Dwight Jaynes

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

A few thoughts about the blockbuster Cleveland-Boston trade:

  • One thing I've always admired about Danny Ainge: He's got a lot of guts. He always has. He's totally unafraid. And in pulling the trigger on a trade with the team he's trying to beat in the NBA East, he's taking a gamble. In trading his team's best and most popular player he's making an even bigger gamble. And in taking on Kyrie Irving, well, he might be taking the biggest gamble of all. But he doesn't really care what anyone else thinks, he does what he thinks is right. It's the same as the trade he pulled off prior to the draft with the No. 1 pick. He thought Jayson Tatum was the best player in the draft and knew he didn't have to take him with the first pick, so he moved the pick. And he really didn't care what anybody else thought of the deal. The guy has had plenty of self-confidence and courage since the day he started playing basketball. I remember watching him as a high-school junior in the Oregon state basketball tournament and on the football field and marveling at how he laughed in the face of pressure. He seemed totally immune to it and probably still is.
  • In today's world, people running franchises who are willing to make a big gamble or controversial move without worrying about what fans or media will think about it are rare -- and usually worth their weight in gold.
  • Ainge has put a big burden on his coach, Brad Stevens. As well he should -- Stevens is one of the best in the business. But I think Stevens will need to be at the top of his game to find the kind of team chemistry the Celtics had last season. Irving, I've heard, is pretty tough to handle -- for his teammates and his coaches. Getting him to play the team game and keeping him out of calling his own number all the time might be a problem.
  • This deal has long-term ramifications that should not be ignored. Irving is four years younger than Thomas (who is dealing with a hip injury) and in better health. Most people in the league believe LeBron James is headed out of Cleveland after this season and Boston has positioned itself to be the next big thing in the East. Thomas has one year left on his contract and Irving has two years and a player option for a third. Ainge is making a move that's possibly good for this season but definitely good for the seasons after that.
  • Thomas is 5-9 and often listed at 185 pounds. He doesn't look as if he's within 20 pounds of that number, however. Irving is 6-3 and 193. Players as small as Thomas have a pretty rough ride in the NBA -- and I'm not so sure how long he can keep that slight frame healthy enough to carry the heavy load he carried last season. I certainly wouldn't invest in that body with a long-term max deal.
  • Kevin Love and Thomas played on the same AAU team in high school and I'm sure they will play well together. Cleveland will be OK next season if Thomas stays healthy. Of course, behind him is Derrick Rose, another player whose continued good health is no sure thing.
  • I don't know what to think of Irving and his desire to get away from James. But I have a feeling that PLAYING with LeBron is OK, it's just existing with him that's a problem. You hear stories about the entourage, about LeBron basically running the whole organization -- stuff that can't be easy on teammates.
  • The Celtics have reshaped their team coming off what was a very good season. That takes guts. But that's Danny Ainge.

 

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Ducks, Beavers football questions: What will be their trademark?

Last week on Talkin' Ball we were fortunate enough to have great interviews with Gary Andersen and Willie Taggart. Yes, on the same show.

They were both very forthcoming about their teams but there was no way we could learn answers to what, for me, are the most pressing questions about Oregon State and Oregon:

What will they look like? How will they, you know, actually play? And we may not really know that until the early season, non-conference games are out of the way.

In the case of the Ducks, it's a new coaching staff with a quarterback who performed well last season as a freshman. Justin Herbert, at times, looked like a pro last year. He has great promise. But how will he be used this season? Taggart has employed a lot of option in the past and will he run Herbert? It's always interesting when a new coaching staff comes in to see how players might be used differently or more effectively than they were by the previous regime.

The Ducks have their usual stable of great running backs and I'd assume, given their shortage of receivers, they'll be run heavy, at least early in the season. But who knows? Herbert can really sling it and those runners will set up some great play-action opportunities.

The same questions are even more relevant with the Beavers. Oregon State will be going with a quarterback, Jake Luton, who is by all accounts a pro-style, big-arm guy who is much different than what Andersen has had at OSU. Will the Beavers open it up more? I'm not sure, because they also have some outstanding running backs capable of controlling games on the ground.

How will these guys play? What will they look like? What will their style be? Will they be gamblers or play it safe? What will they become known for?

It's the most intriguing thing about the upcoming season at both schools.

Even if Melo waives his no-trade clause, making the deal will be a challenge

Even if Melo waives his no-trade clause, making the deal will be a challenge

While the basketball fans of New York wait for either the Knicks or Carmelo Anthony to blink, the Portland Trail Blazers are still holding out hope.

