Gay Finds A Home with Kings?
Sometimes what seems like the most unlikely of pairings winds up working better than anyone could have imagined. The Sacramento Kings made an aggressive move midseason when they acquired Rudy Gay from the Toronto Raptors, and while the trade has not resulted in a ton of wins in the short-term, there are indications that Gay might be a big part of the Kings’ rebuilding plan going forward.
“I have to [keep a positive attitude], man,” Gay told Basketball Insiders. “No matter where I go, I have to be me and be the best me I can be. Honestly, I feel like I do that better here. The wins don’t really pan out like I like for them to, but I definitely feel comfortable here.”
“I’m not even sure of the exact record, but I know we’ve shown the ability to be a great competitor and beat a lot of the best teams in the NBA when those guys are all playing,” Kings head coach Mike Malone said of Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas in a recent interview with Basketball Insiders. “When they play at a high level, three 20-point scorers, we become very hard to guard because you have a low-post force, a wing with the versatility and athleticism that Rudy has and a point guard in Isaiah who can score, get to the foul line and make plays for his teammates. Not that many teams have that three-headed attack. It’s great to have and hopefully we’ll be able to keep those together because with that core you add some pieces to that and you allow Ray [McCallum] and Ben [McLemore] to continue to mature and get better and I think we have a solid foundation. Those guys, offensively, are terrific and they’re getting better defensively.”
For Gay’s part, he can see a path that will lead to the Kings getting those elusive wins in the very near future.
“I see it. Obviously, we have talent and we have the coach to put it all together,” Gay said. “Of course, our young guys have to get older and grow up and be mature basketball players. Also, our older guys have to be more of an influence on those guys. I think when you are the young team everything counts – every game counts and every possession counts. Everything counts because we’re trying to get better.”
Being the new veteran in the locker room, Gay has been careful in terms of speaking up and offering guidance to his new teammates.
“I pick my spots,” Gay said. “It’s tough trying to come in and say and do too much being that you’ve already been through a training camp and been through half of a season with another team. These guys didn’t know me from Adam before I got here. At first, I’m just trying to come here and put my time in and go to work and be a professional.”
Even though he hasn’t been with the team long and has the ability to opt out of his current contract and hit free agency this summer, Gay does feel that there is a very real chance that he could be a part of something special that’s starting to take shape in Sacramento.
“It’s possible,” Gay said. “There are times when we play very well together. There are times you can tell we haven’t played together for a long time. As long as we limit those ones and we continue to try to get wins the sky is the limit.”
As for the decision ahead of him, Gay has been careful not to allow himself to become a distraction for the rest of the team.
“Everything is a possibility,” Gay said of his future. “For right now, I just owe it to my teammates to finish the season out to the best of my ability and not comment too much. We have a lot of young guys that probably haven’t been a part of situations like this so I don’t think it’d be fair for me to be steering them one way or the other.”
It remains to be seen, of course, what Gay decides to do this summer, but he is definitely a player in need of a new team to find success with, and the Kings are desperately in need of everything that Gay brings to the game.
Duke Rebounds Quickly
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Duke Blue Devils, you have to admit that they are one of the elite teams in college basketball. Sure, they busted everyone’s bracket with their premature elimination in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but during the tenure of head coach Mike Krzyzewski they have been a perennial threat to win the national championship. It is precisely that reputation that gains them something of an edge when it comes to recruiting, and this year will be no different. They already have commitments from four five-star recruits: center Jahlil Okafor, point guard Tyus Jones, small forward Justise Winslow and shooting guard Grayson Allen.
“I know whatever player he has there he always changes the system for that player,” said Okafor, who is widely regarded as the top player in the 2014 recruiting class. “I know you look at Jabari [Parker], how well he’s done. Coach K has put him in great positions to be successful. And when you look at when Kyrie Irving was there in the few games he did play, he was phenomenal, and that led to him doing well in the NBA also. I’m sure he’ll put me in a great position. I have complete trust in him, and I’m sure he’ll set me up perfectly to be successful.”
Okafor made the decision to commit to Duke with Jones, which gives the Blue Devils the top center and point guard in the 2014 recruiting class. Jones, like Okafor, is also sold on the Duke mystique and the team’s reputation for excellence.
“Playing for Duke is an extreme honor for myself and I’m really excited,” Jones said. “Definitely excited to be going with the class that we have put together and I think the Duke fan-base is excited, and the coaching staff. We’re just excited to go down there and try to help out as much as we can.”
Playing for Duke will be the realization of a dream for Okafor and Jones, who have long hoped to play together at the college level.
“It was kind of an easy decision for us,” Jones said. “We decided a few years back while we were playing USA that we should to try go to this school together and it just got more and more serious the more time went on. Me and Jahlil are great friends, that’s kind of where it started. So you have a great friendship and bond well on the court as well, so we just wanted to translate that to college.”
Rounding out Duke’s hot trio of freshmen will be Winslow, who is ranked as the fifth-best small forward in the 2014 class. Winslow can’t wait to get to work with what promises to be a loaded Blue Devils squad.
“Definitely, just starting off with Jahlil, very talented down in the low-post,” Winslow said. “He has the ability to stretch it a little bit to the midrange. Then you move over to Tyus, great facilitator, good leader and I think that’s one thing that Duke was missing this year, that vocal leader on the court. And then you got Grayson, his ability to shoot the three and then plus his athleticism, that’s something we’re going to really need next year. I think I can fill in, be that versatile guy, I can do a lot of things. I think the four of us can do great things next year. We’re hoping to have a special season, make it further than the team did this year, but we’re going to have high expectations for ourselves. We’re not going to really listen to what the fans say, what the critics say, but we’re just going to try to do our best. Hopefully that will be good enough to make it to a Final Four.”
As disappointing as this season was for Duke, next season promises to be one to remember, even for a team that is used to doing remarkable things. Four of the best names in this year’s recruiting class will all be together in one locker room, which should be more than enough to get the Blue Devils back to the Final Four, and perhaps even grab them another championship.
NBA Chat with Bill Ingram
In case you missed my last NBA chat, find it by clicking here! You can also go ahead and submit a question for this week’s chat, which you can find here! I make an effort to answer every non-repeat question, and early questions are virtually guaranteed to be answered, so drop yours in now!
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VIDEO: Tobias Harris – 2018 NBA All-Star
New LA Clipper Tobias Harris talks about the trade from Detroit, his mindset after being traded a few times and more.
New LA Clipper Tobias Harris talks about the trade from Detroit, his mindset after being traded a few times and more.
Rest Assured, the 1-16 NBA Playoff Format Is Coming… Kinda
Based on Adam Silver’s comments, it’s safe to assume that the NBA will soon reformat the playoffs.
If there’s one thing Adam Silver has proven in his four years as the NBA’s Commissioner, it’s that he isn’t afraid to do things his way.
And if Silver has his way, the league will eventually figure out how it can implement a system that results in a more balanced playoff system. On Saturday, though, he revealed that it’s probably closer to a reality than many of us realize.
During his annual All-Star media address, Silver admitted that the league will “continue to look at” how they can reformat the playoffs to both ensure a better competitive balance throughout and pave the way for the league’s two best teams to meet up in the NBA Finals, even if both of those two teams happen to be in the same conference.
“You also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals,” the commissioner said on Saturday night.
“You could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the conference finals or somewhere else. So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”
Since Silver took over the league, he’s been consistent in implementing dramatic changes to improve the overall quality of the game. Although Silver didn’t take over as the league’s commissioner until 2014, he was instrumental in getting the interested parties to buy into the notion that the “center” designation on the All-Star ballot was obsolete.
As a result, beginning with the 2013 All-Star Game, the Eastern and Western Conference teams have featured three “frontcourt” players, which essentially lumps centers in with forwards and eliminates the requirement that a center appear in the All-Star game. That wasn’t always the case.
From overhauling the league’s scheduling to reducing back-to-back games to implementing draft lottery reform to, this year, eliminating the traditional All-Star format which featured the Eastern Conference versus the Western Conference, it’s become clear that Silver simply “gets it” and isn’t afraid to make revolutionary changes if he deems them to be in the overall best interest of the league.
At this point, everyone realizes that something needs to be done about the league’s current playoff system.
Last season, for example, the Western Conference first round playoff series featured the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder squaring off against one another. Only one series—the Los Angeles Clippers versus Utah Jazz—went seven games.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the first round series that were contested weren’t exactly compelling.
The Cleveland Cavaliers steamrolled the conference to the tune of a 12-1 run to their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. It wasn’t the first time that the public questioned the wisdom behind separating the playoff brackets by conference, but the dominance of the Cavs and LeBron James specifically (who is expected to win the Eastern Conference for the eighth consecutive time this season) has caused renewed scrutiny.
The most common solution offered to this point has been to simply take the 16 best teams across the league, irrespective of conference, and conduct the playoffs as normal.
