Focus This Season Should Be on Fordham Basketball, Not Tom Pecora’s Job

Twelve-year-old Sean Pecora started at the foul line, took a couple of dribbles and, in stride, let go of the ball.

There were no defenders, no one was keeping score, and the only person watching was Tom Pecora, Sean’s father and the head coach of the Fordham Rams.

As Sean went in for the layup, his father turned for a quick second or two to watch a kid with a future ahead of him. When he did, his eyes momentarily left a program with a future that starts now.

Sean’s ball went in. Fordham’s ball is still up in the air.

Since he was hired in March 2010, Pecora has tried to transform the Rams from perennial losers into winners, something Fordham had been trying to do for its first 15 years in the Atlantic 10.

With the arrival of fall providing a signal that we’re that much closer to the start of the college basketball campaign, we’re left to ponder if after 19 seasons—most ending in frustration and doubt—could this finally be the year that the program turns the corner for good?

So much of this upcoming season is going to be about the future, even though the future is now for Fordham basketball. It’s not just going to be about the future of the Rams. It will also be about the future of Pecora, whose fifth year at the school has all the makings of being the most important one yet.

The first four haven’t been great, producing only 34 wins against 85 losses. As we moved into this past offseason, questions about Pecora‘s job status popped up from time to time.

Pecora was asked. Fordham athletic director David Roach was asked. I’m sure others were asked as well. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and most think Pecora has to win this year.

But what exactly that means is unclear, creating a murky picture that could lead to months of innuendo, rumor and pure speculation.

For his part, Roach told Bleacher Report“I never put numbers on it, but we want to see significant improvement. I can’t put a number on it, but I can feel it.”

That’s where it could get interesting. Fordham will be expected to win a good portion of its nonconference games. Heading into A-10 play with an 8-3 record is a realistic goal. But once January comes and the conference schedule begins, the level of competition and degree of difficulty will increase dramatically. Yes, Fordham has added significant talent, but it’ll be tested on a nightly basis by a conference that sent six teams to the NCAA tournament last year.

Pecora isn’t one to back down from a challenge. He proved that just by taking the Fordham job in the first place. He’s tried to instill in his players that same mentality.

“I always tell kids, ‘You can’t play scared.’ You can’t coach scared either,” Pecora told Bleacher Report. “I know how to do this. We’re going to stick to our guns, be patient with it, be positive and keep moving forward.”

“I don’t feel like my job’s on the line,” he added. “You can’t coach scared. No one pushes coaches harder than themselves.”

Building a basketball program is tough. Building one at a place where it’s never been done before at this level is even tougher. No one wants to win more than Pecora. It’s what he did at Hofstra when he won 155 games in nine seasons. It’s what drove him to accept the Fordham job—believing he could accomplish what no one else before him was able to do.

“I obviously didn’t come here to not win basketball games,” Pecora said. “We had great success prior to coming here, but so have other coaches and it hasn’t work here. We think the approach we’ve taken, although it might have taken longer, I think we’ve built a pretty solid foundation in the process of doing it.” 

“I do believe we can have a year this year, if the ball bounces the right way, especially in conference, where we can turn the corner,” he added. “Does it mean 16-15 is a good year and 15-16 isn’t? That’s yet to be seen.”

Pecora has been coaching for 30 years. This is his greatest challenge. After four years at Rose Hill, he understands the realities of his situation—at Fordham, in the A-10 and within the landscape of college basketball.

“It’s a business about wins and losses,” Pecora said. “I get it.

“We’re going to be the best Fordham we can be. For us to be compared to other schools, whether they’re A-10 schools or other schools in college basketball, I don’t get caught up in that nonsense. We’re Fordham. We’re a unique place, and we have to find a unique way to put together a winning basketball program. I think we’re doing that.”

If you ask Pecora whether he thinks he’s on the hot seat, he’ll tell you that he’s been on the hot seat his entire life. If you ask him what he thinks when he hears people speculate about what he needs to do this year to keep his job, he’ll say what you’d expect someone who’s been around the game this long would say.

