Tag Archives: paul george

THE CUBAN FALLACY

With the opening of the Team USA minicamp in Vegas this week, the American basketball world is focused on international hoops for what may be the last time before the Rio games kick off in 2016. In addition to rampant speculation over who will make the final squad, and drooling over potentialdream rosters, this camp will also invariably spark new debate over the participation by NBA players in international play.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban has long held the mantle of opposing NBA player involvement in international competition. He does so not on the basis of traditional arguments in favour of the principle of amateurism, but rather based on the specious view that NBA teams are getting screwed because the IOC and FIBA are profiting off of NBA players without compensating their teams or the league. He argues that NBA teams are taking all the risk, without benefitting from the arrangement.

Unfortunately for Cuban, under the current agreement between FIBA and the NBA, there isn’t much he can do about it. At present, it is up to NBA players to decide for themselves whether or not they want to play for their countries. Teams can only prohibit a player from taking part if there is a “reasonable medical concern” motivating the decision (as is the case this year with the Spurs and Manu Ginobili). Absent such a basis, teams can only attempt to subtly influence a player’s decision (as Cuban reportedly did with Chandler Parsons in 2014). Of course, teams cannot be prevented from factoring the likelihood a player will play internationally into decision-making around contract negotiations – though they cannot prohibit a player from pCuban2artaking as a term of a contract.

While Cuban’s concerns are understandable, particularly in light of the recent season-ending injuries to Paul George and Dante Exum, his views are short-sighted and based on a fundamental misunderstanding of his relationship with his team’s players.

To begin with, participation in international competition is good for players and for owners. Players do not get paid to play for their countries, but it does pay dividends by helping them build their brand. Besides winning an NBA championship, MVP or maybe a scoring title, there are few honours available to an NBA player that outrank playing for the USA in the Olympics or World Cup. The exposure and prestige that come with wearing the red, white and blue factor into contract negotiations, endorsement deals and any number of other financial opportunities. NBA players in international competition is also good for the NBA. It raises the profile of the game internationally and makes Olympic and World Cup competition marquee events in the global basketball calendar, putting NBA players on centre stage outside of the traditional North American market.

Most significantly however, Cuban’s remarks reveal a fundamental and troubling misunderstandingCuban 1 of his relationship with the players that play for his team. Cuban needs to understand that he and the other owners employ their players, they do not own them.

NBA players are paid, handsomely, to play in 82 regular-season games, any playoff games their team qualifies for, and to show up for practice and other mandatory team functions. When an NBA team enters into a contract with a player, they are agreeing to pay them for those services, just like any other employment contract. An NBA contract may include certain other terms intended to limit risk – terms like, no sky-diving or hang-gliding or running with the bulls. These terms may well be reasonable and, if both parties agree to them, unobjectionable. If Cuban simply wanted the right to negotiate a no international competition term into player contracts, that would be a fair point.

Cuban wants much more than that, however. What his criticism implies is that he feels that NBA teams should have an exclusive right to profit off of their players. This is a radical departure from the standard employment contract model and would be akin to suggesting that a factory worker can’t bag groceries on the weekend without the factory getting a kickback. It would also be a major departure from the traditional nature of NBA contracts. Players have always used their spare time to earn extra income in a way that does nothing to further the interests of their teams. If Cuban wants USA Basketball to compensate him for engaging his players, he should also demand the Aug 12, 2012; London, United Kingdom; USA players stand during the playing of the national anthem after defeating Spain 107-100 during the men's basketball gold medal game in the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sportssame from Nike or Adidas or McDonald’s or any other company that uses his players as spokesmen. While the risk of injury may be lower, it is certainly conceivable that a player could be injured shooting a commercial or attending a promotional event.

What Cuban fails to understand is that NBA players are people, not assets. An NBA contract is a substantial investment, but it is an agreement to provide a service, not a transfer of ownership. Having a player under contract does not give a team or an owner the right to dictate what players do with their free time, and certainly does not grant them an exclusive right to the profits generated by those players. While Cuban’s concerns about potential injury is understandable, he needs to accept that the risk of injury simply comes with the territory of being an employer.

HASN’T PAUL GEORGE BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH?

After a season to forget in 2014-2015, the Pacers are looking to come back in a big way for 2015-2016. A solid draft, the signings of Jordan Hill and Monta Ellis and the addition by subtraction PG2of the good Dr. Hibbert give Indiana plenty of reason for optimism. The biggest reason that the Pacers faithful are looking forward to next season, however, is the return of former All-NBAer Paul George from the most disgusting injury to happen on a basketball court since Kevin Ware’s leg broke off in the 2013 tournament.

