A time when the future of fresh rookies and free agents are up in the air. A time when GMs make boneheaded moves that sets the franchise back (i.e. Philly with Bynum Debacle 2012), and the GM’s whose genius-like decisions sets the team up for the next decade (i.e. The Heat in 2010). Where players use the time to improve their craft to better themselves for the following season. Me? I like all the drama that comes with the players falling and rising in the draft, the blockbuster trades, and the discussions of rumors of different free agents, and to see who will make an owner fall all over themselves recruiting them like they‘re High School All-Americans. With a draft expected to be one of the weakest in years, maybe ever, and a free agency period that took a big hit once Chris Paul took his name out of the running for free agency, it was entertaining enough that we had to do a wrap up of my favorite moves of the offseason thus far.
Anthony Bennett #1
The Cleveland Cavaliers went with the perceived unconventional choice and selected Andrew Bennett with the #1 overall pick in the draft. Unconventional in the sense that most mock drafts and talking heads had a big man (Nerlens Noel or Alex Len) being selected to the Cavs in that spot. The Cavs GM, Chris Grant’s track record with the past drafts, shows he isn’t afraid to go against the grain from what most people would think. Picking up PF Tristan Thompson 4th overall (and fellow Brampton native) in 2011, then selecting Dion Waiters at 4th overall again when most mock drafts had him pegged later in the lottery. In following this pattern once again, he helped to make history by making Bennett the 1st Canadian player to be selected #1. I’m fine with this & not just because of the historical significance. The fact that there was no surefire player to pick means you can take a chance on a need or potential. In this case, they chose both. Bennett has the upside to be the best player out of this draft with the strength/post game to play the 4 yet the skillset/shooting/scoring touch to play the 3. As Greg Anthony put it after the draft, “he’s not a tweener, he’s a hybrid, and there’s a difference between the two.” Unlike Ben McLemore, you don’t have to question if he’s going to be invisible on the floor, he brings that dog mentality on the offensive side of the floor, which is something the Cavs have been missing from their frontcourt position since LeBron left. In addition, the beauty of him going to this team is that he’ll develop at the right pace with Kyrie Irving, being the face of the franchise and can also lean on Mike Brown & his coaching staff who has routinely cultivated one of the best defensive units in the league when he’s coaching. He can play on that rugged frontline with Thompson, Anderson Varajaeo, & now Andrew Bynum (if he can stay healthy during his short-term incentive-laden contract). I like this team moving forward. With two Torontonian players on the roster, what are the chances they can get Irving to incorporate “Guy”, “Doggy”, and “Arms” into his slang vernacular? 25% – 30%? I guess we’ll find out in the near future. Stay tuned……still.
How good is his life right now? After enjoying success with his CIA Bounce AAU program in Toronto (starring Bennett and consensus #1 pick of 2014 NBA Draft Andrew Wiggins), he becomes an NBA agent to one of the most successful NBA Agency Firms, and then his client gets the #1 overall pick in his first draft??? I’d say that’s not a bad starting point to have on your résumé.
Brooklyn Nets/Boston Celtics Blockbuster Trade
Remember when I said that the Brooklyn Nets are missing some of that swagger? Problem solved with that trade! So many positives to this trade…
– Adding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, & Jason Terry to this team that was viewed as soft, has heavily infused the Nets with mental toughness. More importantly, it will rub off on Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, & Joe Johnson, especially in close games and playoff encounters.
– Between the new vets on the team, they’ll also help everyone fall in line with Jason Kidd’s coaching philosophy. KG/Pierce/Jet have history with him through the All Star games, Olympic runs (KG/Kidd in 2000 Sydney Olympics) & NBA Titles (Kidd/Terry with Mavs in 2011), and they will do all that they can to help him succeed as much as possible.
– Moves them into the Indiana Pacers/Chicago Bulls category of the Eastern Conference contending teams, just one tier below Miami. Arguably having a starting five of future Hall of Famers and current All Stars could give Miami fits, especially given that 2/5ths of the lineup already have bad blood for the Heat. A new rivalry can possibly emerge here. I still don’t think they’ll beat Miami in a 7-game series, but if they were to meet in the playoffs, it would be an entertaining 6 or 7-game series at the very least.
– Intensifies local rivalry that much more. The Nets have pushed past the New York Knicks as the best team in the city, and it didn’t help that the Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani, a player who at one point in the season was available for two $50 Wal-Mart gift cards and a medium Cherry Slushie from 7-Eleven, and still no one took. Just wait Knick fans for when he goes into those spells where he’ll have 6 pts, 2 rebs, and guys blowing past him like they came off the starting blocks. On the bright side, you might see Spike Lee on the sidelines do this every time Bargs hits a three:
I won’t even get into the Honey Nut Cheerio scandal that might now add more chapters to the story if KG is riled up enough.
