SMALL-MARKET WOES: Last night, Kemba Walker made his first visit to Charlotte as an opposing player, suiting up for the Boston Celtics. The Hornets ran a lovely video package honoring their former All-Star, one that made Walker visibly emotional before the game. Walker, prior to the contest, said that he still watches every Hornets game and following the final buzzer, he stopped to dap up every single one of his old teammates. Clearly, there’s still a lot of love there.
Which makes one wonder: If the Hornets had offered Walker the full super-max contract he was eligible for, would he have stayed in Charlotte? That, in turn, brings us to an even larger point, that despite changes made to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it’s still extremely difficult for small markets to hold onto their stars. Kemba Walker was just the latest example of that.
The new super-max contract, which was supposed to help small market teams keep their best talents by giving them the ability to offer their homegrown guys exponentially bigger contracts than the competition, has not worked out the way the league thought it would. In fact, it almost seems like most small-market teams placed in that situation over recent years have actively avoided offering up that type of deal. And why is that? The answer is complicated, but most often, the issue is that small-market owners simply don’t have the same type of wealth that those in the bigger markets possess, so for them, being forced to pay the luxury tax is a fantastic burden, while the major brands in the Association don’t mind footing that type of bill if they have to.
If the NBA actually cares about giving their smaller markets a chance when it comes to keeping their superstars and leveling the playing field, they’re going to have to get creative, because the super-max contract isn’t working the way it was supposed to.
KAWHI’S HEALTH: The Athletic’s Sam Amick, following the outcry over Kawhi Leonard’s load management, is reporting that the Clippers legitimately believe the superstar small forward is not fully healthy, and that his status demands the management of his minutes.
💰 The NBA agrees, too, because yesterday, they fined the Clippers $50,000, not for sitting Kawhi, but rather over Doc Rivers telling the media that Leonard feels great when he’s actually carrying an injury.
OTHER SUPERSTAR’S LOAD MANAGEMENT: On the same subject, there are times when the Bucks want to rest Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Greek superstar either refuses or tries to talk them out of it. It’s an admirable attitude to have towards playing but at the same time, hopefully Antetokounmpo is taking care of himself the right way.
BLAZERS EYEING TRADES? ESPN executive Brian Windhorst went on The Jump and talked about the Blazers being an active team on the trade market as the season goes on. Makes sense as Portland currently sits at 3-5 and may very well have hit their ceiling with their roster as currently constructed.
WANNA GO FAST: The Pelicans’ goal this season was to lead the league in pace. We researched the topic to see how they’re doing in that regard.
INGRAMS OPENS UP: Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, currently enjoying a career year, opens up to The Athletic about a variety of topics, including his mental health coming off such an intense injury, and how it’s helping him excel now.
ALL-STAR TO MISS ACTION: Ben Simmons’ bum shoulder is going to keep him out for at least three games. It’s a Grade-1 sprain.
BLAKE RETURN SOON? Pistons All-Star Blake Griffin has been cleared for participation in all basketball-related activities. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him play this weekend.
HELPFUL ROSTER TOOL: Did you know Rich Paul has the record for most clients in one NBA team with four playing on the Lakers? Now you know. More roster details here, where you can find every full NBA roster on one page, with interesting facts included for each.
ZION SPEAKS: Super rookie Zion Williamson spoke to the media for the first time since his injury yesterday. He mentioned that he feels stronger every day, but his head coach says here’s still no timetable for his return. Mid-December seems to be the target date.
STRONG RELATIONSHIP: Monty Williams hasn’t been the Suns head coach for long, but he has them playing at a higher level than they have in years. Devin Booker gives him a ton of credit for the team’s turnaround in speaking to The Undefeated.
HATERS GALORE: According to Twitter data gathered by Sportsinsider, the Lakers are the most-hated NBA team this season. Hilariously, the most-hated team in California? The Clippers. FWIW: Kyle Kuzma is unbothered by the online hate.
IMPORTANT RESEARCH: A dude on Reddit found a significant negative correlation between James Harden’s performances and cities with the highest-rated strip clubs. Go figure.
NEW PODCAST: Our own Alex Kennedy is joined by well-regarded basketball trainer Drew Hanlen to discuss his offseason work with various NBA stars.
SALARY QUIZ: WHO’S THIS NBA PLAYER? 🤔
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