The last time Kristaps Porzingis was on an NBA court, it was Feb. 6, 2018, eighteen months ago. Since then he has gone through rehab for a torn ACL and gone from savior of the Knicks to being traded to the Mavericks.
Porzingis was finally back on the court Wednesday.
It’s just preseason, but Porzingis finished with 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting, 2-of-7 from three, and seven rebounds. His high-release shot looked smooth, even if he was a bit rusty at points overall.
It was a good start for the unicorn.
Luka Doncic led the way for Dallas with 21 points, but the Pistons won the game 124-117 behind a balanced attack led by Luke Kennard‘s 19 points.
Dallas has bet big on Porzingis getting healthy and meshing with Doncic, forming the cornerstone of a contender in a few years. One preseason game certainly isn’t going to say whether that was a good bet, but it’s a first step — and a smooth one at that.
With long endorsement list, LeBron James remains highest earning NBA player
LeBron James came to Los Angeles not just to chase another title and some legacy with the Lakers, but to position himself off-the-court now and for when he retires. It was a business move, not just a basketball one.
Damian Lillard, $43.8 million ($29.8 million salary, $14 million endorsements)
No real surprises on that list, just expect Antetokounmpo to climb it fast as more endorsements roll in and he gets a bump to a new supermax salary in a couple of years. With LeBron and Durant both having production companies, they may be up at the top for years.
Will LeBron’s stumbles with China impact his bottom line much? That’s an unknown and something interesting to watch, but it’s not slowing him down yet.
Also, don’t be shocked if Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Anthony Davis start to appear on this list after their moves to Los Angeles. While being in a big market doesn’t help as much as endorsements as it used to, being in that market on elite teams is going to add to the exposure, and that’s what companies will be drawn to.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: If Bucks underperform whether to re-sign ‘becomes a lot more difficult’
“I want the Bucks to build a winning culture,” Antetokounmpo is quoted as saying. “So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there’s no other place I want to be. But if we’re underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult.”
Define “underperforming.” Do the Bucks need to make the NBA Finals? What if they lose in a close seven-game Eastern Conference Finals to Philadelphia? Anything short of the conference finals — barring a major injury, of course — would be a disappointment. Is this Antetokounmpo just keeping pressure on the organization to spend and put together a winner?
Leaving Milwaukee would mean leaving a lot of money on the table — only the Bucks can re-sign Antetokounmpo to a five-year, $247 million supermax contract next summer. Bucks GM Jon Horst said Milwaukee will offer it (then got fined for saying they would offer it, even though it’s obvious). If Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign it, the Bucks will be forced to consider trading him (or lose him for nothing), or find a way to win him over before his contract ends in 2021.
Because of money, comfort level, and playing for a contender, most teams don’t think Antetokounmpo is going anywhere as a free agent next summer.
But they are watching. Just in case.
Jamal Crawford makes not-so-subtle pitch on Twitter for spot on Lakers roster
The Lakers have made LeBron James their point guard this season, the shot creator with the ball in his hands.
That worked with limited success in a season-opening loss to the Clippers. LeBron tried to force-feed the ball to Anthony Davis much of the night (leading to five turnovers). The Clippers adjusted to defend LeBron/Davis actions as the game wore on — switching but having the big man stay back and daring LeBron to shoot or blow past the defender, neither of which he did well. When Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee was on the floor, the Lakers had no spacing, so the Clippers clogged the paint. In the end, LeBron and Davis combined to shoot 15-of-40 on the night, including 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter.
Laker coach Frank Vogel was stuck because he didn’t have another good playmaking option (his next best guys for that, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma, are both out injured).
The Lakers have 14 guaranteed contracts already and the one non-guaranteed they are carrying is Howard (teams can only carry 15 players). If the Lakers waived Howard they would need to replace him with another center. The Lakers could eat the contract of Troy Daniels or Jared Dudley to create a roster spot for a free agent, but they are nowhere near making that kind of move yet. Even if they were, Crawford might not be the guy, he creates shots more for himself than others.
Crawford could help the right team, the man can still get buckets off the bench. He averaged 7.9 points per game last season and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last year. There are downsides — Crawford is 39, has slowed in recent years, and his defense is not good — but in the right role he can help.
Just not the Lakers.
Good try, though.
Draymond Green opens up about, takes blame for last season’s rift with Kevin Durant
At the time last November, some wondered if Draymond Green‘s on-court, over-the-top argument withKevin Durant — which extended into the locker room, where Green reportedly called Durant a “b****” and questioned his commitment to the Warriors because of KD’s pending free agency — would doom the Warriors down the line in the playoffs.
Green was more worried about what it would do to his friendship with Durant.
“I started to tell myself in my mind, ‘Wow, [Myers is] flipping on me,’ and it just felt like, ‘Wow, OK, is this not the guy I’ve known for all these years? Is he turning on me?’ And I started to tell myself all of these things, and then everybody’s like, ‘Oh my God, the Warriors sided with Kevin Durant.’…
“I just had to accept the fact that I was wrong. And once I was able to get over my stubbornness and accept the fact that I was wrong, I was able to move on. I lost [Durant’s] trust. How do I get that back? Not so we can win a championship or we can win some games … but I actually loved this guy, like that’s really my brother. And so not knowing what’s next in our relationship bothered me more.”