Restricted free agents: Why did they do it?

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Restricted free agents: Why did they do it?

The NBA general managers for two perennial playoff teams met shortly after the recent rash of contract extensions signed by young, budding players and shared their befuddlement and delight that their GM compatriots were spending both so prematurely and lavishly.Then again, thats the advantage of operating from a position of sustained excellence: the fear of being fleeced doesnt cast quite the same shadow. Why would teams lock up players now, rather than wait until next summer, when they could see what the actual market value of those players might be, knowing they could keep the player by simply matching whatever offer came their way? Because, real or imagined, they are afraid. Afraid that a powerful or desperate agent will try to leverage his clients way out of that restricted freedom, as Rob Pelinka appears to be doing with Eric Gordon in New Orleans. Afraid that an opposing team will present a poison-pill offer sheet, as the Rockets did to get Omer Asik from the Bulls and Jeremy Lin from the Knicks. Afraid that they might have to go to their owner and explain why they couldve signed the same player before his break-out, price-jumping season. These fears arent new in GM circles, but that they remain indicates the lockout simply reduced the overall cost of teams rolling their financial dice, not the compulsion to throw them.Rather than simply rate the smart and not-so-smart gambles, heres a breakdown of why each team made the offer they did, why they shouldnt have, and the unique catalyst in each situation that may have tipped the scale.Demar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors (4 years, 41 million)
Why They Did It: Its Toronto, as in Canada, where players are like geese theyre born (into the NBA), mature and then head south. When you find one willing to stay, paying a tariff for the honor of keeping him comes with the, uh, territories. Raptors also looked around and didnt see a load of quality shooting guards being on the market and saw it best to keep the one they had.Why They Shouldnt Have: Who exactly had DeRozan targeted? Even with a Toronto source saying the guaranteed sum of the extension is only 36 million, who was going to offer more than that for a slasher with a career three-point shooting percentage of 20.2 percent who has never sniffed an All-Star appearance? Intangible: GM Bryan Colangelo has had an affinity for long, super-athletic wings with sketchy jump shots since his Phoenix days (Shawn Marion). Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls (4 years, 38 million)
Why They Did It: Because the Rockets pilfered their other hard-working big man, Asik, with a third-year lump sum of 14 million in a three-year, 25 million deal, and they didnt want to see that happen again. Besides, retaining Gibson was a must if they want to dangle Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer in trade talks.Why They Shouldnt Have: Now theyre compelled to move one of their three big men because, combined with Derrick Roses max contract and the 14 million Luol Deng makes italnextendital season, the Bulls have little chance of adding backcourt scoring any other way. Gibsons offensive contributions are as inconsistent as Noahs, which means theyve committed 20-25 million to spark-plug players for the next three years.Intangible: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau loves spark-plug players. Cant get enough of em.Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors, (4 years, 44 million)
Why They Did It: Doctors have convinced them the ankle issues have been resolved. Dealing Monta Ellis to Milwaukee meant they were putting their chips on Curry, who fits the profile new owner Joe Lacob seems to have in mind: clean cut, high basketball IQ types. If it means sacrificing some athleticism, so be it. Why They Shouldnt Have: Curry re-injured the ankle in training camp, ample evidence its still vulnerable. The jury also remains out on exactly which guard position best suits him and he doesnt have the prototypical physical attributes for either spot. Under the new CBA, an 11 million player has to be a cornerstone, as in a player who makes the game easier for his less-talented, lesser-paid teammates, can impact the game at both ends, or both. Intangible: The Warriors are looking to move into a pricey new arena in San Francisco by 2017. It certainly will be easier to recruit business alliances if the team is winning and while it can be debated how good Curry actually can be, its not as if free agents have been flocking to Golden State in recent years. As former NuggetsNets GM Kiki Vandeweghe points out in the accompanying podcast, sometimes a signing has to do with staying relevant in a particular market where theres a lot of competition (Giants, As, Raiders, 49ers, Sharks) for the entertainment dollar.Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers (4 years, 41 million)
Why They Did It: Because he has flourished under, or maybe simply endured, Doug Collins hyper-attentive coaching style. He also has great size (64, 205) for a PG, and shoots the three well (career 38 percent).Why They Shouldnt Have: Other than they could have had a free look for another year, absolutely no reason. Consider: hes the only one in this crop of signings who can say he led his team to the second round of the playoffs last season. Considering what he already has accomplished and his compatibility with center Andrew Bynum, theres a good chance hell be a bargain before this contract ends. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets (4 years, 48 million)
Why They Did It: With every other PG off the market and the Nuggets poised to have a strong season, GM Masai Ujiri didnt like the idea of Lawson being everybodys No. 1 target next summer. His numbers will only improve as Denvers young guns JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari mesh with still-athletic and new addition Andre Iguodala. Hes the perfect PG for the up-and-down team GM Masai Ujiri is building and he demonstrated his willingness to work on his game by going over to Lithuania to play during the lockout. The PG position may be the most loaded, talent-wise, in the league right now and playoff aspirations could die quickly for any team without a high-caliber one. The Nuggets also now have a high-ceiling
Young Big Three corraled: PFC McGee, F Gallinari and Lawson.
Why They Shouldnt Have: Did he really merit the biggest four-year extension in this group of talent? Considering last years truncated 66-game season was his first full one as a starter, why not see how he holds up to the rigors of a full 82-game campaign? The exact maximum offer sheet he couldve received cant be calculated until next summer, but it wouldve been roughly 7 million more than his current deal. Wouldnt that be worth knowing the other 48 million was wisely invested? Intangible: Lawson just changed agents, hiring Happy Walters, and while Walters is considered to be a smart agent who gets his clients taken care of without holding teams hostage or burning bridges, the Nuggets have no history built with him as far as Lawson is concerned, i.e., how hed handle him given multiple suitors in bigger markets.James Harden, Houston Rockets, (5 years, 78 million)
Why They Did It: GM Daryl Morey needed to deliver owner Les Alexander a true superstar to keep his job and part of the sales job appears to have been paying Harden like one. Morey, who took over the spring before the 2007-08 season, is lauded as one of the shining lights of the analytics mavens, but all that higher math and number-crunching hasnt produced a playoff berth three years running and it could be argued the previous two years playoff appearances were off the work of his predecessor, Carroll Dawson. Morey also gave up a load of assets to get Harden from OKC two first-round picks, a young lottery pick in Jeremy Lamb and Kevin Martin with his 12.9 million expiring contract so locking up Harden a year longer, on the surface, seems like the right move. They also did it with the fifth year only partially guaranteed, allowing the Rockets to hedge their bet. And for all the money spent on Lin, Asik and Harden, the Rockets still will have some cap room to play with next season before Asik and Lins balloon payments come due.Why They Shouldnt Have: One, a team can only hand out one five-year deal under the new CBA, which means Harden ostensibly has to be the Rockets best player. It took trickery and over-paying to get Asik and Lin; they cant realistically use the same stunts to lure more talent to Houston. And will the Asik-Lin-Harden core attract discounted talent over Miami, OKC or the Lakers? Harden, the Thunders former sixth man is good, but is he good enough to make a perennial power out of a surrounding cast of Asik, Lin and a half-dozen no-name forwards? Can he be a defensive stopper as well as a scorer? Thats what max-contract players do if theyre worth it. Morey is so accommodating to the media and beloved by the stat geeks that the second-guessing will remain a murmur, but a wide sampling of GMs tagged Hardens deal as potentially the least sensible of all those signed this summer. The contention is that Morey couldve secured Harden with a four-year max deal and retained the five-year option to lure the quality big man he still desperately needs.Intangible: GMs say Hardens statistical productivity and efficiency makes him a dream boat with a slip right next to LeBron James in the analytics marina, so Morey assuredly had a compelling batch of numbers to seal the deal on Hardens worthiness with Alexander.

