HoopSpeak Live 55: DraftSpeak Live (The Almost Lost Episode)

This one almost got away from us. After some technical difficulties at the beginning, Beckley and Zach talked some Draft and then interviewed the great Dave Telep about many of the prospects whose names are about to be called.

We then welcomed David Thorpe to the show, but there were more technical difficulties and thus we have his segment in audio form underneath the video file. Enjoy:

Note: You can find the audio-only version of HoopSpeak Live on iTunes. If you subscribe and/or write us a review, I promise that you will be drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats with the No. 2 pick.

HoopSpeak Live airs every Thursday right here on HoopSpeak.com. You can follow the show with the #hoopspeaklive hashtag, and you can follow our guests at @DaveTelep and @coachthorpe.


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HoopSpeak Live 55: Dave Telep and David Thorpe

DRAFT DAY! Today’s guests:

Dave Telep, Senior National Recruiting Analyst for ESPN.com

David Thorpe, NBA Analyst for ESPN.com and Executive Director of Pro Training Center

To submit text questions or hang out in the chat: just click “join event” and fire away!

To video chat with us and our guests: Find a spot without too much background noise, sign in, fire up the web cam, and be sure to have your headphones (to eliminate echo)!

If you’re having trouble viewing HoopSpeak Live here, try it on Vokle’s site.


Notes from 2012 Draft Media Availability scrum

Ever read about how Bob Ryan got to hang out with the great Celtics teams of the 1960s? He’d go drinking with them, get meals, fly on the team plane. He saw them in unguarded, unscripted moments where they revealed their insecurities, idiosyncrasies, and was able to understand their genuine character.

Sounds nice, right?

Well the NBA Draft Media Availability Session is basically the exact opposite of that. There’s almost no back-and-forth and the formality of the setting squelches any hope you’ll really find something out about the players.

Here’s how it works: Twelve top prospects show up in two waves of six for 30 minutes each, and the assembled media goes to where they are sitting (at 6 different tables) and starts peppering them with questions.

Here’s who was there: Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Harrison Barnes, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Myers Leonard and Austin Rivers.

Here are my (printable) thoughts:

These kids have been coached, and well. The NBA now puts top draft picks through a class to teach them how to handle the media, and it showed. These young men (the oldest is 22) were like polished politicians, staying on message and avoiding anything besides statements related to a) how hard they would work (very) and b) that they are happy to play anywhere. They were all well-spoken and looked like the knew what was coming. Andre Drummond looks slim. He claims to have lost around 20 pounds and be down to 260. Drummond has been working with Idan Ravin famed hoops trainer (covered by Chris Ballard in this Sports Illustrated profile), and I have to think it’s going to make a big difference when he comes into the league. People make a big deal about college

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Who’s afraid of Royce White?

Teams salivate over Royce White’s rare combination of talents. He’s a bruising big man with the handle and passing of a point guard. His girth belies a certain grace with which he glides around the floor. He’s a model of versatility (an increasingly valuable skill in the NBA), a swiss army knife of a basketball player.

Teams are also scared of Royce White. They’re nervous of his conditioning and his weight, whether he has a position in the league. But perhaps every team’s biggest fear of White, greater than concerns about his weight or his jump shot, is his anxiety disorder.

It all boils down to: White has an NBA-ready game, but can he live the NBA life?

“I know it will affect my status,” White says. “It’s a scary thing. All you need is 30 general managers to say, ‘I don’t know enough about this to take this risk.’ Or 30 owners to say, ‘We don’t know enough about this to take this on.’ And then you end up being out of the first round and out of the second round. Or you go late in the second round and go to summer league and they still have the ability to cut you.” — “On the road with Royce White” by Jonathan Abrams

Certainly, teams have a right to be concerned about White’s disorder. I myself suffer from generalized anxiety and have at times been so paralyzed by my own thoughts that I end up stuck in a fetal position. Unfortunate stories such as Delonte West’s and the more tragic tale of Eddie Griffin are case studies in how teams have been burned by players who suffered from mental disorders.

But Royce White isn’t Delonte West, nor is he Eddie Griffin. West didn’t seek help until he

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Can we stop spending Steve Nash’s money?

