NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Injury or not, Celtics still interested in Embiid — Fear has never been a part of the program in Boston under Danny Ainge. If there is a risk to be taken, Ainge is usually interested in at least exploring the possibilities. And now that the Draft world has been shaken to its core with the news that projected top overall pick Joel Embiid will have surgery on his foot today, in addition to the lingering issues about the back injuries that curtailed his freshman season at Kansas, Ainge’s curiosity factor has to be on high. And as Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com points out, the Celtics have been down this road before in the Draft:
The stress fracture in Joel Embiid‘s right foot will certainly scare some teams away from selecting him near the top of the draft.
But the Boston Celtics aren’t one of them.
In fact, a source tells CSNNE.com that the Celtics will give some serious thought to potentially moving up in the draft to select him.
Boston has kept “all options” open leading up to the draft, including the possibility of moving up from their current No. 6 spot.
However, Embiid’s injury gives them added incentive because this injury – which comes on the heels of a fractured back injury that shortened his lone season at Kansas – opens the door for them to acquire the player with the most upside in this year’s draft.
This latest setback which will force him to miss all of summer league and puts the start to his NBA career on uncertain ground, raises more and more questions about the 7-footer’s durability.
Embiid’s camp sounds resigned to the idea that he won’t be the No. 1 overall pick.
His agent Arn Tellem told Yahoo! Sports, “Joel will be unable to participate in any additional workouts, and will not attend the draft in New York.”
Boston heard similar concerns about Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, players they selected who came into the draft with health concerns.
Although Bradley has had multiple injuries since the Celtics drafted him with the No. 19 pick in 2010, the 6-foot-2 guard has developed into one of the NBA’s premiere on-the-ball defenders.
Sullinger, drafted with No. 21 in 2012 after being projected as a lottery pick (top-14), underwent season-ending back surgery after appearing in 45 games during his rookie season.
He bounced back this past season and did not miss any games due to his back.
Moving up to get Embiid certainly would be a high-risk move by Boston. But considering he has the most upside in this year’s draft, the 7-foot native of Cameroon just might be worth the gamble with favorable comparisons made to a young Hakeem Olajuwon.
No. 2: LeBron’s next move defines him — Pat Riley‘s fire and brimstone aside, the Miami Heat boss did make a good point in challenging LeBron James to “stay the course … and not run for the first open door” out of South Beach. It is easier to exit the premises when things are down, on the heels of a defeat in The Finals to the San Antonio Spurs. This is all about LeBron, and as our very own Fran Blinebury says, this next decision will define LeBron’s character to the masses:
Riley is right when he says too many are too quick to dismiss the Heat achievement of getting to The Finals four years in a row. We always overreact to the last thing we saw and so it is easy to say the Miami glory days are through.
Dwyane Wade is definitely far from his peak and some of those sharp edges have been worn from Chris Bosh’s game.
But of the current rosters in the Eastern Conference, which team would you put right now ahead of the Heat for next season? The fractured Pacers? The leaning-on-Derrick-Rose’s-bad-wheels Bulls? The Wizards who just won a playoff series for the first time in nearly a decade?
Sure, he could grab a horse and a cowboy hat and jump off to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden in Houston and probably have the most talent-laden, ready-made situation to hoist another championship trophy.
But as he creeps up on his 30th birthday in December, it’s time for James to be considering his legacy in the game and whether another successful chase-the-ring move would actually enhance it.
This really isn’t a question about loyalty, because we know it’s hardly a two-way street when it comes to teams themselves. Face it, the Spurs wouldn’t have hung onto Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all seven years between NBA titles if they weren’t capable of delivering the goods at an All-Star level.
James is carving out his place in history, still young enough to chase those five championships of Duncan and Kobe Bryant, even the six by Michael Jordan. However, in each case, the jewelry won is a matched set, all coming with the same franchise.
Choosing to return to the Cavaliers now won’t make everyone open their arms and forget that he abandoned Cleveland for four of the prime seasons of his career. Bolting for another city any place else in the NBA will only make him look desperate and cheapen the resume that he’s worked hard to rebuild during his time with the Heat.
Over the past four years, James has won over even some of the diehard critics and many of those who were on the fence. He’s been a dominant all-around force, the backbone of the Heat, more circumspect in the public eye, a leader.
By getting to four straight Finals alone, Miami has joined only the Celtics and Lakers in the record books.Magic Johnson’s Lakers only went back-to-back once. Larry Bird’s Celtics never did. Those five Spurs championships that are being celebrated now came over 17 years. The Heat have barely put a dent in that calendar.
To be sure, there is work to be done to pick up the pieces and make them fit together again in Miami. Nobody knows that better than Riley. And nobody should know that it is foolish to underestimate Riley as an architect, a maneuverer more than James.
Riley is right. It is a simple choice of staying the course or hitting the door.
James’ choices with the ball in his hands are almost always above reproach. Now is the time to see how much he’s learned off the court in the last four years about building a proper legacy. This decision defines him for good.
No. 3: Cleveland goes bold with offer to David Blatt — The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t wait until next week’s NBA Draft to make a splash (they own the No. 1 pick, yet again). They did that Thursday with their offer to championship coach David Blatt to take over as their new head coach. Blatt’s sterling reputation overseas has finally paid off with an offer that many feel should have come much sooner. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports breaks down the Blatt situation for the Cavaliers, while our very own John Schuhmann tells us how Blatt’s international work translates to the NBA:
Blatt, 55, would be the first coach to make the leap from Europe to the NBA as a head coach.
Gilbert and general manager David Griffin huddled on Thursday and zeroed in on a decision to choose Blatt over Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue. The Cavaliers had been extremely fond of Lue and considered him a potential coaching star in the NBA, sources said.
Cleveland was under pressure to make a decision on Thursday because Blatt was prepared to accept an assistant coaching job under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors.
One of the most successful European coaches of this era, Blatt resigned from his job as the championship coach of Maccabi Tel-Aviv to pursue his longtime goal of coaching in the NBA.
Blatt was born and raised in Massachusetts, playing his college basketball for Hall of Famer Pete Carill at Princeton before embarking on a hugely successful head coaching career overseas.
Blatt coached undermanned Macabbi Tel Aviv to a dramatic upset victory over Real Madrid in the Euroleague championships. Blatt has had tremendous success across two decades overseas, winning the 2007 Eurobasket championship with Russia, and a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
No. 4: Warriors need to break up Splash Bros. to get Love into the fold — Break up the Splash Brothers? That’s blasphemy in the Bay Area, where Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have developed a cult following within the Golden State Warriors’ rabid fan base. But if the Warriors are serious about their pursuit of All-Star power forward Kevin Love, a break up has to be a part of the equation, according to Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com:
With Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Curry and Iguodala all making eight figures per season moving forward, there just isn’t much room for Thompson. This is why trading Thompson (and Lee) for Love makes sense for Golden State: The Warriors get a superstar in exchange for two guys who will be commanding an unsustainably large amount of money. Thompson is due a big payday, and Lee has one of those pre-2011 collective bargaining agreement deals that will have him making more than $15 million in 2016.
The Warriors also have another concern beyond the money: They need to keep Curry in the Bay Area. The ugliness surrounding Mark Jackson’s ouster put pressure on the franchise.
They were a “fun” team on the rise, free to fling 3s that easily lofted over low expectations. The Jackson firing changed things, upsetting a superstar who’s already playing at a discounted rate and sending a message that 51 wins isn’t good enough.
Golden State was comically dependent on its point guard last season. With Curry in the game, the Warriors posted a 109.7 offensive rating. When he sat, they posted a 93.8 rating. The former would qualify a team for the league’s best offense, and the latter would qualify a team for the league’s worst.
In the playoffs, Curry suffers the game-plan scrutiny that Derrick Rose once did. Teams are free to fixate on him since there’s no other dynamic offensive option.
This wouldn’t be the case with Love in Golden State. Not only can Love get his own shot, but he’d afford the Warriors the “four-out” spacing with which Curry thrives.
Since teams must respect Curry’s off-the-dribble 3-point shot, they have to guard his pick-and-rolls a bit differently. When there are four 3-point shooters on the floor, Curry gets teams in situations in which not a single defender is in the paint. A Love-Curry pick-and-roll would shatter a lot of defensive schemes. And with uncommonly sharp shooting for a power forward, Love complements Curry in a way Thompson can’t.
These are some large stakes. Either Golden State gets that perfect superstar to align with Curry and allay his concerns, or they’re stuck worrying about what he’ll do when his contract is up in 2017. Suddenly, the feel-good Warriors are like a lot of big-market teams: pressured to make a splash so as to placate their franchise player.
To make that splash, they must be willing to sacrifice one of the Splash Brothers.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Forget the Mormon connection, the Jazz just need Jabari Parker to come in and score … Mitch McGary is moving on up, perhaps into the lottery mix, for next week’s Draft … The Knicks are trying to move up in the Draft and get their hands on P.J. Hairston … The Hornets unveil their new look(s) and it’s a good look … DeMarcus Cousins pressing Rudy Gay to stick around in Sacramento … Stan Van Gundy is in daily contact with Greg Monroe …