Alright folks, we’re back here in The ‘Shop with another special guest for the week. Allow us to welcome Harrison Faigen, the Associate Editor in Chief of Silver Screen & Roll (among a host of other cool things and places we will undoubtedly get into), to this holiday edition of our weekly discussion.
Jabari: Harrison AKA Pau Gasol’s little brother Faigen, thanks a lot for joining this week. Since the holiday season is upon us, let me start you off by asking what your perfect “gift” would be from the NBA this season? Our Joel Brigham did a fun collaborative piece with the Basketball Insiders team on this very subject, so I’m eager to see your response to this.
Harrison: Thanks for having me and happy holidays to both of you as well. The NBA has given me some solid gifts already, from a new CBA (Yay no lockout!), to a surprisingly fun start to the Lakers’ season (we’ll ignore the lump of coal that is their last 11 games). Aside from turning injuries off, I think the main thing I’d like to see from the NBA is a more reasonable schedule. It sounds like the new CBA will at least partially address this, but I’m tired of it being the “smart” move to rest players when it would seem like it wouldn’t be that hard to stretch the season out a bit more to make doing so a little bit less necessary (except in case of injuries or real wear and tear).
What about you guys? What do you want from Adam Silver-Claus?
Lang: Welcome to The ‘Shop Harrison. Appreciate the time. This NBA season has been good to me. Seeing guys like Russell Westbrook and James Harden put up these historical type of numbers has been awesome to watch. I know some people are nitpicking in the moment, but I’m not. When you have two certified goodie monsters putting in top level work, just sit back, shut up and enjoy the show.
One thing I want from Adam Silver-Claus goes back to the topic of resting guys. Overall, I don’t like what’s been going on because it hurts the product from a fan’s perspective. But anytime I go too far down that road I start to sound like old school bitter artists that complain about this generation’s music. I don’t want to be the “get off my lawn” guy, but I do think Silver-Claus should enforce the guys at least showing up to the arena, unless the rest is announced with sufficient notice. That way the player can still be available for fans to sign autographs, take pictures and what not. What are you thinking Jabari, is this wishful thinking? To, at the very least, have guys accessible and in the building even if they’re supposed to be “resting?”
Jabari: I actually agree about players being available for fans and even the media when simply “resting” here and there. Not sure the league will enforce it, but I would like to see that happen for the fans that wind up paying the exorbitant prices for the tickets. In order to avoid simply echoing what each of you said, I’ll agree the NBA has been very good to us so far this year and thus far under Silver-Claus, in general. Just like I asked for in Joel’s article, can we just get some great games to enjoy on Christmas Day? No blowouts, no duds. That’s all I ask.
For the sake of today’s discussion, let me get each of you to choose just three of the potential Basketball Hall of Fame candidates (NOT an actual limitation) from the group that was recently announced. For me, although “Twitter” will foolishly argue against it at times, Tracy McGrady is an absolute no-brainer. I also cannot tell you how much the fanboy (since the “Fab Five” days) in me appreciates that C-Webb (20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, ROY, 5x AS & All-NBA) is finally being nominated.
I also think Ben Wallace (6x All-Defensive Team, 4x DPOY) makes a lot of sense for those of us that actually watched his career. Either of you putting Sir UTEP 2-Step, AKA Tim Hardaway, in? Is he far enough away from his post-career controversial commentary (let Google be your friend) and does he have a strong enough resume (17.7 PPG, 8.2 APG, 5x AS & All-NBA) to finally make it in?
Harrison: I agree that McGrady is a shoe-in. The only argument against him is going to come from the “RINGZZZZ” crowd but prime McGrady was unbelievable for some truly godawful Orlando Magic teams. Easily one of the best scorers I’ve ever seen, and it was incredible to watch him and young Kobe Bryant cook on the same nights back in the day.
The other two guys Jabari went with probably mirror my list (Webber is arguably the best passing big man ever and keyed a Kings’ attack I loved to hate as a kid and Wallace was one of the most imposing defenders in league history), but just to keep this interesting I’ll throw out Bill Bertka’s name as someone who should already be in the Hall of Fame. Bertka is a basketball lifer who has not only continued to be a part of the Lakers’ draft process well into his 80’s, but he was a pioneering coach who helped bring the first advance film study to the NBA as well.
Jabari: GREAT mention of Bertka, Harrison. I actually forget that he’s not already a member because I think that’s an absolute absurdity. He’s in great shape at the age of 89, but it sure would be great to see him be able to enjoy this honor rather than slipping him in after-the-fact. But I figure the Hall would know about honoring the historical greats throughout history more than I would. Last thing about the HOF before moving on, now that players only have to wait four seasons (one less than before) to become eligible for candidacy, should we expect to see Rasheed Wallace’s name on next year’s ballot?
