DA's Morning Tip
Morning Tip mailbag: Your questions on the Toronto Raptors, Lonzo Ball and more
Each week, David Aldridge takes on a few of your questions and gives you his best answers. Want him to answer one of yours in the future? Hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Poutine Just Doesn’t Cut It. From V.J. Henville:
Do the Raps blow it up? They’re good but can’t compete with the Beast in the East (who wears number 23). What shall they do?
I wouldn’t. It’s not easy to win 50 games in a season, and Toronto has done it twice. But it’s not just up to the Raptors; Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker are all free agents to be, and all will be expecting huge paydays. And, as Lowry and Ibaka have the same agent, ticking off one would not be beneficial when trying to sign the other. But, Lowry is 31, and even though he’s made three straight All-Star appearances, he was slowed by injuries the second half of the season, including the sprained ankle that kept him out of the last two games of the Cavaliers series. A five-year deal for Lowry, the most Toronto could offer, would exceed $200 million.
Now, the Raptors’ parent company prints money, so I’m not feeling sorry for them; they could afford it. But can the Raptors honestly say that even with a re-signed Lowry that they’d be close to Cleveland, even when he’s healthy, or that they’d be better than either Washington or Boston? (Or, for that matter, Milwaukee; Toronto beat the Bucks in six games in the first round, but it was a harrowing six.) I’d probably bite the (very expensive) bullet and re-sign Lowry, though, even if that meant the others couldn’t be retained. The Raptors’ strength is their backcourt; Lowry and DeMar DeRozan aren’t just teammates, they’re the team’s leaders and close friends. Toronto will continue to go as far as they can take them together.
I don’t know; my sixth sense tells me you’re insinuating something here. From Cameron Moses:
Kelly Oubre Jr. got ejected and suspended for a game for his shove to Kelly Olynyk. What are the chances Kevin Durant get suspended for the shove to the back of Rudy Gobert in similar fashion?
No chance — and not because you think Durant is getting star treatment. Durant’s technical foul and Flagrant 1 on Gobert Saturday came during a live ball situation; Gobert shoved Durant, Durant came back with a harder one, and got whistled for a technical and a Flagrant — which was, in the league’s view, a proper ruling by the referees on site, and the end of the matter.
Oubre’s action came during a dead ball, not during a play; Oubre ran several feet and came full-force at Olynyk before knocking him down, while Durant was more or less stationary. The NBA’s vice president of basketball operations, Kiki VanDeWeghe, told me Sunday: “the running start, you can’t go run 20 yards full speed into somebody with a body block.” VanDeWeghe was at Game 3 in D.C. Thursday; he reviewed the play with the game referees from several angles in the refs’ locker room after the game, as well as with the league’s Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J. And if you think the NBA plays favorites, well, Draymond Green would like a word with you.
The Big Baller Brand and the Braggadocious Begetter. From Alex Verkley:
Which organization is desperate enough to pick Lonzo Ball and welcome the cancer that is his dad into the organization?
That’s a harsh term, Alex; no matter what you think of his tactics, he’s first and foremost a father looking out for his son’s (or, his sons’) interests. And whatever you think of him personally, Lavar Ball isn’t going to play one second of basketball for whichever team takes his son. Lonzo Ball is going to make or break his own career by what he does on the floor. I’d bet on the former, big time, and I suspect any of the top teams in the Lottery will wind up doing the same.
Send your questions, comments and anything that lightens your heart better than this to email@example.com. 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 (36 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, .573 FG, .833 FT): Four wins away from a seventh straight Finals appearance. Please don’t gloss over that. That’s special, historic stuff.
2) Kevin Durant (26.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, .500 FG, .905 FT): I see Ludacris playing Villain Durant in the movie.
3) John Wall (30.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 11 apg, .408 FG, .885 FT): After going for 27 points and 12 assists Sunday, Wall has 10 playoff games in a row with at least 20 points and seven assists, a league record, ahead of Michael Jordan and Tim Hardaway, who had eight apiece.
4) James Harden (26 ppg, 38 rpg, 10.3 apg, .434 FG, .857 FT): Figuring out the balance between scoring and distributing has never been more important for the Beard.
5) Kawhi Leonard (24.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 6.3 apg, .531 FG, .833 FT): Turns out he can play some point guard, too.
BY THE NUMBERS
5 — Remaining NBA teams that do not have an official NBA Development League affiliate, after Minnesota finalized its purchase of the Iowa Energy last week. Denver, the Clippers, New Orleans, Portland and Washington are the only NBA teams that don’t have a D-League team, though all but the Blazers have stated their desire/plan to get one in the next few years.
