In This Episode
Welcome to a NBA and Athletic heavy edition of Takeline. Jason Concepcion and the great Zach Harper, NBA insider extraordinaire for the Athletic, dissect the early season struggles of the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, then Zach’s fellow NBA Insider at the Athletic John Hollinger joins the episode to share his thoughts on the first week of the NBA season and major storylines for the 2022 NBA campaign.
Jon Favreau [AD]
Jason Concepcion Listen, when the baseball season is over. Yeah, when football is over and that town begins to fully attenuate its sights on the Philadelphia 76ers. Yeah, that better be a positive story.
Zach Harper They booed him against the Spurs like they already were in it. Yes, I think that was a home opener they’re, just like no.
Jason Concepcion They were booing Embiid. This is listen, we can argue about whether or not that is wise or pathological or whatever, but that’s just Philly. Yeah. Hello. Welcome to Takeline. I’m your host, Jason Concepcion. This week we’re going NBA heavy and athletic heavy. The great, the wonderful, the best ever do it. Zach Harper, NBA insider extraordinaire and of course, one of the great hosts of The Athletic NBA show is my co-host today as we dissect the early season struggles of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, then Zach’s fellow NBA insider at the Athletic, John Hollinger, the creator of PER, former front office executive for the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the great analysts looking at the NBA today will join us and he will be giving us some of his thoughts his way, way too early thoughts on the first week of the NBA season. Zach. It is way too early to make sweeping pronouncements.
Zach Harper Agree.
Jason Concepcion About things like, Oh, the Knicks are better than we thought. The Jazz are out of the Wembley Sweepstakes because they’re playing too well. But I think that it is definitely not too early to make very, very authoritative statements about the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers we expected. Yeah, but let’s talk about the Sixers, because, folks, everything coming out of Philly that is not Phillies related is bad right now. And Eagles related like it’s it’s bad.
Zach Harper Yeah, but here’s the thing. I don’t like to overreact. Right. Right. I like I like to have some fun here, but I for the most part, I’m so vain that I want to have measured takes on the NBA. Sure. Not swing one way or the other at the drop of a hat, because I want to be correct. Right. Like that’s how vain I am. I would rather be correct than bias or whatever I had in the power rankings. On The Athletic for opening week. I had, I think the Sixers sixth in the NBA for like current status and everything. They were in a tier I called like brink of contention like the right there. We just got to see this and this and and they’re going to be contenders and everything. Yep. I dropped them to 16th this week. I’m done with them. It is. They’re done. They’re going to fire Doc, right? They wanted to they probably wanted to fire Doc last year.
Jason Concepcion That means seat. You can’t measure the temperature of that seat right now.
Zach Harper Well, I’m curious, who do you think has a hotter seat right now? Is it Doc Rivers or will Hardy because the Jazz are supposed to be losing in this dumb guy keeps coaching them up to win so it’s Lauri Markkanen and.
Jason Concepcion I think that Ainge has moves right it’s just start getting guys you know like these guys are playing too well and start trading. The guys who are playing well, Will Hardy, you know, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. I think it’s Doc. I think right now the only question is what is Mike D’Antoni schedule for the next three weeks like? Is he around?
Zach Harper If you’re doc and you just see Mike like at a sandwich shop somewhere in Philly, are you like, what are you doing here? Yeah. Oh, you don’t work here anymore. You’re not an assistant under Brett Brown anymore. Like, you got to go.
Jason Concepcion I mean, I think that it’s easy to overreact, right. But when Doc said last week after a shocking loss to the Spurs. Shocking loss, yeah. A team again. There is a team who may be playing too well to truly tank for Victor. One banana said we weren’t ready to play. I can’t do it in the gravelly voice that he said we weren’t ready to play to which and usually, you know Twitter I don’t put much stock in Twitter snipers and the things you know, I’m a long avowed Twitter sniper myself and I’m just talking shit most of the time. Yeah. That said, everybody, quote, tweeted that report with, well, whose job is it to get them ready to play? I’m just wondering that not you, doc.
Zach Harper Yeah.
Jason Concepcion I mean, this is a man who doesn’t want to do it anymore, right?
Zach Harper I mean, he like they don’t practice, he just golfs.
Jason Concepcion He well, that’s well known.
