Posts Tagged ‘Jabari Parker’

Ten (or so) intriguing games for 2014-15

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, here in 2009, haven't squared off since February 2010 (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, here in 2009, haven’t squared off since February 2010 (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

LeBron James is in Cleveland, Kevin Love soon will be (barring a startling change of direction), and so the eyes of the NBA world will focus there as well, from the very beginning of the season to around the middle and obviously to the bitter/glorious end.

When the Cavaliers go to Rio de Janeiro for an Oct. 11 preseason game, the Heat are the opponent, which should lead to the ultimate in commanding the spotlight: an exhibition game that will generate attention. It’s going to be that kind of 2014-15, with Cleveland dominating the 10 games (or so) to watch that initially jump out with Wednesday’s release of the full NBA schedule for 2014-15 (you can see the full 2014-15 national TV schedule here

HANG TIME: Digging deeper into the 2014-15 schedule

Cavaliers at Heat, Dec. 25, American Airlines Arena, Miami (5 p.m. ET, ABC)

It’s on the Christmas schedule, which is a big deal. It’s James’ first game back in Miami, which is a big deal. Put them together, it’s a very big deal. That goes for hype and network marketing more than anything, because this won’t be like the scorching emotions when LeBron returned to Cleveland for the first time while playing for the Heat. He didn’t just perform open-heart surgery without anesthesia on South Florida. Still, the buildup will be a sight anyway.

Mavericks at Spurs, Oct. 28, AT&T Center, San Antonio, (8 p.m. ET, TNT)

Another season opener, another banner raising. The Spurs get their latest celebration in front of an in-state rival and an opponent hoping to become a primary challenger in the Western Conference following the arrival of Chandler Parsons and the return of Tyson Chandler. Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio machine does not like pageantry. They’ll put up with nights like this, though.

Cavaliers at Timberwolves, Jan. 31, Target Center, Minneapolis (8 ET)

The teams first meet Dec. 23 in Cleveland — a nice schedule stretch for the Cavaliers, with the possible Love reunion game against the Wolves followed by the James reunion game against the Heat –- but the location of this second matchup makes it a much bigger deal. This would be Love as a Twin Cities visitor. This is fans having a chance to get a few things off their chest now that his situation has finally been untangled. If it gets untangled.

Bulls at Knicks, Oct. 29, Madison Square Garden, New York (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This will be the return of Derrick Rose to the NBA, after the very promising return of Rose to Team USA and the opportunity to build more momentum with the international games before training camp. Because Rose matters so much to the team that could, health willing, become a serious threat in the East, this early read will be valuable. The Chicago start is particularly worth watching since the Bulls’ second game, Oct. 31, is at home against Cleveland.

Clippers at Warriors, Nov. 5, Oracle Arena, Oakland (10:30 ET, ESPN)

Not just this game, but the whole four-game season series, really, including one of the Christmas showcases. The teams had several confrontational moments that threatened to turn ugly last season, then went the full seven games in the first round of the playoffs in a series hijacked by the Donald Sterling mess. It was always a fun matchup. Now it could build into must-see TV, with the twist of L.A. native Steve Kerr new to the Golden State sideline.

Bucks at Nets, Nov. 19, Barclays Center, Brooklyn (7:30 p.m. ET)

Not that New York fans would ordinarily ever try to make life uncomfortable for an opponent, but this time the opponent is ex-Nets coach Jason Kidd, now manning the sidelines for Milwaukee. So the Bucks might want to pack ear plugs. One other bit of advice: This wouldn’t be a good night for Kidd to play the “Hit me” card. Someone not on his own team might take him up on it.

Five games, Dec. 25 (12 p.m. ET – 10: 30 p.m. ET)

The lineup for the Christmas extravaganza: Wizards at Knicks at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN), Thunder at Spurs at 2:30 ET (ABC), Cavaliers at Heat at 5 ET (ABC), Lakers at Bulls at 8 ET (TNT), Warriors at Clippers at 10:30 ET (TNT). Washington becomes a featured attraction around the league, San Antonio and Oklahoma City meet after likely opening the season as the two best teams in the West, LeBron to Miami and much more. Go ahead and just put the TV at the head of the table.

Bulls at Lakers, Jan. 29, Staples Center, Los Angeles (10:30 ET, TNT)

There was no animosity when Pau Gasol left — certainly nothing like the Lakers and the league have seen in other situations — so this game won’t come with much tension around the buildup. But Gasol’s 6 ½ seasons, three All-Star appearances and two championships in Los Angeles counted for a lot, in what the titles meant to the legacy of Kobe Bryant and the push that should land Gasol in the Hall of Fame (especially considering his international play). He will say all the right things about coming back. And, given the direction of the team he left behind, the L.A. fans who were so hard on him would be smart to show some appreciation.

Mavericks at Rockets, Nov. 22, Toyota Center, Houston (8 p.m. ET)

The Parsons exit from Houston as a restricted free agent was not smooth, from the front offices trading jabs to James Harden’s dig about role players to Mark Cuban and Parsons clubbing it the night the offer sheet was signed. With two Texas teams wanting to prove they belong in the upper-echelon of the conference, this would have been a good season series to watch anyway. It just got better.

