Tag Archives: Chris Paul

2017 NBA Draft: Celtics take Tatum, Ojeleye, and another Bird

The Boston Celtics spent the last week driving the NBA internet nuts. Perhaps Mike Zarren has found a way to garner bitcoin off of search engine traffic related to Boston. The last week was full of peak-speculation and one actual trade that involved the top pick. This doesn’t happen. But it happened. And it will be okay, Celtics fans. Fultz does seem like a special talent…but remember that its easy to dream on 19 and 20 year-olds and convince yourself that your dreams of their success will soon become reality. After reading through Jonathan Abrams’ fantastic Boys Among Men, it will become clear just how uncertain the process of drafting young men one or two years out of high school with the hopes that they become world-class professional hoops magicians by age 23 or 24…how uncertain that process really is. By the way, read the book. Abrams is one of the better sportswriters working today, going deep with his profiles, unearthing deeper truths.

Still, despite the uncertainty, we read enough about a player and we believe. We love the player before he dons the uniform of our tribe…and then we regularly scorn the player for actually making his own choice about where to work. Free-agency was hard-won in all professional sports, but as fans, most of us remain focused on what we want out of the athlete, not on what the athlete wants for his or herself. Some make the argument that having a deeper level of sympathy or compassion for a man making $100 million over four years is too much to ask. Kind of like how the question of reparations for slavery is too much for many to even consider. Here we have a situation, the NBA Draft, where we obsess about potential, the future, and “assets.” The perfect cocktail for the internet age, where trade rumors spread like California wildfires and nothing ever makes any sense. And yet…there were a few impacting trades made this year, as we led up to the draft.

Boston Celtics

First GM Danny Ainge trades the top pick to Philadelphia for the 3rd pick, plus the 2018 Lakers pick if LA’s pick lands in the 2–5 spot next June. But if that Lakers pick doesn’t hit the high lottery sweet spot, Philadelphia will instead send a 2019 first-rounder to Boston that it acquired from the Sacramento Kings in the infamous Sauce Castillo (Nik Stauskas) swindle. The Kings will gradually improve with DeAaron Fox and Justin Jackson helping, but they’ll have a tough time winning 45 games in the crowded west by April of 2019. Watching Fox, I was amazed. Normally, I can’t watch NCAA Tournament for too long without getting annoyed by all the TV timeouts and the stagnant offense, but DeAaron Fox is really fast. John Wall-Isaiah type fast. He got wherever he wanted on the floor with his wiry frame. He’ll be fun.

So, this Celtics pick via Philly will either be great (Lakers, 2018) or possibly great (mid-to-late lottery, Kings 2019).

Why did Danny do it?

A half-dozen possible reasons:

  • Fultz and Isaiah wouldn’t be the most-ideal fit together.
  • Tatum can score in isolation and from the post. His body is more developed than the lanky Fultz. He’s 6’8″ and will be able to give the Celtics options in figuring out who will be the better long-term fit, Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Boston’s bench scoring needed a lift. They get it cheaply so they can attempt a free-agent run at Hayward/Griffin
  • The Lakers 2018 pick was too good a possibility to pass up. Not only could it be a top five pick…it was the rival Lakers pick we’d be stealing. Speaking of the Lakers, they got out from under what would have been a prickly situation with Ball coming in and reducing D’Angelo Russell to an afterthought. Instead, Russell may become an afterthought in Brooklyn (hope not, he doesn’t deserve to be given up on just yet). Clearing out Mozgov’s contract allows the Lakers fans to clear the red carpet for LeBron. Aging LeBron on 50-win Lakers in three years seems like a kind of minor tragedy.
  • They just really like Tatum and weren’t 100% in on Fultz becoming a once-every-five-years type of talent. Who knows?
  • They saved just over $1 million based on draft pick slot (3rd instead of 1st), which gives them a bit more to offer Hayward/Griffin.

From Chris Forsberg (ESPN Boston):

Ainge said the Celtics would have picked Tatum with the first pick if they had stayed in that spot before moving down to №3 in a trade earlier this week with the Philadelphia 76ers. Ainge gushed about both Tatum’s scoring potential and his versatility on the defensive end.

“We liked his size and length and rebounding and shooting. [His] Intelligence [and] character,” Ainge said. “There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s going to be a terrific player.”

Asked about trade rumors, including whispers that the Celtics were pursuing New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis, Ainge said, “I don’t comment on trade rumors. I will say this: It was a little blown out of proportion but I’ll just leave it at that. A lot more talk by [the media].”

Jayson Tatum: Let’s Take Him

From everything I’ve read, Jayson Tatum will be a very good isolation scorer…perhaps even soon…like within two years.

A link to a Tatum story from 2015, via STL Today. Tatum is from St. Louis.

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/benjamin-hochman/hochman-like-godfather-like-godson-jayson-tatum-is-on-track/article_9599b815-ebc5-5a6a-8743-1cd389e3b0a7.html

Tatum’s Draft Express Profile: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jayson-Tatum-7249/

Fortunately the Celtics have a 53-win team that will probably add a high-level free-agent (Hayward still seems like the most likely possibility), and that will likely be it. No fireworks! None! Just a clear blue sky with a bright fucking future. Can we handle that?

