Suns forward Shawn Marion
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Shawn Marion: ‘I should be a shoo-in’ for Hall of Fame

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Shawn Marion had made only one ProBasketballTalk headline since retiring five years ago. During the 2018 playoffs – while LeBron James shouldered a historic burden – Marion argued people were treating LeBron’s Cavaliers unfairly harshly. Otherwise, Marion has largely faded from the forefront of the basketball conversation.

He’s back with new gripes.

Much better gripes.

Marion on his Basketball Hall of Fame candidacy, via Michael Lee of The Athletic:

“I think the legacy I left for the game is there. But who is it to decide? Who is making the decisions? What do they base it off of? If you look at all the numbers, to me, I should be a shoo-in. Should I not?” Marion asked. “What am I supposed to do? What am I not supposed to do? It’s out of my control. I know it’s a political thing. It’s a lot more other stuff going on. But certain things, you earn that. I earned that.”

Marion’s complaints about the process are wholly justified. The Basketball Hall of Fame has secretive voting procedures and strange outcomes. I have little faith in the organization.

Should Marion be a “shoe-in” for enshrinement? No. He’s a borderline case.

But I’d lean toward putting him in.

Marion leads unselected Hall of Fame-eligible players in career win shares:

Shawn Marion

Win shares obviously aren’t the be-all, end-all. But they indicate the significant production Marion provided for the the Suns, Heat and Mavericks.

Marion’s combination of versatility and durability allowed him to make SO MANY positive plays.

Ahead of his time as a small-ball power forward, Marion did everything. He defended multiple positions. He helped all over the floor, swarmed passing lanes and protected the rim. He scored inside and out. He ran the floor. He rebounded.

And he did it all while playing big minutes, increasing his value to his team.

Marion made four All-Star teams and two All-NBA third teams. He played 16 seasons. At the tail end of his prime, he won a championship ring as Dallas’ starting small forward in 2011.

He definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame conversation.

At the very minimum.

When will NBA return? A Q&A on where, what will it look like, how to watch

When will NBA return
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A restart of this NBA season — albeit in a very different form — has gained momentum in recent weeks, and it seems more and more likely games will be back this summer, prompting the obvious question of when will NBA return? Those games will be played without fans in the building, and there could be other format changes, but the league wants to complete a season that legitimately crowns a champion.

There are countless things still undecided about a return, but as plans take shape this is where they stand today, according to sources and other reports. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman put together this update.

When will NBA return?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly plans to decide in 2-4 weeks.
—Dan Feldman

Do NBA players support the return? NBA owners?

Yes. An “overwhelming” majority of players support a return to play this season — if steps are in place to make things safe. A number of the game’s biggest stars — LeBron James, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrookestablished a united front after a conference call saying they wanted to return to play this season, forming a powerful lobby that will influence other players.

Another player reportedly put the split at 70% wanting to play this season as long as things are safe, 30% do not. That is an overwhelming majority that want to come back, but also a sizeable minority with concerns. Players want to know what the risks are with a return, and some will want more safety guaranteed than others.

As for the owners, there is no public polling, but the buzz around the league is they unanimously want this season to play out. Financially, that should be expected. They and their organizations are taking a big hit in the pocketbook and they want to restart games, make their television partners happy, and regain momentum for the league. More importantly, they want next season — even if it starts around Christmas — to be played in full, all 82 games.

The owners of some teams well out of the playoffs have questioned if they should shoulder the expense of sending teams to a “bubble” location for a handful of meaningless regular season games. Still, they will do so for the good of the game if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver asks them to.
—Kurt Helin

When would NBA games resume? How often could teams play?

The NBA is still mapping out potential timelines, but most sources around the league expect games — whether they be regular season, part of a play-in tournament, or playoff games — to begin in July. Those games would be preceded by a roughly three-week “training camp” for players to get back in shape and readjust to playing. The timing of all of that will depend on both the coronavirus in America and the availability of rapid testing.

How often teams would play also is not fully decided, but most around the league expect a condensed schedule with playoff games every other day for teams (and a rotation so games are being played and broadcast every day). If there are regular season games we possibly will see some back-to-back games for teams as the league pushes to get as many games in a limited time as possible.
—Kurt Helin

How can I watch?

The playoff games, once they tip-off, will be broadcast on ESPN and TNT, as per usual. Teams’ regional sports networks likely would be able to show any regular season games played as well as the first round of the playoffs, as they traditionally would. The schedule for the games (if they are played) will be announced at a later date.

The also NBA wants to use this opportunity to explore new camera angles and greater use of technology — possibly pushing their 3-D game experience or other new technology — to help draw viewers in since the energy will be different without fans in the building.
—Kurt Helin

Where would NBA games be played?

Most likely inside a “bubble” or “bubbles” in an MGM hotel in Las Vegas (the Mandalay Bay) and/or at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. There has been momentum toward two bubbles of late, with possibly the West teams in Las Vegas and the East in Orlando. (Other cities are still in consideration, but are seen as long shots.)

The NBA has coalesced around the concept of the bubble — Adam Silver described it as a “campus setting” to owners — where players, coaches, trainers, staff, and everyone would live, eat, practice, and play games in one location. The idea would be to test everyone before they come into the bubble, and regularly inside the facility, with the hope of keeping the virus out — and quickly quarantined and controlled if it gets in. It’s not only people with the teams or broadcast crews who would be tested but also people with the hotel and facility (janitorial staff, chefs, security, etc.).

Players would be able to leave the “bubble” but would be tested upon re-entry. Players’ families and significant others also are expected to be allowed in the bubble, they would face the same testing requirements.
—Kurt Helin

What would be the safety protocols? Would there be enough testing?

It’s all about the testing. The NBA’s return this season hinges on accurate, widely available rapid testing. There will be other layers of protection inside the bubble facilities as well, but testing is the lynchpin. Anyone entering the bubble would be tested, and Silver said he wants daily testing for players and team staff in the facility. There also would be extensive testing of everyone (hotel staff, for example) involved. In addition to testing, there would be temperature checks (which can catch people with symptoms, even if not everyone shows them), increased sterilization of surfaces, and other steps.

One concern for the league: That they can get the estimated 15,000 tests they need for this without being a drain on tests needed in other parts of the nation where there are outbreaks. The league faced a PR backlash back in March when entire teams were tested (including players without symptoms) while in those same states  citizens with symptoms could not get a test. The NBA learned its lesson on that front.
—Kurt Helin

What happens if a player tests positive?

That player would instantly be quarantined, and there would be contact tracing and testing of everyone that player was in contact within recent days. That team may not play games for a couple of days, depending on the situation.

Play would not stop. Silver emphasized this to both players and owners in recent calls — the league cannot shut down again after one positive test if it is going to get through this season and finish the playoffs. A player who tests positive would be treated almost like a player with a sprained ankle or other injury — he would not be able to play, but games would continue (except in this case said player would not be in street clothes on the bench, instead he would be quarantined away from the other players). Injuries are part of the luck of the playoffs, a positive test would be treated the same way by the league.

Ultimately, to finish the season, the NBA and its players face the same question the rest of society does right now: What is an acceptable level of risk?
—Kurt Helin

What format would the season, playoffs take?

This is one of the big questions still hanging over a restart of the league, and the NBA is mapping out a range of scenarios. One of the key questions in answering this question becomes how deep into the fall the league is willing to go. Is Labor Day weekend the cut off? Is it mid-September? October?

There are three options for the NBA restart (each follows a three-to-four-week training camp to get players back in shape). First would be to bring back all 30 NBA teams, play at least some of the postponed regular season games (if not all), then jump into a playoffs with seven games in each round. This is the NBA’s preferred option financially, but it also would run the longest into the fall, and the more teams brought into a bubble the harder it is to maintain.

Second would be to have a play-in tournament with the final playoff seeds up for grabs. This likely would involve seeds seven, eight, nine, and 10 (and maybe 11 and 12). This compromise has gotten pushback from some teams (what’s the point of earning a playoff spot in the regular season?), plus this would be something to broadcast not covered in the current television agreement, forcing that to be renegotiated at a time there are a lot of other priorities. The final option is to go straight into the playoffs, using the standings as they were when play was suspended. This is the cleanest and most straightforward option, however, it also does not help as the regional networks hit their broadcast goals and it would mean some teams would stop play in March and likely not retake the court until December.
—Kurt Helin

How late could the season go?

The latest word: October. But we’re not that far removed from Labor Day being considered the deadline. This seemingly keeps getting pushed back and could get pushed back again.

The NBA was approaching its most lucrative time of the year – the playoffs – when the shutdown occurred. It’s just logical to make every reasonable effort to play the postseason, even if it disrupts a future regular season.

Prolonging the current season also buys more time for advances that allow fans into arenas next season. Silver said the league draws about 40% of its revenue from ticket sales and other game-day sources.
—Dan Feldman

When will the next season start?

The NBA is open to delaying the start of next season. December gets mentioned most often, because that’d fit with finishing this season then having a shortened offseason.

But there’s a degree of hopefulness with that timeline. Coronavirus creates uncertainty in how quickly the NBA can restart this season, let alone finish it.

Even if the NBA cancels the rest of this season, there are no guarantees about when it’d be safe to start next season amid a pandemic. Unlike this season, next season would definitely include all 30 teams and possibly travel between cities – more points of concern.
—Dan Feldman

When will the NBA draft and free agency take place?

The league is reportedly set on holding the draft after the current season (whether canceled or completed). That’d allow teams to put current players into trades involving draft picks. A delay would also allow a chance for team workouts and a (potentially virtual) combine. Right now, the pre-draft process is out of whack. The NCAA indefinitely deferring its withdrawal deadline eases the NBA’s ability to postpone the draft.

If holding the draft before the season finishes is untenable, there’s absolutely no way to hold free agency until then. For the playoffs to be credible, players must have contractual allegiance to only their current team.
—Dan Feldman

What are the financial ramifications (including to the salary cap) of the stopped season?

Simply, the NBA is losing significant revenue while on hiatus. That hurts both owners and players, as the Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for each side to split revenue approximately 50-50.

So far, owners have borne the brunt of the losses. Players will soon feel the pain through paycheck deductions. A lower salary cap could follow.

A goal was preventing a significant decline in the salary cap (which is $109.14 million and was projected to be $115 million next season). The salary cap is typically calculated based on revenue. Yet, owners and players could agree to artificially boost the salary cap while withholding a higher portion of salary from all players. That’d protect certain classes of players – 2020 first-round picks, 2020 free agents, players who signed max extensions last year (Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, Pascal Siakam and maybe Jaylen Brown) – from getting particularly disadvantaged. It’d also smooth (pun intended) the transition back into normal conditions whenever that happens.
—Dan Feldman

Report: Contrary to Earl Watson story, Suns would’ve drafted Jayson Tatum over Josh Jackson

Suns forward Josh Jackson and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum
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The biggest reason Jayson Tatum doesn’t play for the Suns? The Celtics drafted him No. 3 in 2017 – one pick ahead of Phoenix’s selection (used on Josh Jackson).

If that weren’t enough, former Suns coach Earl Watson blamed Suns owner Robert Sarver for thwarting Watson’s plan to unite Devin Booker and Tatum (who was initially on board).

Watson, via Jay King of The Athletic:

Watson wanted Tatum badly enough to hold what he called “uncomfortable” conversations with team owner Robert Sarver, trying to convince the organization it should do whatever it took to draft the Duke star. Sarver preferred Josh Jackson, Watson said

He remembers Sarver saying of the Suns, “We do not need another Devin Booker.”

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Whether or not Watson’s story is accurate, Sarver hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt. He has a history of interfering with Phoenix’s draft plans. I’m unconvinced we could ever know what the Suns would do if both Tatum and Jackson were on the board.

While coaching the Suns, Watson sometimes clashed with management and was unceremoniously fired. I can see why he’d want to inflate his own evaluation ability and paint Sarver as a fool.

But a couple half-hearted defenses of Sarver:

1. Teams too often prioritize scorers. There’s only one ball. There should generally be more consideration to players who can help without the ball in their hands.

But talent matters, and both Booker and Tatum are highly talented. Teams should generally acquire talented players and hope they learn to play together.

It likely wouldn’t have been difficult for Booker and Tatum, anyway. Tatum’s defense and outside shooting would’ve complemented Booker. As shown this season while playing with Ricky Rubio, Booker also has off-ball juice that could’ve been unlocked more often with Tatum.

2. I rated Jackson ahead of Tatum on my board.

But a big reason: I thought Tatum was too much of a ball-stopper without the shooting ability to easily fit into a quality team offense.

I’d like to believe, if I saw him make 40 straight 3-pointers, I would’ve upgraded my projection.

Again, there was likely no reasonable way for the Suns to get Tatum no matter how badly Watson wanted him. The 76ers traded up for the No. 1 pick to get Markelle Fultz. Boston was enamored with Tatum, who came around on the Celtics (which paid off for both sides).

Maybe Phoenix could have traded up to No. 2, where the Lakers picked Lonzo Ball. Probably not. But there were some strange aspects to Los Angeles’ process. So, maybe. But probably not.

At No. 4, Tatum was gone. The Suns were left to take Jackson, who has struggled.

And we’re left with these differing accounts.

 

Jayson Tatum almost skipped pre-draft workout in Boston because he liked Phoenix

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Jayson Tatum is part of one of the most dynamic young combinations in the league, paired with Jaylen Brown in Boston on one of the East’s best teams.

However, before the 2017 NBA Draft, Tatum wanted to go to Phoenix and then Suns coach Earl Watson really wanted Tatum to pair with Devin Booker — what would have been a dynamic combo in the West.

Tatum went on the All the Smoke podcast this week and said he wanted to play for the Suns.

“I called my fam, my mom, I’m like, ‘Yo, I think I want to go to Phoenix.’ Earl Watson, he’s like, ‘You come to Phoenix, you and D-Book, two light-skinned killers, I’ mma let y’all rock out.’ I’m sitting in the car, like, ‘This sounds good! I think I want to come here.'”

The feeling was mutual. The Suns were drafting No. 4 that year and Watson wanted Tatum, even if that meant trading up to get him, as Watson told Jay King of The Athletic.

Tatum warmed up with a ballhandling drill, Watson recalled during a phone call Monday afternoon, and then the wing went straight to the corner to shoot 3-pointers. Players normally work their way out to the arc slowly, taking closer shots first. Tatum did not bother. Even without any shots to loosen up, he was already hot.

“He drilled 40 straight off the first shot,” Watson said. “Forty straight. So I immediately turned to the owner and the GM. And I said, ‘What else do we need to see?’”

Two things conspired against Watson’s dream of pairing Tatum and Booker. The biggest one was that Suns owner Robert Sarver — one of the more meddling owners in the league — had fallen in love with Josh Jackson, who the Suns ended up selecting at No. 4. Watson wanted to trade up to make sure Phoenix landed Tatum, but that was not happening. Watson even Tweeted about it Monday.

The other thing in the way in Phoenix was Danny Ainge wanted Tatum in Celtics’ green. Boston had the No. 1 pick that year, but traded down to No. 3, moving Philadelphia up to No. 1 to select Markelle Fultz. Ainge wanted to workout Tatum — Jackson had just canceled his workout with Boston — and while Tatum was reluctant, it was his college coach Mike Krzyzewski who called up and convinced Tatum to workout for the Celtics right before the 2017 NBA Draft.

The rest is history.

Would Tatum be an All-Star and potential All-NBA player three seasons in if he played for the Suns? We’ll never know, Phoenix doesn’t have quite the same reputation for developing players that Boston does. Brad Stevens knows how to bring guys along. Also, Boston is a more stable, consistent organization that gives a player sound footing to take big steps forward, that’s not always the case in Phoenix.

For Tatum, things have worked out as well as he could hope.

 

Bulls stars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen really tormented Dan Majerle

Bulls star Michael Jordan and Suns guard Dan Majerle
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Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen shared a nemesis: Bulls general manager Jerry Krause.

Jordan and Krause spent years jostling for control of the Bulls and credit for their their success. Unhappy with his contract, Pippen clashed with Krause.

Yet, there’s no easy way to best your own general manager.

So, Jordan and Pippen channeled their resentment for Krause toward other players.

Most infamously, while playing for the Dream Team, Jordan and Pippen aggressively defended Toni Kukoc during the 1992 Olympics. Chicago had drafted Kukoc two years prior, and Krause talked up the Croatian prospect.

Jordan and Pippen also targeted Dan Majerle.

In the 1993 NBA Finals, Jordan attacked the Suns guard.

Jordan in “The Last Dance” documentary on ESPN:

I knew that Jerry Krause loved Dan Majerle. And just because Krause liked him was enough for me. He thinks he’s a great defensive player, but OK, fine. I’m going to show you that he’s not.

I put it in my mindset that, if I don’t do this, then they’re going to consider him on the same level as me. And that motivated me to attack.

Did Krause actually like Dan Majerle? Maybe. Krause was often looking ahead. Majerle was a talented two-way player.

But this also sounds like the type of thing Phil Jackson would play up. A master motivator who had his own issues with Krause, Jackson knew how to reach Jordan and had no qualms painting Krause as the villain.

Always eager to form and hold a grudge – whether over something real or imagined – Jordan torched Majerle. Jordan won his third championship and Finals MVP.

Two years later, Pippen used Majerle, perhaps again playing on Krause’s supposed fondness for the Suns guard.

Upset by trade talks outside his control, Pippen demanded a trade. During the 1995 All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, a rumor emerged Pippen could be dealt to the Suns for Majerle and Wesley Person.

Jack M Silverstein of NBC Sports Chicago:

Meeting the press that Friday, Pippen said playing for the Suns would be “paradise,” with Charles Barkley adding, “I’d take Scottie in a minute.”

“I’ve heard the rumors like all of you,” Pippen said to the press on the Friday before the All-Star Game. “People here today were saying Majerle and Person. But I don’t have any substantial evidence.”

The next night, during All-Star Saturday, Pippen went on TNT and practically begged any Western Conference team to trade for him.

Majerle was allegedly so upset by the trade rumor that Suns owner Jerry Colangelo had to personally assuage him.

Majerle, via Richard Evans of the Deseret News:

“It just kind of brought me down for a little bit, because I wanted to concentrate on the All-Star Game and have a fun time, and all the questions I was fielding were mainly about a trade going on. That just took away from the whole All-Star atmosphere for me.”

Silverstein:

A week later, the source of the Pippen-Majerle talks was revealed.

“I started it,” Pippen said, as reported by Lee Shappell of The Republic in a column on February 19. “I’ve been kind of stuck with a lot of rumors and speculation all year and I tried to have some fun with it.”

Poor Dan Majerle.

He caught all that grief just for maybe being liked by Jerry Krause.