Associated Press

What’s left of Spurs beats what’s left of Warriors; real question is how does league avoid games like this in future?

29 Comments

This is what the Spurs do — men go down with injuries, next man steps up. Kawhi Leonard (concussion), LaMarcus Aldridge (heart condition), Tony Parker (back) were all out, so Patty Mills stepped up with 21 points and an impressive performance (he should get some Sixth Man of the Year votes, but that’s another topic).

That was better than the second team of the Warriors, who rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, all that on top of Kevin Durant still being out injured. The team that was out there was a defensive disaster, especially rotating out and contesting at the arc.

The Spurs won 107-85 in a game that wasn’t interesting to start and became a blowout. TNT’s David Aldridge summed up how we all feel.

This is not a good look for the NBA — a marquee Saturday night, showcase game between two of the best teams in the NBA and the stars are all sitting. This instance was not on Gregg Popovich — his guys were injured — but in the past he has had no qualms about resting superstars on nationally televised games.

Blame for this — if you think blame needs to dished out — has to start with the NBA and its scheduling. In the quest to get the ratings-driver Warriors on more national games, the Warriors finished a gauntlet of eight games in eight cities in 13 days Saturday night. That included two cross-country flights. If the NBA wants playoff-quality games scheduled in prime time on Saturday night, then they need to think through the run-up to said games. Treat it like a playoff game, where the teams have at least a day and maybe three off in advance of it.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that the Warriors medical teams — which tracks players with wearables in practice monitoring their condition — told them guys needed rest. He was following their instructions, and it’s clear rest has been an issue. The Warriors are slumping, struggling without Durant, Curry and Thompson have been cold from three, but part of that is their legs look heavy. This team looked tired. Kerr did what he thought was best for his team.

The NBA loves analytics, and the numbers show rested players both play at a higher level and are less likely to be injured. Coaches that can afford to do so are going to rest guys to keep them fresh. This isn’t on the player (usually), these are directives that comes from the coach or higher up the food chain.

But at what point does this start to turn the fanbase off? At what point dues it hurt ticket sales in arena or ratings on television because fans never know who might be rested on a given day. In a star-driven league like the NBA, sitting a healthy Curry — or LeBron James or James Harden or whomever — disappoint a fan base. And it almost always is done on the road, not at home to the home fans (and sponsors).

The answers here are not simple. The NBA, the players union, representatives from the teams all need to sit in a room and discuss this.

Is the answer to fine coaches who do this for nationally televised games? David Stern did this before? Television money is driving the league economy right now, and you can be sure ABC didn’t love getting to run the Davis Bertans vs. Ian Clark show Saturday night in primetime. The problem here is Kerr would have just rested his players the night before in Detroit, hurting those fans but not the television audience. Also, this system is unfair to the Warriors, Cavaliers, and other teams on the biggest national stages with their games — those teams are nationally televised all the times, where the Bucks or Grizzlies or a host of other teams would barely be touched by this.

But it’s not good for the league that we are talking about who didn’t play, and not the game. And this has been the topic for days, all around the league and on sports talk radio. It’s something the league needs to address this summer.

And while I’d love to see a more holistic answer, maybe fines are the best call.

Kevin Durant already tired of free agency rumors: ‘Don’t ask me every time you see me’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s going to be one of the most discussed undercurrents of the NBA season:

Is this Kevin Durant‘s final season with the Golden State Warriors?

He can opt out next summer of his $31.5 million deal, and sources from multiple teams around the league think he may be ready to bolt the Bay Area and have his own team. Teams are already preparing for it and getting their pitches ready, and the Warriors are privately bracing for him to leave. The Knicks, Clippers, and maybe a dozen other teams are rumored and want to make their case. (The Lakers are in that group, too, but is Durant going to leave being in a team culture Stephen Curry created to being in LeBron James‘ shadow and culture? You thought he took flack for joining a championship Warriors team, imagine the reaction if he joins LeBron?)

Durant almost certainly does not know what he’s going to do next summer, staying with Golden State is a real possibility, but as rumors have their own life around the NBA this is going to be a topic all season long. People are going to try to read the tea leaves with everything Durant says and does.

