.’ As with J. R., nothing got resolved.”

Jackson goes on to say coach Derek Fisher thought Smith walked around like there was a dark cloud over his head, and that Shumpert’s ego was a problem in the locker room.

Whether you want to say it was the negative impacts on their game in New York — Smith was known to enjoy the New York nightlife — or the positive ones of LeBron James in Cleveland, both Shumpert and Smith played a lot better after the move.

Smith saw more minutes, and his true shooting percentage jumped from a below average 48.7 percent to and above average 56.6 percent (boosted by him shooting 39 percent from three in Cleveland). Smith’s PER jumped from 11.5 to 14.5 (which is still slightly below the league average).

Smith also had some delinquent behavior on the court during the playoffs, which led to him being suspended for the first two games of the NBA Finals. Smith opted out of his contract and is still hanging out there as a free agent, likely about to take a pay cut, although the Cavaliers seem the most likely to retain him.

Shumpert played fewer minutes and took fewer shots in Cleveland, but he saw his true shooting percentage jump up to 50.8 percent. More importantly, his defense was a key part of the grit and grind style the Cavaliers had to evolve towards during the playoffs due to injuries.

The Cavaliers re-signed Shumpert to a four-year, $40 million deal and he is likely the starting two guard for the Cavaliers when next season tips off.

Report: Warriors investigating how practice video was leaked to TMZ

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The video changes how things feel, even if it doesn’t ultimately change the outcome.

The Warriors went from “there was an altercation at practice” to a video showing Green rapidly escalating a standard shoving match with a quick and vicious punch to the face of Jordan Poole. This was something the Warriors thought would fade away and was out of the news cycle to something at the top of the sports news cycle they will have to deal with for a while.

The Warriors are now trying to find out how this practice video got leaked, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN were first.

Two thoughts here.

First, the Warriors absolutely should investigate who leaked this video. Players around the league’s reaction to the public video shows how they feel practice is a safe, private space for them, and to make it public crosses a line. It’s possible a Warriors or Chase Center staffer went for the bag (TMZ pays for this kind of video/story) and violated the Warriors’ policy and practices in the process. Simply put: Someone should get fired over this.

However, the more interesting scenario is the Warriors can’t determine where the leak came from. That could lead to all kinds of speculation about someone wanting to make Green look bad — the who and why of that possibility can go a lot of different directions.

Second, we see this in politics all the time — use the search for the leaker to distract from what was leaked. Blame the messenger. The video shows a vicious, borderline sucker punch from Green (he was facing Poole, but nobody saw that coming), and it’s fair to question if the Warriors are handling it “internally” was the right move and if they have done enough to chastize Green. There is a history of crossing the line with him.

Wherever you fall on how the Warriors are handling it, they would much prefer a discussion of how it was leaked to discussing that footage and the impact on the team.

That’s the big problem for the Warriors — this is no longer just fading away as they hoped.

NBA world reacts to video of Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
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“How did that video get leaked?”

That was the primary reaction of players on Twitter after TMZ got ahold of the practice video showing Draymond Green punching Jordan Poole during a Warriors practice. The video has gone viral in NBA circles and brought an issue the Warriors hoped was in the rearview mirror front and center again.

Trae Young played the instigator on Twitter with his response (although the rumor of Green wanting to join the Lakers if the Warriors don’t extend him has been floating around the league for a while).

While some other players talked about the incident, most players were focused on how something they consider private — a practice — became public.

Former Grizzlies executive John Hollinger posted the response of the 29 other teams.

Leaked video of Draymond Green punch of Jordan Poole means incident not just going away

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The Warriors thought they had the situation handled. Sure, Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole during practice but Green apologized to the team and discipline was being handled “internally.” Nothing to see here, move along.

Then TMZ got ahold of a leaked practice video that shows things being much uglier than most imagined.

It shows Green and Poole had their beef and were talking, Green walked up on Poole, then Poole pushed him away with two hands and Green came back with a vicious punch to the face that was a massive escalation.

