Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Did the Jazz’s handling of his previous contract negotiation bother him?
“It lingered for maybe a little bit of time at the beginning of when I signed it. There was none of those feelings were there this time around.
Restricted free agency, it’s a little weird.
As a player, you’re sitting there thinking like, “What the hell?” You look at all these other players where teams are like, “He’s our guy.” Like, “We’re going to give him the max.” Blah, blah, blah. And I’ve got to go out and get one? Like, “Do you not believe in me?” Like, “Do you not feel like I’m the guy for you?”
From a team’s perspective, it’s the smartest thing to do. Like, “Why would we overpay you until somebody else makes us, essentially?” You know what I mean?
So, I can for sure see it from both sides. But restricted free agency is weird.”
Gordon Hayward is a Celtic, but he might not have been if a few things broke differently. If Chicago and Indiana had been run more competently, maybe Hayward’s potential All Star spot wouldn’t have been jeopardized by Jimmy Butler and Paul George suddenly joining his conference. If Steph Curry’s ankles had been stronger years ago, then the Warriors probably wouldn’t have had the money, even with the cap spike, to create the Kevin Durant super-team that is impeding everyone’s progress.
And if Utah had handled his restricted free agency differently, maybe he would have been more likely to stay in Salt Lake rather than uproot his family and join Brad Stevens in Boston.
Hindsight gives us a glimpse of what could have been. We don’t if one of those flaps from a butterfly’s wings caused the hurricane that sent Hayward to Boston, but we can glean from his sentiments that Utah’s gamble on a young, promising player cut deeply enough to leave a scar.
Marcus Smart isn’t the same kind of player as Hayward at all, but he’s in a similar situation. The Celtics have until October 17 to offer Smart an extension on his rookie contract. If they don’t, or if the two sides don’t agree, then the can gets kicked into next June, when the Celtics have to make a $6 million qualifying offer by the 29th to send Smart into restricted free agency.
Hayward entered the fourth year of his NBA career as a promising wing scorer who was still slight of build. There was no certainty that he would blossom into the sought-after, versatile scorer he became this past season. He has steadily matured and grown, literally, into that role.
Smart enters his fourth year without the expectations of becoming a Hayward-level scorer, but with the similar possibility of adding the right elements to his game to become highly sought-after. Like with a 23-year-old Hayward, if you squint hard enough, you can see a possible All Star player in there.
The Celtics, though, are standing at the craps table with dice in one hand and a stack of chips in the other. They can throw the dice and, maybe, come out winners with Smart in this process. Or they can bet big and crap out.
It’s possible they could simply come to an agreement over the next couple of months and avoid this whole sordid mess. They could also come to an agreement once restricted free agency hits and Isaiah Thomas has driven away in his Brinks truck. In either scenario, they hammer something out that works for both sides and everyone walks off the casino floor happy.
Or… the Celtics can play the Jazz v. Hayward game. They can play hardball in extension talks and push Smart into restricted free agency. They can let him play this whole season and gamble on his shot never being good enough to push him to another level. They can bank on the money for players like Smart just not being around and wait for him and his agent to come back to sign and below-market value deal.
In the short term, that could be a big win for Boston. As I’ve said before, winning teams build winning rosters, in part, by getting role players at below-market deals. The Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder signings (along with Isaiah Thomas’ contract signed before he came to Boston) made the Al Horford and Gordon Hayward deals possible. Keeping Smart’s deal lower than market value would help tax-wise and, possibly, with future acquisitions.
But, going back to Hayward, this role of the dice carries a long-term risk. If Smart’s jump shot isn’t quite there yet but steadily improves, he could mature and grow into a more selective role that makes him much more efficient down the road. In a few years, when Smart is potentially a key player on a contending team, does the restricted free agency game cause him to think “hey, business is business” and wander off to a competitor?
It’s a calculated risk. Smart’s free throw percentage shows his shot isn’t necessarily broken. He’s not like “can’t shoot’ guards of the past (see Rondo, Rajon) who simply can’t get a consistent feel for shooting the ball. I’ll also repeat that he shot 41% overall from the corners (43.8% from the left corner) which shows he can, in fact, make 3’s.
The Celtics know he’s already a plus-player when he’s on the floor. They’re going to have to take some calculated financial risks at this point considering other guys are also in line for some cash over the next few years. Smart and his agent will also have to survey the landscape to see what money might be out there for him. It’s not as easy as saying “I’m better than that guy, I should make more money than he is.” Some guys take advantage of bad front offices. Some guys were just in the right place at the right time (count that money, Timofey!). And some guys, like Smart, run the risk of over-valuing themselves and overplaying their hand.