Durant has been there before, and he’s already tired of it this time around, as he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“I just want people to focus on basketball,” Durant told Yahoo Sports after posting 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists. “Focus on what goes on the court. I know it’s hard to keep up with it. I know it’s easy to look at that type of [expletive] because it’s the entertainment side. But wait until the season is over with to analyze [free agency]. I know it’s your job and it’s hard to say that, but try to shift some of your focus to the court, too. I know you have to still do your job and check on stuff like that, but every day? Every city I go to? Come on, man. I said what I had to say at media day. I understand your job, but let’s come to a little agreement. Don’t ask me every time you see me. If it’s the first time I’m seeing y’all, I don’t mind answering. But every time? Come on, bro.”

It’s easy to appreciate Durant’s “just focus on the games” sentiment, but the simple fact of the matter is that is not what fans want — it’s not what they read, watch, and consume. We all want to play fantasy GM and player movement is of far bigger interest to fans than the game itself. Coverage of the league reflects that taste now.

Which means the questions are going to keep coming. How is Durant going to handle that?

“It depends on how I feel that day,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “If I’m in a [expletive]-up mood, you’re going to see. Ask me that question and you’re going to really see what mood I’m in.”

No contract extension for Kristaps Porzingis, is that a problem? Depends…

Getty Images
1 Comment

Most teams, when they get a franchise cornerstone player, lock him up with a max contract extension as soon as humanly possible. Minnesota did that this summer with a big offer to Karl-Anthony Towns (which he eventually signed). Before that Philadelphia did it with Joel Embiid, New Orleans with Anthony Davis, and on down the list.

Kristaps Porzingis is that kind of player for the Knicks.

But there was no contract extension for KP this offseason. This has nothing to do with the torn ACL that will have him out most if not all of this season (which tips off tonight for the Knicks at home against the Hawks).

The reason is cap space — not giving Porzingis an extension now frees up $10 million extra to go big game hunting in free agency next summer. After that, the Knicks can sign him after to that max contract. It’s what the Spurs did with Kawhi Leonard (and the problems between those two sides that led to Leonard being a Raptor were not about that contract).

It all works if the player understands this is not a “snub” but rather a strategic salary cap move designed to put a better team around him. The player has to be good with the move or it can create bad blood.

Does Porzingis and his camp know and understand all this? Knicks GM Scott Perry hinted yes, but was a little vague, via Ian Bagley of ESPN.

Is this a good move by the Knicks? Depends. The extra money is helpful next summer. Perry and team president Steve Mills are smart men who have made good decisions (mostly) so far, and it sounds like they have been clear to Porzingis and his people about what they are doing and why. That’s important.

The question is, did Porzingis fully buy into it? That we do not yet know. We won’t know until we see what Porzingis does next summer (his actions will speak louder than any words when he returns).

In theory it doesn’t matter, the Knicks control Porzinis’ rights as a restricted free agent next summer and they would match any offer. He’s not leaving NYC. However, in practice what the Knicks don’t want to do is create bad blood, something that festers and becomes an issue when this contract is up (Porzingis could sign an offer sheet with another team that is shorter than the max the Knicks want to throw at him).

I expect we will see Porzingis back with the Knicks this season, but not until the last 10-20 games of the season. He’s not coming in as a savior to get the team to the postseason, rather just getting his legs under him and shaking off some rust before another long summer of work. It’s the following season that he will be targeting.

We will see if the Knicks can use that extra $10 million in cap room to get another star to be with him that season.

Nets’ DeMarre Carroll has ankle surgery on eve of season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Brooklyn Nets forward DeMarre Carroll has undergone right ankle surgery and will miss the start of the season.

The team says Carroll had a right ankle arthroscopy. It was performed Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Carroll started 73 games at forward for the Nets last season, averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds.

The Nets say updates regarding Carroll’s return will be issued as appropriate.

Brooklyn opens its season Wednesday at Detroit.

 

PBT Extra: Five players to watch in NBA’s MVP race

Leave a comment

It was difficult to limit this list to just five.

The NBA’s race for the MVP award seems wide open this season. LeBron James is the favorite of the Las Vegas books (thank Lakers’ fans for that) and James Harden has been first or second three of the past four years, so he cannot be counted out. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have each won it before, although they tend to cancel each other out on the same team.

This year feels like we could see new blood winning the award. Maybe Anthony Davis of the Pelicans. Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks. Maybe Kawhi Leonard is back to form in Toronto and we shouldn’t count him out. Joel Embiid is touting himself in Philly.

I make my prediction and talk about the players to watch in this new PBT Extra video.