Irving fuels Game 4 comeback, Cavs take 3-1 lead over Celtics

Irving fuels Game 4 comeback, Cavs take 3-1 lead over Celtics

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving gritted his teeth, tightened up his left sneaker and hopped to his feet.

The pain didn't stop him. The Celtics didn't either.

Irving took over in the second half and finished with 42 points, LeBron James added 34 and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved within one win of an almost inevitable third date in the Finals with Golden State by rallying to beat Boston 112-99 on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

With James in foul trouble, Irving stayed on the floor despite rolling his left ankle in the third quarter, when he scored 19 points in less than five minutes.

"He put us on his back and carried us," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.

The defending NBA champions, who shot 71 percent in the second half to open a 3-1 lead in the series, can wrap up their third straight conference title - and a "three-match" against the Warriors - with a win in Game 5 on Thursday night in Boston.

But if Games 3 and 4 are any indication, it won't be easy.

Fighting to keep their season alive, the Celtics aren't giving an inch despite playing without All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who may need surgery on a hip injury.

The Cavs, meanwhile, wouldn't be on the cusp of the Finals without Irving.

With Cleveland in jeopardy of dropping its second game in a row after James followed an 11-point Game 3 by picking up four first-half fouls, Irving put on a breathtaking one-man show in the third quarter.

Freezing Boston defenders with his dribble and driving to the basket whenever he wanted, Irving made six layups, two 3-pointers and a free throw in a dizzying span of 4:48. He capped his blistering 19-point outburst with a 3 in the final second of the quarter and celebrated at mid-court by pretending to put two pistols back in his holster.

