The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet
A lot of the good will that Phil Jackson got by taking Kristaps Porzingis for the Knicks at No. 4 overall in 2015 — when the uniquely skilled giant wasn’t a sure or safe pick — was lost when “The Zen Master” chose not to orchestrate a long-term roster overhaul around Porzingis this summer. Instead, he took what amounts to a shortcut to playoff (not title) contention by acquiring aging, fading veterans like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. While the “blow it up” approach would make sense, Miranda shows how even a failed run at the playoffs with the new-look roster could benefit the 21-year-old. The New York backcourt may not see anything close to peak Rose or peak Brandon Jennings, but those two will still provide a lot of zip that just wasn’t available from Jose Calderon and Langston Galloway last season. And while Noah, if healthy, will clog Porzingis’ rightful destination at the 5, his energy and passing skills on offense should represent a significant upgrade as well. Those players might not get the Knicks to the playoffs, but even modest contributions from them could complement Porzingis’ development much better than his former teammates did.
Teams have been slow to strike uniform sponsorship deals since the league opened that avenue to advertisers, and the Kings are just the second team to reach an agreement. Lukas offers thoughts on Sacramento’s deal with Blue Diamond, including the brand’s innocuousness and its name clashing with the Kings’ color scheme. And as always, there are a lot more jersey-related nuggets in the rundown.
I’ve been a believer in D’Angelo Russell since I watched him in high school, but his struggles and off-court issues challenged my optimism a bit last season. His atypical star potential is still there — the crafty playmaking, the feel and ability to change speeds, and sneaky hard-to-defend flat-footed jumper — and I hope that his preseason performance documented by Neimand here will hold up for his sophomore campaign. Another year to mature and Luke Walton replacing Byron Scott as his head coach can’t hurt.
Good Guy Gregg Popovich emerges from his prickly shell more and more frequently these days, and the latest GGGP revelation is doubly endearing since it centers on folk hero Boban Marjanovic getting paid. McDonald reports that the Spurs coach strong-armed the big to take advantage of his own restricted free agency (signing a big offer sheet with the Pistons) rather than take a San Antonio hometown discount.
Before Khris Middleton went down, 2016-17 was poised to be a judgment day of sorts for the promising but stalling Bucks roster. Some of that expectation has to be tempered, but there is still plenty of judgment to make on their offseason moves. Scarito covers the good (Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team-friendly extension) and the bad (Miles Plumlee’s player-friendly signing) and everything in between for an intriguing young team.