Part of the issue is the culture of fandom is obsessed with stars. But sometimes the guys that become stars are unheralded. Sometimes they are picked 35th, sometimes they’re picked last (Isaiah). Sometimes, they’re not picked at all (Jonathan Simmons! Remember how good he was against Houston a month ago?)

Second Round Celtics Pick: Semi Ojeleye (SMU)

SI profile of Ojeleye from February:

https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/02/28/semi-ojeleye-smu-mustangs

From The Ringer:

There aren’t many sure-bets for the 3-and-D role in this year’s draft. Reed stands out as a good one — so does Villanova wing Josh Hart and the SMU duo of Sterling Brown and Semi Ojeleye. They’re all hiding in plain sight: Brown could go undrafted, and Ojeleye is likely a late-first-rounder at best. Ojeleye in particular, with his chiseled, Wreck-It Ralph body, has remarkable potential. There’s little doubt he will be able to effectively defend multiple positions. He also plays with intensity, which manifests in chase-down blocks.

Jabari Bird, 56th pick from Cal.

The Celtics had a chance to pick Bird again. So they did.

Wolves Howling

Anyway, the Timberwolves have some happy fans right now. They got the star. Jimmy Butler doesn’t have to move far to relocate from Chicago to Minneapolis. He’s headed for more snow this December. And Wolves fans are ecstatic. A core of Dieng-Towns-Butler-Wiggins-Rubio will battle for home court in the west, while the Clippers descend into mediocrity when Chris Paul and Griffin bolt, and the Jazz and Grizzlies try to hold firm to 48+ wins. Utah is balancing treacherously on the what-if-we-lose-Hayward?-waterslide. I’m happy for Thibs. I’m happy for Towns. I’m happy for Rubio. They need one more shooter…

Lingering Questions for Boston

Gordon Hayward?

Blake Griffin?

More trade speculation around Paul George, who probably needs a new public relations team. George has made it perfectly clear he’d like to stop playing basketball until he can move back to southern California.

Official signing date for free agents: July 9.

***

I wrote a basketball-themed memoir. It’s a collection of personal essays and reflections on the game of basketball, fandom, and identity. From childhood memories of growing up with the Boston Celtics, to playing the sport as a means of coping with adolescence, this is about basketball as a means of connection. Whether playing, watching, reading and writing about the NBA, or absorbing the intensity of being in the arena, the game has me firmly in its grasp. The book is my way of appreciating basketball and fandom.

http://www.blurb.com/b/8005459-the-dusty-jumper

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Breaking News: NBA Playoff Injury Updates (Wall, Rose, Gasol, etc.)

Warning: the situations described below are fictional. Do not treat these updates as news items, facts, or fact-based news items, though many of the situations described below may closely resemble the truth.

  • Washington Wizards point guard John Wall dribbled a basketball with his badly damaged left hand. He will be a game-time decision for Wednesday’s Game 5.
  • Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol got out of bed, put on his bathrobe, and grabbed at his hamstring. Then he poured himself some freshly brewed green tea. Gasol’s availability is up in the air, like hands that you wave when you just don’t care. Game-time decision for Thursday, Game 6.
  • Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose was seen grimacing throughout the night in his Chicago condominium. Wrist, shoulder, knees, and ankles are all possible body parts that led to the grimacing. Rose is expected to play in Thursday’s Game 6. And when he wins Game 6, he should be given a standing ovation by those Bulls fans.
  • minor_injuries_picture
  • Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was seen asking for more Pepto-Bismol when the Bulls boarded their team bus for the airport. Thibodeau, as always, will coach despite the indigestion. It is all he has ever known.
  • Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul limped around the locker room after the Clippers Game 5 loss to the Houston Rockets. Paul will play in Thursday night’s Game 6. Los Angeles media members have been warned not to ask coach Doc Rivers or Chris Paul about the hamstring.
  • Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden has a deflated ego. His ego was badly bruised when the MVP award was announced (and handed to Stephen Curry) last week. Harden has been spotted on many occasions between Game 2 and Game 5 scratching his beard and gazing off into the middle distance. He is expected to continue playing when Thursday’s Game 6 arrives. He will not speak to the media about the award voting. Harden also has the flu and despite the flu, messed around and got a triple-double in Game 5.
  • Golden State Warriors forward Marreese Speights has a strained calf. On Wednesday afternoon, after the team arrived back in San Francisco, Speights was seen resting his leg while drinking some fresh squeezed (and strained) orange juice.
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Five Changes That Would Have Improved The 2015 NBA Playoffs

We are in the thick of the Conference Semifinals and everyone is limping around. So many great players are not anywhere near 100%. These playoffs, more than any in recent memory, are Darwinian in their drama. At this rate, the Finals will consist of two teams with five available players each, none of whom were starters at the beginning of the playoffs. Imagine Will Bynum starting for the Wizards and Lester Hudson starting for the Clippers. If ABC showed reruns of Survivor instead of some of these games, the viewing experience would be similar. It’s painful watching some of the world’s best athletes limping around and grimacing.

For older folks who like to talk about how much pain everyone tolerated in the old days, you can stop reading now. The game wasn’t played the same way before 1990. And for the all the beat-em-up ’90’s playoff series involving the Bad Boy Pistons and the roughneck Knicks, think about this: while post play dominated the action, there were many possessions where more than half of the players on the court were left out. Posting up, bullying on the block, sending double teams on occasion, these were not 48-minute contests filled with constant moving, where movement was key on both offense and defense. Instead, that style of play was physically demanding for the post-up dudes and was practically relaxing for perimeter guys compared to today’s game.

***

Here are 5 ways the NBA can save itself from future injury-riddled playoffs:

1. Why are we still playing 82 games? Because of money, and because old habits die hard. How many should be we playing. I’d say 66 or 70, but even 76 would be better. Cut down on three home games each, up to 6 schedule losses, where teams play 5 games in 7 nights, or, even worse, 4 games in 5 nights. As teams get smarter about resting their best players, they still play way too often. Reducing the preseason and extending the regular season an extra week or two would breathe much needed space into the schedule.

2. Reduce summer competition. The USA Olympic team will survive without NBA stars. International teams will also suffer. I know it’s a pride thing for many people. These guys need to rest. FIBA and the Olympics will survive. Players who play for NBA teams should be given minutes restrictions in international play.

3. AAU casualties: restrictions on number of games and minutes played per player. As the AAU hoops world continues to grow and the money embedded in the industry continues to influence it, there are way too many games played on young legs. This impacts player development from both a physical and psychological standpoint. As 76ers coach Brett Brown observes, a loss may not matter if its the first of three games that day. Often players don’t go “all out” in order to pace themselves. Playing NBA-level defense requires physical commitment that isn’t possible while playing so many games in a weekend. Knees are threatened by age 20. Regulation is necessary.

4. Playoff scheduling. In the Conference Semis and beyond, add in an extra day of rest (two days off instead of one) for every other game. The television ratings influence the playoff scheduling in ways that won’t change, but having teams play Friday night and then Sunday at noon makes for some ugly games, in which players are at greater risk for injury. A simple rule: no games scheduled within 45 hours of each other. I don’t have time to link to the studies that have been done on injury prevention, but the difference between 38 hours of rest and 48 hours of rest is real.

5. Here’s one that will never pass but would enhance the longevity of the game’s most exciting players (everyone under 6’9″):

Minutes per week maximums in the regular season. Front office types and Thibodeau-style coaches might be up in arms, but imagine a rule that limited coaches to playing players a maximum of 120 on-court minutes per week. Assuming the schedule was fixed to get rid of 5-in-7 scenarios, we’d be talking about 120 minutes over a maximum 4 games in a week. That’s 30 minutes per game. Smarter coaches are already doing this. More teams have embraced the 10-deep roster. Injuries have forced teams to go deeper into their rosters.

***

Every team is dealing with injuries. It’s May. This isn’t brand new. Gregg Popovich will be the first to tell you that surviving in the playoffs is directly related to a team’s health. But tell Tom Thibodeau that. Not all coaches allow their players to maintain their bodies as well as possible through the 82-game grind. The schedule must change, and some coaches must be saved from themselves.

Sometimes, bad luck hits. John Wall landed awkwardly and broke bones in his hand and wrist. That had nothing to do with rest.

Jeff Teague badly sprains his ankle in Game 3 of the first round series with Brooklyn. He’s not the same player afterward.

Kyrie Irving suffers a foot injury in Game 2 of the Cavs first round series with Boston. Was that preventable? Probably not.

LeBron played through a badly turned ankle in Cleveland’s Game 4 win over the Bulls on Sunday.

Some of it is inevitable, but not all of it.

Hamstring injuries are often related to fatigue, among other factors.

Would Chris Paul of the Clippers and Pau Gasol of the Bulls be limping around right now if they’d played fewer minutes since opening night in late October? We’ll never know. We do know the Clippers and Bulls need every minute they can contribute in May.

More on hamstrings:

From CorePerformance.com:

Several factors, often in play at the same time, can cause a strained hamstring.

  • As mentioned, an imbalance between the relative strength of the hamstrings and the quadriceps—the quads are naturally stronger than the hamstrings—and the amount of work they are able to perform at any moment could cause a strain.
  • Not warming up properly may add to the risk factor. “A cold, unstretched muscle that is required to contract at maximum intensity is at highest risk,” warns Ramin Modabber, MD, of the Santa Monica Orthppaedic and Sports Medicine Group.
  • If one or both sets of muscles are fatigued from training or the demand of the sport, they are even more vulnerable.
  • If you suddenly need an extra burst of speed (like legging out an infield hit in baseball, making an explosive move to the basket in basketball, sprinting to get the ball in soccer, or trying to escape a tackler in football), tremendous force is required of both the hamstrings and the quadriceps.

Put all four factors together at the same time — muscle imbalance, inadequate warm-up, fatigue, and a sudden need for speed—and you’ve created your own perfect storm for a pulled hamstring. Running in cold weather could make it even worse. And poor running technique can also contribute to an overload of the muscle and a strain.

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