Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Windmill: Here's what training camp and the preseason is all about

With NBA training camps getting underway, I figured I would give a brief rundown about what training camp is all about and what purpose it serves along with the preseason. Many of you may have a loose idea about what it is, but I figured I would tighten things up and make things more clear to you. For the sake of simplicity, I will list 10 things that you should know.

1. Training camp is for everybody. This might seem obvious, but after hearing about guys getting training camp invites, it needs to be understood that training camp is for everybody on the team. The stars all the way down to players fighting to make the team attend training camp.

2.  Players on training camp rosters can play in preseason games. The main purpose of preseason games is to find out which players who are on the roster bubble will make the team. These are players who signed non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts. When a player signs a non-guaranteed training camp contract with a team, this means that the player also will get to participate in preseason games and prove why he belongs on the team.

3. What are non-guaranteed contracts? Non-guaranteed contracts are just that. They are contracts signed by players who don't have a guaranteed spot on the team's roster but hope to make the final cut.

4. Is there a limit to how many players can be on a training camp roster? Yes, there is a limit and the limit is 20. Teams don't have to have 20 players signed for training camp, but they can't go beyond 20.

5. What role does the NBADL (D-League) play in training camp and preseason? Not a whole lot directly, but what should be noted is that players who don't make the final cut for an NBA team will likely find a home in the D-League. It's really competitive to make an NBA training camp roster, so if you are good enough to find a home in an NBA training camp, you are certain to find a home in the D-League.

6. What do coaches focus on in training camp and preseason? Coaches focus on a lot of things. They focus on what players are good enough to make the final cut, what lineups might work in the regular season, how best to get players to understand their coaching philosophies, and other things. It's a time for coaches to get a feel of the team that they have and also get back in the groove of coaching. Coaching is a skill and preseason is a great place to hone that skill and practice it.

7. How important is preseason and training camp for rookies? It's very important. Rookies get to use this time to adjust to the speed and style of the NBA while actually playing against real NBA players. They get their feet wet a little bit in Summer League, but for the most part, guys on Summer League rosters are guys who are unlikely to make an NBA team. Only the first and second year players who have to be there are legit NBA players. Preseason is really the first time these rookies get exposed to NBA-level basketball which is an important time in their process of transitioning from the college game to the NBA game.

In addition, while first round picks are guaranteed a roster spot, second round picks are not guaranteed a roster spot. This means second round picks have to use training camp and the preseason as a proving ground for why they belong on the final roster.

8. If preseason and training camp is important, why do stars often rest during this time? This is a tough question to answer in the sense that I want to argue that preseason is important for all players involved, so I'll just say that for some players, preseason and training camp is a great time to rest up and get healthy.

Players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant don't need to worry about making a team or getting a feel for NBA level basketball, so for them it might make more sense to rest up and get healthy for the regular season. However, for LeBron James, this preseason will give him a chance to get a feel for his new team in Cleveland and get a jump on how to play with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

9. Preseason is a chance to grow the game globally. The NBA frequently has teams play preseason games in foreign countries to grow the game internationally. In addition, teams will play preseason games in smaller American cities that will otherwise not host an NBA game.

10. How similar is this to NFL training camp and MLB spring training? If you are more of an expert in the NFL, MLB, or NHL, I would say that whatever training camp is like in those sports, it's basically the same in the NBA. I know in the NFL that preseason rosters start at 90 players, get cut down to 75, and then get cut down to 53 for the regular season. The NBA works in a similar vein. They start at 20 players and have to cut the roster down to at least 15 players, though typically the number is 12 or 13 players.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Monday, September 29, 2014

2014-15 Atlantic Division Preview

The NBA season is just around the corner, which means that it's time for me to start doing my previews for each division. I am starting with the Atlantic Division, home to the Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and Philadelphia 76ers. I will preview each team in order of where I think they will finish in the division with their projected win total in brackets.

