When everyone came up for air and surveyed the damage, both sides realized there was still a hell of a deal to make if they could get over themselves. Said one source close to the negotiations, “The biggest difference this time was David Griffin [the new Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations]. He wasn’t involved before. He could negotiate frankly and fairly.”
December 3, 2021 | 8:18 am EST Update
And Wall’s remaining money is significantly more than Walker’s was. For a Wall buyout to make any sense for the Rockets, Wall would likely have to give up even more than Walker did to the Thunder — and there’s next to no chance Wall could make that up in his next deal. At any rate, that hasn’t been seriously discussed by either side as a possibility. “It’s hard for him at this point in time, when your salary doesn’t equal what your production is,” a sympathetic front office person from another team said Wednesday. “That’s hard for him. It’s hard for a lot of guys.”
But executives around the league believe Wall as an unrestricted free agent would have suitors he’d never see if his current deal remains in place. One general manager volunteered the Kyrie Irving-less Nets, in a reserve role behind James Harden, or the Bucks as viable destinations. That is, if Wall were playing for the minimum. “He’s still really good,” another GM with no current need at point guard texted. “Just not at the number he currently makes.”
Execs don’t think Wall would make much sense on young squads. That obviously includes Houston, whose future is tied up in Green, the second pick in this year’s draft, and Porter Jr. But how many teams with guard needs are actually contenders? The number is less than 10, maybe less than five. But it’s not zero.
New Portland Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups questioned his team’s effort after a 114-83 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. The Blazers were without All-Star guard Damian Lillard but still put up little fight against a Spurs team which came into the contest six games below .500. “My biggest concern, I think, at the moment, is I want us to compete harder, man. I want us to compete harder,” Billups said. “I want us to be competitive in every game. And I don’t feel like every night we do that. We don’t. And it concerns me. And I’ve felt that way in a lot of our wins. This is not just after a loss, me saying this.”
“I’m still puzzled,” Wilkins said of his snub. “I remember Shaq telling me, ‘I didn’t deserve to be on this team before you. I was only in the league for a few years. I shouldn’t have been on it.’ I thought that was big of him to say that. I look at guys I competed with, and they know what I brought to the game. The biggest thing was guys like Shaq, Dr. J (Julius Erving), Jordan, Magic (Johnson) all said that it couldn’t be a 50 greatest list without me on it. That meant more to me than someone even selecting me because my peers knew what I brought. “I talked with Clyde Drexler recently, and he said, ‘Nique, you know how pissed we were when you weren’t on there? We knew what you did. You were a one-man wrecking crew and never had a great player to play with. All of us had other players.’ To hear stuff like that from great players, what more can I ask for?”
What gets lost in that story is despite Jordan going off for 61 points, the Hawks won. In the final seconds, Wilkins drained a jumper over Jordan to give the Hawks a lead. The Bulls had a chance to tie or go ahead on the final possession, but Wilkins stopped Jordan on the other end. “Last time I saw Mike I said, ‘Do you remember that happening?’ He goes, ‘I don’t recall it happening.’ I said, ‘Bullshit. Bullshit,’” Wilkins laughed. “Mike and I are good friends. We always respected each other. We lived to compete against each other. I played against a lot of great players, but one guy bought the most out of me, and that was playing against Michael. He’s going to bring it to you, and if you’re not ready to give it back, you already lost. “It was entertainment at the highest level. You’re playing against a killer who wants to win at any cost. Mike was a killer. He wanted to take your heart, but I had the same mentality. I wanted to take the heart of whoever was guarding me.”
Kemba Walker getting benched isn’t his problem, it’s his coach’s … so says Kenny “The Jet” Smith, who tells TMZ Sports the guard is a Ferrari and Tom Thibodeau doesn’t know how to drive it. The 31-year-old hooper was removed from the Knicks rotation earlier this week … as he’s been averaging career lows in almost every major category this season. Once backup Alec Burks came in and balled out with 23 points against the Hawks on Saturday, Thibs decided to pull Walker out of the starting lineup AND the rotation altogether.