Morning shootaround — June 1



VIDEO: Who would you build your team around — Stephen Curry or LeBron James?

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls going with the Mayor, so what of Thibs? | Experience edge to Cavaliers | Thompson’s status (mostly) revealed | Jazz weighing young core versus free agency

No. 1: Bulls go with ‘the Mayor’, so what of Thibodeau? — The marriage between the Chicago Bulls and Fred Hoiberg is in need of rubber stamping to finalize the deal and is the worst kept secret in the NBA. So with “the Mayor” soon to be sworn in as the new coach in the Windy City, what of his predecessor, Tom Thibodeau? Joe Cowley of the Sun Times examines the fallout for the man who put the Bulls back on the map:

Meanwhile, now that the Orlando Magic’s and New Orleans Pelicans’ coaching vacancies have been filled, only the Denver Nuggets’ opening remains. But a source said Thibodeau has little interest in that job.

That doesn’t mean Thibodeau won’t be coaching next season, though. As long as Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt has the ability to signal for a timeout he no longer has — something he did in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bulls — he has zero job security, regardless of what happens in the Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

And while Minnesota Timberwolves general manager/coach Flip Saunders has said he wants to coach for one more season, owner Glen Taylor has remained noncommittal to the idea.

A person close to Thibodeau recently indicated the Timberwolves are a team Thibodeau always has had special feelings for because he began his NBA coaching career as an assistant with them from 1989 to 1991.

If Thibodeau is willing to sit out a year, some interesting possibilities might be open to him. First, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson can opt out of his deal after next season. That might open the door for Thibodeau to return to New York, where he was an assistant for seven seasons and might be granted GM responsibilities.

Thibodeau had little say about personnel matters with the Bulls, and that seemed to lead to some bad feelings between him and the front office.

Then there’s the Los Angeles Lakers’ job, which belongs to Byron Scott — for now, at least.

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No. 2: Experience edge goes to Cavaliers — In the seemingly endless search for advantages in The Finals matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, one clear edge for the crew representing the Eastern Conference is experience on this stage. In fact, it’s not even close, as Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group details:

The 27 NBA Finals games in which LeBron James has played is 27 more than the entire Golden State Warriors roster.

In fact, if you were to take James off of the Cavaliers (they would not prefer this), Cleveland would still have infinitely more Finals experience than its California counterpart heading into Game 1 Thursday night.

Cavs reserves James Jones, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, Kendrick Perkins, and Brendan Haywood own a combined seven championship rings and 11 Finals appearances. Of that group, only Jones is a rotation player for Cleveland coach David Blatt.

The Warriors, though, have a whopping zero Finals appearances.

So as Cleveland and Golden State prepare for a 2015 Finals in which the Warriors are heavily favored, the Cavs would appear to have a major advantage in experience. Not only is their best player – arguably the best player in the NBA, James – heading into his fifth consecutive Finals, but Golden State’s Stephen Curry (the reining NBA MVP) has never seen anything like it.

While there are numerous players on Cleveland’s bench to reinforce the finer points of surviving the Finals onto the Cavs’ first timers (like Kyrie Irving), there is no similar peer support on the Warriors. Coach Steve Kerr has ample championship experience, but none in his current role.

“The only advantage is if you’re able to win the series,” James said. “That’s the only advantage. For us, we’ve got to go out and play. They’re going to come out and play as well. There’s a good possibility they could have one more homecourt game than us, so you could say that’s an advantage, but both teams have shown they could win on the road in the postseason, so there’s no advantage.”

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No. 3: Thompson’s status (mostly) revealed — If there was any doubt that Klay Thompson would be ready to go for Game 1 of The Finals Thursday, it was wiped away over the weekend. Thompson took in an Oakland A’s game and enjoyed the bright and sunny weather of the Bay Area, hardly what you’d expect from someone dealing with the complications of a concussion suffered in the Western Conference finals finale. He maintains that his status will be revealed today, but no one expects one half of the Splash Brothers to sit out the opener. Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group tracked Thompson’s every move as he rooted against the Yankees:

Klay Thompson’s playing status for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday remains unknown, but positive signs are beginning to trickle in.

Thompson, recovering from a concussion suffered Wednesday, spent the Warriors’ off day Sunday taking in the A’s game against the New York Yankees.

The Warriors All-Star doffed his cap and pointed to the A’s logo when he was shown on the scoreboard before the fourth inning and received more loud cheers when he left his seats before the eighth inning. Afterward, Thompson visited with the A’s in their clubhouse, where he was given a bat, some batting gloves and other A’s gear.

Thompson didn’t address his health status, saying only, “You’ll find out tomorrow,” when asked by The Associated Press if he’ll practice Monday.

Simply being at the game is a good sign, as sunlight and loud noises — both givens at a daytime baseball game with 25,457 fans in attendance — are often triggers avoided by those dealing with concussion symptoms. More positive news also came in from Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams.

“I think Klay will be ready,” Adams told 95.7 The Game on Sunday. “He looks good now. He looks bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and so on, but he has to go through the protocol, and that will be soon finished. I think he’ll be there for us when the series starts, and we’ll go from there.”

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No. 4: Jazz weighing young core versus free agency — There is more than one path to the playoffs and the Utah Jazz are trying to figure out which road works best for them. Do they keep building around a solid young core or do they abandon the long road back for a shortcut through free agency? Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News details the options for a team at the crossroads:

Like several other NBA teams, the Jazz are well under the current NBA salary cap of $63 million-plus with an expected payroll of a little over $50 million for next year with their current players. Next year’s cap is expected to be around $67 million before making a major jump the following year when the new TV contracts kick in.

With a few dozen top players around the league available as free agents, either restricted or unrestricted, the Jazz have an opportunity to add a player or two for next season to give their young squad some experience.

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has yet to indicate which direction the Jazz are going.

“Good decisions are born out of a good set of options and through a lot of people’s efforts and we’ve got a good set of options,’’ Lindsey said at the Jazz’s wrap-up press conference to close out the season. “We’re very confident that we’ll be able to move the group forward with the resources we have at hand.’’

Lindsey says the main focus for coaches and management this year has been the development of young players. With the season over, he’s encouraging everyone in the organization, from coaches to scouts to front-office people, to “argue” and “put every scenario up on the board” in regards to what the Jazz should do moving forward.

But one thing Lindsey is adamant about is that Jazz won’t spend money just to spend money. Lindsey says the biggest concern is spending the team’s money wisely.

The Jazz ranked 25th in league salaries this year, even with Gordon Hayward’s maximum deal kicking in, along with Derrick Favors’ $12 million salary. Next year, Alec Burks‘ salary will increase from $3 million to $9 million and Trevor Booker will get around $5 million if the second year of his contract is picked up, which is likely.

Half of this year’s roster was made up of young, mostly undrafted players making less than $1 million a year. Some of those players will get raises and be back, but that still leaves a lot of money the Jazz could spend.

They have to look a couple of years down the line when a player — Rudy Gobert perhaps? — could be due a big payday. Still the Jazz aren’t going to sign a free agent just to get closer to the salary cap.

“Do we feel obligated that we have to? Absolutely not,’’ Lindsey said. “We could exist underneath the salary cap going into next season.’’

It’s difficult to say at this point who the Jazz might pursue on the free-agent market.

They won’t be in the running for max players such as LaMarcus Aldridge or Kawhi Leonard and certainly wouldn’t risk their chemistry with a player such as Rajon Rondo.

The Jazz could go after someone like J.J. Barea of Dallas or Louis Williams of Toronto, who both made around $5.5 million last year or perhaps an up-and-coming player like Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, a restricted free agent who made less than $1 million last year. Or they could get nostalgic and sign one of their former players such as Wesley Matthews, Paul Millsap or DeMarre Carroll, who are all unrestricted free agents.

The other alternative is to make a trade or two using some of their stockpile of draft picks or perhaps moving someone like Trey Burke, who may be expendable because of the emergence of Dante Exum and Rodney Hood.

Lindsey says the Jazz have been consistent with their rebuild of recent years and he gives the impression that the Jazz are more likely to stick with the players they have than to take a chance on a veteran player who may disrupt the chemistry and cost a lot of money.

“If it’s working, why would you arbitrarily change the path unless it’s just fundamentally sound that spending every dollar available to us equates to wins and allows us to progress as a team,’’ Lindsey said.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: There is a reasonable explanation as to why Bulls’ management simply could not accept Tom Thibodeau’s success anymoreDon Nelson explains why the Monta EllisSteph Curry backcourt wouldn’t have worked long term … With the the future in Los Angeles looking brighter than it has in a while, Byron Scott has earned the right to enjoy the better times with the LakersDoc Rivers says there was nothing to the rumors of a rift between Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan this season … The next step is going to be the hardest one for Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets … Which international big man has the edge between Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov? … Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were left out of a letter sent by the Brooklyn Nets to their season-ticket holders and sponsors … Did Shawn Marion‘s contract demands keep the Phoenix Suns from acquiring Kevin Garnett in 2007?

5 Comments

  1. Nick says:

    “Byron Scott has earned the right to enjoy the better times with the Lakers …” Really? Why? Because some journalist anointed him, and others in the media follow (this column included)? It’s like my mother always said, “If the right people like you, you can do the worst thing and it won’t matter.” Brown, dealt with injuries when he coached the Lakers. Lord knows, D’Antoni did. I guess neither of them were arbitrarily “anointed” as heroes. For whatever reason, the media doesn’t like D’Antoni. Funny, since his so called “run and gun, shoot the three” offense has now been adopted by most teams! Who cares that he had a better record than Byron?
    I don’t wish Byron to be fired. On the contrary, but you media guys get nauseating with the bs sometimes! DA is the only guy who comes out and basically says, “I like the guy, so sue me”. I can handle that!

  2. harriethehawk says:

    Joe Johnson and Derron Williams are both bums, that’s why they were left off the Brooklyn Nets letter to season ticket holders. Get rid of them both, quick!

  3. Who cares? Is it really a big deal that Klay Thompson is an A’s fan? You are not allowed to go to a sports game if you are in the NBA? Come on!

  4. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    I would build around Lebron, Curry’s not a bad choice either, but Lebron does more and makes up for teammates having a off night.