                                              Toronto Raptors (53)

Under the guidance of their brilliant general manager Masai Ujiri, the Raptors had one of the best seasons in franchise history last year with a 48-34 record. Losing in 7 games to the Nets in the first round of the playoffs was a tough way to go out, but the Raptors established themselves as a team that is going to be competitive for many seasons to come.

Their major offseason move was re-signing their start point guard Kyle Lowry to a 4 year, $48M deal. This move is key because it greatly ups the odds of DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas staying with the Raptors for the long-term. DeRozan made his first all-star team last season, averaging 22.7 points and 4.0 assists per game, establishing himself as one of the best young swingmen in the NBA.

As for Jonas Valanciunas, he is entering his third NBA season after averaging 11.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season. He still has a lot of work to do, but he too is emerging into one of the best young players at his position. If the Raptors can keep Lowry, DeRozan, and Valanciunas together, they could be contending for championships in the near future.

Their most surprising move of the offseason was drafting Bruno Caboclo in the first round of this year's draft. This move shocked everybody and created quite a stir on draft night. Caboclo is a small forward out of Brazil who has tremendous upside but is considered to be very raw in his development. He might be the most important piece the Raptors have in that he could be what puts them over the top in a few seasons. If he develops into an elite small forward in the NBA, the Raptors will really be cooking with gas. Watching how Caboclo develops in his first NBA season will definitely be an interesting thing to monitor throughout the season since he still remains largely a mystery and an enigma.

Overall, the Raptors have a really talented squad that should once again win the Atlantic Division. The trio of Lowry, DeRozan, and Valanciunas will continue to get better and perhaps Caboclo surprises people and ends up being a solid contributor in his rookie season. They still don't have enough to contend for a championship, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth keeping an eye on. With the Eastern Conference so wide open, the Raptors could possibly find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals.

                                                Brooklyn Nets (47)

The Brooklyn Nets are one of the most bizarre teams in the NBA. They have some fantastically talented players, but they can't seem to figure out how to make it all fit. Deron Williams is showing signs of age with all the injuries he's had, but he still remains one of the better point guards in the NBA; Joe Johnson is one of the most offensively potent shooting guards in the NBA; and Brook Lopez might be the best center in the NBA when healthy. Yet despite having those talented players on their team, the Nets still find ways to fall short.

Losing Brook Lopez for the season definitely hurt them last year, but even with him I doubt they would have gotten past the Miami Heat. The Nets almost seem to have an identity crisis in that they really aren't super good at anything. They just range from being "ok" to "good" at everything. That's a problem that Lionel Hollins, their new head coach will have to fix. He'll have to find a way to get his team an identity. In order for a team to be successful they need to have an identity or something to pride themselves on. E.g. Defense, rebounding, or scoring.

More specifically, the Nets need to figure out whose team it is. Is it Deron Williams' team? Is it Joe Johnson's team? Is it Brook Lopez's team? I personally think it should be Brook Lopez's team with him as the focal point of the offense. He's their best overall player and the player who is most valuable to them because so few teams have quality big men.

Before going down for the season, Lopez was having a career year, averaging 20.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. The team had to reformulate their identity with him out of the picture for the vast bulk of the season and I think that really hurt the development of the team since Lopez has to be their guy. If the Nets want to be successful this season, they have to make sure that Brook Lopez is the featured player. Otherwise, they'll continue to stay where they are at, which is a mid-pack Eastern Conference team that goes nowhere.


                                                      New York Knicks (41) 

Let me cut to the chase: This team sucks. I think Carmelo Anthony is fantastic, but the rest of the team is garbage. Amar'e Stoudemire is washed up and merely a shell of his former self, Andrea Bargnani is a decent offensive player who can't play any defense, J.R. Smith just screws around and takes wild threes, and Iman Shumpert has regressed each season he's played in the NBA.

