A series of good questions follows. From Collin Iheanacho:
… Can you give insight to the Hawks situation? What’s the plan and how long will (Tony) Ressler’s patience last for the rebuild? Does Darvin Ham really have a chance? What is the outlook for Taylor Jenkins, Chris Jent, Keke Lyles, and rest of the coaching, development and training staffs? What are your thoughts on the best moves for them and why? I know it’s a lot, but we’re really undeserved Hawks-wise (and in general) in this market as you likely have come to know in your time here. Ever since Travis (Schlenk, the new general manager) was hired to now -- Ressler scorching Mike Budenholzer for winning, Bud PBO flaws, tanking, letting teams interview Budenholzer, etc.-- we’ve been left looking for answers.
My understanding is the Hawks want to bring in a young coach who can grow with the team, and can continue the development of their young guys like John Collins and Taurean Prince. They’re not interested in squeaking out one or two more wins that they could probably get next season by hiring a retread. They’re concentrating on a half-dozen candidates at present, including former Grizzlies coach Dave Fizdale, Portland assistant Nate Tibbets and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins. (Collins is rapidly rising in the coaching ranks; he’s really sharp and has a really good rapport with players.) Ham’s on that list, too, though my guess is he’ll follow Budenholzer to his next gig; they’re pretty close.
Ham and the other assistants remain under contract, though they’ve been given permission by the Hawks to interview elsewhere if they choose; obviously, the new coach, whoever it is, will have the leeway to hire their own staff. There’s no whole-scale housecleaning planned; the team’s training staff, including the well-regarded Lyles, will remain in Atlanta. Ressler remains on board with the long-term plan of building through the Draft; there is constant contact between Ressler and Schlenk. The Hawks have five first-rounders the next two years (one is a protected first from Cleveland that could project to two seconds); it’s on Schlenk and his staff to bat somewhere between .600 and .800 on those picks.
They’ve been playing with the Trade Machine since the sweep in the Rose City. From Monica Pascual Mate’:
As a fan of the Spurs in general and Mr. Popovich in particular, I am racking my brains about which would be the best option, in a hypothetical Kawhi Leonard trade, for the Spurs. We all know the value of such a player in today's NBA, as well as we know Mr. Buford and Mr. Popovich won't give him away for less than his price (if they can avoid it). There has been so much talk around it (makes sense, of course), but due to recent events (the Spurs losing in the first round) I would like to put on the table Portland. Would they be willing to sacrifice C.J. McCollum and break his playing chemistry with Damian Lilllard? I bet so. Wouldn't make sense for both teams a trade like Leonard and Pau Gasol (free some cap space in the process) for McCollum and a pack of picks and players?
From Lyle Ruthven:
Long time fan of your work. I just wondered whether you think either team would consider a Portland-San Antonio trade? McCollum, Zach Collins and Al-Farouq Aminu for Kawhi and Pau Gasol! With the current situation, the Spurs would feel like they came out on top getting McCollum, a center and a swingman (and getting out of Gasol’s contract). And, Portland could be scary good with Lillard, Leonard (the best two-way player in the league) and by keeping Jusuf Nurkic!
If the Spurs do decide they have no choice but to trade Leonard, I don’t think Portland would be where they turn. Nothing against C.J., who I love, or any of the other players that you two mentioned, but Leonard is an elite, top-10 talent. I just think San Antonio would have to ask for either an All-Star in return or a gaggle of young players and picks -- the former if they think bringing in such a player can get them back to contender status next season, the latter if they think it’s finally time to go earnest rebuild.
Plus, I think they’d be determined to get him out of the Western Conference. If I were the Spurs I’d certainly seek out the Philadelphia 76ers, who have a trove of desirable assets. They'll either get a first-rounder from the Los Angeles Lakers (if the Lakers' pick is either first overall or anywhere from 6-30 in the first round of the Draft) or an unprotected first-rounder from the Sacramento Kings, which can be no worse than 10th overall, as well as a bunch of young players, none of whom are on prohibitive contracts. Let's posit that the Sixers get the Kings' pick.
What if Philly, just for the sake of argument, offered San Antonio that Sacramento first, Robert Covington (whose extension, signed last year, goes down next season) and Markelle Fultz for Leonard? That would give the Spurs a young dynamo in Fultz who wouldn’t have any of the pressure of being the number one pick in San Antonio -- and would have the daily services of assistant coach Chip Engelland, who might be the best coach on earth to fix a broken shot. They’d have a top 10 pick, which could net them any number of impact wings or guards. Covington isn’t Leonard, but he’s a damn good 3-and-D wing, one of the best in the league. The Spurs might ultimately say no, but they’d damn sure have to think long and hard about it. And that potential would leave Philly with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, J.J. Redick and Dario Saric in its starting lineup. Which ... my God.
I know he’s got an Oscar and all, now, but … man. From David Coleman:
It has been interesting reading your debates with readers about gun control. It amazes me that Americans and Brits are so culturally different on this topic. When discussing with friends, we simply can't comprehend why gun culture is so ingrained across the pond. I understand that it is a constitutional birth right, but surely it can't be held in the same regard as the right to freedom of speech or the right to vote. I guess it is just one of those cultural differences -- Americans will probably never understand why we put our washing machines in our kitchens!
Onto my basketball-related question -- assuming you agree with this sentiment, with LeBron scaling the all-time playoff rankings across multiple stats, at what point did he eclipse Kobe Bryant as the premier NBA player?
Well, who says Kobe is the premier NBA player? He’s certainly in the top 10-15 all-time discussion, but Bill Russell has 11 rings, and Michael Jordan has six. If you mean among contemporary players, I’d argue Tim Duncan gets a significant argument as just as good as Kobe was. As for LeBron vs. Kobe, it’s a tough, tough call. Kobe has more rings, but LeBron’s put up insane Finals numbers over the years. I’d put Kobe ahead of LeBron at this point, but just barely; a fourth career title (in what would be an eighth straight Finals for his team) for James might turn the historical tide permanently.
Send your questions, comments and 7-Eleven locations near you for when your procyonid friends have the munchies to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)
2) LeBron James (37 ppg, 8 rpg, 7.3 apg, .569 FG, .886 FT): Never seen LeBron so wiped out physically so early in the playoffs.
3) Anthony Davis (21 ppg, 10 rpg, .450 FG, .750 FT): Set another franchise record in the clincher over the Blazers last week, scoring a playoff record 47 points. That gives Davis that team record along with the others he already has: most points (9,607), rebounds (4,234), blocks (986), field goals (3,623), along with others.
4) Kevin Durant (25.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, .450 FG, .917 FT): Well, if you like that sort of thing, I guess.
5) Russell Westbrook (38 ppg, 13 rpg, 5 apg, .420 FG, .783 FT): Season complete. We pause here to contemplate an NBA player taking more shots in one game (43) than he made in three games that week (42).
BY THE NUMBERS
236 -- U.S. college and international players who are early entry candidates for the 2018 Draft, making the April 22 deadline to put their names in. Players can withdraw up until June 11 -- 10 days before the June 21 Draft.
284 -- Consecutive sellouts at Oracle Arena after Saturday’s usual 19,596 attended the Warriors’ Game 1 blowout of the Pelicans in the Western Conference semifinals.
17 -- Years since the Bucks got out of the first round of the playoffs, after Milwaukee’s Game 7 loss in Boston Saturday night. The Bucks have dropped eight straight first-round series since reaching the Eastern Conferene finals in 2001 behind the Ray Allen-Sam Cassell-Glenn Robinson trio that lost to Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) The Rice Commission’s report on the state of college basketball was pretty weak sauce when it came to some of the sport’s biggest ills -- namely, how to compensate players who generate billions of dollars for their respective universities yet who currently get next to nothing in return. But at least the Commission pointed out the fallacy of the efficacy of the current one and done rule. If the NBA and college basketball now both agree that the rule can and will be changed -- two years is okay, three would be better -- good.
2) Nothing against the Heat or Bucks, but “Sixers-Celtics” in the playoffs has a special resonance for those who remember those franchise’s postseason battles in the ‘60s and ‘80s. Happy to see that rivalry will be renewed this year.
3) My man Kickstradomis turned it up a notch with these Reggie Miller tribute kicks for the Pacers’ Trevor Booker.
4) “Yes, officer, I have been drinking … but that doesn’t change the fact that I saw a large inflatable duck in the passing lane. What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do??
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) Did John Wall continue to display an unfortunate habit of throwing his teammates under the busby saying the Wizards need to bring in some “athletic bigs” next season? Yup. Was he lying? Nope. Was he wrong? Nope. But, Wall also has to get better if Washington is going to go anywhere next season. He has to be in great shape from jump. He can’t be lazy on defense and stick on every screen set on him. He sets the tone at both ends of the floor. When he’s bouncy on D and using his length to contest shots and get deflections, the Wizards are at their best. When he’s indifferent, so are they. The Wizards are almost exactly where Toronto was a year ago; they need a “reset” just as the Raptors did, getting back to defense, adding more quality depth on the bench -- and needing to learn to trust each other on the floor, no matter who’s playing.
2) Thought Jay Triano did a pretty good job keeping the Suns from fallingcompletely off the rails this season after taking over early for Earl Watson. He’ll be on someone’s bench soon.
3) There is little joy in seeing Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constant. There is less joy hearing and seeing his defenders on TV and in print invoking the lynching of Emmitt Till in comparison to what happened to him. No, no, a billion times, no. Emmitt Till was a child who murdered for no reason by a white mob that basically got away with it. Bill Cosby was a grown man who used his wealth, power and station to drug a woman and have sex with her against her will, was found guilty of it, and will go to prison because of it. Do not equate those two things, ever. Ever!
4) When I see evidence that those journalists who are expressing outrage at the jokes Michelle Wolf told at Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner expressed the same outrage when, in 2004, the standing President of the United States “joked” about not being able to find weapons of mass destruction -- the predicate upon which our nation went to war with Iraq, costing thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars of our national treasure -- then I will listen to what they have to say about Wolf.
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