Recently many of you may have been pondering, as I often do, what’s going on in the world of professional Korean basketball?
Resting in the shadows of the 2018 Olympics, nuclear weapons and politics – we have the current state of hoops going through a bit of a renaissance in South Korea.
As reported by Deadspin:
The KBL instituted a rule last month to limit the height of foreign players to two meters, and to only have a maximum of two foreign players per team, according to the Korea Times.
The rule was reportedly put in place to encourage teams to recruit more locally. And in the true over-40 rec league sense of rule making – to find players who aren’t merely a tall drink of water holding a basketball above their head while “the littles” attempt to swing at the just-out-of-reach ball like they’re swatting at flies. If this sounds like a scene from Space Jam, well…..it kinda is:
He’s so little!
David Simon, a 35-year-old Anyang KGC center, has been playing overseas for more than a decade now, but this new rule means he’ll have to find a team in another country. He’s now too tall for the Korean Basketball League. At 6-foot-8 or 202 centimeters, Simon doesn’t cut it, the limit is now 200 cm per player.
Although height definitely helps on the hardwood, it doesn’t necessarily translate to skill—but it has for Simon, who led the league this season in scoring (26.1 points per game) and blocks (2.2). So, essentially the league just gave it’s best player the boot.
David Simon (not The Wire)
This isn’t the first time the Korean pro league has made some headlines of late, recently coach Yoo Jae-hak of the Korean Basketball League was livid during a timeout, even though his team was winning by 13 points, and one specific player caught his ire.
Jae-hak was so inexplicably furious that he had a staff member give tape for Ham Ji-hoon to place over his mouth. Now, I don’t speak Korean, so I’m not sure what was said, but the tape probably meant Jae-hak wanted that player to shut up.
And let’s not forget the greatest basketball themed mannequin challenge ever perpetrated on a basketball court (I apologize for the social commentary in this video):
If you’ve been weeping tears of agony about how the Ball brothers would land on their feet, don’t you worry anymore. LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball have reached an agreement to sign professional basketball deals with Lithuanian club Prienu Vytautas, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
Perspective is important in life:
Vytautas plays in the Lithuanian (LKL) league, but it’s more likely that I get time on the court for this league than the Ball brothers. The word on the Lithuanian cobblestone streets is that the brothers would possibly see playing time in the lesser competitive (Junior Varsity) Baltic League, otherwise known as the outdoor, uphill-grass league. The team has discussed a role of 20 to 25 minutes a game apiece in the Baltic League.
Even more perspective, that I honestly couldn’t even make up if I tried:
Prienu Vytautas, or (JV) BC Prienai as it’s sometimes called, is a low-level club from a small, non-English speaking village of roughly 10,000 people in southern Lithuania (beautiful country, I hear). The team has major financial issues, and started the season losing eight of its first 12 games in the Lithuanian league.
The club plays in a 1,700-seat arena; 500 of those seats are reserved for team sponsors and their friends. Tickets cost around 5 euro and at halftime Jackie Moon wrestles a live bear.
The team has no general manager and doesn’t practice regularly due to the poor financial situation. But they do hold team bake sales every Sunday morning at the Kepta Duona Farmers Market. I’m told the Grybukai is to die for.
The team’s best player currently is the coach’s son, Edvinas Seskus, who was considered a huge prospect as a teenager but didn’t develop as expected, partially due to injuries and also due to the lack of internet in Southern Lithuania.
The JV team is 4-1 in the Baltic League after its country-wide stunner of a loss came on a forfeiture. The game was abandoned with three minutes to go at 65-65 after the coach was ejected due to syphilis, err uhhh, due to arguing with the referees.
The dog & pony show successfully reached ludacris speed in the world of the unproven, loud-mouthed, sports helicoptering parents today as Lavar Ball announced that his two younger sons had signed with a sports agent and will forgo college athletics. Both LiAngelo (recent UCLA drop-out/shoplifter) and 16-year-old LaMelo had signed with agent Harrison Gaines and would, (and I quote): “soon sign deals to play overseas”. Gaines, who represents Lakers point guard and eldest Ball-brother, Lonzo Ball, has already reportedly been in contact with a handful of teams in Europe and Asia (Seriously? Asia!?!? Come on man!) about the services of the Ball brothers, neither of whom HAVE EVER PLAYED IN A COLLEGE GAME.