Bucks at Timberwolves, Nov. 26, Target Center, Minneapolis (8 p.m. ET)

No. 1 draft pick (Andrew Wiggins) against No. 2 (Jabari Parker) was supposed to happen when the Cavaliers played the Bucks. Then came the reported agreement to send Wiggins to Minnesota as part of the James trade. So the draft-related focus shifted to the Twin Cities. The Bucks took Parker with the intention of playing him mostly at power forward, so actual head-to-head matchups may be rare. But this will still be a compare-contrast that will last for years.

Summer Dreaming: Rookie of the Year


VIDEO: Nerlens Noel put on a shotblocking show throughout Summer League

Late summer in North America is the start of hurricane season, a time when the weather forecasters keep their eyes peeled for potential tropical disturbances.

But with the season openers less than three months away, we’ll start looking farther out over the horizon for an early peek at the 2014-15 NBA official award winners and a few extra categories, just for fun.

Our second annual Summer Dreaming Series starts today with a look at my top five picks for Rookie of the Year. Send me yours.

Nerlens Noel, 76ers — While all eyes have been on the big-name talent arriving in the 2014 Draft class, the guy who had originally been projected as the No. 1 pick in 2013 just might take a page out of Blake Griffin‘s delayed gratification book to steal the thunder and the trophy. After being sidelined by an ACL injury, there were times late last season when he was clearly chomping at the bit and openly talking about his desire to get on the court. Yet, the Sixers held firm in resting him all season. When Noel finally got to play in Summer League, he showed his athleticism, his explosiveness and defensive skills. He’s an active big man and with the Sixers’ goal of playing at a fast pace, he’ll get plenty of chances to run the floor and put up numbers. With Philly’s top pick this year, Joel Embiid, likely sidelined for the season, Noel will also get his share of minutes and more. The Sixers waited decades to get their first Rookie of the Year winner last season in Michael Carter-Williams. Now they could make it two in a row.

Jabari Parker, Bucks – There will be questions to answer. Is his long-term future in the league as a small forward? Or does he slide over and use his shooting ability as a stretch four? The general consensus is there could be others in this year’s rookie class with greater potential, but Parker is the one most ready to step into the NBA and thrive, perhaps even star, from Day One. The Bucks franchise certainly needs a fresh face as a headliner as they move to a new era with new ownership and a new coach (Jason Kidd). He wasn’t as flashy as the neon signs in Las Vegas during Summer League, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds. However, Parker has everything in his offensive arsenal — from step-back jumpers to finishing inside — that enable him to be the main gun in the Bucks arsenal. He’s the chalk pick to win ROY.

Marcus Smart, Celtics — Big man Julius Randle is playing for the other rebuilding traditional powerhouse out West and could have his minutes blocked by free-agent signees Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis. Smart, however, will have no such problems getting (and staying) on the floor in Boston. He either learns playing alongside Rajon Rondo or takes his spot if the Celtics do pull the trigger and trade the veteran. Smart’s offense is streaky and he’ll have to learn discipline with his shots. But he’s a defensive bulldog who loves the challenge and is also a willing pupil that will quickly become the pet project of coach Brad Stevens. Smart should be a mainstay in Boston as it moves ahead in its reconstruction process.

Andrew Wiggins, Cavaliers – His chances of latching onto the rookie hardware will improve the minute he gets his wish and the trade from Cleveland to Minnesota goes through. While there may have been less pressure to be a role player alongside LeBron James on the Cavs’ roster, Wiggins will certainly get more chance to shine as the new face of the Timberwolves. There is a lot to learn and improve on. He’s got a questionable handle and really needs to improve his shot, but those are fixable areas. What you can’t teach is a leaping ability that goes through the roof. Plus, there’s his willingness to defend that is not far behind his offense. A big question, though: will the burden of carrying a remade Minnesota team built around him wear him down and make his stats suffer? There is smart money that says Wiggins could one day be the best of the the bunch, but chances are his raw talent alone won’t carry him to the ROY.

Elfrid Payton, Magic – He’s got a jump shot that needs plenty of work, but everything else about his game will make him an instant hit in Orlando. In fact, he could be a dark horse in the rookie race all season long. Payton’s place will be starting at the point, ending the experiment at converting Victor Oladipo. Doing so will allow both young guards to thrive. He had a lot of turnovers in his summer league debut, but also put up plenty of good numbers scoring, passing and rebounding. The rangy playmaker showed a real knack for delivering open teammates the ball, too. Payton has elite-level athleticism, plus a nose — and long arms — for racking up steals. He’ll take his lumps in the learning process. However, a young Magic team will give him all the minutes and opportunity he needs to show that he’s a star in the making.

The new beast of the East … the Central


VIDEO: New Beast of the East

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Any reasonable conversation about the balance of power in the NBA starts with the world champion San Antonio Spurs, the rest of the rugged Western Conference and spreads from there.

But no region of the NBA has seen the sort of influx of talent and energy that the Eastern Conference’s Central Division has this summer. From LeBron James coming home to team up with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland to Pau Gasol joining Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago to the top two picks in the June Draft — Andrew Wiggins in Cleveland, for now, and Jabari Parker in Milwaukee — things have changed dramatically.