Harrison: After growing up as a Lakers fan, my main memory of Rasheed is him beating up on a young Luke Walton like he wanted his lunch money, so as painful as this is for my inner child to admit, yes Rasheed should at the very least be nominated for the Hall of Fame next year. He was a stretch four-five before the term even existed and a great player in the era he played in, and he’s easily a top-ten among guys you’d like to see get a chance to play in this era because they’d fit better.
Lang: Man, I’m coming off as a Debbie Downer this week. Guess I’m not the same when I’m hungry. But Rasheed wouldn’t get my vote for the Hall of Fame. I don’t believe we ever got to see the true potential of Rasheed Wallace manifest, which is a damn shame. From 2000-2003 we saw consistent flashes of what he could have been but at the end of the day, only four All-Star appearances in 16 seasons and no All-NBA or All-Defensive nods to leverage speaks volumes. But respect to ‘Sheed. He helped transform the way power forwards are expected to play in today’s game. Definitely one of his era’s best. Definitely a trendsetter. NBA champion. Great teammate. But just not a Hall of Famer in my view. Ball Don’t Lie.
Jabari: I also get where you are coming from with ‘Sheed, Lang. He’s one of my favorite of that generation of players, but I’m not sure the actual resume will get him there. Selfishly, I want him to make it because I think the speech and moment would be epic, but I’m not certain it will happen.
Alright, last topic of the day will have to do with some trade talk. Even though my standard position on trade rumors is to take them with a grain of salt, I think the Lakers may actually be in a position to potentially capitalize on one (or more) situations where a disgruntled and/or dissatisfied, veteran player may be actively campaigning for a change of zip code. Harrison, I’ve heard you discuss some of the options that could be out there for them on your @LockedOnLakers podcast (S/O to Anthony Irwin, and be sure to follow the show on Twitter), so let me get you to put on your honorary ‘Jim Buss’ hat to rank each of these players in terms of the order of interest the Lakers SHOULD have and tell me what you’d be willing to part ways with: DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Greg Monroe (why are you smiling?), Nerlens Noel, Arron Afflalo. Lang, tell’em why he’s spot-on or crazy in response.
Harrison: I get to wear the cap Jim Buss wears everywhere he goes? All right, I knew it was a good idea to come to the ‘Shop.
- Paul George: The perfect fit for what the Lakers need out of their off-guard/wing position in just about every way. An All-NBA level defense with ball-handling and shooting skills to boot, George would slide in seamlessly alongside D’Angelo Russell to create the best Lakers ballhandling combination since prime Kobe and whoever the Lakers wanted to put next to him. Unfortunately, the giving up assets thing is the tough part here. The Pacers would be unlikely to bite for much short of the entire Lakers’ young core in a deal and George isn’t good enough to mortgage your entire franchise over.
- DeMarcus Cousins: A similar case to George, but a slightly less clean fit schematically and more potential off-the-court issues (and to be fair, probably more raw talent). Recent press blowup related fines aside, the Kings seem dead set on keeping Cousins. But if I’m wearing my Jim Buss cap, I do check in around the deadline to see if Vivek Ranadive has an irrational love for any of the Lakers’ non-Russell or Ingram young players. If he’s willing to make the trade for something like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson (unlikely but who knows, it’s the Kings), then I think you have to take the risk. However, the new CBA making even more gargantuan extensions possible for George and Cousins makes trades for either seem unlikely.
- Nerlens Noel: Our first (and possibly only) real trade candidate! I’ve seen a lot of Lakers fans suggest a Clarkson for Noel deal, and I could see some merit in that for both sides. That being said, Noel’s injury issues concern me quite a bit, as does his restricted free agency, which will force the Lakers to pony up big money for him with only half a season to see how he fits with the rest of the young group.
- Arron Afflalo: If you can’t tell by now, I’m not very pro-trade with this Lakers team. I think I (Jim Buss for right now) should show patience and see what this young Lakers’ core can be. Arron Afflalo is having a pretty mediocre season in Sacramento, and I’m not sure what or why the Laker would trade for him. He’s only not last on this list because of the last name.
- (986th) Greg Monroe: Ah, Greg Monroe. He whose signing with Bucks birthed actual columns on the internet suggesting the Lakers’ big market advantage was dead because “superstar” free agents like him were signing with the Bucks. That seems a bit premature, in hindsight. Monroe is playing less than 20 minutes per game for the Bucks, and while to be fair to him he’s a pretty horrible fit for their roster, I don’t see any way he’s a better fit in Los Angeles, or really the modern NBA. As a post-up and nothing else specialist, Monroe is part of a dying breed of defensively inept giants who are going to continue to get run off of the floor in all but the most special cases, and I do not endorse the Lakers offering anything of value for his $17 million contract this year with an option to make nearly $18 million next year.
Am I totally off on those, or being a giant TRADE RUMORZZZ buzzkill? Is homerism coloring my view of the Lakers’ young core?
