How Kyle Lowry Figured It Out
By Yannis Koutroupis
Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry has everything he wants: a four-year contract that puts him among the highest-paid point guards in the league, a new endorsement deal with adidas and a starting role on a playoff team.
These were all things Lowry wanted when he initially entered the league, and while some came at different times, this is the first time in his career when he’s had all three simultaneously.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Lowry came into the NBA with the toughness and chip on his shoulder that has become synonymous with most players from that area. He was frustrated splitting time with the likes of Mike Conley Jr., Goran Dragic and Jose Calderon, feeling like they were taking minutes he was earning and more deserving of.
Tracy McGrady at Peace With Retirement
By Alex Kennedy
Tracy McGrady, at 35 years old, is at peace with his decision to retire from professional basketball.
While he says that he could still play in the NBA or an overseas league, and admits that he sometimes wants to get back on the court, he’s no longer interested in putting in the necessary work to continue his career.
“I am [at peace with my decision to retire],” McGrady told Basketball Insiders. “I am. At times I get that itch, the urge to go back and play. I still can, I’m young enough to still play. My body feels good; I haven’t played in a couple of years so my body feels great. It’s just the mental part of [not] having that drive to get back in that type of shape and to put that type of time and focus into it.”
He loves that he’s able to spend more time with his family. McGrady says he completely understands why someone like Ray Allen is unsure about continuing his career, as the veteran sharpshooter weighs retirement to spend more time with his family versus playing the 2014-15 season with a contender.
The Free Agency Waiting Game
By Steve Kyler
While the calendar may have changed, the situations surrounding Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Detroit’s Greg Monroe have not.
Both players remain restricted free agents, and both players have sizeable offers on the table from their respective teams.
The Suns feel they have exceeded the marketplace for Bledsoe with their four-year, $48 million offer and that ultimately Bledsoe will relent and sign their deal. Bledsoe has the option of taking the $3.7 million qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent next year, but for Bledsoe there is risk. Unrestricted free agency may not yield a better package next year and what happens if he gets hurt again?
Over 30 Percent of NBA Hard-Capped
By Eric Pincus
The Indiana Pacers are expected to apply for a Disabled Player Exception (DPE) after Paul George suffered a brutal leg injury playing for Team USA.
The NBA will presumably grant the Pacers’ request, giving the team an additional $5.3 million in spending power to sign a player to a one-year deal. Indiana could instead use the exception to trade for a player in the final year of their contract, making up to $5.4 million.
Most teams have limited spending power this summer, by the rules of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Pacers are one of 10 teams with a hard cap of $80.8 million this season (33.3% of the league). Indiana’s payroll of $74.8 million should leave just enough room, should they find a use for their potential DPE.
A hard cap is triggered when a team uses over $3.28 million of their Mid-Level Exception (MLE), acquire a player via sign and trade or use any of their $2.08 million Bi-Annual Exception (BAE).
Are You Selling The Lakers Short?
By Lang Greene
The power structure has undoubtedly shifted in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Clippers are now wearing the hat of legitimate title contenders while the once powerful Los Angeles Lakers are languishing in the Western Conference cellar in the midst of a rebuilding phase.
Last season, the Lakers recorded just 27 wins and finished with the second worst record in franchise history. The performance also snapped an eight season consecutive playoff streak which included three trips to the NBA Finals and two more championships added to the mantle.
However, entering the 2014-15 campaign the Lakers face plenty of questions regarding their relevancy within the league’s current hierarchy. On paper, the team boasts a lineup featuring future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant, two-time league MVP Steve Nash and former All-Star Carlos Boozer.
Will the New York Knicks Rebound in 2014-15?
By Tommy Beer
Was last season’s bitterly disappointing campaign an anomaly? How quickly can the Knicks bounce back to respectability?
With a new head coach (Derek Fisher) in place, and a reinforced roster constructed by Phil Jackson, Knicks fans are hoping New York’s win total next season is closer to 54 W’s they posted in 2012-13, than the 37 wins they registered last season.
