The First of Messidor of LeBron James

Karl Marx once said when summarizing the coup of 1852 in France, which saw the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte crown himself emperor of the Second French Empire “History repeats … first as tragedy, then as farce.” This is applicable to LeBron James recent two stops and the instability he’s brought to each stop after seemingly coming to an understanding this be a multi-year project, in a few months we come to learn he had no such patience.

The reality is there no quick fix for the fledgling Lakers. You cannot trade half the roster for Anthony Davis, not only is it bad optics, the various assets the Lakers were reportedly willing to part with weren’t enticing to New Orleans who’d rather wait and see if Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics is on the block for their disgruntled star.

What we saw prior to the All-Star break was a power play from LeBron’s agent Rich Paul to essentially run the league. In this era of more power to the players, there are obvious limits to their abilities. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis can demand for a trade whenever they please. However, they cannot pick where they are to play unless they are free agents.

The numerous mouthpieces the Lakers have in the media beyond the friendly confines of their cable company worked tirelessly to paint L.A as loyal, forward-thinkers. In reality, this is the organization that panicked at 12:01 A.M July 1 and gift wrapped $136,000,000 to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov because general manager Mitch Kupchak did not know the NBA is run  mostly by conniving thieves who laugh at the NBA’s toothless tampering laws.

In reality, the Lakers are the same organization that sided with journeyman and now free agent Nick Young when then-rookie D’Angelo Russell videotaped the then-Laker having an affair. Normal teams don’t throw their rookie under the bus for Nick Fucking Young.

People will tell you the Lakers have changed since then. That the new regime of Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss is a much better work environment. In reality, the safe money is on Luke Walton being scapegoated for not meeting the ridiculous expectations L.A had for themselves coming into the season.

So why did LeBron willingly sign long term with this clown show? Just like when he returned to Cleveland the move made sense financially and presented more opportunities for LeBron to collect the necessary capital to one day buy a basketball team when he’s ready to hang it up.

LeBron James is a Laker solely to make movies, go to parties and get richer. And God bless him for it.

The Warriors Achillies Heels

Remember when the Miami Heat repeated as champions in 2013 and the rest of the NBA cowered under their boots? Seems so long ago. Little did we know how gentile Miami’s foundation was. Behind the Herculean efforts of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, Miami laid waste to a league unable to contain either of them. So what eventually brought these titans down? Age… specifically, D-Wade’s. And Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Chris Anderson and various other role players who provided key assistance in championship runs in the past fossilized over the course of a summer.

Coming off their second straight championship, their third in four seasons, the Golden State Warriors possess the same hubris and internal flaws that’ll surely bring them down… one of these days. Perhaps it’ll be this year their eagerly awaited demise arrives and the NBA will ceased to be “ruined” and return to a nirvana that never really existed.

Forget the noise surrounding the DeMarcus Cousins signing. The reason no one offered anything significant, which lead to this apparently earth shattering deal is because historically Cousins is a moody player and relies heavily on athleticism to get his points. Coming off an achilles injury he’ll be rehabbing until February and there’s no telling what he’ll look like once he returns to the hardwood. At best, Cousins is a complete zero on defense. Will Steve Kerr be able to inspire constant effort on the defensive end when previously there was never any? He’s more likely than to squeeze that out of the similarity egotistical, aging star Carmelo Anthony than Cousins.

The departures of veteran centers David West and ZaZa Pachuila hurt this team more than we’re letting on. Even Pachuila was still setting quality screens and effective in the pick-and-roll (1.32 points per possession)in a noticeably down year. West, though pushing 37, is the superior passing big and a clear-cut professional. West was also an alternative to Draymond Green as the Swiss-army knife in a small-ball lineup when Kerr wanted to rest Green. With that option gone, you’ll see an awful lot of Kevin Durant at center. Which isn’t bad, but there’s a reason the Al Horford’s and Anthony Davis’s of the world don’t like playing the position – it’s awfully taxing on the body to have people Cousins’s size jump on your back every thirty-seconds. With K.D pushing thirty, a history of injuries to his lower body, is it wise for Kerr to put his star through the ringer in such a manner?

The other free agent signing of former Utah Jazz Jonas Jerebko performs better as a stopgap center than Cousins. Yes. That is something I just said. You want to know why? Because it’s true. I’ve watched Jerebko play during his time in Boston and let me tell you, he’s a great hustler. Surely able to guard the likes of backup power forwards and centers such as Montrezl Harrell, Trey Lyles, Patrick Patterson and maybe even slow footed starters like Tobias Harris.

