DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on LeBron James, young Philadelphia 76ers and more

David Aldridge

LeBron and Frank and Enes and Kyle. From Tom Hogan:

I thought LeBron James’ comments about the Knicks picking the wrong point guard were meant for Phil Jackson. He tried to intimidate the kid on the court. Has he told Magic that he picked the wrong point guard? Enes Kanter stood up for the young man. Frank Ntilikina has carried himself well and is steadily improving. The Garden was on fire and only the greatness of the King and white lightning Korver had the right stuff to put out the flame.

Of course LeBron was trolling Phil, not Frank Ntilikina. That was rather obvious. That goes back to Jackson referring to James’ friends and business partners as his “posse” last year. Ntilikina has played very well for the Knicks so far and the hope is he can come from out of the shadow Jackson cast on him by taking him in the Draft as a potential triangle guard. The kid has talent in any system.

The Process, Vol. MCMLXXXVIII. From Mike Pettiford:

I’m a Blazers fan currently living in the Philadelphia-area, and I’ve debated many Sixers fans about “the Process.” The gains are starting to pay off with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (and, potentially, Markelle Fultz), but the franchise willfully sacrificed no fewer than four years of incredible futility to get to where they are now.

Now that we’re able to at least say that Philly is a playoff contender (and possibly more in the near-term), what is the talk around the league about rebuilding a non-marquee franchise, now that you can see the benefits of tanking for multiple years? Is it to endure another #trusttheprocess and seek multiple superstars at the risk of alienating your fanbase? Or is it the Thunder model, where you hope to player develop and strike it rich with an All-Star or two?

That is the chicken/egg question today, Mike. You’re right on the money. This is the dilemma I’ve had in assessing how the Sixers built their team. Many (not all, certainly) of their social media-centric fans seem to have developed amnesia about the preceding three years, when the building was half-empty and the team had all but ceased to exist in the collective consciousness among much of the Philly fan base. It worked out in the end, and that’s all that matters if you’re a fan. But other teams, like Phoenix, have tried the same route and not had the same success — at least not yet — even though the Suns have some young talent. OKC went Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-Serge Ibaka-James Harden with four straight first-round picks from 2007-09, but along with that, the Thunder was the only major game in town and played in a very different market from Philadelphia.

Sometimes, a banana is not a banana. From Derron Jackson:

The way it’s looking now, Ben Simmons will run away with the Rookie of the Year award. However, given that he had a year of NBA coaching, training and salary, (should) we consider him a “rookie?” The exposure of NBA life even without playing any games has to give you a leg up right?

Good question, Derron. I do understand your sentiment. I would just say in response that players for a generation have all said the same thing, that nothing — nothing — prepares you for NBA basketball except playing NBA basketball. Being around it, doing all the lifting and running, getting coaching on the plane or bus are all good, but you only learn and improve by being on the floor against the best players in the world, night in and night out. So I’m not going to subtract in any way from what he’s doing (I agree with you that right now, he’s the odds-on favorite for ROTY) because he was around last season. He’s earning it now, on the floor.

Send your questions, comments and housewarming gifts for our new robot overlords 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 (38.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 8.3 apg, .433 FG, 1.000 FT): Made 48 straight free throws dating back to the third quarter of the Rockets’ win over Memphis Nov. 11. That includes 19 of 19 and 18 of 18 from the line in consecutive games with Toronto and Phoenix.

2) LeBron James (31 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 8.7 rpg, .563 FG, .611 FT): Yes, he’s seemingly indestructible. And I’ll likely be proven wrong (again) in June when he’s led Cleveland to another Finals. But he’s logging killer minutes. And fatigued players tend to get injured. He hasn’t yet. I know.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo (24 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, .431 FG, .750 FT): When a selfie just won’t do.

4) Kyrie Irving (23.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 5.3 apg, .417 FG, .905 FT): He has a remarkable ability to slough off 45 tough minutes shooting the ball to be an assassin in crunch time.

5) Kevin Durant (24 ppg, 5 rpg, 4.7 apg, .518 FG, .846 FT): Being a bit of a skeptic, I think “Champion of the Year” might be a wholly made up title designed to get you to buy the story inside the magazine’s pages. I could be wrong.