“I think it means we have to get better than last year,” Pecora said. “I agree with it. I don’t think there’s a hard number out there because it’s such a fragile equation. You’re a rolled ankle away from things changing drastically. Go lose a point guard that’s playing 35 minutes a game in the middle of A-10 play and see how things play out.”

This season cannot be all about Pecora. In many ways, it’s the first step in a brand-new process that began with an infusion of talent the likes of which the program was in desperate need of. Fordham needed a star— it got just that with Eric Paschall. The Rams needed a point guard—they found Nemanja Zarkovic. They needed help in the frontcourt—they got that, and more, with Christian Sengfelder.

Give it time. If it doesn’t work now, it never will.

“If you’re going to do this the right way, there are no shortcuts,” Pecora said. “I can’t coach this team in a way where this is the only year that matters. Because then next year they won’t develop the way they should to take us to the next step.”

“I know we’re doing it the right way here,” he added. “I know we’re representing Fordham on and off the court in the right way. The last step in the process is winning some games. But people who think you come in, turn it around and win 20 gamesthey don’t have a clue as to what it takes to do it the right way.”

You know what question they ought to be asking around Fordham these days? Not the one that’s been asked several times since the Rams’ season ended in March—the one about whether or not Pecora is on the hot seat.

The question they should be asking is what is Fordham going to do to keep Pecora around beyond this year? Because if the Rams get it going in 2014-15, get eight wins in nonconference games, pick up a few more in Atlantic 10 play and make some noise at the Barclays Center in March, then it’s not going to matter whether Fordham wants him back or not. It’s going to be about other schools airlifting him right out of the Rose Hill Gym.

Barring a meltdown, which no one anticipates happening, there shouldn’t be any questions about Pecora‘s job. It might be hard to imagine coming off a 10-win season, but the ball may very soon be in his court.

In fact, if the call is made to let Pecora go, then you could argue that maybe the next call should be to A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade, opening a dialogue about where the school is going after 20 years in the conference.

This season shouldn’t be about Pecora‘s future. It has more to do with Fordham’s.

 

Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. A full archive of his articles can be found hereTwitter: @CFCostello

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Denver Nuggets Should Think Twice About Overpaying Kenneth Faried

Of all who observed Team USA’s gangbuster gold-medal performance at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, perhaps no one bore more conflicting thoughts than Denver Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly.

To be sure, watching Kenneth Faried turn the tournament into his own international coming-out party bodes nothing if not well for the future of the franchise.

At the same time, Faried and his representatives are sure to continue using the forward’s performance as leverage in the weeks leading up to October 31, the deadline for NBA teams to extend players currently under contract.

But while the Nuggets would be wise to reward Faried for his performance—both at FIBA and in the three solidly productive seasons now behind him—Connelly must be careful about overpaying too steeply for a player whose skill set remains very much a work in progress.

Nowhere are the red flags more glaring than in the high-energy forward’s thus-far-futile attempts at expanding his range.

To wit, here’s his rookie-year shot chart:

While Faried’s range was certainly limited, the lack of attempts from deep suggested he at least respected those limitations.

However, the following season (2012-13) saw the spark-plug forward try his hand a bit more from mid-range, while regressing somewhat in terms of overall efficiency.

The 2013-14 campaign once again found Faried hoisting a bit more from distance, with his overall shooting efficiency remaining exactly the same (a 57 percent true-shooting percentage) as in the previous year.

Faried has certainly been more ambitious with respect to honing his offensive skill set. It’s just that the net results haven’t shown much in the way of marked improvement.

And while Faried’s improvement as a help defender was on full display during Team USA’s dominant run through the FIBA field, the competition deficit alone is enough to make one wonder how much of an anomaly that supposed growth really was.

From a purely strategic perspective, Denver is understandably loathe to roll the dice on a large extension, why with the Nuggets able to match anything beyond the $3.4 million qualifying offer pegged to Faried for the 2015-16 season.

Of course, there’s an inherent risk in the opposite direction as well. For instance, if Faried were to author an All-Star-level 2013-14 campaign, any number of teams might be willing to offer him something close to a maximum contract. At that point, Denver would face the unenviable dilemma of either having to match the offer and hoping for similar future production or neglecting to match and hoping for the exact far different outcome.

This naturally invites the question: Based on both past performance and future prospects, what, exactly, is Faried worth? Recently, SportingNews.com’s Sean Deveney attempted to contextualize what the market might look like:

Is Faried worth a contract that pays, say, $58 million over four years? Remember that players like Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward each got deals starting at $14.7 million. And that Derrick Favors’ extension kicks in this year with Utah, and he is on a four-year, $47 million deal. In that context, a deal starting at about $13 million is fair, or perhaps even low.

Faried is doubtless using the example of Derrick Favors as an argument in his favor. Sooner or later, however, the market for potential-laden-but-limited power forwards is sure to retract.

All the same, the Nuggets might be operating under the assumption that the league’s salary cap—slated to be set at $63 million for the forthcoming season—will increase at a rate great enough to justify “overpaying” now for what could prove a bargain a few years down the road.

Which is why Denver’s negotiation strategy ultimately boils down to one seemingly simple (but enormously complex) question: Is Kenneth Faried good enough to be a franchise cornerstone?

You could certainly do worse than building around the unique talents of Faried and point guard Ty Lawson, whose own extension has the water-bug point guard remaining as Denver’s floor general at least through the 2016-17 season, according to HoopsHype.com.

Question is, is that a potent enough one-two punch to which other future free agents will jump to hitch their wagons?

A recent quote from Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski underscores just how difficult it is to measure Faried’s impact.

“Overall, from the start of training camp, he’s been the biggest and best surprise and has turned out to be a very, very important player for us,” Krzyzewski told ESPN’s Marc Stein. “He’s made that happen. We never call a play for him.”

Writing at Bleacher Report, Nick Juskewycz gleans from Krzyzewski’s praise a decidedly optimistic undertone—namely that Faried’s importance is such that he doesn’t need to be a team’s go-to player in order to have a significant impact on the game itself.

That’s all well and good, of course; NBA history is rife with examples of offensively limited players whose fringe benefits made them worth far more than the dollar figures beside their names.

Then again, Krzyzewski’s praise isn’t without its less sympathetic deduction. Indeed, if a player’s skill set is such that one never has to call plays for him, to what extent do the implied limitations bode ill for the team’s future?

As a high-voltage personification of the 110 percent ethos, Faried is the kind of player any coach—regardless of style or system—would love to have wearing his heraldry.

As the frontcourt cornerstone on a team whose near-future prospects are still wholly up in the air? In terms of high-risk deals, the details—both the dollars and what they buy—are as devilish as they come.

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The One NBA Star Every Top-10 Rookie Should Emulate in 2014-15

For NBA rookies breaking into the league, it’s important to soak up as much as they can from the league’s top stars.

There are some invaluable lessons and highly effective skills to learn if they watch their role model’s nightly approach to the game. Veterans are treasure troves of everything from fundamentals, tricks of the trade and intangibles.

We took the top 10 draftees this year and identified stars they should emulate in 2014-15.

To be clear, these aren’t all necessarily “NBA comparisons” for these newcomers. And the rookies won’t be able to mimic every aspect of the veterans’ repertoire. The youngsters simply can learn key lessons from these elite performers and apply them to their own development.

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Kentucky Basketball: Should John Calipari Care About Duke’s USA Basketball Ties?

Yahoo Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski’s piece on USA Basketball as propaganda tool for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke was a dirty bomb, sending fallout through various corners of college basketball. Said fallout reached all the way to Lexington, Kentucky, when Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim named UK coach John Calipari as the only one to complain that coaching US national teams could help land prospects.

“He’s said he thinks its an advantage,” Boeheim told Chris Carlson of Syracuse.com. “It’s a little bit disingenuous of him. I like John. We get along fine. He feels Mike is getting an advantage.”

If there’s anyone with no reason to care about other schools getting any sort of recruiting bumpespecially a perfectly legal one like Krzyzewski’s summertime side gig as USA national coachit’s John Calipari.

In the race to land top recruits, Calipari frequently appears to be driving a Formula 1 race car while his rivals puff along on bicycles. While Coach K is spending time with LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Coach Cal is getting dap from Drake and Jay-Z.

Calipari and Krzyzewski will both sport rosters loaded with McDonald’s All-Americans this season. Duke and Kentucky will each suit up nine former selections to the iconic all-star game, jointly holding the all-time record. The Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) were the only NBA team with that many former Burger Boys on the roster when the 2013-14 season ended.

The difference between the two coaches lies in their reputations. Perhaps that’s the bur under Calipari’s saddle.

Coach K has cultivated a reputation as a classic tough-love coach, in a similarif less volatilemold to his mentor, Bob Knight. Trained at West Point, Krzyzewski is able to demand discipline from his players while still being able to earn their unconditional love and respect. For crying out loud, Krzyzewski was even named one of Fortune magazine’s top 50 leaders in the world.

Like any other successful program, though, Duke draws plenty of dissenting voices willing to call its players and coaches out for any breach of decorum. Case in point: Coach K’s frequent berating of officials (Warning: strong language NSFW).

Calipari, meanwhile, is regarded with suspicionif not outright disdainfrom nearly everyone outside of Big Blue Nation, and even some UK fans had little use for him when he was coaching at Memphis.

Calipari’s vacated Final Fours at UMass and Memphis are repeatedly held against him despite the NCAA absolving him of wrongdoing in both cases. Even Cal’s fellow coaches cast a fishy eye toward him, especially when he’s landing epic recruiting classes year in and year out.

Princeton athletic director Gary Walters bemoaned UK’s annual roster churn even while the Wildcats were marching toward the 2012 national championship. He said to USA Today‘s Steve Wieberg, “Is this the image we want to project? Is this really the image we want to project as an institution of higher education? I don’t think so.”

Just this week, the Louisville Courier-Journal didn’t miss an opportunity to take a shot at a “whiny” Calipari, tacking his head onto an infant’s body to accompany an otherwise even-handed Tim Sullivan column about coaches decrying each other’s recruiting edges.

Still, both Calipari and Krzyzewski keep winning the recruiting wars, sometimes losing only to one another. They do it by keeping themselves and their programs in the limelight for as much of the year as they can manage.

Coach K does it by leading the U.S. National Team into competitions that barely move the needle on ESPN. Calipari does it by letting recruits know which entertainers are likely to appear at Big Blue Madness. Which method sounds easier to you?

It may sound shallow to those who want recruits to choose a school based on important things like coaches’ style or playing timeif not antiquated notions like academics (#sarcasmfont)but top 2015 guard Malik Newman made no secret of his excitement about Drake potentially appearing at UK’s season-opening event.

“(Calipari) said Drake might come this year,” Newman said to Courtney Cronin of The Clarion-Ledger. “That would be a really good event to go to. It really lets me know what they’re working with and that (Kentucky) has a lot of connections.”

Calipari’s famous associates resonate with recruits as much as, if not more than, Krzyzewski’s work with NBA superstars. Calipari demonstrates a willingness to relate to the lifestyle his players aspire to, and he displays no qualms about sending his players to the NBA the moment he feels they’re ready.

“It’s hard,” Calipari said to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein about working with annual upheaval precipitated by the NBA’s age minimum. “The coaches who want to take kids and then in one year they go prohey, have at it. I got no problem with that because I think it’s good for the kids.”

A group of one-and-done players led Kentucky to its eighth national championship in 2012, granting Calipari his ultimate validation.

Coach K’s recent work with one-and-dones has been decidedly less fruitful. Kyrie Irving could only lead the Blue Devils to a Sweet 16 blowout loss to Arizona. Austin Rivers presided over a round-of-64 loss to Lehigh in 2012. A Jabari Parker-led team made it no further before losing to Mercer in 2014. Kentucky played in the Final Four in all three of those seasons, with freshmen playing leading roles each time.

There is absolutely no reason for John Calipari to give a rat’s hindquarters about what Mike Krzyzewski or any other coach in America does to help their recruiting, as long as no one’s blatantly resorting to illegal tactics. If he truly is as concerned as Jim Boeheim makes him out to be, his paranoia will eat him alive and sooner rather than later.

Until the day comes when he just can’t take the stress anymore, nearly everything Calipari’s doing is working just fine, thank you.