– Falls in line with Mikhail Prokorov’s five year plan that he set in 2010 to win an NBA Title. Clearly he’s going all in with this move, not only feeling that this move will put him over the top, but is willing to eat up to $82M in luxury taxes to make it happen. Read that again. $82M! When you’re worth $13B, $82M is small change….but damn, that’s still $82M!!! To the players and other owners (outside of Paul Allen), paying this luxury tax with no regard, I’m telling you, this is the sports owner’s equivalent of a penis enhancer. The same way it is when a guy has a shiny big body Benz & pulls up in front of the club when everyone’s leaving with the windows down and a smirk that says, “Yes baby, it is that expensive….. and my dick is that big. You coming?” If he’s still making it rain when their cap space clears in a few years, players will be running to him like strip….um…..yeah, there’s no good way to finish that joke. Let’s just say that players will try to get caught in that rainstorm.
– The idea of Kris Humphries and Rajon Rondo having that first conversation during the preseason. That may be awkward and priceless at the same time.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Part I. Smh.
Probably my second favorite moment of the offseason. A franchise with the stature of the Lakers having to beg & plead approach Dwight Howard like an 80s R&B singer. Watching them stoop to this level for a player that more than likely didn’t want to even be there in the first place was comical. Hanging billboards across the city, and hanging a building size jersey covering a condo, to the whole #StayD12 thing. This was almost a disservice to how they do business over their franchise’s existence. I mean, these are the Lakers! They don’t go this route begging their free agents to stay, they expect them to stay & carry themselves in accordance to this. It was like watching someone you know who’s married and never shows any affection to his wife all of a sudden, on the threat that she might leave, starts buying her flowers, singing to her in restaurants, and posts only pictures of themselves on Facebook….. But you know it’s probably too late and he’s wasting his energy trying to keep her. Just a sad, desperate state of affairs. Let’s come back to the Lakers in a moment.
The Los Angeles Clippers foundation got a lot stronger by adding Doc Rivers as head coach and in exchange for a 2015 first round pick, marking the first time in the team’s history that they actually paid top dollar for a head coach, while at the same time further stabilizing their culture, locking in Chris Paul to a long-term max contract, using Eric Bledsoe’s trade asset to fill some needs, and acquire, JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, & then signing/resigning Darren Collison, Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins respectively. It’s probably the 1st time since the first two years after Magic retired, where the Clippers have a better team on paper and on the floor than the Lakers. It now becomes a potential haven where veteran free agents and buyout guys land to make a run to the title. Now as long as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can get something out of their post games & add some consistent, go-to low post moves, this team will be set up to challenge for the NBA title for the next decade easily. Paul & Griffin now have the shooters and playmakers around them to give them even more room to operate, and with Rivers now at the helm, they will get a higher level of play calling that never took place with Vinny Del Negro there. If they can add another big man to their roster depth, it will make them that much better prepared for the postseason. With their past history, I can’t even believe I typed out this last paragraph about the Los Angeles Clippers, even if I’m sitting in the VIP Section of the Clipper Bandwagon. Every time they seemed like they were going to build off their success (Danny Manning led teams from 1991-1993, Elton Brand – Lamar Odom – Darius Miles teams from 2001-2003, and later Brand – Sam Cassell team from 2005-06 season), management would find a way to completely screw things up. Now they look like they’re going to be a factor for the foreseeable future. Will they be able to take over Los Angeles for real in the next few years? Depending on what Laker do in the next season or two, it’s actually possible.
Los Angeles Lakers, Part 2
My favorite part of the offseason so far: the official meeting between themselves and Howard, where Kobe Bryant advised Howard that if he stays, “he will be able to teach him to win championships.” Extending my marriage analogy even further, if the Lakers’ courting him was the, “I love you, let’s stay together….” stage, the Kobe Challenge was the equivalent of saying, “….but just so you know, I’m still drinking with the fellas every Saturday night. I’m not changing that for shit!” I don’t care how indecisive, clownish & immature Howard has been these last two years, if you were him, would you wanna stay after hearing that?! It was understood that if Howard stayed, the goal is championship or bust every season. It goes without saying….but no superstar in their prime years wants to be told they will be an apprentice to winning. Shoot, even Kobe himself nine years before, didn’t want to be a sidekick anymore to Shaq during his free agency situation, and he came fresh off his 4th Finals appearance and 3 titles in a 5 year span. Now he expects Howard, who by all accounts, wasn’t crazy about playing with Kobe in the first place – during a phone conversation before the 2012 trade deadline, and there was talk of Orlando trading Howard to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum, Kobe told him he would only be the third option on offense, which of course, turned Dwight right off – to now fall in line to learn how to win titles for possibly as long as the next three years (according to Kobe’s desire to now play 3 more years)? It’s almost as if he wanted him gone & tried to scare him off with that comment. The funny thing is, I don’t even blame Kobe for doing this.
