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Give Morey credit: he’s trying to fix past mistakes when many GMs wouldn’t

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
by John

A report this afternoon reveal that the Knicks won’t match the Rockets’ offer sheet to Jeremy Lin, and he will become a Rocket. Even if this doesn’t happen, you have to give a ton of credit to Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey for trying, and I have never been one of those “In Morey We Trust” defenders.

About 7 months ago when the Rockets waived Lin right around Christmas because of a logjam at point guard (given the bad decision to keep Jonny Flynn instead), it turned out that move was probably one of the worst personnel decisions in recent history.

Lin would go on to show that he’s pretty good. The boxscores, the in-depth stats, and the wins that followed showed he’s not a fluke.

Many of Morey’s defenders at the time said that no one knew how good Lin was going to be (nor the Golden State Warriors or Dallas Mavericks, who also let him go), so the decision to cut him was understandable.

But on February 9th, Daryl Morey tweeted:

“We should have kept [Jeremy Lin]. Did not know he was this good. Anyone who says they knew misleading U.”

It was refreshing that Morey admitted he made a mistake, but it was the second part of the tweet suggesting those people who thought Lin was worth keeping around would be “misleading U” was a little disturbing. It was like he was trying to make an excuse for his mistake. Interestingly, Morey has removed that tweet from his Twitter account, perhaps because he later realized that it was wrong for him to make excuses.

Other analysts, like former NBA champion Kenny Smith, questioned if the Rockets and Morey really knew how to evaluate personnel, as evidenced in the following statement .

To be a great coach or a great general manager, I don’t think you have to be an x’s and o’s person (a great one). I don’t think you have to have a great relationship with your talent. I think that you have to be able to EVALUATE talent. That’s numero uno. If this guy fell off of everyone’s radar, and he’s been in your practice facility there working, and he can do this in an NBA game, you just don’t have a great idea on how to evaluate talent! And so that means you’re drawing up plays for the wrong guys. That means you’re having conversations with the wrong guys!

So to me, the number one thing for a coach is to recognize who your talent is on your team….

(After the emergence of Lin), there are guys sitting on NBA benches saying, “See, I’m telling you. They don’t know how to evaluate talent up here!

For what it’s worth, even Kobe Bryant said that all the GMs who passed on Lin should be fired.

Granted, the Rockets under Morey’s leadership have made some good personnel decisions, but they have also made many questionable ones. But you have to give credit to Morey — for better or worse — for trying to knock the Rockets out of terminal mediocrity by taking a risk getting rid of a lot of their players to position themselves for Dwight Howard, and now to be on the cusp of getting Lin.

Ironically, the Rockets’ being in position to get Lin back wouldn’t be happening if they hadn’t underbid their offer to re-sign Goran Dragic, who signed with Phoenix because the Rockets were not willing to guarantee a 4th year like Phoenix had.

But you have to give kudos to Morey for having a Plan B in place to quickly try to sign Lin to an offer sheet after Dragic declined their offer. No other team was as quick to the punch, probably because they were afraid that the Knicks would match an offer “up to a billion dollars,” as the Knicks had signaled, and it would be a wasted effort.

And you have to give credit to Morey for understanding the CBA rules early enough to construct a poison pill that would make it extremely expensive for the Knicks to counter because of luxury tax considerations. Then he pulled another brilliant move by upping the ante in the 3rd year of the contract to about $14.8 million after the Knicks went out and signed some other players, putting them more in a financial bind to match the offer to Lin.

Now with the signing of Lin a potential reality, I bet there are many other GMs (Golden State, Dallas, etc.) who had wished they had tried to sign Lin to an offer sheet as quickly as the Rockets did.

Also, Morey was ballsy enough to create — I would think — a huge stir among the NBA GM ranks to make it a very uncomfortable situation for the Knicks. I imagine in the small fraternity of NBA GMs, it’s much easier to not ruffle too many feathers out of fear of future deals becoming be more difficult to pull off by increasing the size of the poison pill right before signing Lin to the offer sheet. Conventional wisdom seems to reward blending in, stay friendly with everyone, be fairly conservative, build through the draft, make small incremental trades and free agency signings, and hope for the best.

But as we have seen the past few years with the Rockets, that doesn’t get you very far. So Morey has evolved to become more aggressive, just like when everyone thought Pat Riley in Miami was crazy a couple of years ago to clear all that cap space with hopes of bringing LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade. It was a big risk, but it obviously worked out. Perhaps Morey has learned from what Miami did, and is changing his strategy to be just as aggressive.