By NCAA rules, both the Ball brothers will not be eligible to play collegiate sports since they have given up their amateur status and signed with the agent. In the past, players with success in the NBA that have forgone college all together to play overseas have been scarce since the one-and-done rule has taken effect. In 2015, Emmanuel Mudiay was taken No. 7 overall and in 2009, Brandon Jennings was taken No. 10, both players skipped college and went strait to professional hoops in Europe. Most recently, 5-star high school recruit Terrance Ferguson opted for playing overseas instead of going to college for a year, now 2 seasons later and a trip to the D-League, he sits on the end of the bench for the OKC Thunder.
A less-successful example is Jeremy Tyler from San Diego. Jeremy left high school in 2009 after his sophomore year to play overseas, after a year in Israel and a year in Japan he was drafted in the 2nd round of the NBA draft by the Charlotte Bobcats who then traded him to Golden State. After playing on four different NBDL teams, six different overseas teams and three very quick stints on an NBA roster, Jeremy is 26 years old and currently playing in Australia for the Sydney Kings averaging 12.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg.
Jeremy Tyler, Sydney Kings
For the Ball brothers, according to EVERY NBA analyst and scout, LiAngelo doesn’t project out to be an NBA player, and while LaMelo is a top high school recruit, he’s also 16 years old and years away from possible draft eligibility. Don’t bother looking up videos of either of the younger Ball brothers in high school, it’s complete basketball Narnia filled with edited “highlight”reels and awful competition, even for high school standards.
Lavar Ball has successfully ruined school and any chance of a quality, normal education for his youngest sons, can’t wait to see what he’s gonna do for his next trick when/if any of his sons can’t hack it on the court, much less real life. So far all he’s successfully done is create hostility and contempt towards his young basket-Ballers, not to mention the a general lack of a firm grasp on reality.
ESPN’s corporate stronghold on the sports reporting business is growing stronger and stronger by the second, even with massive budget cuts, overall revenues taking a dive recently and lay-offs of SEVERAL high ranking “analysits”. ESPN as a brand is still going strong, replacing the popular and (occassionally overly) well-paid talking heads with younger unknown talking hairdos almost regularly.
One of the NBA mainstayers is Tom Haberstroh, an extremely knowledgable NBA beat-writer who I would guess has a lot of phone numbers in his cell’s contact list. He’s probably so cool.
But even the greats can falter at times, like Tyson against Buster Douglas or Lebron James against Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan again, Tony Parker again, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Steph Curry again, Klay Thompson again, Kevin Durant and of course Javale McGee.
The NBA preseason jibberish writing is of the fullest abundance currently, Mr. Haberstroh has briefly lost his way in an article posing the question of “Who’s the next Super Team?”. After discussing the obvious (although not-probable) possibilitites: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers (big “IF” on this one) and San Antonio Spurs, the list became hilarious, ficticious and even more fleeting than Anthony Scaramucci.
The Bulls have essentially cleared the decks for the future. By trading Jimmy Butler and officially hitting the reset button on the Tom Thibodeau era, Chicago has only about $23 million in guaranteed contracts in 2018 and another $16.4 million in non-guaranteed money. Zach LaVine has a free agent cap hold at nearly $10 million, but the expectation here is they’ll wait on extension talks until they see his recovery from a torn ACL. That would be the smart move.
The Bulls should have $52 million in cap space next summer and a big-time market to lure free agents, but unlike L.A. and San Antonio, Chicago lacks a magnetic star like Kawhi or Lonzo. Maybe Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen or LaVine can prove us wrong, but we’re not betting on a star rising in Chicago anytime soon.
Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough knows what it takes to get this done. The 36-year-old was an assistant GM under Danny Ainge when they brought in Garnett and Allen in 2007. The chest is full of assets in Phoenix. The Suns have four top-10 picks on the roster who aren’t even of drinking age yet: Devin Booker (20 years old), Josh Jackson (20), Dragan Bender (19) and Marquese Chriss (20).