Dropped out: DeMarcus Cousins

BY THE NUMBERS

5 — Times this season that the Thunder has lost a double-digit lead, the most recent coming Friday in San Antonio, when OKC was up 23 in the first half but lost to the Spurs by three.

14 — Players in NBA history who have 1,800 career 3-pointers, after Dirk Nowitzki joined the club Saturday. The others: Ray Allen (2,973), Reggie Miller (2,560), Jason Terry (2,242 and counting), Paul Pierce (2,143), Kyle Korver (2,090 and counting), Jamal Crawford (2,069 and counting), Vince Carter (2,055 and counting), Jason Kidd (1,988), Stephen Curry (1,970 and counting), Joe Johnson (1,940 and counting), Chauncey Billups (1,830), Kobe Bryant (1,827), J.R. Smith (1,802 and counting) and Nowtizki (1,800).

1 — Games that Udonis Haslem has played in this season. The veteran Heat big man took off the warmups for the first time this year in the waning minutes of Sunday’s blowout loss to the Pacers.

I’M FEELIN’ …

1) The NBA and the NBPA under Adam Silver and Michele Roberts have achieved a genuine working relationship with one another. The last CBA negotiation was certainly smoothed by the $24 billion in national television money, but either side still could have been greedy and held out for bigger cuts of that pie. Neither did. So I don’t see any reason they can’t figure out a better plan for Draft eligibility than one-and-done.

Major League Baseball’s system, allowing high schoolers to declare for the Draft, while compelling those who do decide to attend college to be there at least three years before being eligible for the Draft — still seems to me to be the best compromise. If the next LeBron or Kobe is deemed ready both by themselves and NBA types to play in the league at 18, let ‘em in. But if there is any doubt, let them go to school and at least get close to earning their degrees by taking classes for three years before coming out. David Stern thought it was a bad look having NBA scouts in high school gyms, and I understood his point. But times have changed. The league and union should quickly come together and change with them. It would help just about everyone involved, starting with the players, while only hurting those who are/were delusional enough to ignore warnings that they weren’t close to being ready to play pro ball, yet declare for the Draft out of high school anyway.

2) Great, great reporting from Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher on Kevin Durant.

3) Agree with Mr. Angelo. It may be hard for some of you to believe or understand, but everybody doesn’t want to go viral. Everybody doesn’t want to be on TMZ. Everyone doesn’t want to be famous.

4) Sad that David Lee is formally retiring after 12 NBA seasons. He was a force on the glass for many years before injuries and age took their toll. But I’m not that sad. He’s going to spend the rest of his life with Caroline Wozniacki.

NOT FEELIN’ …

1) Good to hear Markelle Fultz’s shoulder is starting to respond to treatment. But it’s going to be a while before the first overall pick is back on the floor and playing to his potential, and I think the Sixers are going to need him at some point this season.

2) They’re very lucky. And, they’re also very stupid. How immature and unaware do you have to be to think that the risk of shoplifting in China is worth taking?

3) I have lost the will to L-I-V-E.

4) I answered a question in the Tip last week about what to do about the spate of mass killings. The writer of the e-mail had several points, some of which I agreed with, and some that I did not. The biggest point of disagreement I had was when the writer opined that “historians” had verified that “power and greed, not race or ethnicity, are at the heart of inequality and social injustice.” I submit again that neither power nor greed has anything to do with this being the reality of the current criminal justice system. Even if you argue that “greed” in the form of the private, for-profit prison system that is rampant in this country drives this particular outcome — prisons need prisoners in order to stay open and make money — you still have to do deal with the more pertinent fact that judges feel empowered to sentence men of color to harsher sentences, knowing that there will be almost no backlash or condemnation from the majority community. That is walking, talking, generation-destroying privilege at work.

5) This is not a good idea.

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MORE MORNING TIP: Celtics’ defense gets sharper | DA’s Top 15 Rankings | New tribute to Sager’s life | Your questions on Sixers & more | Q&A Idan Ravin

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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.

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