"Coming out of halftime I just wanted to be aggressive, lead my guys and leave it all out there on the floor," Irving said.

When the horn sounded to end the third, Cleveland's players poured off the bench to greet him. They had to be careful not to knock him off his feet after Irving had put a scare through the frenzied Quicken Loans Arena crowd moments earlier when he stepped on the foot of Boston's Terry Rozier.

Irving stayed on the floor for several seconds before sitting up and re-tying his sneaker. Nothing was keeping him out.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was disappointed with his team's defense on Irving, who was able to spread the floor while surrounded by shooters.

"There's choices," Stevens said. "I'm not sure there are good choices. When he gets going like that, he's tough to stop. The ones we gotta look at are the ones he got at the rim."

Kevin Love added 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Cavs, now 11-1 in the postseason.

Avery Bradley scored 19 and Jae Crowder 18 for Boston.

Lue chuckled before the game when he was asked if he planned to say anything to James following his sub-standard performance in Game 3.

"No message," Lue said. "Just come out, be aggressive, in attack mode like he has been over the last four or five months. Nothing has changed."

Lue should have warned James to be careful, too, as the superstar picked up four fouls and spent the final 6:46 of the first half watching from the bench, unable to help his team.

But beyond James' foul trouble, the Cavs were having other issues as the Celtics outplayed them at both ends while opening a 16-point lead.

Irving kept Cleveland within striking distance while James was out by scoring 12 points over the final 5:11 of the second quarter.

And in the third quarter, the All-Star guard had James' back again, keeping the Cavs on their collision course with the Warriors.

TIP-INS:
Celtics: Thomas spoke to coach Brad Stevens and told him that he has visited one hip specialist and plans to see more before it's decided if he needs surgery. Thomas initially injured his hip in March and played the final two months of the regular season before aggravating it during the playoffs. ... Stevens started Kelly Olynyk, who had 15 points. ... Before the playoffs began, the Celtics were 22-5 at home since Jan. 1. They're 5-4 in the postseason so far.

Cavaliers: Irving scored 41 in Game 5 of last year's Finals. ... J.R. Smith and his wife, Jewel, brought their daughter home after more than five months in the hospital following her premature birth. Smith posted photos on his Instagram account of the couple leaving Hillcrest Hospital with their baby in a stroller. "We Walked In Together We Walked Out Together!!" Smith wrote. ... Deron Williams played 18 minutes after sustaining a shoulder "stinger" in Game 3.

UP NEXT:
The Celtics lost Game 2 at home by 44 and the first two games of the series by a combined 57.

 

Seventeen narratives to tide you over until Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Seventeen narratives to tide you over until Game 1 of the NBA Finals

It’s time once again to play, “Narrate That Narrative,” with your increasingly weary hosts, the Golden State Warriors.
 
And we say increasingly weary because, in playing 12 games (slightly less than 29 hours of elapsed time) in 46 days (slightly more than 1,100 hours of real time), the Warriors have spent far more time engaging, rejecting, advancing and goofing with narratives than they have with actual ball-related duties.
 
You know, the idiotic side stories with a two-day shelf life until someone serves up a new narrative, because after all, sports are really just delivery systems for disposable tales of no enduring value and very little transitory value. I’ve known cheeses left too near a heater than maintained their integrity longer.
 
But with another nine days (eight now, in case your narrative happens to be mindless timekeeping) before Game One of the NBA Finals, all we have is narratives. And yes, for that we can very definitely blame the Warriors, for without their refusal to mix in a devastating loss that really isn’t, we’ve had atomic clocks of time on our hands.
 
So muscle up, kids. This is your future until tipoff.
 
LEGACIES: This is without question the stupidest of them all, because trying to figure out an active athlete’s legacy is one of the most pointless things you can do with yourself. The Warriors will either be a budding dynasty or a one-hit-wonder-in-the-making. They will not be the best team of all time (the 1960s Celtics have that locked away), nor will they be the new Buffalo Bills (who unlike the Warriors tried many times and never won). They will be a team still fashioning their legacies, which as it turns out won’t actually be written accurately for decades.
 
In other words, remember O.J. Simpson’s legacy when he stopped playing football, and think of it now.
 
STEVE KERR: His spinal cord has a worse reputation than Stephen Curry’s ankles, and at this point it seems awfully likely that he will be an interested spectator with an all-access credential for the Finals. Thus, he remains the second best coach in NBA history in winning percentage (.848 if you include playoffs), behind only Not Steve Kerr (92.4).
 
KEVIN DURANT’S DECISION: It was a good one. He’s happy. He’s winning games. He’s wired into the Bay Area business community. Russell Westbrook is a year ago and Oklahoma City is a million miles away. Nothing new here, as there hasn’t been since the last time they played nine weeks ago. This story was old in August, and has been dead since January. Stop.
 