In Morey’s case, I don’t recall a potential transaction in recent NBA (or professional sports) history where a GM has targeted another team’s restricted free agent using tactics that are so creative and unusual (like making a poison pill even harder to swallow by increasing the 3rd year another $5 million). It may have happened before, but one doesn’t come to mind.

It would have been so easy for Morey and Co. to put on a skeptical front about Lin as his career advanced as a Knick. Everyone had already seemed to give Morey a pass for having cut Lin. But you have to give Morey credit for doing his homework, looking at Lin objectively through analyzing his stats and video as a Knick, and going after him again.

Rarely do you see that kind of humility from a GM to not only admit past mistakes, but to try to correct it when a small opportunity arose to re-acquire Lin. Even head coach Kevin McHale said recently that if they knew last December that Lin was as good as he played in New York, they would have cut half their team to keep him.

If the Knicks don’t match the Rockets’ offer sheet later tonight and Lin becomes a Rocket, and somehow the Rockets are able to trade for Dwight Howard this off-season, the Rockets will become immediate contenders in the West. Furthermore, Howard will probably be more inclined to sign an extension with the Rockets since he would have a very good point guard breaking down defenses and dishing him the ball.

It also doesn’t hurt that Lin would be highly followed among hundreds of millions of Chinese. Just look at all the marketing opportunities that came to Yao Ming’s teammates (Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, etc) just by being associated with Yao. That could be enough to offset the advantages of Howard wanting to go to the Lakers or the Nets.

If none of this works out, it will be disappointing, but in my book Morey will have redeemed himself by working his butt off to try to fix past mistakes when it would have been much easier to play it safe and go in a different direction. Many GMs would have opted for the easier route to move on.

Yao video interview with Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
by John

Check out this video with Yao posted yesterday where he talks about his busy life in retirement, including his involvement with conservation efforts…

For more information on the Yao Foundation and its new conservation initiatives, click here.

New Jeremy Lin Nike shoe to debut in June

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
by John

Last week photos started surfacing of Jeremy Lin‘s new Nike Air Force 1 shoe, scheduled to hit the market in June.

Note the New York Knicks colors used throughout the shoe. Hopefully for Nike (and the Knicks), Lin won’t sign with another team this off-season since he’ll be a free agent.

late April 2012, the new Jeremy Lin Nike Air Force 1 shoe

Also, notice the “LIN” logo on the tongue.

late April 2012, the new Jeremy Lin Nike Air Force 1 shoe

late April 2012, the new Jeremy Lin Nike Air Force 1 shoe

Linsanity workout video from Saturday; his pics from “Time 100” gala

Monday, April 30th, 2012
by John

Below is video of Jeremy Lin working out before Saturday’s Knicks-Heat game in Miami. He is looking pretty good recovering from his knee injury, but so far there is no timetable for his return. Lord knows the Knicks need him after getting blown out in Game 1 on Saturday, and teammate Iman Schumpert blowing out his ACL during that game.

In case you missed it, last week Jeremy appeared at Time Magazine’s 100 Gala to honor the magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Below he is pictured with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Click here to see Jeremy with other celebrities at the event.

12_04_24_jeremy_lin_with_cardinal_timothy_dolan

Yao comments about Jeremy Lin again

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
by John

Two new articles from Reuters and CNN quote Yao on more insightful comments about Jeremy Lin (click here to see both articles). Here are the best excerpts (Yao’s quotes are in red):

“Shanghai-native Yao said Lin, who stands 1.91m, could change the way China selects and trains its basketball players.”

“This is something else that Jeremy Lin has brought to us. It has given us something to reflect on, whether there are imperfections over the development and selection process for our basketball players over the past 10 or 20 years.”

“Yao said he had known Lin was a good player but was stunned that he was able to reproduce the sensational form night after night.”

“I am very surprised but also very happy. When he played well in his first game I thought this was a great start and perhaps he would soon have more stable game time.

“But I never thought he would perform up to such levels as he had today.”

“Lin has said he communicates often with Yao, who he regards as a role model. Yao said he did not have much advice to give because of their different backgrounds but had always encouraged and cheered him on.

“First, New York and Houston are different. Also, the cultures of the two basketball teams are different, the cities are different, the team mates he faces are different, so I don’t wish to tell him too much.

“If I do so, perhaps I will give him too much pressure.”

“We have a lot of talented young athletes here who are passionate about basketball. They all want be the next Jeremy.

“I think they can relate more to Jeremy because they’re more common-sized.”

