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NBA AM: Brooklyn Banking On Free Agency Boost

The Pistons may be hesitant to max Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out, but will the Brooklyn Nets?

Lang Greene



Nets Have Deep Pockets

One team’s dilemma could ultimately become one team’s fortune. The Detroit Pistons had an opportunity to lock up shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a contract extension last fall, but the sides couldn’t agree to a deal. The inability to come to terms means that Caldwell-Pope is headed to restricted free agency this summer. Caldwell-Pope is reportedly seeking a deal in the $20 million per year range. The Vertical has previously reported that members of the Pistons’ front office have been hesitant to max the guard out.

Make no mistake, the Pistons are still in the driver’s seat when it comes to re-signing Caldwell-Pope. Detroit can match any offer the guard receives from opposing teams, but Caldwell-Pope’s position is also strengthened by the fact that the market will set his value. When the market sets your value, you only need one franchise willing to pay the premium for your services, and this is what could potentially put the squeeze on the Pistons.

According to The New York Post, the Brooklyn Nets are expected to be one of the suitors in the hunt for Caldwell-Pope. The Nets will enter the summer with just under $35 million in salary cap space and their front office proved last year that they’re willing to be aggressive in the market. If you recall, the Nets extended hefty deals to Miami HEAT guard Tyler Johnson and Portland Trail Blazers wingman Allen Crabbe last summer. Both players were restricted free agents, and Miami and Portland ultimately matched the deals to retain their young talent. But will the Pistons pony up the cash if put in a similar position?

Former teammate and current Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie believes Caldwell-Pope is a critical piece of Detroit’s program.

“You can make the argument that he’s their most important player now. So I think that just shows you the impact that he’s had. He’s gone from defender to arguably their MVP,” Dinwiddie said to The New York Post.

“Whenever you can make a leap like that, it shows — especially when you have an All-Star talent like [Andre] Drummond and Reggie [Jackson], who last year was putting up numbers that were just shy of being an All-Star.. … So when you have two talents like that, along with what Tobias [Harris] and Marcus [Morris] are able to do, and then you’re arguably the best player for your team, that speaks for itself.”

But if the playoffs started today, the Pistons would be on the outside looking in. The team currently sits one game behind the surging HEAT.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson also spoke highly of Caldwell-Pope’s game.

“I’m impressed,’’ Atkinson said. “I love how he competes, how he competes on the defensive end. That’s really the essence of what I see when I watch him play. He plays with force, he competes on the defensive end.

“On a given night he can get 35 on you easily. His speed off the ball, coming off those [dribble handoffs], flying off and somehow [you’re] going to have to find a way to stay attached, stay close to him.”

On the season, Caldwell-Pope is averaging 14.2 points. 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in 66 appearances. The fourth year guard is shooting a career-best 37 percent from three-point range, but 41 percent overall from the field.

To Rest or Not to Rest – That’s the question

One of the hottest topics in the league right now is the issue of whether teams should be resting players that are relatively healthy. Those against the new trend of resting guys, popularized by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, argue that it impacts fan experience and ultimately the image of the league. Those for resting players believe it helps prevents injuries during the grueling 82-game regular season. For championship teams, supporters argue that it keeps guys fresh for a Finals push.

The argument can be made that careers are being extended longer because teams are taking a more strategic approach to managing workloads, however, the NBA is in a much better spot financially than it was a decade ago. A lot of this is on the backs of a strong television deal, higher ratings and great attendance around the league. But if resting guys negatively impacts television ratings, then the money offered may also dwindle when it’s time to renegotiate the next deal. The trickle-down effect of this is that a future collective bargaining agreement could be tougher to reach between players and owners.

The Miami Herald recently asked a collection of Miami HEAT players and coaches about the issue of rest and there is a general understanding of both sides of the fence.

“I think it’s important we never forget the most important things of this game – and the players are the most important,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald. “They’re the ones competing in the game. Without the players, there is no NBA.

“The second thing, and that’s the tough balancing act, is we can’t forget about our TV partners. They’re generating the majority of the revenue that we all benefit from. Ultimately it makes sense that our best product is being shown to the masses and if that’s not happening then we need to figure out how to find a solution to that because that ultimately will bite you in the ass.”

Veteran HEAT forward Udonis Haslem echoed the same sentiment of his coach.

“It’s a fine line,” Haslem said. “You want to be healthy going into the playoffs to make that final push. The league wants the best guys on the floor performing at a high level and giving the fans what the pay to see.”

Miami point guard Goran Dragic completed the trifecta, essentially agreeing with Spoelstra and Haslem.

“But then on the other hand I understand the fans,” Dragic said. “I understand it’s because of them you’re playing basketball. They’re buying tickets and they want to see all the players play, especially the All-Star level players.

“I look at it this way – you never know when it’s your last game. I want to enjoy every game and try and do my job as best as I can and I want to be there for my teammates. Of course, if it’s something you need to consider or if you don’t feel well or if you have an injury, fine. But if I’m healthy, no, I want to play.”

Whether it’s extending the length of the season, shortening the season or issuing a policy on resting guys expect it to continue to be a hot topic over the next few months.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons


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PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race

Basketball Insiders



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.

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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.

Buddy Grizzard



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.

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.”

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A Breakout Season for Joe Harris

Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.

David Yapkowitz



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.”

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