What a day… What a goddamn day.
I touched on the NBA’s wild Monday–it’s second straight wild Monday–in the Hoops Roundup today. But there was too much just in the four major stories to touch on there, let alone the other four.
Here’s a little recap of the last 24 hours:
- A report of friction between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs over the handling of Kawhi’s still very suspicious right quadriceps injury.
- Jason Kidd fired by the Milwaukee Bucks, followed by Kidd’s account of Giannis emotionally offering to save his job.
- Kevin Durant, responding to Clint Capela’s claim that the Rockets are better than the Warriors, exercising an impressive lack of self awareness in calling Clint Capela’s decidedly not easy job “easy”
- Michael Jordan quieting but not totally shutting down Kemba trade rumors by claiming they would only trade Kemba “for an All Star”
- John Wall and JJ Barea getting into an on-court verbal altercation and carrying that over into the media after the Cavs blew out the Wizards.
- Woj dropping a nuke of a Woj Bomb with reports that an emotional Cavaliers team meeting featured a lot of finger pointing – most notably at Kevin Love for allegedly faking sick during Cleveland’s blowout loss to OKC on Saturday.
- DeAndre Jordan not sitting on the Clippers bench after increased reports that LA was engaging in trade talks with Portland, Cleveland, and Milwaukee about the big man.
- A report that Damian Lillard met with Blazers owner Paul Allen last week to discuss the direction of the franchise
Wild. Absolutely wild. We’re in the dregs of January and between last Monday and now yesterday we’ve had two of the most insane days in NBA history. The News Cycle is gonna spin itself off the goddamn planet at this point.
Now… How much of that is meaningful? How much of it is noise? How are we supposed to keep up with it all?
I’m gonna try to help.
Let’s just jump right in and dive into it all… let’s get it…
Is Kawhi Just Frustrated Right Now… Or Actually Unhappy?
On the surface I would’ve dismissed this story. Yes, we now know Kawhi is a functional human with real emotions. He’s capable of frustration. And we are coming off an offseason where LaMarcus Aldridge wanted out. Granted, Pop solved that and has LaMarcus playing at an MVP level now because he’s Pop. But we know it’s not impossible to be unhappy in San Antonio.
As un-Spursian as this story is, it’s not unimaginable. But in my mind it was nothing more than a super competitive guy expressing frustration that he can’t get out there.
But what if it’s more?
This Kawhi story
If this was not the Spurs the league would be freaking out here. And yeah if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle and all, but that’s not the point. A top three NBA player went from maybe he’s not ready for opening night to missing the first two months without any real development. Once he was finally back, he played 9 of a possible 18 games, topping 30 minutes just once. Last week, he got tossed back on the shelf with no timetable – just an “indefinitely” tag and a bare bones reasoning that the quad hadn’t healed the way the doctors wanted it to.
That’s an extremely sketchy timetable – and it’s not that far fetched to think a super competitive guy like Kawhi has taken issue with the way the organization has handled it. And maybe he’s tired of not being discussed as a landing spot for free agents after not landing anyone this summer. And maybe he doesn’t want to play with LaMarcus – a guy who he doesn’t fit with, who made no concessions for him for two seasons, and who is now openly enjoying being the center of the offense in Kawhi’s absence.
Jalen Rose coming out and saying Kawhi wants out is probably fake. It’s a smart headline grab by Jalen, and it’ll create some fun conjecture for a few days. But the handling of this injury at least has me thinking… maybe it’s not?
Jason Kidd Has Been Fired… What Does This Mean For Giannis’ Future?
Nobody except Giannis was surprised to see Jason Kidd go. Maybe mid-season was unexpected, but the thought was that Kidd wasn’t long for the job.
The problem is that Giannis is the only one that really matters, and Giannis was clearly loyal to Kidd…
…raising speculation that maybe now Giannis won’t feel so loyal to Milwaukee come Summer 2020… or sooner.
The answer here is pretty simple though, and can be gleaned from this very funny tweet that has now come to life…
Certain high profile Warriors loved Mark Jackson. Then they hired a really good coach who properly utilized their unique talents and they started winning at a historical rate and that love for Mark Jackson quickly became an afterthought.
Hire the right coach and any animosity between Giannis and the franchise that might be building now will disappear like that.
They’ve got a talented roster centered around one generational talent. It’s now the most coveted job in the league. Hire a good young coach with an actual coaching pedigree like David Fizzdale or Ettore Messina or… and this is absolutely my favorite… Rap’s D-League coach and NBA legend Jerry Steakhouse and it will all be fine. It’s not simple… but it really is that simple.
Kevin Durant Has No Self Awareness
- The Rockets aren’t “better than” the Warriors until they beat them in a series… but at full bore they’re 2-0 and I have no problem with them claiming it.
- Clint Capela’s job is not easy. Clint Capela has to understand the completely different timing and intricacies of two of the smartest pick and roll players in NBA history, bounce back and forth between each one every game, all while being both a top flight rim protector and able to switch out on PNR defensively. He’s allowed the Rockets to let Dwight Howard and plays over NeNe because he works harder than them. Does he benefit from playing with Harden and Paul? Of course. Is his job easy? Absolutely not.