And if you think Calipari himself is doing something untoward, Kentucky fans are only too happy to dare you to go out and prove it.

 

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5 Remaining NBA Free Agents Who Should Be Signed Before 2014-15 Season

NBA free agency kicked off all the way back on July 1, but there are five still-available players who can make an impact on the 2014-15 season.

Whether it’s a stalemate in negotiations, consideration of retirement, attitude concerns or simply an absence of the right fit, the reasons they’re available are varied.

Working around the aforementioned obstacles and signing one of these five could be a great low-risk, high-reward opportunity (except in the case of the first player in the slideshow, who will eventually command a hefty contract).

In the following slides, organized by position, you’ll read why each player is still available and what he has to offer a team this season.

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Who Should Start at Small Forward for Los Angeles Lakers?

To say there’s not a lot of obvious depth at the small forward position for the Los Angeles Lakers is saying just a little. It’s a tale of “tweeners.”

Wesley Johnson is the clearest natural candidate, even if Mike D’Antoni did insist on using him as a vastly undersized power forward last season.

And then there’s Xavier Henry, a young, athletic slasher who played three positions in just 43 games last season as a point guard, shooting guard and small forward.

Kobe Bryant has stepped into the 3-spot on a number of occasions in the past, depending on lineups. And Nick “Swaggy P” Young is also capable of playing the position—although he’s clearly at his best when letting it rain from his natural shooting guard role.

Even rookie Julius Randle—a 6’10” bull in a china shop—thinks he can play interchangeable frontcourt positions, as he mentioned soon after being drafted, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com:

A lot of the league is going to small ball, but the good thing about me, I’m interchangeable. I can play small ball because I can guard multiple positions because I can really move. But I think it’s going to be an advantage for me to be able to take a smaller guy inside but also take a bigger guy on the outside.

But as Darius Soriano for Forum Blue and Gold points out about Randle, there are inherent problems with tall trees lineups that pack the frontcourt with size:

Put a 6’10” player on the perimeter and tell him to defend a like sized player who just so happens to be able to put the ball on the floor with skill and quickness and the advantage will almost always lie with the player who possesses the ball. Big players normally lack the needed lateral quickness to stay in front of such players. Add in the advantages that come with drawing that bigger defender away from the paint and the benefits to an offense only increase via better spacing for the entire team.

During the wild and woolly D’Antoni era, even 6’11” Ryan Kelly got to try his hand at small forward.

But the small-ball innovator has moved on now, and there is a new sheriff in town. It’s hard to see Byron Scott, with his fondness for traditional interior fundamentals, playing footloose and fancy-free as guys like Randle or Kelly try to make like Lamar Odom.

There is, of course, another wild-card factor. With only 13 players on the roster, the Lakers are likely to go into the regular season with another body—especially someone who could fill an obvious positional need.

This leads us to the rumor that won’t go away until it finally, and mercifully, does go away—that Michael Beasley, who has worked out twice with the Lakers, could somehow wind up as their starting small forward.

This is a recipe ripe for disaster. 

Because what would happen if a rash of injuries were to hit and you were suddenly left with Swaggy and B-Easy playing alongside each other? Lots of buckets and unintentional hilarity for sure—but solid basketball? That’s highly unlikely.

Or, as The Great Mambino recently wrote for Silver Screen and Roll, “It’s a really stupid idea.” He elaborates further:

Michael Beasley isn’t a lottery ticket. He is a skunked bottle of wine. He’s 25 years old, sure, but has alienated himself from his last three teams in six seasons. He couldn’t stick with a Minnesota squad hurting for shooting swingmen, a rebuilding Phoenix club looking for any semblance of talent or a Heat team desperate for an explosive scorer off the bench. He would come to the Lakers needing to beat out a dozen other guys for a spot at either of the forward positions. Bringing him on isn’t just an indictment that the Lakers aren’t hitting on their reclamation projects, but an indictment of incompetence.

So take away all the positional musical chairs and the idea that Beasley could somehow shoot his way into the heart of a hardliner like Scott, and what do you have left?

It comes back full circle to Johnson—the most obvious choice for the starting small forward role. He’s got the size and the natural ability, can alter shots at the rim and is a decent perimeter defender as well.

