DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on the Washington Wizards' backcourt and more

David Aldridge

When Your Magic Wand is on the Fritz. From Zach Garrett:

Do you think that the Wizards will have to move on from the John Wall-Bradley Beal marriage if the playoffs result in an embarrassing first round exit, especially if it were to be by way of a beleaguered Boston Celtics team? I have long thought that if it ever needs to happen, Beal is the one you keep. The ardent John Wall defenders are delusional about how good he is, in the modern NBA, he’s a liability; rarely defends consistently, can’t play or move off-ball, still can’t shoot, and needs to be ball dominant in order to play ‘his brand’ of basketball — as opposed to moving the ball and spreading the floor selflessly.

It seems as though moving one of the two will be one of the only options they’ll have. Porter’s contract will be hard to move. Ian Mahinmi’s isn’t moving — it’s the equivalent of a Luol Deng/Timofey Mozgov situation. Likely would have to package a first in order to get a team to bite and eat Mahinmi’s contract. While Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris come off the books next year, who really wants them? This roster management is a debacle by Ernie Grunfeld, it’s baffling he hasn’t been held accountable. He should be out if they embarrass themselves in the playoffs. Isn’t 14 years long enough? Wasn’t the Mike Miller/Randy Foye for the No. 5 pick in 2009 enough?…

The Wizards look, to me, like the Toronto Raptors did at the end of the 2014-15 season, when Toronto got swept — ironically — by Washington in the first round of the playoffs. That team’s defense fell apart the second half of the season and no amount of wishing and hoping and expectations for improvement once the playoffs began changed anything.

But despite calls to fire coach Dwane Casey and trade either Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan, Toronto kept its coach and star players, put better role players around them, built up the team’s depth through the Draft and stuck with their guys. It took four years to get Toronto where it is today: at the top of the Eastern Conference. Will the Wizards stay patient or would they look to shake things up if they go out again before the conference finals — which looks almost certain? I’d vote for patience, with one exception — if there’s a way to get Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio. I’d trade anyone — anyone — on the current roster for him if I knew Leonard was healthy and was willing to sign a long-term deal going forward.

Biggggzzzz. From Patrick Cabell:

How would you and others around the league rank these big men?

1. Jusuf Nurkic 2. Steven Adams 3. Clint Capela 4. JaVale McGee 5. Hassan Whiteside 6. Andre Drummond

Can only speak for myself:

1. Adams: A beast on the glass, a great individual and team defender — he does all the dirty work inside while also ranking 10th in the league in contested three-pointers per game (3.9). He throws his body around (second in the league in screen assists, per NBA.com/Stats, at 4.8 per game) and doesn’t miss much at all (fourth in the league in field goal percentage among players who average 30 or more minutes, .628).

2. Capela: See everything above, except he leads the league in field goal percentage among 30-plus minutes players at .654, is second in the league both in blocks (1.9) and in contested twos per game (10.2). The lynchpin for how the Rockets dominate defensively while keeping their spacing offensively.

3. Drummond: He’s been the constant in Detroit, about to lead the league in rebounding for the second time in three seasons. Took on more decision making responsibilities at the start of the season with Reggie Jackson hurt, and it worked for a while. But once the Pistons traded Tobias Harris as part of the Blake Griffin deal, Drummond’s assists fell through the floor. Not his fault.

4. Whiteside: Not consistent/healthy enough this season to be ranked ahead of Adams or Capela, though he’s still averaging a double-double this season and would be top five in blocks (1.7 per game) if he qualified. But part of why he doesn’t qualify is because he’s not seeing the floor down the stretch of games.

5. Nurkic: Nobody loves Big Nurk more than me. But while his improved defense has helped lead Portland’s second-half turnaround at that end of the floor, he still fouls too much. Will be very interested to see who, if anyone, takes a run at the restricted free agent in July.

6. McGee: Does what he does. Can have occasional impact on a game. But nowhere near as good as the five above him you’ve listed here.

Scott and I finish. From Scott Young:

We are now brought back around to the beginning. Rather than discussing what can be done (banning AR-15s, increasing registration and regulation, requiring a minimum purchasing age, etc.), we discuss what should be done. Any such discussion needs to define the goal to be accomplished; your closing paragraph states some possible goals: reduce mass shootings, take some guns out of commission, make us feel safer, make us actually safer (reduce gun violence).

I will, in a heroic effort of brevity, limit this to the proposed banning of the AR-15; the response is also quite link-heavy.

Would this reduce mass shootings? Mother Jones (not what one would describe as a conservative bastion) compiled a Guide of Mass Shootings in America since 1982. Out of 143 guns used, 20 of them were ‘assault weapons’ (roughly 14 percent). Overwhelmingly the shooters used handguns (94 semiautomatics or revolvers).

Would this make us safer (reduce gun violence)? FiveThirtyEight explored each of the 33,000 Annual Gun Deaths in America and Leah Libresco (one of the statisticians) wrote a longer opinion discussing the results. The majority (2/3) of gun deaths are suicides, followed by homicides (overwhelmingly of young men/gang and street violence and domestic violence).