The Warriors do not practice on Friday and nobody from the organization is scheduled to speak to the media. Green is expected to rejoin his teammates in practice on Saturday, coach Steve Kerr said previously.

The Warriors likely will say this changes nothing, they had already seen the video before settling on a punishment. Plus, punches have been thrown in NBA practices more times than anyone could count — including Kerr getting punched by Michael Jordan in a legendary Bulls practice.

But there was never video like this leaked before.

The Warriors reportedly are investigating the leak of the footage to TMZ.

The video being public increases the inherent tension around the situation, keeps the news cycle alive and gives fans (and media pundits) some context and facts to discuss whether the Warriors are letting Green off easy.

It will also bubble up the subtext to all this about the Warriors’ future spending, something NBC Sports Bay Area’s Dalton Johnson and I discussed on a PBT Podcast previewing the Warriors’ season. Co-owner Joe Lacob has said that the Warriors’ salary and tax limit will make it hard to extend all three of Andrew Wiggins, Poole and Green at the prices they expect. Poole, the youngest of the group and a bridge to the future, is going to get his money (probably a little more than Tyler Herro just got from the Heat). There’s been speculation that Green would be the odd man out, be forced to opt-in for less than he wants, or he can opt-out and be a free agent this summer.

The Warriors thought this fight was in the rearview mirror. Green and Poole would have to address it with the media at some point, but the Warriors wanted to move on and focus on the season and their upcoming ring ceremony.

The leaked video changes that dynamic. The controversy remains on the front page and the Warriors will have to deal with it.

The only thing that is certain in all this is that the Warriors will fire whoever leaked this video, if they can find out who it was.

 

Adam Silver hopes teams don’t tank for Wembanyama. Good luck with that.

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Victor Wembanyama came to Las Vegas this week and put the hype machine into overdrive: In two games against the G-League Ignite he scored 73 points with 15 rebounds, nine blocks, hit 9-of-18 3-pointers (and 22-of-44 overall). He is a 7’4″ freak that LeBron James called an “alien” and a “generational talent,” and Stephen Curry said he was a “2K create-a-player.”

Combine that with the play of the Ignite’s Scoot Henderson — who had scouts using a young Derrick Rose comparison because of his athleticism, body control and skill — and the reaction in NBA circles was clear: There will be a “race to the bottom” this season. With multiple franchise cornerstone players available (and a deep draft at the top beyond those two), tanking will be an epidemic in the NBA.

Adam Silver, speaking in the United Arab Emirates before an NBA preseason game between the Bucks and Hawks, does not want to see teams tanking for Wembanyama.

Good luck with that, Adam.

The league office hates tanking and even a discussion of it. They hate the idea of a fan base being told — or, worse yet, actively rooting for — their team to lose games. This season there will be an epidemic of it around the league. In a typical year, a front office may want to tank but their challenge is getting buy-in from ownership. Not this year — Wembanyama could add $500 million to the value of a franchise, one league executive told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

It could make the NBA trade deadline in February wild as teams that started the season thinking playoffs but were out of the mix (due to injury or just not being good enough) pivot to tanking. For example, think Portland from last season after Damian Lillard had surgery. Of course, the Trail Blazers also can serve as a cautionary tale — they had the sixth-worst record in the league last season but fell to seventh in the draft. Tanking doesn’t always work.

There were already were teams clearly in rebuild mode and racing to the bottom this season — do you think it’s a coincidence Danny Ainge blew up the Jazz this past summer? — and some other teams with some promising young talent (Houston, Orlando) that are fine losing a lot of games while those guys learn on the job. But the bottom of the standings could get crowded.

The NBA flattened out the lottery odds a few years ago to discourage tanking: The teams with the three worst records have a 14% chance to get the top pick and the odds drop from there (fourth is 12.5%, fifth is 10.5%, and it keeps on going down). However, this year, because the prize at the top of the draft is so huge, more teams than ever could try to get into that top three, or at least do what they can to fatten their odds.

However, with the prize being Wembanyama this season, a lot of teams may be willing to take that risk.

Despite what Adam Silver wants.