DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on small-market teams, Isaiah Thomas' future and more

David Aldridge

More honey for the worker bees? From Rodrigo Diaz:

Sports are central in our culture and athletes have, like it or nor, a responsibility. It is good to see I. Thomas (the real one), LeBron and others, talking loudly and transparently about structural racism.

Having said that, I’m a Mexican Jazz fan (I know it’s weird but John Stockton was just so fundamentally sound and fearless I loved seeing him play). What I like about the team is that they never tank, if they suck, they compete, if they are mediocre, they compete. So, when you hear Mark Cuban or other owners talking about tanking, you really wonder why the league does not reward the teams that actually compete? Invert the Draft order, the teams that end in the 16th-21st get the five highest picks. Some may say that this will keep the worst teams down, but I think is worse to have some good-but-not-good-enough teams trying earnestly to compete only to end up with a mid-ten draft pick. And you see the likes of Devin Booker stuck in a bad team for four years. Small-market teams would have another incentive to compete.

Well, I’d disagree with your notion, Rodrigo, and your favorite team is a prime example of why. How has Utah rebuilt its roster since moving away from the Deron Williams-Carlos Boozer core of the aughts? Through the Draft. And during all of this rebuilding, Utah’s only had two top-five picks: Enes Kanter (third overall) in 2011, and Dante Exum (fifth) in 2014. But the Jazz has nonetheless built a solid playoff-contending team, through drafting exceptionally well toward the bottom of the Lottery (Gordon Hayward with the ninth pick in 2010), smart trades (getting the rights to Rudy Gobert, picked 27th by Denver in a pre-arranged Draft day deal in 2013). They’ve also traded for players like George Hill for Ricky Rubio and developing while retaining undrafted guys like Joe Ingles and Royce O’Neale. And … there’s that Donovan Mitchell fellow, taken 13th overall in 2017.

You simply cannot make everything “fair” for everyone in every instance. Teams like Utah, and Milwaukee, have to make up for the perception that they’re not prime free-agent destinations by drafting well, making smart trades and not overpaying for the free agents/developed players they do have (such as getting Ingles locked up for $13 million a year through 2021 instead of, say, $20 million per year). But it can be done.

Tinkering Along the Margins. From Quentin Super:

… I am wondering if you think the NBA is going through a stage similar to what the NFL did years ago, that being trying too hard to maintain their status as the number one sports league in America?

I would make the argument that the NBA has surpassed the NFL in terms of popularity, but now there seems to be this desire by NBA brass to keep making changes, i.e. All Star game, 1-16 playoff formatting. The NFL suffered from over saturation of their product, in my opinion, which among other things, drove the casual fans away.

I think the NBA would be best suited to get out of its own way and let their product speak for itself. The All-Star Game was better this year, but by no means was much-watch TV for most of the broadcast. This isn’t a bad thing though, because how often do we look back on a season and talk about the All-Star Game from that year? It only seems to be a problem when that time of year comes. And as I hear more about the challenges of a 1-16 playoff format, like travel time and loss of historic rivalries, I think the NBA might just be trying too hard to capitalize on its own success right now. The league is great right now, but I think if the NBA keeps trying to remind and sell people on just how great it is, they could eventually push people away. Interested to hear your thoughts.

Funny you should ask that. I spent Friday at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and spent much of it wondering just that: are people seeking changes simply for changes’ sake? I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more that needs to be fixed right now. I don’t love the overdependence on 3-pointers in the current game, but fans do, and that’s all that matters to the league. Changing the playoff format will necessarily create imbalances, no matter how you slice it; how is it fair that the winner of, say, a first-round series between Golden State and Philadelphia (if you seeded 1-16 regardless of conference and only by record, this would be a distinct possibility) then would play the winner of Cleveland-Milwaukee in the next round? How do you compensate for that? I just don’t like the idea of a tournament, or some other contrived mechanism, to make things more “exciting.” I think the last day of the regular season is pretty damn exciting already when you have three or four teams within a game of one another for the final spot in each conference, as you most likely will have this year.

Doubting Thomas in Detroit. (No, not that one!) From John Sommerdyke:

Insightful article on Isaiah Thomas. If his market value is around $15 million, watch out for SVG to sign him. Reggie Jackson is a huge question mark, Platinum Equity needs to fill seats at new arena and the Detroit fans will love IT’s underdog story. It’s the only way for Detroit to get three “all-stars” on the roster. I know I would start making the 2 1/2 hour drive to watch that team. Realistic or dreamings of a lifelong Pistons fan?

I don’t disagree with your notion that they need to sell tickets, but I think that’s what Blake Griffin was brought in, in large part, to do. And how do you get Thomas when you’re still on the hook to Jackson for $35 million for two more years? Doubt there’s much of a market for him via trade, or Stan Van would have likely pulled the trigger by now and moved on.

Send your questions, comments and anything you can do, I can do better to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!


(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)

1) James Harden (36 ppg, 5 rpg, 8 apg, .432 FG, .893 FT): Ninth game with 40 or more this season after a 41-piece to cool off red-hot Denver Sunday.

2) Kevin Durant (26 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg, .486 FG, .857 FT): D.C.’s consolation prize.

3) LeBron James (27.7 ppg, 12 rpg, 9.3 apg, .576 FG, .706 FT): Wild guess: very few league wide will be moved by his “I get fouled every time I drive” claim, even though it may well be accurate.

4) Kyrie Irving (24.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 7 apg, .500 FG, .750 FT): Any man who cops to loving musicals (he told Rachel Nichols that “Rent” was his favorite) is okay with me. No man alive who doesn’t dance for a living has seen “Cats” more than I have.

5) DeMar DeRozan (33 ppg, 8 rpg, 4 apg, .500 FG, .833 FT): Very cool that his father, Frank, was able to get to Staples Center to see his son in the All-Star Game last week. Frank DeRozan has been in poor health lately and neither knew if he’d be up to getting there.


6 — Warriors players, out of 9, that have scored 10,000 career points in a Warriors uniform and made the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Klay Thompson became the 10th player in franchise history to reach 10K last week, joining HOFers Wilt Chamberlain (17,783 points for the Philadelphia Warriors), Rick Barry (16,447), Paul Arizin (16,266), Chris Mullin (16,235), Nate Thurmond (13,191) and Neil Johnston (10,023). The only non-Hall of Famers with more than 10,000 points for the Warriors are Jeff Mullins (12,547 points) and Purvis Short (11,894). Stephen Curry (14,295 points and counting through Sunday) will surely join the current HOFers in Springfield soon after his retirement.

6 — Consecutive overtime wins for the Pelicans after beating the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday. New Orleans is 7-2 in extra sessions so far this season, the most OT games played by any team in the league.

6 — Games with 30 or more assists this season for the Wizards, who had 35 dimes on 43 made baskets Sunday night in a win over Phlladelphia that raised Washington’s record without John Wall to 9-3. No, the Wizards are not better without John Wall. Would you please shut up about that?


1) There was no column last week because of my Turner duties at All-Star weekend, so belated kudos both to the league for changing the selection format for the better, and to the players for a much better effort in the game. No one wants or expects 90-87, but some defensive intent such as Team LeBron and Team Stephen showed makes a huge difference. Now. #TeleviseTheDraft

2) I’m not genetically capable of giving up on the Spurs yet, even Kawhi-less ones, as their effort in Cleveland Sunday showed. Having Rudy Gay back will be huge for them if Leonard, indeed, is out the rest of the season or for some long stretch. The Spurs used Gay as a stretch four to some effect earlier in the year.

3) One reason why I wish the NBA would hurry up and expand/realign already: who wouldn’t want the New Orleans Pelicans in the East so we could get more than two Greek Freak vs. AD, Jrue Holiday/Eric Bledsoe hookups a year, like they had Sunday in an overtime thriller?

4) CWebb should be in the Hall of Fame. Period. End of sentence.


1) It depresses but no longer surprises to hear of workplace cultures as toxic as the one Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther unearthed last week with the Mavericks. (It is cold comfort to note that the basketball side of the franchise, its players and coaches, were apparently not only not involved in the awful treatment of female team employees, but were viewed as the one group of men around whom the women felt safest.) It does not make me feel good to know both Terdema Ussery and Earl K. Sneed, who are in the middle of SI’s reporting of the worst abuses, and have, in Ussery’s case, offered weak tea denials.

It does not feel credible that Mark Cuban — among the most hands-on owners in the history of sports — had no idea that Ussery was accused by so many women of inappropriate conduct over such a long period of time. It is minimally palatable that the Mavericks have hired two well-respected attorneys to conduct an internal investigation into what happened. It is difficult to see how the league could punish the franchise either through fines and/or Draft pick penalties, as some have suggested, as there is, at least not at present, no known evidence of a cover-up; only terrible, awful middle management decisions that gave no comfort to the aggrieved. The establishing of a hotline that goes directly to the league for team employees leaguewide who have suffered unwanted advances is a good if overdue idea. Cuban does seem genuinely determined to improve his company from within. That does not excuse what happened in his company on his watch.

2) Arming teachers? You’re joking, right? So, Joe or Jane Teacher, in the middle of going over 7th grade math, maybe trig, or listing the real-time evolution of how the 14th Amendment was ratified, turns and sees someone with a gun entering their class, or hears shots down the hallway. Where is their gun? Is it locked away in a drawer? Is it in an unlocked drawer? (And if the drawer is unlocked…doesn’t that create its own set of potential hazards, whether or not there’s an armed person in the school?) Is Joe or Jane’s first instinct to get the gun, or to protect the students in the class? They have about three seconds to decide. And assuming they get the gun, and go into the hallway, are they going to have the discipline to wait to see who has the gun, and who is shooting? Or is it more likely that, being civilians and being understandably terrified, they may make a mistake and shoot at the wrong person? Or, people? Or, shoot at the right person, but miss — and potentially hit an innocent bystander?

And when the police arrive, and see Joe or Jane Teacher walking down the hallway with a gun, is their instinct always — always, and it has to be always — going to be ‘oh, that’s Joe/Jane Teacher; they’re okay; let me go look for the actual shooter?’ Or will they, on occasion, go ‘hey, there’s a person with a gun; I have to draw my weapon just to be safe?’ To recap: the former has to be the reaction of every cop, in every situation, every time. Because if there’s one time a cop draws his or her gun and fires in confusion and/or fear at a teacher who has a gun, and kills them, that cop and his or her city will be sued to the studs by the family of the slain teacher. And if the teacher with the gun is, say, an African-American male, do you really expect me to believe every cop is going to react benignly to that sight? Come on.

We do not need to arm teachers. We do not need to put that incredible fight or flight, live or die, never be wrong, always aim and fire correctly pressure on someone who already has incredible stress in their (almost always) ridiculously underpaid profession. They aren’t military people. They aren’t cops. They’re teachers. What we need to help them is to get some of these damn guns off the streets, and make those who would buy them prove that they’re sane, and don’t have a criminal record, and are going to be responsible owners of a weapon that is designed, plainly, to kill as many people as possible in as short a period of time as possible. What we need to do is ban semi-automatic weapons from civilian purchase. You can defend your home with a handgun or shotgun if you know what you’re doing, and Lord knows there are plenty of those available for legal purchase. We lived tens of thousands of years as a species without AR-15s. We can live tens of thousands of years more without them. In fact, it would greaten our odds of doing so.

3) RIP, Dan Fegan. Stunning news that he was killed in an automobile accident over the weekend in Aspen. He was, at one point, one of the two or three most powerful agents in the game. He played hard but was a fierce advocate for his clients, as evidenced by the deals he got for so many of them over the years.

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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.