AP

Adam Silver encourages Warriors to ‘increase their dominance’

5 Comments

Privately, it seems like the NBA has been upset with the Golden State Warriors after they signed Kevin Durant. Grabbing a former league MVP to add to an already dominant team was something of a shock thanks to the jump in the salary cap a couple of years ago.

Now, the Warriors are NBA champions once again and it seems as though Durant will be with Golden State for a least a few more years. The team also recently added former star big man DeMarcus Cousins, who was having a good season with the New Orleans Pelicans last year until he ruptured his Achilles tendon.

Cousins isn’t likely to stick around after 2019, but at least on paper it seems as though the Warriors are the destination for big time players, all while their salary demands taking a backseat.

Now, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says that the Warriors and their front office practices are in line with the league’s goals. Specifically, Silver said he thought it was okay for Golden State to try and increase their dominance after a season in which they took home the Larry O’Brien trophy quite easily.

Via Sports Illustrated:

“We want teams to compete like crazy,” Silver said. “I think the Warriors—within the framework of this deal—should be doing everything they can to increase their dominance. That’s what you want to see in a league. You want teams to compete in every way they can within the rules.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s per se bad that the Warriors are so dominant. As I’ve said before, we’re not trying to create some sort of forced parity. What we really focus on is parity of opportunity.”

The most interesting part of that quote was at the end of the first paragraph. Silver said he wants everyone to play within the rules. As the rules stand right now, Golden State is A-OK. But as we’ve seen with special circumstances in the past, it’s entirely possible the rules could change thanks to dire need within the league.

I personally think that’s a real possibility for the NBA moving forward. It’s no secret that the league would rather that Durant was not teamed up with the superstars on the Warriors, and guys taking a pay cut — or at least less than their expected value with regard to max salaries — is a real problem. LeBron James obviously got paid, but if this Warriors team is going to continue to have multiple players take the Dirk Nowitzki route and re-sign for less than market value in their primes, that’s a real problem for the competitive balance in the NBA.

Again, that’s my own personal projection with what I see happening within the league. The reality is there aren’t enough star players to fill two spots on each of the 30 NBA teams. The fact that some can choose to glom together (while socially just) isn’t in the best business interests of the NBA.

Then again, Cousins will be gone after next season and Durant could be on the Knicks after too long. Maybe this isn’t an issue, but no doubt Silver has been weighing his options in terms of guarding against superteams like Golden State in the future.

The number one way to combat that, in all honesty, is to fight harder for cap smoothing if the opportunity comes available next time out.

NBA Draft Winners, Losers: Big nights for Phoenix, Dallas

Getty Images
6 Comments

Let’s start with the obvious — this whole story is a fool’s errand. It really takes about three years to accurately assess who are the winners and losers in the NBA draft. Guys we thought were locks will turn out to be pretty pedestrian, guys we wrote off as projects down the board will impress. In three years, we’ll have a real sense of which teams read this draft well and nailed it.

But we don’t live in that world.

So here are my projections on the real winners and losers Thursday night in Brooklyn, starting with the guys who didn’t screw up the No. 1 pick.

 

Suns small icon Winner: Phoenix Suns.

It isn’t just that they didn’t screw up the top pick and landed in DeAndre Ayton, the guy most likely to be a franchise cornerstone star in this class. Although they did that. Also, it was their move later to trade their pick at No. 16 (Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith) for Mikal Bridges — most likely the best “3&D” prospect in this draft (it cost them a future first via Miami). By the time everyone was trying to get an Uber outside Barclays Center the Suns had put together a starting lineup of Devin Booker, Bridges, Josh Jackson, and Ayton (plus a point guard to be named later). That’s a group worth watching — and they hired Igor Kokoskov as their new coach this summer because he’s strong on player development. It’s the start of something.

Phoenix also drafted French point guard Elie Okobo at 31 in the second round when a lot of teams thought of him as a first-round talent. Another smart move.

Loser: Michael Porter Jr.

A couple of weeks ago, Porter was mentioned as a potential No. 2 selection to the Kings. But after teams got a look at his medical reports from last Friday’s workout — remember, he missed all but three games at Missouri following back surgery — they backed off. Reports about his attitude didn’t help. Porter slid all the way down to Denver at 14. What that means to him besides getting to play at altitude in Denver: The No. 2 pick is slotted for a $7.3 million salary next season, the No. 14 makes less than $3 million. We’ll see if Porter can use this as motivation — and stay healthy.

One winner in this: The Denver Nuggets for grabbing him at 14. That is a good team (they just missed the playoffs) with strong players already where Porter can be brought along slowly without unreasonable expectations.

Mavericks small icon Winner: Dallas Mavericks.

Mark Cuban and company traded up from No. 5 to No. 3 and landed Luka Doncic — the player they had highest rated on the board. This is a win for the Mavs and for Doncic because he lands with a brilliant Xs and Os coach in Rick Carlisle who will put him in positions to succeed, plus Doncic gets mentored by Dirk Nowitzki. This pick also is a strong move because he should pair well with young point guard Dennis Smith Jr. — Doncic can run the pick-and-roll at times with Smith cutting and moving off the ball, and in the reverse Doncic has a good catch-and-shoot game. Dallas has options for playmaking now.

Also, nice second-round pickup of Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson. That’s a high IQ player who can step in as a reserve and help immediately.

Loser: Robert Williams.

The Texas A&M big man has the talent of a late lottery pick — the Clippers met with him a couple of times — but concerns about his attitude and work ethic saw him plummet all the way down the board to 27. Will he use this as motivation to play with a high motor all the time, or will he continue to coast? If he brings it, he could be the steal of this draft. That brings us to…

Celtics small iconWinner: Boston Celtics (because they got Robert Williams).

This was an Oceans 9 level robbery (that’s the next movie, right?) for Danny Ainge this late in the first round. At No. 27 you’re usually just hoping to get a guy who can develop into a role player in a few years. Williams is much more than that, he has the tools to be an elite NBA defender, and in college he was a defensive and rebounding force. In the NBA he’s going to be a rim running big, ala DeAndre Jordan — except Jordan fulfilled his potential. It’s up to Boston to get that out of Williams (and it’s up to Williams himself to work), but if they do this was another brilliant Ainge pick.

Loser: Golden State Warriors.

They tried to buy into the second round as they did a year ago and pick up someone who fits their style — and this year they had $5.1 million to do it (more than the $3.5 million a year ago). However, other GMs remember how much heat the Bulls front office took for selling their pick to Golden State last year and watching the Warriors draft Jordan Bell — Mr. “cash considerations” was playing a role in the NBA Finals. No GM wanted to repeat that mistake. No early second-round pick for the Warriors this year.

However, their first-round pick of Jacob Evans was a good one, he’s the kind of versatile wing player who fits into their rotation.

Winner: Puma.

The German soccer cleat maker shoe and apparel company wanted to get back into the basketball game, and the did it with a splash — their guys Ayton and Bagley went No. 1 and 2. That’s going to be a lot of free publicity and a lot of eyes on their players starting in Summer League and beyond. The company also landed guys with real potential in Michael Porter Jr. and Zhaire Smith.

Oh, and they hired Jay-Z as well. That’s a good week whatever else happens.

Winner: NBA Twitter

The guys in suits up the executive food chain tried to put an end to Woj bombs this year — ESPN was trying to clamp down on their news breakers Tweeting out the picks before they happened (as had been the case for a few years, with Twitter often two or three picks ahead of Adam Silver and the broadcast). Other major news breakers (such as Yahoo’s Shams Charania) agreed to play along. We all thought we would have to wait around for Adam Silver to saunter up to the table.

But if there is one thing NBA Twitter has taught us it’s that it will not be contained. It breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously. NBA Twitter, uh… finds a way.

Before long Twitter picks were leaking and Twitter was a pick ahead of the broadcast again, and Adrian Wojnarowski was dropping bombs, cleverly not saying who the pick was but….

NBA Twitter is the best.

Kevin Durant: I could retire at age 35

5 Comments

Kevin Durant was a skilled scorer from the moment he set foot in the NBA, but he never settled for that. He has meticulously expanded his game – rebounding, distributing, perimeter defense. This year, he developed the tools of a more-traditional big man.

The Warriors’ dominance only pushes Durant to challenge himself more. Other teams aren’t challenging him. At times, he seems bored with outside obstacles, focusing on self-set benchmarks.

Durant, 29, will probably continue to test himself this way until retirement. When will that be?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“This game, your craft, you have to continue studying it,” said Durant. “No matter how much you enjoy it, nobody wants to be in school that long. I know I don’t. At some point, you have to be ready to graduate. Thirty-five, that’s just a number in my mind.”

Rich Kleiman, Durant’s business partner, said Durant had previously shared with him that he might walk away at 35. “I heard him say that, but I’ll believe it when it happens,” Kleiman said.

I’m with Kleinman. This sounds like something someone just says. When push comes to shove, I doubt Durant walks away that soon.

There’s too much money involved, too much fame, too much comfort in the routine. Would Durant really walk away from that?

Most players don’t stick in the NBA until age 35. But Durant would be declining from such a high peak, and his game – with a sweet jumper and distinctive length – should age well.

Of MVPs in the last 40 years, only Allen Iverson (34) retired younger than 35, and only Larry Bird was even 35:

 

Player Age for last game
Russell Westbrook 29*
Stephen Curry 30*
Kevin Durant 29*
LeBron James 33*
Derrick Rose 29*
Kobe Bryant 37
Dirk Nowitzki 39*
Steve Nash 40
Kevin Garnett 39
Tim Duncan 40
Allen Iverson 34
Shaquille O’Neal 39
Karl Malone 40
Michael Jordan 40
David Robinson 37
Hakeem Olajuwon 39
Charles Barkley 37
Magic Johnson 36
Larry Bird 35
Moses Malone 39
Julius Erving 37
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 42

*Current player

Iverson’s style of play left him vulnerable to breaking down. Bird had longstanding back issues.

Neither applies to Durant.

He probably won’t be as good at age 35 as he is now, but he’ll likely belong in the NBA. Most players good enough for the NBA choose to be in the NBA.

Rumor: Dallas to target big men — Cousins, Jordan, Randle — in free agency

Getty Images
5 Comments

The Dallas Mavericks have been hunting for a center ever since they thought they had DeAndre Jordan, right before the Clippers locked him in a house and forced him to change his mind (that’s not really how it went down, but it makes a better story than the truth). It’s why Dallas has been linked to Mohamed Bamba in the draft — a big, defensive-minded, rim runner who could develop into a great pick-and-roll partner with Dennis Smith Jr.

However, the Mavericks may not want to wait for Bamba — or any other young big — to develop.

Expect the Mavericks to go after one of the name big men on the market in free agency this summer, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer from the NBA Combine in Chicago.

Ever since word spread in league circles in March that Dirk Nowitzki would return to the Mavericks for his 21st season, there have also been rumblings that the Dallas front office will look to make additions this summer that can put the team back on a winning track. The Mavericks can create space to sign a max free agent, and multiple league sources expect them to pursue a trio of big men: DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins, and restricted free agent Julius Randle.

Jordan has not yet officially opted out of the $24.1 million he is owed next season by the Los Angeles Clippers (although most observers expect him to). It is possible Dallas and other teams are not going to offer that much per season for Jordan, but if he can get three years starting at closer to $20 million per that’s a lot more guaranteed money. Also, does he want out of Los Angeles now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are gone and will he take a little less per year to get to a new team?

We know Dallas likes him and Jordan has a relationship with Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle from the last go around.

How much money and how many years would Dallas be willing to risk on Cousins coming off a torn Achilles? More than the Pelicans (who don’t have the money to replace Cousins with anywhere near that level player if he bolts)?

Randle showed a lot of promise as a bully inside who can run some pick-and-roll with Smith, but do the Mavericks want to try to outbid the Lakers (which leads to the question of what other free agents Los Angeles might get and how much they are willing to pay to keep Randle)?

We know this, Mark Cuban does not sit quietly on the sidelines of free agency. Expect the Mavericks to be aggressive players this summer.

76ers, Mavericks to play two preseason games in China

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki‘s 21st NBA season will include a trip in China.

His Dallas Mavericks will play a pair of preseason games against the Philadelphia 76ers there, 10 years after Nowitzki played for Germany in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He will become the first player in NBA history to play 21 seasons with the same franchise.

The league announced Tuesday that the Mavericks and 76ers will meet Oct. 5 in Shanghai and then Oct. 8 in Shenzhen.

The 76ers, who are back in the playoffs this season, have a large international fan base. They are led by Joel Embiid, a native of Cameroon, and Australian rookie Ben Simmons.

Dallas and Philadelphia both will be playing in China for the first time. The games will be the NBA’s 25th and 26th in China, which is passionate about basketball and will host the 2019 Basketball World Cup.