A frequent spot-up shooter, his 49.1 freq% rate last season was higher than Danny Green. Jerebko posted a solid 1.12 PPP in spot-up situations, and 41.4% from three-point land on 2.1 attempts per game. His lone season was Jerebko’s finest, I expect nothing less from him in Golden State.

To discuss the situation in the backcourt, I can in no way explain how fucked the Warriors are if Stephen Curry misses 30-games again. The price never dipped far enough for Wayne Ellington for the Warriors to offer the $5.3 million they have to Cousins; Ellington later signed a $6.3 million deal to stay in Miami. And they drafted Cincinnati forward Jacob Evans, someone who acts more as a specialist 3-and-D personnel rather than a playmaker like Villanova guard Jalen Brunson would’ve acted as if selected. Evans did maintain a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Cincinnati.

Curry doesn’t just shoot threes. He passes, creates constant movement in the offense and raises havoc in opposing defenses. With him on the bench it’s easier quell the likes of Durant or spot-up shooter Klay Thompson. It’s astonishing they didn’t just offer a pick to Boston for Terry Rozier just to see if Danny Ainge bit.

There is no playmaker besides Curry on this Warriors team that can conceivably play point guard. As great as Shaun Livingston is, he’s pushing 33 and his assist total last season was just 2. He’s a fine placeholder for Curry – for now. Will he be this year? An awful lot depends on it.

Love The Clippers, Dammit!

I truly feel bad for Clipper fans. They’re most competitive era coincided with the rise of the Golden State Warriors, and as the years went on the team grew more unlikeable as each opportunity slipped away. A year later, they possess one of the most intriguing rosters in all of the NBA, yet no one talks about them and I’m sure no one in Los Angeles cares anymore. Lakers Fever has retaken the city and likely will not relinquish its stranglehold for many years. The Clippers could win 50 games, coinciding with a Lakers tank job and everyone will be more transfixed on the Lakers position in the lottery.

Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is just as good as Lakers sophomore Lonzo Ball. SGA is the same height, but has the superior wingspan (6’11”). Once attaining the role of starter at Kentucky, SGA proceeded to average 16.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists, on 48/37/79 splits. Kentucky was packed to the brim in 5-Star talent, forcing SGA to fight for his spot as John Calipari did not field a team with a traditional point guard or any spacing. Whereas, Ball was the focal point of everything UCLA did on offense. Of course, SGA isn’t nearly the finished at the rim Ball is. Ball made nearly 80% of his attempts at the rim his lone season at UCLA; his debut pro season that percentage fell all the way down to 43.6%, But I’m willing to believe Ball will improve in time.

That being said, SGA is an elite slasher, his finishing at the rim reminiscent of Rajon Rondo at his best. Careening into the basket almost recklessly, his finger-rolls softly kissing the backboard before falling gracefully through the net. When SGA gets that first step the play is basically over.

Both L.A teams have a nice basket of young talent, the Lakers Brandon Ingram being the best of them. Luke Walton is generally regarded as an above-average head coach, despite not yet posting a winning record and played his young guys into the ground to end the year, causing Ball’s knees to weaken to the point where he needed surgery on his meniscus this July. For all his pratfalls as a general manager, Doc Rivers is a fine head coach who can lead a team providing he’s protected from himself and his habits of relying on old veterans.

Well, there won’t be many ways Rivers could do that with this collection of solid athletes that haven’t began the back-nine of their careers. Marcin Gortat is projected to be their oldest starter, 33. The veterans are dynamic scorer Lou Williams, by his side a lockdown perimeter defender in Avery Bradley; and when he inevitably gets hurt either gifted facilitator Milos Teodosic will take over, or rookie Jerome Robinson out of Boston College. Robinson will likely be a shooting guard version of the power forward Kuzma, not much of a defender, can’t do anything else besides score, but Robinson can do so at all three levels. The comparisons to him and C.J McCollum aren’t blasphemous, I swear to you!

If SGA’s development on offense is for real, the backcourt of him and Lou Will can torch opposing defenses without mercy. The Clippers want to move on with the youth movement, but have an All-Star locked under contract in Williams for 4-years and made an attempt to retain forward Tobias Harris on an $80 million extension just a couple weeks ago. They’re somewhat conflicted as to where they want to go, and do have too many quality players vying for minutes. The rotation may not become crystal clear until after the All-Star break.

