DA's Morning Tip

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on Oklahoma City Thunder, breakout players and more

Ok-lahoma, where the guard comes flying down the wing! From Sid Walker:

I don’t see Dennis Schroder strictly playing pg with the 2nd team (not @ $15 mil per)., meaning he & Russ will play together w/ Westbrook off the ball more than at any time in his pro career. How do you see that working? Will Russ modify his game, listening to the coach or will Russ continue to be Russ? Especially in crunch time.

I’m sure Schroder will play a lot with Westbrook, Sid — and that’s not a bad thing. If Russ is going to be shooting a ton anyway, I’d much rather him be coming off pindowns and screens, rolling downhill where his strength and toughness reach their apex of difficulty to defend, rather than him pulling up with the ball or barreling into multiple defenders with teammates standing around. That won’t require modifying much of his game — and, let’s be honest, that’s not likely to happen at this point of his career. As for “listening to the coach,” my guess is Westbrook listens more than you think, but not as much as Billy Donovan would hope.

Centers of attention. From Matthew Williams:

So I was wondering, can Sabonis and Turner coexist on the court at the same time for the Pacers?

They can “co-exist,” Matthew. But can they thrive? Kind of doubt it. Indy obviously was at its best offensively last season going smaller; per NBA.com/Stats, among five-man units that played together 500 minutes or more last season, the Pacers’ quintet of Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Turner was top 10 in Offensive Rating (109.8). And while Sabonis and Turner have each improved from the perimeter to the point where Nate McMillan could give them more minutes together, that’s not the ideal pairing. Why clog the wings with one of them getting in the way or keeping a defender closer to Oladipo on drives when you can have Bogdanovic spotting up in the corner and keeping his man with him? I’m figuring you’ll continue to see more of Domas coming off the bench to anchor the second unit as you saw last season, with occasional pairings with Myles depending on matchups — but not huge doses.

Coming Attractions. From Daniel O’Leary:

What three players do you envision as strong breakout candidates this season?

By “breakout,” I’m assuming you mean any three of all players, not just rookies, who has not yet been a consistent high-level performer and who aren’t necessarily expected to do (e.g., Luka Doncic in Dallas)? If so, I can come up with three:

1) Brandon Ingram, Lakers. I doubt he’ll spend a minute on the floor this season without either LeBron or Rajon Rondo out there with him, and that should mean multiple unencumbered looks at the front of the rim every night for the 21 year old, who had already improved as a driver/finisher last season.. If he’s been in the lab this summer he should improve across the board in shooting percentages, and build on the 1.8 3-point attempts he had last year. The Chris Bosh/Kevin Love role playing off of James is there for Ingram for the taking (the Dwyane Wade/Kyrie Irving role having not yet been filled, and will not be filled until the Summer of 2019).

2) Wendell Carter, Jr., Bulls. Big fan of the Duke rookie, who should provide major impact in the middle in Chicago immediately. His ability to rebound alone will make him a productive player, but I think Carter has a lot more in his tool bag offensively than he was able to show playing alongside Marvin Bagley, et. al, last year in Durham. And he should have plenty of room to operate in the paint playing alongside Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. There’s a reason he has consistently been compared to Al Horford by NBA personnel types.

3) Josh Jackson, Suns. The rising second-year swing was much better the second half of his rookie season, and he could be poised for even more with the infusion of talent in Phoenix during the offseason. Not sure how the minutes will shake out for Jackson with Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and rookie Mikal Bridges now on the roster. But Jackson’s defensive chops will probably give him a chance to carve out some PT; he’ll have to significantly improve from deep (.263 on threes last season) to stay out there with Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and the others.

Send your questions, comments and better ways to truly explore the gustatory system of the genus Felidae to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

53 –Total games in New York for Joakim Noah, who’s expected to be stretched and waived by the Knicks sometime this week after two injury-plagued seasons, according to multiple reports. Signed to a four-year, $72 million deal in 2016 by former exec Phil Jackson, the 33-year-old former Defensive Player of the Year never panned out in Gotham, with a torn rotator cuff and a 20-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy among the lowlights. By stretching and waiving Noah now, rather than after the upcoming season, the Knicks can spread the last year of his contract ($19.295 million) over the next three years, meaning an annual $6.4 million hit on their cap through 2022 — and which will also help create the cap room necessary to be able to offer two max deals next summer.

9,640 — Square footage of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio home, which the coach has reportedly put on the market at a price of $4.5 million. Per the San Antonio News-Express, the home was one of several properties owned by Popovich and his late wife, Erin.

3 — Times veteran guard Jarrett Jack has played with the Pelicans’ franchise. The 34 year old signed for a third tour last week with New Orleans, where he’ll have a battle sticking on a roster that already has Jrue Holiday and Elfrid Payton, among others, at point guard going into the start of camp.

I’M FEELIN’…

1) After a crazy, crazy summer, dreams begin in earnest around the Association this morning, with all but Philly and Dallas, which started early, getting going with Media Days. And while Golden State is still a prohibitive favorite to win a fourth title in the last five years going in, there are storylines galore throughout the league: LeBron in L.A., Kawhi in Toronto, DeMar in San Antonio, ‘Melo in Houston, the Celtics-Sixers rivalry in the East, and on and on.

2) I think I understand the new clear path rule, though I may mess up once or twice at the start of the season. I definitely understand the 14-second shot clock reset rules, and am all for them, especially with how they could change end of game strategies by coaches. In the final 30 seconds of play, it used to be if you were down a bucket, and the opposing team got an offensive rebound off a missed shot, you had to foul, because you wouldn’t have enough time even if you stopped them again by the time you got the ball to get off a quality shot. Now, with the clock reset to 14 instead of all the way back to 24, you might.

3) Golf is better when Tiger Woods is winning. Just look at the near-chaos at the Tour Championship on Sunday, when Woods strode to the 72nd green, his 80th career victory and first in more than five years all but assured. That was Beatles/Michael Jackson level of fan frenzy. And it was missed. Tiger Woods may not be the best person or role model. But he’s a great, great golfer, and I’m a fan, and it’s thrilling to see him finally healthy and playing the way he’s capable. Don’t @ me.

4) You’ve been pasteurized!

NOT FEELIN’…

1) Mark Cuban should have been suspended from ownership duties by the NBA for his role — or, as it seems now, lack of one — in addressing the horrific culture for women in his Mavericks workplace during the last two decades. The independent investigation led by former prosecutors Anne Milgram and Evan Krutoy corroborated many of the claims made by former female employees on the business side of the Mavericks’ organization detailed in a Sports Illustrated story written by Jessica Luther and Jon Wertheim last February. (The full report by Milgram and Krutoy can be read here.)

The report, bolstered by more than 200 interviews with past and present staffers, backs Cuban’s claim that he did not know about most of the horrific behaviors of his former longtime team president, Terdema Ussery, or two other former employees, one of whom committed two domestic violence incidents while on staff — including against a fellow Mavs employee with whom he was involved in a relationship at the time. But almost nowhere is ignorance acceptable as excuse legally: Officer, I was not aware that the speed limit was 35; therefore, please tear up that speeding ticket.

Particularly, it doesn’t fly with Cuban. No owner has been as hands-on with his team as Cuban since buying the team in 2000. The fact that he primarily obsessed with the basketball operations side doesn’t give him cover for not being up to speed on the awful things that were permitted and covered up for on the business side. A huge chunk of the Cuban Brand is that he’s way smarter about business, and business practices, than you are. (And, he is.) A self-made billionaire does not let many details slide on his or her watch, at his or her company. The idea, as Cuban claims, that he didn’t know Ussery had already been accused of workplace misconduct before Cuban finalized the purchase of the team from Ross Perot, Jr., is laughable — it was reported, extensively, as early as 1998, two years before Cuban got the team — by the Dallas Morning News. (The author of at least one of the stories, Marc Stein, has continued in some capacity in sports journalism, so I’m told.)

It does not bring me any joy to say this. I like Mark Cuban, very, very much. He did great things — on the basketball side — with his team. He is as smart as he believes. He is a respected voice now in ownership circles. His public spats with the NBA with regard to its officiating crews and procedures have led to real and significant improvements in each. Many of his team’s innovations with regard to in-game arena entertainment have become Best Practices around the league. But ignorance remains no excuse, and especially when it comes to not knowing about how horribly his female business employees were treated, how they were denied earned promotions, how they were — as many female employees in other businesses are — retaliated against if they complained about being sexually harassed by their supervisors and/or bosses. If Mark Cuban were shown a company that allowed this kind of treatment of its female employees, he would excoriate the boss of that company.

The $10 million he will donate to organizations that fight domestic violence and promote women in businesses is fine (and, obviously, was a non-fine fine issued by the league). But the league needed to make an even stronger statement that, no matter the reason, an owner so unaware of what was going on with his team would be held accountable. I heard Adam Silver’s press conference Friday afternoon, in which he said that he was leery of setting a precedent in which an owner is punished for what someone else in his organization did. And that is a fair position. But the women who’ve been harmed while working for Mark Cuban’s Mavericks — and the dozens of women who likely were scared away by what they’d heard and been told in confidence over the years — deserved some kind of restitution. I don’t know the right number — six months? But they deserved some signal from the NBA that it would go above and beyond to send a message that this was no longer going to be tolerated by this league.

2) Condolences and love to Richard Jefferson and his family after the shooting death of his father, Richard, Sr., last week.

3) Coaches get arthritis. GMs get arthritis. Owners get arthritis. Writers and reporters get arthritis. Not active players.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

— Spurs guard — it is still hard to type “Spurs guard,” even in this context — DeMar DeRozan, clearly referencing his desire that his alma mater USC Trojans avenge their two losses last season to arch-rival UCLA this year, amirite?

THEY SAID IT

“Wilmington truly is my home. Kept thinking about all those places I grew up going to. And the deaths — it was so sad about the babies (killed during the hurricane). You don’t want to see any of that anywhere, but when it’s home, that’s tough to swallow.”

Michael Jordan, to the Charlotte Observer, after pledging $2 million to relief/recovery efforts in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence tore through the Carolinas earlier this month.

“Let’s be honest, playing off the ball maybe isn’t one of my strong points. Some guys are really good at it in this league, but with the ball in my hands, I’m a little bit better.”

— Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson, to local reporters, at his introductory press conference last week in Memphis. Anderson, who turned 25 last week, was one of four new Grizzlies introduced last week; he also joined most of his new teammates in a pre-training camp minicamp last month in Los Angeles.

“The black Dirk is finally here, guys.”

DeAndre Jordan, at Mavericks’ Media Day on Friday, announcing his presence with authority, three years after he jilted Dallas at the altar at the 11th hour to return to the Clippers as a free agent.

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