As I scribble my thoughts, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder are many hours past their version of the annual media day event. For the Rockets, concerns on defense reigns supreme ahead of training camp as General Manager Darryl Morey doubled down on offense with the signings of Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Coach Mike D’Antoni.
Add defensively inept but offensive juggernaut James Harden to the trio and Houston has enough fire power to outscore opponents on any night.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, moving on from the disappointment of losing franchise piece Kevin Durant is paramount and they did exactly that by signing Russell Westbrook to a three year $85 million contract and handing him the team’s keys.
How far they can go in the tough Western Conference looks limited at this stage with Golden State Warriors fortifying its grip on the conference by crippling a fierce rival by taking away its franchise piece; much akin to Bayern Munich’s destruction of the competition in the Bundesliga by signing top players from rival clubs. How high Steven Adams can elevate his game, how Victor Oladipo can do without the ball in his hands next to Westbrook remain intriguing storylines to look forward to ahead of the season.
In the Eastern Conference, New York Knicks are trying to get Derrick Rose’s sex trial out of the picture as try to paint their way to an unlikely playoff spot with a new core of players that has veterans dotted on all areas of the court with the exception of Kristaps Porzingis. Building around the Latvian always seemed a long shot as that would render Carmelo Anthony’s championship ambitions unlikely to happen. No one quite knows what the Chicago Bulls is up to after signing Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo to play alongside ball dominant Guard Jimmy Butler. Neither Rondo nor Wade are great at shooting the ball so one can only wonder how that fits in Fred Hoiberg’s three point heavy offense.
Reigning NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers, have done the sane thing an executive producer of the Transformers franchise would, if it isn’t broken, why fix it. In that regard, James Jones, Dahntay Jones,
Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson will be returning for a couple more seasons. However, news of the side embarking on touchy humanitarian moves to hand title rings to former Coach David Blatt and former Center Anderson Varejao has been making the headlines. Honoring the two men with rings isn’t a bad thing to do after all Blatt guided Cleveland to the NBA Finals in his first season at the club after an extensive period coaching in Europe.
At the time of his sacking, Cleveland was atop the Conference standings. For Varejao, spending 11 straight years in the team earned him a connection with the entire city. The Brazilian and his iconic hair, are eligible to have a ring as he got traded in February after recovering from injury to play minor roles for Golden State during their run to the finals where the team coincidentally met Cleveland. But the Cavs are the reigning champions and becoming Santa Clauses over night doesn’t bode well for them seeing how main rival Golden State moved swiftly to shore up its starting lineup and bench.
Talks between the side and Shooting Guard J.R. Smith on a new and improved contract have stalled with both parties on opposite sides. Smith wants per Bleacher Report $15 million a year as he is set to become the latest player to cash in on improved salaries that has flooded the league. Smith’s position is understandable as the mercurial wing player missed out on the first money rush in the league by not activating his second year deal with the Cavaliers resulting in him making anticlockwise turn to sign for the Cavs at a reduce price of five million dollars.
His subpar performances in that year’s finals against the Warriors were the main reason league teams shunned him.
Getting a more defense oriented Smith back on the team puts the side in the same position it has been in since Lebron James signed two seasons ago; that is the Conferences’ best team. Plus knowing team leader LeBron wants him back on the team is an added incentive to get him to sign. General Manager David Griffin did the business that got Cleveland its’ first major sports trophy in 52 years which included doing with Blatt and Varejao for Tyronne Lue and Channing Frye respectively. An individual only needs a few minutes to hear the most popular phrase in the league, it’s a business.
As such, Cleveland should get the business on J.R. Smith done and zoom in straight at Golden State Warriors as they prepare to defend their long awaited title.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah