DA's Morning Tip
Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on 'real' championships, what's next for Phoenix and more
Extended Gar-bahge Time? From A.J. Jaramillo:
… Michael Jordan was right when he said Super Teams are ruining the game. A fan like myself absolutely loved it when Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined the Lakers back in 2003-04 and lost in The Finals. They tried to get that ring by riding on coat tails. Same thing when the Spurs dismantled the LeBron James-led super team in 2014. I actually rooted for the Warriors during their first Finals appearance because they built their team and stars from the ground up. Then, after that, their heads got so big they celebrated every slam dunk like it was a game winner.
Kevin Durant saw how hard it was to lead a team to a championship, and was so irritated that he felt “entitled” to have a ring, so he took the easiest route possible to get it. Champions like last year and the manufactured rings that LeBron did back in Miami are a joke! The only real championship LeBron won was the one in Cleveland. Carmelo Anthony demanding to be traded to a specific team was freaking ridiculous. Now we have a super-loaded West and a G League-type East with only three teams that are contenders.
So much for teams winning with a two-headed monster or even the big three era that had a combination of a superstar and two All-Stars. Now we are interning an era that has two superstars and two All-Stars all in their prime.
Unfortunately, A.J., you don’t get to decide which championships are “legitimate” and which are not. Every team that wins a title, no matter how it was constructed or who is on it, has earned it. You can’t devalue any of LeBron’s titles any more than you can any of Bill Russell’s 11. They earned all of them.
If James had gone to Chicago and played with a healthy Derrick Rose and gotten Dwyane Wade to come, and they’d won two titles, those wouldn’t be real? Come on. And Kevin Durant’s pursuit of a title is of no concern to you, me or anyone else. He’s a grown man who had the right to pick where he wanted to go; he wasn’t required to keep banging his head against the proverbial wall to pass some kind of “purity” test. If he’d chosen Boston instead, and the KD/Horford/Isaiah Thomas Celtics were the defending champs, that narrative is somehow better than the one he wrote in the Bay? I don’t buy that.
NBA teams are, increasingly, owned by billionaire owners who staff front offices filled with Ivy Leaguers or equivalents who have mastered analytics and think they can unpick the lock of success. They are accountable for the teams they put on the floor as much as the players. You want to beat the Warriors? Build a better team than they have, and pay for it.
Prescient. From Alex Burg:
My question is, why aren’t the Suns better? They have a decent team, they’re young, they’ve had a consistent team, no big moves, “deep” lineup, no major flaws. So why are they a 24-58 team?
Alex wrote this before the Suns fired Earl Watson on Sunday and named Jay Triano interim head coach. The short answer to his question, though, is found in that firing. There isn’t anyone outside Phoenix’s management that thinks the Suns’ awful, awful start — 0 and 3 out of the gate, including 48- and 42-point shellackings by the Blazers and Clippers, respectively — is just Watson’s fault.
Ownership, in the form of Robert Sarver, and management, in the form of GM Ryan McDonough, will be on their third head coach together since the improbable 48-34 season of 2013-14. They’re the ones that have traded Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, and gave Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight $70 million extensions, and gave Tyson Chandler $52 million (yes, in pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge, but gambles that don’t pay off aren’t celebrated), and have seen none of their Lottery picks look like budding superstars yet. And they’re the reason, I’m told, that Bledsoe wants out. Bledsoe’s “I Dont wanna be here” tweet, posted Sunday afternoon, just before news of Watson’s firing broke, was not directed at Watson, a source said. Yet another source that’s been around the team put more blame — 70 percent, the source said — on Watson.
And that’s why a decision to rebuild through the Draft and/or young players is such a major one for a franchise. It’s damn near impossible for a team filled with kids to consistently win in the NBA when playing against veteran teams that know what they’re doing and have continuity among their core players. Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss are very talented young players. But it takes so long for kids to grow up, and they don’t grow up at the same pace, and they often get injured as they try and build up their bodies to get used to the six-month grind of the NBA. And — not unimportantly — the Suns play in the West. There are almost no easy marks. In fact, they’re the easy mark. But Sarver and McDonough have to start owning this, too.
So the guy with the .662 lifetime winning percentage, and who directly produced 16 world championship teams in a 29-year span, and after whom the Coach of the Year award is named, just outspent everyone for all those rings. Got it. From Anil Moni:
The only reason St. Louis traded the rights to draft Bill Russell to Red Auerbach and the Celtics was because they knew they didn’t have the money to pay him. In fact, no other team besides the Celtics had the money to pay Bill Russell.
Everyone knew what Bill Russell was going to be coming out of college, and every team would have killed for the chance to have him. But the Celtics were always going to land him one way or another, just like they were always going to land every other great player of that era. They were by far the richest team in the league and the only one that could pay star players the salaries they demanded.
The Celtics were the late 1990’s Yankees, but in a league with only eight teams. Think about that. The real story would have been if the Celtics had not won the championship every year.
You are aware that Wilt Chamberlain, not a Celtic and not Bill Russell, was the first person to make $100,000 in the NBA, right? In 1965? And that that is the reason why Russell demanded his salary for 1965 be … $100,001? And that every team in the league, including the Celtics, needed the gates of the Ice Capades and the Harlem Globetrotters in their buildings to survive financially? And that Auerbach didn’t pay Sam Jones or K.C. Jones or Tom Heinsohn or Satch Sanders or anyone not named William Felton Russell big dollars? And that John Havlicek took half of what the ABA was offering him to jump in 1969 out of sheer dumb loyalty to Auerbach?
But, I will relay your theory to Jerry West and Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson and Al Attles and Lenny Wilkens and Chet Walker and Bob Lanier and Bob McAdoo and Bernard King and Marques Johnson and some of the other people that tried and failed to beat Boston over those years Auerbach was in charge and report back to you.
Send your questions, comments and training tips for the rematch of these two great heavyweights to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
It’s back! A weekly compilation of the top five candidates for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Weekly averages in parenthesis:
1) Giannis Antetokounmpo (38.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 5 apg; .672 FG, .750 FT): Let’s just say I’m feeling pretty, pretty good (Larry David voice) about the preseason Giannis MVP prediction.
2) Anthony Davis (34 ppg, 17.5 rpg, 1 bpg; .545 FG, .727 FT): Extreme Browage out of the gate.
3) James Harden (27.7 ppg, 4 rpg, 8.7 apg; .444 FG, .867 FT): Back to the Future for the Rockets with Chris Paul out indefinitely — “The Beard” on the ball.
4) LeBron James (25 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 6.3 apg; .600 FG, .917 FT): Still causing poor Kyrie Irving all kinds of agita.
5) John Wall (27 ppg, 4 rpg, 9 apg; .450 FG, .850 FT): Calling his 2017-18 campaign the “wolf season.” Which is…fine.
BY THE NUMBERS
17 — Consecutive games the Magic had lost to Cleveland before breaking the streak Saturday in a surprisingly dominant 114-93 road win at the Q. Orlando’s losing streak even predated LeBron James’s return to Cleveland; the Magic’s last win over the Cavs was on Nov. 23, 2012. And Orlando’s 37-game lead over the Cavs in the fourth quarter marked just the second time since 2012 that a team was up by 37 points on Cleveland; Golden State accomplished the feat on Jan. 18, 2016.
828 — Career games for newly signed Pelicans guard Jameer Nelson, picked up by New Orleans after Denver waived the 35-year-old guard last week.
6-7.23 — Average height of a player in the NBA this season, per the league’s annual roster survey, released Friday. According to the league’s calculations, the average NBA player weighs 220.45 pounds, is 26.56 years old and has played 4.77 years in the league. The player that most resembles those averages, according to the league, is Milwaukee forward Tony Snell.
I’M FEELIN’ …
1) Eric Bledsoe to the Knicks. Courtney Lee to the Sixers; Jerryd Bayless to the Suns. Jahlil Okafor to Phoenix. Does this not make sense for everyone involved?
2) I would completely back Mark Cuban’s Lottery proposal that, unfortunately, he didn’t officially put on the table for the league’s Board of Governors at its meeting last month. “Worst and You’re Third” is a great anti-tanking solution, and frankly, it’s better than the one that Cuban actually did propose. Owners are never going to get rid of the Draft because the Rookie Scale artificially depresses salaries for so long; if you get an impact player right away, you basically get at least close to half of his playing prime for sub-market value. That’s a return on investment that is too good to give back. But the notion that finishing with the worst record is not only of no value, but will end up hurting your chances in the Draft is a great idea. It could potentially change everything; instead of bad teams giving away their best players at the trade deadline to enhance their odds of finishing last, bad teams might actually become buyers and try to make a playoff run. And there’s absolutely no downside to that for anyone.
3) Grindfather, getting me all up in my feelings.
NOT FEELIN’ …
1) It’s so awful when a player’s season ends before it really begins. You remember when it happens — Nene in 2005, Julius Randle in 2015. And we’ll unfortunately remember this awful first week of the season, when Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Lin went down with horrific season-ending injuries in Game 1.
2) I can tell you that the Warriors love them some Jordan Bell. Which, again, makes the Bulls’ decision to agree to trade his rights to the Warriors on Draft night beyond perplexing. Chicago isn’t exactly lousy with talent these days, and the franchise is among the most profitable in the league; as I said in June, the Bulls didn’t need the $3.5 million they got from Golden State in the deal. Didn’t make sense then; doesn’t make sense now.
3) Not sure what the deal is with Markelle Fultz’s shoulder, but the free throw form … yikes.
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