As for Phil Jackson and his puppet head coach Derek Fisher, nothing can smell more like manufactured hype than this duo. These guys won rings in Los Angeles, but that was over five years ago in a city that is more than 2,000 miles away. This time around there is no Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal to save them, which is why they aren't going to ever win another championship together. They seem to only be interested in reuniting with each other and having a jolly good time in the Big Apple at the expense of the Knicks and their fans.

Tim Hardaway, Jr. is the only other guy on this team that I like. He's a talented 6'6 shooting guard who could be a star for them in the future, but as for this season he'll still be going through growing pains. He's really the only guy worth paying attention to in that he might be a piece the Knicks can use in the future to help them win games. As for the rest of team outside of Carmelo Anthony, they can all go play in the Chinese Basketball Association for all I care.


                                                       Boston Celtics (32) 

The Celtics are in full-blown rebuilding mode right now. Rajon Rondo, who is their star point guard appears to be on his way out, which leaves small forward Jeff Green as the only other viable weapon on the team. Green averaged 16.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season, which was his best season to date. He'll continue to get better and might even become an all-star one day. But beyond that, the team has nobody to help them win games this season.

Their rookie point guard Marcus Smart, third year power forward Jared Sullinger, and second year center Kelly Olynyk might form a nice trio to go around Jeff Green in a few years, but for right now they have a lot of growing pains to go through.The one good thing that I will say about the Celtics is that they have a quality head coach in Brad Stevens and management that can be trusted. Unlike the Knicks, who are run by a bunch of baboons, the Celtics have quality guys in their front office, which is why I like them to be better than the Knicks down the road.

However, at the present moment, the Celtics have a team that will struggle to win games. Even if Rajon Rondo hangs around the whole year, they still will only have Rondo and Green as viable go-to options. Everybody else is either past their prime like Gerald Wallace or still in the very early stages of their NBA development.

                                                    Philadelphia 76ers (25)

The Philadelphia 76ers are garbage, but they are garbage with a game plan. The plan is to be bad right now so that they can be good in the future. The 76ers so far have tanked really well, drafting talented players who can't help them win games right away. Probably the most important thing to look for when watching the 76ers this season is how their point guard Michael Carter-Williams does in his second season and also how their rookie center Nerlens Noel does after sitting out all of last season with a torn ACL.

If Carter-Williams and Noel can prove to be an effective duo, then the 76ers should feel good about their tanking strategy. I personally expect both of those guys to play really well, but that doesn't mean the 76ers will win a lot of games. It'll be another long year in Philly, but hopefully one in which they feel like progress is being made towards building a team that can be a force in the East.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bear Territory Thursday: 2014-15 Cal Men's Basketball Preview


With the college basketball season starting in six weeks, it's time for me to start my coverage of the Cal Men's Basketball team on here in my new segment "Bear Territory Thursday". Once a week I'll be doing a blog post on the California Golden Bears since I currently go to the school and I really got into the team last season. I got season tickets last year, missing only one game (the Fresno State game), and I got my season tickets again this year. Having followed the team really closely last year while also tweeting about them, I feel like I have ample knowledge about the team to start covering them more in-depth this season.

I hope that this segment will provide Cal fans a fun place to stay updated on the team and non-Cal fans a window into the college game. Now that I've set up an introduction to this new segment, let me dive into my season preview for the 2014-15 California Golden Bears.

The California Golden Bears are coming off a season that was filled with lots of highs and lows. The ultimate high point of the season was Justin Cobbs' game winning shot from the corner to down #1 ranked Arizona at the buzzer. I was present at that game and got to rush the court with my fellow students. It was an unbelievable moment and one that will forever go down in history as one of the greatest moments in the history of Cal athletics.


The low point of the season was missing the NCAA tournament. Losses to Utah, Stanford, USC, and Colorado down the stretch cost the Golden Bears a spot in the NCAA tournament. After having such a high point with the win over Arizona, it was unfathomable to think that Cal would actually miss the tournament.

