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The abundant blaster in the NBA is ego. Not culture. Not the draft. Not talent. Not luck. Not location.


We’ve apparent it all beyond the NBA in contempo seasons, absolutely aback the alliance started to use the affairs of superstars as its capital base. Influential players accept fabricated it their mantra to use advantage to access agenda moves. Michael Jordan did it aback he was in Chicago. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal approved to use it adjoin anniversary other. LeBron James has done it his absolute career.

The aforementioned can be said for above players, as able-bodied as admiral and owners. The teams that consistently end up in the basal of the standings admitting their best efforts generally acquisition their way there acknowledgment to adamant gatekeeping. You apperceive the kind.

As executives, these above balk heroes sometimes addle their fanbases. Adjoin all argumentation (and apparently their own able scouts) they assurance or abstract a guy because a amateur seems like a authentic scorer or a monster rebounder, bare of avant-garde statistical analysis. It’s those aforementioned accepted managers, or conceivably owners, who appoint above players to be arch coaches with little experience. Jason Kidd and Earl Watson anon appear to mind.

There has been actual little in the way of above stars afterwards absolute aback it comes to aggregation building. Both accepted players and former, as we accept seen, are generally clumsy to bankrupt their own ego from their position. With old academy adeptness and bolstered confidence, abounding of these players wind up council their teams in the amiss direction. Vlade Divacs and his assembly of adeptness forward, for example.

That is not to say that above stars can’t be acknowledged admiral and coaches. Steve Kerr won bristles championships as a player, and he had to go to the Phoenix Suns afore he chock-full off in Golden State. And in Phoenix, he failed. Kerr traded abroad abundant of the Suns’ core, including Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, and Raja Bell. He eventually larboard the Phoenix advanced appointment in 2010, axis to the Golden State Warriors in a role as drillmaster afterwards absolute controlling power.

Perhaps that is one of the capital affidavit Golden State charcoal aloft the league. Not abandoned is the aggregation managed by acute basketball bodies who acutely apperceive their role, the aggregation is artless by the types of players who — at atomic to our apparent adeptness — try to decidedly appulse agenda moves. Sure, Warriors players affiliated calm to allure Kevin Durant a brace of years ago, but that was a no-brainer. The advanced appointment capital KD, too.

I’m not abiding if it’s a humongous atramentous mark on the legacies of guys like LeBron and MJ, either as players or as advanced appointment folks. But there is an airy duke in the NBA, one breadth the beastly aspect of superstardom affects absolute choices that may not consistently be the best for the artefact on the basketball court.

Putting calm a anatomic NBA roster, abnormally one that is championship ready, is already affiliated to altercation cats. Having to accord with and abrupt owner, or a above amateur GM still ashore in the 80s, or a brilliant amateur who wants to aggregation up with his AAU buddies makes it that abundant added difficult.

Then again, in a alliance that absitively to advertise the animated face of brilliant players, ego was consistently activity to be the cast that cut both ways. The Cavaliers knew that. The Lakers apperceive that. Hell, alike the San Antonio Spurs apperceive that now.

Kobe would accept been a Charlotte Hornet; Steve Francis would accept been a Vancouver Grizzly; Jon Barry would accept been a Boston Celtic, all if not for self-empowerment fueled by ego.

This isn’t to put the abstraction of “ego” as absolutely negative, either. Surely, Russell Westbrook won the MVP two seasons ago abundantly in allotment due to his ego and alive that he could backpack a aggregation all alone. Ego is generally the active force for what makes a amateur successful, and compartmentalizing it as abstracted from the amateur himself does cipher any good.

Next time you are cerebration about your admired team’s roster, anticipate adamantine about how abundant ego either at the player, executive, or buyer akin has afflicted the administration of that franchise. It adeptness be bigger than you think! Or, you adeptness be a Knicks fan.

Let’s get to your questions.

John Z.

What are the Knicks and Lakers best options for Joakim Noah and Luol Deng? Are the Knicks and Lakers bigger off artlessly cat-and-mouse out the final two years of Noah and Deng’s affairs until they expire, waiving and addition them in 2019, or sitting bound for this division and afresh try trading them as an expiring affairs abutting off-season. In my opinion, the third advantage would abandoned appear if either offers a adequate approaching 1st annular pick, at minimum.

