DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip: Your questions on Gordon Hayward, small ball in San Antonio and more

David Aldridge

If I could let myself believe/I know just where I’d be/Right on the next bus to paradise/Sal Tlay Ka Siti. From Daniel King:

Simple question: Did Gordon Hayward do wrong by the Jazz?

No, Daniel, he did not. He gave them seven seasons, each better than the last in almost perfect symmetry. He became a star player, and star players are always in demand. The Jazz could have extended him after his fourth season and chose not to; he got an offer sheet from Charlotte in 2014 that they matched, but the danger was he was free again in three years. (The Wizards will face a similar dilemma when Otto Porter, as he most assuredly will, opts out of the matched offer sheet he got last week from Brooklyn in 2020.)

Utah did everything it could, but at the end of the day it’s up to the player; if Hayward wanted to retire as a member of the Jazz and hold most of the franchise’s records when he was done, he could have. He did not. The circumstances of Hayward’s old college coach being in charge of a very good team (he adds, parenthetically, in the east, where making All-Star teams will be much easier in the future) was, I guess, irresistible.

But he didn’t do Utah wrong, any less than LeBron James did Cleveland wrong when he left after seven years. A player staying with one franchise his whole career is, increasingly, going the way of the saber toothed tiger.

Changing of the guard? And forwards? From David Kiester:

Are the Spurs finally doing the unimaginable? After sailing against the current, it looks like PATFO (Pop and the Front Office) are making a hard pivot and reversing course. The signing of Rudy Gay and drafting of combo-guard Derrick White signal to me that the Spurs are, finally, going small (as loathe as they probably are to admit it). Assuming that they retain Jonathon Simmons and Manu Ginobili comes back for one more year (both are doable given their current cap space), that leaves the projected roster with 4(!) point guards, 4(!) shooting guards, 3 small forwards, 2 power forwards, and 1 center in Pau Gasol. Awfully thin up-front, especially considering Pop’s reluctance to go small, even versus smaller opponents, opting instead to counter with size. What are PATFO up to this summer, with potentially having only 1 roster slot available for a big on a minimum contract?

Look, if I had Tim Duncan for two decades, I wouldn’t downsize, either. And I don’t expect Pop to go into next season with only Gasol in the middle. Whether or not they can keep Dewayne Dedmon, they’ll bring someone in to fulfill that role. Unless Cousin LaMarcus (Aldridge) has had a change of heart, he’s always been reluctant to play in the hole.

There are still a few decent bigs out there as I type this — Willie Reed, JaVale McGee, Kevin Seraphin. Andrew Bogut isn’t that far removed from being the starting center on a championship team, and he most certainly would have played big minutes for Cleveland if he hadn’t gotten hurt. Plus, I’m not totally convinced the Spurs have taken Danny Green off the trade block; he could certainly bring back a solid big in return if that’s the way San Antonio wants to go. I do think Popovich will play smaller next season because he’ll want to put his best players out on the floor together.

Success is Processional. From Michael Boccella:

Putting aside anything else you said, what seems to be getting lost here is that with Joel Embiid (and whoever) the 76ers could be THE team. He is that good. Without him, even with Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and whoever else, they are just another team.

I agree, Michael. Embiid is a budding superstar; if he can play a full season or close to one for Philly next year, the 76ers will be in the playoffs, period. I don’t doubt his talent or potential impact. My issue was, and remains, with those Sixers fans who insist that there was no negative impact from the three horrific seasons from 2013-15, when the team went a combined 37-199.

Of course there were hard core supporters who believed the best way to rebuild the team was to go all the way down to the bottom and be in position to draft people like Embiid. And there’s no doubt you can’t win big in the NBA without superstars. But there were nonetheless costs to the approach. They may be easing now, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a cost then.

Conference calls? From Scott Hughes:

Will the NBA ever restructure conferences? My T-Wolves belong in a division with Chi, Mil, Det, Ind, etc.

Don’t see it happening unless and until Seattle and another west/Midwest city are added via expansion (no one is moving any time soon). If that occurred, I think there would be support for realigning along the lines you suggest. It would be easy to come up with eight four-team divisions, four in each conference, that would preserve most, though not all, classic rivalries while making some sense geographically. Mind you, there is no momentum right now toward expanding; this is just one way you could potentially restructure if you expanded by two teams:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

  • ATLANTIC DIVISION: Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia
  • NORTHEAST DIVISION: Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Washington
  • SOUTHEAST DIVISION: Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando
  • MIDWEST DIVISION: Minnesota, Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee

WESTERN CONFERENCE

  • DELTA DIVISION: Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Dallas
  • SOUTHWEST DIVISION: Houston, San Antonio, Mexico City, Phoenix
  • NORTHWEST DIVISION: Utah, Denver, Seattle, Portland
  • PACIFIC DIVISION: Sacramento, Golden State, L.A. Lakers, L.A. Clippers

It’s not perfect (and, again, there’s no inside info here; this is just an example of how realigning could work). Also: divisions have basically been rendered meaningless, anyway, so would anyone really care if someone broke up the Texas Triangle?

Send your questions, comments and slippers for those house guests who just won’t go to sleep and raid the fridge at 3 a.m. to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

2 — Remaining active players from the 1998 Draft (Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter) who each agreed to/signed new deals for a 20th NBA season last week. Nowitzki with the only franchise for which he’s played, the Mavericks (a two-year, $10 million deal), while Carter agreed to a one-year deal in Sacramento, where he’ll be paired again with Coach Dave Joerger.

3 — Remaining players (Dennis Schroeder, Kent Bazemore and the newly re-signed Mike Muscala) on the current Hawks’ roster from the 60-22 team of 2014-15, that made the Eastern Conference finals.

$169,200,000 — Amount of the four-year extension that will kick in for James Harden in Houston in 2019 and run through 2023 — which is in addition to the $58.7 million that Harden is already guaranteed through 2018-19.

I’M FEELIN’ …

1) A very classy goodbye to Miami from Chris Bosh.

2) Jeff Van Gundy has made himself into a must-see TV analysts for ABC and ESPN. But I’m sure he misses coaching terribly, which is why it was heartening to see him take a job with USA Basketball coaching the mens’ team through the preliminary rounds of World Cup qualifying.

3) Congratulations to Canada for its first ever gold medal in the Under 19 World Cup in Egypt Sunday, routing Italy in the gold medal game after beating the United States in the semifinals on Saturday. The U.S. team had won the last two men’s U19 titles, in 2013 and 2015, and had won 23 straight games in international play dating back to 2011. Remember the name R.J. Barrett; the Canadian teenager, and son of Rowan Barrett, the Executive Vice President of the Canadian Senior Mens’ team, had 38 points and 13 rebounds in the win over the States. R.J. Barrett is considered one of the top players in the Class of 2019 and is likely to be the next great Canadian-born star, following in the recent footsteps of Andrew Wiggins.

4) Even I, the hoophead, am beyond impressed by Aaron Judge. I’m sure he pops out weakly to third on occasion, too, but every time he hits the ball it seems to be hard and with bad intentions.

NOT FEELIN’…

1) If it’s summer, it must be time for the annual caterwauling of NFL players that NBA players are overpaid. The catalyst this time is James Harden’s ginormous four-year contract extension, which kicks in with the 2019-20 season and will produce a total of $228 million in already-guaranteed and newly guaranteed dollars through 2023. Once again, footballers: you play in what is by far the most dangerous and health-damaging sport, and yet you continue to accept non-guaranteed money for all but a handful of players in each round of collective bargaining. That is on you, and your union, to fix the next time you sit across from NFL owners.

2) True, it was bar service and not waiter/waitress service, but still … you gotta reach a little deeper on a near $500 bottle. Bartenders live on tips, too.

3) RIP, Darrall Imhoff. The 78-year-old former NCAA and Olympic champion died last week, after a solid if unspectacular pro career that, unfortunately for him, dovetailed with superior centers like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. I wouldn’t reduce anyone’s career to one quip, but I have always remembered what the late, great Alan Goldstein, the longtime Baltimore Sun sportswriter, told me about Imhoff. One day, Goldy asked Imhoff how he managed to play so long — 12 NBA seasons — despite rarely being the best big man on the floor. “Every backup center needs a backup center,” Imhoff said. “And that’s me.”

4) Me. In the midst of reporting on all the moves and possible moves the first week of free agency, I did not note that the L.A. Daily News beat writer Mark Medina was first to note that the Timberwolves were stalking free agent Nick Young (who ultimately signed with the Warriors). My mistake.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

— Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34), Thursday, 7:20 p.m., responding to speculation that other teams, following Gordon Hayward’s departure to Boston, are already circling the Greek Freak — whose four-year, $100 million extension begins next season.

THEY SAID IT

“You know, when I was there, I heard rumors — I don’t know how true they were — but I heard rumors about him wanting to leave … I’m not sure he wanted, you know, if he liked to be that star with all the pressure on his shoulder.”

— Nets forward Trevor Booker, Gordon Hayward’s former Jazz teammate, on a podcast last week with NBA reporter Alex Kennedy, detailing why he thinks Hayward left Salt Lake City for Boston.

“From our standpoint, we’re just trying to make us better and worry about us. A lot of teams make mistakes when they try to match up to the Warriors, or how the Warriors play. I don’t think anyone is gonna beat the Warriors playing the way the Warriors play. I think that the way to do it is to build your team the best way you think you can.”

Doc Rivers, during the introductory press conference in Los Angeles last week for newly acquired Danilo Gallinari, insisting that the Clippers’ series of moves in the offseason have nothing to do with trying to challenge the Golden State juggernaut.

“Kemba told me coach is a really straight-up and honest guy. That’s big for me. I’ve been told a million things in this league. I was Rookie of the Year, and then got traded…so it’s hard for me to sit back and believe everything I hear.”

Michael Carter-Williams, to the Charlotte Observer, on his hopes for a fresh start with Kemba Walker and Hornets Coach Steve Clifford after rough patches in Milwaukee and Chicago the last couple of years.

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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