With the NBA Draft less than a week away and free agency beginning to get fired up, let’s take a look at what’s in the news for the Association this weekend.
The Import from Europe Returns to his Native Country
It was announced earlier this week that David Blatt would be the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If you’ve never heard of David Blatt, you’re not alone. He played his college basketball in the Ivy League – Princeton specifically – from 1977-81 before spending 12 years as a professional in Europe, mostly in Israel. Blatt has spent the last 20 years coaching overseas with stops in Greece, Russia, Turkey, and most recently Israel. During his time as the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv (2001-03, 2010-14), Blatt won the Israeli League Coach of the Year award three times, the Israeli Cup five times, and the Israeli League championship six times. Blatt is American, however, born in Boston and raised in Framingham, Massachusetts before his time as a Princeton Tiger where he learned the famous offense he has instituted at his many teams. Blatt is believed to be the first NBA head coach without experience as an NBA player, coach, or executive. He is also the Cavaliers’ third coach in the last three years, and he certainly wasn’t their first choice. Reports from Adrian Wojnarowski and others had Dan Gilbert and the Cavs offering University of Kentucky head Coach a seven-year deal worth at least $60 million to serve as president and head coach of the franchise. Other coaches who were significant contenders for the position included former NBA player and current Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue (once thought to be the favorite), former Suns head coach Alvin Gentry (who took a position as an assistant on Steve Kerr’s staff instead), and former Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins.
No Surprises Here as Melo Opts Out. What’s Next?
Word came from Wojnarowski and Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal, among others, that Carmelo Anthony has exercised the Early Termination Option in his contract and is now a free agent. Anthony forgoes a guaranteed $23.5 million payday from the Knicks and now has the Bulls, Rockets, Lakers, and others as potential suitors. The Knicks are still the team able to pay Mr. Anthony the most money – a possible five-year, $125 million contract – but rumors abound the Rockets (Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin) and Bulls (Carlos Boozer) would both be willing to part with significant players to make room for Anthony.
Isaiah Austin Diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, Ending his Career
Sad news this morning as former Baylor star Isaiah Austin has been diagnosed with a rare disease called Marfan Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the body’s connective tissue, effectively ending his professional basketball career before it could begin. I’ve had a family member battle Marfan for quite a long time and it is certainly a serious affliction. Thoughts and prayers go out to Austin and his family as he embarks on the next steps in his journey.
Joel Embiid Has Stress Fracture in Foot, Out 4-6 Months
More troubling news has affected the draft this week as it was announced Joel Embiid had a stress fracture in his right foot. Embiid had surgery Friday morning as surgeons inserted two screws into his foot. Embiid’s injury has all but knocked him out of being selected in the first two picks but after that, anything is possible. Embiid still has a lot of fans in NBA front offices and could go anywhere from third to seventh in the draft, though he is not expected to fall further than that. Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider wrote earlier this week on the history of navicular bone injuries, an injury suffered by the likes of Kevin McHale, Yao Ming, Bill Walton, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and others. I of course wrote recently about the potential of Joel Embiid to be the greatest Joel of all-time and that’s certainly in doubt now.
Nets, Cavs eye potential Thornton-Jack swap
Not quite as big of news but certainly of intrigue in the Eastern Conference as reports surfaced Saturday that Cleveland and Brooklyn were considering swapping their backup guards. Jarrett Jack is under contract for the next three years to the tune of about $19 million and posted a poor 9.5 ppg and 4.1 apg in 28.2 mpg last season. Marcus Thornton has just one year left on his deal with the Nets at a cost just shy of $9 million. Thornton was acquired at the deadline from Sacramento and scored 12.3 ppg while pulling in 2.8 rpg in 23.8 mpg for the Nets.
Trade winds continue to circle Kevin Love as draft approaches
From the latest reports and rumors, it’s sounding like Golden State may be the most likely destination if the Timberwolves ship Kevin Love elsewhere. Points of contention do exist, however, as the Warriors are not thrilled about the prospect of being saddled with Kevin Martin‘s contract for the next three seasons. There is also disagreement among Warriors decision-makers, some of whom are not eager to part with Klay Thompson, who would likely have to head north for Love to come to the Bay Area.
Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani Opt-In
The Sacramento Kings will now be paying Rudy Gay $19.3 million next season, a year after 20.1 ppg and 48.2% shooting in 55 games for the Kings. The spotlight now shines on Isaiah Thomas, now a free agent, who has been a key contributor for the Kings the last few seasons.
Andrea Bargnani also informed his team, the New York Knicks, that he would be opting in for next season as well, now due to be paid $11.5 million. Bargnani did not live up to expectations in the Big Apple last season, averaging 13.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg in 29.9 mpg. More over, the Knicks played better when he wasn’t on the floor, averaging 7.9 more points per 100 possessions with Andrea riding the pine.
As Free Agency gets fired up and the Draft occurs this coming week, the Association will continue to provide us with plenty of talking points.