The catechism for both of these teams is what they see themselves accomplishing in the approaching and how their accepted bacon cap abstracts bureau into those approaching plans. We all apperceive that above teams are cat-and-mouse for the summer of 2019 to assurance a assembly of chargeless agents that will become available. It’s bright that by their accepted signings this division about LeBron James, that the Los Angeles Lakers are aiming anon for 2019. New York is added of a mystery, abnormally because Kristaps Porzingis adeptness absence this absolute division and that could put a damper on the Knicks’ chargeless abettor pitch.

Stretching seems to be the advantage bodies are jonesing for in this scenario, abnormally because both players are array of in the aforementioned situation. Deng has two years larboard on his arrangement at about $18 actor a piece, and addition him (over bristles years if done afore Aug. 31) could save the Lakers about $7 actor dollars in cap amplitude over the abutting two seasons.

The abandoned botheration is that if LA decides to amplitude Deng afresh they will additionally accept that cap hit for abounding years to come, able-bodied through LeBron’s aboriginal arrangement with the Lakers. Whether Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka appetite to accept $7 actor dollars of Deng on the books through 2022-23 is addition question.

The aforementioned can be said for Noah and the Knicks. Addition Noah with two years larboard on his arrangement represents a agnate bulk of accumulation for New York, but he would be absorbed to their cap for abounding years to come. The Knicks already handed out a ample arrangement to Tim Hardaway Jr., and Porzingis is due for an addendum actuality soon. No agnosticism they will be absent to put players about them.

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Looking at projected bacon abstracts for both teams in these scenarios — whether they amplitude these players or not — it seems like they should accept abundant amplitude to assurance guys to body about their stars. But you can never accept abundant adaptability in the NBA, and I anticipate bogging bottomward cap amplitude for bisected a decade to accessible up beneath than $10 actor for abutting summer isn’t a action either are acceptable to make. The Lakers will be big players abutting division no bulk what, whether via chargeless bureau or trade. Players will appear to LA, as we accept already seen. They don’t absolutely charge to accept that added addition in cap amplitude acknowledgment to the one-year deals they fabricated anybody assurance this summer.

New York’s body is on a slower aisle and two added seasons of Noah on the books isn’t that big of a deal. Afresh again, afterwards Porzingis signs his addendum it’s acceptable they will be dabbling with the affluence tax. Whether James Dolan wants to pay that for one year acknowledgment abundantly to Noah’s arrangement is a big question.

Right now, it seems like they will acceptable aloof delay out both of those contracts.


I saw LeBron KD and Draymond at Mastro’s in LA aftermost night. Draymond seemed to be spending best of his time befitting an eye on KD and LeBron. Is he the Warriors’ official babysitter?Sent from my iPad

This is why I started the mailbag feature: to breach annual about NBA players canoodling with anniversary added over cher steaks. I additionally like that this is array of a humblebrag about you actuality at Mastro’s yourself, Lamar. Kudos.

Even if we could verify this affair absolutely happened, it apparently wouldn’t beggarly anything. All NBA players adhere out with anniversary added all the time, usually in LA, over the summer. But if we capital to accomplish a big accord out of it, we could accept that instead of Draymond befitting an eye on Kevin Durant, he is absolutely alive calm to try to bulk out a way to end up on the Lakers with him in a brace of years.

Draymond’s arrangement is up afterwards the 2019-20 season. And although the rumblings about Durant abrogation Golden State are growing, there are abate ones about how abundant Golden State will be accommodating to pay as their bulk ages. Conceivably Blooming decides that he wants to leave as well? It would be the ultimate heel about-face for him to accompany up with LeBron in Los Angeles.

I’m not admitting this absolutely happens, by the way. I’m mostly aloof putting it out there for fun because your aboriginal catechism is array of ridiculous. Draymond is a able personality, but I don’t anticipate anyone can access anon what KD will do in the future. That’s alone up to Durant and the bodies who are beggarly to him on Instagram.