“The easy part is to find a strong basketball player — I have the size; Shaquille O’Neal: big and strong; Kobe, LeBron, all those names. Jeremy has basketball IQ — you can’t program that.

“He’s the kind of player I’d like to play with if I’m still a player — he’s a team player and everybody likes the way he wins a game. Honestly, he did much more than I’d expected.”

“He gives a lot of hope to kids with the same background like his: Asian-Americans, second generation or maybe third.”

“They can follow his footprints and have more confidence in playing basketball.”

“I know people talk about me giving him tips — it’s really not that. I just congratulated him and said I’m happy for him.”

“I told him we’ll support him and I’m a big fan of his.”

J-Lin on cover of Sports Illustrated for second week in a row

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
by John

Just out this week…It’s Lincredible it happened for the second straight week. He’s deserving…

February 21st, 2012 - Jeremy Lin appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the second week in a row

Here’s the cover from last week:

February 14th, 2012 - Jeremy Lin appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated

Kenny Smith talks about scouting mistake of Jeremy Lin

Monday, February 20th, 2012
by John

There have been many articles written over the past couple of weeks explaining why Jeremy Lin slipped through the cracks on his road to stardom. How could this happen? Most people say it was an understandable mistake for those GMs and coaches who evaluated his talent when he was on their roster (namely Golden State and Houston).

However, Kenny Smith, a former point guard for the Rockets who had a pretty decent career, has a different take on it. On the Colin Cowherd show late last week, he actually called out the GMs and coaches involved for not being very good evaluators of talent.

Click the audio below (Smith talks about it at the 40-second mark).

Here’s the transcript:

To be a great coach or a great general manager, I don’t think you have to be an x’s and o’s person (a great one). I don’t think you have to have a great relationship with your talent. I think that you have to be able to EVALUATE talent. That’s numero uno. If this guy fell off of everyone’s radar, and he’s been in your practice facility there working, and he can do this in an NBA game, you just don’t have a great idea on how to evaluate talent! And so that means you’re drawing up plays for the wrong guys. That means you’re having conversations with the wrong guys!

So to me, the number one thing for a coach is to recognize who your talent is on your team….

(After the emergence of Lin), there are guys sitting on NBA benches saying, “See, I’m telling you. They don’t know how to evaluate talent up here!”

Another ESPN analysis video of JLin’s game

Monday, February 20th, 2012
by John

Here’s a video from tonight’s ESPN Sportscenter talking about Jeremy Lin’s game against the Mavericks today (and more), with analysis and commentary from Magic Johnson, Jon Barry, Chris Broussard and Michael Wilbon.

Another Lincredible performance: 28 pts & 14 assists against Mavs on nat’l TV [videos]

Sunday, February 19th, 2012
by John

What else can you say? JLin proved to any doubters today — against the world champion Dallas Mavericks — that he is the real deal. My jaw just dropped as he continued to dazzle on the biggest stage (in New York City on ABC), while also hitting some big 3-pointers, leading the Knicks on a furious 4th quarter rally to beat the Mavericks 104-97. He scored 28 points, had 14 dimes, and had 5 steals.

JLin had 7 turnovers, but as Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said, he wants him to continue to be aggressive. And NBA analyst Hubie Brown said because the Knicks are continually winning, you can’t reduce his minutes just because of the turnovers. He offers too much in other facets of the game.

Here are highlights from the game:

Here’s a video of Magic Johnson and Jon Barry after the Knicks-Mavericks game commenting on how good Jeremy is:

Here’s a video of ESPN interviewing Jeremy this weekend, getting his thoughts on his Lincredible journey, where he admits he was “reduced to tears” last year:

For more photos from the Knicks-Mavericks game, click here.

ESPN “Sports Science” breaks down JLin’s game

Friday, February 17th, 2012
by John

ESPN did a great job tonight analyzing Jeremy Lin‘s skills in the video below.

Hmmmm, I would have expected NBA teams that pride themselves on analyzing a player’s “numbers” and athletic abilities with all kinds of computerized tools like ESPN uses in this video would have valued Lin’s skills better to at least NOT CUT HIM!

Similarly, below is a video of Lin versus John Wall in the 4th quarter of a Vegas Summer League game in 2010. Again, Lin even showed back then he was no fluke against the #1 draft pick.

As Steve Kerr mentioned today on ESPN, Lin was a casualty of racial stereotyping. This is just like what Yao experienced back in Yao’s rookie year when so-called experts called him a “stiff” and a “bust” before the Rockets started playing him decent minutes to show what he could do.