The Fundamentals

» June 16, 2009 11:49 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Alan Hahn of Newsday:  “Brandon Jennings or Stephen Curry? The Knicks may not have the opportunity to choose between the two with the eighth overall pick, but they could have a shot at either. And both of them have made it known they would prefer to be a Knick. ‘I really want to come here, I’m not going to lie,’ Jennings said. ‘[Mike] D’Antoni’s system is great for all point guards. You see what he did for Steve Nash, the two years MVP back –to-back and the Phoenix Suns were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA for those two years. So his system is great for me.’ One thing I quickly learned about BJ, he loves to talk. He also pays attention, such as when he noted that I was wearing an UnderArmour golf shirt. Jennings has an endorsement deal with UnderArmour.  And when it comes to the sport of saying anything, as we saw with his Ricky Rubio rant, Jennings is a willing participant. Such as when you get him talking about the current Knicks.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “Former highly touted NBA lottery pick Nikoloz Tskitishvili’s response was concise when a Grizzlies free-agent camp came to his attention. ‘Why not?’ said the 7-foot Georgian forward. The feeling was mutual. Tskitishvili, the fifth overall pick by Denver in the 2002 draft, ran the court Monday as one of the more intriguing athletes participating in the Grizzlies’ second offseason workout with erstwhile NBA players and undrafted professional prospects. Why does taking a look at Tskitishvili make sense for the Grizzlies? The answer is simple. ‘We figured why not take a shot?’ Griz general manager Chris Wallace said after watching the session in FedExForum. ‘Maybe there’s something there.’”

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:  “Outside of presumptive No.1 pick Blake Griffin going to the Los Angeles Clippers, the remainder of the lottery portion of the first round is a crapshoot, with a handful of players many think could be good NBAers but few that many expect to be great vying for a spot in the top 14 selections. Which makes it virtually impossible to handicap the order of selection, a fact not lost on talent evaluators around the league. ‘That’s the problem,’ said one Eastern Conference team official. ‘They are all the same after the top three.’ Following Griffin, the 6-foot-10 Oklahoma forward, the next three or four players could go in any order, as Connecticut centre Hasheem Thabeet, Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio and Arizona guard James Harden are seen as the logical next picks. And that leaves Toronto in a very tenuous spot. With the ninth selection, the Raptors are going to be at the mercy of a handful of teams who select before them, with no one certain what’s going to transpire.”

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News:  “Leading up to the June 25 draft, Ellis apparently has not been thrilled to hear that the Warriors are eyeing the selection of one of the many point guards with their No. 7 overall selection, since Ellis wants to be the Warriors primary playmaker. So, Nelson and Riley flew to see Ellis. And…   One source indicates that Ellis came out of the Nelson/Riley meeting with the understanding that they would not draft a play-making guard to usurp Ellis’ standing. I assume that Brandon Jennings, Ricky Rubio, Jrue Holiday, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans would all fall into that promise-won’t-draft category.”

Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star:  “The Pacers need ‘mean.’ Not taking-candy-from-children mean or shooting-up-a-strip-joint-parking-lot mean, but mean, a guy with a bit of an angry edge and a Machiavellian will to dominate. Say hello to DeJuan Blair, the University of Pittsburgh forward who joined North Carolina’s Ty Lawson, UCLA’s Jrue Holiday, Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, Michigan State’s Goran Suton and Florida State’s Toney Douglas at the Pacers’ predraft workout Monday at Conseco Fieldhouse. If he’s still there when the Pacers select at No. 13 nine days from now — assuming, of course, they remain at No. 13 — Blair is my pick. He may not have the prototypical power forward height at 6-61/2, but he’s got the wingspan of a pterodactyl (he’s as wide as Roy Hibbert is tall at 7-2), he’s strong, has good hands, he’s an accomplished passer and he can rebound and play defense. More, though, he’s got passion, a motor, an unmistakable don’t-mess-with-me attitude.”

Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times:  “Remember some seven months ago, when Randolph was drawing the ire of coach Don Nelson for his poor attitude and work ethic? That dude is long gone. Randolph — who embodies much of the franchise’s hopes — has bought in to the adage that great players are made in the offseason. ‘The good ones, that’s how they become really, really good,’ Warriors assistant coach Keith Smart said. ‘They put aside everything else that is going on in their lives and focus on basketball and how they can develop. … This is the time when you start to prepare to do even better than what you did last year, and he’s doing that.’ Randolph started doing cardio work and practicing his shooting while in Dallas with a goal of improving his midrange jumper. He’s been in Oakland for about three weeks now, practically living at the Warriors facility. He works out three  times a day — morning, afternoon and evening — part of which he does solo.”

Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:  “Even if the Hawks haven’t formally chatted up teams about the prospect of trading Smith, I know it’s been discussed internally. And here’s another warning, all those wanting to vote Smith off the island better be careful what you wish for. Aside from this being a win all the way around for Smith (if anything were to happen he’d get the $6 million, a move to a potentially better situation and he’d rid himself of all those folks groaning every time he does anything other than dunk or block a shot), it’s a huge gamble for the Hawks. There’s no way you move a player as young and talented as Smith without getting someone equally young and talented in return. And Ford is absolutely right about one thing, there are plenty of teams that would love to snatch him away from the Hawks and plant him on their frontline for the next five to seven years and see just how much better he’ll get in that time. I say this after having numerous conversations last summer and all season long with scouts and executives from teams around the league wondering just how good Smith might be if he played in another system (no one has ever seen him anywhere but in a Hawks uniform).”

Chris Broussard of ESPN the Magazine:  “Phoenix has also fielded calls from other teams that have inquired about O’Neal, including the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers and New York Knicks. While getting talent in return is a priority, the Suns’ desire for financial relief is real, which means they will likely trade O’Neal and his $20 million contract this offseason. O’Neal is open to being traded and Cleveland is his preferred destination, according to a league source with knowledge of his thinking. LeBron James is also excited about the possibility of playing with Shaq, according to people close to the situation. While O’Neal hopes to end up in Cleveland, the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer also hopes to get a two-year contract extension, according to the league source. That being the case, he would like to get assurances that James, who can become a free agent after next season, will remain in Cleveland for at least the next three years. O’Neal is hardly in position to make such demands, and neither James nor the Cavs are likely to make him any promises.”

Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “There’s a reason the Suns are very aggressively trying to move O’Neal. They can’t bring him back and expect to win and they know it. When you have Shaq on board, you have to feed the bear. He’s not Erick Dampier, who’ll lope down court, grab a few rebounds and disappear in the playoffs, but at least keep his mouth shut. Much of the Suns’ dysfunction last season was because of Shaq. He stripped them of their versatility and their ability to run, not just because he slows things down some, but because the Suns to a man knew they had to try to keep him happy. Every third or fourth time down the court, they had to wait for Shaq to set up in the low block and get him the ball. Sometimes that was a good thing, sometimes it wasn’t, but it definitely wasn’t the Phoenix Suns the Mavs have come to know and fear. Shaq couldn’t win with Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. Do you really think he could do it with Jason Kidd and Dirk?”

Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “‘If I had to have somebody make a last-second shot, it would be Kobe Bryant,’ West told Reuters news service. ‘But even though it’s hard for me to be objective, because I brought Kobe to Los Angeles, I do think LeBron has surpassed Kobe as a player.’ Well, not so fast. If the essence of greatness is championships, Bryant has a comfortable 4-0 lead over James after the Lakers’ victory over the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals. ‘Kobe has more experience and has rings on his hand, so he’s a bit ahead of LeBron in those areas,’ said Jerry Colangelo, the former Suns owner who is now head of the USA Basketball men’s program. ‘LeBron has already shown how good he is from a physical standpoint — his size, his speed. He has grown so much as a player and as a person and his future is incredibly bright. But it’s still ahead of him.’ That is the point in any sports comparison of individuals — not who is going to be the best, but who is the best at any given moment. West said it was James. Colangelo is not so sure.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “The Lakers’ championship was also an example of why the Bulls have been saving up expiring contracts and trying so hard to make one of those bargain trades. The only valuable piece the Lakers gave up for Gasol was his younger brother Marc, who wasn’t needed. The Bulls turned down a chance to trade for Gasol in ’07 (which really did seem like a smart move at the time), but didn’t have an expiring contract to trade a year later when the price dropped. Detroit won the ’04 title thanks to a “little in return” trade for Rasheed Wallace. Boston’s championship last season was a direct result of the Kevin Garnett deal, though that wasn’t as much of a bargain trade. Minnesota should get a future all-star out of the transaction with Al Jefferson. The discount aisle may open again, though. The Bulls have a decent team, more than $20 million in expiring contracts, while Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire are about to become free agents a year from now. The Bulls probably could be one trade away from a Finals run.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:  “Odom, who will be 30 in November, was on the Lakers’ books for $14.1 million this season. He would have to take a significant pay cut. Ariza, who turns 24 in two weeks, made $3.1 million this season and is in line for a substantial raise, probably at least doubling his salary. Buss made millions in revenue with 12 playoff home games and saved about $18 million in salary and luxury-tax fees over the next two seasons with the February trades of Vladimir Radmanovic and Chris Mihm. The great unknown, however, is the spending culture of NBA owners this summer in a bedraggled economy. Will Odom and Ariza find fewer offers than they would have entertained in past free-agent markets? If so, the Lakers might be able to retain both. Another important economic figure for the Lakers will be the luxury-tax threshold for the 2009-10 season, which will be announced by the NBA in July. The team is already expected to pay between $5 million and $7 million in luxury taxes this season, a number that would jump significantly next season if Odom and Ariza are re-signed. Buss will have to dip much more deeply into his own pockets to re-sign the two free-agent forwards.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel:  “The Magic’s first order of business during this all-important offseason must be to do whatever is necessary to get rid of point guard Rafer Alston. You heard me. ‘Skip to My Lou’ must skip outta town if the Magic are to move forward with Jameer Nelson as the starting point guard and de facto leader of the team. Just call it addition by subtraction. This is not a knock on Alston; far from it. Magic GM Otis Smith’s decision to make a deal for Alston when Nelson went down with a supposed season-ending shoulder injury was brilliant. And Coach Stan Van Gundy integrating Alston into the lineup was masterful. But as much as Alston meant in getting the Magic to the Finals this season, he must now be jettisoned if the Magic expect to make a return trip next year. This is not about ability; it’s about stability. It’s not demoting Alston; it’s about promoting harmony.”

Steve Kyler of HOOPSWORLD:  “Word is Babby is sticking to his initial line – $10 million per season to retain Turkoglu. The Magic were thinking $7 million according to sources. Magic GM Otis Smith has been given permission by ownership to delve into the Luxury Tax to keep Turkoglu, but sources near the situation say it’s more than paying tax, it’s about setting a market value Orlando cannot maintain.  The interesting side note about Luxury Tax in the coming year is that fewer and fewer teams will be paying into it in 2009-2010 and not anywhere close to the dollars those teams used to pay. The Tax was always viewed as the double penalty – teams that paid into the Tax fund, not only put money in, they also did not get the payouts to non-tax teams. In a typical year, 10 to 12 teams paid in more than $100 million in taxes, that money was then divided up among the non-tax payers as a $6 to $9 million ‘bonus’ of sorts. In 2009-2010 the Tax pool is expected to be much smaller, meaning the millions some teams received for not being tax payers is diminishing, making the double-penalty a lot less significant. This could turn out to be a good year to pay minor tax, likely why Orlando is considering it.”

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