However, despite the low of missing the NCAA tournament, Cal got a second wind in the NIT and ended up losing to SMU in a heart breaker. During the NIT, Cal freshman shooting guard Jabari Bird started to show flashes of why he was a McDonald's High School All-American and why many NBA scouts had such keen interest in his talent, scoring 20 points on 3/6 three-point shooting in the game against SMU. It was disappointing to go out on a loss, but it was also encouraging to know that the future of the team appeared to be in good hands.


Going into this season, what is probably going to be the biggest challenge is moving on from seniors Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. Cobbs was one of the best point guards in all of college basketball and Richard Solomon also came into his own as one of the best big men in the country. When Cal needed a basket in crunch time, they always counted on Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon to deliver the goods. Now that those guys are gone, others will have to step up.


The good news is that there appears to be other guys ready to fill the void left by Cobbs and Solomon. The guy most ready to fill that void is David Kravish, who plays the power forward position. Kravish is going to be a senior this year and he is coming off his best season in a Golden Bears uniform in which he averaged 11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. He too was one who the team could count on in crunch time, remaining consistent and steady throughout the season.

If there is anything certain and definitive that I can tell you about the Cal Men's Basketball team, it is that David Kravish will come to play every night. He will score, he will rebound, and he will defend. He will always play a complete game on both ends of the floor.

As for the rest of the team, that really remains to be seen. Jabari Bird, who I've already mentioned has the talent to be really good this year and turn Cal into a legitimate threat to win the Pac-12. If Bird turns into an NBA first round pick, Cal could be scary. However, it's no slam dunk that he becomes that kind of player since he still seems to be a work in progress.


The other two players who legitimately can fill the void left by Cobbs and Solomon are Tyrone Wallace (junior) and Jordan Mathews (sophomore). Wallace is a 6'5 combo guard who played a lot of shooting guard last season, but seems to be more of a natural point guard. His driving, ball handling, and passing abilities are fantastic, but his outside shot comes and goes. While it is was encouraging that his three point percentage improved from 22.4% in his freshman year to 32.1% in his sophomore year, his three point shooting was still a weak spot for him and one that he'll have to continue to improve on if he wants to be effective at the shooting guard position.

 He didn't have the kind of season that everybody hoped he would have in his sophomore year after there were whispers of him being a potential first round pick in the NBA draft. He only averaged 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. More importantly, he wasn't reliable down the stretch when Cal needed him to step up. There were some games when he evaporated and appeared to be invisible as Justin Cobbs, Richard Solomon, and David Kravish carried the load.

With Cobbs and Solomon now gone, Wallace will get a chance to prove that the hype around him is legitimate. If he backs up the hype along with Jabari Bird, Cal will have a really competitive team that will be tough to beat whether they are at home or on the road.

As for Jordan Mathews, who is a natural shooting guard, he too could be really good. His 32 points against Oregon on the road last season raised some eyebrows across the PAC-12 and gave people reason to believe that he could be something special. But like Wallace and Bird we'll have to see if the hype around him is legitimate. If he can come into his own, Cal's new head coach Cuonzo Martin will have four quality pieces to work with. 

As for the rest of the team, there isn't anybody who can be expected to fill the void left by Cobbs and Solomon, but there are guys who can be really nice pieces to go alongside the four guys I just mentioned. Sam Singer is a really solid point guard who passes well, defends well, and doesn't turn the ball over. His assist to turnover ratio last season was above 2.0 which I found to be remarkable for a freshman.

Incoming freshmen Brandon Chauca, a 5'9 point guard, and Kingsley Okoroh, a 7'1 center, will also be players who could make a difference on this Cal team. Chauca was really good at scoring the ball in high school and Okoroh has the potential to be a force in the paint.

Swingman Roger Moute a Bidias and power forward Christian Behrens should also be able to provide quality minutes off the bench as well. Moute a Bidias might be in for a breakout season of sorts, but the lack of minutes he got last year makes it really hard to gauge where his ceiling is.