Will Anthony, at some point, waive that no-trade to include more teams? Would the Trail Blazers be one of those teams?

At this point, nobody knows. But I will tell you this, if that door ever opens, I expect Portland to make every effort to charge through it.

But it won’t be easy. In fact, it’s going to be a very big job, considering the finances involved.

The Blazers will have to come up with a trade with the Knicks that is better than anyone else’s and yet doesn't’t completely decimate the Portland roster.

And that will be a huge challenge. The Trail Blazers are going to need to stack a lot of salaries on top of each other to come up to the dollar amount needed to make the deal permissible under league rules.

And the trick is to not give up so much that Anthony’s presence can’t make up for the loss of the departed players..

Portland's side of the trade must come within 125 percent of $34 million to make the thing work. That dollar figure is based on Anthony’s 2017-18 salary of roughly $26.2 million PLUS his trade kicker, which will amount to another $8 million, given that the final year of his contract is a player option.

And you need to match that amount without ending up with your cupboard bare.

Here are the Portland contracts for next season –- feel free to play the home version of “Let’s Make A Deal” to add them up to a workable total while not giving away so much that the team is mortally wounded.

As you see, it’s going to get very tricky. But I expect the Trail Blazers to come up with a viable offer and by sheer volume it may be better than any other team is willing to give for a player who will probably play just one season for it.

I would figure the refreshed New York front office to play this thing out, hoping Anthony will loosen his no-trade a bit as training camp nears. And I expect Anthony to hold tight for as long as he can to a Houston-only demand.

But at some point, one side will budge.

And so we wait.

Trail Blazers better be ready to take advantage of early season schedule

Trail Blazers better be ready to take advantage of early season schedule

The Trail Blazer schedule is out and I would say it's certainly not the most favorable the team has received over the years.

Normally, the custom is that if you open the season on the road it's for only one game -- two at the most. Usually, that was to protect teams' home openers. If a team had a tough start on the road -- say it came home 0-4 or 0-5 from a trip that opened the season -- it would certainly take some luster off opening night at home.

The Trail Blazers open with three straight road games, two of them outside the Western Conference. And while I would expect the games at Phoenix and Indiana are immanently winnable. the one at Milwaukee is going to be difficult.

But then, of course, Portland comes home to play 10 of its next 11 games in Moda Center -- with many of those games against teams not figured as playoff teams. The caliber of opposition in the first month and a half of the season, in fact, is for the most part, not strong. The Trail Blazers should be off to an impressive record at the opening of the season and with a young team, that's always important. If Portland comes out of the exhibition season healthy and ready, there's a real chance of impressive early season success.

There is no doubt that playing well early is mandatory because the schedule gets tougher from there. At some point, you have to start playing the powers of the Western Conference.

And then there's the end of the season. I don't think there was any doubt that the Trail Blazers profited from their season-ending schedule last year, when 10 of the final 12 games were at home, including seven of the final eight. Well, if that was the case, you then have to say that the end of this season is going to be much more difficult.

Portland has seven of its last 10 and four of its final five on the road. Against the likes of Houston, San Antonio and Denver. I think it would be better if some of those early home games were saved for the end of the season.

Now while there is always the possibility that some of the league's best teams will have playoff seeding already wrapped up and will be resting players, I don't think ending a season primarily on the road is a good thing. Obviously.

In fact, I don't consider this schedule very favorable. But so what?

You play the schedule they give you and if you're good enough, it really doesn't matter. And this season, that means opening the season ready to go at a high level.

 

Josh Rosen: You think college athletes have it tougher than the rest of the student body?

Josh Rosen: You think college athletes have it tougher than the rest of the student body?

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen made headlines this week with some remarks he made about academics and football -- and how they don't mesh very well. He got a lot of attention for an off-hand thought he had about raising the SAT requirements to get into Alabama but that statement was taken out of context.

But I have a problem with some of the other things he said, which to me came off as naive or insensitive about others trying to get through college without the benefit of a football scholarship:

Look, football and school don't go together. They just don't. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they're here because this is the path to the NFL. There's no other way.

No one in their right mind should have a football player's schedule, and go to school. It's not that some players shouldn't be in school; it's just that universities should help them more—instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible.

Any time any player puts into school will take away from the time they could put into football. They don't realize that they're getting screwed until it's too late. You have a bunch of people at the universities who are supposed to help you out, and they're more interested in helping you stay eligible. At some point, universities have to do more to prepare players for university life and help them succeed beyond football. There's so much money being made in this sport. It's a crime to not do everything you can to help the people who are making it for those who are spending it.

