Nine months after engineering the Golden State Warriors’ first playoff appearance and series victory since 2007, General Manager Bob Myers sat down with Basketball Insiders’ Nate Duncan in the midst of another solid season. In part two of a two-part interview, Myers discusses the Warriors’ acquisition of Andre Iguodala, the extension of Andrew Bogut and the team’s approach with its core going forward. For part one, click here.
With Andrew Bogut’s three-year, $36 million extension, I believe that until Kobe Bryant’s extension, he was the only non-rookie extension under the new CBA. Why did that work for him and for you? For a lot of people, it doesn’t work because you can get more years as a free agent.
Myers: I think you said it right, in this day and age in a new CBA, a player that’s playing well likely will opt to wait because they can add years. Had he waited until this summer, he can get a five-year deal. The way that we structured it in the extension, all we have to give are those three years. From the player’s side, a lot of players don’t want to come to the table and discuss the extension because they’re forfeiting money in the future. But Andrew understood that this is a place he wanted to be, and he obviously wanted to get a fair deal. I felt like we offered a fair deal, obviously he did too because he accepted it. But to find veteran extension opportunities, sometimes you need circumstances where a player is willing to possibly forgo an extra year of money for the security of getting a deal then instead of playing a year out. If they’re playing on teams that are willing to commit and not make the player play out that extra year, and willing to commit to him early, there are always variables that play into it. Some financial, some situational; injury plays into it to some extent, age plays into it, whether that player feels like he can get another deal, happiness, how happy is the player in that market, on that team with his coach and his front office. A lot of things have to line up and that’s why I think you see few of those types of deals.
Going to the Andre Iguodala sign-and-trade, at what point did the thought of opening up the cap space over last summer kind of come into focus for you guys? [Note: In July 2013, Golden State acquired Iguodala via a sign-and-trade. Golden State acquired Iguodala from Denver and signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract. To open up the cap space to sign Iguodala, the trade included offloading $24 million in salaries attached to Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins in addition to 2014 and 2017 first-round draft picks to the Utah Jazz.]
Myers: Our ownership is an incredible ownership with Joe [Lacob]. He’s always thinking aggressively as far as how to upgrade talent and how to move the team. Like any team, we look at the free agent pool and what players we felt like were able to help us and identified him as one of them. Now, I will also say that realistically we felt like it was an extreme long shot to get a guy like that, but after meeting with him in Los Angeles and seeing his desire to be a part of a group trying to build, that really motivated us. What started as a seed from our side in the situation, we felt like this would be a great guy to add to our roster, was cemented when we met with him and he echoed the same sentiments. From that point on, it was full steam ahead to try to find a way to do it. Even after that, though, my personal belief was that it remained a long shot. Just because we wanted to do it and he wanted to do it, that was nice and made us feel good about it, but you’d still put low odds on it – less than five percent. We had to find multiple trading partners taking a lot of money; it had to fit what they were trying to do. It really came down to the last 30 minutes, where his agent had said to us, ‘Look I’ll let you guys try and try and try, but you have a deadline now.’ He was very fair about it. So that really came down to the wire, and fortunately for us the league is comprised of 29 other teams and if you’re really motivated to do a deal, you can usually find a partner – sometimes you can’t and thankfully we did. I think it fit what Utah was looking to do, and it all lined up. All of the things that had to happen for it to happen, made it seem very unlikely. We’re just glad it came to fruition.
How much trepidation was there about surrendering those picks and also now the flexibility, not being able to trade the 2015 and 2016 pick? [Note: The NBA’s Ted Stepien rule prevents a team from trading its first-round pick two years in a row. Because the Warriors dealt their 2014 and 2017 picks to the Jazz to facilitate the Iguodala sign-and-trade, they are unable to trade their 2015 and 2016 picks.]
Myers: We wanted to build upon what we had established as far as some level of success in the organization. We thought it might be difficult to keep two core guys in Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry at the numbers we would have liked to have kept them at. They were paid well and they deserved to be paid well. We were looking at a situation where if we wanted to maintain and keep the same team, we’d be heavy into the luxury tax. So it wasn’t just adding Iguodala, it was adding Iguodala along with clearing up a lot of salary on our books that really made us believe the deal was worth it from our side. If somebody wanted to compartmentalize the deal, you’d say one pick was for Iguodala and one pick was to get off $24 million. Would we do that in a bubble? Yeah, we felt like that was worth it, because it wasn’t just two first-round picks for Iguodala. We would have been looking at a team, should we not have done anything and stood pat, likely the same team coming back at the five starter spots, but also without Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, who were huge in regards to our success last year. That likely would have set us back and we didn’t really want to take a step back after having some success for an organization that hadn’t had any in so long. We wanted to try to not just maintain, but take a small step forward. That was the motivation behind the deal and moving the picks. You never know how things could have worked out, you never know in any deal. Our thought at the time when we did it and constructed it was that it was worth it.
