NBA notebook: Becky Hammon's next job, Durant’s impact on future, more
Hammon won’t be an NBA head coach anytime soon. It’s not a knock—she has one year on the bench and zero NBA playing experience to make that fact ignorable. She still needs to master the game, to crystallize her own coaching philosophies, to do all the things, say, Mike Budenholzer did before he took over the Hawks job and emerged as one of the brightest young coaches in basketball. But Hammon will get there. In all likelihood, she will be offered another job first; the WNBA is bound to want her back and a major college would make a major splash hiring someone like her. But if the NBA is where her heart is, a few more years studying under Gregg Popovich and assisting a stacked San Antonio team deep into the playoffs, and Hammon will barrel through yet another barrier and find herself running her own team.
The end of the line for Ty Lawson
What the Nuggets got—a protected first round pick, prospect Nick Johnson and a bunch of non or partially guaranteed contracts they doesn’t have much interest in—isn’t much, especially considering that when you look past Lawson’s problems, there is a very good player there. Houston, which has made a habit of lurking in the shadows, waiting for a messy situation to break out so they can pounce, landed a top-10 point guard for a bargain basement price, better considering Lawson, for some reason, agreed to make the $13 million he is owed next season non-guaranteed. If Lawson plays up to his potential, the Rockets have little reason to cut him; if he fails or if his personal problems become an overriding issue, Houston can let him go and clear the cap space.
Who wants our money?
But here’s what else executives are talking about: Once Durant is off the board, who’s left? There’s LeBron, but he’s not going anywhere. Beyond that the cream of the crop includes Mike Conley, DeMar Derozan, Al Horford and Dwight Howard. After that it’s Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo and Joe Johnson. Good players, yes. Franchise changers worthy of $20 million-plus max contracts? That’s a little more iffy. Still, the money has to be spent somewhere—the NBA negotiated minimum salary threshold will likely be around $81 million—which means fringe players will likely get contracts that will make your eyes pop. It’s why Oklahoma City wasn’t stupid to match the four-year, $70 million offer sheet for Enes Kanter or hand Kyle Singler a five-year, $25 million extension. It’s why the Clippers bloated payroll won’t look so bad when Jonas Valanciunas is getting paid the kind of money DeAndre Jordan is set to make. Stan Van Gundy took a beating for giving Reggie Jackson a five-year, $80 million contract. But, as Van Gundy told me on my NBC Sports Radio show, the fear of Jackson signing a one-year qualifying offer and entering unrestricted free agency next summer drove him to over spend on him this summer. Better get him on a big money deal now than risk losing him to a bigger one a year from now.
Jahlil Okafor settling in with Philly
The draft process was rough for Okafor. In general, the months following the end of the college basketball season are rough for any prospects. Weaknesses are publicly dissected and Okafor took his fair share of criticism. He was too slow. Didn’t rebound enough. Wasn’t physical. Didn’t have the requisite passion for the game. “It was definitely something I took notice of,” Okafor said. “It seemed like I had the most weaknesses of anyone else in my draft class. I have a lot of things to improve on, I guess. So much stuff was said about what I can’t do.”