If Bradley and Milos are out of the rotation because of a trade or injury, the Clippers arguably be better off giving more minutes to Robinson or Sindarius Thornwell, who averaged 14 points in Summer League. It’s quite funny to think if the Clippers were an eastern conference team and went forward with the youth movement they’d still be fringe playoff contenders.

One of the reasons for this is veteran big man Gortat, who’ll probably have the best year of his career on both ends now that he won’t have to guard out of his position to make up for former teammate John Wall’s inability to play the opposite end of the floor. He may set tons of illegal screens, but they’re affective. Last year his points per possession on the pick-and-roll as the roll-Man was an average 0.88. I believe he can get that up to 0.95. The backcourt talent is just too good and the space will be superior to what the Wizards could carve out on the floor.

The Clippers have the best roster of the two Los Angeles based basketball teams. No one will pay any attention to them, despite fielding promising prospects and fringe All-Star candidate veterans. And that’s a shame.Yes 

Get Excited Bulls Fans

If it weren’t for the horrendous contract of shooting guard Zach LaVine, 23, for $78 million for the next four-seasons I’d be inclined to grade the Bulls off-season an A-Plus for what they were able to accomplish. While not a certified playoff team, the Bulls did not fall for any quick fixes that so many teams in their position usually look for. They drafted responsibly, passing on Michael Porter Jr. for Duke big forward Wendell Carter, who killed it in Summer League. Later they choose fourth-year sharpshooting Boise State guard Chandler Hutchinson.

If the Bulls did not sign LaVine, their starting lineup would be a defensive monster. Kris Dunn at the point, Hutch as your versatile two-guard who can play the three, Jabari Parker, who won’t be as much of a liability at small forward as so many believe, Lauri Markkanen and either their version of Al Horford or the reliable, smart Robin Lopez to play center:

Now I expect Lopez to be traded. He absolutely should be. After an overlooked solid season, where Lopez shot 53% off 10.1 shots per game, nearly averaging 12 points. He’s on the last year of four-year, $55 million deal he signed with the Knicks back in 2015, he could help teams trying to make it to the postseason (Detroit, Philly, Washington). Given the situation I’d start WCJ at center on Opening Night, though I’d understanding shifting the rookie to the bench to begin his career as a way to showcase Lopez for future trades. Lopez may not be as skilled as Clint Capela, but he knows what to do and can occasionally stretch the floor. He also beats the opposing teams mascot to a bloody pulp on a nightly basis. So that’s a plus.

WCJ and Hutchinson impressed many in SL. Carter showed off his defensive prowess, able to leap tall bounds off just one foot, and can nail a short pull-up and get the ball inside. Every facet of his game (besides passing) screams AL HORFORD whenever I watch him. The Bulls found themselves a keeper.

Hutchinson can defend and shoot. A gross generalization on my part, glossing over the complexities of his game which spent four full years cooking in college. But at the end of the day, those were things LaVine could not do last year. Hutchinson can drive wherever he wants in the paint, is a fairly crafty ball-handler and there is no reason why fans of Chicago shouldn’t be excited about him as well… which is why the LaVine contract continues to make NO SENSE.

As for Markkanen, set a franchise record in threes made by a Bulls rookie (145), and looks to be the legit real deal on offense. On defense, well, not so much. But it isn’t for a lack of effort. Like Lopez he tries, and has shown brief flashes of being able to guard smaller players off of switches. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see Lauri needs to bulk up a bit if he doesn’t want to continuously get bullied inside. If not for having Lopez by his side, Markkanen would probably have not lead the league in rebounds per game amongst rookies… (Ben Simmons grabbed 8.1 boards versus Markkanen’s 7.5, but as you know: he’s not a rookie).

Critics poo-pooed the signing of disgruntled forward Jabari Parker on a very team-friendly 2-year, $40 million contract; team-option for 2019-20. Much of the shine must’ve fallen from Parker after suffering his second ACL tear in 2016-17, prior to that he was posting 20 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. The blossoming of the Giannis Antetkounmpo pushed the second overall pick down in relevance. Of course, Parker didn’t make life easier for himself in Milwaukee. Showing blatant disinterest in playing defense and not willing to accept his minimized role, his noticeable pouting cost him many suitors.

But Parker is just 23. While the Bulls aren’t the first organization I’d entrust with his rehabilitation, a Dunn/Parker Pick-and-roll could be deadly. And considering their are just two teams in the East that have dynamic scoring small forwards, it isn’t a stretch to believe Parker will survive playing the three for the majority of the season.