Last but certainly not least is the departure of head coach Mike Montgomery and the arrival of new head coach Cuonzo Martin, who coached last season at Tennessee. Martin has a good track record and the players at Tennessee from what I've heard really loved him. What helps confirm this to me is that one Cal player I talked to said he loves Coach Martin and that he is excited to play for him.

Also, for what it's worth, I've been hearing from people close to the team that Martin is really making the team work hard and put in the extra time so that they can get a grip on his basketball philosophy. In addition, other Cal players have told me to expect big things this season, implying that they are really buying into Martin's coaching method and philosophy.

To sum this all up, what I will say is that Cal has the potential to be as good as they were last year and possibly better. If Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace show why they were hyped to be first round picks in the NBA draft, Cal could make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. If those guys fail to live up to the hype, then Cal will be in a dog fight to make the NCAA tournament. The uncertainty surrounding Bird, Wallace, and Mathews is the biggest question mark going into the season. Until we see how those guys pan out, we won't be able to figure out the ceiling of this Cal team. Go Bears!

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Windmill: It's a good thing the Warriors didn't trade Klay Thompson to get Kevin Love


In the Summer, one of the teams in the mix to land Kevin Love was the Golden State Warriors. Their main piece of trade bait to lure the Timberwolves was Klay Thompson, who has become one of the NBA's finest shooters. While many think that giving up Klay Thompson for Kevin Love would have been a good move for the Warriors, I am of the opinion that it is actually good that the Kevin Love trade talks fell through and that Klay Thompson is still a member of the Golden State Warriors. What's better, is that the Warriors are now looking to sign him to a multi-year contract extension.

The reasons I have for holding the opinion that I do has to do with both the present state of the Warriors and the future of the Warriors. I.e. I think retaining Klay Thompson keeps the Warriors better for the present and for the future. I will now state what those reasons are as well as an explanation for why they are good reasons.

First of all, trading Klay Thompson would have been a radical departure from the Warriors' identity as a three-point shooting team. What has made the Warriors so dangerous over these past couple of seasons has been their ability to stretch the floor and knock down shots from three-point range. Last season, the Warriors made 38% of their three-points shots, which tied the Wizards for 4th best in the entire NBA in that category. In addition, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry were both ranked in the top ten in the entire NBA for 3-point percentage, making them the best three-point shooting duo in the NBA.


Trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love would no longer give the Warriors the distinct advantage of having two elite three-point shooters in their starting backcourt which is an advantage the Warriors should hang on to at all costs. Barring a trade which lands them Kevin Durant or LeBron James, the Warriors would be foolish to make a trade which would give up that distinct advantage over every other team in the NBA.

A second reason I have for why it's good the Warriors still have Klay Thompson has to do with the emotional and psychological well-being of Stephen Curry, their superstar point guard. Stephen Curry says he likes playing with Klay Thompson and there is no reason not to believe him judging by how he plays when Thompson is on the floor. Curry is coming off of his best season ever, a season in which he made the All-Star team and averaged 24.0 points per game and 8.5 assists.

If Stephen Curry says he likes playing with Klay Thompson, that in and of itself is a good enough reason to hang on to Klay Thompson. We can just end the conversation right there. Of course, there's more than just that reason, but it's a very good one and one that the Warriors' management probably didn't consider as much as they should have during the process of courting Kevin Love.

I also think the fact that Klay Thompson keeps getting better is another great reason for the Warriors to hang on to him. If Thompson showed signs of regression or stagnation, the Warriors might be wise to trade him while his value is high. But since he continues to improve and get better, there really is no good reason for the Warriors to trade him.

In his third and most recent season, Thompson averaged 18.4 points per game which was almost 6 points better than his rookie season in which he averaged 12.5 points per game. I expect Thompson to average over 20 points per game next season and possibly as much as 24-25 points per game in his prime. The potential for that kind of improvement is just too much for the Warriors to give up on after just three seasons.

