DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers' draft future and more

David Aldridge

Return of the Borg. From Cameron Dillard:

Do the Spurs have a higher chance of knocking off the defending champs than we think? The addition of Rudy Gay, who is a solid forward and can score the ball in bunches, can help stretch the floor while running “small ball” and the return of a hungry Kawhi Leonard, who is my favorite to win the MVP next year can be a dynamic duo that no one seen coming. Whatchu think?

Rudy will help. He can score, and that will take some of the pressure off of Leonard to do everything. And I’ve never thought Rudy as bad as his critics would have you believe. And, you’re right, coach Gregg Popovich does have more flexibility now to go small with Gay and Leonard in the frontcourt.

But I do suspect that this will be a transition year of sorts. You can pencil them in for 50-plus wins, of course — there’s just too much institutional memory and talent and coaching there for the drop-off to be all that great. But there’s no obvious solution at point guard with Tony Parker coming off a torn quad (even if Parker returns sooner than expected), he’s still not going to be himself for a good long while). I think losing Jonathon Simmons to Orlando is going to hurt more than most realize. Unless Cousin LaMarcus returns to his dominant self again, I just don’t know how San Antonio can beat the Warriors four times. Maybe I’m wrong.

Pick play. From Tomek Chainski:

I’ve been reading a lot of NBA related articles in the anticipation of the new season, and one topic that has been covered plenty and then some, was the pick that the Cavs have acquired in the Kyrie trade. There’s a lot of will they/won’t they involved, as contradictory reports are popping all over the media every couple of hours.

For the purpose of the conversation, let’s assume that the Cavs are indeed shopping the pick — some of the ideas that are being reported as possible trades involving the pick are downright preposterous. In my opinion, there are very few players that are worth trading the pick away. In order to make the salaries work, Cavs would have to probably include Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert into the trade, and the reported returns are not even remotely as valuable — giving up a potential rebuild-starter after LBJ bolts is a questionable decision, unless you want to go all in on that last chance to get a championship, and sentencing yourself to spending next 5-10 years in the NBA lottery purgatory.

Considering that, the pick would need to bring an asset that will even them out with the Warriors. Trading for Boogie Cousins is obviously rumor number one, and even if insanely risky, comes with great perks.

That being said, I do not believe that there are any other realistic returns that the Cavs could get, and yet we can read reports of trades that are just plain dumb.

That pick should not be dealt and if it’s not for a game-changer, how could anyone consider swapping the pick for Nicolas Batum? Or exchanging it with Miami (along with IT) for a package of Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson?

I would say your instincts are spot on, Tomek. The Cavs made their peace with the idea that Kyrie wanted out, and that there was nothing that would change his mind. But they pulled the trigger with Boston to get the Brooklyn pick — period. Do you know how rare it is that a 50-win team in a given season has access to a high Lottery pick in the following Draft? It’s extreme — so extreme we remember when it happened years, decades later.

Recall how a 61-win Celtics team in 1980 — Larry Bird’s rookie season — having already acquired the first pick in the 1980 Draft from Detroit, turned that pick into Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in an all-time Brinks job Draft deal with Golden State. Or the Lakers, coming off the ’82 NBA title, adding James Worthy with the top pick in the ’82 Draft, having acquired it from Cleveland in a 1980 trade for what became … Don Ford and Chad Kinch.

In the last 20 NBA seasons (1997-2017), 181 teams have won 50 regular season games — or, in lockout-shortened years, the equivalent of 50. Of those 181 teams, do you know how many got a top-five pick in the following Draft? The answer is … two. That’s .01104972 percent.

The 2003 Pistons, coming off a 50-win season, got the second pick in the Draft because of a long-forgotten deal with Memphis for Otis Thorpe. The Pistons, of course, in a Draft filled with future All-Stars (Cleveland took LeBron James with the first pick, but Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh were still on the board), took … Darko Milicic.

And Boston, this summer, added Jayson Tatum with the third pick overall to its 53-win team of last season. Even if you take it out to the top 10, only five of those 181 50-win teams the last two decades got a top-10 pick in the next Draft. That’s .027262431 percent.

Atlanta, in 1999, got Jason Terry 10th overall after winning 31 games in the previous lockout-shortened season; Utah, in 2010, got Gordon Hayward with the ninth pick after winning 53 games the previous season; Toronto, in 2016, added Jakob Poeltl with the ninth pick after winning 56 games the previous season. It just doesn’t happen that often. So the Cavs aren’t trading that pick. As someone in the organization said last week: “LeBron understands the value of the deal.”

Pure, unfettered capitalism. From Gabor Sarandi:

Why we don’t let the billionaire owners play with what they have the most — money!!!

Why we don’t let an employee (the player) earn as much as they can? Especially in the US!

So here is my idea.

Every team could pay one player as much as they want, but only that year maximum would count towards the salary cap.

So next year let’s say Curry gets paid $80 million, but only $34 million would count toward the salary cap!

Why would be this good?

It would be greatly entertaining to see the billionaire owners bidding on each other! You want to win, Mark Cuban? Let’s see if you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is!!

It would be a great incentive and reward for the players! They would want to get better and better because the sky is the limit financially. And to be honest, a star player like LeBron, Durant, Curry and all the others deserve as much as they can get! They are the reason we love the NBA after all!! (not you, Mark Cuban!!)

For the teams it would be a real tool to use to keep the star player and prevent the creation of super teams! (Unless the NBA wants super teams.)

Now you can ask why just 1 player/team? Well I don’t think there are more than 30 players in the league who could get more than the max salary on the open market today ($34 million). But that’s just me. And if it works and everybody (players/owners) likes it, than you could expand it to 2 player per team.

You seem to have an issue with Cuban, Gabor.

As to your argument, while it would be fun, and eminently fair to pay the game’s elite what they could get in a true open market, there’s no way that the league’s lower-revenue producing teams would sign off to an arms race with their more well-heeled brethren. Can you imagine trying to compete financially with a Paul Allen who’d have no limits on his checkbook? Or Steve Ballmer? It would be impossible for New Orleans to keep Anthony Davis, or Oklahoma City to keep Russell Westbrook. And part of the charm of pro sports is seeing communities like OKC in the NBA, or Green Bay in the NFL, be able to go toe-to-toe with bigger cities if they run their franchises well. The smaller markets have already dug in their heels on even moderate Lottery reform; there’s no way they’d give in on this.

Send your questions, comments and reminders that while you may think you’re tough, you can’t mess with a chainsaw-wielding nun to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!


$600,000,000 — Estimated cost of a full renovation of Key Arena, the home of the Seattle SuperSonics for most of their 41-year run in that city, under a proposed deal between Oak View Group and the city that was announced last week. OVG would spend approximately $560 million to renovate Key for NBA and NHL use, with another $40 million going toward alleviating expected parking difficulties that would arise in the Queen Anne neighborhood with the increased use of KeyArena, which is currently home to the WNBA’s Storm and the University of Seattle basketball team. OVG says it can complete the renovations by October, 2020. The Seattle City Council will have to approve the Memorandum of Understanding between OVG and the city before the renovations could begin. A competing plan led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen in the South Downtown area would build a $550 million arena on land Hansen has bought near the Seahawks’ NFL stadium, CenturyLink Field, and the Mariners’ Major League Baseball stadium, Safeco Field.

1,064 — Career games for Boris Diaw, who signed last week with Paris-Levallois in France after 14 NBA seasons.

21 — Years since the NBA All-Star Game was last in Cleveland, in 1996, with the historic gathering of the league’s 50 Greatest Players of All Time, as selected that year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the league’s birth. A $140 million renovation of Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland began last week, with hopes of getting either the 2020 or 2021 All-Star Games at the Q. The Cavaliers will continue playing there during the renovations, which are currently scheduled to be completed by 2020.


1) I want one of these. And you know what else I want? A remake of the 2010 heist movie “The Town,” except instead of being set in the Boston Charleston neighborhood, this time it would be set in Oakland — with Mahershala Ali in the Ben Affleck role. Oakland’s got so much density to it; it would be a really cool way to play off “The Town” nickname. You’re welcome; I’ll take my executive producer credit in due course.

2) Sylvia Fowles, WNBA MVP. Love the sound of that. Congrats to the Lynx’s superstar and four-time All-Star on her honor, as Minnesota has reached the WNBA Finals for the sixth time in seven seasons — a remarkable achievement for the great franchise.

3) Very cool way to tell three-time All-Star Phil Chenier that you’re going to retire his number 45, Washington Wizards. Chenier will join Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes and Gus Johnson in the rafters of Capital One Arena next year.

4) This is an incredible story, about a shared human experience. But it should make all of us, no matter what side of the political spectrum we’re on, think critically about the side that we’re on, and what we can learn from thinking about the other various sides of the argument. I make no judgments in any direction, as I’m wrestling with the questions this story raises in me. Just read it, and really think for yourself.

5) I was prepared to hate this at first glance. But I don’t hate it. I kind of like it.

6) What? I’m not crying. I have something in my eye.


1) Something needs to be done about restricted free agency. This morning, several players unlucky enough be RFA’s this year — Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, Memphis’ JaMychal Green, Phoenix’s Alex Len — are still unsigned. Is it, in our crazy world today, the biggest deal? No. But it’s an annoyance that these players and their families have to deal with so much uncertainty for weeks, and months, because the rules of restricted free agency give them no other options. It would be cavalier to come up with some back of the envelope potential solution here, but there’s got to be some way to break up the logjam before less than a week before the start of camps.

(BTW, Mirotic’s agent, Igor Crespo, said last week that he’s still hopeful for a long-term deal that will keep Mirotic in Chicago the rest of his career, and that the 26-year-old Mirotic would have no problem staying with the Bulls during what looks like will be a long-term rebuild. But Crespo also said if Mirotic signs the one-year tender that Chicago offered, he’d almost certainly bolt the Bulls next summer when he’d be an unrestricted free agent. “The Bulls still want Niko and Niko still wants to stay with the Bulls,” Crespo said Thursday. “But the reality is, we’re nowhere … the Bulls would be losing an asset (if Mirotic signs the tender), because he would be nine months from moving on to somewhere else.”)

2) I do not care for this “statement”.

3) As Jimmy Johnson says, don’t feel sorry for him. He has the means to rebuild. But seeing anyone’s life’s dream destroyed is hard to watch. Just think of those who aren’t famous and who don’t have Johnson’s resources. And do something for them, if you are at all able.

4) RIP, Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. He was such a great heel, as both a manager and commentator on pro wrestling. And he had the best line about wrestling fans like me in the ‘80s: “the only thing that scares me about them is they can vote, and they can breed.”


— 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41), Tuesday, 4:31 p.m. Just wait, Diggler. It gets worse.


“I just want people to be aware, and not forget about the Islands, just make sure that they understand that they need help now, but that this is going to be a long process of rebuilding. It’s really devastated here.”

Tim Duncan, during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday, from his native home in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Duncan pledged $1 million in matching funds to the first $1 million raised through his Virgin islands Relief Fund; check this out or @DuncanRelief on Twitter for ways you can help. He donated 20,000 pounds of food throughout the Islands of Friday.

“That’s tough to do. I don’t think people take into account that he put so much pressure on himself by doing that. But the willingness to do that, knowing the pressure that comes with that and saying, ‘I’m ready to do it. Let’s do it.’ That’s what stood out to me more than anything.”

Draymond Green, to the Washington Post, explaining why he’s sympathetic to Kyrie Irving wanting to leave Cleveland and LeBron James in order to “do my own thing” in Boston.

“It’s something that all your life you’ve been an athlete and then you do something like that and are like, ‘I’m not that coordinated.’”

— Longtime NBA player and coach Don Chaney, to the Boston Globe, detailing how he capsized himself in a kayak he had to navigate through flood-ravaged streets in his Houston neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey in order to return to his home. Fortunately, Chaney’s home did not suffer significant damage during the hurricane, which killed 75 people in the state of Texas, two-thirds coming from the Houston area.

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More Morning Tip: Rockets improve even after trade for Paul | No faux outrage over rankings for some

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.

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