LeBron James' return to Cleveland looms over the entire Central Division. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

LeBron James’ return to Cleveland looms over the entire Central Division. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

The Indiana Pacers won the Central Division and finished with the best record in the East last season, but they have garnered more attention this summer for a player (Lance Stephenson to Charlotte) that they lost in free agency than they did for anything else they have done. They’ve been usurped, in the eyes of many, by both the Cavaliers and Bulls, before the summer/free agent business has been finalized.

If the Cavaliers can find a way to secure Kevin Love via trade from Minnesota, they will not only enter the season as the favorites to win the Central and the East, they’ll rank right up there with the Spurs as the favorites to win it all. (And had Carmelo Anthony chosen the Bulls over remaining with the New York Knicks, the Bulls would be in that mix as well.)

You have to wonder what Stan Van Gundy, the new team president and coach in Detroit, and Jason Kidd, who takes over as coach in Milwaukee, are thinking now. A rebuilding task in Detroit, whatever gains are made during the 2014-15 season, will likely be overshadowed by what goes on elsewhere in the division. Kidd’s shocking move from Brooklyn to the Bucks, and the ensuing fallout, lasted a couple of days before taking a backseat to all things LeBron and Love.

“It’s hard to rank them right now, before we know exactly what happens with Love and Cleveland. But I don’t think it takes any stretching of the imagination to assume there will be no more competitive division in the league than the [Central], and that’s based on just those top three teams alone,” a Western Conference advance scout made clear to me. “The Cavs, Bulls and Pacers are all going to be legitimate contenders. And I think the Pistons, with Stan running things, could be one of the more improved teams in the entire league. And there’s a chance no one will notice because of what the Cavs, Bulls and Pacers are doing.”

The most intriguing part of the entire transformation of the division is going to be watching if the Pacers, a fragile bunch by the time their season finished in the Eastern Conference finals against LeBron and the Heat, can get back on track with the increased competition. Frank Vogel and his crew took advantage of the opportunity to step into the void when Rose and the Bulls slipped from their top spot the past two seasons. Tom Thibodeau kept the Bulls among the East’s best without Rose available. Now he’ll have an energized Rose, whose confidence is soaring as he attempts to earn his spot on USA Basketball’s roster for next month’s World Cup in Spain, and the Windy City twin towers of Noah and Gasol to build around.

The key for the Bulls, of course, is a healthy Rose.

“I’m there. I’m not worried about that,” Rose told our John Schuhmann when asked how close he was to regaining his superstar form. “My confidence is very high. And that’s the only thing you might see this year, that my confidence level is through the roof.”

I don’t know that Rose’s confidence is enough to convince me that the Bulls are truly ready to reclaim that top spot in the division. And I’m not completely sure LeBron’s arrival in Cleveland means the Cavaliers push past the Pacers for that No. 1 spot. But it’s clear that the Central Division is where we could see the best power struggle in the league next season.

The July 2014 ranking of the Central Division (based on what each team has on the roster as of July 29, 2014):

1) Indiana Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert and the crew won’t give up the banner without a serious fight. They’ve learned from last season’s mistakes and won’t have to worry about whatever distraction Stephenson might have been. A clean slate for 2014-15 is exactly what this team needs.

2) Cleveland  Sorry Cleveland, but LeBron coming home doesn’t automatically make you the top dogs in the division or the conference. Not around here. The pressure isn’t just on LeBron, either. New coach David Blatt, Kyrie Irving and that supporting cast are all shouldering that load as well.

3) Chicago Derrick Rose is feeling good. And that can’t be anything but a great thing for the Bulls. But we need more than good vibrations to push the Bulls up the food chain. If Rose lights it up in Vegas during USAB training camp and later in Spain, an updated evaluation will be in order.

4) Detroit Greg Monroe‘s future with the Pistons remains a bit uncertain. But the rock for the future is Andre Drummond, who is also on the USAB roster, working to earn a spot on the World Cup team. Van Gundy’s system requires shooters, which the Pistons added in Jodie Meeks, and to an extent Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin. Josh Smith remains the wild card.

5) Milwaukee It’ll be fun watching Parker’s game evolve under a young coach like Kidd. But the Bucks are still at least two years away from being a factor. They simply don’t have the personnel to compete with the top teams. And there is a learning curve the entire organization will have to undergo before the Bucks get back into the mix.


VIDEO: Relive the Bulls’ top 10 plays from 2013-14

Wiggins’ strange summer is no Love-in

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins scores 21 points in Cavs’ Summer League loss Thursday

LAS VEGAS – The best advice for Andrew Wiggins at this point is to rent. Don’t buy.

If the recently re-crowned King of Cleveland is calling Kevin Love, as Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday, then it can’t be too long before the Wiggins-for-Love swap goes down. LeBron James gets what LeBron James wants.

And poor Wiggins thought getting used to hoops life in Lawrence, Kan. was a rough transition.

But man, all this so fast has to be a bit crushing for the 19-year-old No. 1 pick. First the best player on the planet completely omits him in his epic “I’m Coming Home” essay in Sports Illustrated and is now dissing the kid with the hope of discarding him by personally reaching out to Minnesota’s discontented double-double machine.

This has to be one of the strangest Summer League experiences in the history of top draft choices. Last Friday, as Wiggins is preparing for his hyped pro debut in Las Vegas against Milwaukee and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker in front of an overflow crowd, he finds out with the rest of the world that James is returning to Cleveland. Wow, cool. Then the rest of the world reads along with Wiggins about how excited James is to play with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and his favorite crazy-haired Brazilian Anderson Varejao. No mention of Wiggins. Whoa, not so cool. (Interestingly, James also didn’t list 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett as a member of his mentorship club either. Bennett would likely be included in a trade).

In the days between then and now, new coach David Blatt has told reporters Wiggins isn’t going anywhere while whispers come and go and come again that he is-he isn’t-he is available, and now LeBron’s talking to Kevin. To his credit, Wiggins, the one-and-done star out of Kansas via Canada, has handled it like a pro.

That the 6-foot-8 wing and projected phenom played against Houston on Thursday revealed that a trade is not imminent, not yet. The Rockets’ defenders had zero clue how to keep Wiggins from using his super-stretchy arms and legs to get from the top of the arc to the basket in only a few long strides with a ball fake or two mixed in.

Wiggins officially only attempted five shots, and made three, but secured 15 of his 21 points on 20 trips to the free throw line. He added five rebounds and another blocked shot, this one of the chase-down variety in the fourth quarter (he’s second in the Summer League in blocks per game and first among non-centers).

“You know what you got to like about a kid like that is it doesn’t make a difference if it’s the fourth game of Summer League and the fourth game in seven days or eight days, or if people are keying on him, or if the crowd has funny things to say to him,” Blatt said. “He just goes out there and really plays and has a nice calm about him and a real good demeanor. Andrew’s going to be a high-level player and it’s good to see it.”

The 6-foot-10 Love is a high-level player, a three-time All-Star, and he, James and Irving would make quite the offensive triple-threat. And that’s the crux of it all: Go for the gold right now with Love or patiently wait — hope — for the kid to get great. We know what LeBron wants.

With the rumors swirling, the Cavaliers aren’t exactly thrilled to have their new coach and top pick inundated by trade questions during what should be breezy Summer League postgame interview sessions.

After Thursday’s game, Cavs officials quickly whisked Wiggins off to an ESPN photo shoot and then immediately to a sit-down autograph session for trading card behemoth Panini in the concourse of the Thomas & Mack Center. Fans stood in a line that snaked around the corner and out of site.

From there, Wiggins was in the custody of his agent and was not made available to wax about his 15 free throws and 21 points or to talk ice fishing.

The second question posed to Blatt asked if the persistent trade rumors are a distraction for Wiggins. After all, a No. 1 pick is typically immune to the business side of sport for at least a couple years, not a couple minutes. If a top pick is traded it almost always occurs on Draft night, a deal having been worked out in advance. A Cleveland official monitoring the outwardly personable Blatt’s interview session quickly stepped in to deflect the question, but Blatt, just as quickly, said he could answer it.

“I can answer that just because rumors are rumors, that’s why they call them rumors,” Blatt said. “And sooner or later in one’s career, you’re going to have to deal with it. So if you have to deal with now, so be it. It’s Summer League, he’s learning everything as he goes along.”

Not exactly a comment to inspire confidence on a down payment. If the Cavaliers decide to move Wiggins in a deal for Love, the Timberwolves will jump for joy and jump on it fast, before Cleveland has time to rethink it. But watching Wiggins in Summer League should have the Cavs proceeding with caution. His size and ability are apparent to the most casual observer. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, but he’s showing he can use his length and quickness to be a very good two-way player, and soon.

And wouldn’t James love a young set of legs to chase the other team’s best player on a nightly basis? Wiggins could become James’ pre-knee problems Dwyane Wade, a slashing, offensive force and a defensive partner capable of hyper-trapping the perimeter and busting it the other way.

LeBron, fast approaching 30 and now taking his contract year-by-year — apparently to maximize his annual take as the salary cap is estimated to increase each year, and not as an escape — clearly doesn’t feel he’s got time to wait.

The ball’s in Cleveland’s court, and that’s got to be a tough thing for the No. 1 pick who has come to find out he isn’t fit for a King — at least not at this juncture of his reign.

“No, no, I don’t talk to him about any of that stuff because, for me, it doesn’t mean anything,” Blatt said. “At least not right now.”

Wiggins vs. Parker, season 1, episode 1


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker generated plenty of buzz in their first pro matchup

LAS VEGAS – It wasn’t LeBron James showing up unannounced or anything on the first night of Summer League action here, but it was close in terms of crowd and buzz and curiosity.

Cox Pavilion, smaller sidekick to the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus, was crammed to its modest 2,500 capacity and beyond. Some fans were standing against the wall behind the top rows – and they were the lucky ones. Others couldn’t get in at all, and when they were shooed from the two congest entrance/exit bottlenecks, they were offered refunds on their $25 tickets.

Which isn’t nearly the same as being able to say, years from now, that you witnessed the first NBA clash of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

Sure, it was played in the desert, the rules were different (10-minute quarters, for instance) and the scores, stats and standings largely were immaterial, surely forgotten 10 days out. But when the No. 1 pick in the Draft goes head-to-head with the No. 2 pick, when the two have been linked since their high school days and when there was genuine mystery – right up until NBA commissioner Adam Silver read Wiggins’ name — which one might be selected first, it ranks as a showdown, a matchup, something special to cap an NBA day full of same.

