If you were the Miami Heat, would you be willing to offer Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and a 2019 first round pick in return for Jimmy Butler?
CW: “I would say no and the reason being because of the culture in Miami. Pat Riley has a winning mentality, the organisation has precise, winning ways so one player is not going to change the culture in Miami. I don’t know if adding Butler will give you seven more wins a year. So the culture doesn’t need to change and they have young, talented guys in the locker room so I don’t know if they need to change their current system. All things considered, it wouldn’t be something I would do.”
RM: “I will also say no. on the business side, you’ve got Josh Richardson on a very friendly 4 year $42 million contract and you’ve got Bam on a rookie deal. To Chris’s point, chemistry means a lot and you’ve got young guys that the Heat and Riley have started to develop and looking long term you’ve got young players who will develop in the years to come. Jimmy Butler is a fantastic persona and a fantastic player but his longevity scare me a little bit. If you make the deal, it doesn’t necessarily make them a top team. You still have Philly, Indiana and Toronto. It doesn’t make them the clear cut favourites.”
How has the perception of the Knicks changed from the Phil Jackson era to where they are now?
RM: “Every year coming into the season all 30 teams have high expectations. For some reason the Knicks fan base and my good personal friend Spike Lee seem to think that every year is the Knicks year. I don’t agree but I will say that this is the one year that optimism and hope is in the right direction. I think them hiring David Fizdale who is a great, young basketball mind in this game. I thought he got a raw deal in Memphis. I think he learned a lot under Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra when he was the associate head coach in Miami. Steve Mills and the brass with the Knicks are turning the corner and are starting to do things in the right way in terms of developing talent, drafting, holding on to free agents.
“It was a big blow losing the unicorn [Kristaps Porzingis] and not knowing when he is going to come back this season but if you are a Knicks fan I think the optimism and hope is there that this year with coach Fizdale and his coaching staff there’s a glimmer of hope that the tide will turn and the Knicks will be playing a better brand of basketball. That might not equate to wins but it will be better basketball to watch, which the league needs. The league needs the Knicks to play well and to be in the Playoffs. They won’t be in the Playoffs this year but they need them to be competing at a high level as that helps the brand of basketball in the NBA.”
CW: “I have to agree with Reggie in that the Knicks will not make the Playoffs even though their fans want to win a championship every year. The fans need to look to Boston, who in my eyes are the ones leading the way in terms of rebuilding and managing fans expectations. I love what Danny Ainge did, not that that’s easy to do but the way he communicated is certainly something that the Knicks could do with Steve Mills and a great communicator like Fizdale. That sets it up for that kind of environment. You have to trust what Fizdale is doing as I’ve heard very good things from players and coaches who have worked with him.
“As a fan myself I am looking forward to the resurgence of the Knicks, it’s just unfortunate that you have the injury to Porzingis and everything else going on. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next couple of seasons pan out for the Knicks.”
15 years ago this month, LeBron James made his NBA debut against the Kings. You didn’t play that night as you had a knee injury but you were in the building, what comes to mind when you think of the atmosphere that night and the performance of an 18-year-old LeBron James?
CW: “The atmosphere was awesome. We had some big goals and to hear this young kid – no one has had this much pre-game publicity in their life and can he handle it. And I remember thinking to myself because a few NBA players told me – he’s going to go to 10 championships. And I remember after watching the game calling a friend of mine, actually it was Billy Owens, and saying ‘okay, maybe you know what you’re talking about’. I remember just thinking how focused he was, I remember thinking this kid plays like a two or three-year vet and remember just looking at him physically. But again on the court, just thinking to myself wow he’s just a great leader and his leading kind of vibes. Acting like he’s not the leader in the lobby situation because you have to remember some of the team struggled to keep the team together. I saw him kind of take the backseat on some plays and he gave a couple of guys a pass when he could’ve just dunked down the middle of the lane and other things.
“I was as impressed with his first game, even though he’s much better today, as I am with his career today. I don’t think there’s ever been an athlete in any sport that has had the praise, the pressure or the money. He signed $100million deal with Nike before he played one game and he was probably underpaid. I’ve never seen that before and that’s been one of the most remarkable things about LeBron is that how great he is yes, but he mastered the expectation of being that great and who does that?”
How would you evaluate the Mavs’ additions and how close do you think they are to a play-off spot?
RM: “That was my surprise team in the West. I do have Dallas making the play-offs this year and it starts with their head coach Rick Carlisle because I have played for Rick and I understand he is one of the best coaches at understanding time, score and knowing players’ bodies. And he has a veteran team, obviously this is probably the last swan song for Dirk but you draft or trade for Luka Doncic who’s supposed to be the next coming – and looking at some of his pre-season games, he has lived up to the billing – you finally get your sitter in DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith. Now you’ve got two young players in Smith and Doncic that you can build around with these veteran guys around with the head coach who’s won a championship and understands this league and a lot of times playing hard is most of it, understanding your role is a big part of it and these guys understand their roles and with Rick Carlisle that’s why I think it’s half the battle. They’ll win the games against the teams that probably have more talent but don’t understand how to win the game. That’s why I have the Dallas Mavericks in my top eight.”
CW: “I agree with Reggie on coach Carlisle, period. And that he makes the teams better and it’s fun playing for his team because he makes you as an individual better so both goals are in line. I just don’t see them having the talent, and don’t get me wrong I see the great guard-play I think their rookie is going to be sensational. But this is a point guard’s league now, you’ve got to have handlers like Kyrie and Candice to be able to shoot and other things. Not that they can’t but I don’t know how their team chemistry is going to come together and it’s going to have to come together early. I don’t believe a team can get out the gate three and seven and make the play-offs in the Western conference. It’s almost like I have to take the conference over this team because I just think the conference is too tough and I would love to see Dirk make it in his final year and Reggie’s right about how hard you have to play. I just don’t know in the West this year where everyone’s incentivised to get to the play-offs, LeBron’s taking over there and they know there’s going to be a spotlight so the guys are going to play hard. A lot more teams are going to play hard so effort is going to be a lesser ingredient in the total of winning, I just don’t think their young guys are ready to get it done in the West. But that’s why we play the games, if I was one of these young guys I’d love to hear this quote and put it on my water cooler from some old guy that used to play ball but I don’t see them making it.”
Chris Webber on the Chicago Bulls and coach Fred Hoiberg…
“There were questions about [Fred] Hoiberg in the locker room and his leadership, and some of them still need to be answered. To be fair to him, he now has a group of guys that have had a chance to be there and play for him and when you look at their pace of play in the league, he seems to be a guy, offensively that you would love to play for.”
Webber on the Boston Celtics…
“I think a bullseye on their back will be great for them. I still think the coach [Brad Stevens] is one of the best in the game and has implemented a system where you have to police yourself. And if you let us down you’re letting yourself down.”
Candace Parker on the Dallas Mavericks…
“I think with the Dallas Mavs, they’re like a San Antonio organization where you can’t ever really count them out because of their experience and with Rick Carlisle. As far as making the playoffs, I think this is kind of like a rebuilding for the future and you have that mixture of youth with veterans. I’m personally excited to see how the [Luka] Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. backcourt happens… If they can work together and learn some things this year, I think they’ll be pretty special in the future.”
Webber on the Denver Nuggets…
“Denver’s actually one of my favorite teams because I think they have a great home court advantage in the way they play… They’re in the West so sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s about how good the competition is. So I think they’re going to be fighting an uphill battle… They also have unselfish play, which will keep them in the game… They have a lot of guys that are fighting to prove who they are… So they’re one of the teams I do think that could make it.”
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