LEBRON JAMES: Is he Michael Jordan? Is he better than Michael Jordan? Does he like to troll people? Is he smug? Is he justifiably proud? All fascinating subjects if you just like making stuff up in your head based on your very limited ability to see inside the souls of others. But hey, you paid your fees just like everyone else. Psychoanalyze away.
 
ZAZA PACHULIA AND BRUCE BOCHY: He has become bigger than Andrew Bogut in Warrior lore because of his ill-placed foot in Game One of the Western Conference Final, and because his head was deemed far too large in Monday’s postgame celebration to accommodate a hat. Now you see how these two are linked?
 
JAVALE MCGEE: More fun than Zaza Pachulia, though dealing with Tristan Thompson will probably mean that his fun will be significantly truncated.
 
ANDRE IGUODALA’S KNEE: That’s not a narrative, that’s an injury report.
 
ANDRE IGUODALA’S DEFENSIVE ASSIGNMENT: See above. If the knee is sound, it will be LeBron James. If not, Draymond Green, David West and whatever else will work.
 
DRAYMOND GREEN’S TEMPER: 21 technical fouls, a flailing foot and a hideously timed suspension a year ago, 16 this year, no suspensions. Plus, only two technicals this postseason. His history remains his history, and he has been both targeted and given some slack depending on the official (he damned near chased Scott Foster down the floor one night this year and Foster patiently eased him off the ledge). He has been a voluble and expressive model citizen as these things go.
 
KLAY THOMPSON: Poor shooting in the San Antonio series has condemned him despite his offensive and defensive ratings both being up from a year ago. It’s a talker if shooting is your deal, but he won’t play any fewer minutes in this series than any of the other 11. His “struggles” are a mild amusement for those who still think trying to force drama on these guys is a useful exercise.
 
STEPHEN CURRY: I give up. Is there anything new to say about him?
 
JOE LACOB GIVING AN INTERVIEW TO THE FINANCIAL TIMES: Quick, everyone head for the shelters.

SCOTT FOSTER: Last year's officiating bete noire, now not even worth a mention. If you need something, the Warriors are 20-0 with Ron Garretson and 17-4 with Ed Malloy in the last three years. Just keep it to yourselves.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: Right now, the Warriors could become the first team to win all 16 postseason games, but even if they don’t, they can still go 16-3, tie the record currently held by the 2005 San Antonios and still have a parade. They did good – as long as they win. If they don’t win, the hell they will pay will be at full retail prices with the usual jewelers’ markup.
 
PLAYOFF BOREDOM: If Cleveland wins, this is the series you all demanded. If Boston wins, you get a surprise. But neither will make us happy because the playoffs weren’t sufficiently entertaining for us. That’s how we do our cultural life now – we reflexively turbo-bitch about something because it keeps us from getting diabetes, or some other excuse. As a result, we are the worst generation so far, and those who come behind us are very likely to be worse unless they can cure themselves soon.
 
LUCK: Yep, lucky again. No Yusuf Nurkic to allow Portland to play at its best. A limited Rudy Gobert to allow Utah to play at its best. No Tony Parker and only 28 minutes of Kawhi Leonard to allow San Antonio to be at its best. They were lucky two years ago as well, and the ring was just as big and the parade just as sunshiny. They weren’t as lucky a year ago (Stephen Curry’s wobbly legs, Draymond Green’s suspension, the auto-asphyxia of the last five minutes of Game Seven of the Finals).
 
In other words, it’s good to put yourself in a position to be lucky. Every champion ever, in every sport, on every continent, they’ve all been lucky. Luck is a compliment not wasted on second-round losers. Deal with it.
 
THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS: There has never been a champion that was universally beloved, with the possible exceptions of Leicester City when it won the Premier League last year, and maybe Secretariat. Every other one ever had critics based on style of play, level of success, arrogance, dismissiveness, bullying, plain geography or just, because . . . well, see “turbo-bitching.” It won’t be that hard. It was two paragraphs ago. Suck it up, scroll your screen and move your eyes.

The point is, one word of criticism from Charles Barkley is somehow louder than reams of glowing reviews. Warrior fans are like all the others in that they demand universal worship of their favorite team, and they hear “just a bunch of jump-shooters” no matter what Barkley actually says at any given moment.
 
See, they don’t have to like your team, and it affects nothing. Stop caring. 
 
There will be more, but these are the main ones that should tide you over until game time, whether it’s the series you want (Cleveland) or the series you never expected (Boston). We’re all very sorry if we couldn’t make it the New York Knicks, or LaVar Ball, just to name two narratives you won't have to deal with in the coming days.