“It was crazy,” said Wiggins, the rookie from Kansas, said of the Cox Pavilion atmosphere. His new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had learned during shootaround Friday morning that James was headed back to the franchise. But Wiggins’ and Parker’s debuts stirred imaginations on their own.

“Our game was probably the most packed,” Wiggins said, no offense to the other five Friday. “It was crazy. The fans were excited, which made the game more fun than if you didn’t feel them.”

Wiggins’ team won the game but the battle with Parker, happily grabbed second by the Milwaukee Bucks, was essentially a push. Wiggins scored 18 points in 31 minutes on 7-of-18 shooting. He was 1-of-8 on 3-pointers, including an air ball. Parker shot 5-of-11 scored 17 points He was 7-of-11 from the line and grabbed nine rebounds. They guarded each other occasionally, but the sturdier Parker – 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds to Wiggins’ 6-8 and 194 – more often squared off with power forwards, including Anthony Bennett, the 2013 No. 1 pick.

The two rookies enjoyed the encounter without dwelling on it, just as they shrugged off a few mistakes. Parker talked of communicating more with the other four Bucks on the floor and gave himself a grade of “B-minus.” Wiggins looked forward to the opportunities in Cleveland’s upcoming games and enjoyed the moment with his rival/cohort.

“It was a great feeling,” he said. “On the court, we just have to battle. But off the court, we’re good friends. He’s a great player, able to score in multiple ways, very smart, intelligent player. It’s always good to play against him.”

Each lived up to his pre-draft evaluation: Wiggins showed his natural athletic ability merely running up and down the court, but pushed it into gear when soaring for an errant alley-oop pass or draining a nifty step-back jumper. Parker carries a more-ready-to-contribute label that was evident in some of his post-ups and his aggressive rebounding. The one-and-done Duke player also unsheathed a slick pass or two.

“He showed that he is somewhat of a ready player, that he can step into the league and play,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said. “Neither one of those guys surprised me. Both of ‘em have a chance to be special players in this league, and what Andrew showed tonight was a total glimpse of that.”

A pair of soon-to-be-sophs showed flashes, too. Bennett, who has lost weight and looks more serious after his disappointing first season, seemed driven to make an impact. He had one monstrous dunk and seven rebounds, but he also shot 6-of-16 and racked up eight fouls (summer rules).

For the Bucks, it was last year’s find, lanky 19-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo (playing at 6-foot-11 after another growth spurt), pushing the pace and loping around the court with boundless energy. “The Greek Freak” scored 17 points and hit a couple 3-pointers, to go with seven fouls and five turnovers.

As closely as Wiggins and Parker have been linked – in case you didn’t already know it, both are the sons of former NBA players, Mitchell Wiggins and Sonny Parker – their shared path might have diverged some Friday.

James’ arrival changes the Cavaliers’ dynamic from merely a young and promising team – Wiggins might find himself a few less opportunities but a whole lot less pressure. Parker continues as a Bucks’ cornerstone, his learning curve assumed to be shorter and steeper.

But that’s OK, because his self-critique afterward showed a young guy driven to improve.

“It’s been a pretty good transition because Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] has prepared me,” Parker said. “A lot of the language, a lot of the stuff we did with Duke has helped me so far.”

His early NBA lessons? “That games are won on the defensive end and there are going to be a lot of runs. You’ve got to keep your composure and play on both sides of the floor, and you can’t have any sense of complacency.”

Forget complacency. In what’s looking suddenly like a Central Division on steroids, there figures to be lots of NBA competition and more than a few comparisons between Wiggins and Parker in the coming years. This was the start.

Bucks, Kidd move on from clumsy hiring, claim one job’s enough now


VIDEO: Kidd, Bucks discuss how decision came about

MILWAUKEE – When you’re committing the basketball future of your new $550 million toy to Jason Kidd, a fellow who dished 12,091 assists in his 19-year career, it’s no wonder that you might cop an attitude of this too shall pass.

That was the tone of Kidd’s introductory news conference Wednesday as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, held midday at midcourt of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It was by the numbers – strictly “business,” a word Kidd used a few times in a “Godfather”-like way – and something to move on from as quickly as possible.

Questions were limited (one reporter counted a total of 15), follow-ups were discouraged and then it was over. No customary huddles immediately afterward for 1-on-1 interviews, TV stand-ups or idle chatter. This had the feel of a business meeting – once the CEOs were finished, the employees were expected to disperse and return to their cubicles.

Certainly, Bucks management had valid reasons for not wanting to linger too long in the moment. Kidd’s hiring (and Larry Drew‘s firing as predecessor) had been botched badly. A reported power play by Kidd in Brooklyn – the head coach with one year’s experience allegedly angling for personnel control and a lofty title, only to be rebuffed – was followed by some power flexing in Milwaukee that rewarded Kidd and the guys who hired him, despite what looks like clumsy, sneaky or pushy behavior.

Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, the Bucks’ new co-owners, sought and asked for permission to talk with Kidd about their head coaching position while they still had a head coach (Drew). Lasry’s personal relationship with Kidd predates their purchase of the franchise in April, back to his time as a Nets minority owner and work as the former All-Star point guard’s financial advisor.

Only after Lasry and Edens had decided to hire Kidd, as news of the front-office intrigue was breaking in a New York Post story, did they cut GM John Hammond into the loop. His task? Negotiate compensation with the Nets for a guy who, for all anyone knows, might have designs on his Hammond’s job too.