Not only that, the Suns have the Heat’s 2018 first-rounder (protected Nos. 1-7) and their unprotected 2021 first-rounder to toss in a deal, in addition to their own first-round picks going forward. Assuming the Suns don’t attach any of those long-term prizes in a deal for Kyrie Irving, the Suns are set to be prime candidates for a superteam via trade.
There’s no doubt that the Suns will be lurking in case a disgruntled star makes noise next season. Like Boston, the Suns figure to keep a close eye on New Orleans, but Kristaps Porzingis, Blake Griffin and Klay Thompson are all names to watch down the line.
The process is starting to turn into results. By signing JJ Redick and Amir Johnson to big one-year deals, Bryan Colangelo sent a clear message: overspend now but retain flexibility later. Philadelphia is set up for the future with $48 million in cap space to spend in 2018 while retaining a core of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid and Robert Covington (the latter two’s free-agent cap holds are factored in here).
Even with a max contract for Embiid, the 76ers would have $50 million in cap space for 2019 to go after Klay Thompson or Kevin Love. Of course, with all the young talent, they could flip their bundle of assets for ready-made stars, a la the 2008 Celtics. Colangelo isn’t shy about fast-tracking a contender. Remember, in Phoenix, Colangelo in 2004 signed a 30-year-old Steve Nash to pair with a 21-year-old Amar’e Stoudemire and a 23-year-old Joe Johnson. And the rest is history.
The Nuggets have quietly built an offensive machine in Denver. Fact: After Nikola Jokic joined the starting lineup in Dec. 15, the Nuggets — not the KD edition of the Warriors, nor the LeBron-led Cavs — owned the NBA’s best offensive rating for the rest of the season (113.3 points pre 100 possessions). Yeah, that caught the rest of the NBA by surprise too.
And just like the Warriors, the Nuggets built an offensive juggernaut largely through the draft without needing a top-five pick. Like Draymond Green, Jokic was a gem found in the second round back in 2014. Talented guard Jamal Murray was the No. 7 selection in 2016, and Gary Harris was a sweet-shooting steal at No. 19 in 2014. Kenneth Faried was the No. 22 pick in 2011 during the Masai Ujiri regime.
Under the leadership of president Tim Connelly and Arturas Karnisovas, the Nuggets have nailed their draft picks lately. And like Golden State a few years ago, they’ve begun adding from the outside. This summer, the Nuggets acquired their version of Andre Iguodala in Paul Millsap, a star team-first veteran who can anchor both sides of the floor.
And they may not be done. With some cap creativity, the Nuggets could have up to $45 million in cap space (good enough for a max player) to add to an already strong core of Millsap, Jokic, Murray and Harris. If Denver declines Jokic’s team option, he would join Harris in next summer’s restricted free-agent class, giving Denver more flexibility next summer.
So who would be the Nuggets’ KD? Don’t overlook Chris Paul as a target. Denver’s head honcho, Connelly, was the assistant GM in New Orleans in 2010 while Paul was there. And the Los Angeles Times reported that Denver was on Paul’s short list of planned free agency meetings this summer before Houston pried him away. No team may ever replicate the Warriors’ success through the draft, but Denver could have the best shot of anyone.
This is another stud core built through the draft. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker were all Bucks’ selections, and only one (Parker) was a top-nine pick. (Milwaukee also traded for Khris Middleton after his rookie season in Detroit.) The Bucks have indeed hit the jackpot in the draft, but the Bucks’ “own the future” slogan could be soon running on fumes.
Look at the cap sheet and you’ll see that the Bucks in 2018 have $100 million in salary, just $2 million below the cap, thanks to some questionable long-term free agent signings in Mirza Teletovic, Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson(an extension, technically). A tough question for the retooled front office will be whether to pay up for Parker after two ACL tears when he becomes a restricted free agent.
As of now, it seems as if the only way to build a superteam is from within. The Bucks could be a tax team next summer if Parker’s new contract commands a salary north of $20 million, limiting their options in free agency.
Still, if the core continues to develop like its has, the Bucks will be in prime position to take over the Eastern Conference when (if?) LeBron James heads West or begins to decline.