Finally, I don't think trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love brings the Warriors a championship. If I thought that such a trade would bring the Warriors a championship, then I obviously would be writing a very different article right now. The fact of the matter is that trading Klay Thompson to get Kevin Love would make the Warriors different but not necessarily any closer to their goal of winning a championship.


As a matter of fact, it might have had a negative effect on the team. In order to get Love, the Warriors would also have had to part ways with Harrison Barnes and likely David Lee. Those guys are important players on the Warriors, too and there's no telling what their departure in addition to Klay Thompson's departure would have done to the team. It's better to keep a good thing intact than to blow up a good thing in hopes that what gets pieced back together is somehow better.

 I personally don't think adding Love at the expense of Lee, Barnes, and Thompson would have been worth it. I'm certain that such a move would not bring the Warriors a championship and I'm confident that at best it wouldn't have made them any better. The risk simply wasn't worth the reward in this case.

In conclusion, the Warriors are better off with Klay Thompson on their roster than they are with Kevin Love. It's no knock on Kevin Love, who is arguably the best power forward in basketball. His ability to rebound the basketball and score from a wide range of places on the court makes him a very desirable piece to add to your basketball team. However, he doesn't fit with the Warriors nearly as well as Klay Thompson does, which is why it's best for the Warriors to stick with Klay Thompson and see how they can fit him into their long-term plans.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday Slam: Could there one day be a "World Series" for basketball?


Basketball is increasingly becoming much more of a world wide sport with leagues in China and Europe gaining more popularity and financial benefits for players. For the very first time in the history of basketball, the NBA is losing some of its players to overseas leagues because the pay is better. E.g. Andray Blatche going to the Xianjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association and Gustavo Ayon going to Real Madrid which plays in both the Spanish ACB league and the Euroleague.

Now while these players are a very small percentage of the NBA population, the very fact that there are  players leaving the NBA to play overseas because the NBA is offering them less money is amazing. To be clear, I'm not at all suggesting that the NBA is in trouble. What I'm actually suggesting is that the state of basketball across the globe is improving and that in time we may see leagues that rival the NBA for getting the best players.

There is only one existing league that has a real chance to rival the NBA and that is the Euroleague. The Chinese Basketball Association doesn't stand a chance to rival the NBA so long as China remains communist, but the Euroleague has a real shot for a few reasons in addition to not being associated with communism.

First of all, the Euroleague can offer good money. Gustavo Ayon is getting over $2M a year to play for Real Madrid for the next three seasons. That's a total of over $6M in 3 seasons, which is definitely not a small chunk of change.

Secondly, the Euroleague can provide all the comforts of home to European players in addition to paying them well. Why do you think it is taking more effort to bring players over from Europe to the NBA? The answer lies in the fact that in Europe they make good money playing basketball while also staying close to home. We saw how much playing close to home mattered to LeBron James this summer, so why couldn't we see European players want to play closer to home, too?

Thirdly, it's possible that European basketball players could ink massive deals with companies like Adidas and Nike and see any discrepancy in pay between the NBA and the Euroleague as trivial and not enough of a motivation to leave Europe.

If enough European players stay overseas and never decide to come to the NBA, the Euroleague could eventually turn into a basketball powerhouse that produces teams of NBA quality. Once/if that happens, the NBA will suddenly no longer have the ability to say that all of the world's best basketball players play in their league.

 I do think that the gap between the NBA and the Euroleague could close enough that the NBA would consider adopting the Euroleague into its fold in some capacity. We've already seen Euroleague teams get added to the video game NBA2K14 and we've also seen the NBA flirt with ideas about having a "European division".

It is not at all crazy to think that sometime within the next 25 years, the NBA and Euroleague will join forces together and have their own "World Series" for basketball. The kind of idea I have in mind for this is rather simple. The NBA champion and Euroleague champion face each other in a seven game series at the end of June/early July. To accommodate for this new event, the NBA draft would be pushed back to mid July and free agency would start August 1. Training camp and preseason wouldn't at all be affected.

