John Hammond and Larry Drew, the Bucks’ GM and new head coach, sat together watching practice at Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas last month lamenting a little thing in LARRY SANDERS!'s offense. SANDERS! was just barely hamstringing his team’s scoring chances as the screen-setter on pick-and-rolls. “There it is again!” Hammond would exclaim to Drew. “And again! He’s so close.”
Coach and GM were noticing a tic in SANDERS!’s offensive game — a tendency to nail an opposing point guard with a pick and linger there for an extra beat, making sure his pick serves as a real obstacle. It’s an admirable habit at a time when a lot of big men are so eager to dart to the hoop that they start their dive before making contact on a screen. But SANDERS! errs too much in the other direction, delaying his rolls to the hoop just long enough that help defenders are ready by the time he catches the ball — if his point guard can find a passing lane to him in the first place. It’s fixable with time and practice, though exchanging Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight will introduce a new challenge in SANDERS!’s quest to master the pick-and-roll ballet.
"We call it the Sundance of basketball. People from top to bottom in the industry will be in Las Vegas. It’s one of the few times besides the All-Star Game when lots of people and decision-makers are looking to make an impression or move relationships further along."
"It's Quincy Acy's world, we're all just livin' in it. And it's 110 degrees outside and I've been at UNLV for three days, and oh God what time is it even?"
— From my notebook on Saturday afternoon
NBA summer league in Las Vegas wasn't this big of a deal a few years ago. When it started, it drew six teams with mismatched uniforms and overmatched players, and nobody really noticed it was happening. Somehow that event has transformed over the past decade into Basketball Sundance, where basically everyone — from coaches to scouts to bloggers to agents to players — gathers for a weeklong hoops summit on the UNLV campus. This is where everyone binges on basketball for one last time before taking a break for a few months. Summer league even has its own groupies. It's great.
It's also pretty horrible compared to regular basketball, let's be honest. But it feels like a good way to end the NBA year. As the quote above suggests, summer league is kind of like baseball's winter meetings, full of insider gossip, networking, and everything else you'd expect from a giant industry convention. Except in between, there are endless amounts of basketball. And for fans, this is a healthy purge.
Let’s not mince words here — the Lakers are boring. Sure, they’re a flaming train wreck from which we can’t avert our eyes, but their actual on-court product (and even some of the drama off it) is far from enjoyable, in the traditional sense. If you stripped away the star power and franchise mystique, all you’d be left with is a basketball team that’s losing far more than it wins, and there’s not much fun about that. (Again, in the traditional sense.)
But given there isn’t any way to not talk about the Lakers, I went to the ESPN Trade Machine (at least in part) and tried to figure out a deal that, in an alternate reality, would make the team more palatable. The trade I came up with is both realistic (based on some real rumors I’ve heard/read and players’ fair market value in mind) and totally effing bananas (five-team, 15-player trades and unicorns tend have a lot in common). I’d still like to think at least some parts dabble in the vicinity of the plausible.
In the end, I came up with a Lakers team (as well as a Cleveland one) that I would actually enjoy watching on a nightly basis. Of course, it’s built along the lines of my own personal views — fit over star power and great offense over any type of defense — but I think it would make the struggling L.A. team, as well as a couple of the others involved, more interesting.
Either way, there’s enough in there to get people yelling at each other (or at me), which is easily the best part of fake trades anyway. So here ya go:
Last season JaVale McGee delighted us with his investigative journalism, sense of direction, singing of Adele, and follow-up dunking. We will no doubt continue to cover JaVale's ups and downs, along with the exploits of his onetime partner in crime, Andray Blatche. But just for fun, we thought it would be cool if we tried to find this season's JaVale — the player with the perfect mix of on-the-court follies and social media highlights (or vice versa). Here's who the Grantland staff came up with.
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots Sunday night was many things, it was an opportunity for Mark Sanchez to pour lighter fluid and a lit Zippo on his reputation, it was a chance for Chad Ochocinco to get somewhat more involved in the New England game plan, and it was an opportunity for Rex Ryan to get more involved in fan relations. But ultimately, it was a chance for Bill Belichick to do what he does best; take a bunch of guys off the trash heap and have them looking like the '86 Giants. Andre Carter? Rob Ninkovich? Julian Edelman blowing up LaDainian Tomlinson? You know it was a good coaching job if Belichick himself was (allegedly), um, impressed with his performance.