Steve Nash is coming to save your franchise. I know your team is over the cap, but he’ll take the mini-mid level exception. Why? Because money doesn’t matter to Steve. Because Steve’s the easy-going dad who trundles down the Whole Foods aisle with a bag full of red quinoa. Because Steve likes Radiohead, and you like Radiohead. Because winning a title obviously means more than anything in the universe to Steve Nash, loyal soldier of Sarver misfortune.

Not so fast!

Steve Nash is still killing it, and could get upwards of $10 million per year for a short term deal on the open market. Teams like the Knicks and Heat would need Nash to take a contract in the three million per year range, per the mini mid-level. So Nash-hopeful fans are assuming he’ll give up, say, seven million dollars of his money, per year to a private, cold-hearted business. Would you be shocked if Portland offered Nash to three years, $35 million? Then don’t be shocked if he rejects three years, nine million from Team Dolan.

It’s just so much fun to imagine, though. Editors have certainly pushed the Nash-to-big-market storyline on me, and I’ve buckled. Such Nash wishing unfortunately makes little sense in the actual world. The idea of “giving up money” is largely abstract to us, and it’s conveniently not our money. The statement, “All he has to do is give up some money” rarely comes with any acknowledgement that some dollar amounts are larger than others. Ya, I could see a player giving up a million or so to play where he wants. But $20 million? Who does that?

My best guess is that the “Who does that?” question can be answered, “Probably not Steve Nash.” Remember, this is someone who left his good

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Daryl Morey’s blameless failure

Daryl Morey trades Chase Budinger in a typically Morey move. Budinger was taken with the 44th pick; today he’s dealt for an 18th pick. With trades like this, Houston’s GM can appear like Bigfoot, the inventively frugal restaurant manager from Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. On the margins, Morey is a master.

So, I come not to question Daryl Morey’s wisdom, assiduousness, or even his decision-making. I come to question his effectiveness. He took over in May of 2007 and the Rockets have won one playoff series since. You can’t point to one monumental Morey choice that threw the team off course (perhaps Stern’s veto is an exterior one), but here Houston is, floating along lukewarm NBA waters like an aimless, harmless manatee.

I present a paradox. If a general manager has made largely good decisions, then how can you possibly criticize him?  Morey has wrung quite a lot from seemingly mediocre rosters. That superstarless 22-win streak is the most notable example. There have been a few miststeps along the way, but that’s not even my focus here.

I point to David Aldridge’s recent report that Dwight Howard would not sign with Houston long term, were the Rockets to trade for him. Morey is still probably in hot pursuit of the capricious center, despite the cold shoulder. Dwight might change his mind, but Chris Bosh won’t. Too late for that, obviously, as the 2010 object of Morey’s affections is on contract in South Beach, title in tow.

Morey pitched Chris Bosh on returning to Texas roots, but lost out to Pat Riley’s ambitious plan. Riley may not be an analytics maven, but he flaunts charisma and NBA cachet. This is the element of general managing we usually elide when fantasizing about being a GM: You must be something of a

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LeBron James’ career as explained by Shakespeare

Image by @AnthonyBain

Now that we’ve had a few days to digest LeBron James’s first championship, it’s an appropriate moment to examine this moment in the context of his entire career. It’s a neat little 10 year capsule: from discovery as a high school wunderkind to his recent coronation.

When I look at that decade, I’m struck not just by the dramatic swings, but how and when those swings occurred.

Why did LeBron James matter so incredibly much to American sports fans?

There are plenty of ways to answer this, but the answer may simply be: it’s a well constructed story.

Okay, I need to level with you (as if the image above wasn’t a big enough clue). I’m about to make a comparison that may just be a bit too much of some of the people who read this, but bear with me: this is eerie.

To answer the above questions, I think we need to go back to William Shakespeare, widely regarded as the greatest storyteller ever to use the English language (WHO DIDN’T EVEN EXIST!!… OR DID HE?!). He used something called five-act structure for many of his great plays, and a ton of awesome movies like Iron Man do the same.

I’m going to suggest that James has been so compelling a public character not just because of his obvious and fantastic talent, but because his public performance has hit all the marks of an enthralling five act play. It’s the kind of drama that could make even Tim Duncan compelling to a casual observer.

Take a look…

(Suggested puns include [but are not limited to, that’s what the comments section is for]: LeBromlet, Lebeth, LeBras You Like It, Midsummer’s Night James, and my favorite: Titus LeBronicus.)

Act 1 (2002-2004): Main characters, key conflict introduced.