Such an event would truly be a great thing for the NBA, the Euroleague, and the game of basketball as a whole. Even though we all know that these other leagues exist, the NBA still reigns supreme as the best league in all of the world. But if the NBA champions actually faced the champions of another league in some sort of "World Series", the NBA would no longer be viewed as the only legitimate league.

If the Euroleague were able to get to a point where their champions could compete with NBA champions, the popularity of basketball around the world would explode. Fans in Europe would take more interest in the NBA and likewise I think fans in the United States would take more interest in the Euroleague. Most importantly, basketball would establish itself as the most internationally competitive sport in the world.

I know that this "World Series" of basketball idea sounds far-fetched and fanciful, but I really do believe this is where the game of basketball is ultimately heading. The trajectory can be seen from where we are now to a point in which such a "World Series" would be played. The money available for Euroleague teams to spend is growing, the amount of international players is growing, and the world wide popularity is growing. As far as I'm concerned, a "World Series" of basketball will happen. I just don't know when.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday Windmill: What's up with the New Orleans Pelicans?

One of the more quiet teams in the NBA is the New Orleans Pelicans. They are a team that has one of the league's brightest young stars in Anthony Davis while also possessing the most ridiculous nickname in the history of the NBA. Beyond that, there really isn't much people are saying about them. They failed to make the playoffs last season and likely will miss the playoffs this season.

You combine that with the fact that they are in small market and you get nothing to really talk about, right? Well, if that were the case I wouldn't be blogging about them right now, so clearly there is something to say about them, but what exactly? I've already addressed their horrible nickname and their budding superstar Anthony Davis. What else is there to address?

The honest answer is nothing other than the scary possibility that all they may have to attract fans in a few seasons is nothing more than a goofy nickname and a creepy mascot. That's right, you guessed it:  Anthony Davis isn't likely to stay with the Pelicans long-term. The very idea of Davis not staying with the Pelicans for the long-term has to be making their front office very worried since he is their future.

Just like how Obi-Wan Kenobi was Princess Leia's only hope in Episode IV of Star Wars, Anthony Davis is the only hope the Pelicans have of being any good in the future. As a number one overall pick who can dominate the paint both offensively and defensively, Davis will be highly sought after by many NBA teams once he hits restricted free agency in 2017.

The question that the Pelicans need to answer is "How do we keep him from wanting out of New Orleans?" Even if they are able to hang on to him in restricted free agency, they still need to be able to convince him that New Orleans is a place where he can win championships. While many believe that Davis is capable of winning championships, few believe that New Orleans is capable of winning championships, and therein lies the dilemma.


The Pelicans have to convince Davis that they can win championships with him or he's going to eventually leave. A backcourt of Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday is a nice start, no doubt, but the fact that both players are prone to injury makes them a dicey package to sell to Anthony Davis. Can they contend with a trio of Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, and Jrue Holiday in a few seasons? I think the honest answer is "maybe", but "maybe" isn't going to be enough to keep Davis around.

The bottom line is that the Pelicans have to get more around Anthony Davis than what they have. One tradable asset that they have is Tyreke Evans. He's likely going to remain coming off the bench, which automatically makes him rather expendable. I don't mean to say that quality sixth men are always expendable, I'm just saying that they are the first guys to look at when looking at tradable assets.

Evans happens to be a sixth man who is a legit trade chip for the Pelicans. He's very talented and its unclear how exactly he fits in with the team long-term. Trading him could be a good start to getting a better team around Anthony Davis.

At the end of the day, what's up with the Pelicans is that they have the potential to be really good, but it's unclear what their next step needs to be to ensure that they reach their full potential. To be honest, they have to have an attitude of "Whatever Anthony Davis wants, we'll do it".