I like this Bulls team. They’re inability to defend has possibly been overstated. Chicago will probably rank in the middle of the pack in both offense and defense. I still don’t know about Fred Hoiberg, whether he’s a dead man walking. Outside of that glaring question, the Bulls rebuild is off to a fine start. Dunn can perhaps grow into an above-average starter, showing great strides last season in his jump shot.

One more time: that LaVine contract is the turd in the punch bowl. He’s a year-and-a-half removed from an ACL tear, someone who can only score because of his freakish athleticism. He has no jump shot or on-ball skills, I don’t think people are talking about just how bad this contract will look this time next season.

But, the Bulls elected to put themselves in this position. The duo of GarPax made too many good moves consecutively, a horrendous one was coming down the pike no matter what.

DeMar DeRozan: The Anti-Spurs Player

The Spurs are in a no-win situation with Kawhi Leonard, the relationship was too toxic to rebuild no matter how much trust we had in their infrastructure to find their way back to sunset. Turns out nobody held all the cards in the tug of war between player and organization. Both possessed a sense of entitlement, Kawhi felt he earned the right to be traded to one or the two teams in Los Angeles despite being under contract. The Spurs, feeling betrayed by Leonard’s seemingly out of the blue demands, wanted to stick it to their former franchise cornerstone like Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard did to All-Star Paul George last summer when he sent him to Oklahoma City.

Well, the Spurs won the war of pettiness, sending Kawhi to the 59-Win Toronto Raptors in exchange for superstar DeMar DeRozan and prospect Jakob Poeltl. An irrelevant, heavily protected 1st round pick was tossed in, top-20 for 2019, will convert to second-round picks if not conveyed. Overall, for what the Spurs wanted to accomplish with this transaction they made out as well as you possibly could when given a bad hand. San Antonio didn’t capitulate to the demands of Leonard’s camp, nor did they talk themselves into a three-quarters for a dollar trade that’d surely send them backwards. Most teams when trading a superstar like Kawhi wish to turn the dire situation into a time to rebuild, but seeing as 69-year-old Gregg Popovich is nearing the end of his run he likely wants to take two more shots at contention before riding off into the sunset. It’s his right after all to dictate how he’ll leave the Spurs organization.

Last year, DeRozan was somewhere between top-11 and 15 on my rankings for the 2017-18 season when doing my All-NBA ballot (I don’t have an official vote). He’s a second-tier star, someone under the right circumstances can lead you to 50-plus wins, not somebody you can count on to take you to the promise land. Like Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo and Paul George, they’re hard workers and are A-pluses at specific facets of their respective games. However, you’ll feel when they have hit the brick wall as opposing teams in a seven-game set tend to figure out the one-trick ponies such as DeRozan. Self-proclaiming his game is descendent from an older, simpler time, where cutting to the basket and mid-range shots ruled the NBA. Though an unwilling to shot from three-point range, DeRozan is hardly unable to make it from long distance. His 21.4% 3Prate is among the lowest in his position. Offensively, DeRozan’s found ways to improve on yearly basis, being only 29 I am hopeful Pop can unlock a new part of the All-Stars game we haven’t seen.

Given the lack of spacing on the Spurs roster DeRozan will likely have to venture outside of his comfort zones to produce. LaMarcus Aldridge, while great, is a mid-range savant and will need space to do his work, as will DeMar. Unless Patty Mills takes a leap or Dejonte Murray discovers his jump shot they’ll be little to no spacing on this Spurs team. Rudy Gay is likely to become the team’s de factor starting small-forward with the loss of Kyle Anderson in free agency to the Memphis Grizzlies. Not only does the loss of Kawhi shrink the spacing on the floor, it robs San Antonio of their defensive identity. Their two best players couldn’t defend traffic cones in isolation.

Danny Green may not be a knockdown shooter, but he could still defend his position and beyond. His loss hurts the Spurs more than Kawhi.

This is why I believe we’ll see DeRozan at the three, given he’s a liability against the likes of James Harden and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt, hiding DeRozan on non-scorers like P.J Tucker and Solomon Hill is doable given his 6-7 stature and 6-9 wingspan.

The overall roster for the Spurs remains incomplete, the holes are glaring and are in need of addressing. As currently constructed they are a borderline playoff team, in my opinion because the players don’t fit together. I could be wrong. I’ve learned my lesson when doubting Pop in the past.

I’m excited to see DeRozan in San Antonio, I believe that he can kick his postseason woes under the Spurs tutelage. I can see this mismatch team missing the playoff, but I can also see them riding DeMar and Aldridge to nearly 50-wins and sneaking into the western conference finals by having a top-10 offense and defense, somehow.