DA's Morning Tip
Morning Tip mailbag: Your questions on G.O.A.T. debate, Chris Paul's free agency and much more
History is written by the … I can’t remember the rest of it; ooh, look — a cat video! From Sajit Kabadi:
I’m a Michael Jordan is “goat” guy, but doesn’t LeBron James get an edge in terms of the Competition of his era? he’s been up against the Warriors/Duncan’s Spurs, in 6 of his finals … Isn’t it better than the goat’s era?
In a word, no. The following is a brief but by no means complete list of players Jordan and the Bulls had to beat in playoff series en route to their six championships: Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Reggie Miller, Alonzo Mourning, Dennis Rodman, Gary Payton, Joe Dumars, Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Chris Webber and Tim Hardaway.
Again: Jordan and the Bulls beat all of those players and their respective teams in the playoffs during their six Finals runs. Fifteen of those 19 players are in the Hall of Fame (and Webber likely will be soon). As great as LeBron is, he simply hasn’t had to beat that level of opponent to get to or win the Finals. There are several likely Hall of Famers among those he’s beaten en route to his three titles: Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Steph Curry. There just aren’t as many. If LeBron continues to rack up titles, he’ll have a stronger case.
There are, after all, 25 licensed State Farm agents in the greater San Antonio area. From Jace Bausch:
Do the Spurs have a legit shot at getting Chris Paul?
There’s a lot of speculation about that on the interwebz these days. And while it’s certainly sensible from a basketball/fit sense — Paul is exactly the kind of no-nonsense hoop soldier the Spurs love, and they have the winning culture he constantly craves — there are a couple of reasons I have my doubts.
First, Paul would be giving up a lot of money, because the Spurs can only offer him a four-year deal, while the Clippers can give him five. The difference is in excess of $50 million. Now, you can argue that’s not the case in real dollars, as Texas has no state income tax, while California does. And you’d be right. But he’d still make less by going than by staying.
Second, it’s hard to see Paul leaving Doc Rivers, even though he’d be going to play for Gregg Popovich; Paul basically held the Clippers hostage on an extension until they arranged a deal with Boston for Rivers’s services in 2011.
Third, San Antonio would have to gut its roster, not re-signing either Patty Mills or emerging Jonathan Simmons, along with center Dewayne Dedmon, to create the room necessary to sign Paul.
Fourth, getting Paul would almost certainly mean the end of Tony Parker’s stay in San Antonio after Parker’s current deal expires in 2018, and the Spurs don’t do their legends like that.
Given Parker’s role in the Spurs’ title runs over the last 15 years, and that he’s taken less than market value more than once to give the team the financial flexibility to make other moves, I’d be stunned if they tossed him to the side to bring in Paul — who’s only three years younger. There is also the matter of rookie point guard Dejounte Murray, who the Spurs took in the first round last year and in whom they see much potential.
Loved you in “Road to Perdition.” From Michael Sullivan:
Since the NBA is now trying an awards show, and have announced the top finalists for MVP (and maybe other awards, but I don’t much care about any other award) why wouldn’t they just invite the All-NBA first team as the 5 finalists for MVP?
Fair question. But I don’t know that the five players on the first team are also the top five vote getters for MVP (I kind of doubt the first-team center is, for example). I would have had no problem inviting the top five MVP vote recipients to New York, to increase both the suspense and the possibility of getting more of the top players to the show. I also think there has to be a postseason MVP award to reward someone from the team that actually wins the ring.
Send your questions, comments and … there’s not much to add here; it’s a monkey in footie pajamas shaving to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
POSTSEASON MVP WATCH
(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)
1) LeBron James (34.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 7 apg, .622 FG, .667 FT): Not only has James passed Michael Jordan on the all-time playoff scoring list, but if he totals 14 steals in The Finals, James will pass Scottie Pippen (395) for first place on the all-time playoff steals list. Unless there’s a Finals sweep, James will pass both Manu Ginobili (213) and Shaquille O’Neal (216) for seventh place on the all-time playoff games played list.
At his current average of 6.8 assists per playoff game, if James continues to dominate the East and make three more Finals runs, he’ll likely pass John Stockton (1,839) for second place on the NBA’s all-time playoff assist list; similarly, at his current average of 8.8 rebounds per playoff game, James would pass Karl Malone (2,062) for sixth place on the all-time playoff rebounds list in three-plus postseasons. So, to recap: in 2020, unless his conference competition improves significantly, as James reaches his 10th straight (!) NBA Finals, he’s likely to be first in playoff scoring, first in playoff steals, second in playoff assists, sixth in playoff rebounds and seventh in playoff games played. As Martin Lawrence would say, runteldat.
2) Kevin Durant (29 ppg, 12 rpg, 4 apg, .769 FG, 1.000 FT): All of the grief, and vitriol, and anger that has been sent KD’s way for 11 months will all dissipate into the ether if he finishes this June what he started last July.
