Trans. Sep 3 10:28 ET (Sep 3 10:28 ET ) What seemed like a frightening inevitability earlier in 2014 , thankfully, never came to fruition. The Los Angeles Lakers have let the stretch provision deadline pass on Steve Nash’s contract, ensuring that the future Hall of Famer will not have to retire in the face of having to relocate his family in order to join another NBA team. The Lakers did not announce the non-move so as not to embarrass either party, the team merely let the deadline pass over the weekend. Nash is owed $9.7 million in the final year of a sign-and-trade deal he agreed to in the summer of 2012, and he’s missed 99 out of a possibly 164 games as a Los Angeles Laker, suffering from a variety of crippling leg, back and nerve issues. When it became apparent that the Lakers interest in the provision was a reality, Nash discussed the possibilities in a borderline-harrowing (as far as sports go) video from last winter : The summation was simple. If the Lakers waived Nash, he would be loath to pack up his family and suit up for another team. Though Nash wanted to play in 2014-15, a release from the Lakers would effectively force him into retirement. And though the last two years have been tough, nobody wants to see that. Save for some Laker fans, of course, that wanted Nash’s contract completely off the books (a retirement would allow for that) as the team attempted to rebuild around Kobe Bryant’s whopper of a contract . Using the stretch provision would act as an unholy compromise of the two, as the Lakers would be on the books for Nash’s guaranteed money, but they’d be allowed to divide his deal into three yearly parts, saving the team nearly $6.5 million in potential cap space for the free agent summer of 2014. Late in 2013-14, however, it became apparent that the Lakers were leaning toward keeping Nash and his contract for this season, effectively taking them out of the free agent race before it even began . With Bryant’s contract, various cap holds, Kobe’s long-stated preference that Pau Gasol be offered a contract to remain in Los Angeles (one he eventually turned down), and a high end lottery pick salary slated to be on the books alongside Nash, the Lakers were never really players in the market. When July came and went and the Lakers were left with a re-signed Nick Young and Carlos Boozer to their, um, credit , that assumption played out in reality. The Lakers were never really going to be major players this summer, though, they knew as much the minute Kobe Bryant put pen to paper. What is certain is that, even with Bryant on board for what is likely one final season in 2015-16, the team will have cap flexibility moving forward in the 2015 and 2016 offseasons, and even a reduced portion of Nash’s stretched-out salary (just over $3.23 million) could still get in the way of another shot at attempting to sign help. This is why Nash is around for one more year . The Lakers are still paying the sins for the 2012 offseason, one that had the rest of the NBA red with anger as they acquired Dwight Howard and put together an on-paper backcourt for the ages. They’re also paying, literally, for the basketball sin of choosing personal over pragmatic reasons in extending Bryant to such an outsized rate. Their money, not ours. Nash was always going to get his money, and now he’ll get one last chance at going out on his terms. If anything, we should be thanking the Lakers for that. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
The Scoop:The Lakers could have waived Nash and stretched his $9.7 million salary over three years, but they opted to pair him with Jeremy Lin at PG. Nash is reportedly "pain-free" after battling chronic nerve damage last season, but at 40 years old he remains an extreme injury risk for fantasy owners.
