So we're nearing the end of the Craziest NBA Offseason Ever of All Time Oh How Nutso Was That! Now of course there are still free agency deals to work out and available free agents, but barring major trades, most of the big news has happened. And it has happened with a bang. We've had broken promises, rejected apologies, spurned owners, teammates, agents, and the most creative use of emojis Paul Pierce and I have ever seen. And that was just the DeAndre Jordan Saga. It was getting to NFL levels of media coverage, something I think will become more and more the case in the years to come.
Just a word here on how prevalent social media has become in the sportsworld (and let's face it, everyworld). Think back to how you heard about offseason news in the past. I remember a time where you'd wait for Sportscenter or read the paper the next morning. There was a time beyond still that sometimes you didn't hear the best stories until Sports Illustrated did an article or a book was written about a player or team. That could take years. Now it's a story every few minutes on Twitter or on the ticker on any sports channel. It's created competition for stories and breaking them and although it may lead to some gratuitous reporting, it's been Christmas in July for NBA fans on Twitter.
Spurs Equal Instant Favorites, The Bell Tolls for the Lakers
The best available player in free agency was Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Perhaps the best mid-range game big in the NBA (think younger Tim Duncan), Aldridge allowed 7 suitors to woo him. The Spurs had been billed as the early favorites due to Aldridge being from Texas and his admiration for Tim Duncan. The Mavericks were another supposed front runner as Aldridge was born and went to high school in Dallas.
Then all of a sudden some reported the Lakers had emerged as front runners and would get the first chance to present to the All Star. Minutes after their meeting though, it was reported that they focused too much of their presentation talking up the marketing and financial opportunities of living in LA. Didn't spend a lot of time on basketball. When Aldridge asked Kobe his opinion, the Mamba responded with a Pau Gasol comparison that was apparently not to LaMarcus' liking. The Lakers and Kobe had put their foot in their mouth.
Aldridge went on to meet with Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas, and Toronto with a late fly-in from Pat Riley and Miami that came as a surprise to many. Aldridge had a meeting with the Knicks scheduled but he cancelled that, further illustrating the general malaise Phil Jackson and the Knicks seemed to be stuck in*. In news illustrating that the Lakers still had something going for them, they were able to convince Aldridge to meet them for a 2nd time for a basketball focused discussion. Kobe Bryant was not to be present.
As most of you know, Aldridge went on to sign a max deal with San Antonio citing how he fit into their system and how they pitched him as Duncan's replacement. Aldridge was not very exposed nationally out in the Pacific Northwest but his addition automatically makes the Spurs the front-runners for the World Title since they signed Kawhi Leonard to a max deal as well. With Duncan and Ginobli coming back, most of their core sticking together plus the addition of David West (who took $11 million less to sign with them), teams will be hard-pressed to take the Spurs out. The Spurs made history when they handed off the coaching duties of their Summer League team to former WNBA star Becky Hammon and it paid off when their 1st round pick from last year became their newest successful player development story, winning the Summer League MVP.
Many used the Aldridge signing to announce the death of the Lakers mystique but they rebounded with some nice pickups and with Kobe set to retire after next season, they're looking at 40-45 million in cap space next year. Something tells me they won't strike out again especially after drafting Ohio State star guard D'Angelo Russell who can dish out some of the best passes you'll ever see.
*I do want to make a comment about New York's offseason. It hasn't really been that bad. Porzingis shows a lot of promise and could become a more athletic Dirk in 2 years. Jerrian Grant will be a solid NBA player and Arron Afflalo is actually pretty decent. 54 million to Sideshow Robin might be a bit much but he is the definition of serviceable. The Knicks are building depth and it remains to be seen what kind of star they can add to that.
LeBron's Power Trip and the Power of Love
While the Western Conference Arms Race garnered the most attention this offseason, the LeBrons held their own. Much was made of LeBron opting out of his deal and allegedly planning not to sign until Tristan Thompson got his deal. Using his leverage is not a new thing for LeBron but he wasn't going anywhere. Eventually, LeBron signed a 2 year deal and will probably exercise his option to opt out after next year before signing the biggest contract in NBA history. Thompson is yet to sign as the Cavs contemplate if they can offer the max to a guy who won't start.
The big news for Cleveland (and the reason Tristan won't start) was the pool party depicted above that was apparently Bring Your Own Chair. It led to a heart to heart between James and Kevin Love which subsequently led to Love signing a 5 year deal to stay in Cleveland. The length of the contract came as a surprise to many including myself but it showed a lot about Kevin Love's character and desire to win. Mo Williams was a later addition and satisfies Cleveland's need for a backup point guard. There's still the opportunity to re-sign J.R. Smith and rumors of a trade for Jamal Crawford or Joe Johnson although those have died down.
The Cavs quest for a championship has Nick Gilbert's dad looking at a potential $18 million over the salary cap before any Tristan Thompson or J.R. Smith deal. Far be it for me to try to explain how the luxury tax works in the NBA (long story short, you pay a fine if your team spends above the salary cap) but this article estimates the Cavs may have to pay nearly $140 million in luxury tax alone this year! That would shatter the old record held by the Brooklyn Nets of a little over $100 million. Isn't it awesome that all this money is just spent on sports?
To DeAndre or Not To DeAndre
NBA fans celebrated Christmas in July on July 8th of this year. On July 3rd, DeAndre Jordan All NBA 3rd Team Center for the the Los Angeles Clippers agreed in principle to signing with the Dallas Mavericks. League rules stipulate free agents cannot actually sign their contract until 12:01pm Eastern time on Thursday, July 9th. There were rumors that Jordan wanted to play a bigger role on offense and that he was just tired of having to deal with noted jerkface perfectionist Chris Paul. But then DeAndre began having second thoughts and gave Dwight Howard a run for the money for being the biggest baby in the NBA. Twitter painted the picture and what pictures there were.
This led to an unparalleled display of tweeting from athletes. Some laugh out loud clever and some just laugh at Paul Pierce.
Pierce started of the twitter war with an image that left more wondering how old he actually was.
Then Clippers assistant coach Mike Woodson tweeted that he was swimming to Houston. Not sure where he was that would have swimming as his most efficient means of transportation. We will never get you, Mike Woodson.
Chandler Parsons was flying in. God knows from where.
J.J. Redick quickly responded indicating he was driving from his home in Austin to DeAndre's place in Houston.
Blake Griffin got into the act but inexplicably was going to take a helicopter from his plane to a car.
Then finally the big news erupted. Chris Paul, he of the estranged relationship with DeAndre was going to make it. Paul's may have been the funniest because just the day before, Paul was enjoying his vacation with pals LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Gabrielle Union on a banana boat..
Austin Rivers, the coach's son and new beneficiary of a $3 million plus 2 year contract from a team his DAD is the general manager of, tweeted something. Yeah, me neither.
Twitter had its fun with it. This continued on the whole day with Clippers players arriving en mass to DeAndre Jordan's home in Houston. They were going to play video games and hang out until he could sign at 12:01am, so just after midnight. This would also likely prevent the Mavericks interfering if the Clippers literally wouldn't let them in the house. Blake Griffin tweeted this pic:
Later on in the evening, after it was established that DeAndre was going to stay in L.A. and was ignoring phone calls from Chandler Parsons and Mark Cuban, there were disputed reports from Chris Broussard that Mark Cuban was driving around Houston texting Jordan's relatives for his home address.
But the rest of the night on twitter belonged to two of the greatest to play the game. Not shy to social media, Kobe Bryant tweeted:
After Jemele Hill explained to him that all the kids were doing it. Kobe responded like you knew he would.
And then enter His Airness himself. I don't think Jordan was trying to copy Kobe. I just think that Kobe's nearly psychotic obsession with being like Jordan has just led him to do what Jordan would do even before Jordan does it. Michael (or whoever runs his Twitter (which might be Kobe)) had this to add:
And then a minute later, Jordan won the day.
Yup, that's a goat. As in Greatest Of All Time. Hard to argue after a performance like that.