Tag Archives: free agency

Why Kevin Durant Should Choose the Knicks in Free Agency

So I’ve had a lot of free time during my Sabbatical, and while pondering relatively heavy topics along with the rest of the country in recent days, my mind has meandered to other (less) significant topics like NBA Free Agency.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Kevin Durant and the team he will play for next season (and Jeremy Lin, of course, but Durant seems to carry a bit more intrigue around the country right now).

Put simply, I think Durant should choose to play for the Knicks.

Before you label me foolish or misguided, please allow me to list why he should choose the Knicks over everyone else.

1) The Knicks play in the Eastern Conference, a far more desirable Conference to play in than the West.  If Durant’s main goal is to win a championship, then it makes sense that the easiest path to the Championship goes through the East.

Of course, the Cavs are the defending champs and defeating them is no small task, but the last I checked the Western Conference still has perennial winners in the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs, the Thunder, the Clippers, and the up-and-coming T-wolves and Pelicans.  The Eastern Conference offers a far easier path to the Championship than the Western Conference – both now and in the foreseeable future.

2) Of the 3 Eastern Conference Teams that Durant will meet with – Boston, Miami, and the Knicks – the Knicks have the best supporting cast.  I know, this is arguable, especially since both the Celtics and Heat performed far better than the Knicks last year (almost everyone performed better than the Knicks, btw).

However, the trade for Rose changes everything.  I should clarify – the trade for Rose in his contract year changes everything.

I know Bulls fans might be skeptical of Rose’s ability to stay healthy, but if he is healthy, the trio of Rose (contract year, 27 years-old, transcendent talent if he’s on top of his game), Porzingis (potentially transcendent player who’s only 21?!?!), and Melo (transcendent talent whom I hope is not past his prime).

Moreover, if Rose doesn’t work out, Durant can recruit Westbrook to come play in New York next year.

Which of the other Eastern Conference teams can offer this kind of combination of youth/talent?  Boston has youth but they’re not quite as talented, and Miami has talent but they’re not quite as young (even Whiteside seems uncertain that he’ll stay).

Moreover, this is NEW YORK CITY we’re talking about.

Winning ONE championship in New York would mean more than winning multiple championships anywhere else.

I know, this makes NO sense to non-New Yorkers.

But ANYONE who’s lived in NYC knows what I’m talking about, and knows that it’s true.

3) Why Durant shouldn’t join any of the other Western Conference Teams 

  • The Clippers – I’m surprised they got a meeting.  I don’t think they have the talent/youth to make a case for being a perennial winner, especially in the Western Conference.
  • The Warriors – As good a thing as the Warriors have going on, I can’t imagine that Durant would join a historically great team to chase a ring.  I know people dogged Lebron for ring-chasing by joining the Heat, but there’s no way that can compare to Durant joining a 73-win team as a free agent.  Granted, I think Steph is awesome and is one of the most humble superstars whom anyone would love to play with, but yeah, I just can’t see Durant joining them because it would be almost too easy.
    • Sidenote: In addition, it must be SO awkward right now on the Olympic Team.  With Klay, Draymond, and Barnes playing on the squad (along with Durant), how weird must it be for them knowing that if Durant comes, Barnes has to go.  While Melo can be unabashed in his wooing of KD, Klay and Draymond must understandably walk a fine line when talking about Durant, especially if they’re pals with Barnes, which the team chemistry on GSW seems to indicate.
  • The Spurs – I don’t think Durant can choose the Spurs over OKC, especially after OKC beat them in the playoffs this year.  I’m sure any consideration of the Spurs would stop when Westbrook gets in Durant’s ear and says, “How can you join them after we beat them in 6?!”
  • The Thunder – I seriously think it’s going to come down to the Thunder or the Knicks, especially after the Ibaka-Oladipo trade last week.  Seriously, the Thunder are loaded with Oladipo/Sabonis, and with Adams’ emergence, I think the Thunder are going to have some major swag heading into next season if their full team comes back. The only thing that makes OKC less desirable is…
    • Familiarity Breeds Boredom – I wonder if KD wants to feel what it’s like to play somewhere else.  I think Lebron had a little bit of this when he joined Miami.  I think we all do.  The grass can seem greener somewhere else.
    • Westbrook’s Team Now? – I wonder if KD would like to go to a team where he’s the clear go-to guy.  I think his friendship with Russell is real, but yeah, I’m wondering if KD would like to go somewhere where he’s clearly the #1 option. Sidenote: This is also what makes the GSW jump less likely.  I think it’d be personal if Durant leaves Westbrook to play with Curry.  This might be reading too much into it, but yeah, since Russ & KD are boys, I think Westbrook would be hurt/angered if Durant went to GSW, and I think Durant would also feel disloyal if he were to do that to Russ.  Uh, this is obviously total conjecture because I know neither Russ nor KD personally.
    • How important is it for Durant to play in the Eastern Conference?  Again, if this matters to KD – which I think it should – then I think KD should choose the Knicks.