He also has support from Scott, per Mike Trudell for Lakers.com: “I think the kid is so talented, I’m really hoping it can be a break out year for him. Now, obviously, he has to come to camp and win that spot, and that’s on him.”

As I recently noted for B/R, Johnson has been working out with the Mamba this summer. This is not a new development—per Jonah Ballow for the Minnesota Timberwolvesofficial site, the former No. 4 pick met Bryant during predraft workouts in 2010 and has been mentored by him ever since.

Still, there continues to be a need for improvement. Johnson’s 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season aren’t markedly different from his nine points and three boards during his rookie campaign.

This season will be his last best chance to prove himself as a solid contributor in the NBA. If he can’t do it with the support and encouragement of Bryant and Scott, then it really will be time for Plan B.

Just as long as the “B” doesn’t stand for Beasley.

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Dragic should be who Suns give max contract

If the Suns are thinking of signing a point guard to a max deal, it should be Dragic

      
 

 

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Derrick Rose Should Have a Great Preseason

Chicago Bulls PG Derrick Rose says he’s ready to go. Not that it matters in the record books, but Derrick Rose should have a solid preseason for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at a couple of the reasons here.
Opponents
Rose and the Bulls will begin their preseason at home against the Washington Wizards on October 6th. John Wall is a handful, but the crowd will be jacked up to see Rose play for just the second time in 10 months.
The next night, the Bulls head to Detroit. Despite the quick turnaround, the Pistons will be running out Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin. Jennings is very good defensively, but Rose should have a solid day if he shoots even 40% from the field. If Thibs is smart, he’ll keep Rose from trying to finish strong at the rim, due to Monroe and Drummond regulating the Pistons’ paint.
The Bulls then get a break until the 11th when they travel to the Chicago suburb of Milwaukee. This could be a game Rose really struggles in, depending on minutes and matchups. If Jason Kidd ke

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How Should the Warriors Handle Klay Thompson Conundrum?

The Golden State Warriors will be in a bit of a predicament with respect to Klay Thompson’s extension.

He’s a solid 2-guard who makes it rain from long range, and he’s morphed into the Warriors’ best perimeter defender. An argument could be made that he is the best two-way guard in basketball.

In addition, Thompson will only be 24 years old when the season tips off, and he established himself as one of Team USA’s best players during the FIBA World Cup.

Thompson’s always been able to shoot the ball, as evidenced by his career 41 percent mark from downtown, and he’s showed some growth during international play. The sharpshooter is putting the ball on the floor and finishing in traffic, which has never really been his forte.

By adding this layer to his game, Thompson could very well become the league’s premier 2-guard. As much as the Golden State front office will appreciate this development, it has to scare them a little given what it means going forward.

Dollar signs for Thompson.

USA Today’s Sam Amick offered this nugget in August:

Meanwhile, Thompson’s agent, Bill Duffy, has been seeking a max deal in extension talks with the Warriors as well. And while Golden State would surely prefer that the stance eventually softens and leads to a more palatable deal, the fact that he is younger means a max for Thompson would start at $15.7 million and still allow for more flexibility in the Warriors future than a [Kevin] Love deal.

It’s one thing for Thompson to seek a max extension, but should the Warriors oblige?

Theoretically, they could play hardball and try to sign him for roughly four years at $9 million annually. However, that seems unlikely.

As Amick mentioned, a max deal for Thompson presents a lower figure than Love. During the offseason, the Warriors had discussed a swap involving Love prior to the Minnesota Timberwolves trading him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The framework of the transaction centered around David Lee, Thompson, Love and Kevin Martin, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears. However, members of the Warriors front office were split on whether to part with Thompson, according to a report by Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne posted over at ESPN LA.

Ultimately, Golden State held firm and kept Thompson because he better suited the defensive culture of the franchise. Amick added:

Their recent refusal to include guard and Timberwolves target Klay Thompson in the deal is rooted in this reality. Losing Thompson not only would leave [Stephen] Curry overexposed defensively in the backcourt but also is compounded by the fact that Love — much like incumbent power forward David Lee, who would head to Minnesota if this deal got done — isn’t exactly known as a two-way player. 