We’re a long ways away from seeing if the Kings have something that resembles a playoff team, but the seeds have been planted. Look for the Kings to pounce in 2019 free agency with as much as $55 million in cap space with nine players under contract (all first- or second-round picks).
If they hit a couple home runs in the draft and manage the cap shrewdly, could they steal Klay Thompson in 2019? We like what’s brewing up the coast in Sacramento.
Even in Trump’s America, where an appointed communications director doesn’t last 10 days, I STILL never thought I’d see the words “Super Team” combined with Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and the real kicker: the Sacramento DAMNIT, NO Kings!
First to address the obvious: No star worth his weight in gummy bears is purposefully going to Sacramento. Sorry, it’s not happening. In a league that’s built around multi-top tier players in order to compete, there’s just no shot at Sacramento luring a Golden God. They’d have to build from within by drafting young talent, which I’ll admit openly: they’ve ve done well so far, on paper. BUT in order to dethrone the Warriors, Spurs or future Lebron-Lakers 100% of the players drafted would have to come to fruition and contribute almost immediately.
Next up: Ok, Chicago and Philly make a little more sense in a perfect, utopian basketball world where everything goes according to plan. Chicago has a destination-pull for young talent as a city in general and now that they’ve parted ways with Jimmy Butler there is an opening for the alpha-dog position. It makes sense that through a trade or free agency they could make a move in the next 2 years. The same can be said for Philly, in addition to the amount of “potential” talent they already possess, not to mention the amount of cap space available. Although, does anyone else get a Greg Oden-vibe about Joel Embiid? Just sayin…
And lastly: The Nuggets and Suns are both respectable mid-level franchises with pros and cons to playing in both locations. Denver offers a great city life and a strong fanbase, as does Phoenix. Both franchises have had mid-level success over the last 10 years, playoff appearances, some young talent, good moves and BAD moves by the front offices respecitvely.
From an objective viewpoint, all of these mentioned franchises (except Chicago and Philly) have relatively the same issues: mid-level market, mid-level franchise with very little lure for big names and very little room for a strong playoff run due to road-blocks; The Spurs, The Warriors, The eventual Lebron to the Western Conference scenario, and not to mention The OKC Thunder. Franchises like Denver, Phoenix and Sacramento are AT BEST a 5-seed in the West and more than likely eliminated in the first round. Today’s NBA is the most robust version of AAU basketball we’ve ever seen, the top 10 players in the league have 99% of the pull when it comes to player movement and franchise-changing transactions. This generation of superstar wants to be on the court with their high-level talented friends, and it takes 3 stars on a roster to even compete for the top spot in either conference.
Sidenote: The Kyrie Irving situation in Cleveland. I understand Kyrie’s desire to be “The Man”, but where and how is there any scenario that will be better than what he already has? ANY team he goes to will have a lesser chance of making the NBA Finals! Go ask Russell Westbrook how many “The Man” moments will make up for consistent first or second round exits in the playoffs for the next 5 years? Winning is what matters, winning solves all problems. And the major problem is that the NBA may as well be fraternity row right now, the biggest, richest house on campus (Golden State) has all the best parties, the most recognition and the most pledges knocking down the door to join. Until Delta Delta Delta can figure out how to beat Alpha Beta at their own game, no one else stands a chance.
Annonymous NBA Front Office Executive:
When lovable nerds (name retracted) and (name retracted) embark on their freshman year at Adams College, little do they realize the dangers that await them. They are beset by taunting from the jocks of Alpha Beta fraternity, which only worsens when the jocks accidentally burn down their house and toss the freshmen out of the freshmen dorm. To make matters more problematic, (name retracted) develops a crush on pretty Betty Childs, popular sorority sister and quarterback’s girlfriend. Joined by the aptly named Booger and the violin-playing Poindexter, the nerds soon realize they must form their own fraternity in self-defense. Soon the tables are turned as the nerds employ high-tech warfare against the jocks…. but can they really succeed and make a difference?
“Pop saying he wanted me back and then promising to be nice? I was like, Oh, my God, that’s unbelievable, what an honor,” said Sager. “But then I started thinking about it: If I come back and Pop starts being nice to me, it just wouldn’t be right. I want him to go Serbian on me.”
