In This Episode
Hello, and welcome back to Takeline! Jason Concepcion is flying solo this week, but has got a great show lined up for you that spans the sports spectrum from football (soccer) to football (NFL) with some NBA in between. Jake Fischer, Senior NBA Reporter for Yahoo Sports, will joins the pod to discuss the latest transactions and storylines around the association as the NBA preseason picks up. Then Jason reunites with his old coworker Kevin Clark, the Ringer’s senior NFL writer, to discuss the happenings of week four in the National Football League. But first, Super producer Ryan Wallerson and I will talk talk soccer on both sides of the Atlantic, and then he helps me unpack my disappointment over the Mets’ late season collapse in Atlanta over the weekend.
Ryan Wallerson Yeah, it’s crazy. A lot of Mets fans, most of this season have been like really happy about the resurgent Mets, but unwilling to acknowledge the Braves in their division because they got off to a slow start just like they did last year.
Jason Concepcion I think it was a little bit of a whistling past the graveyard kind of thing, you know, it was just like you’re acting a little casual because, you know, trying not to evince any kind of anxiety or fear, but it’s like the fucking Braves, man, fuck the Braves. I hate them.
Jason Concepcion Hello and welcome to Takeline. I’m your host, Jason Concepcion flying solo this week. Great show lined up, one that spans the sports spectrum from football in soccer to football, a.k.a football with some NBA in between will be joined by Jake Fischer, senior NBA reporter for Yahoo Sports. He’ll join us to discuss the latest transaction storylines around the association. And then I will reunite with my old coworker Kevin Clark, to bring your senior NFL writer discuss the happenings of Week four in the National Football League. But first, we’re joined by super producer Ryan Wallace and talk some soccer on both sides of the Atlantic and just let me vent my spleen about the fucking New York Mets. Let’s talk about L.A. winning their second supporter’s shield in four seasons. Congrats to them winning over the Portland Timbers. We’ve been waiting for L.A. AFC to kind of get its shit together after a number of, you know, marquee signings. That seemed. Poised to have the team just run up the score on everyone there followed a pretty serious bobble, but it appears that that’s been solved. L.A. FC Sitting atop the table, 21 wins, four draws, eight losses, 67 points over rival Austin and congrats to them. Ryan, any thoughts about LFC? It certainly seems like they are. Like listen, MLS playoffs. You never know. You never know what can happen, which I guess is the beauty of the MLS playoff system. But it certainly looks like they’re poised to run the table as the MLS season comes to a close.
Ryan Wallerson Well, you know, plenty of thoughts on LFC and definitely a big shout out to the team winning its second supporter’s shield in four years. The last team that won it in 2019, they won it behind the MVP season from Carlos Vela when he had like a million goals. This team is way deeper, it’s way more dynamic. The goals come from way more directions, and they can beat you from so many different positions that I think they’re a lot more dangerous going into this playoffs than they were in 2019. Now, it’s, as you say, right there were going really well on that seven game win streak. And then they bring in, you know, Dennis Bulaga and Christian Tello and Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini. And as they’re integrating all these guys into their team, as they’re saying goodbye to the guys that helped them go on that win streak, they fall into a streak when they win, I think only two out of seven. We were talking about them having a historic season and coming out of that rarefied air and falling back toward the pack. But, you know, with this two one win over the Portland Timbers, they’ve clinched the supporters shield. They did so with the first goal for L.A. FC from one of those new imports, Dennis Bowe, on the number 99, who despite the fact that he’s had, you know, multiple performances for L.A. FC before this Sunday’s game against Austin, he’s always been a positive force on the offense, like he’s been doing a lot of really good things, making really good runs, getting in dangerous positions. That goal that he scored was an absolute thing of beauty, running straight down the sideline, beating people on his own, getting through defenders nutmegging defenders to beat the goalie. It was a moment of pure brilliance. And frankly, I hope he doesn’t score in the finale so that he can go in history with having one goal for the regular season for L.A. and having that goal clench the supporters shield. That’s like a pretty hard flex.
Jason Concepcion That’s a very, very hard. Let’s go across the pond and briefly talk about the EPL, where our teams are flying high. My team, Arsenal FC with a resounding three one victory over their crosstown rivals in the North London Derby, the Tottenham Hotspur squad. They went down to ten men in the early second half, I think. I think a valid decision, slightly harsh, maybe as a red carpet like but an unnecessary foul on Martinelli as he was running back towards his goal. Like you’re not even stopping a break. I’m fine with it being a red card, obviously, but it puts it put arsenal briefly. Four points clear now one point clear, top of the table. You know, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but certainly it seems like Champions League football should be in the offing next season. And it’s just it’s just really amazing to see this team come together after the struggles of recent seasons. They have wonderful young talent all across the all across the pitch and some real spine now with various introductions of man city castoffs as it genco Gabriel. Jesus. I love the fact that the rich got so rich that they had to give away some of their riches, thus enriching my team. You love to see that Thomas Partey is is a rock in the in the center of midfield. Granit Xhaka, after being almost hounded out of the country a few seasons ago, is now like the emotional and like philosophical leader of the team. It’s just really, really great to see. And honestly, like when I look at Arsenal and I think about the next, I think about how manager Mikel Arteta, in order to coach up his young players, get them blooded, get them the experience they need, he knew that he would have to spend wins, he would have to sacrifice wins for experience. And it’s something that I hope the Knicks do as they go forward into their 2022, 2023 campaign. Because look at Arsenal right now, it’s paying dividends and your man city squad is so fucking scary. I don’t even know how to describe the displays that Erling Haaland is putting on on a match to match basis.
Ryan Wallerson And, you know, it’s fun because I’ve been following Man City, I’ve been following Man City since, you know, Vincent Kompany was captain and David Silva and Sergio Aguero with the most dangerous names on the team. Right. So I’ve been eliminated in the Champions League by Barcelona more times than I care to remember. I watched them lose Champions League final to Chelsea. I watched them, you know, get basically forget how to play football for one terrible week. And it cost them both Champions League and the domestic crown to Liverpool like I’ve been through with these guys. So to now just be on Street Terminator mode and have everybody terrified to play us and you know, deservedly so because Erling Haaland is FIFA uneasy I mean, not even easy, maybe even tutorial.
Jason Concepcion He’s got more goals in like half the league. It’s it’s it’s insane. He’s got 14.
Ryan Wallerson Goals. There’s no defense on the planet equipped to stop him from scoring goals when he decides he wants to score goals. And I’m willing to take that theory and tested against every defense in the English Premier League. So until someone proves me wrong in a moment of import. Yeah. Even your even your perfect arsenal to this point, I’m looking forward to putting our squads against each other and seeing who will emerge in first place on the other end of that match.
Jason Concepcion You know, we lost to Man United and a match that I think was a real kind of like wake up call and a chance to like, learn and grow and measure yourselves against a team. Certainly that at least has the history to to have confidence against this newly improved Arsenal side. But like Man City, it’s just all the doubts about whether Holland plays the type of way that Pep wants to play. And and some of like the, you know, the moments in pre-season when it seemed like there were mistimed runs and and, you know, the midfield didn’t quite understand how to get Holland the ball and maybe was a little frustrated with, with the runs he was making. That’s all fucking gone away. Forget it. This guy is a guided missile. It’s like. I think Zlatan is the guy that you think of because of the size. Right. In the end, the prolific ness of the goalscoring till they compare him to. But at the same time, like Zlatan was was so tricky on the ball, he had that kind of very Brazilian inflected flair of where Holland is, just like brute force. He just runs through people. Cuts defenses to pieces. Defenders like can’t physically do anything with him because he’s gigantic. And then when the ball comes to him, he just kicks it hard into the goal. It’s like very it’s very simple.
Ryan Wallerson And, you know, the best thing about it is it’s really, really simple because the midfield is filled with the best passers in the world to feed him. Service is the highest quality. The defense is absolutely, you know, locked down to keep even the best of the rest of the league’s attackers trying to keep pace. And, you know, the goalkeeper is top class, perhaps a genius. That’s why this happens most of the time. But hopefully the team wins no matter who shows up. I hope that more people start realizing exactly how special a team they’re watching over there in Manchester, but it’s going to be an interesting season.
Jason Concepcion Holland scores every 40 minutes or so. That’s shocking stuff.
Ryan Wallerson I don’t know if he’ll maintain that pace. I think that there is a coming out party, I’m sure. I don’t know if she’s going to be able to do this all season. If he is, then he’s welcome to score, you know, goals untold.
Jason Concepcion The scary thing for for opposing squads is like I agree he has to cool off because this isn’t I mean he’ll set every record at the pace he’s going he’ll set every single record there is to set scoring. With that said, there’s been no hint of how this could stop. Like, I don’t understand, like.
Ryan Wallerson How you have to follow.
Jason Concepcion Him, I guess. I guess there’s like a a chance that, like, the officials get some sort of Shaq kind of mindset with Holland where he’s so big that they don’t see the kind of physical play and they judge it on a different criteria. But I don’t see that. I think the way that soccer is officiated makes a player with the kind of insane physical tools and skill set of Holland. They make him even more dangerous than he could possibly be, because there’s only so physical that you could be with him without putting yourself at a real danger of going down to ten or taking on too many yellow cards. Like, I don’t know. I really don’t know what you do with him.
Ryan Wallerson You’re right. You’re right about the risk. But I do think that the best chance that opposing teams have of stopping this prolific scoring clip is just making him wary of the fact that they are willing to do so. Sure. If not to a way that puts them down to ten men, but maybe a lot of different players, maybe by the 75th minute, 80th minute are playing like three or four players have one yellow card because everybody has the orders, make sure nobody gets to, but also put a body in front of him if he’s on his way. I don’t know. I mean, he’s going to keep getting these passes and so he’s going to keep using that immense strength and size of his to getting in good positions.
Jason Concepcion I also think that you just have to, you know, like pressing has been such a has been such a trend in Europe and in the EPL of late, you know, with, you know, with the way Liverpool plays, certainly with Pep’s influence, I just think you’ve got to like close the door and lock it and try and get out on the break and you’ve just got to play back and deep and just sit there and try and lock down any kind of movement until you get a break. I don’t think you can play. I don’t think you can play high line up in the face of this man city team. I just think you can’t do it. You can’t give them any space to go in behind you.
Ryan Wallerson You can’t six goals a game until they learn that lesson, Jason.
Jason Concepcion All right. Let’s talk about the Mets. I just want to say one thing about the Mets who have suckered me again. Listen, the Mets are going to be in the postseason. It’s going to be a wild card, it looks like now after leading the NL East for most of the season, they went and absolutely fumbled the bag against no other than their eternal enemy, the Atlanta Braves, who have been playing like absolutely lights out baseball since June. And I just I don’t have much to say, Ryan, other than I can’t believe it’s it’s always them. Why is it always the Braves for the last 30 years? Why is it always them? I knew it was going to be them. I can’t believe that I got snookered into caring again. And the Mets had it. They it was there for the taking. This is a three game series. You go in there and you think we close the door. It’s it’s in your hands to do. And they didn’t do it. And I feel like this is the millionth time I’ve seen this fucking movie and I can’t stand it. I hate it so fucking much. I hate the Braves. I just hate them. And we don’t have the Mets don’t have a mike Piazza like figure who’s willing to be like, watch me win it for us. Watch me do it. And that’s it is what it is.
Ryan Wallerson I feel like this was the moment where that Mike Piazza figure could have emerged, whether it was Alonzo.
Jason Concepcion Alonzo?
Ryan Wallerson Yeah, somebody could have could have called Hero and it would have stuck like superglue in this series to stop this from happening, because even two out of three in Atlanta and you control your own destiny now you’re begging them to lose and they’re probably not going to. You’ve giving them the inside track of the defending World Series champions. Yeah, it’s crazy. A lot of Mets fans, but most of this season have been like really happy about the resurgent Mets, but unwilling to acknowledge the Braves in their division because they got off to a slow start just like they did last season.
Jason Concepcion I think it was I think it was a little bit of a whistling past the graveyard kind of thing. You know, it was like you’re acting a little casual because, you know, trying not to evince any kind of anxiety or fear, but it’s like the fucking Braves, man.