Pardon me if I'm not feeling all that sorry for these guys. I worked my way through school. So did my brother. And we had it easy. We had parents in a position to give us a little help. But what about that single mom with two kids working in a restaurant or clothing store trying to get through college? What about that young guy working eight hours of construction all day and then trying to put together enough night-school hours to get a degree? Or how about the kid who isn't working now but will be grinding for the next 20 years paying off that $100,000 student loan?

And those people aren't getting the "help" (tutors, advisers, etc..) that those football players are getting.

I understand the whole idea of big-time college sports generating a lot of revenue that never trickles down to the players. But I also see a whole lot of athletes -- including the ones who are in college ONLY as a path to the pros -- who place no value whatsoever on that college education. The athletes are often the rare ones leaving school without major unpaid loans hanging over their heads.

Let's talk about UCLA, where Rosen goes.

It's estimated that the cost of attending UCLA for just one year -- for a California resident -- is $34,056. For a non-resident it's $60,738. PER YEAR. So please, spare me all the talk about athletes not being paid for their athletic participation. They are being given something of great value, whether they realize it or not. Do they have to work for their scholarships? Of course, but maybe no longer or no harder than you or me or, more appropriately, our children did at jobs not quite as glamorous as playing college football or basketball.

There's nobody there to give you a standing ovation when you leave that janitor job every night on the way to night school. And certainly you're never going to be the Big Man (or Woman) On Campus -- with all the perks that go with it -- while slinging bento at a local food cart.

Spare me, Mr. Rosen. You and your teammates don't really have it so tough.

Yes, you worry about your kids playing football... but are you worried YOU may have CTE?

Yes, you worry about your kids playing football... but are you worried YOU may have CTE?

You've heard about this study by now. If you ever played NFL football, there's a real good chance you're suffering or WILL suffer, the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). They studied the brains of 111 former NFL players and 110 of them showed signs of it. And that study included a punter and a placekicker.

Everyone is talking about whether they'd allow their children to play football, in light of this very chilling data. I must say, I wouldn't. For me, it isn't even worth a second thought. No way. Stick to baseball or basketball. Broken bones heal but broken brains don't.

In fact, I must say that even watching the sport bothers me a lot. Are we watching brains being sliced and diced for our personal entertainment?

And what I'm wondering today is how many former football players -- the ones who didn't make it to the NFL and played only in high school or college -- are worried about brain damage? And oh, by the way, it's a condition that can't be diagnosed until death. You probably wouldn't know you had it until the scary symptoms start to appear.

It's very clear that anybody who ever played the game at any level has a real chance of having the condition.

This study showed that 21 percent of those who played high school football had evidence of CTE and a whopping 91 percent of college players did. Now the flaw in those statistics is the brains that were studied could be much more likely to show evidence of CTE because they likely belonged to people who showed symptoms -- and that's why they were contributed to the study.

But still... This is some very depressing data and I can't even imagine what former college football players might be thinking right now:

Do I have CTE? Will I have CTE? Will I be rational enough even to recognize I have it?

Blazers: Crabbe deal is a gain... but is another trade on the way?

Blazers: Crabbe deal is a gain... but is another trade on the way?

According to ESPN, the Trail Blazers have traded Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn for forward Andrew Nicholson, then plan to waive Nicholson and will stretch Nicholson's contract.

The move lowers Portland's luxury tax bill by about $44 million, according to sources, and creates a $12.9 million trade exception that will be available for one year.

But the money side of this is only half the story. Portland parts ways with Crabbe and I can't say that's a bad move.

To me, Crabbe was the epitome of a good shooter but not a good player. For the most part, he disappeared in key times, had trouble defensively and was not a good passer. His contract was too large and it's ironic Portland traded him to the team that gave him that deal in the first place.

I believe this trade is a precursor to some other move or moves. The Blazers now have more flexibility. As I said earlier today, I still do not see any three-way deal with Houston on the horizon. Whatever is going on doesn't have anything to do with that proposed trade.

 

Can we please just forget all about that Melo/Ryan Anderson deal? It's dead

Can we please just forget all about that Melo/Ryan Anderson deal? It's dead

OK, enough is enough. Social media not only breaks stories but it perpetuates them. Ad nauseam.

Such is the case with that three-team-trade rumor that would have sent Carmelo Anthony to Houston and Ryan Anderson to Portland, among other things. It's still a topic of conversation on Twitter and elsewhere even though it's very clear that the whole thing is dead.

