#IMHO: All-Decade teams, aging vets and Celtic pride?

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

 

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, August 6, 2019 9:45 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

 

Mike,

It’s Tuesday, which around these parts can mean only one thing: TACO TUUUUESSSSDDAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!

 

 

But I digress. In actuality, I’ve been working all summer, bouncing back and forth to New York with Grizz Gaming, so this week I brought my son to the beach to spend some much needed one-on-one time with him and to get myself one last good sunburn before school starts back up.

This is usually a good week to escape, as NBA rosters are mostly set and NBA news tends to get exchanged for NFL holdouts and college football hype. But as we’ve both learned, the NBA never really sleeps.

I noticed yesterday people were talking about my old colleagues at NBA.com, who put out their all-decade teams (even though the decade isn’t over).

After reading these, I guess these teams are positionless, and I know Kobe stans are upset he ONLY made the third team, even though he retired a few years ago. But mainly I looked at the teams and just figured Dame Lillard has found his latest motivation.

Were there any egregious personnel inclusions or exclusions that stood out to you? I gotta get back out to the pool…


NBA All-Decade First Team

 


 

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 7:49 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

 

Ok, Lang-Bron Whitaker! I see what you did there. But you better hurry up and eat those tacos, because they’ll be stale by the time most readers see this on Thursday.

I mostly agree with the concept the NBA.com writers went with on the All-Decade team. It was essentially a 10-year stretch that saw the Heat hand off dominance back to the Spurs, who then handed it off to the Warriors, who mainly fended off the Cavaliers after LeBron James went back home before bolting again, this time to the Lakers. With any lists like this, the first thing you have to ask yourself when offering counters or alternatives is: who would you take off to get another guy on the list?

I’m not a huge fan of how the list basically omits players at power forward and center. Yes, I know the game has shifted more strongly than ever to elite guard play. But I still think Tim Duncan had some very impactful years in the 2010s. I still think Dirk Nowitzki was able to get a few more things done in that decade. Maybe even Dwight Howard, too, for at least the first half of it. But the biggest cases alongside Lillard for being overlooked, to me, are Paul Pierce and John Wall.

Shifting gears a bit, Lang, the NCAA struck a major nerve this week by strengthening the criteria for agents to have a college degree in cases when they advise underclassmen testing the NBA waters. Immediately, social media and much of NBA Twitter jumped to the defense of super agent Rich Paul, whose clients include some of the most influential players in the league. Paul, a longtime associate and childhood friend of LeBron James, does not have a college degree but is certified by the NBA and NBA Players Association. Some have suggested the NCAA’s decision also has racial overtones and will mainly impact African-American prospects who use relatives, close family associates and others to represent their interests. The NBA’s process of certifying agents should be enough. But I understand the NCAA’s larger intent, which seems to be about trying to ensure players get the best guidance as possible as they decide whether to remain in the draft or return to college. But there’s really no way to legislate that with a degree requirement, is there? Where do you stand on this?


Rich Paul of KLUTCH Sports poses with NBA Stars

 


 

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 10:07 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO
 

I mean, I get where everyone is coming from on this. Yes, it sure does seem to be targeting Rich Paul, but I suppose it’s targeting any agent without a degree, if there are any other agents without a degree. At the end of the day, let’s be frank: It’s targeting anyone who could possibly shepherd assets away from the NCAA, whether that’s Rich Paul or Paul Rich.

At the same time, it’s the NCAA, an organization that represents a bunch of companies (OK, schools) that exist pretty much solely to sell overpriced degrees to customers. So if anyone is going to pass a rule that requires someone to have a college degree, it SHOULD be the NCAA.

I don’t think much will change. There’s a pretty simple fix to all of this: Rich Paul needs to hire someone with a college degree to be an agent of record for KLUTCH Sports and have that person go on campus, while Rich can remain the actual decision-maker. And until the NCAA starts paying athletes and stops making billions of dollars on their backs, this feeling of inequality will always exist.

Mike, yesterday we saw Udonis Haslem resign with the Heat for a 17th season, and Vince Carter sign with the Hawks for 22nd campaign. These guys are prototypical vets, the guys who make as much impact off the floor (in the locker room, in the practice gym) as they ever will on the court. They may not be able to play consistently in the NBA today, but they have a role and a place. Is there an older vet currently unsigned that you’d like to see get one more contract with an NBA team (besides Tony Allen, because we’d all love to see TA get one more go-round)?


Udonis Haslem

 


 

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, August 7, 2019 12:20 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO
 

Everything you just mentioned is spot on. I appreciate your thoughts and the logic behind them. As far as Udonis and Vince, I’ve had the pleasure of covering them both closely throughout their careers. While UD has always been a tough, very effective role player throughout his career, Vince has played in every role imaginable – from superstar franchise anchor to end of the bench, crafty veteran. And they’ve both done it with grace every step of the way.

On the other question, the vet that quickly came to mind was another guy who’s spent some time in our building here at FedExForum: Joakim Noah. What Joakim showed last season was that he’s healthy, hungry and has the absolute essential mindset to take on a role off the bench to spark a team. Last season was a retribution and image rehab campaign for Joakim after he took some hits for his time in New York. In Memphis, he aced just about every test and should be able to help a playoff contender with his rebounding, defense and leadership in the locker room.

Lang, we’ll roll out on this: I’m in Vegas covering Jaren Jackson Jr.’s participation in Team USA training camp. But all I keep seeing are Celtics. Marcus Smart. Jayson Tatum. Jaylen Brown. Kemba Walker. They’re all here. They’ve turned the National Team training camp into a Celtics mini-camp. It reminds me how much the Celtics have been overlooked, it seems, amid all of the offseason attrition. If Team USA gives these guys a chance to really build momentum, how good can the Cs be this season? They lost Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to other teams in the same division, no less. But I see Boston as a solid threat among the top teams in the East.


Boston Celtics teammates Marcus Smart #40, Jaylen Brown #33, Jayson Tatum #34 and Kemba Walker #26 of the 2019 USA Men's National Team pose together

 


 

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Thursday, August 8, 2019 10:03 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

 

It’s funny, I mentioned Joakim’s free agency the other day to the Grizz Gaming guys and was mostly met with eye rolls, I suspect because they didn’t watch him as closely as we did the last few months. If he can stay healthy he could absolutely be a contributor on a contending team. If I was the Clips or Lakers or even Toronto, I’d be calling him right away.

And re: Boston, I’m less conflicted than I was a season ago. Heading into last season they were getting Hayward back and were going to have this stacked roster, and everyone was picking them to win 60-plus games, easy. But it’s easy to forget the lesson my high school coach, Coach Arnold, used to stress: Chemistry is our most important subject. And for all their gifts on the court and along the sideline, last season’s Celtics clearly never had the chemistry figured out.

And I don’t think it’s going to be any easier this season, because to me the loss of Al Horford is being wildly underrated. He’s so smart, and so versatile especially on the offensive end, with his ability to stretch the floor opening things for everyone else. I don’t think swapping Kyrie for Kemba will make that much difference. But losing Horford is gonna be a tough one, I think.

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