One super-random wild card in all this is that KD considers Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong NY, his good friend and pastor.  I love it.

Carl, let’s make this happen.

So there you have it.

KD, become a legend in NYC.

Dwight Howard, Lebron James, & The Millennial Generation

This is another random sports post, but one that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

In short, I think Dwight Howard and Lebron James were interesting examples of the Millennial Generation during their free agency.  Obviously it’s tough to characterize an entire generation, but I thought these guys in particular, largely because of their public platforms and stories, can be looked at as examples of Millennials.

First, I’ll give a brief synopsis of each player, and then I’ll talk about characteristics they’ve displayed as Millennials.

*FYI I root for both players.  I absolutely love Lebron and I love the Rockets (haven’t followed Dwight for as long). 

1.  Dwight Howard – Dwight’s journey is well-chronicled from his rise to dominance with the Orlando Magic to his acrimonious exit via trade to the LA Lakers, to his difficult year in Los Angeles, to his eventual landing in Houston as a free agent.  Through his journey, he’s been criticized harshly for waffling in his decision-making and his inability to play under the bright lights in LA.

I for one, am glad that he plays for the Houston Rockets now, because I think he’s a better fit for the team and they have a better shot at winning a championship.

The free agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

The Free Agency of Dwight Howard and Lebron James Exemplify Most Millennials

2.  Lebron James – Lebron is the best basketball player in the world, and arguably one of the best players ever.  Lebron’s story is also well-chronicled, and he’s won the League MVP and NBA Championship two consecutive years.

Lebron has come a long way in rebuilding his image after he left Cleveland as a free agent in regrettable fashion.  No one argues with his decision at this point considering the outcomes – just the way it was handled.

Lebron is one of my favorite players, and I’m seriously rooting for him to become the best of all-time (sorry Chicagoans).

How Dwight & Lebron Exemplify Millennials:

1.  “I Deserve to Be Happy” – Dwight made this comment before his decision to leave the Lakers, and he’s continued saying this now that he’s with the Rockets, where he seems to be much happier.

Much of his wavering decision-making had to do with trying to make others happy – Orlando, Laker fans, etc.  When he chose the Rockets, he finally made up his mind to choose 1) winning, and 2) his own happiness.

It’s interesting that he stresses the happiness part because it was clear to most folks that Houston gave him the best chance to win titles over the next few years, signaling that it was winning that was the chief decision-making factor.

However, there’s something about the happiness statement that resonates with Millennials, and I think that’s why he uses it (he himself is a Millennial), I think.

There’s this epic post that describes the mindset of most Millennials, particularly the feelings of entitlement and the search for happiness.  It’s this idea that we deserve to be happy.

However, as the blog post skillfully points out, our entitled views of happiness often lead us toward becoming unhappy, unless we modify expectations.

I hope Dwight modifies expectations and then leads the Rockets to a championship, which would make me really happy.

2.  “I Want to Play With My Friends” – People ripped Lebron for “joining Wade’s team” and not being an alpha-dog in his free agency, but I thought it was ironic that for someone who was being ripped as being arrogant and selfish, Lebron was 1) taking a pay cut, and 2) virtually admitting that he can’t do it on his own.

If anything, Lebron should have been applauded for humbling himself by joining the Heat!

Okay, “humbling” might be too strong a word, because his decision was also based on 1) winning, and 2) playing with his friends.

Anyhow, what I love about Lebron is how his teammates love playing with him.  It’s clear that Lebron relishes being a teammate on a team.

I think Millennials are similar in this way – they would rather play with their friends to accomplish goals.

In church world, the rise of networks and city-wide movements have really resonated for Millennials because of this teamwork dynamic.  I think most Millennials really believe that we’re better together.

3.  Above All, We Want to Win – It’d be nice to be happy and it’d be nice to play with my friends, but I think Millennials are also committed to leaving a legacy that will remain.

Dwight and Lebron understand this, hence both of them approached free agency looking for the best chance to win.

For Dwight, people said he couldn’t handle the bright lights of LA, but realistically, the Lakers would have been a really tough roster for him to win with.  I don’t think it’s fair to pile on Dwight about leaving LA or spurning the Mavs or Warriors (although the W’s look real good right now) for choosing Houston.

For Lebron, it’s clear he made the right choice about where to play because the Heat have won the championship two out of the last three years.

I love the idealism of Millennials that want to make history, and I think Dwight and Lebron both have that.

They both realized the bottom line was winning, and whatever people want to say about either of them, they both chose the best path toward winning.

——-

In sum, I’m not sure if I’m a Millennial, but I hope that I can be marked as someone who 1) Works Hard Without Feeling Entitled to Happiness, 2) Gets to Work with My Friends, and 3) Is Crazy Enough to Think that I Can Leave a Legacy that Lasts.

Jeremy Lin, Race, and Proving Oneself

I posted a few days ago that I preferred for Jeremy Lin to play on the Rockets.

With that said, I was shocked to see the Knicks decline to match the offer.

I think what’s been so shocking to me is the recent analysis from some Knicks fans and other pundits (Stephen A Smith and Frank Isola come to mind) who have dismissed Lin’s ability, competitive spirit, and motivation (money).

Doubting Lin’s longevity, I can understand.

Doubting Lin’s consistency over 82 games and playoffs, I can understand.

But please don’t tell me the kid can’t play (can’t go left, questionable jumper, turnover prone, etc), lacks heart, and is driven by money. 

It’s baffling to me when people ignore the data.  Lin played well last year.  He had one bad game against the Heat, and consider it was only one bad game with every team gunning for him.

The data shows that Lin is a better player than Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd right now.

Listen, even I was a doubter of Lin.  Coming into the league, I thought at best he would be a solid backup for the right team.  I likened his game to Kyle Lowry (former point guard of the Rockets, ironically enough) when he first came into the NBA.  I would have been thrilled if Lin just got regular minutes on a team.

But this past year, Lin continued to prove me wrong.  He proved everybody wrong.  Time and again, Lin showed he’s a high caliber player in the NBA, capable of being elite and even carrying a team at times as the lead guard.

For 26 games, Lin was a terrific rookie (practically speaking) point guard last year.

We call some guys can’t-miss after 25 college gms. But 25 starts vs NBA comp. proves nothing? Y consider #Lin fraudulent, not promising?

Of course, I needed to confirm whether Lin’s play was all hype with no substance. So what did I do?  I looked at the data.

And the data is that Lin really did play well and elevate the performance of his team and teammates.

When it comes to money, Lin wasn’t the one who went fishing for more money from the Rockets – it was the Rockets who pursued Lin with a bigger deal.  To suggest that Lin was devious in upping the salary is silly considering it was the Knicks who publicly laid out their cards too early, thereby giving a chance for the Rockets to up their offer even further.

I did not expect such a strong smear campaign to come from “reliable Knicks sources”.

————

As an Asian-American, I’ll admit that the criticism toward Lin has stung a bit more.

As odd as this may sound, the Lin bashing felt personal, as if people were pushing around my kid brother.

Even though I wanted Lin to go to the Rockets, I’m actually disappointed at the Knicks and some of the media.

I’m mad enough that I was tempted to write a blog post in comic sans font claiming that Jeremy Lin would win a championship before the Knicks do.

Alas, I don’t know how to switch to comic sans on this blog.

It’s hard for me to believe that race isn’t involved in the critique of Lin’s game or his motives, especially when people ignore the data or choose to believe unnamed sources after Jeremy himself has come out and described the free agency process for himself.

So far, no Knicks source has come forward to claim the truth about how the negotiations went down.

So the smear campaign has begun.

————–

Whether it’s true or not that Lin’s game and motives have been dismissed because of his race, I realize this is the burden of being a minority in this country – the haunting suspicion that a slight or critique is due to one’s race.

The African-American community certainly feels this more acutely when there are slights (which many of us are so unaware of), but I think it’s also common for any minority.

It’s hard NOT to be sensitive and reactive to perceived slights.

But what’s harder, perhaps, is to receive those slights, push them away with firm yet gracious hands, and then go gang busters in proving the naysayers wrong.

At the end of the day, that’s probably the best that we can do when we are slighted, though.

We can either get too angry or get too soft, but somewhere in the middle is the way of redemption, the way of the cross and resurrection.

And so we absorb the criticism, maintain our identity as one whose Center is true, share our perspective in non-reactive ways, and then prove naysayers wrong with furious truth and love.

This is how redemption comes, I believe.

Furious truth and love… … in this case, on the basketball court.

Jeremy, I’m still rooting for you as hard as ever.

Thoughts on Jeremy Lin’s Free Agency

I’ve decided to end my blog silence with a topic that’s been pressing on my heart – Jeremy Lin’s free agency.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d love to see Jeremy Lin on the Rockets

Yes, I have a newborn in the home as well as a new church plant to deal with, but this is what I choose to write about.  Clearly, I still have Linsanity.