Ryan Wallerson You’re focusing on the Yankees, you’re focusing on the Dodgers. And I’m just like, guys, they’re the defending world champions. You see that smoke?
Jason Concepcion That’s it.
Ryan Wallerson I mean, what’s funny is that the 96 Yankees also had to deal with defending World Series champion Braves. But, you know, we were able to dispatch them. Oh, right, right, right. I do wish the Mets the best. I do wish them the best. I hope that they get into the playoffs. It looks like they’re going to be facing San Diego, which is a favorable matchup.
Jason Concepcion Like that at the same time. Let’s take care of business, please, Mets. Okay, let’s move on. I can’t fuck the Braves. I hate them. And up next, a senior NBA writer for Yahoo! Sports. Hey, folks. As you may or may not know, I am co-hosting along with Nerd. That’s great. Johnson The official Game of Thrones podcast, House of the Dragon, an ongoing series set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones airs every Sunday. We’re heading into the eighth episode, so the season coming to a close, folks House of the Dragon tells the story of how Star Gary locked in an epic battle for the Iron Throne and power over the Seven Kingdoms. The epic series promises more drama and betrayal than ever. Listen to the official Game of Thrones podcast, House of the Dragon, hosted by myself and Greg Johnson on HBO, Max the iHeartRadio App, or wherever you get your podcasts and don’t miss the new HBO original series House of the Dragon, now streaming on HBO Max Sundays at nine. The NBA pre-season kicked off over the weekend as the calendar gave way to October six NBA matchups over the weekend. But the headlines belonged to the Phenix Suns. For all the wrong reasons, they have suffered the only NBA defeat in the history of the NBA’s Global Games when they lost to Adelaide of the Australian Top League 134 to 124. There’s also been some contract news, some other news around the association. The news never stops there. And help us discuss all of that as Jake Fischer from Yahoo! Sports.
Jake Fischer Thank you for having me. Great to be here. Among old friends and new. How are you doing?
Jason Concepcion Yeah, I’m doing well, man. So tell us about the Phenix Suns lost to Adelaide. An absolute fucking shocker.
Jake Fischer Well, look, I mean, things in Phenix have not been. This is for a long time.
Jason Concepcion Not a good harbinger of things to come.
Jake Fischer I mean, it’s kind of been reflective of the last three months that they’ve been having. And you go back to DeAndre In’s restricted free agency, you go back to even before that game seven against Dallas at home for got where they had that best regular season record like you said and it all was for naught. And Jae Crowder is on some beach potentially somewhere, not part of the team because they don’t want him there. Like it’s really not good. And I think obviously losing to a mid-tier Australian team is kind of a nice, funny headline, but I think that’s like the tip of the iceberg. It seems like there’s a lot of stuff going on beneath the surface that potentially is is rippling up now that we’re starting to see.
Jason Concepcion So let’s talk about that a little bit. Obviously, the Robert Sarver fallout is continuing to take shape. He has announced that he is moving to sell the team after significant pressure, both internally at the NBA and from advertisers and from his own ownership group and from fans in Phenix and sports fans writ large. But then Media Day happened. DeAndre, you just outlined some of the frustrations that have been going on between in the club regarding his contract or lack of an offer of a contract in the past, and his comments about head coach Monty Williams, who notably benched him down the stretch of some very significant playoff games last season. Their relationship, certainly if you’re reading between the lines, you don’t even have to read that closely, seems to be icy at best. On the one hand, I’m like, Hey, I get it. We’ve all worked with people maybe that we don’t personally like, and you just get on with it. On the other hand, it certainly seemed like not a good data point in a string of not good data points, the latest being this loss to Adelaide.
Jake Fischer Yeah, I think data points a great turn of phrase that I like to use a lot in terms of reporting where you’re just trying to collect data points and also puzzle pieces where you don’t know how many pieces are in the puzzle. You don’t have a picture on the box of what you’re trying to assemble. Trying to collect as many as you can and get those clusters that then you can start putting together the puzzle. Right. And that the Andre and Cluster has many, many, many pieces where look, the Monte Williams relationship that you just talked about, I think is front and center of that, where Phenix is at this kind of interesting development, where they were this fine young upstart team in the bubble right seven or now, and they draw the attention of Chris Paul, the greatest point guard potentially of all time. There’s dogged leader this this winner who also has the style that potentially grates on a lot of teammates and doesn’t necessarily have a long shelf life where Monte Williams was his coach back in New Orleans, or they overlap in some capacity. I can’t get the timelines a 100% correct on top of my head right now. But from all the conversations I’ve had, that core relationship, Monte and CP being together, working together, trying to uplift each other as has been very communicated to me as like one constellation in this very complicated Phenix Suns orbit where you’ve got Devin Booker, as you know, he’s dating a Jenner daughter and he his own superstar, and he’s got his questions about defense and winning and all that type of stuff where like it’s a very dangerous cocktail of all these combustible ingredients. And title windows can just close pretty quickly when you don’t have all those things aligned. And it does kind of seem forget about the Robert Sarvis stuff, although obviously don’t, because that’s for all obvious reasons and it should be taken with every grain of sincerity that it has been. But like that’s just a backdrop for all this stuff that is really rifling beneath the seams or behind the seat. I’m just throwing all these metaphors out there because it’s just it’s so sensitive and difficult, but like, you got to get everyone going in the same direction in order to win. And they are just not. There’s multiple different. It’s involved. And a lot of it comes down to when you win and you have success, which is great. Everyone involved wants to get paid and that is where a lot of the accounting gets tricky. DeAndre in wanted to get paid. McCambridge Bridges got paid. He had to get paid. You can’t pay everybody, especially on a team. To bring this back to Sarver. Historically, the Sons and Servers ownership group has never been willing to foot the bill, and I think that’s really starting to pay. I don’t know. It’s really been I think the ultimate undercurrent through all of this is that paying all these people when you have all this success is not the easiest proposition.
