Going into the season, the Hornets will be quite different from the disappointing group they put out last year. There are seven new players on the roster, including some key rotation players, and it’s going to be a lot of trial-and-error to see which ones play well together and which ones don’t. Head coach Steve Clifford is going to try out a lot of different combinations, including one he brought up in a new interview: a backcourt of Kemba Walker and new signee Jeremy Lin.
From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
Q: You’ve said you’re intrigued by the potential in playing point guards Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin together. Can you describe your vision for that combination?
It’s always good to have two pick-and-roll players on the floor. That way you can put pressure on the defense at one side, then switch it to the other. That makes more room to play similar to how Golden State does. You’ve got Steph (Curry) on one side, so defenses have to load up there, and then you’ve got Klay Thompson on the other with room to operate.
That’s what Kemba can do for Jeremy and Jeremy can do for Kemba.
It’s an interesting concept, and could work in small doses. Finding minutes for a two-point guard lineup will be tricky for Clifford, who will also be juggling playing time for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum and (if he cracks the rotation) Jeremy Lamb. He’ll have plenty of options to mix and match players in the backcourt and on the wing. Truth be told, both Walker and Lin are probably best suited to be sixth men, instant-offense types. Clifford compared the style of a Walker-Lin backcourt to the Warriors, which makes sense conceptually. But Thompson is a much better defender than both Walker and Lin, which makes it easier play two ball-dominant guards together. But it’s certainly worth trying this out. It’s hard to get a read on what the Hornets’ roster will be at this point, or how effective it can be. They have plenty of talented players, and it will be interesting to see how well they fit together.
The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
LeBron James, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:
“They said I couldn’t do it.”
“I’ll enjoy this one,” James said, nodding as he grinned. “They said I can’t do it.”
The Lakers entered the season fifth in the West in over-under wins (behind the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz and Nuggets).
But nobody credible thought the Lakers couldn’t get the No. 1 seed. With LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously had that type of upside. Their championship odds were far more favorable. The main doubts stemmed from how seriously LeBron would take the regular season.
That said, in the age of social media, players hear both more praise and more criticism than ever before. LeBron surely heard from haters who ruled him out. Crowning himself the Washed King, LeBron probably internalized that fringe opinion.
Many players find slights to use as motivation. It worked for Michael Jordan. It works for LeBron.
But it does sound silly when an exalted player like LeBron talks this way.
Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough.
Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way.
Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason.
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.
Pacers owner Herb Simon has a certain way of doing things. Indiana hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006, the first year the tax line was set before the season.
Despite that, the Pacers have been pretty good. They’ve qualified for the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons, peaking with appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals.
Still, Indiana has lost in the first round four straight years. Another first-round loss appears the most likely outcome for this season.
That’s not exactly satisfying for players who want to win championships. Spending big isn’t absolutely necessary to compete on the highest levels. But it helps.
Pacers star Victor Oladipo is approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency. He’s a competitor who’ll evaluate, among other things, whether his current franchise matches his ambitions.
It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Simon can decide his own limits. But there are consequences of his spending restraint – especially as perception grows about his relative thriftiness.
J.J. Redick has made the playoffs all 13 of his previous NBA seasons.
The Pelicans have put that streak in jeopardy.
New Orleans lost its first two games in the bubble, a nail-biter against the Jazz and a rout against the Clippers. During that loss to L.A., cameras captured Redick – on the floor exercising his back while out of the game – with a distant stare that became an instant meme.
Redick on ESPN Daily:
I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing, and I think my face summed up that first half pretty well.
There’s so many circumstances you could apply the emotions that I was going through in that moment.
Redick is right: That meme fits many occasions, which gives it staying power.
However, it has plenty of competition. Though the feelings displayed aren’t the exact same, Redick didn’t even have the best reaction inside the bubble by an exasperated NBA player. That belongs to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic:
At least Redick got reason to perk up. The Pelicans beat the Grizzlies yesterday to gain ground in the playoff race.
Darren Collison shocked the NBA last summer when he walked away from the game at age 32 — and a likely contract in the four-year, $70+ million range — and retired. His reasons were legitimate, he wanted to focus on his religion — “While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” Collison said at the time — but the league has seen a lot of players say they were walking away for good reasons only to come running back.
The rumors about a Collison return started just after January 1 and spun out of control in Los Angeles when he sat with Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss at a game.
Collison stayed retired, and told the “Minute til 6” podcast it wasn’t even close. He was never coming back.
“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about coming back.”
That game he went to? He just came to watch his friend Russell Westbrook.
“I just wanted to come watch the game as a fan.”
Collison also is smart enough to know how him sitting with Buss would be perceived.
Collison was wanted. The Lakers run LeBron James at the point but could have used the veteran Collison in the role Rajon Rondo filled as a secondary playmaker (Rondo is currently out with a thumb injury). Collison was rumored to the Clippers as well, and Doc Rivers can always find a way to use more guard depth.
Collison, however, seems at peace with his decision. If he wanted to return, he would have done it last summer for 10 figures a season, not for the minimum in January.