They need to establish a very good relationship with him on the front end and let him know that whatever he wants, they'll do. If they can at least do that, then they may be able to hang on to him and establish a winning brand. Otherwise, they'll be a team with a silly nickname and a poor product on the floor.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Slam: What does the Ray Rice case mean for the NBA?


To say that the NFL is having an image problem would vastly be understating the current state of the league's image from a public relations standpoint. It would be more accurate to say that the league is having an image crisis and Ray Rice along with the NFL's commissioner Roger Goodell are the faces of it.

While Ray Rice's NFL career is likely over, the future of the league's all-mighty commissioner Roger Goodell remains very much in question. It is unclear whether or not the owners will give him the boot, especially after hearing a fair amount of them voice their own support for him.

 Now what you are probably wondering at this point is why am I talking about the NFL on an NBA blog? I mean, doesn't this Ray Rice case only concern the NFL? While on the surface the answer is yes, there is a deeper level in which this case absolutely concerns the NBA, which has to do with how the NBA will react to future cases of domestic violence committed by its own players.

While the NFL reacted poorly to finding out that Ray Rice committed an act of domestic violence against his fiancé, they did eventually suspend him indefinitely and his team did eventually release him from their roster. The right thing did eventually happen, though it took a lot of public outcry.

After seeing the way people acted strongly against the NFL, the tolerance level for domestic violence is well below zero, which means that in the event that one of their own stars commits domestic violence, the NBA has no choice but to suspend the player indefinitely with the team also facing the pressure to release the player.

Now, there are a couple of things that make this Ray Rice case unusual or unique. Before I state what those things are, I want to make it explicitly clear that I treat every case of domestic violence as equally bad and serious.

Now, what makes this case unusual or unique is that the act of domestic violence committed by Ray Rice was caught on tape and the NFL had easy access to the tape. What makes this important is that by having this empirical evidence against Ray Rice, the case against him is made airtight.  The same cannot be said for situations in which there is no video or auditory evidence to go by.

In cases that don't have such strong evidence, it is only fair for "due process" to play itself out before any harsh suspensions or actions come from the league. If the team wants to sit a player out amid "due process", I'm more than fine with that, but by no means should the league feel obligated to step in and lay down a harsh suspension.

But in a situation like Ray Rice where there is audio and video evidence against the player, the league really has no choice but to suspend him indefinitely. As for the team, they similarly have no choice but to disassociate themselves from the player and cut him.

The NBA has to take note of this and understand that when they are faced with a situation identical to the Ray Rice case both in quality of evidence and stature of player, they have to take the harshest possible measures or else they too will have an image problem.

Now, the NBA has been battling racism as of late with the Danny Ferry and Donald Sterling cases, but while those cases are very serious in their own right, they cannot be said to be logically identical to cases of domestic violence. There are parallels to draw from such as having a zero-tolerance policy and suspending offenders, but I think the fact that domestic violence involves one person harming another person makes it even more serious.

Where I'm going with this is that the NBA isn't exactly going through the same thing as the NFL right now by having issues with racism. Domestic violence is a whole other animal and the NBA has to be prepared to act as tough as possible when they are faced with it.

The Ray Rice case is a wake up call for the NFL, the NBA, and every other professional sports league. We live in a society in which acts of domestic violence are taken a lot more seriously and received a lot more harshly. The NBA has to recognize this and think to themselves "Maybe we're next. Maybe one of our superstars gets busted for domestic violence."

The NBA has to be ready to act as harshly as possible and throw down the gauntlet when one of its stars acts in this manner. We saw how the Pacers reacted to Paul George supporting Ray Rice, but will that same attitude transfer over to cases in which a player actually commits an act of domestic violence? I hope we never have to find out, but unfortunately I believe the NBA will eventually find itself in a similar predicament. When they do let's hope that they learned some lessons from how the NFL grossly mishandled the Ray Rice case so as to not make the same horrible and embarrassing mistakes.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord