Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony’s Looming Legacies
By Moke Hamilton
The horn sounded. The third quarter ended. Chris Paul sat on the bench, forlorn. His bright red jersey, now burgundy and drenched in sweat, clung to his frame.
He took a deep breath and looked up at his head coach. Searching and hoping for a diatribe that would light a fire under his listless teammates, he got the opposite.
“We’ll regroup for Game 2,” his coach said, mentally forfeiting.
“We’ll be ready,” he said.
But alas, this was Game 1 and there were still 12 minutes remaining.
And as he sat down and looked up at the scoreboard, he saw the 85-64 score. He didn’t need an abacus to tell him that his team faced an insurmountable deficit. That this was Game 1 on the road made the task of accomplishing the impossible all the more daunting.
Marquis Daniels Exploring NBA Coaching Career
By Jessica Camerato
As his NBA playing career hinged on uncertainty, former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers offered Marquis Daniels advice he is pursuing three years later. After suffering a terrifying injury mid-game in 2011 due to spinal stenosis, Rivers made a suggestion for Daniels’ future during his rehab process.
“He said, ‘If you don’t come back and play, you could come back and be a good coach,’” said Daniels. “It kind of stuck with me.”
Daniels did return to the game and last played for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2012-13 season. On Sunday, he visited his old stomping grounds at the Celtics’ training facility to explore a new career on the sidelines. The 10-year veteran has already made stops with the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs.
Will Kenneth Faried’s Deal Be The Domino?
By Steve Kyler
Denver Nuggets big man Kenneth faired reached a deal with the Denver Nuggets on a new five-year, $60 million deal, which according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is guaranteed to pay out $52 million, as the final year is a partial guarantee.
Faried was one of several 2011 Draftees negotiating terms on a rookie scale extension. Last week the Phoenix Suns reached multi-year deals with both Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, who agreed to a four-year, $32 million and a four-year, $20 million deal, respectively.
Several other member of the ’11 draft class are at the table. Here is what we know about most of them:
Fantasy: Anthony Davis Over LeBron James at No. 2
By Joel Brigham
People who play fantasy basketball know that Kevin Durant is, without question, the best player in the game today. Nobody else is so well-rounded and so dominant in so many categories, even though as recently as a year ago there was a real debate over whether he or LeBron James should be drafted with the top selection in fantasy drafts.
Not that James had a bad year last season; it’s just that Durant pushed himself ahead. In some ways, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis did, too.
Now entering his third year, Davis has made it clear that, for the first time in a long time, the top three picks in this year’s draft will carry massive value rather than just the top two. In fact, there’s even a pretty convincing argument that Davis should be the second pick of your fantasy basketball draft instead of James.
New Faces in New Places: Southeast Division
By Cody Taylor
In Basketball Insiders’ new series, we’ll take a look at the new players in every division. We start with the Southeast Division.
Thabo Sefolosha: The Hawks stayed mostly quiet on the free agent front, but did add Thabo Sefolosha to the mix. The Hawks have been desperately seeking a player to lock up opposing teams’ best players and seem to have finally added that player in Sefolosha. While Sefolosha will provide the biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball, the Hawks are hoping that he’ll be able find some of his stroke from behind the arc. Sefolosha shot 42 percent from three-point range with the Thunder two seasons ago, but regressed from that number last season hitting just 32 percent of his shots from long distance.
New Faces in New Places: Central Division
By John Zitzler
In Basketball Insiders’ new series, New Faces in New Places (click here to read the first part of the series on the Southeast Division), we take a look at some of the more impactful offseason moves made throughout the league. This installment focuses on the Central Division and what new acquisitions figure to be most valuable to their new teams.
Pau Gasol – The Bulls made a strong push to land Carmelo Anthony in free agency, doing everything in their power to lure Anthony away from New York. When those efforts fell short their attention quickly turned to the veteran big man. Gasol, at 34 years old, is entering the latter stages of his career, but still appears to have plenty of gas left in the tank. Despite playing on an undermanned Lakers squad this past season, Gasol was very productive averaging 17.4 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. He showed he still has what it takes to be one of the top post players in the game today. Gasol will step right in as the Bulls’ starting power forward position and play alongside Joakim Noah. The two will give the Bulls arguably the top power forward/center tandem in the Eastern Conference. Both players not only have the ability to score the ball, but are skilled passers as well. With the return of Derrick Rose and the addition of Gasol down low, look for the Bulls to have a much easier time scoring the ball this season.
Next Road Ahead Tougher for Noel
By Yannis Koutroupis
Twenty months. That’s how long Nerlens Noel’s Philadelphia 76ers debut was in the making. He finally took the court last night for Philadelphia’s preseason game against the Boston Celtics. For Noel, though, it was much more than just his first game back from a major injury. It was the realization of a lifelong dream, made bittersweet by serving as a sharp reminder that the toughest part of his career is just beginning.
“I don’t think I played well at all, but I was proud of the fact that I was able to shoot tonight in a Philadelphia uniform and finally start playing an official NBA game,” Noel said after accumulating six points, four rebounds, four turnovers and six fouls in 21 minutes of action in a 98-78 blowout loss.
No Hard Feelings Between Bledsoe, Suns
By Lang Greene
Entering the offseason, point guard Eric Bledsoe was thought to be one of the most attractive options on the market. However, the guard didn’t sign a new contract until September, right before the start of training camp after a contract negotiation stalemate lasted months.
The Suns held firm on a four-year, $48 million offer throughout the summer. Bledsoe held firm with the belief he was worth a near-max deal. In the end, Bledsoe re-signed for five years and roughly $70 million.
Despite the tense negotiation period, which also saw the Suns sign point guard Isaiah Thomas as insurance, Bledsoe maintains that stuff is now in the rear-view mirror.
New Faces in New Places: Northwest Division
By Jesse Blancarte
Andrew Wiggins – It’s not often that a number one overall draft pick gets traded before ever playing for the team that drafted him (in fact, Chris Webber is the only other such player), but that’s exactly what happened this offseason when the Cavaliers traded Wiggins to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Wiggins brings the Timberwolves a new hope for future success as many view him as a future superstar. Wiggins certainly has the physical tools and skillset to become one of the best two-way players in the league, and a superstar, but it’s far from a given that he will reach that ceiling. It’s almost a certainty that Wiggins will become one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, but who he will become as an offensive player is still in question. He has the skill to be a 25 points per game scorer in the NBA, but he will need to take on a more aggressive mindset and embrace his role as the number one option for the Timberwolves. With Love gone, point guard Ricky Rubio takes over as the leader of the team. But long-term, Wiggins is Minnesota’s franchise player.
Gasol, Bulls Confident Entering Season
By Alex Kennedy
When Pau Gasol was weighing his free agency options over the offseason, the two-time champion kept coming back to the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls have a ton of talent, one of the best head coaches in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau and championship aspirations, which were several things that Gasol was looking for in his next team. After giving his decision much thought, the 34-year-old ultimately settled on Chicago because he felt it was the perfect landing spot for him.
Gasol turned down other interested teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, signing a three-year deal worth $22 million with the Bulls. Chicago had just won 48 games in the previous year despite losing Derrick Rose just 10 games into the season and, entering the 2014-15 campaign, they are once again considered an elite team now that they’ll be back at full strength. Gasol wasn’t the only marquee free agent who found the Bulls to be an attractive suitor; Carmelo Anthony also strongly considered Chicago before deciding to re-sign with the New York Knicks.
New Faces In New Places: Pacific Division
By Eric Pincus
Golden State Warriors:
Steve Kerr – The biggest change for the Warriors this season is on the bench. Kerr won’t be hitting crucial jump shots deep into a championship run like he did with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs during his playing days. Instead, he’ll get his first chance to coach at a professional level, replacing the departed Mark Jackson. While Jackson’s emphasis was on the defensive end, the Warriors hope Kerr brings a greater balance between offense and defense. Kerr comes in having played for Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, the top two coaches of the last 20 years. It’s an important year for Golden State, after two straight playoff appearances. The team is looking to do more than just qualify or win a series – this is a franchise hoping to be a contender in the Western Conference.
2014-15 NBA Fantasy Preview: Atlantic Division
By Tommy Beer
With Fantasy drafts on the horizon, we take a quick look around the Atlantic to determine which players qualify as potentials busts and which should be considered underrated value picks…
All-Fantasy First Team:
PG: Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
SG: DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
SF: Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
PF: Nerlens Noel – Philadelphia 76ers
C: Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets
Second Half NBA Story lines
With the All-Star break in the rearview, here are the key storylines to keep an eye on for the home stretch of the season.
The long winter has ended.
Ok, not really. But the break after All-Star weekend has finally come to a halt, and the second half of the NBA season is ready to get underway.
Each team has around 25 games remaining on the schedule. February is in its last week, and March and April will truly define how the May schedule aligns. The first leg of this season provided more than enough entertainment, combating the narrative that the regular season is a bit of a bore nowadays.
Because of some unexpected turns through the 50-plus games already played, this final stretch that will bring the regular season to a close should be more than entertaining for the fans that think the NBA season is just a six-month placeholder for the inevitable.
So, as we get ready to bounce back into action Thursday night, let’s focus on what needs to be monitored down the homestretch.
Houston Rockets can make the Finals
When the Golden State Warriors signed Kevin Durant, a narrative swept across the league that everyone not in the Bay area should just wave the white flag. Game over.
After dropping just one game through the entire postseason last year, completely decimating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals, the assumptions were proved correct.
But things may be different this year.
The Houston Rockets are trying to end the Warriors’ Durant-Era dynasty before it starts. After trading for Chris Paul in the offseason, the Rockets are in a legitimate position to pose a threat to Golden State.
At the moment, the Rockets have the best offense in the NBA. But, not just for this season, for every season. Their efficiency is revolutionary and unprecedented. Their defense is improved, too. Ranking 18th in defensive rating last season, Houston is eighth this season, and proving to be competent enough on that end to get a few stops of their own against the Warriors. In fact, Houston has won two of the three meetings between the two Western Conference powerhouses so far this season.
For all of the damage Houston put on the league pre-All-Star break, and even leaping Golden State in the standings, the oddsmakers are taking notice.
Take a look at how drastically the Rockets’ odds at contending for a title have changed from the summer to present day. According to this odds tracker on Sports Betting Dime, Houston has almost entered the same realm as Golden State in the bettors’ mind.
Postseason basketball is a different beast, and Durant and Steph Curry are as formidable a tandem as any (not to mention their supporting cast), but the growing pile of statistics that says Houston has more than a puncher’s chance is becoming hard to ignore.
These last 25 or so games will be telling as to if the Rockets are truly a team that can go shot-for-shot with the mighty Warriors.
LeBron’s new teammates
The trade deadline in Cleveland was basically a mass upheaval of the roster the Cavaliers had struggled with for the first four months of the season.
Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose and Channing Frye were all shipped from The Land in hopes to bring LeBron James new players that could help him back to his eighth straight Finals appearance.
So far, so good.
The return that brought George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., into wine and gold gave the Cavaliers a much-needed boost heading into the All-Star break. Since the trade, Cleveland has won three straight games, the last two including a blowout victory against the Boston Celtics, and a road win in Oklahoma City.
But, before the roster turnovers, the Cavaliers were one of the league’s worst defensive units. Their lack of consistent effort on a nightly basis was beginning to spread doubt in the basketball minds across the league that the team would be equipped enough to beat the Celtics or Toronto Raptors in the postseason.
Coming out of the break, the Cavaliers will take on another playoff contender in the Washington Wizards. Another strong showing from the new-look Cavs could further the belief that the team is now in a better position to make their way to a fourth straight Finals.
As the regular season comes to its final stages, close eyes will be kept on Hood, Hill, Nance and Clarkson. They’re the key to any real postseason success Cleveland hopes to have. We know LeBron will be there at the end, at this point, and it’s worth watching to see if it teammates can join him.
Tight Playoff Races
For all the talk that surrounds the lack of disparity and entertainment around the league, the playoff races in both conferences appear to be coming down to the wire.
In the West, the 10th-seed Utah Jazz is just two and a half games behind the 5th-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. In between the two clubs, Denver, Portland, New Orleans and the L.A. Clippers are all clawing for spots in the postseason.
Over their last 10 games, every team besides the Thunder is at least .500. The Jazz have won 11 straight games, the Clippers are 7-3 and surging, Denver is hoping to return Paul Millsap to their lineup soon, the Trail Blazers have the luxury of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and while the Pelicans have lost DeMarcus Cousins, their three straight wins suggest they’re learning to live without Boogie.
That’s six teams fighting fiercely for four playoff spots. Each is deserving and well-equipped enough to make it to the postseason happen.
The West isn’t the only conference with a wild bunch at the bottom of the playoff standings. The Eastern Conference contenders also find themselves in the midst of a playoff battle post-All-Star break.
Just outside of the playoff picture at the moment, the Detroit Pistons, with new star Blake Griffin, are just four and a half games behind the 5th-seeded Indiana Pacers. Philadelphia, Miami and Milwaukee are all also vying for their spot in the playoffs.
At the moment, the Miami HEAT seems to be on the verge of being the odd man out, losing two straight before the break and seven of their last 10 games. As the Pistons begin to find new life with Griffin, they could bump Miami right out of the picture if their slide continues as games pick back up.
With a limited number of games remaining, each of these teams in both conferences cannot afford to fall into a rut. Coming down to the final weeks of the season, watching the playoff carousel develop will be entertaining and worthwhile.
In the blink of an eye, the 2017-18 regular season is almost over. Be sure to keep an eye on these unfolding storylines as the league charges towards playoff basketball.
NBA Daily: Larry Nance Jr. Is Ready To Move On
At All-Star Weekend, Larry Nance Jr. talked about moving on from being traded, Dr. J and the love that Los Angeles still has for him.
At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and Larry Nance Jr. found that out the hard way when the Los Angeles Lakers traded him and Jordan Clarkson for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2018 first-rounder just a few weeks ago.
Naturally, Nance was due back at the Staples Center nine days later to compete in the league’s annual slam dunk contest. Although he would finish second to the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, Nance was frequently reminded just how many fans he still has out on the West Coast.
“It’s either one of two responses,” Nance said over the weekend. “Either people don’t understand how a trade works and they ask me why I left, or, you know: ‘Larry, we miss you, come back in free agency’ and stuff like that. So, either way, they’re kinda on my side — I mean, I’m still a little bit of purple and gold.”
Over his first three seasons, Nance had become a familiar contributor for the Lakers, using his rim-rocking athleticism to carve out a steady role under two different head coaches. Before he was moved to the Cavaliers, Nance was on pace to set career-highs in points (8.6), rebounds (6.8) and steals (1.4). This statistical rise also comes in the midst of his field goal percentage jumping all the way up to 59.3 percent — a mark that would rank him fifth-highest in the NBA if he qualified.* Given the noteworthy change of scenery, his current average of 3.6 field goals per game could grow as well.
But as the Lakers prepare for a potentially crucial offseason, the front office remained committed to shedding salary ahead of free agency, where they may or may not chase the likes of LeBron James, Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins. In just three short years, Nance had quickly become a fan favorite as a jaw-dropping in-game dunker and an improving prospect on a cheap rookie contract, so his involvement at the deadline may have come as a surprise to many as it was for him.
“It’s been a week, so, no, it’s still kinda like: ‘Jeez, I gotta pick up and move right now,’” Nance said. “So, no, I’m not fully adjusted, I’m not, for a lack of a better term, over it. But it’s still fresh in my mind, it’s something that is still kind of shocking.”
