It’s hard to consider, in an era where the Milwaukee Bucks can be sold for half a billion dollars and the Los Angeles Clippers can fetch a $2 billion asking price even with absolutely no leverage on their side, but we’re not that far removed from NBA teams doing everything they can to pinch every penny. The lackluster world economy in 2003 had quite a bit to do with it, but even a Finals-contending New Jersey Nets team wasn’t above selling draft picks over a decade ago just to pay for a Summer League inclusion and soon-to-be-outmoded office equipment.
Former Nets general manager Rod Thorn relayed as much in a Grantland feature fixated on Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver, who was selected by the Nets just 11 years ago and dealt to Philadelphia so that the Nets’ front office could tidy up their finances. From Zach Lowe’s report:
With none of their preferred choices on the board, the Nets brass selected Creighton forward Kyle Korver with the 51st pick — and immediately sold his draft rights to the Sixers for $125,000. That covered summer league. With the leftover cash, the Nets bought a new copy machine.
The Nets were past the era of the Secaucus Seven counting every bit of scratch, but even following two straight Finals runs the recently-deceased former owner Lewis Katz still didn’t want to bother with Korver in the face of six figurers’ worth of cash. With Paccelis Morlende and Remon Van de Hare sandwiching Korver with the 50th and 52nd picks, it’s understandable that the Nets thought Korver expendable.
Even if, bloody hell, he would have been fantastic next to Jason Kidd on the Nets.
As Lowe points out, Korver blossomed in Philadelphia, initially finding success alongside Allen Iverson by making himself available for the easy pass in transition. Korver’s career also straddled the line between the modern NBA, and the thankfully-passed days of yore when Larry Brown and Doug Collins-types talked up 18-footers like they were worth 10 points a pop. From his feature:
It’s a telling contrast with Korver’s first season in Philly, when Randy Ayers, the team’s head coach, pushed Korver away from the 3-point arc. Ayers wanted his rookie to develop a midrange game and attack the basket before launching triples.
p>That changed when Philly fired Ayers and hired Jim O’Brien, late of the Celtics, before Korver’s second season in 2004-05. In the team’s very first practice, Allen Iverson ran a two-on-one fast break with Korver filling the wing. Iverson dished to Korver behind the 3-point arc. Korver took two dribbles, nailed a 17-footer, and waited for the applause.
O’Brien was livid. He screamed for Korver to look down at the 3-point line. O’Brien told him that if Korver ever passed up another open 3-pointer, he would remove him from the game. Korver remembers one thought flying through his head during O’Brien’s tirade: This is awesome.
Thankfully for Korver, he missed both Brown and Collins’ tenures in Philadelphia, finding success with the Sixers, the Utah Jazz, the Chicago Bulls and currently the Atlanta Hawks. Korver led the league in True Shooting Percentage last season while hitting an astounding 47 percent behind the three-point arc. That figure nearly matches the 48 percent mark that Korver hit during his final season in Creighton, working off of a shorter three-point line some 11 years ago.
As Lowe explains, Korver’s game has developed as the league grew up around him. To these eyes, he remains an underrated defender, and his ability to draw the defense and make the extra pass reminds of Reggie Miller’s semi-career resurgence in the early part of the last decade. Korver is much more than a specialist, even as he works his way into his mid-30s.
That still doesn’t take away from the mind-boggling fact that outfits in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Utah and especially Chicago all let Korver go merely to save money. The Jazz thought him redundant with rookie Gordon Hayward (who shot 30 percent on three-pointers last season and will make nearly $8.5 million more than Korver next season) on board. Philly dealt him for an expiring deal, and the Bulls declined to make an offer for Korver in 2012 after gaining the excuse to go cheap after Derrick Rose’s injury.
He’s highly valued in Atlanta, where he’s actually taking fewer three-pointers per minute than in his rookie season, but working expertly in the Hawks’ space-laden system. Korver turned 33 toward the end of 2013-14, but his game features to age well.
Even over a decade after his draft night, there’s just nobody like him. You can’t copy a guy like Kyle Korver.
(Sorry about that last line.)
- - - - - - -