Jason Concepcion One of the things that that I noted about the Suns in their regular season success last season is they have a really unique kind of style of play, which is at the most basic level. They just kind of get the shot that they want and hit it. Most of the time there are low rebounding team because they don’t they they basically get into their offense. They take a little time to get into it, but they get the shot, a high quality shot, the one that they want, and then they make it. Now, the weird drawback of that, as we saw like over there, really like tortuous and wrenching playoff collapse, is that like if they have to go into like a secondary and tertiary kind of like offense, if you make them go deeper into their bag, that bag is potentially not that deep. If you get past that kind of first option, which brings me back to like, you know, they were a well-oiled machine. There’s grit in the machine. Now, whether it’s the relationship between Monty and De’Andre, whether it’s teams potentially figuring something out with Devin Booker, they obviously were should be a title favorite coming into this season one of the elite squads. What do you what do you see for them going forward?
Jake Fischer So winning is always the magical elixir that can rise all boats. Right. So we’ll see if all this just kind of maybe this Adelaide game was the punch in the mouth that they needed and they go until the regular season and like you said, they are about oil machine. It is like clockwork. They beat up on smaller, younger teams that haven’t exactly had the experience and they are. Phenix and I do have this vaunted lineup that still can kind of impose their will at times. So that’s one possible outcome here. I do think that there’s going to be growing pains, and I do expect that that going to be a banner year where they’re kind of wire to wire the best team in the regular season. Also being that it’s just a loaded Western conference, you’ve got the Clippers back fully healthy in theory. Denver In theory. I mean, other teams like Minnesota and New Orleans are supposed to take one step forward. Now there’s younger groups that have added veteran talent and are a year older and healthier. But with Phenix in their own independent variable in this Western Conference experiment, like a lot of it’s going to come down to what happens with this Jae Crowder trade. I really do think so, being that everything I’ve heard, they’re looking to move them only for win now. Right now, a lot of teams would trade a first round pick to go get Jae Crowder. That doesn’t necessarily help Phenix in terms of they’ve got Chris Paul in this twilight of his career. Who knows how much he still has left on his odometer, especially with injuries, have seemed to plague him time and again in the postseason. And, you know, there was some fluky COVID stuff that happened and that was its final series. But Jae Crowder has been maybe I’m overvaluing Jae Crowder, but he’s been a legitimate fifth best starter on a championship contending team for a decade. And I really think Phenix and maybe other people are kind of not considering just how easy it is to do swap in Cam Johnson and hope that he can provide exactly what Jay did. And then you’re losing what Cam brought off the bench. I think they’re going to have to figure out that pecking order in that hierarchy without Crowder being involved, because people might forget he joined Phenix fresh off of that finals run with Miami in the bubble, and he helped Utah for a while and he helped Cleveland in those LeBron days. Like, that is a dog that you go to work with and taking that type of mentality out of that team, especially in a team that has potential floundering possibilities. Yeah, that’s something that’s getting a little over.
Jason Concepcion Thinking about floundering. Are there any players that you see? John Collins is the immediate one that comes to mind for me that could possibly be on the move if their team all of a sudden realizes, Oh shit, we need more. We’re not quite what we thought. Or maybe this season is a wash. Let’s either get out from under the salary and re-arm for the future with assets or let’s move a player and try and improve. Right now, who do you see that could potentially be on the move?
Jake Fischer The players that are on my radar for trades aren’t necessarily fitting your description of like, okay, we’re not as good as we thought we’d be, but they could move mostly. I mean, I think the way the NBA is operating right now has. In the last two or three years when contracts are coming up are going to come up. Look at Jerami Grant getting moved from Detroit or even Dejounte Murray getting traded this summer from San Antonio. Being that he’s not going to be a free agent in 2023, he’s going to be a free agent in 2024. But San Antonio already knows that they’re not going to be able to based off of cap gymnastics, they’re not going to be able to pay him the max that he’s going to want. And they don’t necessarily think he’s worth that. So it might as well trade him now when he’s still got two years left on his deal. He’s out the door to Atlanta. Myles Turner, Jacob Purtell, those types of guys right now. I mean, obviously, Turner, his name has been in the headlines all summer with the Lakers flirting. Whether or not to put him the first round picks on the table to get him and Buddy Hield and Myles Turner as a great player certainly would help the Lakers in terms of perimeter and interior defense and perimeter shooting, one of the few big men in the league who can provide them protection while also stretching the floor on offense. But if he’s going to command $25 million average annual value next summer, that’s already accounting. The Lakers have to do so. Players like him, JaKarr, Portland, San Antonio, like I mentioned, I believe he’s an expiring deal. You look at Mike calmly is definitely still a name that the Jazz want to trade. Guys are on expiring deals. Russell Westbrook.
Jason Concepcion Yeah.
Jake Fischer People who are anticipating either getting big paydays or teams who are looking to offload big money. Those are two names that I’m certainly looking to right now. John Collins. Look, everyone thought he was going to get moved this summer. Everything I heard he wanted to get move Atlanta wanted to move him. There just wasn’t an actual deal that really made sense for two sides, obviously. Yeah. His name is going to be in trade chatter until it’s not the last name that this comes off the top of my head right now. His title in Philly is He’s another guy extension eligible right now. His rookie deal expires next year. You already saw a nice article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how hard his work this summer has been to come back with a new three point shot, all that type of stuff. I think Table is another name that, you know, if you look back at the February trade deadline in the James Harden talks, he was considered untouchable. Brooklyn cannot have him. Flash forward to June him and we picked up Philly had was pretty much offered to every single team in the market so that’s another name I’ll keep an eye on as well.
Jason Concepcion You’re heading to Vegas soon for the NBA Draft Prospect showcase that gelignite is playing its victor wemba inyama over scoot henderson you literally wrote the book on tanking and I think Wamba Onomah is the kind of player that you tank the shit out of a sees it for. Tell us a little bit about why teams are so excited about him and then to what does recent tweaks to the structure of both the draft lottery and the NBA postseason have kind of ameliorated the effect of tanking, so to speak, but it still happens. What do you see as like the future of tanking?