The Associated Press wrote about Sager’s third bone marrow treatment with stem cells in September, and the sideline reporter’s refusal to accept the bad odds dealt to him:
“Man, life is too beautiful, too wonderful, there’s just too many things,” he said. “It’s not just you. It’s your family and kids and all. Fight. Fight until the end. Fight as hard as you can.”
As I’m still composing my “I’m sorry for doubting you Cleveland” article, I came across the most accurately written discussion piece about pick-up basketball that I’ve seen since I read the “White Men Can’t Jump” script. PLEASE read this article:
For most of my adult life, I have managed to play basketball two or three times a week. I do this because it is significantly more fun than, say, spending a joyless half-hour on a worn treadmill in some windowless YMCA basement, and at 29, my knee still has yet to explode like poor Shaun Livingston’s. But like every Millennial with an overpriced graduate degree, I have also moved around plenty, logging stints in five major cities (or four, depending on how you feel about Boston) over the past ten years. This means that I am very familiar with the feeling of showing up to a court full of total strangers, high tops in hand, and hoping for the best.
Joining an informal pickup game, by definition, should not be complicated. Yet doing so is often much more difficult than any social interaction should be among purportedly functional adults. At every new spot, one must figure out the pecking order and learn to take in stride the deafening screams of the token player-coach who, for some reason, really wants his team to switch to zone. The dynamic is not much different from being the new kid in school, but with more testosterone-laden shouting matches and wily, older gentlemen who set screens with their astonishingly bony elbows sticking straight out.
If this happens to you, fear not. (Finding a new game, I mean. You should be afraid of geriatric elbows.) Here are some simple DOs and DON’Ts to help you navigate court politics without having everyone hate you and openly refer to you as “Fuckin’ New Guy” until you sigh resignedly and decide to give squash a try after all.
DO interact like a normal human being. Day one. You stride into the gym, purposefully meeting every wayward glance with a hard-eyed stare. Time to show what I’m about, you mutter under Gatorade-laced breath, cranking up the volume on your earbuds and sticking out your jaw because it looks intimidating when Kobe does it. It’s about to go down, you vow as you start shadow-boxing in the far corner of the gym and occasionally rapping along to the most violent lines from “Hit ‘Em Up.”
Yes, even well past the age at which it is acceptable to treat Ball As Life, some bros still feel that their on-court interactions are one continuous referendum on whether they possess the killer instinct. Do not be one of those people. Pretend you are at Thanksgiving dinner with your significant other’s family, but with less nervous sweating. Smile. Use full sentences, and consider (gasp) introducing yourself. As in any other social situation, first impressions are everything. Don’t let Kobe Face ruin yours.
DON’T talk shit. If you insist on doing so in an unfamiliar setting, I personally guarantee that one of three things will happen:
The target of your barbs turns out to be really, really good, and vows to make you look really, really bad, now and forevermore, amen.
You unwittingly pick someone that all the regulars like. They telepathically unite against you, and ten minutes later the meatiest one lays you out with a moving screen that would make Kevin Garnett wince.
Your nemesis turns out to be your direct supervisor at the new office, and you start desperately filling out a Peace Corps application that same day.
Friendly reminder that you are an adult. You have a family (possibly), a job (hopefully), and student loans to pay (definitely, until you are dead). You are not playing for a title, a contract, or anything else that could possibly justify deciding to tell a stranger, to his face, that he is a weak, soft [insert deeply offensive noun of your choice]. Don’t do it.
DO ask for a rules primer. Find out how the game is scored, which lines are out-of-bounds, how jump balls work, and the like. Someone on your team will probably fill you in, in part to make you feel welcome but mostly to ensure that you don’t turn the ball over because you forgot which lines to mind. But if no one speaks up, ask. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to err on the side of caution, jogging up and down the middle of the court between the three-point arcs like Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace. Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace was fun, but not good. Don’t be Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace.
