NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Chris Paul wants victory at the negotiation table — On the cover of the new ESPN magazine is Chris Paul, striking a serious pose and wearing a business suit, with the headline: The Player NBA Owners Fear The Most. The gist of the piece is Paul is a serious businessman who’ll be serious business when the owners and union begin talks for the next labor agreement. As union president, Paul has been vocal about what he believes are inequities in the system; vocal yet respectful. Here’s a snippet in the piece written by Kurt Streeter:
When I ask about his relationship with Silver, Paul is guarded. “I know Adam really well. We communicate at different times and different things like that.”
When I ask what he’d like to work on with Silver, he leans back and grimaces. He looks at Karen Lee, the publicist. He wants to cite an issue that came up during a recent season — but not on the record. Lee asks that my recorder be turned off.
Paul recounts an innocuous vignette showing that he and Silver have a good relationship. It casts both in a positive light. I urge him to tell it on the record, but he doesn’t want the details known. Private discussions, he says, should stay private.
We continue. Silver has said that some franchises are struggling. What does Paul think? The restaurant is still. “That’s why we’ve got a lot of talking to do,” Paul says.
I say I’ve often wondered why the players or the league would want to risk a work stoppage now, with the NBA’s increasing popularity, the new revenue, with franchises selling for crazy amounts. The Kings for $534 million, the Hawks for $850 million, Paul’s own Clippers for a mind-boggling $2 billion.
“I’ve never been in this situation,” Paul says. “You know, going through what we’re about to. I would say, hopefully, no work stoppage or anything like that. That’s the ultimate goal.”
I press. He looks me in the eye, smiling. He’s not going to show his cards. After a while, Lee chimes in. The negotiations, she says, “will be tough but respectful. Is that a good way to put it?”
No. 2: Carmelo says he’s far from finished as a superstar — When Carmelo Anthony began training camp, he did so with a chip on his shoulder. Based on his perception, the basketball world believes he’s no longer among the NBA elite, in part because he’s coming off an injury-filled year and slipping into middle-age, and also because his team isn’t expected to contend anytime soon. Well, Melo takes offense to that. Here’s Ian Begley of ESPN New York with the report:
The 31-year-old Knicks star is confident that he can play at a high level for the next “four or five years.”
“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ final training camp practice on Saturday.
Anthony is entering the second year of a five-year, $124 million contract. Only one member of his draft class in 2003 (LeBron James) has played more regular-season minutes.
So many are predicting that Anthony is entering the downward arc of his career. But he doesn’t see it that way.
“Come on, you’re counting me out already?” he asked a reporter with a laugh.
Anthony believes that his decision to undergo knee surgery will help him perform at an elite level through the remainder of his current contract and beyond.
“I wasn’t a guy who would run straight to surgery for anything. But I think now, [taking] care of this really put me in position to perform at a high level for the next four or five years,” he said.
Anthony also believes that he can play effectively past age 35 because he doesn’t rely on a freakish vertical leap or foot speed to perform.
No. 3: D’Antoni talks point guards and more — Being away from the game allows a former coach to gain a different perspective, and Mike D’Antoni offered such, and more in a Q&A with Sports Illustrated. D’Antoni coached with the Nuggets, Suns, Knicks and Lakers, and nobody would be surprised if he gained another shot; it was his system that indirectly helped the Warriors put up pinball numbers and win the NBA title. Here’s the story with Jake Fischer of SI:
SI.com: There are a ton of teams starting to fully embrace this small ball strategy. Did you ever anticipate this would become so widespread, where teams like the Indiana Pacers essentially just banished Roy Hibbert because they didn’t want to play with traditional big guys anymore?
D’Antoni: Well, the league has always been a copycat league. I’m sure somebody is going to come up with something else and it will then go some place else. It’s just the game has changed. The rules have changed and the ability of players to be able to shoot threes and space the floor and be a power forward and be able to space all the way out to the three-point line—even centers can go out and shoot threes—it’s changed and people have to follow that. You give it enough time and I just think that it was kind of going that way anyway. And then what Golden State did, I just think it put everybody on notice and in order to beat them, you’re going to have to play that way. I think it’s a great thing. Obviously, I like that type of basketball. I like watching it. I think it’s exciting and I think fans love it. You’re trying to win and entertain and I think the Golden State Warriors accomplished both.
SI.com: I read about the presentation you gave during the Las Vegas Summer League and, essentially, you said to build a team’s offensive attack around a post player playing with his back to the basket is wasting an opportunity offensively. Why do you think that?
D’Antoni: If you look at the stats around the league, a post-up is not a very good shot. [Laughs] It just isn’t. Now again, in our business and leagues, a lot of times you say something and people take that as 100%: You’re always going to have post-ups and you’re always going to have 15-foot shots. They have not become the best shots. The best shots are layups and foul shots and three-point shots. So you try to gear your offense to where you can exploit those three things. And then, other teams are smart: They run you off the three so you have to shoot a 15-footer, or you can get a mismatch inside where you can post-up, and when you get a mismatch, you have to exploit that. But to go down and put your best offensive player on the block against their best defensive player, it’s just not a great option anymore. It just isn’t.
No. 4: Otto Porter says his time is now — The age difference in Washington between last years’ small forward and this year’s is striking. In that sense, Otto Porter Jr. is no Paul Pierce. But he wants to be just as effective on the court as the since-departed Pierce. Porter played well for the Wizards as last season progressed and believes that, after a shaky rookie season, he’s prepared to take on a bigger role. Interestingly, the Wizards are trying to get someone to play his position next year. Guy by the name of Kevin Durant. Anyway, here’s Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post:
“It’s a huge opportunity for him,” Marcin Gortat said. “He had been waiting for the opportunity. I think he’s ready. He’s having fun out there. He’s enjoying his time. But the most important thing, he’s not going to be out there to prove that he belongs in this league.”
A significant increase in playing time during the Wizards’ two-round playoff run allowed the lanky 6-foot-9 Porter, who was in and out of Coach Randy Wittman’s regular season rotation, to showcase his skill set. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft is a persistent cutter, sneaky rebounder and dogged defender. He does not need the basketball on offense to make an impact. Instead, he defers to teammates, spotting up for three-pointers and filling lanes to the basket to field passes and retrieve misses, assuming the dirty labor most players avoid.
On the surface, Porter’s postseason statistics — 10 points and eight rebounds in about 33 minutes per game — do not awe, but they were giant compared with his regular season numbers and don’t properly delineate Porter’s impact: The Wizards had six lineups log at least 15 minutes and tally a plus net rating, and Porter was the only player in all of them.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Haha. Steph Curry laughed off the “chillin’ on defense” comment by Ty Lawson … Clippers Wes Johnson says there was big confusion on the Lakers last season … Kobe Bryant and D’Angelo Russell getting along just fine. … Tony Parker thinks (and hopes) good health is just around the corner.