Kobe Bryant will never be traded. Never be traded again , we mean, as our grandparents will tell us tale of the Charlotte Hornets dealing a 17-year old Kobester for something called a “Vlade Divac” just hours after he was drafted in the summer of 1996, but Bryant will not be traded again. Not only does he have a no-trade clause that he’d have to waive in any such maneuver, but the Los Angeles Lakers kind of like their arena the way it is. Full of fans and not under constant threat of siege by Laker Nation. They also kind of like Kobe, and for good reason. He’s been an integral part of five championships, he’s been a proud Laker and compelling television watch, and despite some backhanded free agent visits in 2004 and 2007 trade demands, his relationship with the team’s front office and ownership has been relatively calm. He’ll be well compensated – at $23.5 million this season and $25 million the next – to finish his career as a Laker, even if the team is more or less out of playoff contention in the loaded Western conference. Still … what if the team attempted to trade Bryant, and what if Kobe complied? It’s August, so we’re allowed to wonder about such things. Would any team deal for Bryant? “Nah,” says the NBA. “Nah.” From Chris Ballard’s fantastic Sports Illustrated profile on the legend : His confidence is as admirable as it is predictable. And yet on paper the Lakers look an awful lot like a lottery team that is overly reliant on one aging star. There is not much hope on the horizon, either. Seven months after he ruptured his left Achilles tendon—and three weeks before he fractured his left kneecap—Bryant signed a $48.5 million, two-year deal. The contract, widely derided as the worst in the game, makes Bryant nearly impossible to move, even were the Lakers to try. Asked about Kobe’s value on the market, one GM answers definitively: “Zero. Look at that number. Who takes him?” This is by design, of course. It ensures that Bryant accomplishes something very few pro athletes have: playing an entire career with one team. Bryant’s plan is to retire in two years, though he says he reserves the right to change his mind. Thus one of the game’s greatest players and one of its two fiercest competitors—Michael Jordan being the other—will likely exit the league laboring for an undermanned squad in a stacked conference. It seems wrong. Never the type for farewell tours, Bryant bristles at the idea of parading from arena to arena, receiving parting gifts and teary-eyed salutes. “No, no, no, no, I’m good,” he says, waving his hands. “If you booed me for 18, 19 years, boo me for the 20th. That’s the game, man.” That’s the borderline psychotic [stuff] that has kept Kobe Bryant going for years. Nobody, outside of Sacramento, Portland, Utah and (rightfully) Denver outright boos Kobe. There are bandwagon Laker freaks in every city, though the numbers on that bandwagon have dimmed a bit since the Lakers’ last championship in 2010 – I wonder which version of Cavalier jersey they bought this summer? If anything, Kobe doesn’t want the free motorcycle or specialized plaque before a road game because he wants to glare at whatever half-baked free agent Mitch Kupchak is able to sign in the summer of 2015 during the pregame huddle. The idea of a Jordan comparison? The undermanned squad? The undignified entrance? Yeah, it’s all there. Jordan was playing for a million a year in his final two seasons with Washington, with all of that money going to charity , so the financials don’t exactly line up. What does (sadly) align well is the idea that Bryant and Jordan’s winter years – with all the locker room bluster, in-practice shoutfests, and pump-faking attempts at ending it right – will end in a blaze of mediocrity. Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers, in something that seemed like the right idea at the time, pushed all of their chips into the table during the summer of 2012 as it dealt draft picks and cap space away for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Then, in realizing that no real 20-something free agent star was probably going to pair with Kobe (after all, Howard just left millions on the table to play with James freakin’ Harden), the team decided that the next few seasons were going to act as one highly paid farewell tour. Even if Kobe doesn’t want the halftime ceremony, and prefers the boos to anything else. Los Angeles, if this were 2005, has some assets in place. In the form of Jordan Hill, Steve Nash, and Jeremy Lin, the team has over $21.2 million expiring contracts to work with in trades during this upcoming season. Hill is technically a team option for 2015-16, and as such he’d have to agree to a trade, but why wouldn’t he agree to a deal that would send him to a contending team that could use his services beyond this wasted season? On top of that, while Hill has his faults, if he blossoms in a Mike D’Antoni-less system, he may very well be worth the $9 million (in that team option) he can make in 2015-16. Lin’s technical (non-salary cap) $15 million payout will be mostly picked up by the Lakers by February, which could make him more attractive. A deal involving Nash would be borderline cruel, but that’s how this business works sometimes. The Lakers could (kinda, maybe) put something together for 2015-16 or beyond. They probably won’t be able to, though. Expiring contracts aren’t worth nearly as much anymore, and with Kevin Love (wink wink, under the table under the table) likely already sticking with Cleveland beyond 2015 , the pickings