Nance, for his worries, is now a key member of the James-led Cavaliers, a franchise that has won 11 more games than the Lakers and sits in third place in the Eastern Conference. While the Cavaliers will likely have to go through the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors to reach their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, James himself has reached the championship series every year since the 2009-10 postseason. With the Cavaliers’ maniacal mid-season reboot — which also brought in Rodney Hood, George Hill and the aforementioned Clarkson — they could be poised for an encore performance.
Since he was acquired by Cleveland, Nance and the Cavaliers are 3-0 and, just like that, much of the lingering narrative has been reversed. As the Cavaliers look to further stabilize their season, Nance figures to play a large part down the stretch, particularly so as All-Star Kevin Love continues to rehab from a broken hand.
Still, Nance knows that the Cavaliers will certainly face some speed bumps along the way.
“It’s a learning process, obviously we started out super fast, but there will be a learning process,” Nance stated. “Just like there is with every team and every new group, so we’ll figure it out and we’ll get past it [for the] playoffs.”
But before he makes his first-ever postseason appearance, Nance returned to Los Angeles in an attempt to capture a slam dunk title, something his father — Larry Nance Sr. — did in the inaugural competition way back in 1984. In that contest, the older Nance famously upset Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins to take home the crown in a nine-person field. On Saturday, Nance paid homage by changing into a retro Phoenix Suns uniform to execute his father’s signature dunk — the rock-the-cradle throwdown that won it all 34 years ago.
“For me, [his highlights were] like normal kid Sesame Street or Barney or something. I was watching his clips when I was growing up, so, yeah, I see it all the time,” Nance recalled.
But when asked what he remembers the most about those distant memories, the second generation son decidedly kept it in the family.
“The fact that he beat Dr. J,” Nance said. “Dr. J is normally thought of as almost like the dunk inventor, kinda brought the dunk contest back — but, really, [I remember] my dad.”
Although Nance couldn’t replicate his father’s success in the contest, his emphatic, springy dunks indicated that the 6-foot-9 skywalker could be an event staple for years to come. In one of the best dunks all night, Nance pulled off the rare double tap — a jam so technically difficult, that he immediately told the judges to look at the jumbotron to make sure they understood what exactly he had just pulled off.
Nance, for his original acrobatics, earned a perfect score of 50.
Earlier that day, Nance discussed the difficulty in standing out amongst a field of explosive guards.
“I think the guys that are taller and longer have a different skill-set than smaller guys,” Nance said. “Obviously, if the smaller guys do something, it looks super impressive because they got to jump a little bit higher, or it looks like they got to jump higher.
“There are ways for bigger guys to look good and I think I’ve got that hammered out.”
For now, Nance doesn’t know if he’ll return to the dunk contest next season after his narrow two-point loss to Mitchell. Instead, Nance wants to focus on helping the Cavaliers in their hunt for the conference’s top seed and, of course, with James, anything is possible. But it’s fair to say that Nance, who nearly pulled down a double-double (13 points, nine rebounds) in his second game with Cleveland, has gone from a rebuild to a legitimate contender in a flash.
“At the same time, I can’t wait for all this to be done with so I can just get back to learning how to gel and mesh with my new team,” Nance said.
From the West Coast to the Midwest, Nance is clearly ready to make some waves once again.
* * * * * *
*To qualify, a player must be on pace for 300 made field goals. As of today, Nance is on pace for 252.6.
Updating the Buyout Market: Who Could Still Become Available?
Shanes Rhodes examines the buyout market to see which players could soon be joining playoff contenders.
While it may not be as exciting as the NBA Trade Deadline, another important date is approaching for NBA teams: the Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline.
March 1 is the final day players can be bought out or waived and still be eligible to play in the postseason should they sign with another team. As teams continue to fine-tune their rosters, plenty of eyes will be on the waiver wire and buyout market looking for players that can make an impact.
So who could still become available?
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks
This seems almost too obvious.
