published Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

5-at-10: NBA stars aligning, Man Xpo tickets, Rushmore of modern SEC football players

Gang, remember the mailbag — and JMC we promise to answer your question at some point — and enjoy the ride.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's make the magic happen.

NBA movements

Here we are. The spot of player positioning and team machinations to the point that stars are aligning themselves.

  • photo
    New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, left, makes a move against the defense of Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce during the first half in Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Boston, Sunday, April 28, 2013.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

There's a list of folks lined up to woo Carmelo Anthony, who opted out of his contract with the Knicks.

There would be a longer list of folks lined up to woo LeBron if he decides to opt out of his contract with the Heat. (And just for good measure, Mrs. LeBron created a social media sandstorm by saying posting a photo of the map of Ohio with the caption "Home sweet home!! The countdown is real! #330" in reference to James family growing up in Akron. Of course, Cleveland would love to have a round 2 with LeBron, so the rumors grew like wildfire. The James family said the message was in reference to the family's summer vacation plans.)

Where were we? Oh, yes, the reversal of the determination of fortunes.

When did this happen? When did individual stars controlling the future of the league become the accepted brand of franchise construction?

Sure, the reps for Kobe Bryant and Eli Manning forced draft-day trades to better organizations and better situations for the betterment of their career. That's hardly new. Heck, John Elway did that in 1983.

Leveraging your assets to maximize your position is a common survival tactic.

But this seems different. This seems unsportsmanlike and somehow crooked. Stephen A. Smith said on Mike and Mike this week that he knows LeBron and Carmelo have spoken about potentially playing together.

If stars are willing to take less money and decide which three or four teams have a legit chance at winning a title, then what is the long-term future of 60 percent of the NBA? Do the Bucks ever have a chance? Or the Hawks? Or fill in the blank with any of roughly two-thirds of a league?

It's an interesting social dilemma, considering you have a Tim Duncan electing to take a little over $10 million — well under market value for the greatest power forward of all time — to help the Spurs add pieces for another title pursuit. Duncan is praised for the move, rightly or wrongly, and Kobe is vilified for taking max money and crippling the Lakers' cap situation. Is that fair?

Who knows, but we do know this: In the day and age of players looking to stack their decks, LeBron holds all the cards for two reasons. He is the best player in the league, and the easiest way to a title is to figure out a way to join forces with James, where ever that might be. Second, James is far-and-away the highest earning player in the league. He made $18 million last year — a figure that was in the top 10 in the NBA in salary — but he made more than $70 million total last year when factoring in endorsements, so money is no longer a factor for King James.

And regardless of what he decides, the NBA needs to look at the free agent dealings of players among players. Teams face tampering charges, but players have become the de facto GMs in some situations.

The league is staring at a very real caste system in which there are a small circle of haves — teams with championship-level talent who have assembled themselves to be among the elite — and a large pool of driftwood where teams have to lose and hope the lottery is kind. So there will be eight-to-10 teams trying to get to the No. 1 spot and 20-to-22 teams trying to get the No. 1 pick.

How is that good for basketball or for competition? The answer simply is that it's not. Not at all. And no matter what you think about Donald Sterling's loose lips, the growing competitive hurdles in the league is far and away the biggest issue facing the NBA.

(Side note: Wow, that got long in a hurry, huh? Where did that come from? Who knows, but we'll tighten up the rest of this puppy otherwise, we'll start getting compared to college baseball games in terms of time it takes to complete. Egad.)

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Draft week

We love the draft. You know this.

We started our love affair with the draft with the NBA draft back in the 1980s. We have switched of course to the NFL draft for a slew of reasons.

Still, we are intrigued by the NBA draft for the following reasons:

— There's the draft model and the unpredictability of the domino effect;

— There's the suits of the first-rounders — dude, Joakim Noah's suit will be on the Rushmore of suits with Batman's suit, Shooter's suit in Hoosiers (a real wing-dinger; he got married in that suit) and the orange one Lloyd wore to the Snow Owl benefit in Dumb and Dumber.