Jake Fischer Yeah, well, it’s still happening because Utah is in Utah. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City, Orlando’s Orlando. Detroit is in Detroit. Right. I think the clearest path for these teams to get these franchise changing towns is through the draft when you also can get them for seven years of team control. So in respect to Victor Wanyama, when you have potentially Giannis and Rudy Gobert body, the tantalizing prospect and the thought of doing it a couple of years over like Oxy’s done or like Sam Hinkie in Philly, you can also mitigate your risk of being bad and bad and bad, a missing or being bad one year and missing. Because if you’re bad and bad and bad and have all these darts to throw out the dartboard you can miss and the Philly example on Michael Carter-Williams and there was no and down the list or Okafor Markelle Fultz whatever because you got Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and even when Ben Simmons doesn’t work out you can flip him for James Harden in OKC. It’s kind of the same exact gambit. Utah, it seems like, at least from what I’ve heard, that they want to do this more of a one year rebuild. They want to get in, get some prospects and get out. Because they also have looked at what Danny Ainge did in Boston where Jayson Tatum landed with the Celtics based off of that pick swap. Yeah, if we had these other future picks coming down the line, you can start building and getting better and you have more bullets and more darts in your chamber because you’ve got other teams draft capital coming down the line. But to your point as to why it might be more complicated now or why it’s not as a direct route that was happening back in the 2014 draft, which is really the center of the book, because that was right when the big three with the heat were destroying the league, right? Or at least destroying the Eastern Conference where LeBron, Wade and Basra picked one, three and five. I believe in the top five of that 2003 class 2014 with Embiid and Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins and Randle and Marc. Smart down the list was supposed to be that next great class. This year’s class is 2023 class with Victor and SCU and the Thompson Twins is another one of those classes where you want to get one bite at one of those apples. You know, it’s not as direct now because the lottery odds have changed, right? You can’t have a 25% chance for the worst team. The bottom three teams have a 14% chance. But that is kind of open the door where if you’re the third worst team, you’re kind of just as tanking and just as odds, you know, centric on as the worst team. So it’s kind of a a matter of perspective, but there is things like now, like the Play-In tournament where we saw New Orleans and Sacramento just this past trade deadline, make movies for C.J. McCollum and the Martha Stewart Donuts, respectively. And it worked for the Pelicans, right? They got into the Play-In tournament. They got the eighth seed. They were a fun, upbeat story and it works out great. And now Zion Williamson resigning like that. There’s no more rumors of him going to New York. It’s all hunky dory with the pelicans. Like that is certainly a factor pushing teams away from tanking, but they’re still going to beat teams doing it just because of the premise of getting a young LeBron, a young Aiyana on that team control from the get go. And if you can build a culture around them where they are going to want to stay if you’re a quote unquote partner with them, which has been a very dangerous buzzword in Brooklyn. Yeah, in a way that’s organic and sustainable, which is a lot harder to do than it said. That’s exactly why I wrote the book. It’s far more difficult to make it happen when there’s people involved and conflicting agendas where the star player wants to do this and the head coach wants to do that and the GM wants to do that. But at the end of the day, everyone does still agree. If you want to win, you need to have at least one top ten player, hopefully two, and the easiest route to get them is through the draft.
Jason Concepcion This brings me to the New York Knicks who have been trying to acquire a superstar for essentially the entire existence of the franchise. And it’s only in recent years since addition of Neon Rose that they’ve been trying to do it in a more systemic, quote, air quotes, smarter way. And on the one hand, it’s frustrating because you’re watching teams that began rebuilds in the middle of the next fourth rebuild already coming out of the rebuilt Miami is rebuilt the team three or four times in the time that the Knicks have failed to rebuild the team once. Is there a middle road for teams like the Knicks who on the one hand don’t want to tank for whatever reason, don’t they? They don’t want to do it. They certainly don’t want to do it for multiple seasons and they don’t even want to do it for one season. And the only time they will do it is when they’re pushed into a corner. The season’s already a wash and then they’ll kind of like, okay, well Tank, is there a middle road of kind of trying to win games and trying to assemble teams on the fly? You know, like Darryl Morey’s Early Rockets pre James Harden Rockets is the only team I can think of that really successfully did this. But is there a middle path to doing that in today’s NBA?
Jake Fischer It doesn’t seem like there’s one being practiced right. It does seem like you’re either tanking right now or trying to add that one piece. I think the Jrue Holiday and the Chris Paul trades the feeling sent to Milwaukee to happen at the same exact time and then both teams met in the finals. I think that kind of set the tone for this this era that we’re in right now where every team thinks they’re one move away from getting to their goal, whether that’s competing for the championship, whether that’s moving out of the Play-In tournament picture to become a bona fide playoff team, you know, on down the line, I think just like with whether you tank, whether you middle out like you’re saying, whatever path you choose to build, you do need some element of luck involved. You do need everyone to stay healthy. You do need Tyrese Maxey if you’re Philly to fall to you and 23 while top of my head if you’re Indiana when Danny Granger tears his ACL way back when you kind of need to get lucky that Paul George is still there. I think he went 10th in the draft, right? Kawhi Leonard went 13 where the Spurs had a pretty solid draft night strategy. We’re going to go get this guy. Like those types of moves are there, but they’re very far and few between. And I think ultimately if you’re going to be a team like Miami, like you need to find smart moves on the edges that can prop you up and add very valuable rotation players on cheap contracts. I think that’s been far more illustrated in the NFL where like the big money is only being for now a quarterback’s one weapon. And then you got to win the game on the line. Right in the NBA, the money is pretty much put on three big positions. It doesn’t matter where they are, but you got three big players and everyone else needs to fit into this mid-level money or minimum money. You need to find guys like Max Strus in order to be able to continue to be good without going to the bottom. And that’s really hard to do there. I mean, most of those guys go undrafted, so that means 60 picks came and went. Every team had multiple choices, usually to say this guy is going to be a guy who can keep us afloat here for a low salary option. And they all said, no, they all missed him for some reason. Usually those guys have like an athleticism issue or a big weakness that is supposed to be the death knell. They’re not going to make it. Turns out they get to the league and they’re fine. Dillon Brooks, they are going to be doing it in Memphis. You know, Grant Williams in Boston fell to the twenties because of, you know, he wasn’t exactly a prototypical modern day player. And now he kind of is a prototypical modern day player because he just did exactly that. Did the Tennessee need to find those you to hit singles in order to be able to hit home runs in that scenario? But the easiest way to hit a home run is to go to the tank and go get a big guy who can go about the plate and think for the fences. So it’s a lot easier said than done to just stay in the middle and find these curls that can that can supplant your superstars.