I've said this from the beginning -- I don't think Portland was interested in adding Anderson to its roster and I'm real certain the Trail Blazers didn't want any part of his nasty contract. And then when it became known that Portland wanted Anthony and wasn't interested in helping Houston get better, that should have ended the discussion.

Read this one more time -- the Trail Blazers are NOT interested in helping the Rockets get better. It would make sense that Neil Olshey has no interest in being the guy who helped the Rockets get to the Western Conference finals. And I don't think that's something he's going to change his mind about.

I still think Portland will make some sort of deal prior to training camp. Seems to me that moving the decision date on Pat Connaughton's contract option was a signal that there is still an opportunity for something to happen. The Trail Blazers still have a chance to use Connaughton in a deal, perhaps, or pick up his option and keep him after roster space is cleared by some other trade.

But until something else happens, can we just put the whole Houston/Ryan Anderson thing to rest?

It's over.

Hops took a backward path to their latest division championship

Hops took a backward path to their latest division championship

The Hillsboro Hops needed to win a home game either Saturday or Sunday night against Spokane to wrap up their first-half division championship. But they couldn't get a victory on either night.

Yet, the Hops are celebrating the division championship, anyway, because the Tri-City Dust Devils stepped up and knocked off the Eugene Emeralds for them each night, ensuring the Hillsboro one-game lead in the division would stand up.

Here's what that sounded like Sunday night.

It's called backing in to the playoffs. But seriously, congratulations to the Hops -- who have made a recent habit of appearing in the Northwest League playoffs.

And backing in is still being in. It's a high-quality organization that deserves all the success it gets.

 

Kyrie Irving's demands are taking disloyalty to an obscene new level

Kyrie Irving's demands are taking disloyalty to an obscene new level

I don't know about you, but I'm seeing something in the NBA right now that could become a real problem for me.

For years, discontented players have asked to be traded. Usually they do it privately and not in the media. You never hear about it most of the time that it happens.

First, let's get this straight right now -- I have nothing against free agency. I grew up in an era when players where chained to the same team for life, even if they never got a chance to play much. They had no options. They had to play for the team that "owned" them, or go home.

So now free agency has brought a lot of player movement and it usually favors the rich franchises, the more glamorous cities or the places where the sun shines the most frequently. But I never get too worked up over that. It's the way it is in any business. People want to work for successful companies alongside talented co-workers in great cities.

I wasn't upset when Kevin Durant chose Golden State or LeBron James picked Miami. Or Cleveland. It was their right. The fulfilled their contract and won the right to choose a new team.

But what's bugging me now is a player under contract who is acting as if he is a free agent. He is not only demanding a trade, he is trying to dictate where he should be dealt. I don't like any of that.

Kyrie Irving is that guy. He has three seasons -- the last one being an opt-out year -- left on his contract with Cleveland and has told the Cavs he wishes to be traded. And not only that, he's given the team three "preferred destinations." Now keep in mind, this isn't Carmelo Anthony, who has basically been run out of town by Phil Jackson and has it written into his current contract with the Knicks that he has the right to approve any trades.

What gives Irving the right to expect to just trade his uniform in for another one? Well, nothing. Except NBA players these days are being catered to, fawned over and recruited the same way they were in their high school days, when they played AAU basketball. And we are starting to see the signs that they are beginning to think they can simply go where they want, sign up to play with their pals or create a super team on a whim.

And face it, in many cases some of the top players are basically running their franchise. LeBron James complains in Cleveland that he doesn't get enough help to beat the Warriors but come on -- LeBron has been the de facto General Manager of that team since he returned. He's been behind a good many of that team's trades and free-agent signings, as he assembled a roster of friends and players he knew would defer to him. Now that it isn't working to his satisfaction, he wants a do-over. Or to go someplace else.

If we're talking about recruiting free agents or even Anthony -- who has the no-trade clause that he could modify for any team chasing him -- that's fair game. But players already under contract who first demand a trade and then try to pick the team they go to?

No way.

First off, you sign a deal for $20 million a season as Irving did, you keep your mouth shut and play. Play it out. Then you become a free agent and can go wherever you want. But don't attempt to hold a team for ransom that has signed you in good faith. Be a person of integrity and honor your deal.

And trying to pick the team you're traded to after demanding a trade while under contract? That's what's adding insult to injury.

The Cavs should find out where he'd least like to go and send him there. If the league gets to the point when contracts mean nothing and players can merely quit on their current team and demand a trade to a specific team of their choice, that's when I will quit paying attention.

There is enough player movement as it is, with free agency. And giving up on your current team is not only unseemly, it takes disloyalty to an obscene level.