• Amid the many reflections and retrospectives on the tenure of David Stern, I particularly enjoyed Kevin Arnovitz's play on Stern's disarming sense of humor:
For those who spend time in David Stern's company, "You're one player away" will go down as the commissioner's defining quip. When a new owner was welcomed at his first official meeting, Stern would tell him, "Welcome to the NBA! You're one player away." If Stern encountered a group of fans of a woebegone team on his travels, he'd tell them, "You're one player away!" When Stern wanted to poke fun at an exec who had made a mess of his roster, he'd point at him and say, "You're one player away!"
...The line is classic Stern -- droll and ostensibly good-natured, but not without an edge. To the owner, it's Stern's way of saying, "You think you're smart enough to do this? We'll see." To the depressed fan, "That's NBA basketball out there. The show is good. Stop worrying and enjoy it." And to the exec, "Don't screw up that nice franchise you've been given to play with."
• Folded into Harrison Barnes' complicated relationship with expectation is this: He was chosen with the pick that the Warriors so obviously and shamelessly tanked to preserve some two seasons ago. As Ethan Sherwood Strauss puts it: "Barnes was the prize, the guy who would vindicate the intentional indignity of 2012."
In fact, his game is styled a lot like Monta Ellis': both work best with the ball in their hands, neither is the ‘purest’ of point guards, and if they can’t get to the rim by going right, they’ll use their speed and strength to try to get to the rim by going even faster and harder to the right.
• Nice insight here from Britt Robson on Nikola Pekovic's defensive synergy with Wolves bigs past and present:
On defense, Pek is less effective but in some ways nearly as predictable. He anticipates the unfolding of a pick-and-roll play better than any of the Wolves’ big men and almost always “shows hard” to contain penetration by the ball-handler. This works if there is anticipatory, rapid, and staunch help in guarding the “roll” man by a teammate. Last season it functioned exceptionally well when Andrei Kirilenko or Dante Cunningham was the helper in the paint, and terribly when that duty fell to Derrick Williams.
This season, opponents are executing that pick-and-roll with their center a little further away from the basket, exploiting Pek’s lack of quickness. Until he was traded, Williams remained an awful complement. Cunningham’s defense with Pek has also suffered this season, in limited minutes. And Kevin Love hasn’t really broken out of his comfort zone to fill behind Pek more capably.
• Andrei Kirilenko offers some welcome advice on dealing with the most unenviable defensive assignment in the league.
• The Thunder's Westbrook-less playoff run in 2013 has been packaged by some as on-the-job training of a sort for Reggie Jackson and OKC's supporting cast, but let's not forget that it was a formative experience for Kevin Durant, too. From Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:
“I know I can’t do everything on my own,” Durant said. “Last (spring), I thought I had to handle the ball, facilitate, score, rebound, defend. But I’m trusting my teammates a lot more. And no matter what happens just keep having faith in those guys and keep learning along the way.”
• This was long overdue.
What started as a seed from our side in the situation, we felt like this would be a great guy to add to our roster, was cemented when we met with him and he echoed the same sentiments. From that point on, it was full steam ahead to try to find a way to do it. Even after that, though, my personal belief was that it remained a long shot. Just because we wanted to do it and he wanted to do it, that was nice and made us feel good about it, but you’d still put low odds on it – less than five percent. We had to find multiple trading partners taking a lot of money; it had to fit what they were trying to do. It really came down to the last 30 minutes, where his agent had said to us, ‘Look I’ll let you guys try and try and try, but you have a deadline now.’ He was very fair about it. So that really came down to the wire, and fortunately for us the league is comprised of 29 other teams and if you’re really motivated to do a deal, you can usually find a partner – sometimes you can’t and thankfully we did.