Things moved quickly from there: Drew was fired (taking with him $5 million owed over the next two seasons). Kidd’s departure from Brooklyn was made official. The Bucks announced his hiring. And by Wednesday, the only remaining chore was to sell it. Or at least wait impatiently for everyone to swallow.

One of the questions for the new owners was whether this was a rookie mistake in a business very different from where they made their hedge-fund billions, or an indication of a new, heavy-handed, smartest-guys-in-the-room approach to Bucks basketball decisions.

“I’m going to tell you it was very much newness,” Lasry said. “We’ve learned a lot in this process. Our view hasn’t changed from the beginning, that all the basketball operations and everything goes through John. And I think in this process we learned we made a mistake. And I think we’ve learned that pretty well.”

Lasry and Kidd, after about 15 minutes, did come back to the court to meet with media types individually or in small clusters. Still, they shed little additional light on the timeline.

Here are two possibilities: Kidd wanted power in Brooklyn, got told no, then turned to his friend Lasry for a back door. Or Kidd and Lasry had kicked around the idea of them working together in Milwaukee – the Bucks did finish 15-67, after all, so a coaching change had to cross someone‘s mind – and the eventual Hall of Famer ruffled his Nets bosses’ feathers to earn his freedom.

Lasry said he couldn’t recall which day it was last week that Kidd’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, made the first contact to gauge their interest in working with Kidd. Kidd wasn’t clear on whether he pushed so hard in Brooklyn because he knew he already had a Plan B waiting.

But they both admitted that Milwaukee considered no other coaching candidates and Kidd considered no other strategies, including mending a bridge in Brooklyn.

Instead, it was as if they wanted to sell a bridge in Brooklyn.

Kidd even disputed the alleged origins of the shenanigans, questioning countless reports that he wanted to usurp Nets GM Billy King. He even dodged a question about taking heat for that, and for chasing another coach’s job, by talking about the criticism that all coaches face for losing or having the wrong player take a game-winning shot.

Later, Kidd said: “It’s not about power. You guys [reporters] ran with that. It’s not about power. As I think [I said when] I was introduced, I’m the coach, so I’m the coach and I was the coach in Brooklyn. And I’m going to be the coach here. So it’s not about power. It’s about the guys getting better and here in Milwaukee that’s what I’m going to do.”

He is right from that standpoint.

People can wring their hands and cluck disapproval all they want over the style of Kidd’s job switcheroo, but the substance is what matters: Lasry and Edens have the guy they want on Milwaukee’s sideline and Kidd has to show that whatever he contributed to a veteran-laden team with lofty playoff hopess can translate to a rebuilding club on training wheels. The Bucks send a group, including draft prize Jabari Parker and last year’s phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo, to the Las Vegas Summer League Monday for practices in advance of the July 11 opener.

“For me, it’s about who I was as a player,” Kidd said. “My job was to make the guys around me better. I take the same approach as a coach. I want to make those 15 guys better.

“The one thing I told the guys last year, trust me and respect me. That’s what I had. I got to see a lot last year as a rookie coach. When you see the Shaun Livingstons of the world have the season he had, Alan Anderson got better, and they’re being rewarded [in free agency]. I feel like I can do the same thing here.”

Hammond praised Kidd as the ultimate “coach on the court,” the ideal for point guards. He mentioned working Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson in their playing days, before the two former NBA guards found success as head coaches without serving as assistants.

“You could see they had that ability to see the game, know the game,” Hammond said. “And you saw then, if they wanted to do it someday, they can be a coach and be a great coach. I feel exactly the same way about Jason Kidd.”

Maybe Kidd can, if he stays focused on coaching, rather than career-climbing or comparing contracts (he is believed to have a three-year deal worth $4 million to $5 million annually, putting him in Steve Kerr’s and Derek Fisher‘s neighborhood). He has left a trail of bad exits and hard feelings dating back to his college years at Cal, but he said Wednesday he hopes to find something positive even in the shaky stuff.

“When you look at my career, 19 years, I can look back at going to Dallas as a 19- [or] 20-year old,” Kidd said. “Being surrounded with talented players like Jimmy [Jackson] and Jamal [Mashburn]. High expectations. There might have been a couple of controversial things about being selfish or unselfish.

“But those are things that I can draw back from as a player and share with these players first-hand. There are going to be some growing pains, but they can always be looked upon as a learning experience and that we get better each time we take the floor.”

Then Kidd talked about the biggest lesson from his one season in Brooklyn. He and his new bosses seemed not to pick up on the irony.

“Patience,” Kidd said.


VIDEO: Kidd discusses the Bucks’ roster

Bucks risk vibe, goodwill reset with Kidd


VIDEO: Draft review: Jabari Parker’s potential impact

Jabari Parker should ask the Milwaukee Bucks for a trade. Today.

If it’s buzz kill the Bucks want, that’d give them buzz kill. Why stop at the reports of buddy ball about to be played between new co-owner Marc Lasry and Jason Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets’ soon-to-be former head coach angling for power and money atop the Milwaukee team’s food chain? Go straight to Parker and remind him that, in the business of the NBA, things he talks about such as loyalty, humility and gratitude are but a rube’s game.