The Warriors valued Thompson enough to pass on arguably the best power forward in the league. Golden State essentially said Thompson was more important to them than Love, who happens to be a max-level player.

I’m not sure the Dubs have any leverage at all here. Curry, the team’s best player, needs Thompson around to take on his assignments, and the offense seems smoother with Thompson on the floor because he stretches defenses thin.

Thus, Golden State will drop suitcases of cash on him without question, right? Well, not quite.

The Warriors have until October 31 to agree to an extension that would kick in for the 2015-16 campaign. If all the player and team options are exercised, Golden State would likely exceed the luxury tax line based on Sham Sports’ salary data.

The tax line is $76.8 million for the 2014-15 season, and the Dubs probably exceed it with the extension. Being a tax team means it becomes harder to add players because there are less salary exceptions available and harsher tax penalties on every amount owed to a Warrior.

It’s not ideal, but Golden State can probably manage for a year or two under these conditions. It’s worth mentioning, his teammates might have a small problem with it.

In the event management signed Thompson to a max deal, he would become the highest-paid Warrior.

Let that sink in for a second.

Thompson would earn more than Curry and Andrew Bogut. One could rationalize on some level that Thompson brings more to the table than Bogut, but it’s not exactly an open-and-shut case. Thompson is younger, healthier and more offensive-minded.

On the flip side, these Warriors haven’t been out of the first round sans Bogut.

As it pertains to Curry, he signed his current deal while dealing with lingering ankle issues during the 2011-12 season, which explains why he will “only” make $11.4 million during the 2015-16 campaign.

With that said, Thompson can’t make more than Curry. It could create a situation where the team’s best player feels undervalued and, worse yet, disrespected (also applies on some level to Bogut).

What other options do the Dubs have?

Bad ones.

Instead of signing Thompson to an extension, Golden State could allow him to play out his contract and then extend a qualifying offer in the 2015 offseason. He would become a restricted free agent, which gives the Warriors the right to match whatever contract offer Thompson signs with another team.

On the surface, this seems advantageous. But the issues previously outlined with respect to player salaries would take effect. Chemistry might suffer, which means the team would take a step backward.

Worse yet, Thompson might want out due to Golden State’s refusal to settle the situation early. That could prompt Thompson to sign a one-year qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent the following year (a la Greg Monroe of the Detroit Pistons). Once the 2-guard hits free agency, he can go to any team of his choosing.

Yikes!

The other alternative is simply to trade Thompson, which seems unlikely. By dealing him, maybe Golden State receives a young, promising player or a first-round pick in return.

Such a transaction would shake the foundation given that the franchise would be turning its back on the culture it’s created in the last few seasons. Keep in mind, the Warriors would be getting rid of a productive 24-year-old 2-guard.

It bears repeating that management chose him over Love, which means they can’t just ship him away now, as CBS Sports’ Zach Harper noted.

Decisions, decisions.

Golden State is lucky enough that Thompson loves his surroundings. When the San Jose Mercury News’ Marcus Thompson II pressed him on the fact he wasn’t traded for Love, the sniper offered:

The Warriors believe in me. That makes me want to work that much harder. They believe in me and Steph, they believe in the team we have. I believe in us, too. I think we have all the ingredients to win a championship.

Maybe that appreciation for not being dealt, and the fact the team has an intriguing roster, gets Thompson to back off from his initial asking price. If the Dubs can get him at about $11 million per year, they will have won the negotiation.

However, if Thompson is resolute in his demand, the Warriors will have to acquiesce. I realize that the extension comes with landmines, but ultimately, the team cannot let him walk.

A long-term commitment here becomes a loaded proposition, though. Curry and Bogut’s deals expire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 seasons, but the Warriors should immediately set their sights on discussing their next contracts once they’ve obtained Thompson’s signature.

Thus, whatever negative impact Thompson’s new contract will have, it will be mitigated by the front office’s ability to immediately discuss future compensation with its top players. It’s the best option available for the Dubs, and it’s the route the organization needs to take.

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Ray Allen’s Next NBA Stop Should Be with San Antonio Spurs

For quite some time, NBA veteran Ray Allen was public enemy No. 1 in the city of San Antonio.