aren’t great. The Lakers may have received a first-rounder from Houston in the Lin deal, but if certain won/loss record aspects build up against them they may not be able to trade their own first-round pick until 2020. There’s not a lot here. Outside of Bryant. And nobody wants Kobe, at least at that price. Kobe Bryant should be fine, in his final two seasons. The leg fracture from last year is a worry, there isn’t much NBA precedent for incurring or returning from that injury, but even if the Achilles tear mixes with age to render him 80 percent of what he was in the spring of 2013 (a reasonable expectation), he’ll still be pretty darn good. His team can’t expect to be, that roster is just too miserable defensively (Nash, Boozer, Kobe, no center, Nick Young) to rely on anything consistent to come to fruition. No, what the Lakers have signed up for is the Kobe Bryant Farewell Show. With options, of course, in the form of those expiring deals and cap room next summer. By and large, though, this is an entertainment division with a general manager that realized that his back was up against it, paying Kobe money from 2014 through 2016 to augment what he should have made years ago in the NBA’s private and collectively bargained league. Bryant understands as much, regarding the supposed “maximum” salaries of superstars : Bryant believes that players like himself and LeBron James are underpaid, compared to what they would be worth on the free market (he told friends he thinks James would be worth roughly $75 million on an open market). With his last contract, he felt it was important to demonstrate to younger players that you should never take less than you’re worth. When I asked if he was taking a stand of sorts, this was his response: “If you’re talking just from a business perspective, yeah,” Bryant said. “Because the NBA is a obviously a big business and teams generate a lot of revenue, and even more because of the new contracts they have in place since the last lockout.” Similarly, Bryant bristles at the idea that NBA players should accept less than fair value in order to have a better chance of winning. “As athletes, especially as public figures, you get the pressure of playing for the love of the game, they always throw that around all the time,” said Bryant. “Of course you play for the love of the game! But do owners buy teams for the love of the game?” Bryant i
The NBA regular season schedule came out Wednesday, all 1,230 games. Even with live streaming and an empty DVR ready to be filled up, I’m not going to watch all of them. Nobody will watch all of them. That said, there are some great games coming up. Homecomings and rivalries, plus just matchups of great basketball teams. You can’t watch them all but there are some you can’t miss. Here are my 10 can’t miss games of the NBA season. Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 28 There are sub-plots to watch here, Jeremy Lin playing against his old team and Dwight Howard getting booed again by Lakers fans… but that’s not why any of us will be watching. Kobe Bryant will be back on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers and any time he steps on the court we watch. Right now we will be watching because we’re not sure what Kobe we will see, how much he has left in the tank, but we will watch. He is one of the all-time greats. Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls, Oct. 31 You could argue that the first games for these teams are bigger — LeBron James ’ first game at home in Cleveland, Derrick Rose ’s return to the NBA comes in Madison Square Garden — but this is the first of four meetings between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference (on paper) and that is worth seeing. Cleveland has more talent but the Bulls have an identity and players that fit it. To be fair, this game will not mean much if/when these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it’s our first glimpse into what could be one of the best rivalries of the next five years in the NBA. Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs, Nov. 19 LeBron’s last team got smoked by Tim Duncan , Tony Parker , Kawhi Leonard and the gang in San Antonio, so LeBron went out and got some new teammates like Kyrie Irving and soon Kevin Love . This should be interesting, although the Spurs will play their same system and know exactly how to execute it while it’s going to take the Cavaliers some time to figure it out. Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves, Nov. 26 Once the Kevin Love trade goes down (and it will), this game becomes the first between No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker . Both rookies are in situations where they should get a lot of minutes and plenty of touches. Both are going to get the chance to grow in the spotlight Cavaliers at Thunder at Oklahoma City, Dec. 11 LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant . The two best players on the planet go head-to-head and the best part about these match ups is they often guard each other. It is a true head-to-head matchup. Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat, Dec. 25 LeBron returns to Miami for the first time in a Cavs uniform (this time around, anyway). You can expect he will get a warmer reception than the vitriol thrown at him four years ago when LeBron in a Heat uniform came to play the Cavaliers. Now all of that is forgotten. Miami is going to be a pretty good team and one that wants to keep playing the space and pace offense. We’ll see how LeBron does against it. Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers, December 25 This is the game to watch on your new 60-inch smart TV you just got for Christmas. This if the final of five games on the Christmas Day slate and it should be a very entertaining one. There will be lobs, dunks and rainbow threes. Stephen Curry vs Chris Paul . David Lee vs. Blake Griffin . Klay Thompson vs. J.J. Redick . This is the game Santa is bringing die hard NBA fans. Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves, Jan. 31 Kevin Love returns home to Minnesota. It will be interesting to see how he is received — it won’t be exactly with open arms and a dozen roses, but I doubt the booing will last all game, either. Also in this game, Andrew Wiggins gets a shot at LeBron. Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs, March 25 Well done by the schedule makers putting these two teams against each other a couple times late in the season (they also face off April 7). These might be your two favorites to win the NBA title (not what the bookmakers say, the actual favorites), they were the two best teams in basketball at the end of last season. The interesting question is who Gregg Popovich sits for both of these games. Los Angeles Lakers at Toronto Raptors, March 27 I just hope Steve Nash can play one last game in Canada. Nash is one of the great point guards of all time and the best Canadian player ever, I hope his body lets him play one last game in his home country. -- Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk.com
Even for the most lionhearted of opposing NBA big men, the sight of Shaquille O'Neal barreling his way to the basket was a scary one, but apparently being a teammate of Shaq's was even more frightening. In an interview with TrueHoop's Henry Abbott , former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry shared a tale of Shaq's passion for pranks, providing a mental image you'll wish you could scrub clean with a wire brush. "The thing that he did that he got to be notorious for is that, every few days or every week or so, he would decided that it was time for this Brazilian naked wrestling contest. You didn't know who the chosen one was, but what would happen when you least expect it, this 7-foot, 310-pound guy would turn the corner, and he would be stark naked and he would run right at you full speed, grab you, he would take you to the floor and then he would do about five rollovers with you. And he would always tell our trainers who it was going to be, so they were always prepared for it, but you never knew who it was going to be." As if a "stark naked" Shaq charging full speed at you isn't terrifying enough, consider O'Neal is also a trained MMA fighter in boxing, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and wrestling. Oh, and remember that the famed Suns training staff made Shaq all the more limber. No thanks. But while this might seem strange to the average Joe, few things that happen in NBA locker rooms would ever occur in your cubicle (a reality that makes Mark Jackson's alleged " not in my locker room " comment about Jason Collins all the more ridiculous). Alvin Gentry counts himself among Shaq's victims — even joking, "I had to go to therapy quite a bit after that" — so it's safe to assume nobody on those 2008 and '09 Suns squad was off limits, including Amar'e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Boris Diaw and Goran Dragic. This story — as relayed by The Arizona Republic this past December — seems even more ominous. It was April 2008. Imagine the Suns environment after a crushing Game 1 loss at San Antonio when Tim Duncan made a game-tying overtime 3-pointer to spur his team to victory. There was an awkward discomfort about the off days in San Antonio and a sense that an ashen Mike D’Antoni was coaching the team for a final time. Who knew just how much he was handling? It turns out O’Neal and Gordan Giricek, who had been with the Suns for all of six weeks, mixed it up verbally during a closed practice to the point that O’Neal auditioned for his WWE future. He put Giricek in a sleeper hold, except it was no fake. Giricek passed out. Giricek played in the remainder of the season, but it was his last NBA season. In a not-so-veiled shot at then Heat coach Pat Riley, Shaq also said somewhat ironically of the Suns in 2008, "I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys. We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again." Surely, Shaq found his naked wrestling matches funny — and Adam Sandler might've even enjoyed it — but somebody must've found this decidedly uncool, especially when it's happening "every few days" on a team that wildly underachieved and got coach Terry Porter fired midway through the season. In his interview, Abbott asks the appropriate follow-up question of Gentry, who as an assistant for the first 51 games and head coach for the final 31 was tasked with keeping the locker room under control. Currently a Warriors assistant under then Suns GM and now Golden State coach Steve Kerr, Gentry further joked of Shaq's beyond borderline harassment, "No one prevents Shaq from doing anything." Five years removed from Shaq's semi-regular naked wrestling bouts, Gentry can laugh about it, so there's no reason we can't, too. But let's not forget those Suns traded O'Neal to the Cavaliers following that 2008-09 season — right around the time Shaq was wrestling someone his own size on Monday Night Raw — and Gentry took Phoenix within two games of the NBA Finals the following year. (h/t SB Nation )