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Sam Miguel

  1. Will the Big Offseason Moves Pay Off in NBA 2017-2018?

    It has certainly been a very active offseason for a number of NBA teams. Some players have changed addresses, none more hyped so than Kyrie Irving's move to the Boston Celtics.

    Irving will have newly-minted superstar Gordon Haywood keeping him company in Boston.

    He isn't the only one of course. Isaiah Thomas, supposedly Boston's Next Legend, traded addresses with Irving and is now with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Dwayne Wade has reunited with James in Cleveland in what is shaping up to be a super team of sorts. They also signed former MVP Derrick Rose out of New York.

    Paul George and Carmelo Anthony - who have 14 All Star appearances and a few Olympic gold medals between them - are now teammates. With reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, over in Oklahoma City.

    Chris Paul and James Harden are also teammates now, over with the Houston Rockets.

    Rudy Gay was signed - almost without fanfare - by the ever efficient San Antonio Spurs.

    Jimmy Butler rejoins his old coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, where he will team up with rising stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns.

    Golden State gave Steph Curry the biggest contract extension in NBA history with $201 million, only to have Oklahoma City top that by giving Westbrook his own extension for $205 million.

    And the season hasn't even started yet.

    So how do all these big moves translate into the actual season? Well, we'll have to wait and see when the actual season rolls around won't we?

    But still, as an academic discussion, let us see where this leads us, Praxedes...

    Undoubtedly the biggest development was the Irving-Thomas trade. It was basically an All Star trade, but as we have commented in this space, it seems the normally astute Danny Ainge gave up too much to secure the services of the 25-year old Irving.

    Aside from the 28-year old Thomas (who was coming off a career year) the Celtics also gave away backup big man Ante Zizic, two-way forward Jae Crowder, and most importantly, an unprotected first round pick in the 2018 Draft from the normally woebegone Brooklyn Nets. So yes, that is going to be a sure Top 5 pick come 2018.

    Granted Thomas probably won't be playing until January due to a hip injury, still, quite a package Ainge sent to Cleveland.

    Westbrook for his part not only got 200 million clams richer but he now has two other legitimate All Stars beside him. The usual takl is that there won't be enough touches and shots to go around for three of the best scorers in the league. It should be intersting to see what GM Sam Presti and head coach Billy Donovan have in mind other than running opponents into the ground.

    "The NBA landscape has changed and we need to change with it," Presti said in one interview. So from building through the draft he suddenly built a new super team.

    The same might be said for the Timberwolves, with the three young stars getting a chance to try and build a stronger team. "We want to be in a better position to win," said Thibodeau in one interview.

    Harden transformed into an elite point guard last season with career highs in assists and became a much better creator, especially on the drive and draw. Paul is also a top-tier point guard, which means Harden might be reverting back to his shooting guard position, and taking away his ability to create for his teammates, a job that will now fall to Paul.

    Gay will be playing alongside emergent superstar Kawhi Leonard, and both play similar games, mostly creating and scoring from the perimeter, although Gay should be able to slide easily into a super sidekick role for Greg Poppovich.

    All of this of course still boils down to whether or not anybody, including the reloaded Cavaliers, can knock Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors off their throne.

    Curry and Durant might have surprised a lot of observers and analysts when they actually played well together, but that means taking on the Warriors only became that much more difficult.

    As much as Oklahoma and Minnesota have improved, it doesn't look like they've improved enough to be a meaningful challenger to Golden State. It remains to be seen if the addition of Gay to San Antonio has given the Spurs the extra weapon they need against Golden State.

    All told it will make for a very interesting and exciting NBA season, one that hopefully will prove to be more entertaining than last season.

    It still looks like a Warriors-Cavaliers Finals, but hopefully the road to the NBA Title will prove to be a little more bumpy.
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  2. The Trade

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming the NBA franchise for milestone events in the Internet Age.

    First there was "The Decision". Then came "The Return". Now we have "The Trade".

    The first two events centered around LeBron James, without a doubt the biggest damn star in all of Cleveland sports history, no disrespect meant to Mr James Brown.

    That third event though, that is something that has gotten quite the buzz.

    Allow me to explain, Praxedes:

    Kyrie Irving, the top pick of the 2011 NBA Rookie Draft, an All Star and USA Basketball stalwart, asked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to trade him a couple months back, reportedly because he "wanted to be more of the focal point" according to media articles and features.

    Fair enough, a man can certainly make his own decisions regarding his career.

    Fast forward to less than a few hours ago (as of this writing) and that trade has been consummated.