Then the classy kid taken No. 2 Thursday in the Draft, the franchise’s latest and greatest hope, can appropriately approach his livelihood with the necessary cynicism, ruthlessness and selfishness.

You know, like the unclassy Kidd.

Bad enough that Kidd, after one middling season as the Nets head coach, would attempt a power play within that organization to grab more authority – and allegedly a sweetened contract from the four-year deal he signed just 12 months ago – over the man (general manager Billy King) who hired him. The New York Post was first among several outlets reporting Kidd’s Machiavellian maneuver Saturday, a coup apparently snuffed by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Worse, though, is that Lasry – the private-equity billionaire described as a “past financial partner” with Kidd, possibly as an advisor – would entertain installing Kidd as the Bucks’ president of basketball operations. That’s the lofty position for which Milwaukee apparently has sought permission to interview him. Talk of compensation (second-round draft pick?) already is in play, should Brooklyn release Kidd from the final two years of his deal.

It is a bad idea on so many levels.

First, the Bucks are full-up, their front office and coaching jobs staffed by highly competent individuals. GM John Hammond is fresh off his most rewarding Draft night ever, on the heels of a stellar 2013 move in drafting below-the-radar phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo and second-round point guard Nate Wolters. And lest Lasry or anyone else think that the Bucks merely did the no-brain thing Thursday – grabbing the best available player once Andrew Wiggins went to Cleveland – he’d be overlooking the rapport Parker already seems to have with Hammond, coach Larry Drew and their staffs, seeded in pre-draft workouts and conversations and growing toward a bond.

As for Drew, he’s a proven head coach – more proven than Kidd – after three playoff appearances in Atlanta (with smaller payrolls and less talent than Kidd’s Nets) and his grace under fire during last season’s 15-67 tanking mission.

B-b-b-but Kidd only wants to be Hammond’s and Drew’s boss? Right. Kidd wants what he wants when he wants it. He is a Hall of Fame-bound point guard with one spotty season as a coach, zero experience as an executive and chronicled flaws in his people skills. It requires no great leaps to imagine Kidd blowing out both Hammond and Drew in short order – which would be wrong even if his name were Jason Popovich.

[UPDATE, 6/30: Multiple outlets, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, reported later Sunday that the Bucks were talking with Kidd only about coming in as head coach. Again, Milwaukee already has a head coach, so dangling his job while he's still in it is horrible management form for Lasry -- while interviewing for it is a serious breach by Kidd of the NBA's unwritten "coaches' code." Also: Kidd was hired "only" as a coach 12 months ago. That didn't stop his power grab in Brooklyn, did it?]

The New York- and New Jersey-based media accounts of Kidd’s attempted power play within the Nets were rife with tales of Kidd’s clubhouse lawyering, coach undercutting and ego-driven antics, both in his playing days and since. Last season, after pushing for veteran coach Lawrence Frank to be hired at big money as his right-hand man, Kidd turned on Frank early in the season and got him banished from the bench.

The antithesis off the court, it seems, of the pass-first playmaker he was on the court, Kidd also has a domestic abuse charge on his resume and a guilty plea to drunk driving, hiccups that – for all of Wisconsin’s taverns – aren’t dismissed as easily in a smaller, image-conscious market such as Milwaukee.

Then there’s this bonus of a bad reason: Kidd reportedly grew envious of the bigger coaching paychecks of fellow former NBA point guards Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, similar newbies to the sidelines who signed five-year, $25 million deals recently with Golden State and New York respectively. Heck, in an offseason of coach/owner madness – Tyronne Lue as the highest paid assistant in league history, management titles spliced on almost perfunctorily – it’s feasible that Kidd grabbed at the Nets’ personnel reins with the intent of having things blow up. Then he could shake free to link up with Lasry.

Unfortunately, Lasry and his partner Wesley Edens were at the Draft in Brooklyn Thursday night, not in St. Francis, Wis., at the Bucks headquarters or down on the Lake Michigan lakefront for the team’s fan party. The co-owners missed out on the vibe that carried the night and that Milwaukee so desperately needed. With Parker’s selection and his appreciative reaction, the Bucks hit a good team/good guy reset button, a shared sense of renewal that runs from the front office to the newest, most special rookie.

They’re now at risk of turning the franchise into Kidd’s private ATM and personal preening mirror. Parker hasn’t scored a point or swiped a pass, but already he deserves better.

Hang time podcast (episode 166) featuring David Aldridge


VIDEO: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver with the classiest move of Draft night, honoring Isaiah Austin’s dream of being drafted

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Andrew Wiggins?

Jabari Parker?

Joel Embiid?.

Which one of these guys will be the biggest prize from the 2014 NBA Draft?

(We already know the biggest winner was Baylor big man Isaiah Austin, check the video above, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.)

And where are we headed in free agency with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and the rest of the established superstars those youngster want to emulate?

