NBA GM’s: Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Portland, Chicago, Milwaukee, Indiana, Atlanta, OKC, Brooklyn, Toronto, Utah, Orlando, all of them missed out on Kyle Kuzma. And that’s for slots in the draft after 10. Kuzma was drafted 27th by the Nets and traded to the Lakers in the Brook Lopez deal. Kuzma is one of the leaders in rookies scoring. He and Jerry West are the only Laker rookies to have three straight 25 point scoring games. This was a big time you-get-an-F for not thinking. The Lakers got their scorer to replace Kobe Bryant. Magic notches his 1st draft victory.
Donovan Mitchell: If he listened to his inner self, Donovan Mitchell would have bypassed the NBA Draft. Despite excelling in pick up games against pros, he doubted himself. He needed confirmation and got the go-ahead by Chris Paul who told him he was ready, it was now or never. All Mitchell has done is make Utah fans forget about Gordon Hayward and jump himself up the Rookie of the Year ladder. Utah is known for stingy defense, now they have a scorer to groom and develop. Yes, you can have too much humility.
Vlade Divac: Instead of paying DeMarcus Cousins, Vlade traded him to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, insuring another five year Sacramento playoff drought which is already in year 12. How are his bounty of goodies performing this year? Hield is averaging 12 points and almost 4 rebounds, making 44% of his threes. His defense is awful but he’s upped his PER from last season’s 11.8 to 16.2 this year. So not bad. The rest of the haul? Tyreke left Sac-town for Memphis. Though he is having a good year, Memphis stinks. Langston Galloway left for Detroit. He plays 14 mintues, averages 6 points. So for the #1 ranked center in Real Plus-Minus, Vlade received two players not with the team and Buddy Hield, a three point shooter who can’t defend. Nice. Give him coal Santa.
Kyrie Irving: The desperation to escape LeBron James is as much a part of Kyrie Irving’s legacy as is his NBA Finals game winner and his infamous moments of intelligensia, like the world is flat and Christmas isn’t a holiday. Maybe its me. I thought the goal was to win titles the easy way. Irving is probably the only person on flat earth to run away from James and not towards him. Kyrie implied he wasn’t happy and most of the free world wonders doesn’t he mean his ego wasn’t happy? How is Kyrie’s season going? Being away from the torturous LeBron James has changed his defense. Yes, he can actually give effort on defense. He just refused to in the past. That, in and of itself, explains Kyrie. Another plus for him is his offense has career highs in percentage and PER. So he got what he wanted. At the end of games everyone is talking about him and not asking him about LeBron James.
Charlotte: They joined the trivia question: 4 teams in 5 years for Dwight Howard. Can you name them? Howard doesn’t defend on pick and roll, can’t guard stretch 4’s or 5’s and complains about touches. He is exhausting. Howard is having a bounce back year but his stats are empty. The Hornets are headed for the lottery. He made them worse, not better. They are on the hook for another year at $23 million in 2018-19.
Larry Bird: Bird retired once it became clear his great draft find, Paul George, was about to defect. Bird didn’t want to get buried in the avalanche of losing. He didn’t want to rebuild and take on all the stress that comes with not having a star. Bird had a nice talent in Myles Turner but he wasn’t patient. He didn’t trust the Process. From the early returns, the Pacers won the trade with OKC. Victor Oaldipo has upped his game and Domantas Sobanis is a good rebounder; both are in their twenties so they’ll be in Indiana a long while. Not to mention, Oladipo may have the last laugh. He will be an All-Star in Los Angeles.
George Hill: So here’s the thing. When you sign a free agent deal for more money then you are probably worth because you came off a career year and you decide without someone puttng a gun to your head to sign with the Kings because they told you they were going to fight for a playoff spot after signing 40 year old Vince Carter and ancient Zac Randolph, and you believed them- well, just spend your money, be happy in NoCal and don’t complain about how you were misled. If anyone misled anyone it was your money thirst. You got paid. Rejoice. Three years in Sac-town is a tough haul so I feel your pain. Well, no I don’t.I don’t have an extra $18 million laying around to comfort me.
Jahlil Okafor: The Nets were up 40 points on the Wizards and Okafor didn’t get in the game. Brooklyn says he is out of shape. Okafor blamed his lack of conditioning on Philly instead of the person in the mirror. Because he didn’t play, Okafor explains, he couldn’t stay in shape. Here’s another take: how about you working out on your own if the team treats you like you have the Zika virus. Get your behind into a gym with a professional trainer like everybody else. Okafor sounds entitled and immature. Okafor said, “It’s a different level when you’re actually working with a NBA staff.” I’ll quote Lou Williams. It’s okay to grow up.
Sam Presti: The I traded James Harden is attached to his resume. It happened. Got to live with the fact the Thunder have had only one WCF appearance since the trade. It feels like history is repeating itself, the trading of an asset. This summer, Presti traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Paul George. By himself, Oladipo is outperforming George. 25.3 points, 48% shooting, 43% from three for Oladipo. George is averaging 19.9 points, 40% shooting, 40% from three. Oladipo is the #1 rated shooting guard in Real Plus-Minus and is a lock for the L.A. All-Star game. George is ranked 5th in Real Plus-Minus when rating small forwards. The Pacers have a better record than the Thunder with fewer stars. Presti needs Sabonis right about now. Sabonis is an agile scorer and rebounder who is good for 8 boards a game. The Thunder are 24th in defensive rebounds.
Derrick Rose: In the span of a year he has taken two walk aways to clear his head. Rose can’t deal with what has happened to his career. I get it but he needs perspective. Sam Bowie had injury after injury after injury and he didn’t walk away. Last I checked, it was a team sport and you don’t leave your teammates to hold the bag and to answer questions about you. I get Rose is fragile because the for sure first ballot Hall of Famer once-upon-a-time is now an ordinary point guard who can’t dominate games. But you signed on for the good and the bad. Do you know how many players want to walk away and don’t? Quitting temporarily is still quitting.
Nerlens Noel: Turned down a nice and healthy deal rumored to be around $18 million a year because he got a little greedy and wanted more. But here’s where Noel didn’t know his personnel. Mark Cuban makes a one time offer. There is no saying, oops my bad. So Noel, when no one around the league wanted to overpay him- shocker- had to take the qualifying offer. In other words, he watched $15 mil walk out the door.
photo via llananba