Over the past few days, notably last Friday and Monday, all NBA teams held their media days. Normally these are pretty boring affairs, a chance to see the new players in uniform, write the same story about how player x is in the best shape of their life, and go home. But a few interesting things always come out...
The Timberwolves signed previously-retired Brandon Roy to a two-year, $10 million contract over the summer, and owner Glen Taylor doesn't even know if he will be able to play. Acceptable risk?
Jordan Durlester: Absolutely an acceptable risk to take. We already know the T-wolves have put together an athletically gifted core of young talent. While having Roy be a contributor on the floor would be ideal, even if he is unable to physically play, his presence will be felt in the locker room. Roy is a mature and proven leader who can aide this team in more ways than points and assists.
Jacob Greenberg: Yeah. Two years, $10 million won't break the bank. Question is: if he's great, and the Wolves want to lock him down, how much do you pay him? And for how long?
Alex Maki: Yes, I think spending $5 million a year, two years, for a guy that could fix a huge hole in your team if he just plays decent for his skill level is a sound move. What I am less enthused about is the fact that the Wolves do not have a real proven shooting guard in case Roy either can't make things work or if he can only play in very limited minutes. I am very excited about Shved, and word in training camp today was that he was one smooth operator, but the Wolves need a bit more depth to make this gamble a safe one.
Kenji Spielman: This is only an acceptable risk as long as B. Roy knows he is no longer THE MAN. Toward the end of his time with the Blazers (Blazers fan speaking here) he was no longer as good as he thought he was. This was, clearly, a problem. In the 2010 playoffs against the Suns he came back early from knee surgery, was an excellent decoy for a game, then was worthless for a game or two. He pronounced himself a starter for the next game to the media when any objective observer could see he was ready be shut down. What can a coach do in a situation like that? Severely damage the long term relationship with a transcendent talent like Roy, or try to win the series? And yet... there is the Mavericks series from the next year, just so, you know, he could remind us all what we were missing. If Roy learns to pick his spots coming off the bench he has the ability to completely re-write the template for 6th man.
Hans Peterson: Absolutely. And this is coming from someone who, frankly, expects the second half of that contract to go up in the dust of Roy's grinding knees. If you want to legitimately contend in the NBA, you have to have game changers. You can win the NFL or MLB with a solid team full of above average players that click at the right time. To win in the NBA (ALMOST without exception), you need multiple top 20 players. The Wolves have one. Barring miraculous and sudden growth by Rubio or Williams, they aren't getting another without tanking for a year and finding the next Lebron/Howard/Duncan in the lottery. So regardless of outcome, I support dropping 10 million on Roy for the top 20 upside even if it means he breaks down and you sacrificed money that could have signed the equivalent of Mbah Mah Boute. That's doing nothing but getting you 2-3 extra wins a year and costing you one-two places in the lottery.
Kobe said that the Lakers are still "his team". Are they?
Jordan Durlester: As long as Kobe is on the roster, the Lakers are his team. It's a direct result of his competitive nature and decorated history with the organization. Say what you will about his off the court behaiavor and on the court complaining, the dude is an incredibly strong-willed and vocal leader.
Jacob Greenberg: Yeah, for better or worse. Though if he takes a page from D-Wade's book, his career will last longer, and the Lake Show will have a better chance willing the whole 'Ship in Year One.
Alex Maki: It shouldn't be. The Lakers have a whole starting lineup of players with high basketball IQs. Kobe doesn't need to carry the team in any aspect these days, and that includes leadership. As Kobe gets older he needs to play within himself. Though I am sure he will see the error of his ways, right now it sounds like he still wants to cling to a bit of good ole' Kobe-ball.
Kenji Spielman: Yes. Not that they should be, Pau has been a better player for a while now, but they are, to the team's detriment, still "his team". He will continue to take terrible shots against triple teams at the end of the game, he will continue to throw teammates under the bus, he will continue ro clash with his coach. And with his "supporting cast" he may appear to the stats free eye as an MVP again.
Hans Peterson: Yes, but they shouldn't be. If Kobe wants to make the Lakers invincible, he should reinvent himself as the most star-powered upgraded level 70 version of Bruce Bowen imaginable - draw an opponents' top defender, but focus his energy on being a shut-down defender on the opponents' best guard and knocking down spot-up jumpers every time they start getting complacent. Let Nash run the offense through alternate Howard/Gasol pick and rolls. They would absolutely 100% win the title and it would be the best thing Kobe could do for his legacy. I'm excited to watch the Lakers this year because I sincerely doubt that happens. I think it is a bunch of dramatic mayhem for the first two months because a guy who named himself the Black Mamba is not going to be a good judge of how to best cement his legacy.
Lamar Odom wants to apologize to Mark Cuban for his poor play last year. Does he have anything to apologize for?
Jordan Durlester: I don't think he owes Mark Cuban and the Mavs an apology, per se, but I respect him for acknowledging that he didn't give them all that he could have. The entire situation was a disaster to begin with, and LO clearly had/has some health issues he needs to address before he's ever ready to commit the time and energy needed to play in the NBA.
Jacob Greenberg: No, Lamar Odom doesn't owe anyone anything. He was brutally forthright about his mental health issues last season, and was faced with an employer that, at best, seemed to be tolerant to his problems, but not forgiving. Mark Cuban has had very few truly hard days in his life.
Alex Maki: I am not sure he needs to apologize. I think it is a respectful thing to do, more to the fans than anything, but not necessary and probably won't make much of a difference to the assholes out there anyway.
Kenji Spielman: No. Odom was the classic "fluke rule" player when he was amazing for the Lakers. The problem was we all knew he had that level of talent, he just never utilized it. Then he managed to pull something akin to a "double fluke rule" where we knew he wasn't going to maintain that level of play that he tantalized with for the Lakers (brilliantly done to get rid of him while his value was high), but I really doubt he is as bad as he looked for the Mavs. Should he apologize for being a total enigma of a person and addicted to skittles? Uh...
Hans Peterson: Only he can know. Sometimes athletes fall off a performance cliff. Sometimes they have mental issues that shake their confidence and performance. Sometimes players find themselves in a system where they cannot be effective. Sometimes, presumably, players get distracted and whiny and take millions of dollars in exchange for weak effort. Only Odom really knows which was the case for him.
Dwayne Wade has left Jordan and signed a new shoe contract with Chinese brand Li-Ning. Thoughts?
Jordan Durlester: After quickly glancing at Li-Ning's basketball apparel and shoe selection, I'd say they made a very necessary hire. I'm always pro any sort of move that brings the NBA brand to new heights in other global markets.
Jacob Greenberg: That China is a very fertile market for entrepreneurial capitalists?
Alex Maki: You are supposed to think that Dwayne Wade is still a dick, unless he toured those Li-Ning factories to make sure the working conditions are decent.
Kenji Spielman: There are a large number of people in China, many of whom like to buy things. If you expect this to go off without a hitch I have a bridge to sell you. I would be shocked if this doesn't break down in some sort of amazingly odd way when it turns out there was a wacky rider that Wade has to appear at some charity game in the middle of Tiananmen Square and lead a team of politicos against the visiting Mongolian National team during the regular NBA season.
Hans Peterson: A couple things: that basketball is well on its way to becoming the second most global game behind soccer. That Dwayne Wade is desperate for attention after yielding his Batman cape to Lebron and putting on his Robin tights. That shoe "technology" doesn't actually impact athletic performance to any meaningful degree.