As the Philadelphia 76ers have floundered for the past two seasons — first accidentally (thanks, Andrew !) and then on purpose (thanks, Sam !) — a certain segment of NBA obsessives have wished for a better fate for Thaddeus Young. The long-tenured Philly forward — a perpetually underrated two-way player whose ability to handle multiple frontcourt assignments, contribute offensively without needing the ball in his hands and generally fill gaps — seemed tailor-made for a squad contending for something meaningful, as opposed to toiling on a team that forced us to reconsider the very definition of "meaningful" in the NBA. Well, he's not going to get that just yet, but at least he won't experience the literal inability to remember the last time his team won . (At least, we don't think he will.) After weeks of rumors and educated guessing, the firm reports came down Thursday, first from Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and then from Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski : Thad's heading to the Twin Cities. Young will join the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, guard Alexey Shved and a 2015 first-round draft pick. That pick originally belonged to the Miami Heat, who sent it to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2010 sign-and-trade that brought LeBron James' talents to South Florida. The Cavs will send it to Minnesota as part of the larger, more-ballyhooed and much-discussed Kevin Love-for-Andrew Wiggins deal expected to be finalized on Saturday; Minny will redirect it to the City of Brotherly Love once that goes down. The pick Philly's getting is protected through the top 10 in the 2015 and '16 drafts before becoming unprotected in 2017. (The Wolves will also receive a "trade exception believed to be worth at least $4 million," according to Zgoda .) We all understand the attraction for Philly at this point — they'll gladly take a draft pick Tuesday for an actual player today. (Photoshop idea: Sam Wimpy ? Nah, forget it.) As you've probably heard, the Sixers are in the business of being bad, young and inexpensive now while stockpiling as many future assets as possible, in the interest of making a grand worst-to-first-style turnaround in a few years' time. This wasn't always Philly's plan, though; in fact, the Sixers still owe a first-round pick thanks to the pre-Hinkie regime's 2012 draft-night trade with the Heat for Arnett Moultrie. (That hasn't worked out so hot .) Miami shipped that Philly pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the three-team deal that sent Jordan Crawford to the Golden State Warriors back in January , meaning Danny Ainge and company get the 76ers' selection if Philly makes the playoffs. (I know, I know, but bear with me.) Trading away the guy who led last year's "successful" 19-63 Sixers in minutes, points, rebounds and steals in exchange for a pair of players who couldn't stick in Rick Adelman's rotation ought to help lock down a lottery finish, no matter how good Nerlens Noel looks alongside reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. In the process, Philly snags a pick that could land higher than some expect if the retooled Heat stumble in acclimating to life after LeBron.
It’s an intelligent, age-old trick. Any time the whiff of criticism or even worry is in the air, you can attempt to devalue its presence by making a hyper-reach and devoid the issue of any context. NBA commissioner Adam Silver is a very smart man, and he recently did as much in discussing the issue of NBA player “sacrifice” in relation to the camp, exhibition, and FIBA World Cup commitments this summer. With Derrick Rose having been shelved due to body fatigue and Paul George already out for what should be the 2014-15 season after badly breaking his leg in a televised scrimmage, Silver addressed reporters on Thursday about growing fears and criticism that points toward what some have criticized as a needless tournament. Via Marc Stein at ESPN, here are Silver’s thoughts : "It is a big risk without enormous financial reward," Silver said when asked about a sentiment shared by outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during a "Commitment to Service" news conference to discuss a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense at Madison Square Garden. "But I am sitting next to our highest ranking military official," Silver said of General Martin Dempsey." I'm almost embarrassed to be talking about the risk that our players face compared to what our men and women in uniform face." Come on, guy. Mr. Adam Silver-guy. This is akin to Phoenix Suns management bringing up how comparatively little firefighters make in their negotiations with frustrated restricted free agent, because they’re the real heroes, y’know? Perhaps this is just an instance of Silver feeling ashamed in the moment , catching himself mid-answer and pointing out that, yes, it is silly to call Derrick Rose’s turn playing basketball under five-star settings “a sacrifice” with a decorated military official sitting a few feet away. If that’s the case, though, and you know these questions are coming? Don’t share the stage with a decorated military official, and don’t call your back and forth with reporters a “Commitment to Service’ news conference.” There’s a way out of such embarrassment. Silver went on to remind that Team USA’s band of brothers were a volunteer army … OK, he didn’t state it like that, I’m paraphrasing, but it is true that Rose, George and others want to be on this team, and they want to make this particular sacrifice because it’s still fun to play with great players and compete at a high level in August and September while ably representing your country. Silver also rightfully pointed out that American-born NBA players aren’t the only ones also competing in this tourney, as Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies fans were fearfully reminded of when Pau and Marc Gasol got into a skirmish in a “friendly” match between Spain and Ukraine on Thursday. Those other teams and players won’t feature coaches wearing polo shirts on national TV with a shoe company’s logo stretched out to the same length of the Team USA logo, prominently featured and inescapable. Those other teams aren’t providing the league’s highest-rated television partner (we love you, NBA TV, but your matinee Spain/Ukraine games don’t count) with content during the dregs of the summer. And those other teams, formidable though they may be, aren’t the ones promoting the NBA’s brand of ball overseas this summer. As it was in 1992 with the Dream Team, a move credited with enhancing both the sport and league’s popularity across the globe. That was the first thing Adam Silver brought up, as he should, when Mark Cuban criticized the NBA’s agreement with the International Olympic Committee, and FIBA : "The [International Olympic Committee] is playing the NBA. The IOC is an organization that has been rife with corruption, to the point where a member was accused of trying to fix an Olympic event in Salt Lake. The IOC [pulls in] billions of dollars. They make a killing and make Tony Soprano look like a saint. "The pros in multiple sports are smart enough to not play when they are eligible free agents. But teams take on huge financial risk so that the IOC committee members can line their pockets. "The greatest trick ever played was the IOC convincing the world that the Olympics were about patriotism and national pride instead of money. The players and owners should get together and create our own World Cup of Basketball." Cuban vacillates between talking up the good health and well being of NBA players and more typical revenue concerns of his – the NBA doesn’t get the same exposure (and actual cash) that the international bodies, that shoe company, ESPN and Duke University will take in, and Mark wants the league to set up its own tournament that sees the league taking in the actual profits. Oh, and, the whole thing about allowing teams to pull its players from any tourney for reasons that would go beyond the “reasonable medical concern”-tag that is already in place. That’s not going to happen any time soon, not with that shoe company, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Jerry Colangelo, and the IOC still lording over their sweetheart deal. Silver has mentioned twice this summer that the role of international play will be brought up in this November’s NBA Board of Governors meeting, but the tone and eventual impact of those discussions remains to be seen. Silver also relayed Larry Bird’s early-in-the-proceedings quote about Paul George’s injury on Wednesday evening, reminding us that these sorts of injuries can happen any time – whether it’s at an NBA practice facility with full staff managing the goings-on, a Team USA scrimmage, or Nick Young firing up 30-footers in some summertime tourney. Bird and Silver are right, and Silver was correct to point out that if players were going to practice and/or participate in any tournament at any point during the summer, the best choice would certainly be to do so in full view of the Team USA coaching and medical staff. We’ve been lucky, outside of George’s injury, that NBA seasons haven’t been plagued with players still smarting from a late summer stint on a national team. Manu Ginobili sprained his right (jumping) ankle during the 2002 World Championships and it stayed with him for the duration of his entire (championship) rookie year, but he wasn’t even a technical member of the San Antonio Spurs at the time. Playing international ball just about every summer for a decade gave Toni Kukoc a nasty case of plantar fasciitis in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, but that was a different era. There were a spate of player injuries to former Athens Olympics NBA athletes during the 2004-05 season that some writers attributed to their time spent in Greece, but the connection to those injuries and the Games was tangential at best. The most severe of which, Richard Jefferson’s season-ending wrist injury, occurred when he was undercut by Chauncey Billups near the basket. These things build up, though. Most can agree that the NBA’s regular season is too long, but few (not including myself, I kind of like watching LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki go at it twice a year) actually want the season shortened. It would be nicer if the NBA debuted its season earlier in October so as to allow for more time between games and a proper All-Star break , but the league seems pretty steadfast in not attempting to go up against the baseball playoffs. Good for TV rewards, to be sure, but maybe not as much for the league’s players – who are getting faster and stronger while being asked to do more and more. What LeBron is doing right now (four straight years in the Finals, a harried exhibition schedule, international play tossed in the 2012 offseason) is just about unprecedented, and though no medical licenses hang on our walls, and a faulty air conditioner was to blame, one couldn’t get away from thoughts about James’ workload as he sat on the sidelines with cramps in what at that time was the most important game of his NBA career. It’s a delicate, tricky situation. There is no direct line between international play and NBA athletes eventually breaking down; but that’s just as of the summer of 2014. International exposure is good and the NBA is far from at saturation point in that realm, but it’s not needed nearly as much as it was in 1992. Stars like Kevin Durant have the option to pull themselves out citing fatigue, but a move like that brings needless criticism – one national writer (whom I won’t link to, because it was a clickbait piece) that was hired by both the Associated Press and ESPN to be their lead NBA reporter at previous stops, bashed the 2014 MVP for in the writer’s estimation choosing endorsement possibilities over national pride. We don’t want basketball to stop. On Wednesday night I had to watch a rain-delayed baseball game and actually interact with my children, for heaven’s sake. This unholy but wonderful mix of emerging young talent, returning stars, and a player in Derrick Rose looking to start it all over again has been wonderful to behold, even with all those shoe company logos everywhere. Just one guy has been injured, and though the setback will turn an entire franchise (and fanbase) on its ear, that’s just still one guy in 22 years of the NBA encouraging its players to represent their country. The process by which we build these teams, though, needs a revisit. And Adam Silver can’t insult smart questions by hiding behind the cloak of those whose sacrifices were much greater as he ponders change. - - - - - - - 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
As the summer wears on, with training camps and preseason play still off in (what feels like) the distant future, we turn our attention to the past. Join us as we while away a few late-summer moments recalling some of the most scintillating slams of yesteryear, the most thunderous throwdowns ever to sear themselves into our memories. This is Dunk History . Today, Eric Freeman remembers Baron Davis's detonation on Andrei Kirilenko in the 2007 Western Conference semifinals. Some basketball teams gain a reputation as boom-bust outfits, squads that either fail spectacularly or win with impressive vitality. In many ways, the 2006-07 "We Believe" Golden State Warriors were a stereotypical boom-bust team, but this group was special, because their best moments went beyond merely impressive basketball and took on an air of outright invincibility. In their now legendary (in the circles I travel in, at least) first-round dismissal of the 67-win Dallas Mavericks, Don Nelson's team didn't just play with a confidence that belied their underdog status — they overwhelmed Dirk Nowitzki and Co., dictating the terms of the series to degrees we usually only associate with title contenders. Whether they just had a particularly favorable matchup or briefly reached a legitimate championship level is up for debate. At their best, these Warriors made onlookers know they were in control. Those who merely believed were late to the bandwagon. If the Mavs series served as the moment of ecstatic revelation, then the following conference semifinal against the Utah Jazz proved a test of that certainty. Two opening late-game losses in Salt Lake City put Golden State in a hole, although they had played well enough to win both and seemed in decent shape heading back to a presumed gargantuan home-court advantage at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Nevertheless, there was a sense that the Warriors had to show that they were still the team that inspired such passion against Dallas, that band of marauders who could sweep aside any opponent and take wins that hadn't previously appeared to belong to them. Game 3 rewarded those who had remained Warriors zealots. In a game that was essentially over by halftime, the Warriors made 15 3-pointers, forced 23 turnovers, and won 125-105. The crowning highlight was the play that has since eclipsed most other memories of the series — Baron Davis's dunk on Andrei Kirilenko. The most vicious acts of posterization carry a fundamental indecency. They endure not just because of great feats of athleticism, but because there is a sense that the dunker has sized up the dunkee and essentially robbed him of his pride and good name. I don't want to claim that Baron's dunk is especially more indecent than all others — the Dunk History series has and will feature plenty of contenders — but it must rank fairly high on the list. For one thing, it came at a point in the game when the Warriors' best players arguably shouldn't even have been on the floor. (Golden State's lead hadn't dipped below 15 points for more than 25 minutes of game time.) On another level, the physicality of the dunk itself involved Davis brushing aside Kirilenko, provoking a metaphor and making it literal simultaneously. A lot of players drop defenders to the floor with dunks, but Davis actually pushed Kirilenko in the face — I've heard plenty of claims that it should have been an offensive foul — as a (possibly unintentional) dismissal. Then, to top it all off, Davis raised his shirt to show he was wearing a girdle, or at least something that looked like one, which gave the whole play a vaguely self-deprecating but really quite arrogant comic showmanship. The dunk is impressive enough to excite anyone unfamiliar with the "We Believe" fervor or the specifics of Baron Davis's career. But it's pretty much impossible to appreciate it fully without those contexts, because the play had the characteristics of a climax even when it didn't look like a conclusion was coming within the next week. That was particularly the case for Davis, a stupendously talented point guard who had earned a reputation as a very good player who nonetheless looked unlikely to reach his incredible potential. At UCLA, Davis burst onto the seen as arguably the most athletic point guard of all time, tore his knee in the NCAA Tournament as a freshman, and returned as a sophomore with slightly less bounce but enough awe-inspiring ability achieve many of the amazing highlights in this clip (my favorite basketball mix on YouTube, incidentally). His NBA career up until 2006-07, his eighth season, was decidedly mixed, with enough high points to deem it a success but several criticisms, including the dreaded "coach killer" tag, doing enough to bar him from unquestioned stardom. The first few weeks of the 2007 postseason made it clear that the ideal Baron Davis had finally arrived, even if it wasn't entirely clear how long he would stay. Against the Mavericks, he was quite simply the best player of the first round, a do-everything point guard with enough talent, verve, and miraculous shot-making to make the Warriors' largely unwarranted confidence look prudent rather than arrogant. Even when the team lost, like in Game 2 against the Jazz, Davis was impressive enough to reward faith that he would carry his team to more victories. The dunk on Kirilenko was the clearest manifestation of his dominance, a statement of force in a game that was already a blowout. In the moment, it wasn't absurd to believe that Davis was capable of anything. He wasn't, obviously, because the Warriors lost the next two games in the series — including Game 4 in Oakland, a fairly shocking result given their play at home up until that point — and were eliminated from the playoffs. Whatever the "We Believe" team stood for was to be short-lived. If we take basketball history to be written by the victors, then they'll only ever occupy a few short paragraphs of the NBA chronicles. But more personal histories can tell us a great deal about the importance of specific events, and in that case the team meant a lot to anyone who wishes to see basketball pushed to its extremes. When Baron Davis dunked on Andrei Kirilenko, "We Believe" reached its apex. It's almost irrelevant that it didn't stay at that peak for more than a few days. A flash of brilliance can inspire more joy and awe than years of steady success. More from BDL's Dunk History series: • John Starks, the Chicago Bulls and 'The Dunk' • Tom Chambers rising like a Phoenix and taking orbit as a Sun • Taj Gibson starts the break, then breaks Dwyane Wade • Joakim Noah makes Paul Pierce a memory • Michael Jordan embarrasses, like, all of the Knicks • The joy of hearing Scottie Pippen posterize Patrick Ewing - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric