Photo courtesy Beats

Beats by Dre now official headphone of the NBA

2 Comments

All the players were wearing them anyway.

And Beats by Dre already had deals with LeBron James, James Harden, Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Karl-Anthony Towns, and other NBA stars. Plus Beats throws the best All-Star Weekend party going.

On Wednesday, the NBA announced a new leaguewide deal to make Beats by Dr. Dre the official headphone, wireless speaker and audio partner of the NBA, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), NBA G League and USA Basketball.

“Beats revolutionized the music industry and has become one of the most innovative and culturally-influential brands in the world,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Through our partnership, we have an exciting opportunity to merge sports, pop culture and technology to deliver unparalleled experiences and premium products to our fans.”

To be honest, it’s hard to picture Silver wearing a pair of Beats (and what would he be listening to, Chronic? Compton?), but this is a smart business deal. NBA players were already a walking ad for Beats every time they entered an arena so might as well make it official and have some money exchange hands. Everybody scratches everyone else’s back.

“I always want to be the best and work with the best. That’s why I joined the Beats fam – they have the best headphones and they made them a style icon when no one else thought of electronics that way,” Harden said in a statement. “Whether I’m traveling, working out or decompressing after a game, I can’t imagine listening to anything without them. Beats loves basketball and always works to tell the stories of their favorite players. I’m excited to see what they do with the NBA.”

As part of the deal, Beats will provide product to players and have a larger presence during marquee events including NBA All-Star weekend, the NBA Draft and more. Plus they will strike separate deals with teams, meaning soon you can get your own Lakers/Celtics/Knicks/Bucks/whatever Beats.

Beats is ultimately owned by Apple, which paid a whopping $3 billion for the company back in 2014, although that was more about the streaming software Beats had (now at the heart of Apple’s streaming service) as it was the headphones.

Some partnerships are natural, this feels like one of them.

Look who Luka Doncic is hanging out with? Kobe Bryant.

Via Twitter
9 Comments

Dallas’ Luka Doncic will be one of the most watched rookies because we are all curious. No doubt the guy can play — you don’t get named EuroLeague MVP at 19 because they like your hair — and on paper his sharp passing and pick-and-roll gifts should translate to the NBA. Should. But the 19-year-old is about to face a massive leap in the athleticism of guys he goes against, how will he handle that? Does his game really translate?

He seems to be hanging out and working out with the right people.

View this post on Instagram

🐍 #mambamentality

A post shared by Luka Doncic (@lukadoncic) on

Working out with Kobe Bryant guarantees nothing. But as Boston’s Jayson Tatum said, it is less about the physical workout and more about Kobe’s attacking mentality. It’s about his drive to get better. It’s about his fire.

If Doncic picks up some of that, his Rookie of the Year odds will go up.

Jayson Tatum on Celtics having so many ball handlers: “We’re gonna find a way to make it work”

Getty Images
5 Comments

Kyrie Irving has arguably the best handles in the league and is an elite shot creator who should have the ball in his hands a lot. Gordon Hayward is a player who can create quality shots for himself and others with the ball in his hands. Maybe he was just a rookie, but Jayson Tatum showed last season (and especially in the playoffs) he can handle the rock and score. When Irving went down injured Terry Rozier stepped up and showed if you put the ball in his hands he can run a team and get buckets.

NBA rules permit only one ball on the court at a time.

Is this going to be a problem? Tatum told Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated it’s not.

“We’re all professionals. We’re gonna find a way to make it work. At the end of the day, we all want to win, so everybody has to sacrifice when you want to be a part of something special. It’s not gonna be any different for us.”

There will be some adjustment — the Celtics are not used to Hayward in the rotation — but Stevens has built a culture where guys understand that to win takes sacrifice. It takes putting the team ahead of your numbers. The locker room leaders like Al Horford get that. Irving gets it — he got his ring playing next to LeBron James, which can require massive sacrifice at times. The stars lead by example, the coach helps set that culture, and then everyone buys in.

In Boston, everyone has bought in. Which is why they are the favorites in the East. Jaylen Brown took that one more step and said the Celtics are going to the Finals, you good with that boast Tatum?

“Man, I’m always going to back up my teammates. I’m not saying that we’re gonna be able to skip steps. We gotta take it one game at a time. I just hope that we stay healthy this year and see what we can do.”

Celtics’ quiet summer good enough

Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
6 Comments

NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Celtics are in great shape.

They were always going to be in great shape.

Boston just reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals with Gordon Hayward missing practically the entire season and Kyrie Irving missing the entire postseason. Those stars return to a team that still has Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier and… This roster is stacked. Though the Rockets and Raptors can stake legitimate claims, I’d rate the Celtics second in the NBA behind the Warriors.

If that weren’t enough, Boston also has 2-3 extra first-rounders coming – from the Kings or 76ers, Grizzlies and maybe Clippers. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

So, unlike last season, when they turned over 11 of 15 players from a conference finalist, the Celtics remained pretty quiet this year. And that’s totally fine. Boston didn’t to win the offseason. Winning the last several was enough.

The Celtics re-signed Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) and Aron Baynes (two years, $10,646,880).

Will Smart hold positive trade value? His style of play is so unconventional, teams might not believe they can fit him in.

Did Boston really have to give Baynes a player option or even a second guaranteed season? He’ll turn 32 this year.

But those questions are minor compared to the biggest takeaway: Smart and Baynes will help the Celtics over their contracts. Boston coach Brad Stevens knows how to use those two, and keeping them was important.

It might take the Celtics into the luxury tax, which ownership has shown a willingness to pay – and good for them. Their spending should bring advantages. That said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Boston sheds a small amount of salary this season to avoid the tax and delay the repeater clock.

The Celtics drafted Robert Williams, who slipped to No. 27 because he’s immature then saw first-hand just how immature he is. Most rookies have their acts together more than that, but Williams’ career won’t necessarily be irrevocably derailed by immaturity at age 20.

Other moves were even smaller – trading Abdel Nader to the Thunder and signing Jabari Bird and Brad Wanamaker to minimum deals.

Really, the most significant move of Boston’s offseason was arguably LeBron James leaving the Eastern Conference he had dominated for the last eight years. No team was more impeded by LeBron during that run than the Celtics.

But even if LeBron re-signed with the Cavaliers, I still probably would have picked Boston to win the East this year. Without two stars, the young Celtics nearly beat an old Cleveland team last year. The road just gets a little easier with LeBron gone.

I’m extremely bullish on Boston. It just has little to do with this summer.

Offseason grade: C+

Rookie contract extensions: Devin Booker got paid, who else is likely to sign?

Getty Images
2 Comments

At this point in the summer, NBA rosters are settled, save for maybe a final spot at the end of the bench or a two-way contract. Front office personnel are taking vacations or just getting back from them, while players are in the gym getting ready for training camp to open.

However, one bit of unfinished business hangs out there: rookie contract extensions

The draft class of 2015 is eligible for an extension this summer — one player has his money, a couple of others are likely to, and then there are a lot of question marks. The deadline is Oct. 15, players need to sign an extension by then or become a restricted free agent next summer. Extensions can be for up to 25 percent of the salary cap (or 30 percent if the player meets the Rose Rule) but most are for less than that.

It’s going to be an interesting set of negotiations: For any player not locking down a max, looking ahead to all the cap space available next summer, will these rookies (and their agents) want to push teams for a big contract, and if they don’t get it bet they can on the open market next summer?

One player has already got his extension, here’s a list of who else will get one and who to watch as negotiations start.

SECURED THE BAG

Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns). The shooting guard out of Kentucky fell to 13th in the 2015 draft but ended up being the biggest steal in it. Knowing they have a franchise cornerstone, in early July the Suns locked him up with a five-year, $158 million max extension. As they should have. While we can debate if Booker is as good as he or the Suns think he is, the guy averaged 29.4 points per game last season, shot 38.3 percent from three, has been the best player on the team and a borderline All-Star (he would be but he plays in the ridiculously deep West). Booker deserved a big payday and the Suns are banking on him and Deandre Ayton to return them to the playoffs and more.

PAY THE MAN HIS MONEY
(Players going to get max extensions)

Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves). The No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft has become the cornerstone in Minnesota, and the two sides have already started talking extension (while those talks went quiet this summer it will get done). The only question is will it be a $158 million extension, or will Towns make another All-NBA team (as he did this past season) and thereby trigger the Rose Rule making him eligible for up to a $186 million deal. Either way, this signing will work out better than the massive extension Minnesota gave Andrew Wiggins (the Timberwolves tried to test the trade waters for him this summer, to no avail). What a Towns extension means for the future of Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau with the Timberwolves is another question, there is tension in the ranks, shakeups are coming, and the Timberwolves are about to place their bet on Towns.