Would this make us feel safer? Debatable, but legislation to manipulate public perception is … let’s call it “Unwise.” School shootings are down, gun violence is decreased, we live in the safest time in history (whether it feels like it or not).

All of which brings us to the last question, would this take some guns out of commission? Yes. There are somewhere between 6-10 million (estimates vary) AR-15s, or similar firearms, in America.

Should we take these guns from the millions of citizens who own them? For what purpose, if the other goals are not meaningfully impacted? What are other possible solutions (cultural rather than legislative for example)?

First. Scott, thank you for your initial letter and your responses. We do not agree on a great deal when it comes to guns. But I will always listen to and respect someone who makes an argument with facts, and does so respectfully. You have done both throughout our correspondence. I appreciate your position and thank you for bringing up a whole lot of cogent and fair points throughout the discussion.

Second, I am hearing a “perfect is the enemy of the good” strain in your argument. Again: no one believes that getting rid of one gun, or a lot of guns, or all guns, is going to end all gun violence, or most of it. The question is: are you willing to make changes or make efforts to try and reduce gun violence by getting some of the — literally — hundreds of millions of guns off the streets? A 2009 study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms estimated that year that there were approximately 310 million guns available in the United States: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns. That was almost a decade ago. And as the number of guns manufactured goes up, never down, one can comfortably assume there are many more millions of weapons in circulation today.

You cite the Mother Jones compilation, and we don’t have enough space here to go back and forth on how you or I would define what an “assault weapon” is; it would no doubt be different. But the magazine also noted that, since 2009, unrelenting pressure from the NRA has led to the enactment of almost 100 laws nationwide that have relaxed or eased gun restrictions. If more people can get more guns legally, adding to the — again, literally — hundreds of millions of guns that are available for purchase, that may help explain why gun deaths in the United States dwarf those of any other country on earth — all of which have people who suffer from mental illness, who are fearful of crime, etc. If we are safer (and, of course, that depends on who you are, and where you live), no one has posited convincingly or even unconvincingly that it is because we are awash in all these guns.

Accepting your estimate of six to 10 million AR-15s currently in circulation in the United States, if we managed to get them all off the streets and back on the battlefields where they belong, citizens could still hunt, target shoot, protect their homes and do anything else they want with…at least — at least — more than 300 million firearms available to them. Is it not worth at least trying? If it reduces one death, if it keeps one wife or husband or cop or child or minister or concertgoer or teacher or diner or churchgoer alive, wouldn’t it be worth it?

(An aside: just last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held, just as the U.S. Supreme Court — I think, you would argue, not exactly a bastion of liberal jurisprudence these days — held last year, that a state’s assault weapons ban does not violate the Second Amendment. This, again, is in keeping with the evidence cited in our discussions before, that there are limits to the reach of the Second Amendment, just as there are limits on the First Amendment.)

At any rate, I thank you for your thoughtful responses. I hope we can all be safe and peaceful.

Send your questions, comments and .. come on, it’s puppies for 10 minutes to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

MVP WATCH

(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)

1) James Harden (29.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 8.3 apg, .553 FG, .781 FT): Barring a meteor hitting the earth and/or dinosaurs returning to roam the land, your 2017-18 NBA Most Valuable Player.

2) LeBron James (34.7 ppg, 10 rpg, 10.3 apg, .587 FG, .656 FT): Soon, this will be a finals project for every undergrad in every college in every NBA city: make a billboard/banner for your city to beg for LeBron to come there next year.

3) Anthony Davis (31.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 3.3 bpg, .533 FG, .824 FT): Since “Boogie” Cousins was lost for the season Jan. 26 with his Achilles’ injury, Davis’ averages are as follows: 31 games, 30.5 ppg (leads the NBA), 12 rebounds (fifth in NBA), 3.1 blocks (leads the NBA), 2 steals/game (third in NBA). Monstrous.

4) Kevin Durant (29.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.3 apg, .459 FG, .912 FT): God, let’s get to the playoffs so we can stop with all the hot takes about how the Warriors can’t win a title without Steph Curry, and what their record is when Durant scores 40 or more. Well, when Durant scores between 35 and 39 points this season, the Warriors are 5-1. Is that any more relevant?

5) Kyrie Irving (DNP: knee surgery): Out for the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

15 — Consecutive games in which the Nets have made at least 10 3-pointers, a franchise record. This year’s team has already shattered the franchise record for made threes in a season (877), set last season; after making 24 threes in a win over Chicago Saturday — one short of the NBA record for threes in a game, 25, set by the Cavs last season — Brooklyn has made 1,012 threes this season, becoming the first team in franchise history to make more than 1,000 threes in one season.

7Years since the Clippers last missed the playoffs; L.A. was officially eliminated on Saturday after losing to Denver. This is the first time since the franchise was in San Diego in the 1978-79 season that it will miss the postseason despite having a winning record; the Clippers were 43-39 that season but finished fifth in the Pacific Division, despite the best efforts of Mr. World B. Free, who averaged 28.8 points that season — the last in the NBA before the league adapted the 3-point shot from the ABA.