    Who did Cleveland get for Irving?

    Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and an unprotected 2018 draft pick.

    Thomas, picked 60th and last in the same draft where Irving went first overall, became a bona fide superstar last season, at one point averaging 30 points per game and eventually settling down to a little over 28 ppg.

    Had this been a one-for-one trade nobody would be talking about it much. After all, it was basically score-first superstar point guards swapping places.

    But the Celtics threw in Crowder, a lottery draftee, who is one of the best two-way players in the league and a top defender at both forward spots. They also threw in Zizic, still a work in progress as another 7-foot project but one with pretty good upside according to scouts.

    But the ultimate throw-in is that 2018 unprotected draft pick.

    Praxedes, do you know how Boston got that pick?

    They got that pick during their massive housecleaning that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Yes, those Brooklyn Nets, a team so bad that draft pick could easily be a Top 5 player in a draft year projected to be top heavy with the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Mohamed Bamba among those the Cavaliers could take.

    For one Kyrie Irving.

    Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge seems to think Irving is worth it. "You want a high quality player you have to pay a high price," he said in one interview.

    But is this a price that is too high?

    Ainge has built a reputation as an executive who has generally managed talent very well in Boston and everywhere else he's been. How did Cleveland get him to give up so much for Irving?

    Truth be told Irving and Thomas are certainly one of a type: score-first, clutch-shooting point guards who need the ball in their hands a lot, and both aren't exactly known for their defense. Irving in particular put up career numbers last season with over 25 ppg while shooting a little over 40% from three-range. He hit the title-clinching three in Game 7 of their historic resurrection from 1-3 down to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

    Yet his defensive metrics can charitably be described as "mediocre".

    Thomas for his part went on a tear last season and might have made even more noise is the playoffs were it not for a hip injury.

    For all his greatness, Thomas is still just 5-foot-9, and players that small tend not to last very long, playing at that level, in the league.

    So it was the throw-ins that really made this a fleecing for Cleveland, fleecing the fleecer as it were.

    And as fate would have it, or maybe it really was part of the plan, Cleveland and Boston take on each other on opening night this October 17.

    I guess, Praxedes, we will find out right away who really fleeced who then, eh?
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  3. The NBA Salary Cap Explained by Brian Mahoney

    NBA signing day brings salary cap, luxury tax questions

    By Brian Mahoney (Associated Press) | Updated July 7, 2017 - 11:26am

    NEW YORK ? Free agency in the NBA can be so complicated that even teams mess it up sometimes.

    The Houston Rockets and Nene had to negotiate two deals because it turned out the first contract they agreed to wouldn't have been legal in NBA circles.

    All the talk about salary caps and luxury taxes is when the game of basketball becomes a business. It's one of the reasons more and more front offices are being led by former stat analysts instead of former stat stuffers.

    So now that free agent signings have commenced, here's a look at the salary cap, how it's determined, and how teams get around it:

    Q: Why are deals that were done days ago being announced today?

    A: The NBA has a moratorium period during which teams and players can negotiate and agree to deals, but nothing can be completed until the moratorium ends, which is now the afternoon of July 6. The salary cap used to be computed during the moratorium and announced just before it ended, which was sometimes confusing to teams in trying to negotiate contracts without knowing exactly how much they could spend. The cap is now announced when free agency opens on July 1.

    ***

    Q: How is the salary cap determined?

    A: It's a formula based on the projected basketball-related income of that year. For the 2017-18 season, the cap has been set at $99.1 million. That's the highest it's ever been, though it didn't take anywhere near the huge leap of a year ago following the extension of the league's national TV deals. As a result, teams haven't spent quite as extravagantly ? or perhaps foolishly ? as last July.

    ***

    Q: Are there penalties for exceeding the cap?

    A: Yes, there are penalties. And they can be severe, depending on how much a team goes over the cap and how often. Teams pay a luxury tax this year if they exceed $119 million. It starts with $1.50 for every $1 they are over, and rises at various levels from there if they soar $5 million or more past the tax. But that starts at $2.50 for every $1 if a team is a ?repeater,? having been a taxpayer for the previous three seasons.

    ***

    Q: Is $99.1 million the most each NBA team can spend in payroll next season?

    A: No, teams can exceed the cap. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has what's considered a ?soft? cap, allowing teams to exceed the cap through the use of various spending exceptions. In some cases, the more a team spends, the bigger its tax break. Teams can use one of three mid-level exceptions this season: There is a $5.2 million exception granted to teams with payrolls exceeding $119 million, an $8.4 million exception for teams with payrolls under $119 million, but over the $99.1 million cap; there is a $4.3 million exception for teams with a payroll under $99.1 million.