Prior to the injury, we saw George begin to emerge as a superstar. In 2013-2014, George put up over 20 ppg along with 6 boards and three assists, and was widely recognized as one of the best, if not the best, perimeter defenders in the game. The last two NBA Finals MVPs have won the award for the job they did guarding Lebron, and neither was nearly as effective against the King as was George.Larry Plays

PG’s emergence came while playing almost exclusively at the 3. Which is why it’s so baffling to hear Larry Bird, Pacers team President and master of the soccer-throw jump shot, talk about moving him to the 4.

The Hick from French Lick thinks PG will be liberated offensively if he’s playing in the post, and that he’ll stay healthier if he doesn’t have to spend games chasing little guys around the perimeter. Larry compares George’s situation to his own playing career, in which he made the switch to the 4 spot later in his paying days and is grateful he did so.

The problem is that Paul George is not Larry Bird and that unless Larry knows some sad facts about PG’s recovery that he’s keeping from the rest of us, a position change at this stage would be a bad move for George and for the Pacers.

First of all, unless Larry has something in the works, the Pacers don’t really have anyone to plug into the three-spot if PG moves to the 4. Solomon Hill is a serviceable backup, but cannot be a starter for a team that likes to act as though it has championship aspirations. Conversely, the Pacers DO have a valid alternative at the 4 spot, having picked up Hill this off season. The loss of David West and, likely, Chris Copeland, leave them thin behind Hill, but moving George to the 4 just creates a bigger problem at the 3 spot.

More significantly, George simply will not be as effective as a power forward. We’ve seen nothing in George’s time in the leagPGue that would lead us to believe that he has any kind of post-up game – and he’s certainly not going to have any success close to the hoop if he’s matched up against bigger, stronger 4s. If the Pacers have some hope that George will add a post-up game, he’s much more likely to do so if he can retain his height advantage by matching up with small forwards. It could be argued that George will gain an advantage on the perimeter if he’s matched up with bigger, slower 4s, and that might be true, but if the plan is for him to hang out on the perimeter, then he’s not really playing the post, is he? If that’s the plan, the Pacers are more turning the 4 spot into another perimeter player than turning PG into a 4. Other teams will catch on to that pretty quickly and just defend PG as the perimeter player he is.

The bigger problem is likely to arise on the defensive end. Paul George is a great perimeter defender because he’s quick enough to stay in front of guards, but tall enough and long enough to contest shots and keep his hands in passing lanes. He is tall enough and athletic enough that he would be a passable post defender, but to make that shift would rob him of the advantage of his height and his athleticism. Athleticism always helps, but post defence is more about size and strength than it is about quick feet. Against most 4s, George is going to give up a couple of inches and several pounds, and will simply be physically unable to be the dominant defensive presence he is on the perimeter.

We just have to look at the top power forwards in the Eastern Conference to get a sense of how this is going to turn out. George is 6’9, 220 pounds. Paul Millsap is an inch shorter, but more than 30 pounds heavier. Pau Gasol is 7’0, 250 pounds. Kevin Love 6’10, 243 pounds. Chris Bosh, 6’11, 235 (Bosh is listed as a center but will line up at the 4 spot next to Hassan Whiteside). More importantly, these are guys that have been NBA post players for years, and know how to play with their backs to the hoop. George does not. You could argue that these guys are the best of the best in the East, but if PG is going to play meaningful minutes at the 4 and if the Pacers are going to be competitive, he will have to not only be effective against this kind of competition, but find a way to stay healthy. If Larry Bird thinks chasing little guys around the perimeter is bad for PG’s health, what does he think banging with these monsters night in and night out is going to do to his body?

Ultimately, Larry’s comparison on his own career to George’s is misleading. Yes, both are oversized small forwards, but that’s pretty much where the comparison ends. Larry was great because of his Larry Nowhands and his head. He was a smart player who could shoot, handle the ball and pass, but he was never a great athlete. The Celtics didn’t lose much when Larry wasn’t defending the perimeter because, to the extent Larry was an effective defender, he was effective despite his athleticism, not because of it. Paul George is the opposite, he came into the league as an athlete, and has developed skills since then. If he loses his athletic advantage, he’ll be a solid NBA player, but not the superstar he could become if left in a position to fully take advantage of his physical gifts. Larry also needs to remember that the NBA has changed. At his size, Bird was not at a disadvantage against most power forwards, because you didn’t have seven footers playing power forward in the 80s, now we do, and that changes the degree to which guys like Paul George can move between positions.

So the question becomes, what is Larry really doing here? For all his aw-shucks, down-home country boy affectation, we know that Larry Legend is no dummy. He knows who he has on his roster, and he knows who Paul George really is. For my money, I think this all an effort to oversell what is really a plan to play a little small-ball, just like everyone else in the NBA, either that, or Larry’s just pulling PG’s surgically repaired leg…