40 — Years, as of Sunday, since the Buffalo Braves played their last game in that city, per the NBA. The Braves moved to San Diego, changing their name to the Clippers, in one of the more bizarre transactions in league history: the teams traded owners. Braves owner John Y. Brown, who bought the team in 1977, liquidated most of the team’s promising core, sending Bob McAdoo, Adrian Dantley and Moses Malone out of town in separate trades. Brown then swapped control of the Braves to Irv Levin, who assumed control of that team while Brown assumed control of Levin’s team — the Celtics. But Levin was from California and wanted to return there, so once he assumed control in Buffalo he moved quickly to get league approval to move the team to San Diego. The league acquiesced in a 21-1 vote in 1978.

I’M FEELIN’ …

1) If there is a God, succeeding generations, when asked their recollections of Seven Days in May, will speak not of the great book/film of the same name (film screenplay by Rod Serling!) in the ‘60s about a military coup against the President and government of the United States, but of the Cavaliers-76ers second-round playoff series of 2018. Please, God, give us seven games of Cleveland-Philly next month.

2) The Jazz lost its franchise player eight months ago and got nothing in return. That Utah not only survived, but has thrived behind rookie Donovan Mitchell, and has gotten a Defensive Player of the Year-worthy campaign from Rudy Gobert, is testament to the job both of GM Dennis Lindsey and the front office, and Coach Quin Snyder and his staff — and the players, who came to work and got through two rough patches while Gobert was injured. Utah’s run to the playoffs, and a potential top-three seed in the west, is a great story, one of the NBA’s best this year.

3) This should be standard operating procedure for every Major League team for the rest of time. And I don’t mean how deftly Sophia Minneart dodged the Gatorade shower. Any reporter who covers baseball regularly and can’t speak Spanish shouldn’t be covering baseball. Two questions, two answers, two quick translations, and we’re done. Perfect. How can you possibly be able to cover a team if you can’t communicate with 31.9 percent of the players on Major League rosters?

4) Mitch Kupchak will have tough decisions to make in Charlotte brings a lifetime of front office experience to the Hornets as their new President of Basketball Operations and GM. The Bugs have a lot of big contracts without the commensurate big performance from them, and they’ll thus be difficult to move. The one guy who is playing up to his deal, Kemba Walker, will be unrestricted in the summer of 2019, forcing the Hornets’ hand this summer — can you extend Walker, or do you have to trade him? And Kupchak’s last couple of years in Los Angeles were fruitless ones when it came to convincing free agents to come there. But he’ll obviously have the full backing of fellow Tar Heel Michael Jordan and he’ll bring decades of experience to bear.

NOT FEELIN’ …

1) Tankathon 2018, you will not be missed.

2) Omri Casspi, who’s played 552 NBA games over nine seasons with six teams, was a week from playing in the postseason for the first time in his career when he was waived by Golden State late Saturday. Which was unavoidable; the Warriors needed a playoff roster spot for Quinn Cook, who’s earned it, and Casspi’s been on the shelf with ankle problems. But it doesn’t make it any less hard.

3) Re: LeBron v. Nick Saban and who owns the “intellectual property” of doing a show in a barber shop: when I was at ESPN — and I haven’t been at ESPN since 2004 — my colleague Fred Carter did several “barber shop” segments for the NBA2Night show. Since I’ve been at Turner, Dennis Scott has done several barber shop segments for our various shows. It isn’t exactly a new idea.

4) Beyond sad to see a great newspaper being gutted like this in the name of profits and not journalism.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

— Utah’s Derrick Favors (@dfavors14), Friday, 4:54 p.m., joining other existential questions like ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?’ and ‘do I look fat in this dress?’

THEY SAID IT

“I felt to have any other goal was borderline, sort of cowardly. I understood that it was going to be a difficult ask. But I think to walk into a locker room and not declare that to be a season goal at the start of the season is not how I’m wired. You would get different people within our organization that sort of advised me not to go there and I wanted to. I wanted to own it.”

— 76ers coach Brett Brown, in a terrific piece by Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Lee, on his preseason prediction/pledge to his team that the Sixers would be going to the playoffs this season.

“Nobody should get in if he doesn’t get in. They should just say, ‘you know what, we’re going to close it down. No more coaches get into the Hall of Fame.’ You deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.”

— Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks, on the failure of former Rockets Coach Rudy Tomjanovich to be elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in this year’s voting. Tomjanovich won two titles coaching the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Rockets in 1994 and 1995 and was a five-time All-Star as a player in 11 NBA seasons, all with the Rockets franchise.

“I think just caring, caring in general, that was the main problem. Just in general, it’s hard to win an NBA game if you don’t put forth an effort at all. Yeah, I’m mad. I’m embarrassed. I know that this game doesn’t mean anything in the seeding, but the playoffs start next week. It was an embarrassing effort, a pathetic effort.”

Steve Kerr, after the Warriors were routed Thursday in Indiana by the Pacers by 20.

* * *

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 andfollow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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