And now, 29 teams will start chasing the champion Warriors

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The alarm was sounded loud and clear by LeBron James not long after the NBA Finals ended, and every other player, coach and general manager around the league who did not end this season drenched in champagne surely agreed with what he was saying.

The Golden State Warriors are a problem.

And they’re probably going to stay that way.

There will be one question inevitably asked this offseason by most of the 29 other teams in the NBA whose fingers didn’t get to smudge the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year. That question will not have a good answer for many, if any. Basketball’s offseason is here, a draft and free agency loom, and for the second time in three years everyone is chasing the Warriors.

Good luck, everybody.

You’re going to need it.

“They’re going to be here for a while,” James said after the Finals ended , his words coming as the Warriors’ celebration was still going in earnest. “They’re going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down.”

Boston has the No. 1 pick in the draft to add to a team that went to the Eastern Conference finals this season. Miami will have around $37 million in spending money once Chris Bosh comes off the books. James will try and lure more help to come to Cleveland. Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Gordon Hayward, Paul George and Blake Griffin may all be changing addresses. The Knicks have openly been begging Carmelo Anthony to seek a trade elsewhere.

No, quiet will not happen in July 2017.

It’s unclear if any of this summer’s moves will matter come June 2018.

The Warriors might be that far ahead of the field already.

“There’s going to be a lot of teams that’s trying to figure out ways to put personnel together to try and match that if they’re able to actually face them in a playoff series, both Eastern Conference and Western Conference,” James said. “Because they’re built for … from my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”

Technically, the Warriors have some work to do in order to remain the Warriors.

Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee will be among many Golden State players in the free-agent waters, and Kevin Durant will likely join them. Even though it will cost the Warriors big money – remember, Curry is in line for an enormous raise and made “only” $12 million this season – it’s more than possible for them to keep their core intact.

There also are some other matters of business around the league to clear up this season.

Many players have opt-in decisions coming before the July 1 shopping spree opens. Some of those decisions could affect what happens on draft night, when Markelle Fultz will likely go to the Celtics with the No. 1 overall pick. And there is still all the awards that need to be handed out, like settling the Russell Westbrook versus James Harden race for MVP.

There hasn’t been a coaching change in more than a year, which is an incredibly rare occurrence for the league. But some front offices have undergone recent overhauls, and more of that could be on the way – especially if Cleveland does not retain GM David Griffin, whose contract with the Cavs is expiring.

Rosters, though, will definitely change. They always change. The Warriors won’t be the same when Commissioner Adam Silver hands them their rings next October (when the league’s longer season designed to give more rest over the 82-game span) begins. The Cavaliers won’t be the same either. Nobody will have the same 15 players they ended the season with.

But the Warriors look like they’re on the brink of something dynastic.

No team had a winning record against Golden State this season – five were .500 against the Warriors – and 16 of the 29 other teams in the league didn’t beat them even once. The best example of how far the league has to go to catch the Warriors might be the Portland Trail Blazers, a very solid team with two great scorers in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Portland played Golden State eight times this season. The Blazers went 0-8.

Again, good luck, everybody else.

“We’re obviously just getting started,” Curry said. “This is something that we want to continue to do.”

 

Report: NBA executives expect busy in-season trade market

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For the first time in years, the NBA feels wide open — more than 10 NBA front offices think they have a shot at an NBA title next season (a few of them are delusional about that, but they believe). It’s one of the reasons we saw such an aggressive trade market last summer, teams thought they had an opening so the Clippers (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George), Lakers (Anthony Davis), Nets (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant), Houston Rockets (Russell Westbrook), and others were aggressive on the free agent and trade markets to land stars.

Expect that aggressive mindset to carry over to the in-season trade market.

That’s what executives have been telling Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.

“We’ve been getting calls all summer,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “There are a lot of things we are considering. The dust settles a little, you’re aware of your weaknesses and your holes and so you find ways to address that. I think we’re going to see more of that than usual. I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very brisk trade market this winter for a few reasons.”…

Chief among those reasons is a sense that next spring’s Larry O’Brien trophy is up for grabs, a feeling that took hold during last year’s Finals when Kevin Durant of the Warriors ruptured his Achilles tendon and crystallized when Golden State lost to Toronto, then saw Durant sign with the Nets as a free agent…

The other big driver of the trade market this season figures to be the open, empty crater that the 2020 free-agent class has become. Teams hoping to make significant changes in their direction won’t have free agency to lean on. Trades will be the way to go.

The lack of a decent free agent class in 2020 is why teams are still eyeing and calling Washington about Bradley Beal (and those calls continue to be rejected, Washington is not interested as of now and Beal himself wants to stay because he wants to qualify for the $250 million supermax contract and only the Wizards can give it to him). The only big 2020 free agent is Anthony Davis and nobody around the league thinks he’s leaving the Lakers and LeBron James after all he did to get there. After that, the biggest unrestricted names are Kyle Lowry, Andre Drummond (player option), DeMar DeRozan (player option), Danilo Gallinari, and Goran Dragic. There are restricted free agents such as Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown, but they will be expensive to steal away.

