Welcome to the Hype/Concern Index, a semiregular post capturing the NBA news and events to get hyped on or concerned about.
Concern: Damian Lillard Met With Team Owner Paul Allen
The Portland centerpiece met with Allen last Thursday to better understand the owner’s future plans for the franchise, according to ESPN. The timing adds up: Despite a recent three-game win streak, the Blazers have lost four of their past seven and are an underwhelming 25–22 overall, good for seventh in the Western Conference. (All-Stars are being announced, and he apparently hasn’t taken the past two snubs lightly, which means he’s in a mood.)
If the roster stays as is, the Blazers will continue to be what they have been under coach Terry Stotts (who is a perfectly good and defendable coach) — a team consistently above mediocre, but unable to enter the “serious contenders” conversation. The meeting seemed to be a long time coming: Lillard reportedly asked why Will Barton was dealt … in 2015.
The Blazers guard has never been one to settle: Last playoffs, he was vocal about his belief that Portland could beat the Warriors in Round 1, and early this season he argued with a beat reporter on Twitter who said the team will never have a chance at winning it all. The 27-year-old is also entering his prime, which probably explains the sense of urgency. If Lillard didn’t get the answers he was seeking from Allen, he could take it upon himself to find a contender.
Concern Meter: 8/10
Concern: The Wizards Held a Pointless Team Meeting
A little appetizer before we get to the meat of this Friday meeting:
John Wall: “We had our team meeting. A couple guys took it the negative way and it hurt our team. Instead of taking it in a positive way like we did in the past and using it to build our team up, it kind of set us back a little bit.”
Bradley Beal: “Not everybody got a chance to speak whenever they wanted to. […] Regardless of what may be going on, as men we’ve got to be able to accept what the next man says, be respectful about it and move on from it. […] Honestly, it was probably — I won’t say pointless, but we didn’t accomplish what we needed to accomplish in that meeting.”
OK, then! Head coach Scott Brooks said he never knew about the meeting, but that he “was not surprised it had gone poorly.”
Wall and Mavericks guard J.J. Barea exchanged words amid Dallas’s 98–75 win over the Wizards on Monday. After the fact, Barea — who, yes, likely has zero-to-very-little insight on his opponents — said, “I don’t like [Wall] at all now. But I don’t think his teammates like him, either. So it’s nothing new for him.”
It’s been an underwhelming season for the Wizards, who are 26–21 and fifth in the East. But Washington Post reporter Candace Buckner observed that the team seems to get along overall. If losses like the one in Dallas keep coming, the issue may extend beyond the locker room.
“Upstairs,” Wall said Sunday. “Front office got to figure it out.”
Concern Meter: 7/10
Concern: The Cavaliers Held an “Emotional” Team Meeting
Weren’t we already concerned about Cleveland, losers of nine of its past 12 games?
The Cavs held a meeting Monday that seemed to focus on Kevin Love. (At least they’re consistent.) According to ESPN, members of the team were not buying that the power forward turned center was actually ill when he left the Thunder game after three minutes played Saturday.
Love “defended his situation to teammates, coaches and management,” which (a) that’s a very large meeting, and (b) that’s an awfully specific point to focus on for a team that has gone through many recent blowout losses with Love in the game.
Concern Meter for the Cavs: 8.5/10
Concern Meter for Kevin Love, poor guy: 10/10
Concern: The Bucks Have No Long-Term Plans for a Head Coach
There’s a lot to work out here:
1. The most important player Milwaukee has had in quite some time, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was reportedly not down with the Jason Kidd firing. He called his erstwhile coach 15 minutes before Kidd was informed he was being let go, according to ESPN, and offered to help save his job. Bucks ownership has been going through turmoil since last season, as a result of a bizarre power-share agreement among owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, and Jamie Dinan. The front office lost its general manager, John Hammond (who drafted Giannis, among other current prominent Bucks); failed to promote his intended replacement, Justin Zanik; and hired Jon Horst, who previously served as the team’s cap expert.
2. Edens said the “expectations” are to wait out the season to hire a new head coach. No shade to interim coach Joe Prunty, who was Kidd’s assistant on the Nets and Bucks, but Milwaukee is now under the control of someone with no experience as a head coach. Punting on the season, especially with coaches likely pining for a chance to work with Giannis, is confounding. The Bucks are 24–22, sure, but are seventh in a wide-open East.
Concern Meter: No concern, since they don’t appear in it to win it. Sadness, though? 10/10
Concern: Kawhi Leonard’s Injury Causing Spurs Rift
The most passive off-the-court personality in the league is going through drama? Count me in!
The spat initially seemed to stem from Leonard’s long recovery from his ongoing quad issue, which GM R.C. Buford called “difficult for everyone.” He denied any conflict.
But ESPN also reported Monday that “multiple sources described Leonard and his camp as ‘distant’ and ‘disconnected’ from the organization.” On First Take, Jalen Rose said he’s hearing that Leonard wants out of San Antonio, since the franchise has failed to “attract elite-level, All-NBA-caliber free agents” to surround him. Rose attributed that to Gregg Popovich’s stronghold on the organization.
Concern Meter: 9.5/10