Jason Concepcion He’s Jake Fischer, the newly minted senior NBA reporter for Yahoo! Sports. Jake, congratulations on the new gig and thanks so much for joining us.
Jake Fischer Thank you.
Jason Concepcion [AD]
Jason Concepcion Week four of the 2022 NFL season is in the books. And as crazy as it may sound, we were already at the old quarter mark of the old NFL schedule when it was 16 games and 17 games were slightly under the quarter mark. But still lots of stuff to talk about, including the conversation around Miami Dolphins QB to a second concussion and mishandling of the first concussion back in week three. My former colleague, the wonderful, the talented National Football League reporter Kevin Clark, senior NFL writer for The Ringer. One of the best to ever do it.
Kevin Clark To do what?
Jason Concepcion To cover the National Football League, Kevin! In ways both substantive and fun.
Kevin Clark Okay.
Jason Concepcion Latest news in the saga regarding the Thursday night, very public concussion suffered by Tua is that the independent doctor hired by the players association has apparently been fired. Appears to be the person is going to take the fall for this. This brings to mind a whole host of other questions. But first, what is the reactions conversation around the league regarding to his apparent second concussion and the fallout following it?
Kevin Clark Yeah, we have to see what the investigation says is ongoing. Both the team doctor and the unaffiliated doctor has talked to the league already. The PA decided to exercise their right to fire the unsee over the weekend. I think it probably is very convenient for all situation if that everything that you could spend on that guy and then they just say, well, that’s over a good thing. We saw that problem. The reaction is one that something needs to be done. I think you saw the reaction from players on the league just saying like what the hell is going on here in the NFL in the PR have already released a statement on Sunday saying basically there will be change to the concussion protocol. There was a different report over the weekend that somebody had gotten, I guess, on background that basically said that what the PA is pushing for, Jason, is less of a checklist type concussion treatment, like where you say, okay, can you do this? Can you do this? Is it like motor? Is it debilitating on the field, blah, blah, blah. And to have the doctors treat the players like patients, right, like you would if it was you or I going to the doctor and saying, hey, we have a problem here, I’m very skeptical that can work. Like when they in the third quarter of a playoff game. I think that the checklists are like there’s something important there, like there needs to be like bars to clear or else the doctor is going to get pressure to be like it really is. There is some like varsity blues like get out there type of pressure in some situations. I don’t actually think that happens all the time, but I do think that there have been times and there have been examples and high profile games where guys just sort of hide from the doctors and are just like, Yeah, I’m good. Like I’m going to keep my helmet on and just go on the exercise bike or whatever. So I think there needs to be more standards. I don’t think you’re ever going to get, quote unquote, normal medical care on a sideline. But I do think that when it’s obvious like that, I mean, like to say the first injury was a back injury when everybody saw what it was. Yeah, we as a football watching people will put up with a lot of things but don’t think we’re that stupid. Like, there can be a lot of naivete, but there won’t be that kind of stupidity.
Jason Concepcion When a guy who’s purported to have a back injury never touches his back. Yeah. In the wake of the apparent injury stumbles around. Yeah. That would seem to be an indicator of something else. You mentioned pressure, and this is my question, which is it seems to me that any investigation would have to grapple with the query of was there any pressure applied to this independent doctor and what role did that play? Because otherwise, you know, like mistakes have already been said that this person made significant, quote unquote, significant mistakes. You know, then the other possibility is that, okay, this is an incompetent doctor, in which case, why were they hired for this role? Will questions of whether pressure was applied be part of this investigation? And if it is found that that is the case, what would be the outcome potentially there?
Kevin Clark So definitely that will be something that comes up. But I think the implied pressure is just as important as direct someone ordering the code. Right and saying, get this guy out there. Right. And so I think that if you’re going to address any of that, you need to address the sort of the implied pressure that football culture creates. Does that make sense? Yeah. And so I don’t like there is an eye in the sky. There already are mechanisms by which a game can be stopped on Sunday night with Cameron brate like a lot of people were saying, they thought that that was a tight end on the Bucs and Tony Dungy said he’s on the sideline. He saw that he was impaired and they just didn’t do anything. He went back in the game, caught a pass, I believe. And so like I just think from all levels we need to get more comfortable with people just saying like, let’s just be reasonable and take this guy out for a series for four quarter. But even Justin Reid, the talented defensive back for the chiefs, passed concussion protocol. That was the report. He’s passed concussion protocol. The NFL said that. The chiefs said that and make everybody, quote, tweeted and it was like, yeah, sure, buddy. No, we got you. You definitely, definitely passed concussion protocol. And like that kind of skeptical posturing is actually important, right? Like, I feel like for too long, we’ve all just sat back and. Well, the doc says he’s good to go. Yeah, Doc says a lot of things, and so there should be media pressure. You saw a couple of people say after the Thursday night, the incident that the second game, second concussion, if you if you if you want to call it that. And I will. People were saying a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. I’m really like this guy is going to lose his job and then they’re probably going to move on. Like however cynical you think this thing can be, it’s more cynical. But I do think there needs to be more of a drumbeat, more public pressure. And when we’re just we’re talking about this stuff, we’re just like, come on, they do the NFL. Somebody explain this to me a couple of months ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Like, the NFL’s biggest fear on these things is the people who don’t normally cover football star covering football. Right. Like NPR, Good Morning America. You know, all of a sudden, Gayle King is making a call saying anybody, anybody I can talk to about this piece? We’re doing a piece. It’s Gayle King. Like Goodell doesn’t want the Gayle King to act. She’s texting Elon Musk. Apparently, she’s trying to get that story now. You know, maybe she’s trying to get the concussion story. That, to me is the NFL’s worst fear. And as far as media goes, and that is we’re edging towards that every time something happens, happens.
