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Jordan Crawford Finds His Commitment To The Game

Jordan Crawford can still remember his old habits as a rookie in the NBA, consuming courses of pancakes for daily meals and his fluctuating emotional state of mind. He had faults early in his career, branded a problem with the Washington Wizards, but Crawford has come far, fast, in the commitment to his body and game.

He’s no longer restless and unsettling on a team’s bench and swears he’s misunderstood to some around the NBA. Years ago, Crawford had told a friend: If the San Antonio Spurs drafted me, I might be out of the league now.

Crawford’s a gifted scorer with the basketball in his hands, but he didn’t fully understand the professionalism and dignity needed within an organization. So he’s worked on maturing, worked to repackage his image. Now, Crawford yearns to play for a franchise with the level of discipline and structure of San Antonio. He wants to be coached hard. He wants to change any negative perspectives of coaches and executives.

“Over the years, I’ve evolved as a player and as a person, and sometimes people don’t see it,” Crawford told RealGM in a phone interview. “Each year, I’ve learned on and off the court. I know how to maintain my emotions and still be effective for a team. It takes time and it takes being around the NBA day in and day out to be able to get a grasp of it.

“Being around Joe [Johnson] and Jamal [Crawford] out of the gates as a rookie, you learn about how to be a professional scorer and how to come off the bench. You learn how to be an offensive power while being a good teammate. Every stop I had, it’s been a learning experience. I wouldn’t change them and I loved every one of them. From Atlanta to Washington to Boston to Golden State, they’ve been great experiences.”

Every summer, Crawford goes home to Detroit and trains in Los Angeles with people who helped arrange his diet and force him to stay on track: his brother Joe, Pooh Jeter, Brandon Heath and Frank Robinson. Off the court, Crawford recently completed his annual International Hoops Exposure in Detroit and Los Angeles, a summer camp that he and his mother and brother started five years ago to give players an opportunity in front of professional scouts.

On the court, Crawford, 25, had his best NBA season with the Celtics and Warriors. He remained diligent even when his playing time split in half once Boston traded him to Golden State before the trade deadline; a career year skidded as he adjusted to new surroundings, a new locker room and new coaches.

His old general manager, Danny Ainge, had listened to feedback on Crawford from previous teams, and they had been proven wrong in Crawford’s year-plus with the Celtics.

“Jordan has matured a lot,” Ainge said by phone. “He played well for us, and he grew a lot from the things I heard about him before. We were pleased with the way he was on and off the floor and I enjoyed being around him. I loved his passion for the game of basketball.” 

In Crawford’s first postseason, he simply watched how Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would prepare themselves before games. They were on their last legs, and Crawford witnessed the integration process of future Hall of Famers, the reconfiguration of their mental state to believe they were 20-somethings again. A year later, as a reserve for the Warriors in the playoffs, Crawford averaged 6.2 points and scored 12 points on five of nine shooting in Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Even though Paul and Kevin weren’t in their prime, their mentality was the same as if they were in the prime,” Crawford said. “You could tell how they took the playoffs, how they turned it up, and what details they paid attention to. These playoffs, I was prepared for it and I wasn’t nervous for it.”

Five years ago, Jordan Crawford knew an unmistakable truth: He wasn’t prepared to be drafted into a franchise like the Spurs. He was too young, too brash. Behind some outdated judgments on him, Crawford has come a long way from the selfish gunner he was packaged as with the Wizards.

As a free agent, the Warriors decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Crawford, but the front office is open to a sign-and-trade to facilitate a contract for him. He still holds strong relationships with Golden State players and Mark Jackson – and mostly, he still holds hope of signing into a prosperous situation.

“I was surprised at first that I haven’t been signed yet, but I understand,” Crawford said. “From getting traded from Boston to Golden State playing 15 minutes, you forget about somebody. I was happy with my season with Boston and Golden State – staying professional and not being upset in moments when I feel I could help the team.”

Grading The Deal: Lance Stephenson Leaves Pacers For Hornets

The Indiana Pacers must find a way to replace Lance Stephenson midway through the offseason. Stephenson has agreed to a three-year, $27.5 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. The third season is a team option.

As my RealGM colleague Shams Charania reported, Stephenson met with Michael Jordan and other team officials in Las Vegas on Tuesday night when the offer was presented. The Pacers offered Stephenson a five-year, $44 million deal shortly after free agency opened on July 1, but the two sides were not on the same page as time progressed. The Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks all had varying degrees of interest in Stephenson as well.