All year long he’s had courtside seats into Howard’s psyche, & judging from what he’s seen he has to know that Dwight cannot handle the media pressures, and handle the responsibility that comes with being the face of a franchise in a major media market. This may have been his way of testing him, to see how bad he really wanted to stay with the Lakers, but he had to know at the same time, by him offering up that challenge, Howard was not coming back. Even he himself would have walked away if someone told him that a few years ago, even if he never won anything. At the end of it all, Dwight going to Houston was the right move for all parties involved. Dwight ends up playing with a younger foundation of talent and a younger superstar in James Harden, and the Lakers don’t commit close to $120M to a guy that is more than likely isn’t improving more than what he already is at this point. Laker fans can take shots at him all he wants but trust me, you were not coming close to winning a title next year with this roster and Howard as your leading man. Even next year as well with the whole roster cleared outside of Steve Nash’s contract in 2014, unless LeBron decides to leave Miami, which I can’t see him doing regardless if they Three-Peat next season, or not.
The good thing is, it does force the Lakers management to look at themselves in the mirror a little bit, and wonder why did they lose the first free agent superstar on their roster in their team’s history. They have to clean up their situation in house and figure out if someone like Jim Buss should really be running the franchise. Dr. Jerry Buss did the right thing in passing the team off to his child, but you really have to wonder again if he gave it to the right one. Jeannie Buss could have been the first female CEO in league history, and with her resume of working so closely with this team, I would like to think that she would not have screwed this up. Laker fans may have to wait a while for Jimmy to grow into this role as it stands right now, but in doing so, a few years might be wasted in the process than can set the franchise back for years to come.
First N.W.A., then Common, and now D12? Ice Cube takes an intermission break during the Kings of the Mic Tour last week to share his thoughts here (warning: explicit content). Also, Kareem had some parting shots as well on the subject….. I understand the Kevin McHale perspective, he’s one of the best low post players who has ever lived as well as Dwight’s head coach who will be around him 24/7, but all of this Hakeem-Olajuwon-will-guide-his post-game talk, will he be doing this pro bono or something? Or will he give Howard the hometown discount? Last I checked, he wasn’t doing this these low post clinics for free…..
Last point on D12: I feel like this legendary big man mentoring thing is a little overblown for Howard. I think they can definitely share tips that will benefit him on both sides of the ball. Offensively, I’m not sold that McHale and Olajuwon will make his offensive game jump by leaps and bounds. Here why: Both of these former players had something that Dwight never had, which is superior footwork AND a soft touch around and away from the basket that opened up so much areas for their offensive games. That’s very hard to teach. I’d be comfortable if he was getting these lessons heading into year 2, 3 and/or 4, not heading into year 10. Is Howard going to add that touch now after playing more than 730+ games in the league? I’m going to say no….. Right now in the City of Toronto, there is no hotter region right now in the GTA than Brampton for world class talent. First, the NBA showed love by drafting Thompson & Bennett in the top five in two of the last three drafts, and now Hov blesses Brampton??? On his new LP “Magna Carta Holy Grail” (which was expected to sell upwards of 525K in 1st week sales, not including the Samsung Deal that netted Jay-Z $5M), the song “Crown” was produced by Ebony “Wundergirl” Oshunrinde, the first female producer to be listed on a Jay-Z album. In hip hop, Jigga has that golden touch almost similar to Oprah Winfrey, so I say from now congrats to her as her life will forever be changed…. It’s July, basketball/hockey season is over & we are about to get into the dog days of baseball. It can only mean one thing: Fantasy Football Prepwork season! I’m sure it has already started in the league that I’m in. Here’s my question: After losing 5 receivers from last season, one TE to multiple surgeries in the offseason and another TE who apparently has been living his life like Bishop from Juice off the field, where the hell do you draft Tom Brady? 5th? 6th??? Let me know your thoughts….. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Trayvon Martin. For almost 17 months they have waited for some sort of justice in regards to their son being killed by neighborhood watchdog George Zimmerman. To see that not only did Zimmerman – the only one with a weapon during the confrontation – become free of this crime, and also awarded his gun back, is not only disheartening to the Martin family and anyone who believes in the law, but says everything about the gun culture that resides in the USA. This situation might be worse that the Rodney King beatings because as heinous as that was, at least Rodney (an adult) lived to see another day. Meanwhile someone killed an unarmed child and walks with no time served. It’s another chilling reminder to show just how far we still have to go as a society. #TrayvonMartin
Cal Cee // South Shore Ave
To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button or by entering your email address.