Jason Concepcion You mentioned pressure and some of those tweets saying, oh, people are going to fire for this. I had the same reaction, which is, you know, Michael Daniel, head coach Mike McDaniel has been absolutely stern and strong on not even looking in the rearview mirror. I have no doubts that what we did was correct. And, you know, the doctor cleared. I’m like, it’s back injury. I’m not you know, I’m paraphrasing now, but there’s almost no world where someone loses their job, it seems to me, because this structure of the independent doctor is such a wonderful failsafe.
Kevin Clark We don’t even know his name.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, the guy doesn’t even exist.
Kevin Clark It’s like, Oh, yeah, that guy, he’s gone. But what guy? And that guy, you know, that guy, like. Yeah, no, it’s a perfect it’s the perfect fall guy.
Jason Concepcion There are several teams right now that are three and one in the NFL. Philly being the only unbeaten team they are Kansas City, Miami, Buffalo, Dallas, Green Bay, Minnesota. And the Giants. Why are the Giants the best of those?
Kevin Clark I went to a Giants game last week. It was the second game I’ve been to as a spectator since I joined the Ringer as my wife’s second ever NFL game.
Jason Concepcion Oh, wow. Yeah. Your wife is one of the great reporters, legitimately one of the great.
Kevin Clark Reporter that that part is real. I’m not one of the best ever do it.
Jason Concepcion She is she’s one of the great reporters currently working in our country. Big NFL fan. She’s like an NFL person.
Kevin Clark No, no. She doesn’t really get any of it. I mean, she gets it. The machinations of it. Yeah. One time we went to a Nets. This is how my wife’s brain works, went to a Nets magic game, and I got a program like the ones they hand out at the front. And she kept referring to it as a play bill. And I think that’s correct. It should be kind of playbill. And then the second part is, the first time we went to an NFL game, we went to a Chargers game because Bill Simmons wanted me to, like, do a column from there. So we’re sitting like the 10th row of this Chargers Browns game when they playing in the Galaxy Stadium. Remember that? 20,000 people there, 15,000 of them are Browns fans. It just seems so ludicrous. And like in the middle of the third quarter, my wife was like, I don’t mean to be weird, but does this game count? And I was like, That is a wonderful question. That’s a wonderful question. She also one time went to just by because I was traveling to work, I had to drop her off at a Steelers training camp practice because I had to go do something on the field. And she just sat there watching The Good Wife the whole time. And then she texted me midway through and she was like, again, like, I’m just trying to understand, like, what are these people around me watching? And I was like, I that’s a great question. That’s a big picture philosophical question about football. Like why on August 3rd are we watching Ben Roethlisberger kind of go through routes on air? I don’t know. It’s I wondered at myself, why am I doing this?
Jason Concepcion It’s because people love football. But again, so the Giants are clearly at the bottom of this list of three and one teams. That said, as a Giants fan and a Giants watcher, I struggle to understand how they’re three and one. How are the Giants three and one, and how sustainable is this? Daniel Jones has three touchdowns and two interceptions on the season. You know, what does this mean?
Kevin Clark Okay, so a couple of things. They beat a pretty good Titans team and we’ve won. So I don’t want to say it’s empty. They did beat a bad Panthers team that rose on his way to getting fired. They beat a bad Bears team yesterday. They should have beaten the Cowboys. That was the game I was at. They should have beaten the Cowboys. They should realistically have the chance to be four. No, right now. I’m surprised at this. I thought so. Those guys came from the Bills. Brian Dibble and Joe Shane, the new GM and coach, came from the Bills and the Bills. Even though they made the playoffs in McDermott’s first year, they really took a big step back, like they took the biggest dead cap salary charge in history. They were basically just like, we’re going to flush a lot of these contracts down the toilet and just start anew. And so I thought they were actually going to waste it, almost kind of like what the bears are doing. But apparently they’ve got enough talent like Daniel Jones is okay. And Brian, there was a good enough quarterback guru, too, to get him doing something. He got pressured as much as any quarterback in the league against the Cowboys, that stinks. But I think generally they’re a decent enough team. They crushed the draft, you know, Kayvon Thibodeaux is back. Saquon Barkley seems to be an above average running back again, which is a nice sight to see. So I just think that if you’re competent, you can beat bad teams. And it’s funny because Ron McNair, who as one of our Newsday producers, he’s a Giants fan, too, and we were just talking about that and he was like, we didn’t used to beat the bad teams. You know, you can you can serve as sort of the Mendoza line where you do everything competently and you beat teams like the Panthers and the Bears and the Titans when they’re sleepwalking through. Should it be in the Cowboys if you’re throwing in those guys in that bucket? But I’m just saying, it’s going to get rough because the Packers, Ravens, Jaguars coming up, maybe they win one of those games. But like if you do once an NFC is wide open, like nobody’s that good. And so I wouldn’t be surprised if these guys snuck into a wild card spot.
Jason Concepcion You do a lot of work thinking about, you know, obviously NFL is about organizations both on the field, the way teams strategize and plan, the way they organize themselves in terms of the actual team structure and the coaches and the executives who put together the teams. You know, a lot of the conversation around the Giants as they were looking for their new executives and head coaches to lead the team, was about, you know, kind of the chaos at the top, how opaque the decision making structure was. Who’s doing it right now? Who are organizations that you look at, whether it’s reflected on the field or not, where you go that will pay dividends at some point. That’s the way to do it. They’re doing it right. Whoo!
Kevin Clark Great question. Because in theory, like parts of the Jacksonville Jaguars, for instance, Doug Peterson, Trevor Lawrence, the draft hall that was there, that speaks to me. But their GM is the guy who ruined the 40 niners basically ended that whole era prematurely drafted a bunch of bad players Trump Melky and so I think there’s a ceiling on it right. You know I thought the Colts were good until this year when I realized they were a bad team. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen for it was funny because I made this analogy last year and I was reading Esquire magazine last year and it was Tim McGraw was doing the What I Learned. And he had this line in there that I think about a lot where he was like, You have no idea. I’m really in this plane. Right?
Jason Concepcion Jason, I, I’m so excited.