One thing seems certain: The Knicks should be able to score plenty of points. New York ranked 11th in the NBA in Offensive Efficiency last season, scoring an average of 105.4 points per 100 possessions.
Re-signing Carmelo Anthony for a near-max contract may come back to bite the Knicks on the back end of the deal, but it ensures the second best scorer in the NBA will wear orange and blue for the foreseeable future. Melo will be flanked by sharp-shooters J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr., the latter fresh off a resoundingly successful rookie campaign. (Last season, Hardaway became the second player this decade, and just the 15th player in NBA history, to knock down at least 130 three-pointers in their first professional season). Amar’e Stoudemire managed to stay healthy for 65 games in 2013-14, and averaged 19 points per-36 minutes, while shooting 55.7% from the floor.
Shortest Player Tenures
By Joel Brigham
Just as we were getting used to seeing Andrew Wiggins in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ wine-and-champagne colored uniforms, Kevin Love’s availability allowed the Cavs to trade this season’s No. 1 overall pick in between the conclusion of Summer League and the beginning of the actual season.
There are pictures of Wiggins in official Cleveland garb, sure to be seen as novelties 10 years from now, but having played zero games for the Cavaliers, we have to consider this one of the shortest tenures on an NBA team in league history.
Had he been traded on draft day, long before getting fitted for a uniform or learning a new playbook or meshing with new teammates in Las Vegas, we might view his situation differently. Instead, all those No. 21 Wiggins Cavs jerseys are going to hang, unworn, in a lot of Cleveland closets while he presumably thrives in the Twin Cities.
At least Wiggins was with the team long enough to get to know some people. Wiggins is not alone, as many marquee players have had very short stints with teams. Here are a few of the most ridiculous:
8 Stars Traded Before Rookie Season
By Jessica Camerato
The Cleveland Cavaliers are poised to send Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a trade for Kevin Love, according to reports, dealing the number one pick before his first season begins. Will the Cavs miss out on a future star? They are swapping potential for a proven game changer.
This isn’t the first time a high pick will be moved before his pro debut. Take a look back at eight standout players who were traded away before the start of their rookie years. (Heads up: These moves will have you wondering, “Why?”)
Time For Ricky Rubio To Take The Next Step
By John Zitzler
This past week the it was announced that the Timberwolves and Cavaliers have come to an agreement in principle to trade Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a projected 2015 first-round pick, according Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The trade can’t be made official until August 23 but as of now all signs point to it being a done deal. The departure of Love will mark the end of an era, one of remarkable production from him but overall disappointment for the team. During Love’s six year tenure with the Timberwolves the team failed to reach the playoffs even once, something his detractors are quick to point out. Presuming the trade goes through as discussed, the team will begin the process of moving forward without their soon to be former star.
PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte break down the Western Conference playoff race and check in on the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA Daily: The Cleveland Cavaliers Need Tyronn Lue
The Cleveland Cavaliers have faced injury adversity and a roster shakeup, and now face uncertainty regarding coach Tyronn Lue’s health.
The most enduring image of Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue came moments after his team sealed the 2016 NBA Finals with a third consecutive win after trailing the Golden State Warriors 3-1. As the team celebrated its historic comeback and readied to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, one camera focused on Lue, who sat on the bench with his face buried in his hands.
— Buddy Grizzard (@BuddyGrizzard) June 20, 2016
The image tells a thousand words about the pressure Lue was under as Cleveland teetered on the brink of elimination for three games. Rather than sharing the euphoria of his players, it seemed that Lue’s emotions centered around the massive weight that had been lifted from his shoulders. Almost two years later, it appears that burden has caught back up with Lue, whose leave of absence for health reasons complicates things for Cleveland with the playoffs just around the corner.
“It’s like losing one of your best players,” said Cavaliers forward LeBron James after Cleveland’s 124-117 win at home over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
Kevin Love returned from a six-week injury absence to post 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists against the Bucks. James likened Lue’s absence to the burden of trying to replace Love’s output while he was unavailable.
“We’ve got to have guys step up, just like guys trying to step up in Kev’s absence,” said James. “We have to do the same as a collective group as long as Ty needs to get himself back healthy.”
There’s optimism that Lue could return before the playoffs, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty given the seriousness of his symptoms, which reportedly included coughing up blood. Lead assistant Larry Drew, a former head coach with the Bucks and Hawks, will handle head coaching responsibilities until Lue is ready to return.
Kyle Korver played under Drew in Atlanta and said he’s confident in his ability to fill in.
“We’d love to have Ty here and healthy,” said Korver after the Bucks win. “Coach Drew has done this for a long time as well. He coached me for a full year in Atlanta. We know he’s fully capable.”
Korver also doubted Drew would introduce any major stylistic changes.
“I think LD’s been Ty’s top assistant for a reason,” said Korver. “They really think a lot alike. They coach very similarly. We miss Ty, but I think the style of what we do is going to be very similar.”
While style and approach should remain unchanged, what could an extended absence for Lue mean for the Cavaliers? Lue cemented his legacy as a leader by keeping the Cavaliers together as they fought back from a 3-1 deficit to the Warriors, but Drew hasn’t had that kind of success as a head coach.
In 2012, the Hawks had a real opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in Atlanta history. The Hawks faced an aging Boston Celtics squad in the first round. The eighth-seed Philadelphia 76ers awaited in the second round after defeating the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
After splitting the first two games in Atlanta, the Hawks faced a pivotal Game 3 in Boston with the opportunity to retake home court advantage. Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer Michael Cunningham used Synergy Sports to break down every offensive possession for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. His conclusion? For three quarters, Rondo did not score a single basket while guarded by Hawks combo guard Kirk Hinrich.
The Hawks traded a package that included a former and a future first-round pick to obtain Hinrich from the Wizards in 2011. But in Game 3, Hinrich failed to score a point despite his effective defense. Apparently feeling the need for an offensive spark, Drew left Hinrich on the bench in the fourth quarter and turned to career journeyman Jannero Pargo.
With Hinrich out of the game, Rondo’s offense came to life as he slashed to the basket at will. Boston opened the fourth with a 13-7 run before Pargo went to the bench and Atlanta closed on a 15-7 run to force overtime. The NBA did not publish net rating data at the time, but we can now see via historical data that the Hawks were outscored by nearly 52 points per 100 possessions in Pargo’s minutes in Game 3. Rather than entrust Atlanta’s season and his own legacy to a player the Hawks traded two first-round picks to obtain, Drew went with Pargo, a career end-of-bench player.
What does this mean for the Cavaliers? It means the team needs to get Lue back. Drew and Lue are both former NBA players who have received mixed reviews as head coaches. But when his legacy was on the line, Lue pushed the right buttons.
For Drew’s part, in his first postgame press conference since Lue’s absence was announced, he remained publicly deferential.
“Coach Lue is the one who makes that decision,” said Drew when asked about lineup combinations. “That’s not my call. We look at a lot of different combinations — whether guys are starting or whether they are coming off the bench — and we assess everything.”
On the critical question of how lineups will be fine-tuned as the Cavaliers prepare for the playoffs, Drew once again emphasized Lue’s active role even as he steps away from the bench.
“I’ll talk to Ty,” said Drew. “He’s got the final say-so. Whatever he wants, then that’s what we’re going to go with. But if he tells me to make a decision, then I’ll have to make the decision.”
With Lue suffering acute symptoms, there’s no way of knowing when he will be ready to step back into the pressure cooker of a leading role for a team with championship aspirations. But the Cavaliers need him and need his steadying influence and instincts. Cleveland is a team that has battled through injuries and a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline. It also faces the pressure of James’ impending free agency decision this summer.
Now, with the playoffs just around the corner, the Cavaliers must endure uncertainty about Lue’s ability to return and lead the team. James has emphasized that Lue’s health overshadows any basketball concerns, but gave his most terse remark when asked about learning that Lue would step away on the same day Cleveland finally got Love back.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” said James. “That was my reaction.”
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”