Find your answers and more on Episode 166 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring TNT, NBA TV and NBA.com insider and workhorse David Aldridge, who breaks down the winners, losers and surprises from Draft night and what lies ahead during the crazy season that is free agency.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Morning Shootaround — June 27


VIDEO: Relive some of the best moments from the 2014 NBA Draft

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Rose would welcome ‘Melo | Jackson says chemistry issues sparked trade | Wiggins, Parker forever linked | Bucks happy to have their rookie | Sixers will require more patience

No. 1: Report: Rose would welcome Anthony in Chicago — Former MVP Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls is hoping to be back at 100 percent for the start of the 2014-15 season. He’s also hoping to lift Chicago back to its elite status with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and the rest of his Bulls teammates by his side. Would he welcome Carmelo Anthony into that core? According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the answer is a decided “yes”:

In December 2011, shortly after the lockout ended, Derrick Rose uttered a character-defining statement.

“I’m rolling with Keith,” said Rose, the league’s reigning most valuable player.

Keith was Keith Bogans, the oft-maligned, then-starting shooting guard whom management waived later that month.

This is how Rose views teammates, which is instructional at a time when free agent recruiting has been spotlighted. He’ll never publicly recruit players because he won’t disparage current teammates.

But this stance doesn’t mean Rose wouldn’t love adding high-profile talent. In fact, sources close to Rose said Carmelo Anthony’s camp is aware that Rose would welcome the addition of the elite scorer.

The same sources said a recent report that Rose preferred Kevin Love over Anthony is “fiction.” Rose is in support of any improvements.

(more…)

Milwaukee gets its night to shine


VIDEO: The Bucks nab arguably the 2014 Draft’s best player

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. – October belongs to everybody – no one’s lost a game yet, every team’s roster seems shiny and full. Springtime is owned by the big dogs, the contenders and the wannabes, established teams already or on their way up.

July is for the glamour markets and the legacy franchises, the destinations with tradition, night life or both. That’s where free agents want to play, those are the places media folks love to talk about and, maybe, even live.

But for one night in June, it was about – first and second, first and foremost – Cleveland and Milwaukee. A pair of small, largely unloved NBA towns were in no-lose situations early Thursday evening – it was going to be Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, Parker or Wiggins, one or the other – and there was nothing the rest of the league or its followers could do about it.

That feeling was palpable at the Bucks’ draft headquarters in the moments after general manager John Hammond grabbed Parker with the No. 2 pick overall. And given how thick with emotion Hammond’s voice sounded as he talked about the pick, the player and the person, it was a feeling Milwaukee desperately wants to last.

Parker likes the Bucks. He likes Milwaukee. He really, really likes them.

“We’re really excited about the fact that he wants to be here,” Hammond said of the Duke forward, a 1-2, flip-a-coin certainty to wind up with the Cavaliers or the Bucks according to most draft projections. “I talked to him a couple moments ago and he’s thanking us for the opportunity. That’s something you really appreciate.

“I think he has a chance to be a great long-term fit for us.”

Lots of teams say that about lots of guys on Draft night, but it resonates a little more with Milwaukee. This is a team that spends most of the year, particularly during free agency, hearing all the snide stuff about Podunkville.

No one wants to play there. No one would choose to live there.  Even as the TV panelists coughed up a few kudos in the Bucks’ direction for the talented young man they’d just corralled, folks in Milwaukee were wise to them; given the chance, those suits would slit the franchise’s throat if a relocation could have gotten them a few business trips each year to Seattle.

But things are changing, whether the national media like it or not. The league’s collective bargaining agreement was remade in 2011 to spread talent around. The Bucks just got sold to a pair of hedge-fund impresarios, Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens, who pledged to keep them right where they are – eventually in a new arena. And now they have a prized young player thanking them and saying he wants to have a one-team career.

“They gave me the say-so right [away], and I didn’t get any conclusions from any other teams,” Parker said of the Bucks’ pledge they would take him if the Cavs didn’t. “I’m just so glad they were men of their words.”

As for being happy going to a place so many NBA veterans snub or scoff or sneer at, Parker – a Chicago native who gave a shout-out to Lake Michigan immediately after being selected – said: “That’s up to the player.”

Said Hammond: “You look at this and think, ‘Is there a perfect storm, a perfect synergy, where this all works together?’ [Lasry and Edens] purchase the team, a few months later we get the second pick in the draft and we get the chance to draft a guy like Jabari Parker.”

Everyone knows about Parker the player, the NBA-ready scorer who can bookend with last year’s precocious prospect, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks are thrilled to have that guy, regardless of his preferred ZIP or area code.

“You hate to go with ‘comps,’ but we do that,” Hammond said. “We talk about a Paul Pierce comparison and a Carmelo [Anthony] comparison.”

The Bucks GM said he caught some SportsCenter the other day when the topic was Anthony’s opt-out from New York, and the stock footage they ran of Melo had Hammond thinking about Parker.

“The way he moved with the ball, the kinds of things he was doing, the way he was scoring,” he said. “We had a chance to spend part of the time with Jabari and watch him work out individually, and I’ve got to say there were some real similarities there as far as how he looked on the floor and the kind of things Melo was doing.”

That’s quite a comparison for any young player, Hammond conceded. But then he launched into another one, equally lofty, that fits the person he’d just drafted.

“You hope the next comp, as a person, might be a Kevin Durant going to a small-market team like Oklahoma City and obviously his feelings about being there,” Hammond said. “Those guys are special people. But [that organization has] done a special job, too, of putting [him] in position where [he] can be successful.

“Now it’s our job to put him in a position where he continues to feel good about this city and this organization.”


VIDEO: Relive Jabari Parker’s selection slow-mo style