Kevin Clark He had this line that was like, the one thing I learned about fame is you can have the look, you can have the songs, you can have the stage presence, and it just doesn’t happen for you. It just doesn’t happen. You know, he’s seen it a million times. And sometimes the way that the Colts do everything the right way, draft to all pros in the same year, but you don’t have the quarterback. Does it all come together? Frank Reich at some point just needs to deliver. Else he’s not going to have. Job anymore. So it’s really interesting. Like, I do think that the Giants are doing it right. They’re approaching it. They’re not taking big swings. I really like it. But that’s no different to me than what the Colts did. That’s no different to me than what the Dolphins did four years ago. The Dolphins are a complete mess now as an organization, but they’re winning games. But when you look at what Brian Forbes and Chris Greer were doing four years ago, like, I love that. And so that to me, I mean, the Giants are in the mix. The Eagles are certainly the way that they were bad with intention almost a little. Sam Presti You know, where were they saying, okay, we know what we’re doing, we’re going to get draft capital, the Eagles are going to make the playoffs and be in the mix for a bye. And they also have a top five pick coming because they had the Saints pick and the Saints can’t win a game. So that to me, I think the Lions with Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell will get there eventually. I don’t know anything about the Bears, honestly. I just don’t know what the plan is. I honestly just don’t know. Like, I don’t know. They’ve got they’ve got a second year quarterback and then it’s like, yeah, whatever the whole thing is, you’re supposed to maximize your quarterback. And they didn’t really do anything with that. And so yeah, so those are the I make the Panthers. The Panthers are massive. They’ve got to start over. Coach. Maybe the Falcons are doing something good, but I mean, it’s an exceedingly rare group and it’s hard to judge. And even if you stick your neck out and say, this team’s doing it right, it ends up not like the Chargers give good press conferences, but like meanwhile, half your team is hurt and they they don’t go from fourth down any more. Like it’s a very weird situation. I mean, it’s a little bit like basketball. There’s probably games and coaches and basketball. Jason Where you meet them, they’re like, This is the smartest guy I’ve ever met. And then they just don’t get the lottery luck or somebody leaves as a free agent or the guy that they were counting on Terry’s ACL or his Achilles or whatever, but like and it just doesn’t happen. So it’s always a hard thing to gauge.
Jason Concepcion Finally, you mentioned the Eagles. Eagles fans are overrepresented at my former workplace. Your current workplace, the ringer. Yes. How sustainable is this? They’re flying high. You know, a historic start for them. The last remaining undefeated team in the NFL. What has allowed them to do this and how far can they take it?
Kevin Clark So I want to ask you a question. Sure. Because I was thinking that this morning, why are Eagles fans so represented in media? I don’t know, especially our circle of media versus Steeler fans who really like the Steelers, like when it was popular teams in the world. And they seem unbelievably not online. And I only know a few of them relative to the 300 Eagles fans. I know.
Jason Concepcion It’s a good question. Ryan, our producer, Ryan super producer. Ryan, currently on the ones interviews for this podcast, is a Steelers fan. I think part of it is that Pittsburgh is a very insular place that not a lot of people try and leave. Yes, people love Pittsburgh. It has a culture all its own, a language all its own, even within the culture of Pennsylvania. And I think people there stay there. Whereas Philly, you get a lot of people, it’s at the crossroads of the Northeast, you know, as part of the New York metro New Jersey area. And I think that there’s a lot more osmosis, a lot more movement of people. And I think because of that, you get a lot of Philly people going out and see other spaces. So that’s my back of the envelope theory.
Kevin Clark That’s a fascinating point. Also, Pittsburgh is more Midwestern. Yeah. Which is less represented in media. And I would also say that I talked to somebody in Pittsburgh media like in the last year or so and they said, like, if you grow up and you want to be a sports journalist in that area in western Pennsylvania, the be all end goal for you is to cover the Steelers. That’s it. You don’t want it. Like if they went to the top Steelers writing, they came and went. Adam Schefter Is $9 million your insider job would be like, Oh no, like dealer’s practice on a Wednesday. I’d really like to be there of D.A., you know, Chase Claypool looks good. You know, like, I’ll just I’ll just take the 90,000, and so there’s that. How sustainable is this, this Eagles thing? I mean, for the year, their schedule is so easy. Yeah. That if it isn’t sustainable, we’re not going to find out till January. Like they’re going to win games. This is not going to be like a Cardinals 2021 thing where they lose six in a row and I’m like, What’s up with them? Like, No, they’re a better team than that. They’ve the system set up better. The division is easier than that. The wheels are not going to come off anytime soon. And so I’m intrigued to see it. But it is sustainable for the 2022 season. They’re going to be a division winner. They’re going to have a home playoff game. Jalen Hurts is probably if you’re talking about not probably if you’re talking about the guys who are going to be there in the middle of January talking about Aaron Rodgers yeah. Matthew Stafford, that crew, Tom Brady, Jalen hurts, not that level. But first of all you get you know, the roster differences are such that the Eagles will have a better 53 man roster and some of those teams. Second of all, like weird stuff happens. And so I wouldn’t be surprised if they make the Super Bowl, probably be surprised they won the Super Bowl. But, you know, the damn Bengals made the Super Bowl last year. Like, we have to stop being surprised about what an upstart franchise can do. Like this is really I did a matt LaFleur piece a couple weeks ago and in it Sean McVay told me that he told. Fleur that like the NFL playoffs now are like March Madness and it’s not about the best team winning. It’s about the best team that through our window winning. And you kind of have to know how to coach to those three hour windows. Right. And so you kind of don’t know who’s a fraud and who’s not in that department until you get to mid-January. That’s also why I think the Packers struggling to win the Super Bowl, this means they’re thinking about it and they’ve got March Madness brain. So I’m intrigued to see what happens between those teams because I really do think there could be some massive differences.
Jason Concepcion He’s Kevin Clark, senior NFL writer for The Ringer dot com. Kevin, thanks for joining Takeline.
Kevin Clark Thanks, buddy.
Jason Concepcion That’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and check out my pop culture and entertainment podcast X-Ray Vision, which comes out every Friday. Goodbye. Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Ryan Wallerson and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Engineering, editing and sound design by the great Sarah Dubalaska and the folks at Chapter four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vasquez. Mia Kelman is on the Zoom for vibes and the vibes are fantastic all the time.