From afar, this solution seems simple enough, but the obvious concerns are twofold.
First, if the Celtics and Clippers, for example, were pitted against one another in a first round series, the travel would be considerable. Private charter flight or not, traveling is taxing, and the prospect of having to make five cross-country trips over the course of a two-week span would certainly leave the winner of such a series at a competitive disadvantage against the opponents they would face in subsequent rounds, especially if the future opponent enjoyed a playoff series that was contested within close proximity.
Atlanta to New Orleans, for example, is less than a one-hour flight.
Aside from the concerns about geographic proximity, the other obvious issue is competitive balancing of the schedule, which seems to be an easier issue to fix.
Using the Pelicans as an example, of the 82 games they play, 30 are played against the other conference—in this case, the Eastern Conference. The other 52 games would all be played within the conference. If playoff seedings were going to be done on a simple 1-16 basis, the scheduling would have to be realigned in a way to essentially pit all teams against one another evenly. It wouldn’t be fair for a team like the Celtics to be judged on the same standard as the Pelicans if the Celtics faced inferior teams more often.
On Saturday night, Silver revealed that the league’s brass has been thinking about this and is trying to find a solution, and in doing so, he may have tipped his hand.
* * * * * *
As a multinational conglomerate, the NBA values the inclusion of as many markets as possible. Wanting to improve the overall quality of the product, though, there are interests that may not align fully.
What’s obvious with this year’s All-Star game is that the NBA has found a way to balance the two.
Rather than eliminating the conference designations altogether and simply choosing the “best” 24 players to be in the All-Star game, the league still chose All-Stars based on their conference, but then distributed them within the pool to allow for better competition.
That’s exactly what Silver revealed the NBA is considering doing with the playoffs. It makes perfect sense, and it’s probably just a matter of time before it’s implemented.
A report from ESPN notes that the idea that the league is kicking around would essentially do exactly what the league did with the All-Star selections with the playoff teams: choose the best from each conference, then disburse them in a way that allows for competitive balance.
The proposal would have the league’s teams compete as they normally do and would still feature the top eight teams from each conference getting into the playoffs.
Once the teams are qualified, however, they would be re-seeded on a 1-16 basis and crossmatched, on that basis.
It’s not perfect, but compromises never are. The travel issues would still persist, but the league would accomplish two goals: the less dominant conference wouldn’t be underrepresented and discouraged from competing, but the two best teams would still be on opposite ends of the bracket.
An NBA playoffs that featured 11 or 12 teams from the Western Conference would be a ratings nightmare for the league. Eastern Conference cities are less likely to stay up past midnight during the week to watch playoff games, and less competitive markets would frown at the prospect of having to compete against the other conference for a playoff spot. For many small market teams, the millions of dollars generated from a single playoff game often has a significant impact on the team’s operations, so there would naturally be discord.
This system would at least eliminate that contention.
On the positive side, it would allow for the Rockets and Warriors, for example, to meet in the NBA Finals. In both the NFL and MLB, geography hasn’t been a determining factor on which teams battle for the league’s championship.
Why does it have to be in the NBA?
* * * * * *
With the league having begun regular season play earlier this season, at the All-Star break, most teams have played about 57 games. A lot can change over the final 25 games of the season, but if the seeds were frozen today and the league took the top eight teams from each conference and then crossmatched them, the Los Angeles Clippers would be the team that got the short end o the stick.
Although the Clippers have the 16th best record in the league, they would be the ninth-seeded Western Conference team and would thus be eliminated from postseason contention by the Miami HEAT. The HEAT have the 17th best record in the league but are the eighth-best team in the Eastern Conference, so to preserve the conference weight, the HEAT would win out.
This is what the seedings and matchups would look like…
(1) Houston Rockets versus (16) Miami HEAT
(2) Golden State Warriors versus (15) New Orleans Pelicans
(3) Toronto Raptors versus (14) Philadelphia 76ers
(4) Boston Celtics versus (13) Portland Trail Blazers
(5) Cleveland Cavaliers versus (12) Denver Nuggets
(6) San Antonio Spurs versus (11) Oklahoma City Thunder
(7) Minnesota Timberwolves versus (10) Milwaukee Bucks
(8) Washington Wizards versus (9) Indiana Pacers
Here, the Celtics would face the nightmarish scenario of having to travel to and from Portland for their playoff series, while virtually every other series would feature much more friendly travel (especially the Spurs-Thunder and Raptors-Sixers).
The Cavs would have a very tough road to the Finals, having to beat the Nuggets, Celtics and Rockets if the seeds held. The Celtics would have a similarly tough road, as they’d have to get past the Blazers, Cavs and Rockets.
At the end of the day, the Rockets and Warriors would be aligned in such a way as to avoid one another until the championship, but each of the two would face daunting competition. The Rockets would have to go through the HEAT, Wizards and Celtics, while the Warriors would have to face the Pelicans, Timberwolves and Raptors—again, assuming the seeds held.
It would be a benefit to all observers.
One of the unintended consequences of implementing this system would be to make every single game count. If the Celtics were able to move up to the second seed, for example, their road to the Finals, in theory, could become much much easier, comparatively speaking.
The end result would be less resting of players during the course of the season and certainly less instances in which star players take the final week of the regular season off in other to be fresh for the postseason.
No, there’s no perfect solution, but just as the league has found a clever way to serve multiple interests as it relates to the All-Star game’s competitiveness, Silver has revealed that the league is at least considering following suit with the playoffs.
It’s only a matter of time before we see it actually see it happen.
It simply makes too much sense, and if there’s one thing the commissioner has already proven, it’s that he isn’t afraid of changing tradition.
NBA All-Star Saturday Recap
Brian Slingluff recaps All-Star Saturday from Los Angeles.
Basketball Insiders is here to recap an eventful All-Star Saturday that led to three first-time champs in the various skills contests. Let’s get right to it.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
In Saturday night’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the “Bigs” team, boasting 3 All-Stars, set out to claim a third straight title. The competition kicked off with Joel Embiid coming from behind to best Al Horford, and sharpshooter Lauri Markkanen swishing his first 3 point attempt to eliminate Andre Drummond. On the Guard side, Buddy Hield had an early lead before losing out to Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jamal Murray upset hometown favorite Lou Williams.
In the semifinals, Markkanen was able to dispatch Joel Embiid, who struggled with the pass portion of the competition, and Dinwiddie topped Jamal Murray by making his first 3 pointer for the second consecutive round.
In the Final round, Dinwiddie finally missed a 3 pointer, but it did not matter as he finished with a wire to wire victory over Lauri Markkanen. Dinwiddie, competing in front of his friends and family, was able to end the Bigs’ two year win streak in impressive fashion.
JBL Three Point Contest
The event started off with Tobias Harris scoring a solid 18 points. Wayne Ellington was next, sporting the hot new alternate Miami Vice jersey. Ellington started off cold and heated up on his last three racks, ending up with a score of 17. Devin Booker and former three-point champion Klay Thompson tied for a round-high 19 points. Paul George, Bradley Beal, and Kyle Lowry struggled from the start and never found a rhythm, falling short of making the championship round. Defending champion Eric Gordon never got it going, and would not defend the title, scoring only 12 points.
In the Championship round, Tobias Harris was on fire through the first 3 racks, but quickly got cold, scoring 17 points. Devin Booker was next and could not miss, scoring 28 points, leaving Klay Thompson a high number to match. Thompson fell just 3 points short, and Devin Booker was crowned the 2018 JBL Three Point Champion.
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest
The final and most anticipated event of the night started with Donovan Mitchell bringing out a second hoop, bouncing it off the second backboard and finishing with an impressive windmill dunk, scoring a 48. Victor Oladipo followed with a difficult look-away alley oop dunk attempt that he was unable to complete, totaling 31 points from the judges. Dennis Smith Jr. had a nice reverse double pump that got 39 points and Larry Nance Jr., in a throwback Phoenix jersey, payed homage to his father’s cradle dunk, nailing it almost exactly for a score of 44 points.
Oladipo started the next round of dunks by borrowing Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther mask, and scoring 40 points with a tomahawk windmill dunk. Smith Jr. hit a seemingly impossible reverse 360, through the legs, switching hands dunk for a perfect score of 50. Nance Jr. pulled off a Vince Carter level windmill, nearly missing a perfect score. Mitchell jumped over comedian Kevin Hart to advance to the finals against Larry Nance Jr.
In the Finals, Nance started things off with a windmill alley-oop with some help from Larry Nance Sr., garnering a score of 46. Mitchell completed the difficult one handed alley-oop he had attempted in the previous round, scoring a perfect 50. Nance Jr. answered with an incredible double pass off the backboard dunk, scoring yet another 50 points. Mitchell ended the contest with a Vince Carter tribute dunk, coming out on top by just two points. It capped off an exciting Saturday night, setting things up for the main event on Sunday, Team LeBron versus Team Stephen.