Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Tampering Probe

The Lakers and team president Magic Johnson are under scrutiny as the league announced this weekend it was investigating potential tampering between the club and Paul George.

The Pacers, who dealt George to the Thunder this summer, filed the charges. The Lakers and Johnson now face a variety of potential punishments if the league finds evidence of impermissible contact and/or tampering.

George is a unique case in that he publicly stated his desire to sign with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent next summer. That prompted Indiana to shop the four-time All-Star, with the Thunder winning the sweepstakes by dealing away Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out, the Hawks and Kings were fined four years ago for outlining their plans to pursue free agents from other teams. But it’s been 17 years since the league cracked down hard on any team for tampering.

The Timberwolves were fined $3.5MM, lost five first-round picks (though two were later reinstated) and saw their owner and GM suspended. Those penalties were handed down when the league uncovered evidence that the club and forward Joe Smith had a side agreement for a future contract to circumvent the salary cap before Smith became a free agent. Smith wound up signing with the Pistons after Minnesota was prevented from securing his services.

A fine is the Lakers’ most likely penalty if some evidence of tampering is uncovered. However, if the league believes the Lakers and George already have a verbal agreement, they could face penalties similar to the ones doled out to the Timberwolves in 2000. It could also prevent George from joining the Lakers.

The Lakers have hired legal representation and seem confident they will be cleared of the charges.

That brings us to our question of the day: If the league’s tampering investigation involving the Lakers and Paul George uncovers evidence of a verbal agreement, should the Lakers be prohibited from signing George in free agency or acquiring him in a trade? If not, what would be an appropriate punishment?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this hot topic. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Joakim Noah

There’s an argument to be made about Phil Jackson’s worst move as president of the Knicks, but any list would have to include the signing of Joakim Noah last summer for $72MM over four years.

Even Noah feels bad about it, blaming himself for Jackson’s firing. He virtually apologized in comments reported today by Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson.’’

Noah’s first season in New York was a disappointment, but it was hardly a surprise. He was plagued by injuries and declining production during his final two years in Chicago, so no one could be shocked that in his first year with the Knicks he got hurt and his numbers went down.

Physical problems limited him to just 46 games last year and he was almost shut down for the year after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in February. He only returned late in the season to trim eight games off a 20-game suspension imposed for using a substance banned by the NBA.

Noah’s performance on the court was just as frustrating as the things that kept him off of it. His scoring average dipped to 5.0 points per game, the worst of his career except for a 29-game season in 2015/16, and he took a career-low 4.4 shots per game.

Noah still has three seasons and $55MM left on his contract, so the Knicks are going to be stuck with him as an anchor on their cap unless they can find a way to include him in a trade. It’s a move that’s going to haunt the franchise for a long time, and there weren’t any obvious suitors that Jackson was bidding against to force such a generous offer.

But is signing Noah the main reason Jackson got fired? Or was it his long public feud with Carmelo Anthony, his attempt to trade Kristaps Porzingis after he skipped an exit meeting, his unbridled love affair with the triangle offense or the Knicks’ lousy play in general? In short, does Noah owe Jackson an apology or would the Zen Master have gotten dismissed regardless?

Please leave your comments below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: MVP Favorite

Russell Westbrook is the favorite to repeat as MVP, according to odds released by Bovada, an online gambling site.

Westbrook is listed as +350, which means a bettor who wagers $100 would get back $350 if Westbrook wins the award. Kevin Durant is close behind at +450, followed by Kawhi Leonard at +650. LeBron James at +750 and James Harden at +800 round out the top five.

Westbrook cruised to the trophy last season with a record-setting 42 triple-doubles. His production may fall this year with the addition of Paul George in Oklahoma City, but he could help his case if the Thunder improve on their 47-35 record.

Bovada lays odds on 39 candidates, ranging down to Dirk Nowitzki, Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside and Jeff Teague, who are all listed at +25,000. Among players who changed teams over the offseason, George and new Rockets point guard Chris Paul are tied for the best odds at +2,500.