- But it’s even stupider…. because calling Clint Capela’s job easy is in turn saying David West, Zaza, JaVale, Jordan Bell, and Kevon Looney–all of who play less and work less than Capela–have easy jobs. You just told 2/3 of your team that their job is easy because they play with stars and now you look like an asshole.
- Dude… Kevin… dude… come on… I mean… do I even have to say it? Do you really want to talk about easy? Are you 100% sure you want to go down that path? I actually know for a fact that you don’t want to go down that path because that’s a harder path to go down. You had every right to go to Golden State. Every right to chose your own path and happiness and success. The one thing you can’t do after that is turn around and tell an actual grinder like Capela that his job is easy.
How Serious Is Charlotte About Trading Kemba?
I think they were three weeks ago. I think when they were well out of contention in late December they explored selling Kemba for assets. But being December, they didn’t get any firm yes’s.
Now they’ve won 6 of 9, Steve Clifford is back, and all that stands between them and the eighth seed is a wildly unpredictable and fragile Philly team, the completely fraudulent Pistons, and the rapidly deteriorating Knicks.
Maybe they lose 6 of 8 heading into the deadline and some playoff team comes knocking with a great offer. But for now I think he’s staying put and they become buyers next week.
John Wall and JJ Barea Don’t Like Each Other.
This would have been more fun during a quiet NBA week, but right now it’s deservedly small potatoes.
What’s not small potatoes is that the Wizards continue to shit the bed at the least opportune moments.
Indy has been relatively stagnant behind them. Miami has cooled off from their win streak, losing 3 of their last 5. And Cleveland is in fucking shambles right now.
Washington had a golden opportunity to win 6 or 7 games during a weak 8 game stretch, jump into third, and make a real statement in the East. Instead they lost 5 of 8… three to teams under .500 and two to a direct competitor in Milwaukee… with two squeaked out wins over Orlando and Brooklyn and the other over a floundering, now under .500 Detroit team
For a team that talks the talk they do about being elite, these dudes seem to crumble every time they have a chance to do something meaningful.
The Cavs Are In Shambles — Is This Finally The Year They Can’t Flip The Switch?
I told myself I wouldn’t ever give in here until I saw it happen…
And I won’t go back on my word to myself.
This is the worst it’s ever been. Their is no actual fix for their defense. Outside of LeBron, their best defenders stink offensively and vice versa. Keeping Isaiah absolutely guarantees the biggest defensive hole in the entire league – and on a team filled with old guys saving their energy, coached by a bad coach, they don’t have the willpower or the tactics to make up for that. Pulling an unprecedented move by replacing Lou with someone like Fizzdale midseason still doesn’t change the age and effort issue. Every loss inches LeBron closer and closer out the door – which in turn makes them less likely to trade their only trade asset (the Brooklyn pic) and removes their best route to immediate improvement. They don’t practice – which is a double edged sword because while practice would theoretically make them better, the lack of practice is what’s helping the guy currently doing everything continue to have the energy to do everything. Kyrie leaving in itself lowered their ceiling significantly. Kyrie being replaced with Isaiah actually lowered their ceiling even further. Kyrie leaving and thriving in Boston has probably more than caught the eye of a few guys who might be sick of LeBron after all these years. And at the end of the day… almost all of these guys have been to three straight Finals. It’s exhausting both mentally and physically, and in conjunction with taking two brutal L’s, there’s an element of human nature where these guys are all probably just sick of each other. Maybe this is really just an unfixable situation.
But LeBron is still LeBron. And LeBron can still single handily beat any non-Warriors team in the NBA. And until I see LeBron lose, I don’t care if they fall to 8th place and have to play Boston in round one. At least in the Eastern Conference, LeBron is still the king until his head is on a spike.
Is the Damian Lillard-Paul Allen Meeting Being Overblown… Or Does Dame Want Out?
Of all the stories, this one has me the most undecided. Portland has been this middling Western team forever with Dame. He’s great. CJ is great. Nurk is a quality big. They’ve got some young talent and some decent role players.
It’s actually almost Toronto-west. Hipster NBA fan team. Smart front office. Great coach. Great core but not elite. Can they take a next step? Is it even possible with this core? Yada yada yada.
It feels like their ceiling is just… limited.
Toronto hung on… grabbed some nice role players late in the draft… made a relatively big move for Ibaka… and have seen DeMar take a genuine next step this season. They pushed through the five year plateau and–thanks in part to Cleveland’s possible demise–actually feel like a potential Finals team this season.
Does Portland stick it out and hope to do that with Dame and CJ in a much more loaded West? Does Dame request a trade for greener pastures, possibly in the East? Or does he ask for Portland to shop C.J. McCollum in search of a shake up – possibly in the form of a less redundant sidekick?
In a blog where I’ve discussed the potential trade of Kawhi, the future of Giannis, and the collapse of LeBron’s Cavs… this might be the most important. Trading Dame or CJ is immediate, and could shake up the entire league – especially the East.
It’s gonna be a fascinating next three weeks going into the deadline.