The money could dry up. Or some team can swoop in with a ridiculous offer to put pressure on the Celtics to match. Risks are everywhere in restricted free agency. And as the Gordon Hayward situation showed, a misstep here could start the clock ticking on a bomb that costs you a key player down the line.
It’s blowing up a once-promising Jazz team. Last year’s darlings are now at risk of falling into the middling NBA abyss. The Celtics don’t want to suffer the same fate down the road.
Page 2: Brandon Bass isn’t done yet
It’s been a difficult two years for the 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound Bass since the Celtics chose to sign Amir Johnson and allow Bass to leave via free agency. He played the 2015-16 season with a putrid Lakers team, the career small/power forward playing backup center in many stretches.
Bass thought he would have a more pivotal role with the Clippers, backing up Blake Griffin for his former Celtics coach, Doc Rivers. But Bass mostly sat the bench. At 32, Bass said he still has a lot of basketball left. And over 12 seasons he’s played only 758 games. By comparison, 32-year-old LeBron James has played 1,061 regular-season games.
“With the Clippers things didn’t go as planned, for whatever reason,” Bass said. “Every time I stepped on the floor my production level was at an all-time high. So my whole thing, I hope people make sure they judge what I did in my time more than anything else because I can’t control the politics of basketball all the time. I’m better than I was when I was in Boston, it’s just all about the perception of things.”
I’ve always liked Brandon Bass. He never said a damn thing about his role even as it continued to be clear the game was passing him by.
But Bass is trying to catch up. He’s extending his range and he could prove to be a decent bench option for a team that needs a quality veteran in the locker room. If Bass can dip into the corners and hit 3’s consistently, he can be a pretty valuable guy to have. And, with all this extreme emphasis on the 3’s and dunks, his mid-range game could be something a team needs to keep defenses honest from time to time.
Bass is a good guy who should get at least a camp invite. If he doesn’t, then I’m sure he can cash in overseas for a bit, but I do think he’s got some solid NBA time left in that body.
Are there pangs of regret in Charlotte over the failed 2015 draft night deal? The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell was asked about that in his latest mailbag. First, his answer:
To my knowledge, no one has reported precisely what Ainge offered. When I asked a source back then to explain all this, I received this analogy: That the Celtics wanted the Hornets’ dollar and were offering multiple coins in return; at the time, there was no way to determine whether those coins (future picks) would end up pennies, nickels, quarters or half dollars.
Trading down is typically a better strategy in the NFL than in the NBA. The talent can reduce quickly after the top 10 or so picks in an NBA draft. Trading, say, the seventh pick in the NBA for two picks in the 20s usually isn’t a good idea. In the NFL it might be, because there are so many more positions to fill.
“Our probably biggest plan was to try to use a lot of our assets, a lot of our picks, to try to consolidate picks and to move up in the draft,” he told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich. “We spent a few weeks trying to prepare for that and do that, knowing that nothing really gets done until draft day, when people are making their final offers, their best offers and so forth. We were very close to consolidating picks and moving up in the draft on a couple of different occasions, and it just didn’t happen.
“In hindsight, the next day, it’s probably a good thing. We were probably going to spend too much to do what we needed to do,” Ainge said. “This morning I wake up, and I’m refreshed that we got guys that we like but also that we didn’t overspend for some of the players that were in the draft — actually just basically one player we were chasing that we thought we had a realistic chance at.”
Ainge gets a lot of crap for holding onto his assets, but it’s easy to forget he was so enamored with Justise Winslow that he damn near gave up the farm for him.
I’ll always believe that Ainge was scared-straight that night. He had a brief moment of weakness that, thankfully, was rejected by Michael Jordan’s own infatuation with Frank Kaminsky. Ever since then, Ainge has had a set price for players and he won’t waver. This failed deal, I believe, was a sobering moment for the Celtics front office, and is why all subsequent potential trades have been handled so shrewdly.
The Hornets, however, MUST be feeling some regret over not taking whatever offer Ainge was giving them. Their fans clearly are. There is time for Kaminsky to become more than what he’s been. He’s still only 24, and he could still develop into the stretch-big they thought he could be.
They have to understand that they blew it. If the Celtics package is as good as has been reported and included at least one of the Nets picks, the Hornets front office has to understand they could have been better off taking the deal.
Thankfully for Boston, they didn’t.
The rest of the links:
Lansing State Journal: Couch Q&A: Al Horford on the Boston Celtics, NBA free agency and Grand Ledge
Detroit Free Press: Marcus Morris ‘Chill Will’ after Detroit Pistons trade, says Ish Smith