The NBA had itself quite a week. Training camps began their familiar two-a-days as exhausted players ran drills, scrimmaged and reacquainted themselves with their teammates, coaches and the media. Here and there, players fell out in camp; the body takes a while to adjust. One person absent from the training camp pomp and circumstance was Tristan Thompson, still bogged down by the marathon war negotiation for a new contract. As of now, Tristan Thompson is a holdout.
This Tristan Thompson saga is in its eighth chapter. Chapter 1: Thompson wants max money. Chapter 2: The Cavaliers don’t want to give him max money. Chapter 3: Thompson threatens to accept the qualifying offer of $6.8 million and then bolt Cleveland next summer. Chapter 4: The Cavs front office dares him to do just that. Chapter 5: Thompson readjusts his offer. Chapter 6: The Cavs are bored. Chapter 7: Thompson does not accept the qualifying offer as the deadline to do so expired on Thursday. Chapter 8: Thompson is now a holdout
Thompson is free to negotiate a deal with the Cavaliers which, perhaps, is good news for his side, but Thompson has zero leverage. The Cavs aren’t pining away for Thompson’s services. They have a pretty good rebounding front line.
The Cavs are known to hardball players in contracts. When Anderson Varejao had his turn at the wheel in a contarct dispute, the only way the deal was resolved was Varejao, a restricted free agent like Thompson, received an offer from Charlotte that the Cavs had to match. Or they’d lose him. No such scenario is happening here unless Thompson wants to go to Portland or Philadelphia, the only teams with money to sign him. That’s a big gamble no agent would float on the table because the Cavs are unpredictable. They might not match the offer.
This is all about power and denial. The fact is, Thompson should have taken the $80 million. The Cavs may take that deal off the table and lowball Thompson because they can. They’d be the ultimate winners. This is where Thompson is in denial and not particularly astute about where he fits into the calculus. His game doesn’t offer the leverage for him to win a protracted fight with a front office determined to have the last word.
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Steve Kerr should have been celebrating his sixth NBA championship ring- his first as a coach- with a lot of golf, hanging out at the beach, chillin’ with his family and friends, but Steve Kerr had a painful summer of back surgery, recovery and then more back surgery. He is not completely healed and for that reason took a leave of absence from his Warriors coaching gig, placing Luke Walton in charge.
Luke Walton must have been born on a sunny day. Luck seems to follow him around. He was born into a family with NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton as the mentor. He was drafted in the second round by the Lakers, and playing for Phil Jackson, he won two NBA titles as part of the Kobe Bryant- Pau Gasol supporting cast. He did a quick coaching stint at the University of Memphis and then the D-League before signing on with the Warriors last year. He won his third championship ring and now he’s the new head coach.
This new Walton gig is not going to last for long, a couple of weeks max, if things go according to plan, but Walton will have an opportunity to be Steve Kerr without being Steve Kerr. As for the Warriors, they will survive.
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One more Derrick Rose surgery, this one minor, was successful and Rose is expected back in a couple of weeks. After getting bashed in the face by a Jimmy Butler elbow, the karma theorists were smug: I told you so!! What has Chicagoans a little pissed at Rose right about now was that on media day Rose was more enthusiastic talking about his potential 2017 contract then he was talking about the Bulls season. So he was punished for it. Those same cynics will be the first on the Rose for MVP bandwagon if he starts out the season very strong.
However Rose plays this year, sometime during the season he’s going to have to be deposed for a civil suit claiming he was a sexual abuser. In court filings. Rose denied the charges and said all sexual contact between his ex-girlfriend, himself, and (his friends) was consensual. Both sides have witnesses for their point of view so, really, it comes down to who can be impeached on the witness stand, and who the jury thinks is lying. Because the charges were filed in Los Angeles, and not Chicago, Rose will have no hometown discount among perspective jurors. Scrutiny about this case won’t disappear.
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John Wall said a couple of interesting things this week. He said he wants to be in the MVP conversation. And he said fame is more important than money. As far as the MVP goes, Wall is an outlier. He can’t shoot. The award always goes to a scorer unless you are Steve Nash, and Wall ain’t Nash. The award also goes to the one player that carries his team to the best record. The Wizards aren’t going to have the best record in the East. They may not have the best record in their own division as the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks are going to fight them to the finish. Wall’s best strategy is to focus on getting out of the second round of the playoffs.
As far as him saying he values fame over money, that isn’t something to say out loud. It’s hardly complimentary. Loving fame means you’re shallow. Loving money means you’re greedy. Some things are best kept to yourself.
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Kevin Durant had a few things to say about Stephen A. Smith and let’s just say he wasn’t being very diplomatic. He called Smith a liar.
This stems from Smith and his “sources” saying the Lakers are on Durant’s wish list. It made the media rounds for a couple of days, just for the ridiculousness of wanting to go to a team that’s not a contender, and then it died out until Durant made his liar statement.
The problem with Durant’s attack of Smith was the manner in which he disputed Smith’s “sources”, saying that no one in his (Durant’s) circle talks with Stephen A. Smith. That may be true. But “sources” don’t mean friends and family and business partners. “Sources” only means someone who doesn’t want their name revealed, an insider who has information.
Durant lashing out at the media is revelatory. Even if the Lakers were contenders, Durant would never, ever fit in there. The media scrutiny, and continual projecting and obsessiveness that is a way of life for Lakers players, is something Durant is too thin skinned to handle.
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Flip Saunders condition has taken a turn for the worse and no one wants to utter the “d” word- dying– but according to a report out of Minneapolis, everything has changed. Saunders was supposed to recover from his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with a wellness plan of chemotherapy and be ready for the start of the season. It may just be, if Saunders pulls through this, he may never coach again. Of course, pulling through this is all anyone wants.
In June, when the Timberwolves selected Karl Anthony Towns as the #1 pick in the draft, there was a sense of euphoria and excitement surrounding the organization. In early August, when it was revealed Saunders had cancer and was undergoing treatment, there was optimism. In October, there is anxiousness, worry and dread. Cancer, often is undefeated. Now, there are only prayers.
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Iman Shumpert is the latest of the Cavaliers to go down. He joins Kyrie Irving in the January season debut club. Shumpert injured his wrist while training, banging it on the rim. He had surgery to repair the sheath of the Extensor Carpi Ulnaris. The injury forces the Cavs to make some decisions in the short term. Their perimeter defender crew is now whittled down to one: LeBron James. James had hoped to take it a little light to start the season but now, with Irving and Shumpert in street clothes, and with a competitive Eastern Conference, James is going to have to go a little bit harder. Only in Cleveland.
photo via llananba