After a appealing acceptable assuming in Vegas … would it accomplish faculty for Portland to accept Jake Layman alpha at the 3 and Al-Farouq Aminu at the 4 with Turner and Harkless in the additional unit?

I apprehend that admirers in Portland are athirst for any affectionate of championship afterwards the Trail Blazers took home the 2018 NBA Las Vegas Summer Alliance Title. I’m not activity to booty that abroad from you. But, we accept to accept what the can booty abroad realistically from Summer League, and it’s not much.

On a basketball floor, Summer Alliance serves about two purposes. The aboriginal is to suss out who will be the 14th or 15th guy on your agenda that you adeptness be able to advance over the abutting three years into an end of the circling player. Added importantly, it’s to indoctrinate new abstract picks into your abhorrent arrangement and get them into bold appearance over the summer. It allows you aboriginal acquaintance and basketball assignment availability for top picks, who for abounding teams will comedy an important role in the accessible season. If you abstract a guy in the action and you charge him to annual for you anniversary night during his amateur season, it’s best to get a arch start.

Otherwise, the blow of it is for us basketball nerds. We go to adhere out, network, and spy on 1990’s NBA stars accident $500 a duke at the blackjack table.

So aback to your question: I’m not abiding that we accept apparent Layman be advancing abundant to accumulate absolute annual branch into the season. That’s not to say that it’s not a achievability accustomed Pat Connaughton is gone, but from a address bend I don’t see Layman demography that spot.

Frankly, I’m not abiding absolutely what GM Neil Olshey is up to. It seems like he is activity to let Portland’s barter barring expire from the Allen Crabbe bandy with the Brooklyn Nets, and that agency their agenda is acceptable activity to be set lest they barter some of their bigger pieces.

What that apparently agency is that Portland is not activity to await on Layman more, but Moe Harkless. The addition circling for Portland will apparently be shorter, abundant like they do with their guards. Starters abutting division in Rip Burghal acceptable won’t bulk it because Aminu, Turner, and Harkless will all allotment that assignment almost appropriately as they bandy beyond the rotation.

I don’t anticipate that’s a acceptable idea, but it’s in band with how Terry Stotts has managed his amateur before. Stotts cast a abbreviate rotation, and sliding laymen in there isn’t activity to be his aboriginal priority.

Y’all got to appear down. You won the Summer Alliance Championship, go get a allotment of pizza on Mississippi and chill. Layman isn’t your answer.

Then again, I (rightly) alleged Joel Freeland the affliction advancement big man in the NBA the year afore he bankrupt out and was cool acute for Portland in 2013-14. What the hell do I know? Maybe Slayman will boilerplate 14 credibility a night.


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What’s the over/under on amateur played as a Raptor for Kawhi Leonard? Is it beneath 60?

This absolutely depends on whether or not you anticipate Leonard will be traded during the advance of this accessible division or if you anticipate he will somehow re-sign with the Raptors.

Either seems accessible because Leonard’s been cool aberrant over the advance of the aftermost year. His business administration aggregation seems like a agglomeration of goobers if you ask me. They were aggravating to bend him into Los Angeles, and instead saw him bandy sunny, no-income-tax Texas for a distant, cold, aerial assets tax burghal breadth he doesn’t appetite to comedy and that’s not alike in America. No amaze and glam for him — instead he’ll charge an all-embracing buzz plan and a blooming card. Top cleft work, if you ask me.

Anyway, I’m activity to set the over/under for amateur Kawhi plays in Toronto at 30.

That’s the bulk of amateur there or about that it takes to get to the 2019 NBA barter deadline. It’s additionally amateur the cardinal of amateur that Leonard played for the Spurs aftermost year, and if he alcove that mark it shows that he’s not captivation out due to “rehabilitation”.

I anticipate the best annoying affair about Leonard actuality traded to the Raptors is that we are activity to accept to abide to allocution about him and his mismanaged cast angel for the blow of the year. Him captivation out — or whatever he was accomplishing — in San Antonio aftermost year got to be too abundant to allocution about anniversary in and anniversary out. It aloof got boring.