Stephenson’s agent, Al Ebanks, told Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star that his client was seeking a short-term deal, which explains why he wasn’t quick to take more guaranteed money from the Pacers with an additional two years of security. Stephenson will make $1.5 million more in Charlotte this coming season than he would have under the reported Indiana offer. The total value of the Pacers’ offer was $16.5 million greater.

Four years after Larry Bird gambled on Stephenson in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft, Stephenson is gambling on himself. Even if the Hornets exercise the third-year option on his contract, Stephenson will be an unrestricted free agent once again at just 26 years old.

Grade for Stephenson: B-

There are two reasons why Stephenson is taking a calculated risk. There will be a larger offensive role for Stephenson in Charlotte, which could increase his value down the line. In addition, the NBA’s current television rights agreement ends after the 2015-16 season. Reports have indicated that the league will look to double the current fee, which would have a huge impact on future salary cap numbers and contract figures.

With that said, Stephenson is taking a chance. If he doesn’t continue to develop, which most expect him to do on a young, emerging team, he may not earn back the money he left on the table over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons (the back end of the initial Indiana offer). He also loses some the shine that comes from playing for a contender, which the Pacers may no longer be without him.

Ebanks stressed Stephenson’s desire for a shorter term deal than the Pacers offered, but the elephant in the room is the fact that he didn’t get that much more money. The average annual value of the Charlotte deal is just $300,000 greater than he have earned with Indiana. That leaves us to decide whether Stephenson was left hanging when the market died up and the Pacers moved on, or he truly valued hitting the market again in three years over waiting until his late 20s.

The Pacers will undoubtedly miss Stephenson, who provided much of their edge during the 2014 postseason, but it seems plausible that one of two things happened during negotiations. They pulled $44M offer off the table when Stephenson hesitated, or they offered him a five-year deal knowing full well that he wasn’t going to sign a contract of that length. Either way, Bird made a decision on how he valued Lance and didn’t budge.

I reached out to both sides asking if Indiana’s initial offer was still on the table up until the Hornets agreement, but both declined to comment.

Grade for Pacers: D+

Indiana deserves some credit for standing firm with their offer, especially in team’s NBA, but this loss cannot be looked at solely in a vacuum.

The Miami Heat took a step back with the loss of LeBron James, opening up the short-term window for the Pacers to contend. When LeBron left for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will need some seasoning before reaching an elite level, Bird and Co. should have seen it as an opportunity to finally get back to the NBA Finals. The Eastern Conference is no longer top-heavy, but with Stephenson re-signed the Pacers would have been the favorite among a number of possible contenders -- including Miami, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington and Toronto.

Chemistry will often be mentioned as a positive for the Pacers with Stephenson gone, but that’s overstated. He may have cost himself a few million with his antics against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, but Indiana will severely miss his offensive tools and competitive nature.

The Pacers had the best defense in the NBA in 2013-14, but they scored just 104.1 points per 100 possessions, which ranked 23rd. Stephenson was often the only player on the roster capable of jumpstarting Frank Vogel’s offense when it stalled. He is volatile, and at times selfish, but can be a creative and willing passer. He led the Pacers in assists this past season.

Indiana needed help on the offensive end, even after signing C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez earlier this month, and the loss of Stephenson compounds the issue. Bird will almost certainly have to address the need via trade, unless the club is able to shed salary in a deal and sign a free agent outright. The market isn’t exactly flush with options at this point and if a cash-saving trade was easy, one might have already been made to free up space for a larger Stephenson offer or to target someone that is already signed.

Rodney Stuckey and O.J. Mayo have been mentioned in the past and present as options. Stuckey is a free agent, while Mayo would have to be acquired from the Bucks via trade.

Adding Stephenson looks like an odd move for the Hornets on the surface, but considering the current state of the Eastern Conference it helps their chances of making the playoffs for the second-straight season. Charlotte has Gerald Henderson and Gary Neal at shooting guard, which may mean a trade is forthcoming.

Signing Stephenson for roughly $9 million annually is good value, even if it carries risk as he becomes the second option on a good team after being the fourth option on a very good team.

