I'm trying to imagine LeBron getting a call with Magic Johnson on the other saying, "Hey man, thanks giving us a long-term commitment, we're also signing Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajan Rando to one year deals." I'm intentionally not putting Kentavious Caldwell Pope on the list as he's represented by Klutch Sports Group and I guess his one year deal was a feel good contract as part of signing LeBron. To quote The Ringer’s Chris Ryan, “They just signed a meme”
Boogie Cousins agreed to sign with the Warriors for a one year, $5.3 million Taxpayer Mid-Level exception. I had two polar opposite reactions to this: Oh My God! This is absolutely fucking ridiculous. The Warriors are openly mocking the NBA and the other 29 teams of the league. How in the world is it possible for Golden State to have five All-stars on their roster? And, wait. How big of a deal is this. The earliest Cousins will come back is in the New Year. Even then, he'll be over 300 pounds and will be lacking whatever athleticism he had before his ACL tear. Also, he's a ball-stopping locker room menace.
It took unbelievable circumstance for him to be served on a silver platter for the Bay Area. He had to tear his ACL (an injury that has derailed the careers of an endless list of athletes), no team in the NBA wanted him due to either his injury proneness or that he can be a malcontent in the locker room, or that some teams simply do not view him as a player who can truly have a net positive impact on a winning team. Combining with his injury is the rehab process. Some teams would rather spend the Mid-Level exception to sign a player who can be healthy. Also, Boogie was looking for a short-term max contract and many teams would not want to sign him to that.
This is going to be part of Adam Silver's legacy. The league office warned the Player's Union that cap smoothing would help keep the competitive balance in the league that has now been heavily titled. The NBPA declined the offer and there no further changes made to the new CBA. This resulted in the Warriors have the cap space needed to acquire Kevin Durant with other teams handing out a truckload of terrible contracts. Now, teams are struggling with cap space and current free agents are struggling to get a solid payday.
The real question that needs to be asked is it in the player’s best interest for the league to have competitive balance or does that not matter at all? The simple answer is no. The Players Union is always going to have the player’s financial interest at heart; as they should. Though from the teams and owners perspective, one can understand why they want competitive balance in the league.
There were better basketball decisions that LeBron had in his platter that would have helped him immediately get back to the finals and contend for the title. Be it a sign and trade with Houston, signing with the 76ers, or somehow managing to land in Boston; all of these options give LeBron a better chance to win rather than joining the Lakers. He decision to move to Hollywood was based on the needs of his family. It must be obvious to him right now that the Lakers are not going to win the title next year given the looks of their current roster. Now this is a 2 year play where the Lakers will contend for the NBA title after they sign marquee free agents in the Summer of 2019. It also entirely possible that this current generation of athletes see their sport as only one part of their lives and not the sum of it. Unlike the players of older generations who claim that they worked every day till their finger bled or had to swim across a river and hike over a hill to get to school; I'm not critical of athletes seeing their sport as only one facet of their lifestyle. Seeing LeBron do this only makes me think that other athletes will soon follow suit. There is so much more in Los Angeles for LeBron for this post-career life that has to be taken into account. Whether it is his entertainment company, expanding his business empire to potential be an owner of a sports franchise, or having his children play basketball in the best schools; L.A is the perfect city for all that and more.
From a basketball perspective, the contracts for Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee etc. are all one year contracts that would still give the Lakers enough cap space in 2019 to go after Kawhi Leonard or other stars to put the most storied franchise in the NBA into contention. Even if the Lakers were to trade their assets for a superstar player, they are unlikely to get past the Warriors or the Rockets for the coming season. That being said, their contracts tie up $27 million of the Lakers cap space when the likes of Marcus Smart, Clint Capela, and Jabari Parker could have been acquired to help the Lakers now and for years to come. Either the contracts given to the veteran players was directed by LeBron and he is as bad of a GM as many of us thought he was or the Lakers front office thought they had hit one out of the park with LeBron and decided to punt with the remaining cap space they had.
News has come out over the past day or so that there are problems in Minnesota between Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony Towns combined with a side rumor that Butler and Kyrie Irving are interested in teaming up in the near future. This is not much a surprise. Towns and Butler have never looked like they were on the same page for the past year. They personalities and style of play contrast one another’s. There was noise last summer that the Timberwolves were interested in acquiring Irving – and obviously that did not happen. Though the Team USA bond between the two is something that has to be taken into account. It is interesting that underneath the idea that star players want to team up is a Team USA bond, college connection or having the same representation. There is different type of star player in today’s NBA. Towns is an excellent basketball player though the Butler is the player I would have on my team given the necessity for two-way wing players in the league. The young stars of today have a hunger for winning but also the appetite for the attention and fame that can come with it. Butler and Wiggins are similar in that regard and the three of the clash because of that.
It will be interesting to see the Lakers as they have two different groups of player who are either in the beginning of their careers or at the tail-end of it. Similar to them is the Timberwolves. You have this young core of Towns and Wiggins along with other young players who after Tom Thibodeau came in, surrounded the young Wolves with the Bulls roster from six years ago. This clash of cultures resulted in the current turmoil that they have between the two bickering factions. Coach Thibs never plays young players despite having NBA ready players warming the benches in Minneapolis. He only gives heavy minutes to his veteran players. This added to the chemistry issue the Wolves have. Players who should be playing are not and others who have too many minutes should be playing less to maximize their effectiveness.