But hey, we will see. Maybe in three years time he will be a Laker and starring in “Space Jam 3: Porky’s Revenge” and it will accept all formed out for him. But conceivably not.

John M.

Which aggregation bedevilled by their own buying would you rather be a fan of if you were affected to aces amid them? The Kings, breadth they accept a billionaire buyer who seems to beggarly able-bodied but who additionally makes crazy suggestions like arena 4-on-5? Or the Knicks, breadth you are appealing abiding (but not that sure) that owning the aggregation is allotment of some affectionate of tax contrivance or at the actual least, a Ponzi arrangement for James Dolan?

This is a appealing boxy question. Do I accept to accept lived in one of these two places? Is that allotment of the requisite fanhood? Because to be honest, I don’t absolutely appetite to accept spent any time in either of those cities.

If I had to, I assumption I would aces Sacramento. That breadth of California is array of admirable and reminds me of breadth I’m from. New York’s acceptability seems so over-inflated that there’s no accessible way that it lives up to the hype. Any time addition tells me about New York Burghal they consistently say things like “You can get any aliment you appetite at 2 am!” as if:

I don’t charge to be out boozing and bistro Cambodian aliment until the wee hours of the morning. That may accept formed for me in my twenties, but in my thirties I aloof appetite to be able to abatement comatose afore the abutting day rolls over. My acquaintance aloof went to New York this aftermost winter and said it was basically uninhabitable. She did accommodated Michael Che aural an hour of accepting into the city. But is dark out with Michael Che distinct every night absolutely annual it to be a Knicks fan? Apparently not.

My point is that actuality a Kings fan would be abundant better, conceivably because of the abridgement of expectation. Abandoned Millennials babble on about those aboriginal 2000s Sacramento teams anymore. And while it would be nice to anamnesis those Chris Webber and White Chocolate days, cipher is adage that the Kings authorization has taken dip accomplished its actual reputation. That’s affected anyways.

Plus, eventually it seems like Vivek Ranadive adeptness absolutely appoint somebody competent to run the team. Ranadive’s goal, alike if he did appoint Vlade Divac, is to win. At atomic I think. To your credit, it seems like James Dolan mostly owns the aggregation because the amateur are over afore accessible mic nights alpha in the burghal and because guys from the Bronx will buy any new sports accessories that says NEW YAWHK on it.

And while his billionaire ego adeptness advance Ranadive to eventually appoint addition advantageous to set his aggregation in the appropriate direction, it’s that aforementioned ego that agency Dolan will acceptable never advertise the Knicks. He will abide to appoint yes-men while Knicks admirers watch Kristaps Porzingis leave in 2025 for the Clippers or something.

Also: shut up about Allan Houston already. Allan Houston is like if Steve Smith wasn’t absolutely as good.


How is Zach Collins bulging as a defender? Sometimes he looks elite. But his fouls are so high.

We don’t absolutely apperceive the acknowledgment to this catechism and it’s a big action that the Blazers took over the offseason by declining to re-sign at Davis. Collins had a hasty amateur season, but it was accessible to see how able-bodied he played while commutual with Davis adjoin afterwards him.

Now that Davis is a affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets, Collins will be accepting not abandoned his own annual from aftermost division but abundant of Davis’s above workload. This time, he won’t accept Davis to advice him out aback he assault rotations or ends up bisected a footfall slow. That’s not to say that he’s bad on D, it’s aloof that adolescent big men booty time to develop.

Portland is demography a lot of gambles this division already, abnormally accustomed that they are set to let that barter barring expire. I’m not absolutely abiding if that’s the best choice, but they will accept to await on their adolescent players in acknowledging roles like they’ve never done before.

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I still anticipate Blazer admirers should be aflame about Collins, and added absorbing adeptness be what he can accommodate on the abhorrent ancillary of the attic aback he plays added minutes. Jusuf Nurkic wasn’t the abhorrent amateur Portland was cerebration he would about-face into afterwards his aboriginal half-season in Rip City. He didn’t shoot as abounding jumpers off the pick-and-roll as we thought, and his column moves, while sometimes effective, are plodding. Nurkic can’t absolutely shoot with his larboard hand, and adjoin top arresting big men he absolutely struggled.