• Kristaps Porziņģis (New York Knicks). Selected fourth by the Knicks (don’t forget Phil Jackson tried to trade that pick away rather than take him), Porzingis has become more than just the best player on the Knicks, he is the beacon of hope for the future in the eyes of fans. There is some concern because he is coming off an ACL tear that will keep him out for at least part of this coming season — it’s fair to question if you want to give him $158 million off that injury. But the Knicks have a star and a cornerstone to their rebuild, they have to pay up here. And they will.

WE’RE WATCHING YOU
(Other players who could land extensions, we’re doing this in order of the draft).

D'Angelo Russell (Los Angeles Lakers, traded to Brooklyn Nets). Los Angeles didn’t love his fit, drafted Lonzo Ball, and shipped Russell to Brooklyn as the sweetener in the Timofey Mozgov salary dump. The Nets think they have something in Russell — just not something they are going to lock up yet, so don’t expect and extension. Two reasons for that: 1) The Nets want to be sure Russell has matured into the player they saw for part of last season who averaged 20.9 points and 5.7 assists a game, a high-quality point guard; 2) the Nets want to be big players in free agency next summer and a Russell extension would tie up some of that money.

Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings). He was drafted to be a modern defensive force, a shot blocker/rim protector who could switch out on smalls on the perimeter and hold his own. It hasn’t really worked out that way. He has shown more offensive skill than expected (he passed the ball well last season) and his individual defense in the post and rim protection have been good. Some nights. He’s been inconsistent. The Kings are betting on Marvin Bagley III (and are excited about the progress and return of Harry Giles), meaning if Cauley-Stein gets an extension it will be at a discount, at a number the team likes.

Stanley Johnson (Detroit Pistons). Don’t expect to see an extension here unless Johnson does it at a very team friendly number. The past couple of seasons Johnson has been inconsistent, and with a new coach and front office in Detroit, they are more likely to watch him for a season then let the market set his price as a restricted free agent next summer. However, it’s not impossible a deal gets done.

Justise Winslow (Miami Heat). It’s hard to see an extension getting done for two main reasons. One, what is Winslow’s value? He’s versatile — by the end of 2016 he was closing games as the team’s center, but last year he was playing backup point guard for them — and he is a strong defender. However, he’s not consistent and has not come near his potential, how much would the Heat want to bet he does? Second, Miami already in the tax this season and likely to be again next season unless they find a new home for Hassan Whiteside and/or Tyler Johnson. With that the Heat likely don’t want to be locked into more money for Winslow, they can let the market set his price as a restricted free agent.

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers). This is Victor Oladipo’s team but the Pacers are betting on improvement from Turner to help them take the next step forward. Turner averaged 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game, showed he can hit the three now (35.7 percent last season) and he has been a good big man. Can the two sides find a compromise number that works for them, something less than the max? Or, would Turner rather bet on himself and count on a good season heading into restricted free agency? Expect there to be talks, whether the sides can agree is another question.

Kelly Oubre Jr. (Washington Wizards). He can get lost in the shadow of Otto Porter, but Oubre has developed into a solid NBA rotation player on the wing. There is not going to be a max offer, but can the Wizards and Oubre find common ground on a figure that keeps him with the team for years to come? Or would Oubre rather test the market?

Terry Rozier (Boston Celtics). He boosted his value at the end of last season and through the playoffs when Kyrie Irving went down injured. With the future of Irving in Boston a little uncertain, GM Danny Ainge would like to keep Scary Terry around this season. However, an extension is unlikely. The Celtics just gave Marcus Smart a chunk of change (four years, $52 million) and they see the big deals for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum looming on the horizon, so how much are they going to commit to Rozier? Most likely he’s a restricted free agent next summer, but this is at least worth watching.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Brooklyn Nets). Last season he averaged 14.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and some nights was the best Nets player on the court. His name comes up in trade rumors all the time, but would the Nets rather keep him around if the sides can agree on a number? He has real value as a quality rotation player.

Larry Nance Jr. (Cleveland Cavaliers). This is an extension that could get done, sources say there is interest from both sides to keep the son of a Cavaliers’ legend as part of whatever is next for this team post-LeBron. Drafted by the Lakers 27th and sent to Cleveland in the Isaiah Thomas trade, Nance was a steal in the draft and can be a quality rotation player on both ends. It’s not a max deal, but don’t be surprised if this one gets done.