Lang: Very strong take my man. I tend to agree. It’s weird to watch the decline of Greg Monroe. I will say this, people are totally trying to go away from back to the basket big men but I think the giants still have place in the league, especially come playoff time where the refs bite the whistle and games become ground and pound affairs. The ability to score easy baskets inside is magnified in the postseason.
I think the only player the Lakers need to be targeting on the above list is Nerlens Noel. I would give up a Larry Nance and Jordan Clarkson package to get the job done. Philadelphia may bite. They desperately need a guard to go along with their talented collection of young frontcourt players. The Lakers still need a center, even though Timofey Mozgov is only in the first year of a four-year deal. I would definitely pick up the phone, at the very least, if I’m the Lakers to gauge what Philly needs in order to make the trade happen. It’s apparent he is unhappy with how the “process” is going.
Jabari: You guys are probably both right in terms of what the Lakers could realistically grab on the market, unless they wanted to essentially gut the roster for a really big name. As I often say, even though they’ve hit a bit of a rough patch while dealing with some injuries over the last couple of weeks, they are in the position of actually having choices in terms of how they want to rebuild. We’ll certainly keep an eye on that situation over the course of the year, but on behalf of the site and obviously my guy Lang, allow me to thank Harrison for joining us for this week’s discussion. From each of us to all of you, enjoy your holidays…and hopefully with some great basketball in the background.
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.
NBA Daily: Eric Gordon, The Houston Rockets’ Ex-Factor
James Harden and Chris Paul are stars that have faltered in the playoffs. Eric Gordon could be their ex-factor
The 2017-18 Houston Rockets are shaping up to be one of the league’s best regular-season teams over the past decade. The squad features a fan-friendly and fun to watch style, two legitimate superstar talents and a seemingly well-rounded contingent of role players willing to do whatever it takes to help the team get to the next level.
But as strong of a force as the Rockets appear to be developing into, there are still major question marks about how this team will perform in the playoffs when the game gets tighter, bench rotations are reduced and the spotlight glares the brightest.
All-Star guard James Harden has played in 88 career playoff games over the course of his career – 45 with the Rockets where he’s averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The statistics look good in the aggregate, however, Harden has noticeably faded down the stretch during pivotal playoff moments in the team’s recent runs. The most recent example being Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs where Harden finished with just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting from the floor.
The Rockets other superstar, Chris Paul, has never reached the Western Conference Finals in a career dating back to the 2005-06 season. Paul’s most memorable playoff collapse came when he was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. His team surrendered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals to the Harden’s Rockets back in 2015.
While there are undoubtedly questions at the top, their bench unit is anchored by 2017 Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, once considered one of the rising shooting guards in the league while he was a member of the Clippers.
Gordon, was traded as part of a package by Los Angeles to acquire Paul from New Orleans. Since then, a combination of injuries and reported frustration in New Orleans seemingly derailed Gordon from the once promising ascent and trajectory he was projected to achieve. But Gordon has gotten his career on track. Once injury prone, Gordon suited up for 75 games in 2017 and is on pace to play 73 games this season.
“It’s almost like it is consistent to be here now,” Gordon said during All-Star weekend. “It’s been great. When I’ve been healthy, I’ve always had that chance to do some good things.
When you’re winning things come easier. You’re scoring easier [and] it’s easier to come into work and play well every single practice and game.”
Gordon believes there’s something special about this Rockets team because of how quickly they have gained cohesion since training camp. Gordon is averaging 18.5 points in 32 minutes per contest on the season. The guard will play an integral role off the Rockets’ bench and will play heavy minutes in any playoff series involving the Western Conference elite teams – namely Golden State and San Antonio. In three games versus the Warriors this season, Gordon is averaging 20 points on 43 percent shooting from the field.
“We definitely have to figure things out but we just clicked so quickly and early in the season,” Gordon said. “We just knew we had a chance to maybe win it. I’d say at this point we know what we need to do and it’s all about being consistent enough on both sides of the ball for us to have a chance.”
Golden State, as defending champs, have to be respected as the better team until proven otherwise. Many do believe the Rockets have at the very least a puncher’s chance because of how they can score the ball in bunches. The Warriors, for all of their past defensive prowess, have slipped on that side of the floor this season with declining efficiency numbers. But is that slippage enough for the Rockets to gain ground or are the Warriors’ defensive struggles a combination of regular season boredom and a lack of enthusiasm.
In a seven-game playoff series, the cream rises to the top. Are the Rockets legit? Or are they a team best suited for the regular season as in seasons past? They currently lead the season series against the Warriors 2-1 and are 2-0 versus the Spurs to date. We have witnessed regular-season dominance from Paul and Harden in the past. Is this the year both guys put it all together and finally get over the hump? Time will tell and Eric Gordon figures to play a big role in determining the outcome.
The Rockets resume play on Friday versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.