Anyhow, what I’m about to write might go against popular opinion in New York, and it actually pains me to admit what I’m about to say.

But alas, I must admit, as a pure Jeremy Lin basketball fan, I think Lin should go to the Rockets.

Before I go into why, you should probably know that 1) I personally would like for Lin to stay in NYC and come to Hope Church NYC, 2) I am unabashedly only a Knicks fan insofar as Lin is on the team, and 3) I am not a Rockets fan in particular (for anyone wondering, my team is the LA Clippers).

With all that said, I think Lin should go to the Rockets, and here’s why:

1.  Lin thrived as the lead player during Linsanity – and so did the Knicks.  The numbers don’t lie.  Sure, they may have played weaker opponents, but Lin still played exceptionally well against playoff caliber teams (Lakers, Jazz, Mavs) and players (Deron Williams) while playing with equally anonymous players (Novak, Shumpert, Jeffries – Chandler being the only exception).

The Knicks were 8-1 when Lin played the role of lead playmaker until Melo returned in a loss to the New Jersey Nets.

The last game in which the Knicks were “Lin’s team” was when he lit up Dallas for 28 points and 14 assists.

In those nine games with Lin as the lead guard, he averaged 25 pts/game and 9.2 assists/game.

Plus, anyone who followed the Knicks run during that time period could see there was an obvious enthusiasm on the team and a raised level of play.

Lin never had an opportunity to be the lead player for the Knicks after Melo returned.  I’m trying to state this without being biased here…

2.  With Melo and Stat around and with Woodson coaching, we will likely never see Lin in a lead role again.  

There are a lot of folks talking about how overrated Lin is and how his play tailed off as the season progressed.

Lin’s numbers did regress, as did the Knicks’ stats as a whole, but I’d argue that it was because of the changing dynamics on the team that demanded that Lin change his game, NOT because Lin isn’t capable of leading a ball club.

Now, I say this as a completely biased Lin fanatic – in my opinion, Lin was not the main reason for the drop-off in performance by the Knicks.

Lin had to change his game to accommodate Melo, Stat, and eventually Mike Woodson.

I think I can speak for millions of Lin fans (and a few Knicks fans) out there when I say that I wish I could have seen how far Lin could have taken the team as the lead player.

“There’s no way he’s Melo!  There’s no way he’s an elite guard!  Lin got exposed against Miami!”

You might say all of these things, but the sad thing is, we never had a chance to see if Lin could be an elite lead guard.

His game had to change when Melo and Stat came back, and Woodson made it clear that he didn’t think too highly of Lin.

But again, the sad thing is, we never had a chance to see if Lin could be an elite lead guard after he lit up the World Champion Mavericks for 28 and 14.     

3.  I want to see how well Jeremy can do as a lead player for the whole season.  As a huge Jeremy Lin fan who reveled in the euphoria of Linsanity, I need to see how Lin can do when given the chance to be a lead player for an entire season.

I know there are a bunch of people out there who claim Lin is overrated, but the ONLY data we have of Lin as a lead guard is the 8-1 streak they were on.

This website is super helpful when talking about Lin’s impressive statistics and how anyone who discounts his accomplishments are not looking at the data (perhaps they’re looking more at his race?).

I’m convinced that Lin can never be the same player he was for the Knicks when Melo and Stat were out because Melo, Stat, and Woodson will not allow him to be.  I’m sure anyone who watches the Knicks will agree with me that Lin’s game clearly changed when Melo and Stat came back, and then even more when Woodson became the head coach.

The Rockets, however, just might allow Lin the opportunity to be the lead player for their team, and that excites me.

Seeing this possibility excites me more than all the positives of Jeremy staying in NYC (being a global icon, watching him play regularly, having Jeremy come to Hope, etc).

I want to see Jeremy flourish as a player, and I think he has a better opportunity for that on the Rockets.

4)  And quite frankly, the current Knicks team with Melo, Stat, and Woodson leading the charge is just not as fun to watch.

You can tell me if I’m biased, but honestly, the Knicks are not a fun team to watch anymore.

Am I missing something?  Please tell me if you disagree.

I’m actually really curious to hear if anyone thinks this version of the team is as fun to watch as the no-name version during Linsanity…   

All in all, I’m sure the Knicks will match the offer, and I’ll continue to watch and root for the Knicks and Jeremy, constantly wondering what was during Linsanity and what could have been if someone had the guts to let Jeremy be Jeremy on a basketball court…

And I guarantee the Garden won’t be nearly as electric as it was back in February 2012.