Tuesday, July 1, 2014
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Harvey Araton of The New York Times: In 1995, after four years of near-idolatry in New York, Pat Riley walked out on the Knicks for a better deal in Miami, including control over personnel and a 10 percent ownership stake. Riley was naturally vilified in New York, hectored by one tabloid as Pat the Rat. Upon departing, Riley said, “I do not believe that any team can realize its potential when its head coach, the person most intimately involved with the players, cannot make final, critical decisions on matters bearing directly and intensely on the team, its performance and its future.” For sure, a debatable subject (and one the current coach in Miami, Erik Spoelstra, might want to remember at contract time). But for all his machinations, Riley — then the holder of four championship rings as a coach — at least had left the Knicks with the heady achievement of a climb from virtual irrelevance upon arrival in 1991 to the seventh game of an N.B.A. finals in Houston in 1994. He had changed the culture at Madison Square Garden and given birth to an era of hard-core competitiveness that would last for another half-decade. What, in contrast, has Jason Kidd — having schemed for a successful backdoor play to Milwaukee from Brooklyn — left the Russian-owned franchise with, besides a lesson on the price paid for what was, in many ways, a cheap publicity stunt?
- Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: The Russians who work for Mikhail Prokhorov and oversee his NBA operation got what they asked for with Kidd when they hired him right out of the Knicks’ locker room: a power-hungry, shifty operator who couldn’t wait to move up the organizational ladder, right past King, and into the team’s president’s suite. King had it right all along. He wanted to hire Lionel Hollins in June 2013, for obvious reasons. He has great respect for an established, veteran coach who led a Memphis team to the Western Conference finals by holding his players accountable with old-school demands. But Prokhorov’s people said “nyet" and decided to go with Kidd because he had bigger name recognition. That’s always been a preoccupation for a team that can never get past its New Jersey history and lives to knock the Knicks off the back pages. Well, the Politburo learned the hard way that Kidd can be as disloyal as the next guy when he started doing business with the two new Milwaukee owners he’s had a relationship with for some time.
- Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: On its face, I have no problem with new ownership bringing in their own people. Typically the expectation is that the coach, the front office and pretty much every one goes, especially in a situation like this in which the Herb Kohl administration had grown stale and unpopular. But it was how Kidd was hired that runs against the grain of propriety, especially in a town like this. Edens and Lasry made their move for Kidd without telling the general manager, which put Hammond's already tenuous position into a whole new level of awkwardness. The way it typically works is that the GM hires the coach with ownership approval, a protocol that was subverted. And then, Hammond was placed in the terrible position of having to negotiate with Nets GM Billy King, the man Kidd tried to undermine in Brooklyn, for draft picks to secure Kidd's hiring. That does no foreseeable good for a healthy working relationship. Then there is the matter of Kidd's actions with his former employer, which do not vouch for his credibility. ... A lot of this will be forgotten down the road if Kidd is able to extract effort and talent from the Bucks' core of young players, particularly Parker. He's going to have his hands full with Larry Sanders, a dynamic that bears watching in the next few months. But what won't be forgotten anytime soon was the way the Kidd situation was handled. For a franchise that had made two big steps forward, this is one step back.
- Bob Wofley of the Journal Sentinel: Besides mangling the execution, you do understand why new Milwaukee Bucks co-owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens hired Jason Kidd as coach. And you can't but help applaud the hire. You can't help but commend their first effort to make one of the most spectacularly irrelevant and comfortably numb franchises in the National Basketball Association into something a bit more exciting, a measure more vibrant. Regardless of how good or bad a coach Kidd turns out to be — the long-term success of the team will be determined by how good the players are, not the coach — you admire a number of elements in this move. The hire fits with a positive NBA trend, one that sees young, though untested coaches chosen to lead teams. Some of these guys are former players — and in the case of Kidd, a sometimes-great player — who understand not only the skill sets of players, but their mindsets.
- Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: What better time than now to tap Colangelo as a "valued and trusted resource"? What better time for Jerry Colangelo to contribute one more time to a franchise that he nurtured from its birth into middle age? Now is the time to go all in. When the Suns meet with free agent LeBron James to make their pitch — assuming that his people even agree to such a meeting and that James attends — they're going to get one chance to make an impression on the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Reportedly, the Suns hope to lure James by offering to sign him and another maximum-level star, such as Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. There also is the possibility that they'll try to pair him with Minnesota's Kevin Love via a trade if that is what he desires. So, why not include the chairman of USA Basketball in the entourage that makes the pitch?
