Greetings from Miami, Florida, the gorgeous home of South Beach, LeBron and Wade, Pat Riley and the Miami Mafia, David Caruso’s sunglasses, the strongest coffee in America, Crockett and Tubbs (both semi-retired), my media nemesis Papi Le Batard (he calls me the “Great Houdini”), Ryan Tannehill and Giancarlo Stanton, Dan Marino’s empty Super Bowl trophy case (sorry, I had to), an even emptier state-of-the-art baseball stadium, The U Part 1 and Part 2 (that’s right, we’re making a Part 2!), the world’s highest percentage of knockout women who happen to be walking small dogs, and, of course, Jalen Rose’s two best friends, Juwan Howard and the four-pound lobster tempura at Prime 112.
It’s an amazing city, one of those places that makes you feel like you’re walking around a 24-hour movie set. It also has just about nothing in common with Indianapolis, a lovable city in its own right for an entirely different set of reasons. In fact, they barely have any direct flights between Indy and Miami, just a bunch of connections through Atlanta, Houston or wherever. It’s like the airlines decided, “Why the hell would anyone fly from Indianapolis to Miami unless it was for the NBA or the Indy 500?”
I planned on writing off Game 2 and the NBA lottery for Wednesday, figuring I could bang the piece out on my two flights (Indy to Atlanta, then Atlanta to Miami). One problem: I forgot to charge my laptop. What a rookie mistake. Jesus. Instead, we’re audibling to the Self-NBA Mailbag! Because the Grantland email page that forwards me reader emails has been broken since last weekend. (As soon as we fix it, I’ll post something on my Facebook page.) So I’m going to attempt to GUESS your questions. Unlike always, these are not actual emails from actual readers.
Q: Cleveland just won the NBA lottery for the third time in four years. Does this mean that God doesn’t hate Cleveland anymore?
A: Or, you could say that He hates Cleveland so much that He gets bored just having them flounder or lose in agonizing ways, so occasionally, He sprinkles in a little extra hope just so He can squash it later. I would keep my guard up, Cleveland.
Q: You mentioned on TV that “we need new rules” after Cleveland won the lottery again. What are those new rules?
A: I barely remember this because I was trying so diligently to avoid becoming the first ESPN talking head to say “motherf—er” on live TV. No offense, Cleveland fans. I’m happy for you. Lord knows you suffered enough over the past 50 years, and you certainly deserved some extended Ping-Pong luck after getting shanked by LeBron four summers ago.
For me, this was about the failure of rewarding a relentlessly incompetent organization. I ranked the Cavs last in Tuesday’s Lottery Karma Rankings for basketball reasons only. They wasted seven LeBron years and never found him the right help (or came up with a smart long-term plan to build around him). They went through three coaches and two GMs since 2009 … including the same coach twice (one year into a five-year deal, no less). They had four top-four picks in three years and thought Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters could coexist. They vowed to make the playoffs 12 months ago, then proceeded to unleash the strangest collection of front-office moves in recent league history — here’s a team that spent five picks renting Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes so they could get swept in Round 1, and they couldn’t even make the playoffs.
The NBA treats franchises like Cleveland the same way absentee billionaire fathers treat their screwup sons — just keep buying them stuff and throwing money into their accounts and everything will be fine, right? (In real life, that same screwup son is ruining the Knicks for 13 straight years.) I just hate the mentality of repeatedly enabling poorly run franchises with the league’s best incoming talent.
Here you go, Cleveland — I bought you another Ferrari, try not to crash this one!
And by the way, it’s not just the Cavs. Minnesota just made its 10th-straight lottery. Sacramento just landed its sixth-straight top-seven pick. Washington made the 2014 playoffs only after landing the no. 5, no. 1, no. 6, no. 3 and no. 3 picks from 2009 through 2013. I can’t accept that we created a professional basketball league in which …
A. The same incompetent teams get rewarded — repeatedly, over and over again — for being incompetent.
B. The same team in a 30-team league can win the no. 1 overall pick three times in four years.
C. We refuse to put any rules in place to temper A and B.
Q: Is this response ever going to end? Can you tell us what those “new rules” would be?
A: Sure …
Rule No. 1: Once you win the no. 1 overall pick, you can’t win it again for four years.
If four years is good enough for an Olympic cycle or a presidential term, it’s good enough for the same team getting the no. 1 pick.
Rule No. 2: No team can get two top-three picks in a three-year span.
In other words, anyone who landed a top-three lottery pick in 2012 or 2013 would have been ineligible for 2014’s lottery drawing. We’d toss their Ping-Pong balls out and everything. So on Wednesday, the Cavs would have been stuck at no. 9, Orlando would have been relegated to fourth or lower, and everyone else would have had better chances.
Rule No. 3: You can trade future Ping-Pong ball combinations to any other potential lottery team.
I’m suggesting this one for three reasons: It’s easier than it sounds, it would be an incredibly fun wrinkle for the Trade Machine, and the Cavaliers absolutely would have been dumb enough to do it last February (saving us from the stupidity of them winning another no. 1 pick).
Here’s how it would work: There are 1,001 Ping-Pong combinations in all. The worst team gets 250 of them (25 percent), then the numbers start dwindling from there by record. The Cavs had 17 combinations, giving them a 1.7 percent chance at winning the lottery. So let’s say the NBA made the following rule: You can include your future Ping-Pong combos in any trade, but it has to be either 50 percent of them or 100 percent of them. And let’s say Philly and Cleveland were discussing their Spencer Hawes deal in February, and Philly said, “Instead of that additional second-round pick, we want your 2014 Ping-Pong ball combos.” And let’s say Cleveland agreed.
How would that have affected the 2014 lottery? Cleveland would have been stuck in its spot (ninth overall), with no chance of advancing. Philly would’ve jumped from 199 to 216 Ping-Pong combos (a 21.6 percent chance for no. 1), eventually winning the no. 1 pick with Cleveland’s Ping-Pong combo. And then, we could have made fun of Cleveland for being dumb enough to trade their Ping-Pong combos just so Spencer Hawes could help them NOT make the playoffs. See? Everyone wins!!!!!! Well, except for Cleveland fans.
But if those three rules get voted down, then let’s at least add this one …
Rule No. 4: If any NBA team wins the lottery for the third time in four years, the team’s representative isn’t allowed to celebrate in any way.
What are they allowed to do? Nothing. They just have to stand there stoically and soak in their own shame. No fist-pumping, no smiling, nothing. At least give me that.
Q: Were the 2014 Thunder finished from the moment their team doctor said, “Serge is out for the playoffs”?
A: Yeah, probably. I thought they could compete because of Durant and Westbrook, but they lost their athletic advantage. Think about the 2012 Thunder when they fell behind 2-0 to the Spurs, then swept the next four games — that team had Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka AND Harden, and Kawhi Leonard wasn’t close to being Sugar K. Leonard yet. The difference in quickness/athleticism/explosiveness was actually kind of startling. Two years later, we’re down to Durant and Westbrook on one side and a blossoming Kawhi on the other. So much for OKC’s massive quickness/athleticism/explosiveness advantage. Throw in the Popovich/Brooks coaching mismatch and OKC’s inability to find a lineup that can score and defend at the same time, and it’s looking bleak for OKC. So bleak that I’m not even going to bring up the You-Know-What trade again.
Q: When Ibaka got knocked out for the playoffs two days after you wrote that “What if this is OKC’s last shot?” column, did any OKC fans blame you for jinxing the team?
A: Of course! They sent me hundreds and hundreds of emails about it! And not just that, but at least 25 still-bitter Sonics fans thanked me for ruining Ibaka’s season, too. Who knew I had the powers to tear Ibaka’s calf muscle? Could I just keep doing that to people? Am I like the Carrie of sports columnists? Miami fans — I would definitely NOT dump a bucket of pig’s blood on my head during Game 3 or Game 4 of the Eastern finals.
Q: Are you disappointed that Milwaukee didn’t win the lottery, followed by Arn Tellem refusing to show them Joel Embiid’s medical records and bullying them into taking someone else?
A: I was really looking forward to that! I love when Arn Tellem goes Frank Underwood on us. No way Milwaukee could have taken Embiid without knowing if the stress fracture in his back totally healed. I’d totally back Tellem’s candidacy in the 2016 presidential election. Anyone who could pull off this Embiid/medical records thing just 10 months after getting New Orleans to spend $44 million on Tyreke Evans probably just needs to run our country. By the way, Embiid’s back is fine. I watched him work out last week.
Q: Wait … what? You watched Joel Embiid work out last week?
A: Yes — at a secret location in Santa Monica. He wasn’t playing against anyone, just going through a two-hour workout with Will Perdue. Here’s what I can tell you: He moves around as effortlessly as a 7-foot Serge Ibaka; he’s such an athletic freak that he’s one of those “still going up as he’s finishing the dunk” guys; his freakish wingspan might make Jay Bilas pass out; he has been playing basketball for only four years (which seems impossible); he gave up a world-class volleyball career; he has 3-point range; he can shoot jump-hooks with both hands already; he couldn’t have seemed more coachable/agreeable/likable; he’s a hard worker with a goofy sense of humor; his voice is just a touch Mutombo-y (deep with a heavy African accent); and his friends call him “Jo-Jo.” And again — his back seemed totally fine.
News flash: As I said on TV before the lottery, Embiid was always going first. None of these teams was passing on him. Repeat: none of them. The amount of smokescreening going on in April and May was high comedy. We keep hearing his back is really screwed up, this could be another Oden situation … Just stop it. This was like sitting at a fantasy football auction next to someone who kept claiming that he wasn’t going to pay big money for a QB … and then, two hours later, he’s bidding $49 for Aaron Rodgers. The truth is, Wiggins and Parker never separated themselves enough this season to warrant anyone saying, “We’re passing on a potential franchise center with a good chance of becoming the 7-foot Serge Ibaka.”
Q: Should Bucks fans take it personally that Tellem planned on freezing them out for Embiid?
Probably a little. It’s sad that Milwaukee turned into the new Clippers, right? A.k.a. the Team Nobody Wants To Play For? At least they have Mallory Edens, who won the Internet on Tuesday night and looms as either the next Jeanie Buss, the next Oprah, the first female president or whatever else she wants to do. Poor Jeanie has to be freaking out like Bette Davis in All About Eve. (Only Wesley Morris and Charlie Pierce got that joke; I don’t care.)
Q: What could have happened at the 2014 NBA draft lottery that would have inspired the worst rom-com of the last 20 years?
If Embiid and Mallory fell for each other on lottery night, followed by Embiid demanding that only Milwaukee could see his medical records (so they’d take him second), then Tellem turning evil and trying to break them up, followed by some sort of Romeo and Juliet scenario developing and Embiid and Mallory going on the run. They’d definitely call this rom-com either The Love Lottery or Drafting My Heart, and it would definitely star Jennifer Lawrence as Mallory and Michael B. Jordan as Embiid. If we could CGI Godzilla destroying an entire city, couldn’t we CGI Michael B. Jordan into a 7-foot center?
(By the way — stay away from this fake movie, Omar Epps. You’re too old. Your 15-year run of sports movies is over. It’s Michael B. Jordan’s time now.)
Q: Can you give us four more predictions for the 2014 lottery?
Sure! I’ll even throw on my Clairvoyant Bill hat for you …
Prediction No. 1: Utah tries like hell to trade up for Jabari Parker.
I’m almost positive that Jabari is the first Mormon who can be described like this: “A little bit of Paul Pierce and a little Carmelo offensively, only if they were more fun to play with, and they were trapped in Rudy Gay’s body if Rudy needed to go gluten-free and hire a personal trainer.” Hey, Sam Hinkie, you love collecting assets like Leo DiCaprio collects models. And you’re not crazy about taking Jabari, anyway — what if Utah flipped you no. 5 for no. 3 and no. 23 and threw in Alec Burks plus a first-round pick-swap in any of the next three years? Would that do it? Any interest? Any?
Prediction No. 2: Orlando happily jumps on Dante Exum.
And not just because he might be really good, but because that could ignite Victor Oladipo’s career. He’s not a point guard and he’s too small to defend certain 2-guards … but if he could defend point guards and play 2-guard offensively? Boom! I love the Exum-‘Dipo backcourt.
(Important note: I’m making all Exum judgments so far based on 3 a.m. viewings of him on YouTube as well as the ravings of the Grantland office’s international basketball expert, Danny Chau, who loves Exum as much as I love both of my children combined.)
Prediction No. 3: If the Celtics don’t trade their pick, they’re taking Shawn Marion 2.0 (a.k.a. Aaron Gordon).
That’s right, Matrix 2! (Whoops, that movie sucked — bad nickname.) What about … The Re-Matrix? I believe that Gordon is destined to become this year’s Russell Westbrook — a.k.a. the crazy-competitive, crazy-good athlete who doesn’t seem to have an official position yet, only the more teams work him out and watch tape of him, the more they fall in love with him. I’m worried about Utah taking him fifth if they can’t trade up for Jabari. Don’t tell anyone.
Prediction No. 4: Out of the Lakers (no. 7), Kings (no. 8) and Charlotte (no. 9), two of those three teams will trade out of those spots for an “impact” guy.
In my opinion, here are the “impact” guys who could be pried away for the right price: Rajon Rondo, Al Horford and Paul Millsap (the biggies would take major prodding though); Brook Lopez (the biggest risk/reward guy out there); Greg Monroe and Gordon Hayward (would need to be a sign-and-trade); Arron Afflalo and Nik Pekovic; David Lee (VERY available); Ersan Ilyasova, Ryan Anderson and Thaddeus Young (not for a top-10 pick, but as part of a bigger deal); Dion Waiters (intriguing); Harrison Barnes (intriguing!); Ricky Rubio (intriguing!!!); and just for the hell of it, Ty Lawson (INTRIGUING!!!!).
If you’re the Lakers, would you flip no. 7 and Nash’s expiring for Lopez and Lopez’s still-healing foot, then roll the dice that you just landed a top-five center for two years? If you’re the Nuggets, wouldn’t you have to consider Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams’s waivable contract and no. 8 for Lawson? If you’re Charlotte, wouldn’t you shop that no. 9 straight-up for Al Jefferson’s old buddy Millsap, or maybe Monroe or Afflalo? I think two of those teams are making a move.
(And what’s Rubio worth, for God’s sake? Would you give up any pick from no. 8 through no. 12 for him? What if Orlando traded no. 12 for Rubio, then drafted Exum and went with the Exum-Oladipo-Rubio backcourt? What if the Grizzlies offered Mike Conley and no. 22 to Minnesota for Rubio and no. 13, then signed Pau Gasol — reuniting the Gasol hermanos! — bringing us two big steps closer to my dream of seeing Team Spain as an NBA team? You’re right, I need to give the Trade Machine a break. For at least 12 hours, anyway.)
Q: Speaking of Memphis … what the hell is going on in Memphis???
A: We see it happen with professional sports franchises every so often: You have a sports-savvy, overly ambitious executive who doesn’t have nearly enough money to purchase his own team (in this case, Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien) sniffing out an available franchise, then slapping together an ownership group hinging on someone else fronting the bulk of the money (Grizzlies owner Robert Pera). Usually, the ambitious executive smartly picks a sugar daddy who doesn’t know what he’s doing – or even better, might eschew the day-to-day responsibility of running the team – allowing the CEO to “run” the team without owning it.
Only one problem: If the sugar daddy owner decides to get more involved, the CEO is eventually screwed. First the owner starts spreading his wings a little more, then a little more (and in Pera’s case, so much more that he reportedly started promising playing time to different players). At some point, he starts butting heads with the ambitious CEO. Everyone else in the organization picks sides. Ultimately, there’s a major disagreement that concludes with the owner saying something like, “Hey, where’s YOUR money? I’m the one who owns the team – why are you telling ME what we should do?” That’s usually when the CEO starts packing his office and becomes “former CEO.” Which is what happened to Levien, who earns some blame since he has abruptly left three different NBA franchises now (twice on bad terms). He’s no victim.
Anyway, the Grizzlies made that owner/CEO breakdown seem even more dysfunctional than usual, as Chris Ryan gleefully broke down on the Triangle today. (If you do anything, listen to our friend Chris Vernon pick apart interim GM Chris Wallace in a local radio interview. Chris Wallace is the Michael Myers of NBA GMs — he literally CANNOT die even if you chop his head off.) But there’s a method to Pera’s madness. As I first reported on Monday, Pera wants to trade for Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau and give him a Stan Van Gundy/Pistons-type deal. That’s why Pera allowed Dave Joerger, the current Grizzlies coach, to interview for Minnesota’s job. Memphis wants Thibs. And Chicago knows that Thibs will always be miserable there after the Ron Adams firing and the Deng trade. So I’m throwing $100 on the following three-transaction parlay: Joerger goes to Minnesota, Thibs gets traded to Memphis for a future pick, Chicago hires Fred Hoiberg to replace him.
Q: For three months, Jalen vowed on NBA Countdown that you guys would be eating shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s during the Eastern Finals … and you kept disagreeing with him. You were wrong, as always. Did that St. Elmo’s dinner ever actually happen?
A: (Nodding shamefully.)
Q: You were there for Game 2 in Indiana — was there any point when you said to yourself, “Holy shit, Miami’s three-peat might be going out the window?”
A: Not really … but there were a few times when you thought, Man, Miami is gonna have to dig deeeeeeeeeeeeeep here. The Heat prevailed because of their on/off switch (turned to “ON — FULL TILT”), their defensive A-game (swarming at times), the reliable brilliance of LeBron and Wade (22 points in the fourth quarter), Chris Andersen’s terrific contribution off the bench (is Birdman the best amnesty guy ever?), and unexpected stink bombs from Paul George and David West (an unlikely 9-for-32 combined).
Still — Lance Stephenson missed an 8-footer that would have given Indy a five-point lead with under six minutes to play (and ignited the crowd, too). When it happened, I remember thinking, If Lance makes that shot, this is suddenly the most important 90 seconds of the season for Miami. Instead, Miami stepped on the gas pedal, LeBron and Wade took over, Wade accidentally kneed Paul George in the head and ruined him for the rest of the game (yet another “accidental” injury at the hands of Dwyane Wade, right?), and the Pacers blew a terrific chance to steal Game 2. Nobody on the Pacers played particularly well other than Stephenson (outstanding for three quarters, gassed in the fourth). Meanwhile, the Heat threw the kitchen sink at them, knowing they had three days’ rest before Saturday’s Game 3. And they barely won. I don’t mean for this to come up like an awkward SportsCenter integration, but would you go “GOOD SIGN!” or “BAD SIGN!” for that one? (That’s Good Sign/Bad Sign, Presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods!) I’m leaning toward “BAD SIGN!”
Q: So what did that just mean? Are you saying Miami is in trouble?
A: Not necessarily. Starting on Saturday, this series moves into every-other-night mode, which helps the younger Pacers more than Miami. Can the Heat crank that on/off switch to “ON — FULL TILT” three more times? Can they make it easier by stealing a home game without LeBron and Wade doing much, maybe with their role players unleashing one of those 16-for-26 3-point performances that happens for them every so often? We definitely know they’ll play one more A-game, and we know LeBron has one of those 44-10-9 ass-kickings coming. If the role players come through one time, they’ll finish the series off in five or six.
But if not? They’re flirting with a dangerous Game 7 return to Naptown, against a team that feels exceedingly comfortable playing them, setting up a potentially frightening repeat of what happened in the 2002 Kings-Lakers series. (Remember that one? Crazy Kings crowd? The Lakers tapping into every ounce of their reserve gas tank? Overtime? Peja air-balling the game winner?) You know what’s really helping Miami? Indy’s decrepit bench, which chop-blocked the Pacers in Game 2 thanks to Luis Scola (absolutely atrocious), Evan Turner (DNP), Chris Copeland (DNP), C.J. Watson (0-for-4) and Ian Mahinmi (just six shaky minutes). Only Rasual Butler came through (two 3s), and he was washed-up three years ago — after Butler hit his second 3, we had to restrain Jalen from slipping on his old no. 5 Pacers jersey and sitting on Indy’s bench to see if Frank Vogel would have put him in next.
If Indy blows the Eastern finals, blame LeBron first because it’s always near-impossible to win a series when you don’t have the best player in the series. But after that, blame last summer’s trade with Phoenix for Luis Scola — the Pacers gave up Gerald Green (who blossomed into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate), Miles Plumlee (suddenly a valuable big man) and their 2014 no. 1 pick (which could have been later packaged with Danny Granger’s expiring for someone better than Turner). They also pushed D.J. Augustin out the door, only to watch him belatedly become a genuine asset in Chicago.
Of course, Indy’s bench let them down last spring, too. Why can’t Frank Vogel get anything out of his benches? Does he rely on his starting five too much? When you think of how someone like Gregg Popovich might have coached this team, there’s an alternate regular-season universe for these last two Pacers seasons that includes dozens of different lineups, more month-to-month rest for Hibbert and West, fewer minutes for the starting five as a whole, infinitely more small-ball experimentation, and those random nights when Pop says, “Hey, Patty Mills, you’re playing 40 minutes tonight” (only in this case, it’s Augustin or Watson). Indy’s inability to develop a bench these past two years probably cost them a Finals trip. It’s a shame. Unless you’re a Miami fan.
Q: Do you think Kevin Love will get traded before the draft? Who has the best chance to get Kevin Love right now?
A: Yes, he’s getting traded before the draft. That’s when they will get the biggest haul for him. The suitors, in descending order from “least likely” to “most likely”:
L.A. Lakers: Could offer the no. 7 pick, the chance for Love to come home, and the chance for him to be reunited with his girlfriend (the actress Cody Horn). I don’t know how any of this helps Minnesota. And also — if you’re Kevin Love, you’d really want to play with Kobe for two years on a poorly owned team with no other assets? Why not just stay in Minnesota one more year, then sign with the Lakers in 2015?
Golden State: Reportedly made Klay Thompson untouchable, which makes no sense because (a) he should be VERY touchable, and (b) you should want to flip David Lee and Thompson for Kevin Love every day and twice on Sunday. If they want to expand the deal with Harrison Barnes and Kevin Martin, that’s fine, too. Love and Steph Curry on the same team? Come on. Actually, why am I helping the Warriors? Definitely keep Klay Thompson! Best 2-guard in the league!
Phoenix Suns: They have a bunch of decent assets (the nos. 14, 21, 28 and 29 picks, Alex Len, the Morris twins, etc.) but no headliner. They’d have to package multiple picks to move up to no. 5 (Utah) and no. 7 (Lakers). Not likely. (More likely for them: Al Horford.)
Houston Rockets: Have to be mentioned because of Flip Saunders’s friendship with Kevin McHale, and because Love absolutely loved playing for McHale. But they’d have to convince Chandler Parsons to agree to a sign-and-trade, something they couldn’t do until July (after the draft). No way Parsons wants to live in Minnesota — he wants to be famous too badly. He’d rather attend Hollywood red-carpet premieres and become the next Bachelor. (I’m not even kidding.) So what if they sign-and-trade Parsons to the Lakers for whomever they took with the no. 7 pick (not inconceivable), deal Omer Asik for another first-rounder, then package those picks with other assets (future picks, Terrence Jones, etc.) for Love? Unlikely … but not impossible, right?
Chicago Bulls: For Taj Gibson, no. 16, no. 19 and the rights to Nikola Mirotic. Not sure that’s enough for ’Sota. Also: That trade chews up the Bulls’ cap space, and, by proxy, their July chances for Carmelo. I can’t get a feel for the Bulls — I mean, that’s the same team that gave Luol Deng away in January, then claimed publicly that they weren’t quitting on the season. Huh???? It’s also the same team that plays in the third-biggest TV market in America and could sell for $2 billion tomorrow (not a misprint), only they operate their business like they’re stuck playing in Indiana or Milwaukee. Keep getting dem checks, Jerry.
Boston Celtics: They have a war chest of assets, including two 2014 picks (no. 6 and no. 17), two 2015 first-rounders (their own and an unprotected Clippers pick), two unprotected Brooklyn first-rounders (2016 and 2018), a pick swap from Brooklyn in 2017 (unprotected), a $10.3 million trade exception, Keith Bogans’s waivable-ASAP contract ($5.1 million, perfect for trade match), Brandon Bass’s deal (expires in 2015) and two decent young players (Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk). They can accommodate ANY Kevin Love trade. Oh, and they have Brad Stevens and one of the league’s most respected organizations, as well as the team that keeps celebrating its players and welcoming them home even after they retire. That too.
The most logical offer: Both 2014 picks, both 2015 picks, Sullinger, Bogans and Bass’s expiring for Love. That’s four first-rounders (including the no. 6 pick). If they pulled it off, they’d have to move quickly on Houston’s Asik, even if it meant taking Jeremy Lin’s contract as the price for Asik — conceivably, they could absorb Asik with the aforementioned trade exception and absorb Lin’s deal with their cap space — which helps Houston because they need to dump the Lin/Asik contracts to pursue Carmelo. You tell me: Could you compete in the East with a starting five of Love, Rajon Rondo, Asik, Jeff Green and Free Agent 2-Guard TBA? And could you make the Finals with a Big Three of James Harden, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony? YES AND YES! Let’s do this!
(And if all of this happens, followed by an unhappy Celtics season and Love and Rondo bolting in 2015 to sign with the Lakers and Knicks, respectively, then I’m moving to England and throwing myself into the Premier League. No farewell column, no good-bye party, nothing. I’m out. Nice knowing you.)
Cleveland Cavs: It all depends on whatever Bat Signal LeBron is sending them. If they truly believe they can bring LeBron home this summer or next summer — remember, he can always opt back into his Miami contract for one more season, then leave after the 2015 Finals — then here’s what the Cavs SHOULD do:
Step No. 1: Trade the no. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett and an unprotected 2015 first-rounder to Minnesota for Kevin Love. That’s a MONSTER offer. Boston wouldn’t be able to trump it from an upside standpoint. And by the way, ’Sota could flip that no. 1 pick to Philly for no. 3 and no. 10, take whomever’s left between Wiggins and Parker, then have the no. 10 and no. 13 picks as well, plus Bennett! That’s a RESET button and then some.
Step No. 2: Pull Miami’s old Udonis Haslem trick — renounce Anderson Varejao’s rights (for more cap space), then re-sign him in July for a longer deal.
Step No. 3: Bring LeBron home.
Your 2014-15 Cavs (potentially): LeBron, Love, Kyrie, Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Dion Waiters and their choice of three ring-chasing veterans who would commit murder to play on that team. A little more palatable than that 2014-15 Heat roster … right?
(The good news for Celtics fans: Cleveland will probably screw this up. And somehow end up winning the 2015 lottery, of course. Enjoy the three-day weekend.)