A Dynasty Disrupted; More NCAA Nonsense
That Warriors' dynasty we've come to know and love has splintered. Badly.
As one of the two last men on earth who thought Kevin Durant was staying with the Warriors (the other being my old friend Bruce Jenkins of the Chronicle), I was somewhat surprised by the events of the last few days.
As predicted here, Durant didn't sign with the consensus favorite, the New York Knicks, but instead of the Warriors he went with the Nets, who hope to build a championship team around KD and his friend Kyrie Irving.
Along with the Irving package deal, it may have helped the Nets that their team physician, Dr. Martin O’Malley, performed Durant’s Achilles surgery June 12 and operated on the foot he fractured it in 2015.
Durant apparently trusts the Nets’ medical team more than the Warriors’ staff; in fact, some reports last week suggested that KD was “pissed” at Golden State for rushing him back into action before his calf was fully healed.
From this corner, I think Durant is making a mistake in going with the Nets, for a couple of reasons. First, Irving is a loose cannon who has destroyed two locker rooms (Cleveland and Boston). If KD wants to be “the man” in Brooklyn, he's going to have to contend with the unpredictable Irving, who feuded with LeBron James when he played for the Cavaliers. Kyrie is also the guy who believes the world is flat.
And the New York press is vicious. We all know Durant is, shall we say, rather sensitive when it comes to the media. If he comes back from the Achilles rupture at less than advertised, and fails to justify a four-year $164 million contract, they will crucify him.
Among the other developments.
Russell: The Warriors will pick up Nets All-Star D’Angelo Russell as part of the Durant sign-and-trade deal. Russell is no Durant, but he’s an outstanding player. In only his second year in the NBA, he averaged 21 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds a game for the Nets last season. He’s only 23, so there is plenty of upside.
Russell’s scoring and 3-point shooting (37.9%) will compensate for the absence of Klay Thompson, who will be recovering from knee surgery for most of the 2019-20 season. But since he’s a natural point guard, it will be interesting to see how Coach Steve Kerr utilizes him with Stephen Curry.
In fact, rumors have already begun flying that the Warriors may trade Russell—either now or during the ’19-20 season. One thing we know: with Durant gone and Thompson out, they need another shooter, and Quinn Cook is not a reliable everyday answer.
Defense, Anyone? The collateral damage from all of this wheeling and dealing will be the loss of veteran Andre Iguodala, who will be traded to Memphis. Iguodala was a major contributor to the Warriors’ three championships, because of his smarts, maturity, clutch shooting and, most of all, his defense.
Iguodala was an instrumental part of the Warriors’ aggressive, switching, lane-clogging, perimeter-contesting defense, often guarding the best player on the opposing team.
Next season, with Iguodala and Durant gone, and Thompson out indefinitely, the Warriors biggest problems may be on the defensive end.
NCAA Nonsense: A few months ago, as reported on these pages, the NCAA blinked. After years of opposing any payment to athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL), NCAA President Mark Emmert appointed a blue ribbon “working group” (as opposed to a “non-working group”) to study the issue.
Meanwhile, far away, on a distant shore, a bill was introduced in the California state legislature that would allow student athletes in California colleges to earn compensation for the use of their NIL beginning in 2023. The bill has already passed the state senate and appears to have a great deal of support in the assembly.
So what did the NCAA do? Last week Emmert sent a missive to two state assembly committee chairs warning them that California schools could be banned from NCAA championships if the NIL bill, SB 206, the “Fair Pay to Play Act,” becomes law.
The blustery Emmert asked the legislators to delay consideration of the bill until the NCAA panel has made its recommendations, and argued that “as drafted the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships. As a result, it likely would have a negative impact on the exact student-athletes it intends to assist.”
The NCAA would never ban California schools from national championships. Never. Some 23 NCAA Division 1 schools are located in California, including the schools that rank No. 1 and No. 2 all time in NCAA championships, Stanford and UCLA.
As a wise man once wrote, “this too shall pass.”
The California state law, once passed, will likely start a multi-state movement to compensate athletes for their marketing and endorsement opportunities.
But it doesn’t take effect until 2023, which will give the NCAA four years to save face by coming up with a workable national model.
Note: Late last week, the CA assembly stated its intention to monitor the NCAA group’s findings and recommendations.