Given the changes that have taken place across the league, who is you favorite to take home MVP honors for 2017/18? Please leave your comments below.

Community Shootaround: Dwyane Wade

The Bulls inked Dwyane Wade to a two-year contract last offseason, but the franchise has undergone some renovations with an eye on rebuilding for the future. Wade, at age 35, doesn’t appear to fit in those plans and earlier today, it was reported that he and the team are expected to work out a buyout agreement in the coming months.

Should the future Hall of Famer reach a buyout agreement with Chicago, where is the best place for him to continue his career?

Cleveland might be a logical fit given his friendship with LeBron James. Houston would give Wade an opportunity to play alongside James Harden and Chris Paul to form one of the best backcourt rotations in recent memory. The Heat seem like they’re one player away from breaking into the Eastern Conference’s top-4 and Wade could be that contributor that helps get Pat Riley home court in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Spurs could use Wade as a primary ball handler until Tony Parker returns from injury then watch the shooting guard’s minutes to ensure he stays healthy for a playoff run. A lineup of Parker, Wade, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol with Patty Mills, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and a potentially healthy Rudy Gay coming off the bench would be a tough out in the playoffs.

Do you feel Wade should sign with any of the aforementioned teams or is there another club that would be a better fit? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Pistons Stars

After a stellar 2015/16 campaign in which they qualified for the playoffs and showcased their potential in a first-round series with the Cavaliers, the Pistons took a significant leap backwards in 2016/17.

Although the team struggled across the board last year, much of the team’s general disappointment can be traced either directly or indirectly to the injury that sidelined point guard Reggie Jackson for over a month to start the season.

When Jackson finally did return to the court after undergoing platelet-rich plasma injections to treat a knee issue, the Pistons were a far cry from the unit that fired on all cylinders the year prior.

As Jackson struggled to regain form, Detroit big man Andre Drummond struggled as well, initially unable to establish the same connection with his point guard that helped him to a career season in 2015/16.

While backup point guard Ish Smith performed admirably when called to fill in for Jackson, much of Detroit’s struggles in 2016/17 can be attributed to the fact that the dynamic inside-outside combination the club relied on previously was missing.

The resulting campaign can be summed up rather simply: the Pistons dropped from 44 wins to 37 and missed the playoffs.

Meanwhile Drummond’s line of 16.2 points and 14.8 boards per game in 2015/16 fell to 13.6 and 13.8 last season, while Jackson’s own line plummeted from 18.8 points and 6.2 assists per game down to 14.5 and 5.2.

Not surprisingly, the pair have found themselves front and center in trade rumors since partway through season. While Stan Van Gundy didn’t end up pulling the trigger on any deals, it’s been written that the barrage of speculation impacted Drummond.

The question we have for readers in this Community Shootaround is whether Drummond and Jackson should be moved as soon as the franchise can get a reasonable return or whether the Pistons should hold on to the tandem because their value couldn’t possibly dip lower.

Put another way, will 2017/18 mark a bounce back season for two former up-and-coming young stars? Should they be given the benefit of the doubt? Weigh in below.

Community Shootaround: Pacers’ Playoff Chances

The Pacers are entering year one without Paul George, but that doesn’t mean the team will slide out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference, according to the franchise’s longest tenured player.

“I feel like we’re definitely going to be overlooked this year,” Myles Turner said (via Matthew VanTyron of the Indianapolis Star). “A lot of people look at us as young team that’s going to rebuild, but we’re a young team that’s trying to compete. We’ve got a lot of guys who can come in and make an impact right away. I expect to make the playoffs this year.”

Kevin Pelton of projects Indiana to finish 11th in the conference and earn a lottery appearance, something that’s only happened once since the team drafted George back in 2010.

Pelton foresees the team struggling on offense and it’s easy to see why. Scour the roster for a No. 1 scorer. Will Victor Oladipo expand his game? How about Darren Collison? Should either Lance Stephenson or Bojan Bogdanovic lead a team in shots?

The questions on offense will likely persist all season, though that alone doesn’t mean a playoff birth is inconceivable. The Eastern Conference appears weaker than it has in several years and somewhere between 35 and 40 games could be enough to lock in a lower seed. Pelton projects the team to get 32 wins this season, a total that’s slightly behind his projections for the Magic, Sixers, and Pistons—the team that the statistician has in the conference’s eighth seed with just 35.1 wins in his simulations.

If the Pacers see just a few players outperform their expected output this season, the team could end up playing games that matter in April.

That leads us to tonight’s topic: Will the Pacers make the playoffs this season? If not, what moves can they make before the trade deadline to improve their chances? Please take to the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Best Jersey Patches

For the first time in league history NBA teams have been approved to sell real estate on their in-game jerseys to the highest-bidding brands.

Although the move yielded its fair share of criticism, the extra revenue stream does have one big benefit: fans now have one more thing to rank during the dog days of the offseason.

View Our List Of NBA Jersey Sponsors For 2017/18

In the past few months, especially lately with the revelation of countless redesigned Nike kits, we’ve gotten a good look at what some of our favorite jerseys will look like during the 2017/18 season.

Over at Ball Don’t Lie, Henry Bushnell has collected all of the new jerseys that have been unveiled so far this summer, many of which are sporting their sponsor’s branding, so be sure to hop over and flip through their collection of images.

Our question, for this latest Community Shootaround, is what jersey patch you think looks the best. Some, like Utah’s 5 For The Fight, may earn favor by having a good story attached to them while others, like Charlotte’s affiliation with Jordan Brand are just downright cool.

Of all the jersey patches revealed so far, however, which do you think looks the nicest? Use whatever metric you prefer, just be sure to explain why in the comments below.

Does the classic look and feel of Milwaukee’s Harley Davidson patch suit your fancy? Maybe you’re more apt to rock a new Pistons or Nets jersey considering how seamlessly their respective sponsor patches mesh with the existing team colors.

Community Shootaround: NBA Schedule

The schedule for next season is due out this week, and some specifics are already being leaked. Offseason player movement always gives us a handful of can’t-miss games, and there are several to circle on the calendar this year:

  • Paul George‘s return to Indiana — A four-time All-Star, George was the top player on several very good Pacers teams in recent years. He formed a strong bond with Indiana fans, especially after returning from a devastating tibia-fibia fracture he suffered while playing for Team USA. However, George reportedly is leaning toward opting out next summer and signing with the Lakers, and his agent informed the Pacers that they weren’t in his long-term plans. A surprise trade just before the start of free agency sent him to the Thunder. It will be interesting to watch the fan reaction during his lone appearance in Indiana this season with Oklahoma City.
  • Jimmy Butler‘s return to Chicago — Butler was a fan favorite in Chicago, but he didn’t fit the team once the front office decided to rebuild. His draft-night trade to Minnesota reunites him with coach/executive Tom Thibodeau and makes the Wolves a playoff contender in the West. Bulls fans may have a long, difficult season ahead of them, but they will get to welcome back Butler for one night.
  • Gordon Hayward‘s return to Utah — Hayward was another beloved player during his seven seasons with the Jazz, finally earning All-Star status last season and becoming a cornerstone of a team on the rise in the West. He was the last major free agent to make a decision in July, and he put Utah fans through an excruciating wait before formally announcing his decision to join the Celtics. Hayward’s loss pushes Utah back to the middle of the pack in the ultra-competitive Western Conference as Jazz fans will get just one opportunity to watch him in person this year.
  • Chris Paul‘s return to Los Angeles — Paul teamed with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to form the nucleus of some very good Clippers teams that were never able to make a prolonged playoff run. Paul decided he wanted to join James Harden in Houston, leaving the Clippers with little option but to trade him there before free agency began. Paul was a popular player in L.A., but we’ll see how Clippers fans receive him after he broke up their Big Three.
  • Kyrie Irving‘s return to Cleveland? — This will be must-see TV if Irving gets the trade he told owner Dan Gilbert that he wants. A simmering feud with LeBron James and Irving’s desire to run his own team will serve as subplots if the man who hit the title-winning shot in 2016 returns to Quicken Loans Arena in another uniform.
  • Carmelo Anthony‘s return to New York? — After surviving an ugly feud with former team president Phil Jackson, Anthony has agreed to waive his no-trade clause, but reportedly only for the Rockets. The teams couldn’t find the right mix of other franchises to make a deal work, and talks were paused when Scott Perry took over as Knicks GM. If Anthony does get dealt, the reaction of Knicks fans when he comes back to the Garden could depend on what their team gets in return.

Those are six potential landmark games for the upcoming season, but there are many more. We want to know the game you’re most looking forward to and why. Please leave your comments below.

Community Shootaround: Coaches/Executives

The Clippers have become the latest organization to decide that coaching and running the front office is too much for one man.

The team announced Friday that Lawrence Frank has assumed the role of president of basketball operations, leaving Doc Rivers as a full-time coach. Rivers has held both positions since coming to L.A. in 2013.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer announced the move, explaining that the requirements of each job are too numerous for them to be combined effectively.

“I’ve owned the team for three years now, and I really better understand what an owner’s responsibility is — and it turns out that running a franchise and coaching are two enormous and different jobs,” Ballmer said. “The notion that one person can fairly focus on them and give them all the attention they need isn’t the case.”

Rivers’ input will still be sought on personnel matters, Ballmer said, adding that he believes “healthy discussion and debate” is good for the franchise.

The number of combined coach/executives is dwindling, with the Hawks making a similar move with Mike Budenholzer in May. Travis Schlenk was hired as the GM in Atlanta and is overseeing personnel decisions while Budenholzer concentrates on coaching.

There are now just three NBA coaches who also hold the title of president of basketball operations: Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, Stan Van Gundy in Detroit and Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. Popovich, with help from ace GM R.C. Buford, has built a perennial contender with the Spurs. Van Gundy has seen moderate success with the Pistons, while Thibodeau rebuilt the Timberwolves this summer after posting a 31-51 record in his first season at the helm.

That brings us to tonight’s question: Are teams wise to separate front office responsibilities from coaching duties, or do you believe there are people who can handle both jobs? Please leave your comments below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Joel Embiid Extension

Although he hasn’t yet been cleared for contact drills or 5-on-5 play, Joel Embiid expects to be ready in time to break camp with the Sixers this fall, whether or not he’ll have his contract extended before he returns or not, is another question.

Shortly after the June 22 draft, Sixers’ managing owner Josh Harris spoke about how committed he was to keeping the current Philadelphia squad together. One way of doing so could come in the form of a five-year, roughly $130MM contract extension.

Such a deal would begin in 2018/19 after Embiid plays out the final year of his rookie deal (worth $6.1MM) but would need to be agreed upon prior to opening day on October 17.

Another option the Sixers have is to let Embiid play through the 2017/18 campaign and then extend him a qualifying offer worth $8MM next offseason. That would make the then-24-year-old a restricted free agent.

There’s little doubt that an undeniably healthy Embiid would be worth a max contract extension as soon as possible but the big man has missed 215 of the 246 games the Sixers have played since they drafted him.

What then, is he worth now, considering that an element of uncertainty looms over what we can reasonably expect in the future? You tell us.

Are the Sixers better off to see how the 2017/18 season unfolds before they commit to Embiid long-term? Or would they benefit from locking the big man in at some point before mid-October. If you were at the helm of Philly’s front office, what would you look to do?

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