    ***

    Q: Will teams that signed players to big free agent deals now have to make trades because of the luxury cap?

    A. That's a yes and no answer. Yes, if teams that are in danger of paying the luxury tax want to avoid penalties, they will have to make deals. The answer would be no if teams don?t mind paying the luxury tax. Before signings picked up momentum Thursday afternoon, there were two teams with payrolls over the $119 million payroll that triggers the luxury tax ? Cleveland and Portland. Once free agency ends, there likely will be several more. But teams have the upcoming season to adjust payrolls via trades, buyouts and other moves as the luxury tax won't kick in until the end of the 2017-18 season since it is based on players' salaries.

    ***

    Q: What does the cap have to do with player salaries?

    A: Veteran players can get a percentage of the cap to determine the first year of their salaries in a contract. For a player who has been in the league 10 or more years, that can be 35 percent of that season's salary cap. The cap doesn't really impact contracts for rookies or minimum-salary players. Their salary levels are determined.

    ***

    Q: How did the Warriors sign Nick Young after giving Stephen Curry a $200 million deal and re-signing Kevin Durant?

    A: The Warriors will be one of those teams over the cap once all their deals are completed. The reigning champs went on a spending spree with Curry's big deal, re-signing Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and everything else they're doing. Their payroll will exceed $119 million, so they will use the $5.2 million mid-level exception available to them to slot in Young.

    ***

    Q: Are only legitimate championship contenders willing to pay the luxury tax?

    A: Not necessarily. Portland, ...
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  4. Two Game 7's Dream Come True for PBA

    For the fans, whether casual or diehard, having both the San Miguel-Talk N Text Series, and the Ginebra-Star Series go the full seven games, is a dream come true.

    After all, Game 7's are the ultimate thrill for any fan. It pits two teams so evenly matched that they need to go the full route of seven games to decide the winner.

    There is after all no more tomorrow for the losing team, and no team ever wants to be the losing team, especially if it has gone the distance as these two series have.

    Only coaches and players want best-of-7-series to end in sweeps, and understandably so, no sense in prolonging a series when you can end it quickly, as the San Antonio Spurs have done, twice at that, in two of the NBA Finals they've won in the last decade or so.

    Of course it is not just the fans that are happy with a Game 7.

    The league itself, in this case the venerable PBA, Asia's pioneering play-for-pay basketball league, is indubitably happy that both semifinal series of the ongoing Philippine Cup conference have gone on to the seven-game ultimate do-or-die. Allow me to explain, Praxedes.

    Every game in a semifinal series promises to be a quality game. And for San Miguel-TNT, and Ginebra-Star, that has been the norm indeed. There haven't been any 30-point blowouts, or any other indications that either series is a monumental mismatch not worth the basketball public's time and ticket money.

    The notable exception was last night's (as of this writing) Game 6 between Ginebra and Star. Ginebra pulled away in the third quarter and just plain went nuts in the payoff period to win pulling away 91-67. Joe Devance, Sol Mercado, and Jervy Cruz took turns in putting some distance between their Gin Kings and the Star Hotshots, and it all rubbed off on the end-of-bench players as even the seldom used 6-4 forward Jam Jamito scored on a short jumper in garbage time.

    Where were we, Praxedes? Oh yes, the league.

    The PBA is an organization that thrives of PR and media values. The more people watch the games, preferably in the venues, but on TV and online streaming is fine too, the more they keep their member-teams, and their sponsors and advertisers happy.

    Let's put it another way: a 30-second commercial on prime time TV can cost a company a few millions. Now imagine if that company had a PBA team, and that team was in this semifinals. Their brand will get at least two hours worth of direct mentions on prime time, with millions of eyeballs watching live, or on TV, or via online streaming. How many 30-second commercials' worth is two to two and a half hours of prime time mentions? And then how many millions are those two to two and a half hours worth?

    Granted the four protagonists in these semifinals are among the top brands and companies in the country already, still, there is nothing like brand equity coming from live, prime time exposure, and in a critical sports setting at that.

    Those with a dirty mind (such as Praxedes) might of course be thinking that the PBA had somehow orchestrated this whole shebang, that these teams are not really all that evenly matched, but that is mere conjecture and ultimately nearly impossible to prove with actual and real evidence.

    Sure, there have been some disappearing acts from key players, such as Marcio Lassiter and Paul Lee at crucial junctures of the middle games of their respective series.

    Sure, some of the whistles and non-whistles have been of the hair-tearing variety, and on either side at that.

    Sure, the Ginebra-Star series has features some of the most woefully low-scoring games in a long while in PBA playoffs history.

    But then again, don't we get those anyway regardless of stage of conference or season? All of the bad things we see we tend to turn into bogeymen just because they seem to fit a notion we have one way or another.

    In the end we the fans are getting a rare treat indeed, and we can choose to enjoy the game we all love, at its most enjoyable, or we can choose to create conspiracies where there might be none.

    As for the games themselves, it says here we get a San Miguel-Ginebra Finals.
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  5. What GOAT?

    You want to start a never-ending bar discussion that just might degenerate into an out and out bar room brawl? Ask the guys in the bar who the greatest player of all time is. Yes, that's right, ask them who the GOAT is.

    It sounds like a harmless enough question, something that can be the subject of a rather fun discussion, maybe even elicit a few laughs.

    But then again, that depends on who one asks. There are some fans that will - quite literally - fight you over their choice of GOAT.

    In the basketball world, there seems to be an easy enough answer, a rare consensus that is, that Michael Jordan, His Airness, is the sport's greatest of all time.

    It'd be a compelling case: multiple NBA championships, multiple MVP awards, multiple defensive player of the year awards, All Star from Day 1, the man who basically turned the game of basketball into a global game, arguably the most popular athlete of his generation, and one of the most popular of all time regardless of sport.

    And this, Praxedes, is where I must throw a monkey wrench into the works.

    It is well-documented how much I do not subscribe to the notion of a Most Valuable Player. Let me know declare, using a similar line of argument, that I now believe there can be no such thing as a greatest of all time, no way is there a GOAT.

    Allow me to explain, Praxedes, using a similar tack as the MVP argument.

    Basketball is a team sport, so by that very fundamental principle alone, no one player could ever win on his own. There is no way, for example, that one could take say fourteen Division 3 scrubs, complete their roster with the 25-year old Michael Jordan, and expect them to become NBA champion. I would bet even money they might even become the worst team in the league. Sure, Jordan would in all likelihood score 50 points per game and put on a show every night, but a team this awful just cannot win, even with the nominal GOAT on their roster.

    Think about all of the players who have ever been in the GOAT conversation: Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James, Oscar Roberston, Bill Russell, Trim Duncan and on and on and on.

    Each of those men are in the conversation because they are champions, they have the individual awards, and they have those "intangibles" that made them all winners.

    One of the things I think that is conveniently left out of this conversation is that the times they won they all had at least one other teammate who was himself an All Star. Heck, Magic and Kareem won five championships together on those Showtime Lakers teams. Jordan, for all of his wondrous talent, had the greatest sidekick in the history of the NBA in Scottie Pippen. Pippen may not have won a thing without Jordan, but Jordan, arguably won as much as he did thanks in large part to Pippen.

    You don't think having great teammates mattered for these guys? What if Magic was only passing to say Mike Smrek and Adrian Branch instead of Kareem and James Worthy; would that still have been Showtime? What if Bird only had David Thirdkill and Fred Roberts and never had Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish? What if Jordan only had Larry Neal instead of Pippen? What's that, Praxedes? You never even heard of those other guys? Would it surprise you to know that all of those guys really were teammates of those aforementioned GOAT candidates during their respective times with the Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls?

    Imagine Jordan or Magic on say the Los Angeles Clippers, or the Vancouver Grizzlies, of their time, and I would still wager even money that they would not have won with either of those teams either. For all of an elite superstar's talent and powers, the very nature of the game of basketball precludes any one player from being able to carry an entire team all by himself all the way to a championship.

    Let us just imagine what such a player would have to do. He would probably have to score over 50 points per game, deliver a triple double with rebounds and assists every game as well, maybe thrown in two to three blocks, and two to three steals per game, be able to shoot 50% from three-point range, at least 60% overall from the field, and at least 90% from on freethrows. If he could, he should never ever foul out, or get a technical, or miss a game due to discipline or injury. He would also have to lead his team to the championship every year, meaning if he has a typical NBA career that he would have led his team to 10 straight championships assuming he has a 10-year career. Given all of the foregoing he would also be a 10-time MVP, maybe at least a 5-time Defensive Player of the Year, definitely he would be an historic Rookie-MVP, taking after Chamberlain and Wes Unseld. Only under all of those circumstances would anybody be the GOAT, that is how impossible ...
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