With high expectations in a lot of front offices after last summer, when the reality of the season hits and holes in the roster are exposed — or injuries create new ones — teams are going to make moves to fill them. Trade rumors are going to fly around the league and the rumor mill will continue to be on full tilt, something fans love but the league is wary about. Owners and NBA league execs don’t like the focus on player movement being bigger than the games themselves, in part because the games are where the money is made, the teams don’t cash in from trade rumors. Put simply, winning Twitter doesn’t put money in an owner’s pocket.

That’s not going to stop the rumors, expect them to be flying again all season long.

Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball reportedly working out with no restrictions in NOLA

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a bright future ahead of them. This season will be the first for No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, and the team is expected to be a playoff contender thanks to a solid young core and proven veterans like Jrue Holiday.

But one of the things that could hold the Pelicans back? Health.

Both Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball — two of the cornerstone pieces sent over in the Anthony Davis trade with the Los Angeles Lakers — have battled various ailments. Ingram had a blood clot that knocked him out in March. Ball had been dealing with an ankle injury for most of 2019.

A team with this many fresh faces will need as much time together as they can get, and so it’s good news that both Ingram and Ball are reportedly getting some run in recent practices.

Via ESPN:

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram and guard Lonzo Ball have been full participants in the team’s voluntary offseason workouts in New Orleans, a source told ESPN on Tuesday.

Neither player has been restricted by the injuries that shut them down last season while members of the Los Angeles Lakers, representing a significant step with training camp around the corner on Oct. 1.

New Orleans is expected to be a challenger in the Western Conference, which has been weakened by the departure of Kevin Durant (and the injury to Klay Thompson) in the Bay Area. Yes, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George represent a formidable force for the Los Angeles Clippers, but the parity in the Western Conference should allow a team like the Pelicans to make some noise.

If his team can get healthy and find some rhythm, it might be a quick turnaround for David Griffin after losing Davis via trade not so long ago.

Joel Embiid says he’s lost 25 pounds this summer (VIDEO)

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The big knock against Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid was that he just wasn’t in shape enough to play NBA basketball. Several times down the stretch last year, and Embiid couldn’t be relied upon to play from a conditioning standpoint.

But all that might be about to change.

In a recent video posted to social media, Embiid could be seen eating extremely hot chip as part of a marketing campaign. As Embiid gulped down the fiery junk food, he mentioned that he had actually lost 25 pounds over this summer.

“This summer I lost about 25 pounds,” said Embiid as he struggled to deal with the heat from the Carolina Reaper-laced chip by gulping down glasses of milk. “I’m about to put it back on with this milk.”

That’s a huge bit of news for Sixers fans who have derided Embiid’s lack of willpower when it has come to his diet. The Cameroonian center famously loved Shirley Temple’s, and there have been stories of him eating huge amounts of Chik-fil-A and up to four milkshakes in one sitting.

A thinner, slimmer Embiid should not only take some weight off of his knees and ankles, but it might also allow Brett Brown to keep his best player in the game for longer stretches in important situations.

Summer in the NBA is rife with news of #musclewatch, but for now here’s hoping that Embiid can keep the weight off. Keep counting those calories, my dude.

Rudy Gobert says lack of Team USA stars in World Cup will continue

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The 2019 FIBA World Cup is over, and the United States did not medal. It was a disappointing showing for Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Jayson Tatum, who led the U.S. national team in a year in which several stars did not want to participate.

Instead it looks as though players like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will play next year in the 2020 Olympics in Japan. Meanwhile, what can FIBA do to entice stars to play in their tournament?

There are lots of issues with how the World Cup works, including the wonky qualifying windows and the fact that the Olympics come in short succession. That’s not to say that folks back in the States don’t want the World Cup to be a big deal — USA basketball head Jerry Colangelo has said that he wants the FIBA contest to be a premier event.

But some, like Utah Jazz and French national team big man Rudy Gobert, don’t ever see that happening. Speaking to the New York Times’ Marc Stein, Gobert said that he doesn’t believe players will join in on the FIBA games thanks to how the modern NBA works.

Via NY Times:

“I wish all the best players would come, but it’s never going to happen,” Gobert said of the modern N.B.A. player’s approach in the Load Management Era. “They think about themselves more than anything — and it’s understandable. It’s a business. We all have families to take care of.”

Although FIBA has been around since 1932, it’s not a part of American culture yet and thus the Olympics seem to be what both players and fans care about in comparison. That the U.S. men’s team didn’t come away with the gold doesn’t even seem to be that big of a deal, culturally.

Gobert has the right idea in terms of the reality of the situation. Until respective national team organizations can entice their own players to join in, it’s not clear what the World Cup will mean for basketball fans in North America moving forward. As such, we are unlikely to see a star-studded World Cup Team USA in the near future.