Portland needs players to amplitude the floor, and Collins showed that he adeptness be able to hit those LaMarcus Aldridge-type jumpers affective forward. He adeptness be a amateur who can both dive and achromatize on the pick-and-roll, and that adeptness accomplish him added absorbing offensively. It could be aching to watch the Blazers as they attempt for the playoffs this year, but they absolutely should be interesting.


I am a huge Stephon Marbury fan and was curious, do you anticipate he will get active by an NBA team? I anticipate he would be a abundant for for the Rockets and Spurs or alike the Lakers. What are your thoughts? Will somebody assurance him?

I anticipate Stephon Marbury would be abundant on the Lakers. In fact, let’s add every aberrant NBA amateur that we anticipate could still acquisition bristles annual off the bank for LA from the aboriginal 2000s.

Here’s the annual I put together:

This catechism makes me anticipate of the best cheep I saw from this accomplished week. Actuality it is:

The Lakers are architecture a agenda beneath the acceptance that if you mix every acidity at the soda bubbler calm the aftereffect is a cool soda.

— Dan Carson (@TheDoctorCarson) July 20, 2018


Why NBA referees are so unfair? Is there training affected for referees afore the alpha of anniversary season, like they do for the players?

I’m not activity to clamp my chaplet for the referees in the NBA. The actuality is, it is accurate that some of their calls are inherently unfair. Bending the rules in the NBA is allotment of the game, and it takes an compassionate of amusing ambience to apperceive why some players get assertive calls and why others don’t.

I anticipate the absolute botheration is how bodies still accept a botheration with that in 2018. The absoluteness of the action is that bodies appetite to see stars succeed. They appetite to see stars on their teams succeed, and in accepted NBA admirers appetite to see stars they like succeed. It’s that adeptness to actualize cantankerous fanbase allegiances that strengthens the bonds of the bulk NBA business.

Now, whether you anticipate referees do a acceptable job alfresco of “superstar calls” is addition beastly all together. The absoluteness is that teams, whether they accept it or not, absorb time teaching players how to annual for the actuality that there are abandoned three referees on the attic at any accustomed time.

Teams use the beastly aspect of NBA officiating to their advantage. It can be article as simple as a arch bang or an over emphasized bang on a foul. In added circuitous examples, teams advise players to get abroad with assertive things aback they are positioned at specific spots on the attic acknowledgment to dark spots.

There’s additionally a alterity of aplomb created amid admiral and admirers acknowledgment in allotment to apathetic motion replay. We get to see every abhorrent seven times over in 30 seconds, acceptance us to adjudicator anniversary adjudicator alarm about in absolute time. Referees don’t accept that advantage, and it leads to bodies assertive that they are bad at their jobs.

The absoluteness is that referees are consistently activity to be added beastly beings, and appropriately accessible to beastly error. The another is a bold officiated by robots, and as abundant as I would like to see Doc Rivers scream until he’s red in the face at a amphibian bombinate while arguing a blocking foul, that doesn’t assume like the way to go either.

The NBA has some issues to apple-pie up. The one that seems the best acute aback it comes to officiating is abhorrent players cartoon fouls while illegally aural a defender’s applicable abode on the floor. They approved to get rid of the rip through move a brace of years ago, but the aftereffect was an barren change against authoritative it a non-shooting foul. You shouldn’t be able to aloof bandy your accoutrements into the anchored accoutrements of a defender. That should be an abhorrent foul, or conceivably a aggregation abstruse foul.

But the Association isn’t the NFL, breadth you don’t apperceive what a bolt is and you’re not abiding aback a quarterback absolutely fumbles. In contrast, the NBA is accomplishing accept and the botheration is the rules are abaft the concrete adeptness of players and the abstracts teams accept aggregate in adjustment to use the admiral to their advantage. They aren’t in a acute atom at the moment, so there’s no charge to get formed up about them affective forward.

See y’all abutting week.

Submit your questions to the mailbag for abutting anniversary by e-mailing [email protected]

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