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Enough with the stupid James Harden mockery

It’s possible we always had such a strong recency bias, but it sure feels like recency bias is at its apogee. It’s also possible that recency bias just makes it seem as though Twitter is the ultimate warden to our collective prisoner of the moment. The commentary on athletes certainly smacks of an especially jerky knee jerking.

And damned if this James Harden mockery isn’t a bit silly. Five games ago, he was an obvious max contract for some lucky team out there. Now, cash is supposedly flying out of his pockets, like a bank in a tornado.

The max contract is and should be closer to the truth. Harden had a bad Finals, but let’s look at the bigger picture. James is 22 years old, and posted an equivalent win share mark to Kevin Durant in his most recent season. He was fourth in the league in true shooting percentage, and he shot more often than the three players ahead of him. He maintains such efficiency with a deadly outside shot, perceptive court vision, and a propensity for drawing fouls. Harden also has much room for improvement, as he can barely hold a coffee cup with his right hand.

What about the playoffs? Well, despite his much maligned Finals performance (and yes, it was mediocre), Harden was first among all two-guards in win share average this postseason. He was third among all guards in this stat, mostly because Ty Lawson and Darren Collison posted fine marks in very few minutes. The bearded one was also third in PER behind such schlimazels as Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Obviously, James Harden stinks.

But it’s just so fun to mock a man for losing money on the big stage, I suppose. While I hate to rain on such a good-natured

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LeBron couldn’t hit a shot, still dominated the NBA Finals

LeBron James was, without question, the best player in these NBA Finals. With 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game, James was historically great, leaving no doubt in the end that he won that thing.

He also couldn’t hit a shot.

LeBron was 19% from three point land and 26% on two-point attempts outside of three feet. In total, he was 24% on shots outside three feet. Show me those numbers before the Finals and I say, “Thunder in four.” James usually hits over 41% of these types of attempts, with a .362 three point percentage. These comparatively awful percentages would look disastrous for a man whose burden is the choking trope. I happen to believe that luck is a huge factor in success on jumpers. Looks like LeBron was unlucky at the exact wrong time.

And yet, James finished with a high 55.8% true shooting mark en route to all those aforementioned points. What the hell? How did this happen? Well, LeBron treated Thunder players like steps on his personal staircase to the hoop, averaging an incredible 10 shots per game at the rim. It wasn’t all driving, though the drives were gnarly. James was excellent off the ball, carving OKC’s defense with well-timed weak-side cuts. Oh, and he also averaged over 10 boards while making passes that evoked Magic Johnson memories.

This was a dominant performance from a player who, had he managed his usual shot percentages, would have scored nearly five more points per Finals game. LeBron James may have been unlucky in these Finals, but he didn’t need luck. LeBron was off. Still turned it on. That’s a true testament to greatness.

Follow @SherwoodStrauss


LeBron James is the 2002 Sports Illustrated Cover

I clearly remember getting that 2002 Sports Illustrated cover in the snail mail.

He was holding a faded basketball, it looked to be the cheap rubberized kind. Nice basketballs have tiny, smooth bumps along the surface. His looked to have the larger, unsubtle, inflamed tastebud texture. “That’s a kid’s ball,” I thought, because the wrong kind of anything matters more to a teenager. The well-made Spalding sanctifies a basketball occasion. So why was this kid clutching a Goodwill knockoff?

I also thought “Who is this?” The SI cover was the spotlight of known knowns, not a showcase for known unknowns. In sixteen words, the magazine blared an incredible introduction: “High school junior LeBron James would be an NBA lottery pick right now.”

A 2002 Sports Illustrated mattered quite a bit to me back then. Magazines in general did. I’d ride around town with a passenger seat covered in gleaming copies of SI, Rollingstone, and The New Yorker–publications that either interested me or that I wished to be interested in. I’d read during red lights and often get honked at when drifting too long through a paragraph.

Grandpa Strauss will tell you that the Internet was fun and informative back then, but not quite the news-breaking source it is today. The  tactile-tinglin’ magazine was actually where you could learn of the new. A copy of Sports Illustrated had the power to tap you on the shoulder and tell you about your future sports hero, someone whom you’d probably already know about ten times over in today’s society. This is why I’d race towards my mail box after the dog barked at the mail man. The damned future could be in that mailbox.

This cover story heralded the next great American basketball player with such captivating certainty. A Danny Ainge quote stirred me:

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