#IMHO: Wither the Wizards, Pop vs. Kawhi, and the surprising Kings, Raptors
Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.
From: Lang Whitaker Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2018 9:27 AM To: Michael Wallace Subject: #IMHO
So, everyone in Philadelphia should be happy, right? They trusted the process, even when it wasn’t easy to trust, and were patient through injury recovery and burner Twitter accounts. And now everything seems to be coming together – the Sixers are in third place in the East and they’ve still got five first round picks coming up in the next three years. Things are looking great!
But what in the world is going on with Markelle Fultz? We hear that his shoulder is a problem, or maybe it’s a mental thing where he has the yips, or... well, frankly, I don’t know if anyone knows exactly what is the real deal. So let’s say you’re Sixers GM Elton Brand: What do you do? Keep Fultz, who you traded up to get with the number one overall pick just a year ago? Trade him for whatever you can get and keep building?
From: Michael Wallace Sent: November 27, 2018 10:29 AM To: Lang Whitaker Subject: RE: #IMHO
I’m still skeptical of so-called ‘Process’ in Philly. That ‘Process’ also produced Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Michael Carter-Williams. Remember them? I don’t blame you if you don’t. The Sixers are in the solid position they are today just as much because of some prudent and shrewd moves made by the post-Process regime as they are due to the administration that spent years gutting the franchise. Fast-forward to now, Fultz clearly was a mistake. Not only was it a bad pick, but the Sixers also gave up assets to land him. Even in a best-case scenario, his potential skillset doesn’t fit alongside Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. He’s not worth all the fuss he’s causing right now. If our guy Elton Brand can move him for a late first – San Antonio and New Orleans come to mind as potential great spots – then, I’d do it immediately.
Speaking of the Spurs, Lang, we know Gregg Popovich gets plenty of passes from the media, largely for two reasons. He’s respected for all the winning. He’s also feared by many because of his at times publicly abrasive nature. That said, was it cool for Pop to take that not-so-subtle jab at ex-Spur Kawhi Leonard’s leadership – or lack thereof – the other day with reporters?
From: Lang Whitaker Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2018 2:39 PM To: Michael Wallace Subject: #IMHO
Pop doesn’t seem to be able to do any wrong, Mike, even when he’s being salty along the sidelines. (Fun story: The first time I met him years ago, I was introduced as being from SLAM magazine, and Pop responded, with a grin, “Oh SLAM…that’s kind of like US News and World Reports, right?”) The thing is, I think we’re mostly ok with him acting like his heart is two sizes too small because we know it’s an act. (Well, for the most part.) We know he can be thoughtful and caring, and he and Steve Kerr are arguably the most woke coaches in the NBA. So if he wants to be Mr. Grinch from time to time, I’m cool with it. And if he wants to speak on things most coaches wouldn’t touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole, I’m all for letting him speak out.
And speaking of speaking out, last week in Washington a simmering situation seemed to boil over. The Wizards have always walked a fine line as they tried to construct a dynasty around John Wall and Bradley Beal, but even with a win over Houston earlier this week, I’m not sure that this time there’s any way to salvage the mess in DC. Should they stick with the plan? Or is it time to drain the swamp in Washington?
From: Michael Wallace Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2018 8:42 PM To: Lang Whitaker Subject: #IMHO
The Wizards probably have no choice other than to let this play out a bit longer. Have you seen their salary sheet? They’ve basically got three max guys, including Wall’s supermax kicking in. I know we can sometimes be prisoners of the moment and blow things out of proportion these days. Remember when the Rockets were supposed to be imploding last month? How about the other week, when that beef between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green supposedly had the Warriors’ dynasty at the point of no return? In hindsight, only the Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota HAD to be dealt with in relative short order. I’m not saying the Wizards are Eastern Conference finals fixable. But last I checked, they were one spot out of playoff position. A trade or two may be ultimately inevitable in Washington. Just not necessarily imminent. I’d give it another 10-15 games before pushing the panic button.
We’ll wrap on this, Lang. All three games on the NBA Thursday slate are absolutely intriguing (Warriors-Raptors, Pacers-Lakers, Clippers-Kings). All things considered, good and bad, which of the six teams is having the most surprising season? I’m tempted to take the Warriors (relative struggles) or Clippers (stunningly stable). But I’ve gotta go with the Kings. They landed the least productive of the top-five picks so far. They’ve benched nearly all their vets in favor of a youth movement. There was reportedly an internal coup attempt to run out coach Dave Joerger. Yet, they’re still off to one of their best starts in years at 10-10 through 20 games and in playoff position. Who are these Kings, yo!
From: Lang Whitaker Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2018 11:02 AM To: Michael Wallace Subject: #IMHO
The Kings have been surprisingly good to start this season. We’ve seen them play our Grizz twice already this season, and I have to say that watching the Kings play just makes me feel nervous. They fly up the court as soon as they get the ball and take contested shots with 15 seconds left on the shot clock and basically do a whole lot of stuff that winning teams generally don’t do, but they do it with such consistency and pace that it seems to be working.
My vote for most surprising season thus far would go to the Toronto Raptors, who fired a popular coach and replaced him with a guy with no NBA head coaching experience, then traded away the most beloved player on their team in exchange for a dude who seemed to be staging a boycott of his previous team, yet the Raptors have still managed to come flying out of the gates with an 18-4 record. I know they’ve had an easy early-season schedule, but they are a really good defensive team (anchored by Kawhi Leonard) and have a lot of flexibility on the offensive end. I also appreciate how they seem to be able to adapt on the fly, figuring out what works during games and then relying on those things. It also speaks to their organizational strength that they’ve been able to fill so many of their needs from within by developing their own young talents. The Raptors are for real.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. Their sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.