DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on a Draft proposal, state of Chicago Bulls and more

David Aldridge

General, is there a hole in our Tank? From Blake Harllee:

As a fan of a rebuilding team who can’t get free agents (Mavericks), I’m really worried about the new lottery system. I understand the sentiment, but in a league that’s dominated by super teams, won’t the new “tanking” rules have disastrous impact on the ability of bad teams to rebuild?

See above. From Lance Bandley:

The new rules for the draft seem to encourage more teams to tank, would the NBA consider a plan where the two teams with the worst records get assigned the 4th and 5th spots automatically in the draft, that way teams have to keep playing to stay out of the bottom spots because they won’t be eligible for a top 3 pick?

I wouldn’t worry too much, Blake. The slight changes the league’s Board of Governors made to the Lottery odds are the NBA equivalent of throwing a deck chair off the Titanic. Teams that are in tank mode in a given year won’t be adversely impacted because the odds of Lottery teams 1 through 3 will be flattened starting in 2019. They’ll still do what they can to get as high a pick as possible — which is why I love Stan Van Gundy’s idea to get rid of the Draft altogether (see below).

And, no, I don’t think the league would go to a 4/5 assignment in the Draft for the two worst teams, Lance. There are still a lot of smaller market teams that want to protect their ability to get the top pick — or at least one of the top two. I get your reasoning, but those teams still see the Draft as the path of least resistance to getting a superstar-caliber player.

The Running Away from the Bulls. From Tyler Pleiss:

I’m a Bulls fan who’s obviously not thrilled with everything that’s taken place over the past four months or so. The front office duo of Gar Forman and John Paxson have proven to everyone they are behind the times and have no idea what they’re doing; The Three Alphas, hiring Doug Collins, I could go on.

Is there any silver lining with what’s happening in Chicago? Is Forman on the hot seat or did the rebuild buy him more time? Bulls Twitter knows there needs to be change at the top, but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen anytime soon.

You and Bulls Twitter would be right, I think. Jerry Reinsdorf has never been one to react to fan sentiment, as you know, when it comes to his front office folks — he stayed with Jerry Krause long after many in Chicago had abandoned him. I never say never, but I don’t think he or son Michael, who now runs the team’s day-to-day operations, are ready to move on Paxson, nor do I think bringing Collins in was any shot across the bow to Pax or Forman; Doug wants to be in Chicago as much to watch and be there for his son Chris, coaching at Northwestern in a big year for the Wildcats, as he does to advise the Bulls. As I’ve said and written, I’m in the minority when it comes to Chicago’s haul for Jimmy Butler; I didn’t think it was that bad (still think Kris Dunn is going to be a player in this league), and those players will look a lot better when the Bulls add a Lottery player next year.

Would I have to call on Jenny Lerner from MSNBC first? From Greg Smith:

Are you in as press secretary? Or should Pop just handle all relations with the press?

I don’t think Pop and I could co-exist, Greg. I occasionally work blue.

Send your questions, comments and deposit slips that can be authorized by paw print to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

500 — Capacity of the planned “Atlanta Social” area of Philips Arena when the Hawks’ $200 million renovation of their building is completed next year, according to the SportsBusiness Journal. Other additions to the arena will include Topgolf simulators in some suites, Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s SWAG Shop barber shop and a restaurant named after Atlanta rock star Zac Brown.

$786,988 — Amount, according to a statement released by the Warriors last week, that the team will pay to cover all of the costs of the post-Finals parade in Oakland in June. The team’s statement said that Oakland initially said a championship parade would cost $300,000, and that the Warriors had spent a total of $6 million to cover the costs of the two parades in 2015 and 2017; the Dubs claimed “most American cities cover the majority of the expenses associated with victory parades. We have made this decision despite our disappointment with the process and the large disparity between the two estimates.”

578 — Days since Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers last played in a game. Chalmers was out all of last season after rupturing his right Achilles’ in March, 2016; Memphis waived him days later to clear a roster spot for the postseason. The Grizzlies re-signed Chalmers in July after an arduous rehab, which should conclude tonight when Memphis opens preseason play against Orlando.

I’M FEELIN’…

1) Yo Soy Boricua, pa que tu lo Sepas! To all those in Puerto Rico: We hear you and love you and are trying to help. Donation links here, here, here and here. Your fellow Americans have not forgotten you.

2) The Jedi Master, Stan Van Gundy, struck gold with his idea to just get rid of the Draft altogether and make all incoming rookies unrestricted free agents, free to sign with whomever they choose. To the argument that every rookie would sign with the Lakers or Warriors or Knicks — no, they wouldn’t. Sure, some would opt to apprentice under Steph or KD or Klay or Draymond, but to do so, they’d have to a) take far less money than they could get otherwise, and b) be willing to sit for a year or two. By contrast, a team like the Bulls or Suns could offer huge bucks and playing time right now. Someone would take that deal. A lot of people would take that deal.

Imagine an NBA world without the Draft, with a talent like Markelle Fultz available. Could the Lakers sign him? Sure — but then, they’d have to pass on Lonzo Ball. And we know how they feel about him. The point is, with no Draft, everyone — the Lakers, Fultz, Ball — would have more choices. And that’s a good thing.

How would it work? I have no idea. (Friend of the Morning Tip Tom Ziller proposes rookie maxes for teams with cap room and rookie exceptions for teams over the cap.) Let’s say for the sake of argument that you have completely unfettered rookie free agency, and you could pay them whatever you want under the existing cap limitations. The Lakers could offer Ball, say, $12 million a year to start on a four-year deal. But they’d have to weigh that against their potential moves next summer, when they want to sign two max free agents. And what if a team like Indiana, desperate for a star and lead player, offered Fultz or Ball or Jayson Tatum $15 to $18 million out of the gate. Would all of them say no? Probably not.

Thus a small-market team like Indy, which had to trade its franchise player just a couple of months ago, would then immediately have a new, young talent around which to build — and, not unimportantly, sell tickets. Could that create problems with, say, Myles Turner? Yes, it could. Maybe a talent like Fultz or Ball would be worth that angst; maybe it wouldn’t. But that’s the point — the Pacers would have a choice.

Eliminating the Draft would also eliminate, for all time, the value of tanking (see below). Teams would have absolutely no incentive to be bad; it wouldn’t improve their chances of signing the best young talent one iota. Only good planning would. Now: there would still be bad teams. But with no Draft, those teams could plan accordingly to go all in on young players they think could help them immediately, without having to lose games or put an inferior product on the court to do so. Fans of really bad teams would have legit hope: We only won 29 games this year, but we could get Fultz or Ball or Tatum. Maybe Fultz AND Tatum!

And, yes, great teams like the Dubs could further arm themselves by enticing a top-10 talent to play for them and win a ring immediately. They, too, would have a choice. And franchises with a consistent history of great player development, top coaching and winning, like the Spurs and Heat, would have a leg up. A kid like Andrew Wiggins, given a choice when he came out in 2014, might have looked at the Spurs, with their Kansas ties, and go ‘man, I’d like to be a part of that.’ Thus, teams that have done things the right way would be rewarded, while teams that have mucked things up for years wouldn’t be. Isn’t that the point of competition? Conversely, a guy like Wiggins might look at the landscape in a given year and say, “I’ll wait for the Clippers/Mavericks/Wizards to have more cap room in a year; I’m going back to school.” Wouldn’t that be better for colleges?

Everybody doesn’t win in this scenario, starting with me: With 50-60 new free agents to keep track of July 1, I’d hit myself in the head with a hammer. And given the real reason teams still want the Draft — keeping players on (relatively) cheap rookie contracts as long as possible — there’s no chance the NBA will get rid of it any time soon. But it would be great for the game, and further the hold the NBA now has on the sporting world through most of July and part of August.

3) A very cool gesture from a Mavericks fan in appreciation of Dirk Nowitzki’s numerous financial sacrifices over the years.

4) Thought the Sparks would close out the Lynx in L.A. Sunday night to win back-to-back WNBA titles. Should have known better than to discount the championship DNA that Minnesota also possesses — and displayed in a Game 4 win at Staples Center, setting up a winner take all Game 5 back in Minneapolis Wednesday night. Which, really, is the only way for these two great organizations to settle things this season.

NOT FEELIN’…

1) The NBA has carved out space for itself among the “big four” U.S. major pro sports leagues as the one that is, by far, the most progressive and diverse — among its employees, and in its collective thought. It threatens that standing if it penalizes players who take part in pregame protests during the playing of the national anthem. Adam Silver and the people who run the league know full well that if a player takes a knee or otherwise doesn’t stand at attention during the anthem, they aren’t protesting or disrespecting “the troops” or “freedom” or any other cliché those who do not want their sports sullied by real life can dream up. The original protest by Colin Kaepernick, as he made quite clear when first asked about it by Steve Wyche of the NFL Network, was to call attention to what he believes are numerous acts of police officers around the country getting away with shooting unarmed people of color. It is fine that the NBA is encouraging unspecific “community conversations” between players and leaders in the community, and discussions between players and owners. But those are side issues. The question is will players be allowed to express their opinions — as they did by wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to call attention to the death of Eric Garner last year at the hands of police — by kneeling or otherwise not standing at attention during the anthem? If the league insists on enforcing all of its rules to the letter of the law, that’s its right: it can issue quiet fines to those who don’t stand at attention. But it risks a confrontation with someone who isn’t an anonymous lineman or defensive back: Would the NBA suspend LeBron James or Steph Curry for taking a knee?

2) Speaking of which, Alejandro Villanueva, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineman who chose to stand with hand over heart during the national anthem before his team’s game with the Bears, while the rest of his teammates remained in the locker room, shouldn’t apologize for anything he did or said. Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served three tours of Afghanistan, said Monday that he “threw his teammates under the bus unintentionally” by going out while they stayed inside (actually, they stood just a few feet behind him in the tunnel while the anthem played). But given his service to the country and his own personal beliefs, Villanueva had every right not to take part in the team’s action. (The team, by the way, stayed inside not to protest, as other players and teams did, but to be united in not doing anything on the field.) That’s the whole point of this: individuals taking individual action, one way or another. You want to take a knee to protest what you believe is police brutality against people of color? Kneel. You want to stand up, put your hand over your heart and sing the anthem at full throat, because you think doing otherwise would be disrespectful to flag and country? Sing. Grownups should be able to disagree about things without being called bad teammates — or, SOBs.

3) RIP, Frank Hamblen: a knowledgeable and friendly man over the years as an assistant coach for many teams over four decades in the NBA, most notably Phil Jackson’s teams in Chicago and Los Angeles (and, briefly, a stint as interim head coach of the Lakers in 2005 after Rudy Tomjanovich resigned). Ham was funny and self-deprecating and accessible, and the next bad word I hear about him will be the first.

4) The Mother of the Year Committee is now free to drive straight past Des Moines.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

— The Twitter account of Troy University (@TroyUniversity), Saturday, 10:28 p.m. Not a hoops Tweet, but it’s savage: a 20 and a half point underdog, the Trojans — paid a reported $985,000 by the Tigers to come to Baton Rouge to take what was expected to be a fairly common guarantee game beating — beat LSU 24-21, ending the Tigers’ 49-game home win streak against non-conference opponents.

THEY SAID IT

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there is no place I would rather be than Oklahoma City. I am so honored to have the opportunity to continue my career here with the Thunder. From day one the support that Mr. Bennett, Sam, Troy and the entire organization have given me and my family has been incredible, and we are so grateful. When you play in Oklahoma City you play in front of the best fans in the world, I’m looking forward to bringing everything I’ve got, for them, this city and for this organization. WHY NOT?”

Russell Westbrook, after the Thunder announced he’d signed a five-year extension to stay in Oklahoma City for $205 million.

“Just tell those NFL players, I’m with them.”

Bill Russell, the GOAT, to Hall of Fame writer Jackie MacMullen after he went on his Twitter page to post a picture of himself taking a knee while wearing his Presidential Medal of Freedom in solidarity with NFL players supporting Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem before games last week.

https://twitter.com/RealBillRussell/status/914336290056806400

“Me and my team sat down on Friday night and was like, ‘man, we best prepare for going back to media day on Monday and training camp that week.’ And then we got the call that said, ‘Would you open it up to OKC?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, at this point yeah.’ I don’t think it would have been beneficial for me to come back to media day after everything that was going on in the offseason. For me to have to deal with that it would have been unfair for the organization, the Knicks, to have to deal with that. It would have been too much noise, too many questions to answer and I don’t think either party wanted to deal with that.”

Carmelo Anthony, on SiriusXM NBA’s radio show with Joel Meyers and Antonio Daniels last Thursday. Anthony said during the interview that a deal to send him to the Rockets earlier in the summer was in place but fell through, leaving him to have to amend his list of teams to whom he’d be willing to be traded to include Oklahoma City.

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.

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

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