With David Lee being 30, Andrew Bogut being 28, Andre Iguodala being 29 and Steph Curry now being is his prime, is there a feeling that these next two years or so are really the organization’s best window to win, at least in the short-term?
Myers: Actually, really no. We feel like we’ve still got players, more than two and three years where we think our core can play at a high level. We think continuity — although maybe some physical tools diminish with age — and your mind improves. Like look at a team like the Spurs and some of these teams that are a little older, even the HEAT to some degree, have some veterans that have been in the league a long time on their team and have experienced success. You look at some of the Celtics teams before they decided to go in a different direction. Continuity and playing together can overcome athletic ability, speed and quickness, and things like that. We feel like we’ve got a healthy window here to evaluate this team, and we’re going to give it a shot to see how it goes. I think it was perceived to be a win-now type move, where internally we more perceived it as this makes us better; we think it’s worth it for all of the reasons aforementioned. It wasn’t a situation where we feel like we’re playing Texas Hold ‘Em, where we put all of our chips on the table. We feel like as an organization, we’ve made a bet and put some chips on the table and we felt like we had a good hand. But we also have a stack of chips that we haven’t played. We don’t feel like this trade or the acquisition of Iguodala makes us limited and this is it for the next two, three years–if it doesn’t happen then we’re nowhere. We don’t have that mindset in our front office and ownership side.
Obviously trades can always be made, there’s no such thing as someone being untradeable in the NBA. With Andrew’s extension and Andre having a 15 percent trade kicker, it’s going to be relatively difficult to make further moves, but I assume this core going forward is one that you’re very comfortable with?
Myers: Yeah, we’re comfortable. I read today that the starters are 21-7 and I don’t know how much stock to put into something like that. I guess it’s better than 7-21, but we do feel like it can be a competitive group heading into the future. We feel like it hasn’t hit its ceiling or even close to it, we hope, both for this year and beyond. We are comfortable with it. We have time to see how it develops. You have to sometimes be patient as you progress as an organization. We are not thinking that if we don’t win a championship this year, it’s a failed season; we don’t have that dialogue, we don’t believe in that mentality. We obviously want to compete and compete at the highest level. We feel like we’re going to give this core and these players a healthy amount of time to see if it works. We also believe that we maintain now and believe in the future a healthy amount of assets on our roster. We’re very attractive, we have a lot of talent. It allows you to have flexibility should you want to make moves. I think you’re right, we’re going to give this a good go and believe this team can compete with some of the best teams.
Did you know that these starters, this five-man unit would be as good as they’ve been?
Myers: No we didn’t. Realistically you do your best, but you don’t know. You’re putting it together; there are so many different factors that equate to success. It’s not always about putting the best five individual players together. Sometimes you have to see a guy like Iguodala that has to be less aggressive for our team to be a better team. Is that the right thing? We’re figuring that out. What roles should each player take within our team to make us the most successful as a team? It’s always a work in progress. I don’t think a sample size of 28 games is enough to really make any concrete conclusions from.
NBA AM: Was Watson Setup To Fail or Just Ill Equipped?
Was Phoenix’s Earl Watson setup to fail or did he just not have the tools and experience to overcome the tenuous job of a rebuild?
Set Up To Fail? Maybe
The Phoenix Suns have parted ways with head coach Earl Watson just three games into the 2017-18 season. Associate head coach Jay Triano is expected to be his replacement as interim head coach.
Some have suggested that Watson was set up to fail, but let’s be honest for a minute. Was Watson really the best option the Suns had after parting ways with Jeff Hornacek during the 2015-16 season? Watson was well liked and that an easy and intoxicating concept, but even as an interim coach Watson won just nine games in 33 tries.
It’s not as if Watson took the team in a totally new direction; the Suns were a bad team when they took the gamble on Watson. Moving the needle wasn’t exactly likely when the massive inexperienced Watson took over the team. Is anyone really surprised he couldn’t make it work?
Sure, the roster and the priorities of the franchise were an uphill climb, but let’s be real for a minute: The Suns couldn’t have expected Watson to have the tools to bring it all together. Rebuilding is hard all by itself, and doing so with a head coach that has never coached isn’t exactly smart. In fact, it rarely works out.
It’s easy to say Watson was set up to fail, but equally easy to say he never had the experience to believe he’d be successful. It was a gamble on the Suns’ part, a gamble that ran its course.
So What Next?
The Suns are not very good, as three straight blow out losses have proven. It’s possible that Triano can make enough changes to at least get the Suns to compete, but the word in NBA circles was the Suns locker room had basically quit after three games, so Triano’s task may be tough for even a coach that been around the block a few times.
Like Watson, Triano is incredibly likable and approachable, but unlike Watson, Triano has experience. Triano has experience not only as a head coach, having coached the Toronto Raptors for three years, but he is the head coach of the Canadian National Team and has been on the Team USA and Portland Trail Blazers staff as an assistant. While Triano’s stint in Toronto looked a lot like Watson’s stint in Phoenix, the big difference is Triano has been around a lot more situations and may be better equipped to put a system and structure in place that could yield improvement, or at least that’s the newest bet the Suns are making.
With Triano at the helm, it’s also likely that the front office will have a better relationship than what’s emerged in Watson’s time in Phoenix. General Manager Ryan McDonough and Watson haven’t exactly been on the same page, and Watson had grown emboldened enough to make it clear in the media somethings were not in his control, often taken subtle shots at decisions made by the front office.
It is rare for inexperience and dysfunction to yield success. The hope is Triano will smooth some of that over.
“I Dont wanna be here.”
As news of Watson’s firing began to leak Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who had a very good relationship with Watson, took to Twitter to announce “I Dont wanna be here.”
Bledsoe has been a constant name in NBA trade circles for the last few years, and with Watson out of the picture, Bledsoe seems to be looking for the door too.
The 27-year-old Bledsoe has two more seasons remaining on his deal, $14.5 million this season and $15 million owed for next season. The Suns have listened to offers on Bledsoe off and on for some time, with many in NBA circles believing this would be the season the Suns would finally trade him.
With Watson, a long-time champion of Bledsoe, out of the picture, there is a belief that Bledsoe’s role is going to decrease, which is likely why Bledsoe took to Twitter.
Pulling off a trade three games into the season seems highly unlikely, especially given that Bledsoe has likely killed his own trade value. There have been several teams over the last two seasons with interest in Bledsoe; the question is, will the Suns close this chapter or try and see if Bledsoe can help them right the ship under Triano and rebuild some trade value when the trade market opens up in December?
Of the Phoenix Suns’ $85.448 million in guaranteed contracts, $41.11 million belongs to Bledsoe, injured guard Brandon Knight and center Tyson Chandler. You can toss $10 million more for injured forward Jared Dudley. While Bledsoe and Chandler have played in all three regular-season games, both are not part of the long-term future of the team.
The question becomes, what role will they play under Triano?
The Suns are truly a tale of two teams. There is the old veteran squad that is clogging up the top of the Suns salary cap chart, and there are rookie scale players that are the future, and not coincidentally the players performing at their worst so far this season.
Will the Suns just let the $41.11 million owed at the top just sit, or will the Suns try and fire-sale some of those veterans? The belief is they would like to do the latter.
As much as people may want to say Watson was set up to fail, the evidence in the situation is he was never proven enough to succeed.
The Suns are in a dreadful no-man’s land of bad contracts and underperforming players. Maybe a more proven established coach could have set this situation in a better direction, but the reality is Watson was never experienced enough to handle a rebuild like this because getting the most out of players while losing is a very tough job even for the most experienced of coaches.
Watson, like many before him, will find another job in the NBA. Maybe like Triano who is replacing him, he can take the lessons learned in Phoenix and become a better coach somewhere down the road and get a shot with a team that wouldn’t require as much as the Suns desperately need.
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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise
The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.
He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.
He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.
Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.
The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.
“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.
“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.
So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.
As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.
In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.
But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.
So is Porzingis.
Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.
In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.
Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.
And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.
“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.
“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”
Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.
Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.
The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.
So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.
Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.
If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.
So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.
Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.
To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.
When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.
He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.
And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.
With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word.
It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.
For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.
In this town, that’s more than half the battle.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.