3) Kawhi Leonard: Season complete.
4) John Wall: Season complete.
5) James Harden: Season complete.
BY THE NUMBERS
3 — Previous times, per the NBA, that teams in other sports have met in three consecutive championship series or games. In the NFL, the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions played in three straight NFL Championship games from 1952-54; in baseball, the Yankees and Giants played in three straight World Series from 1921-23, and in hockey, the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings played in three straight Stanley Cup finals from 1954-56.
73 — College players that withdrew from next month’s Draft in order to remain eligible to play college ball next season. The group included Kentucky commit Hamadou Diallo, who was contemplating being a “none and done” player; he was eligible for the Draft because he was a year removed from his high school graduation — he had done a prep year following high school — and turns19 in July, thus meeting the criteria for turning pro despite not having yet played in college.
122 — Laps run in Sunday’s Indy 500 by Buddy Lazier, whose 44 car was numbered in honor of Pacers guard Jeff Teague. Teague sponsored Lazier’s car in the race; Lazier will help sponsor the construction of a gym Teague is hoping to have completed in the city by the end of the summer. Lazier finished 29th in the 33-driver field.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) This week, the NBA will enjoy what should be an amazing third straight Finals between Golden State and Cleveland. That would not be possible if the men and women who have served and died in combat around the world for the past three centuries hadn’t made the sacrifices they did. On this Memorial Day, take a minute to think about the good things in your life, whether it’s family, friends, a home, a job (or, jobs) that gives you the ability to take care of your loved ones. You have those things because we’re all lucky enough to be in this country in this time — and that makes us luckier than 99 percent of all the people who have ever lived on this planet. Take a minute to listen to the stories of veterans like Max Voelz, who lost his wife, Kim — like him, a bomb ordinance worker — in Iraq in 2003. Thank whatever deity in which you believe that you haven’t had to make that kind of sacrifice. And, if you have had to make that kind of sacrifice, I thank you.
2) And: The Finals should be great. Great.
3) The Hawks made a good hire in Travis Schlenk, who’s well-regarded around the league and deserved a chance to run his own shop after years of solid service at Golden State under Bob Myers. First on Schlenk’s plate: what to do about Paul Millsap. It is not an easy call, nor does it provide an easy answer.
4) This is…so polite.
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) I know this will be viewed as Get Off My Lawnism by the hot takers. But any debate about the greatest player in NBA history that doesn’t start with William Felton Russell is not worth the air in your lungs that doesn’t form those words. One more time: 13 seasons. Eleven championships. You want to debate LeBron vs. MJ? Fine. But you don’t say “best player ever” without including Russell in the discussion. Not if you’re serious.
2) You don’t have to have a problem with Schlenk or Jeff Weltman, hired to run basketball operations by the Magic last week, to continue to be distressed at the lack of hiring people of color to management positions. Only four teams — Toronto, the Clippers, New Orleans and the Lakers — have African-Americans in final decision-making capacity. It is encouraging that both Atlanta and Orlando interviewed multiple people of color before making their decisions. But four out of 32 is not a good number.
3) Enes Kanter is a brave man, speaking out against injustice in his native Turkey — and the current government, which is not to be trifled with. His fight took an ominous turn last week when a Turkish judge issued an arrest warrant for Kanter, which shouldn’t mean anything as long as Kanter, who has a green card allowing him to work and live in the United States, doesn’t leave the country. (SI’s brilliant legal writer, Michael McCann, breaks down the meaning of that here.)
4) Sobering read for all of us who love covering sports, involving three friends of mine who are among the very, very best at what they do.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
— Shareef O’Neal (@cynreef), son of Shaq, Thursday, 9:44 p.m., after my employer, for reasons known only to my employer, opted to show the world what resides in Shaq’s shoes on a daily basis. Honestly. I can’t unsee that.
THEY SAID IT
“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram.”
— Magic Johnson, during a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles, detailing the one untouchable player on his roster at present before the Lakers pick second overall in next month’s Draft.
“I think that the fact that we were one of three teams still left playing was something to be proud of, but it’s not necessarily where we really are. I think sometimes teams make false assumptions of their team based on things like that. I think that our team is not that much different than a lot of our competition in the East…I know that we’re good. I know that we’re not great. I know that we still have more to do, and, you know, that next step is by far the hardest.”
— Celtics GM Danny Ainge, to the Boston Herald, after his team — which finished with the top seed in the Eastern Conference — was eliminated in the conference finals by the Cavaliers in five games.
“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row? Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good? I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team.”
— Kevin Durant, to USA Today, dismissing criticism that his decision to play with the Warriors has helped destroy parity in the NBA. Of course, as I’ve written about seven bazillion times, there never has been parity in the NBA.
Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.