NEWS OF THE MORNING
Hornacek gets the point | Wall still climbing | Work ahead for Presti | Too much LeBron? | The Ali Effect
No. 1: Hornacek emphasizes getting the point — During the most productive part of his playing career, Jeff Hornacek ran with John Stockton in Utah. During his only other stint as a head coach, he was able to choose from Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas on any given night. Now that he’s taken over on the bench with the Knicks, it’s sounding like Hornacek has a point guard at the top of his wish list in New York, says Marc Berman of the New York Post:
“We have a young player that’s obviously inexperienced after his first year,’’ Hornacek said at Friday’s press conference. “He’ll get better and better. Jose is kind of later in his career. If we can find a middle guy to bridge those two guys, it would be good. There’s a lot of guys out there. I’m sure Phil [Jackson, team president] and Steve [Mills, general manager] are looking at everything.’’
“If there’s something out there in free agency to bring in that guy, in between, that can help guide the younger guard and assist the older point guard, that would make the team better,’’ Hornacek added.
It’s not a strong crop of free-agent point guards, with Memphis’ Mike Conley leading the top tier. Resurgent Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony’s choice, is next, but some in the organization believe he hangs onto the ball too much. Brandon Jennings, D.J. Augustin, Ty Lawson, Jeremy Lin, Miami’s unsung Tyler Johnson, Aaron Brooks and Mario Chalmers are also free agents. Sources have indicated the Knicks consider Lawson’s off-court issues too big a risk and Lin’s defense too gaping.
No. 2: Wall ready for next step — Early in an offseason that’s already included surgery on both knees and the hiring of new coach Scott Brooks, All-Star point guard John Wall is ready for the Wizards to finally take the next step forward to becoming a contender. He told Michael Lee of The Vertical that he’ll eventually reach out to free agent Kevin Durant, but is more concerned with reaching his own potential, which he says can happen with the opportunity to upgrade the Wizards’ roster this summer:
“It’s a great opportunity for our team to build,” Wall told The Vertical. “We kind of threw away the last two years of just trying to win and not signing guys back. But to have money to go after another max player, it’s an opportunity for our front office to do a good job – which I know they will – of trying to bring somebody in and then you got to go try to win.”
Wall considers the upcoming season to be a career “relaunch” because he plans to return without painful restrictions in his left knee. “It’s going to be like the first time I’ll be really healthy and be myself,” Wall told The Vertical. “If you know me, you know I’m a person that’s going to attack it like nothing else. I’m taking this challenge on. It’s a tough challenge to try to rebuild everything and get stronger. It’s a challenge I’m willing to take to come back to be a better player, and come back and try to have the best season I’ve ever had.”
No. 3: Thunder face more decisions than Durant — Of course, everything about the Thunder this summer revolves around the decision made by Kevin Durant. But after the run to the Western Conference finals, there are many more things to consider for general manager Sam Presti. With the G.M.’s end of the season wrap-up scheduled for Monday, Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman takes a look some of the key items on that the check list:
The Durant holding pattern creates a potentially interesting situation for Dion Waiters, the Thunder’s other, far less significant but still important free agent.
Should Durant return, it seems likely the Thunder bring back Waiters. He’s a restricted free agent, meaning OKC can match any contract he signs. With Durant back, the Thunder wouldn’t have the financial flexibility to add a significant piece from the outside.
So no matter the dollar amount — likely in the $12 to $16 million per year range in this new market — OKC may blindly match any contract Waiters receives, similar to the Enes Kanter situation last summer. It’s unwise to let a 24-year-old two-way wing player walk away when you don’t have the ability to replace him. Especially if Durant signs a short-term deal, making a maximization of the roster’s talent imperative next season.
Anthony Morrow $3.48 million for next season is unguaranteed. He was in and out of the rotation all year and didn’t play much during the playoffs. So it’s possible OKC cuts him before it becomes guaranteed in early July.
Both Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are on cheap rookie scale deals through next season. But the Thunder has preferred to lock up its core guys before restricted free agency in the past. And both Adams and Roberson are core guys.
After this just completed postseason, neither will be cheap — particularly Adams, who may have spiked his value into the $20 million per season range. But both are low-drama, organizational fits. It wouldn’t be a surprise if either or both get something done before the October deadline.
No. 4: Can there be too much LeBron-Curry? — Back in the early days of the league, the Celtics and Lakers met nine times in the NBA during the career of Jerry West alone. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson met three times in the 1980s. Michael Jordan owned The Finals six times in the ‘90s. So is it really so bad that LeBron James’ Cavaliers and Stephen Curry’s Warriors are meeting back-to-back for the championship? That’s the contention of some critics of the collective bargaining agreement, says Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:
Dynasties are fascinating, and rivalries are riveting. But NBA leaders have trumpeted parity as a virtue—and cited “competitive balance” as a chief rationale for the 161-day lockout in 2011.
Yet five years later, the championship will either go to the team with the highest payroll (Cleveland) or the third-highest (Golden State).
Three of the four conference finalists this year will pay the luxury tax (Toronto being the exception).
Six teams won 50-plus games this season, including the top five teams in payroll. The other, again, is Toronto.
When the NBA shut down in 2011, officials bemoaned the gap between the league’s highest and lowest spenders—the defending champion Mavericks spent twice as much as the lowly Kings—and set an explicit goal of narrowing that gap.
Yet here we are.
“It’s a very simple problem to diagnose,” one team executive said. “Max salaries lead to superteams, lead to repeat Finals, lead to non-parity. We have the least parity of any sport.”
No. 5: Ali touched everyone in NBA — They were from different sports and different places, but Muhammad Ali’s reach around the globe went deeply into the NBA and the effects of his courageous stands is still felt by the Warriors, the Cavs and all throughout the league today, says our own Shaun Powell:
“What he did can never really be fully explained, understood or comprehended because of the society we live in right now and the way our world works,” said Warriors forward Andre Iguodala. “We’re fighting for nothing now, compared to what our few leaders fought for back then. He was willing to stand his ground and not sell out, which is very rare. In the history of our country, especially for my people, for a guy to go away from what he does to make a living and sacrifice for his people to let them know that we have a power and we can stand for something, but we have to be willing to make a sacrifice so we can move forward … that’s very rare.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stephen Curry is still undecided about playing in the Rio Olympics … Jerry West says it’s time the world got off LeBron’s back … Have a baby in Akron during The Finals and get a set of new tires for your car … During the hubbub of The Finals, Steve Kerr enjoyed the sounds of silence with Paul Simon.