DON’T call a bunch of fouls. Look, if someone Draymonds you, say something, assuming you’re physically able to make sounds other than a low, inhuman moan. But otherwise, smile, resolve to finish next time, and keep running. People will note and appreciate that you do not feel a compulsive need to stop the game with every bump, real or imagined. Plus, once they like playing with you, they won’t get nearly as upset when you’re tired and jog up and down the court like Celtics-era Rasheed Wallace.
DO guard who you’re told to guard. Did your teammates match you up with some dude wearing New Balances and cargo shorts? Are they flagrantly disrespecting your ability check anyone, anytime? Before you start angrily mouthing 2Pac lyrics again, remember that no one here knows you from Anthony Bennett, so no one expects anything of you, either. This is not disrespect. It’s insurance against you being, well, Anthony Bennett.
Taking this personally and insisting on guarding whoever you think you should guard is a very bad plan. At best, you’ll do fine, but because your teammates tried to help and you angrily waved them off, you’re a dick. Worst case, they know something you don’t, New Balances Guy torches you all afternoon, and you’re still a dick. So take it easy. If you indeed go all Kawhi on this chump, you’ll be shuffled to a better matchup soon enough, and before long it will be you telling the new people what to do.
DON’T lose perspective. Here is a true story. After months of trying, I finally scored an invite to a certain pickup game—shoutout YMCA National Capital, rest in peace—which its members quietly organized by email and zealously guarded to keep numbers low and headcases out. They scored by twos and threes (the correct way) to thirty, so with the day’s last game tied at 27, both teams naturally forgot that two-point shots existed. Finally, a guy on the other team launched the game-winner, but while squaring up he put his foot on the line. As the shot floated in mid-air, I called it—“Two!”—like an idiot. The ball sailed through the hoop, both teams began exchanging high-fives and, horrified, I tried to melt silently into the hardwood.
This plan did not work. “SOMEONE SAID ‘TWO.’ NEW GUY?” Dammit. The result of this game did not matter one bit, to me or to anyone else. But once pointed out, I couldn’t disavow the call, or I was a liar, which is the only thing worse than a toe-watcher. So I meekly copped to it and hoped that the universe would correct my mistake. Alas, my teammate promptly hit the actual game-winner. (His feet were well behind the arc.) We won, but EVERYONE was mad at me: the other team, because I took away their game, and my team, because they had to play with Dumbass New Guy Who Messed Up The Run. You won’t believe this, but I was not added to the listserv that morning.
Vince Lombardi (among others) famously observed that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. But Lombardi probably said this because if he didn’t win, he would get fired. No matter what happens, you still have to go to your office and file TPS reports when the game is over. So give the benefit of the doubt to hustle plays, ignore the occasional foot shuffle, and don’t wipe out a cool, fun sequence because you were so carefully scrutinizing toe placement. Everyone will have a better time if you let stuff go.
DO go beyond basketball. Assuming no one acts like a sociopath, on-court chemistry leads to off-court friendships, too. At each game of which I’ve been a part, the regulars do things like get together for drinks, look after each other’s kids, help with job searches, and go in on a thoughtful gift each time another player gets married. At this VERY post-Hoop Dreams stage of your basketball career, this is what actually matters.
So yes, the politics can be hilarious and inane. But navigating them is just a silly hoop (sorry) through which you have to jump, and becoming part of a genuinely meaningful community on the other side is well worth it. Good luck out there, don’t sleep on New Balances Guy, and save me a spot for next.
The man with the best bracket and most points racked up among the 3 million brackets submitted to Yahoo sports made a terrible, terrible mistake. He forgot to pick a champion.
$50,000 in prize money on the line, and he did not pick a champion.
James Kiki’s nailed some early upsets, he had seven of the Elite Eight teams correct. He has a perfect Final Four. He is tied with two other people for first overall, just three games away from a $50,000 grand prize. James Kiki will not win. Here is his bracket.
Kiki, a South Sudanese refugee who works for a nonprofit in Syracuse, says he’d never filled out a bracket in his life, and only did so because he saw he could win $50,000.
But he was challeneged by Yahoo’s somewhat unintuitive picking system. Kiki says he forgot about his bracket—“I’ve been watching the games, but I didn’t even know what teams I picked”—but only realized how well he had done, and how he had screwed up, when he was flooded by messages from other Yahoo users telling him how stupid he was.