199 — Players on NBA rosters at the end of the regular season with NBA Development League experience, the most in Development League history. That number was 44 percent of all players in the NBA this season; according to the league, all 30 teams had at least three former D-League players on their rosters at one point this year.
67 — College and international players invited to this week’s pre-Draft Combine in Chicago. Players will take part in five-on-five games and do agility drills, but there’s no requirement that anyone invited to the combine has to participate in anything.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) There was something special in the air at TD Garden last Tuesday, when Isaiah Thomas scored 53 points against the Wizards on what would have been his sister Chyna’s 23rd birthday. Chyna, tragically, was killed in a car accident in Washington state last month, and her older brother has dealt with his grief both in public and in the heat of the NBA playoffs. That he has played at all is remarkable; that he is playing at the level at which he’s done the last week or so is what they write books about. I can’t describe the aura in the building last week, but you felt that something more was at work than just a great basketball player playing great. It was remarkable and one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in person.
2) You want to know why Damian Lillard won the Magic Johnson Award from the Pro Basketball Writers Association last week — given to the player who combines both on-court excellence and consistent cooperation with the media? Jason Quick of Comcast Sports Net Northwest detailed just one example last week.
3) Congrats to one of the best in the league, Toronto’s outstanding public relations director, Jim LaBumbard, who is leaving the Raptors after 17 seasons to take a job in the league office. He has been, every single time, an absolute pleasure and professional with which to work. If he could help you, he would — and always did. If he couldn’t, he’d explain why, promptly and honestly, which is all anyone could ask.
4) I swear I was in D.C. for Game 4 of Celtics-Wizards Sunday. But, I’d walk around a golf course in a robe if the price was right.
The most John Daly thing ever? He has a friend called "The Dude" who wore a robe while following him in the gallery. pic.twitter.com/vHUiEXhODa
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) May 8, 2017
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) Just awful watching Tony Parker crumpled on the court in San Antonio last week, his season done with a ruptured quad muscle, the quality of his remaining career in question. He’s facing eight months of rehab and he’s going to be 35 in less than two weeks. I can only hope he can recover and play at a level with which he’s comfortable, because he has nothing left to prove to anyone.
2) Can’t eat churros out of a box, Chuck. No matter how well meaning the sender.
3) I’m neither shoe maven nor shoe consumer, but it seems to me if you want to build your brand and fan base upon turning pro, you wouldn’t charge almost $500 for your kicks out of the gate. Not saying you need to go the Steph Marbury route immediately, but there’s a happy medium between that and half a grand.
4) There is a reason I haven’t bought a boxing PPV since the Tyson days, and never will again. Saturday’s Canelo-Camacho Jr. “fight” was even more confirmation my decision is the right one.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
I wouldn't play for another team unless I'm on that team. Smooth playing on a sprained ankle. I didn't expect anything less.
— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2) May 4, 2017
— Pistons forward Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2), Thursday, 11:10 p.m., addressing internet-tainted clickbait that he replaced his injured identical twin brother, Markieff, the Wizards’ forward, for Game 2 of Washington’s series with Boston. The twins acknowledged they pulled off that subterfuge while playing AAU games in their youth, but I’m pretty sure I was standing in front of Markieff after his 16-point, 6-rebound effort in Boston.
THEY SAID IT
“What do I know? We just lost by 50.”
— Gregg Popovich, asked for possible adjustments he hoped his team would make in Game 2 after the Rockets beat his Spurs 126-99 in Game 1 of the teams’ second-round series.
“Steve, I hope you’re watching this. We’ve had a total of 24 turnovers in the last three games. That’s an area I’m doing a lot better than you. I’ve gotten the point across a lot better.”
— Golden State’s interim head coach Mike Brown, jokingly taking “credit” for the Dubs’ improved care with the ball since Coach Steve Kerr left the team to deal with his recurring back problems. Kerr reportedly had another procedure last week, according to Warriors owner Joe Lacob.
“We all know Lance is crazy. But Larry and I talked about it a lot. We knew him coming in could go a lot of different ways. He was so appreciative to be back in a place where he had success. I think everybody felt the lightning bolt that came back into the arena when he stepped on the court. As he gets more healthy, as he gets better in shape, we’re going to ask more of him.”
— Kevin Pritchard, officially named President of Basketball Operations of the Pacers last week, on the team’s plans for Lance Stephenson, brought back late in the season to the place where he thrived as a former second-round pick his first four seasons in the league.
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.
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