— The awkward hugs between Adam Silver and some 7-foot Croatian that are inevitable.

This year — and with the threat of star re-alignment there are some other interesting parts too, such as where does Kevin Love go, how far does a broken foot drop Joel Embiid and what will the contenders such as Miami and others do to add to their aging lineups.

Good times.

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Man Xpo

The TFP is hosting a Man Xpo this week at Finley Stadium and there are a slew of cool things there, including NASCAR and golf simulators (hole in one could get you $10K) plus food and beer and a Q-and-A with Kirk Herbstreit and TFP ace David Paschall and the blockheaded sports editor.

We are trying to have a little fun on Press Row with the event too, and we're giving away tickets all week. Yesterday we had spot trivia. Today, we'll have a variation of a classic game show.

Did we ever decide a Rushmore of Game Shows? Hmmmmmm.

Listen in here at timesfreepress.com or at 105.1 FM from 3-6 p.m. Good times.

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This and that

Cool story about a 17-year-old girl who pitches for her high school baseball team throwing BP to the Tampa Bay Rays. Apparently she is known as "Knuckleball Princess" — her youth baseball coach was Joe Niekro of all people — and even had some of the big leaguers swinging and missing. Cool.

— You go Vandy. War Smart Kids. The Commodores used a nine-run inning for a 9-8 win over Virginia in the College World Series. One more win and Vandy secures its first national title in a men's sport.

— June 24 has a potpourri of interesting birthdays. It's World Cup time so Lionel Messi (27); Minka Kelly (34); Jeff Beck (70); Al Molinaro (95) of Happy Days; Tom Lister (56), the actor known as Zeus who played Ice Cube's nemesis in Friday; Chuck Taylor (he would have been a 113); Jack Dempsey (would have been 119); Roy O. Disney (who would have been 121). Good times.

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Today's question

Nice job by all-around TFP ace Stephen Hargis here catching up with Herschel Walker.

This leads us to an obvious Rushmore: Since 1980, who is the Rushmore of SEC football players? And we believe Herschel is far left.

Go time.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

5
Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jomo11 said...

UPDATE- Lebron just opted out, unrestricted free agent- let the games begin !

Also did you see where USC ( left coast USC ) is going to give FB, Men's and Womens's BBall 4 year scholarships ? And to think they did this WITHOUT SEC permission ! . . . so much for that lockstep with what the SEC does . . .Im telling you, for the SEC to get the BIG 10 and Pac 12 to agree to what the SEC wants just may be harder than everyone thinks . .

June 24, 2014 at 10:11 a.m.
Stewwie said...

If you're at the top of your game, doesn't it make sense to opt out each time you get the chance (even if you plan to re-sign with the same team)? That way, you take advantage of the chance to sign for more years at the big salary.

I agree with Sir Chuck and MJ that it seems strange that LeBron and others would rather form superteams than try to beat each other. That said, though, I think the superteam formations are great for the NBA. Miami may be a perennial favorite with their Big 3, but they are hardly a lock to win it all as we have clearly seen. Plus, a lot of people feel strongly one way or the other on them so it makes for more compelling TV to see if they can succeed or not.

[The league is staring at a very real caste system in which there are a small circle of haves — teams with championship-level talent who have assembled themselves to be among the elite — and a large pool of driftwood where teams have to lose and hope the lottery is kind.]

Whose fault is that? When small-market teams like OKC and San Antonio can be perennial contenders, I think there's enough proof that you don't need to be in a big market signing big-name free agents in order to compete in the NBA. Anyone who says otherwise is just making excuses. You don't need the NFL model to be a good league. The NBA model is just fine. There are pros and cons for each.

[So there will be eight-to-10 teams trying to get to the No. 1 spot and 20-to-22 teams trying to get the No. 1 pick.].

Not true. There are never 20-22 teams trying to get the No. 1 pick. There are 20-22 teams who are trying to at least make the playoffs. Of that group, there are anywhere from 5-8 who have a shot at going all the way. The remaining teams in the league (8-10) are in an obvious rebuild mode and/or are without their top player(s) due to injury. Of that group, maybe 3 or 4 call it a season before the All-Star break. But in the NFL, there are also 3-4 teams who do the same exact thing before the midway point of the season each year.

June 24, 2014 at 11 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Stewwie —

Concur that opting out is the smart decision. Fair point about the casual fan having a rooting interest either for or against Super Teams, and that's good in some ways, especially for national TV audiences.

San Antonio is the outlier and it's because of draft luck when they landed Duncan — not unlike Indy getting Peyton and then Luck — and finding a Hall of Fame coach. If Durant opts out, OKC will be the new Cleveland.

We think the trend this year started to turn. The Hawks talked openly about how finishing seventh or eighth and making the playoffs was a bad thing for them. Making the playoffs is now a bad thing — think about that.

And that cycle of doom is never ending. You're right that football teams can bag midway through, but the nature of the NFL is the next year, almost everyone has a chance the following year.

Here are the 30 NBA franchises:

Boston, Brookjlyn, New York, Philly, Toronto, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Washington

Denver, Minnesota, OKC, Portland, Utah, Golden State, LAC, LAL, Phoenix, Sacramento, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, San Anontio

How many have a shot to win the whole thing?

And maybe you can say that about other sports, but other sports are determined by who has a legit QB and which baseball team is willing to spend the most (more times than not), rather than which players decide to buddy up?

Maybe it seems worse than it is, but it seems like a system that promotes alliances rather than improvement.

June 24, 2014 at 12:02 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[San Antonio is the outlier and it's because of draft luck when they landed Duncan — not unlike Indy getting Peyton and then Luck — and finding a Hall of Fame coach.]

I disagree about SA. Yes, it was ping pong luck that they got #1 to draft Duncan, but in 2014, he is only a shadow of what he used to be. They won this year because of all the other roster decisions that they have made over the years and none have involved top draft picks or big name free agent signings. Having Pop as coach helps a ton too, but finding the right coach is the same problem every league has and is not exclusive to the NBA's model.

[If Durant opts out, OKC will be the new Cleveland.]

I doubt Durant will go elsewhere. His team has been good to him and has set them up to contend. And Durant seems like a loyal guy. And my understanding is that the NBA no longer allows for the sign and trade that LeBron did with Cleveland so that he could pick up the extra year with his current team and then go play for another team.

[The Hawks talked openly about how finishing seventh or eighth and making the playoffs was a bad thing for them. Making the playoffs is now a bad thing — think about that.]

I must have missed those statements. If they think that making the playoffs this year was a bad thing, then I'm not sure what they were hoping for. And making the playoffs is never a bad thing. I guess losing a few more games to get a 1% chance in the draft lottery would have been better? Come on, Hawks.

[And that cycle of doom is never ending. You're right that football teams can bag midway through, but the nature of the NFL is the next year, almost everyone has a chance the following year.]

Not necessarily, but the NFL does have more parity. But is that necessarily a better thing? I don't see a problem with dynasties, especially when a champion team builds itself from the ground up. The NBA's "Bird Rights" rule helps a team try to stay together if they so choose.

[Maybe it seems worse than it is, but it seems like a system that promotes alliances rather than improvement.]

Alliances are possible, but I don't think they're promoted. And what has happened thus far hasn't ruined the game, but I would argue that it has made things more interesting.

June 24, 2014 at 2:41 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

The Rushmore of SEC football players since 1980: Herschel Walker...Who did you think my first pick would be? Rounding out this Rushmore are Bo Jackson, Reggie White, and Tim Tebow. It wasn't easy leaving off names like Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Danny Wuerffel, and several others that came to mind. And for personal reasons, I really wanted to include Champ Bailey in the Rushmore mix.

The candidates were abundant. The final cuts were tough calls.

June 24, 2014 at 2:44 p.m.
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