Grade for Hornets: B

Kemba Walker, who will be a restricted free agent next summer, stands to lose the most. Stephenson is at his best with the ball in his hands, which will reduce opportunities for the third-year guard. Stephenson was Plan B for the Hornets, who signed Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $63 million offer sheet and then watched the Utah Jazz match it over the weekend. If the Jazz let Hayward go to the Hornets, Stephenson might have been forced to re-sign with the Pacers.

Like the Pacers, the Bobcats tend to struggle offensively. That means more latitude for Stephenson, but how will he handle himself without as much veteran leadership, fewer meaningful games and suddenly flush with cash remains to be seen.

On Warriors' Big 3 Possibility In 2016

I was inspired by a piece from Tim Kawakami to do a walkthrough of how I think about a situation like the Golden State Warriors adding a max player in the summer of 2016.

Like Tim, I will use a conservative estimate of a $75 million salary cap for that 2016-17 season, though I will throw in some figures of how it would work with a $80 million cap that could be closer to what we actually see two summers from now.

The Non-Negotiables

When looking that far in the future, I strip the entire salary structure down and start with only the mandatory pieces. If we are talking about Golden State and a max player in 2016, that means just Stephen Curry and the max player. We know Curry’s 16-17 salary, but the other guy’s is a mystery right now. Fortunately, if that other player is Kevin Durant we can work it out.

The most Kevin Durant can be paid for the 16-17 season is the larger of 30% of the salary cap (calculated slightly differently than the actual salary cap) and 105% of his salary from the previous season. Even at a conservative $75 million salary cap, Durant would make more under the 30% calculation.

At a $75 million salary cap, the Warriors would have to carry $40.39 million or less in non-Curry salary to sign Kevin Durant with cap space. At an $80 million cap, this number jumps to about $43.89 million. For reference, LeBron’s max is about $4 million higher than Durant’s due to his greater amount of NBA experience.

The Money on the Books

That remaining $40.39 million or so can come from any source but must include everything if the Warriors are to sign a max player using cap space. That means on the books salaries as well as cap holds to pending free agents and clearing the space would also mean no trade exceptions and the much smaller Room Mid-Level Exception.

At present, the Warriors have about $30 million committed to Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Nemanja Nedovic for that season. It should be noted that Nedovic’s contract is a team option and Livingston’s contract is reportedly about half-guaranteed, so there would be a little wiggle room if either is still in the equation at that point.

The players not counted that the Warriors would presumably want to retain include 2015 restricted free agents Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Their combined price tag is larger than the $10 million remaining (there’s a chance each of them gets that much, though I expect Thompson to get much more and Green less) so that means Bob Myers would need to make some choices. When you add in Harrison Barnes hitting restricted free agency that summer the situation gets even more challenging.

Both Iguodala and Bogut will be expiring contracts that season and we know that teams will be clearing cap space with reckless abandon to acquire a star or two so there could be interest in either or both should they age reasonably. Depending on the salary they get, either Thompson or Green could price himself out of a spot on that 2016 Warriors team as well. If the Warriors want to sign someone to a max deal using cap space, at least one and likely two of Bogut, Iguodala, Thompson and Green will need to go.

The Bigger Swings

As I said before, you can see that $40.39 million for players beyond Curry and Durant in a series of different ways: it could be retaining existing  players either currently on their deals or signing new ones soon, adding new players via free agency or trades, or some combination of the two.

By far my favorite possibilities for Golden State in 2016 come from using that $40.39 million more aggressively. The Warriors have an elite player locked up to a below-market contract and should be close to a new arena and presumably a larger revenue stream from that and their local TV deal which expires at the end of the upcoming season. Furthermore, I sincerely doubt we see a hard cap in the new CBA so playing the free agency game for a soft cap and heavy luxury tax payments makes the most sense. Plus, building a strong core then makes it a near certainty that Stephen Curry would stick around when he hits unrestricted free agency the following year.

If they could clear the money, the Warriors could actually sign two max players even at the higher 35% salary slot and still keep Curry. Doing so would require some major sacrifices at some point since the team has so many other assets. Fortunately, the fact that other teams will be clearing the decks too means that Golden State would not have to be particularly proactive unless someone’s contract looks substantially worse two summers from now. That said, we have no idea how willing other franchises would be to enable a team to have a core of Stephen Curry and two of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Al Horford and Goran Dragic. That said, each individual piece holds value right now so the sales pitch would be much easier. This approach worked reasonably well for the Rockets with Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik even though the end result may not have been to their liking.

This concept of a core with three max players also helps explain why moving Klay Thompson to get Kevin Love makes so much sense if Love is willing to commit to staying long-term. Even if Love takes the most money he can, the Warriors could still open up another max slot in 2016 without too much trouble as long as the league does not play some serious hanky panky with the new TV deal and the cap. We know right now that Thompson will command a massive salary on his next contract and a team with one of the best young players in the sport should be able to command someone better than Thompson to be the No. 2 or even No. 3 player, as good as Thompson could become. While the Warriors have a strong team right now, a foundation of three All-Stars in their mid to late twenties would be legitimately special regardless of what other teams around the league can manage that summer.

Bob Myers and the rest of the Warriors’ front office have some major decisions to make but the combination of Stephen Curry’s below market contract and the expanding salary cap create some genuinely compelling options.

Chris Bosh's Return Keeps Heat Relevant

With LeBron leaving the Heat, Chris Bosh could be back in the discussion with guys like Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love for best PF in the NBA. He's not the rebounder they are, but he's the most complete player of the bunch, with the ability to score, shoot, pass and defend.

Orlando Summer League, Final Recap

On Casper Ware and the 76ers, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope winning MVP, plus strong performances from rookies Nick Johnson, Jarnell Stokes, Jordan Adams and Elfrid Payton.

LeBron Opens Up His Own Finishing School In Northeast Ohio

The end game for LeBron James is not to bring one title to Cleveland, but to bring a franchise that could compete for titles well into the future. When LeBron watched the Spurs dismantle the Heat in the Finals, he saw what to strive for.

The Human Element

The best players in the sport have transitioned from supermen to businessmen to being a business, man, at the same time the league as a whole transitioned from family owned teams to major enterprises. Like it or not, this NBA should be around for a long, long time.

Orlando Summer League, Day 5 Recap

Marcus Smart, two Indiana guards performed well and Casper Ware continued to impress. Hereís the top stories from Wednesday.

The Law Of Small Numbers

While taking a quick glance at the market for Kevin Love around draft day could have led to confidence for the Warriors, any concept that letting the string play out would be to their advantage would be deeply misguided.

Grading The Deal: Celtics Capitalize In Three-Team Deal With Cavs, Nets

Itís hard to assume what else the Celtics could have done with the $10.3 million trade exception, but receiving what they did is a very nice haul. Adding a seven-footer to your rotation and a first-round pick is an obvious win, but Thorntonís expiring deal brings other options as well.

Orlando Summer League, Day 4 Recap

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's game-winner, impressive performances from Philadelphia's rookies, Jarnell Stokes and more.

Orlando Summer League, Day 3 Recap

On Willie Reed, Elfrid Payton, Jeremy Lamb and all of the action from Day 3 of the Orlando Summer League.

Orlando Summer League, Day 2 Recap

The second day of the Orlando Summer League saw the Grizzlies, Pistons, 76ers, Thunder, Heat and Nets take the floor. A pair of Long Beach State players impressed, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continued his success and Shabazz Napier rebounded.

Orlando Summer League, Day 1 Recap

Nerlens Noel, Mason Plumlee, Shabazz Napier, Marcus Smart and Pierre Jackson had notable days as Summer League began.

Why Sign-And-Trades Sometimes Aren't Possible For The Incumbent Team

Teams on the giving end of potential sign-and-trades rarely are unable to participate, but the Nets were unable to with Shaun Livingston's deal with the Warriors.

Grading The Deal: Celtics Keep Avery Bradley

The Celtics seem confident Avery Bradley will be healthy and that heís not done developing.

The Market For Lance Stephenson

No matter how strong the mutual interest in between the Pacers and Lance Stephenson, itís money that determines most offseason decisions.

Jason Kidd's Great Escape

If Jason Kidd plays it right, he can be the Scott Brooks to their version of the Thunder. Kiddís already proven heís a more flexible strategist than Brooks, so hitching his wagon to that type of young talent could give him nearly unparalleled job security.

What They Said: Rundown From 2014 NBA Draft Night

A deep draft class means there was plenty of consternation regarding who would end up where and that many of the leagueís newest players were in attendance on the biggest night of their life. Hereís a rundown of what they had to say moments after realizing their dream.

Reviewing The 2014 NBA Draft (From A College Perspective)

Notes on Marcus Smart, James Young, Elfrid Payton, Mitch McGary, Julis Randle, Jordan Adams, Adreian Payne and Isaiah Austin.

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