The relationship between Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks hasn’t been a pleasant one. Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016, has done next to nothing this season after an underwhelming debut season in New York and has averaged just 5.7 minutes per game.
After an altercation between himself and Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek at practice, Noah isn’t expected to return to the team. At this point, the best thing for both sides seems likely a clean break; there is no reason to keep that cloud over the Knicks locker room for the remainder of the season.
Noah may not help a playoff contender, but he should certainly be available come the end of the season.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
Arron Afflalo isn’t the player he once was. But he can still help any contender in need of some shooting.
Afflalo is averaging a career-low 12.9 minutes per game with the Orlando Magic this season. He is playing for just over $2 million so a buyout wouldn’t be hard to come by if he went asking and he can still shoot the basketball. A career 38.6 percent shooter from long distance, Afflalo can certainly get it done beyond the arc for a team looking to add some shooting or some depth on the wing. He doesn’t add the perimeter defense he could earlier in his career, but he could contribute in certain situations.
Vince Carter, Sacramento Kings
Vince Carter was signed by the Sacramento Kings last offseason to play limited minutes off the bench while providing a mentor for the Sacramento Kings up-and-coming players. And Carter may very well enjoy that role.
But, to a degree, the old man can still ball — certainly enough to help a contender.
Carter is 41-years-old, there is no getting around his age, but he can still provide some solid minutes off the bench. Playing 17.1 minutes per night across 38 games this season, Carter has averaged five points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 35.3 percent from three-point range. Combining all of that with his playoff experience and the quality of leadership he brings to the table, Carter may be an ideal addition for a contender looking to make a deep playoff run.
Zach Randolph, Sacramento Kings
Like Carter, Zach Randolph was brought in by the Kings to contribute solid minutes off the bench while also filling in as a mentor to the young roster. Unlike Carter, however, Randolph has played much of the season in a starting role — something that is likely to change as the season winds down.
Randolph has averaged 14.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25.6 minutes per game; quality numbers that any team would be happy to take on. But, in the midst of a rebuild, the Kings should not be taking minutes away from Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and (eventually) Harry Giles in order to keep Randolph on the floor.
As he proved last season, Randolph can excel in a sixth-man role and would likely occupy a top bench spot with a team looking to add rebounding, scoring or just a big to their rotation down the stretch.
Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks
Wesley Matthews remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He provides positional versatility on the floor and is a solid player on both sides of the ball.
So, with Mark Cuban all but saying the Mavericks will not be trying to win for the remainder of the season, Matthews is likely poised for a minutes dip and seems like an obvious buyout candidate. Matthews, who has a player option for next season, has averaged 12.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals this season across 34.1 minutes per game this season.
If Cuban is true to his word, both parties would be better served parting ways; the Mavericks can attempt to lose as many games as possible while Matthews can latch on to a team looking to win a title. It’s a win-win.
Isaiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers
Isaiah Thomas’ three-game stint with the Los Angeles Lakers before the All-Star break looked much like his short tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers: up-and-down. Thomas shined in his Laker debut, putting up 25 points and six assists in just over 30 minutes.
He then followed that up with three points and two assists, and seven points along with five assists in his second and third games with the team, respectively.
Thomas needs time to get himself right before he can start playing his best basketball. Re-establishing his value is likely his top priority.
But will he be willing to come off the bench for a team that won’t be making the postseason?
With Lonzo Ball close to returning, Thomas will likely move to the Laker bench. Adamant in recent years that he is a starting guard in the NBA, Thomas may be more inclined to take on that role for a team poised to make a deep playoff run — there is no shortage of teams that would be willing to add Thomas’ potential scoring prowess while simultaneously setting himself up for a contract and, potentially, a starting role somewhere next season.
Other Names to Look Out For: Channing Frye, Shabazz Muhammed, Kosta Koufos
There are still plenty of players that can make an impact for playoff-bound teams should they reach a buyout with their current squads. And, as the Postseason Eligibility Waiver Deadline approaches, plenty of teams out of the running will move quickly in order to provide their guys an opportunity to find their way to a contender.