Not that most San Antonio Spurs fans need reminding, but in the 2013 Finals, the then-Miami Heat shooting guard completed a miraculous Game 6 comeback with a three-pointer that extended the series, which Miami would go on to win.

So, when news broke that the Spurs were interested in Allen, a free agent searching for a home to spend the coda of his career, it initially came as a bit of a shock.

But San Antonio, with one final roster spot to fill, is smart to give Allen ample consideration. A talented player who fits the system, Allen would join a championship roster in search of his third ring with a third team.

With the mutual benefits too glaring to ignore, the Spurs front office should take the next step and extend Allen a contract offer before his services are snatched by a competing contender.

 

The Player

In 2014, Ray Allen is not the player that he once was.

Long gone are the days where Jesus Shuttlesworth—complete with a unique blend of skill and athleticism—averaged upwards of 25 points for the Seattle Supersonics. But even in his final years in the league, the 39-year-old Allen has managed to stay relevant.

Though aspects of his game have faded with age, his staple skill—his three-point shot—remains very much intact.

And as Spurs fans know all to well, this makes him very dangerous.

Like San Antonio veteran Tim Duncan, Allen has compensated for any deficiencies brought about by age by maximizing the aspects of his game that are unaffected by declining athleticism. 

A sniper from beyond the arc, Allen last averaged 37.5 percent from deep for Miami, with averages of 42, 45 and 44 percent in the three years prior. He can create his own shot, can get open with ease and possesses a quick release that can punish even the most talented defenders.

He’s also an above-average passer with a point guard’s court vision.

Throw in excellent offensive mechanics from elsewhere on the offensive end and Allen represents everything that contending teams desire from a veteran role player.

Of course, his defense—though he’s never been noted for excellence on that end, his capacity to defend is rapidly declining—is a legitimate reason for worry, but that hasn’t stopped championship rosters from utilizing him down the stretch in crucial games.

In short, you’re not going to see Jesus Shuttlesworth trotting out onto an NBA court anytime soon.

Instead, you’ll see a seasoned veteran who has made the seamless transition to role player in his later years—a position that he has thrived in, thanks in no small part to his everlasting perimeter weapon.

 

The Fit

Perhaps no NBA team bore more resemblances to the San Antonio Spurs than the Miami Heat squad with whom they clashed in 2013 and 2014.

Both teams boasted superstars at the top, but deep benches overflowing with capable role players.

So, it serves as a good sign that Allen thrived in an atmosphere similar to the one he would enter in San Antonio.

The Spurs play a perimeter-oriented style of basketball that capitalizes off of unparalleled ball movement to create openings along the arc and within the paint. Allen, should he join San Antonio, would find himself beside a supporting cast that has excelled due to lethal three-point shots.

Take Danny Green, for example. The starting shooting guard is inconsistent, but when he’s on from deep, San Antonio’s offense is borderline unstoppable. The same holds true for other Spurs like Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli. 

However, Mills—coming off a breakout year in which he set the tone for one of the league’s most successful second units—is set to miss the majority of the regular season with a shoulder injury.

With Manu Ginobili likely facing more minute restrictions than ever before and Boris Diaw eyeing a spot in the starting lineup, the team’s top bench sparks might not be able to carry the second unit.

The need for another offensive playmaker has opened up with Mills’ injury, and Allen—with his perfect skill set—could not be a better fit.

And beyond his ideal repertoire that would put San Antonio into a prime situation to succeed in the upcoming year, the marriage would have significant long-term benefits as well.

Though other potential roster additions might require a multiyear investment, Allen’s retirement is looming. Should he enter a deal with the Spurs, it would likely be for one season, freeing up the contract books for the post-Duncan era in which the franchise will have the necessary funds to rebuild through free agency.

No matter which way you look at it, Allen to the Spurs makes sense. He thrived in a comparable environment in Miami, and his services mesh well with San Antonio’s short-term roster needs.

Though it may be difficult for some to accept Allen in black and silver garment, it’s time to forgive, forget and move on. In the battle between Ray Allen and the San Antonio Spurs, the Spurs got the last laugh.

Now, it’s time for them to join forces.

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