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: In an interview Sunday with Yahoo Sports, Derrick Rose — who missed all but 10 games last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee — indicated he might not try out for the U.S. team that will compete this summer in the Basketball World Cup in Spain. The tournament begins Aug. 30. That was news to the Bulls. "In terms of if he’s ready to go, he’s going," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He wants to go. That’s what he’s told me; that’s what he’s told USA Basketball. But it’s a step-by-step process. He’s coming along fine. The next step is to participate in summer league. If that goes well, he goes to USA [camp]. And if that goes well, he’ll play in those games." ... General manager Gar Forman said he hadn’t talked with Rose about the latest questions regarding his participation in Team USA’s camp, but he reiterated that "from a physical standpoint, [Rose] is doing terrific." Forman also said all indications have been that Rose would try out for Team USA.
- Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: There's little doubt the Warriors' point guard has risen to superstar status, and he did his best in a Monday interview with The Chronicle to quell any doubt about his happiness with the direction of the franchise. "It's good for us to be active and try to better the team. More than that, for free agents to see the Warriors as a good destination, it shows that we're on the right track," Curry said. "It's up to (the front office) to make the right decisions for what we're trying to do. We have a great window to win a championship in the not-too-distant future, so we have to be able to capitalize on that."
- Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: Don't expect Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders to sprint out of the starting blocks when NBA free agency commences Tuesday. An active start will be shelved in favor of flexibility, Saunders said. The Wolves have a mid-level exception available to sign a player for about $6 million, but with the fluid nature of all-star forward Kevin Love's future with the club, moving early makes no sense. "We'll wait," Saunders said. "Right now, there are not a lot of guys out there that I think are better than players we have on the team. We aren't just going to spend it just because we have it. If someone pops down and we think it's worth it, we'll do it." While Saunders said he'll wait and see, he knows other teams have his phone number on speed dial.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: If there’s a lesson in the successful recruitment of center Al Jefferson last summer, it might be this; It’s seldom a top 50-type NBA player hits free agency and is truly “free” – and by free I mean the team he last played for isn’t intent on retaining him. Jefferson played well in three seasons for the Utah Jazz and had plenty left to offer. But the Jazz, having acquired young big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, chose to start over. They let Jefferson and power forward Paul Millsap hit the open market, signing with the Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. I bring that up because the now-Charlotte Hornets might want to build on the Jefferson signing by pursuing small forward Luol Deng. Like Jefferson then, former Duke star Deng appears truly "free."
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: For a second time, Chauncey Billups is not leaving the Detroit Pistons under his own terms. The first time occurred in November 2008 when the 2004 NBA Finals MVP was traded to the Denver Nuggets. The second time came today when the Pistons decided not to pick up the $2.5 million option of the final season of the two-year deal he signed last summer. ... There are indications that Billups, now an unrestricted free agent as teams can start shopping, will try to continue his career by latching on with another team. If he finds the market limited, he will likely retire and start chasing his stated goal of landing a job in an NBA front office.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Jameer Nelson loves Orlando, too. People close to Nelson say he has always remembered how kind Central Floridians and Magic employees were following the drowning death of his father, Pete Nelson Sr., in 2007. Still, all the losing over the past few years have been tough on Nelson. “He had a great 10 years, and it’s time to move on,” Nelson’s longtime agent, Steve Mountain, told the Sentinel. “The direction that the team is heading does not allow a proper opportunity for Jameer or the young players that the team has committed to. We’re appreciative of everything Orlando has done for us.” ... The Detroit Pistons, led by his former coach, Stan Van Gundy, might pursue him. So might the Charlotte Hornets, who are coached by former Magic assistant coach Steve Clifford. So might the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, a pair of contenders that need to improve their postseason point-guard play.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: In the past four seasons, there have been 16 slots in the NBA's final four. The Heat made four trips to the final four, the Thunder and Spurs made three trips apiece and the Pacers made two. Four other teams made one appearance, with only the Mavericks among them advancing to the NBA Finals. Pretty encouraging, huh? And no league's success hinges more on a star-studded nucleus than our beloved NBA. Since 1980, only nine franchises have won an NBA title. Nine. That's it. And two of them, Dallas and Philadelphia, only won one. Afflalo says the Nuggets are playing for a championship. You have to love this guy's makeup — unwaveringly devoted and determined. But the Nuggets are not playing for an NBA championship. With Oklahoma City and possibly Portland, they're not even playing for a Northwest Division championship. They're playing out the contracts, playing with what they have. They're playing for fourth place in the Western Conference next season. In a depressing NBA, with a code so hard to crack, maybe fourth place can feel like an accomplishment.