Zach Harper Yeah, but that’s been for years. Like, you think he would love to get in another couple of rounds every week? Like, of course he would instead of get on a plane. Like he can just go to like the Bel-Air Country Club back at it. Like that’s what he wants. And so I look at it and there was a point in the Sixers Spurs game where I thought, Oh, they don’t have an answer for Devin Basel. And that like shouldn’t be the plight of the Sixers team. I think that it’s weird too, because like James Harden is playing really well offensively. Yeah, right. Like we know the defense and yes Rockets fans he once was a good post defender for possession possessions the game we don’t need to put the rest of the defense is laughable at best.
Jason Concepcion They love to say that.
Zach Harper But he’s playing well. He’s cooking like he’s getting to the free throw line enough. He’s getting in the mid-range and knocking it down. He’s hitting threes like he’s doing everything. But I don’t think Joel knows how to play with that guy. Like, it’s not that he can’t learn, but you look and he had a switch with I want to say like West Matthews on him. Yeah at one point and James had a mismatch on the perimeter so he just starts cooking and Joel just kind of like walks slowly to the dunker spot in the baseline. But there was no, like, purpose with the movement. And he looks so slow right now. Maybe it’s an injury, maybe it’s lethargy. Like, I don’t know what it is, but right. Like he doesn’t look locked in like he has the most boring 27 and 13 to open a week where it just like the numbers don’t really mean anything. He has no impact and I they have to figure out like the dynamic of that.
Jason Concepcion They’ve talked about. You know, obviously he did not play in EuroBasket and was dealing with stuff over the summer and the Sixers have been open about that. His conditioning is just not going to be there for a little while, which is concerning. That said, this is a team with Tyrese Maxey and James Harden in your backcourt. They’re going to be weak points. They’re going to just be scoring points.
Zach Harper Yeah.
Jason Concepcion And your answer to that is we have Joel Embiid back there and that has not been any kind of answer at all. And that part of it, to your point, it just he doesn’t look engaged or like he wants to do it. And furthermore, this is just a team with like parts that I don’t. No how they match. You have one guy who really, really wants to run and who is most effective when running. Tyrese Maxey Yeah, you have a rest of the team that is just really not like Tobias Harris, maybe the fastest guy of the guys who play like a lot. They just are not going to run. James Harden wants to dribble the ball 800 times yet. This is a team that really needs to kind of swing it around to get Joel posted up in the position that he needs. It’s just I don’t it’s bad. Yeah, it looks bad right now, Zach.
Zach Harper It’s funny too, because like in the preseason, there was a point where, like, people were like, Man, they’re bringing Matisse Thybulle off the bench. I’m like, Yeah, yeah. Like that’s like if the Thunder brought Andre Roberson off the bench, right? It’s not really like, Oh my God, look at all the depth we have. I thought they had more depth than they do coming into it. But we’re at a point where when they play Paul Reid over Montrezl Harrell I’m like, Oh, thank God. Like they’re going to have a little bit of defensive effort out there. Yeah. For the center position like there was a you know you talk about Embiid not being really like engaged there was a play in the Bucks game where John I think it was often offensive rebound they kind of reset into the defense and Giannis like was in the right corner like he had migrated to the right corner and Embiid was on him on the switch and it’s not like he was hugging up on him in the right corner, but he’s like a foot outside of the paint on the other side. The ball comes in, it’s just an easy drive. He didn’t even look to rotate. Like, that’s literally what you’re there for. You’re the big one. The big one’s supposed to rotate and get in the way of that and like you can’t like be mad. It would be like worry about Giannis in the corner like that. So there’s not that decision that you made. Like, you just like I’m good. I don’t want to do this.
Jason Concepcion How long to give, Doc? How long do you think do you think it happens?
Zach Harper I think it does. Like if I said the over under at Thanksgiving.
Jason Concepcion Right.
Zach Harper I think I’d take the under because I think that’s something you have to handle sooner rather than later if this continues.
Jason Concepcion I agree, because the east is stacked and you just can’t let this go too far. Yeah, because I don’t this is not a Sixers team that really looks like it has the ability to kind of like claw its way back. And furthermore, it’s also not a team that you really bad vibes really affect this team. Yeah, we’re talking Philly, a town that is ready, willing and able to turn on this squad and God forbid, listen, when the baseball season is over. Yeah, when football is over. Yeah. And that town begins to fully attenuate its sights on the Philadelphia 76ers. Yeah, that better be a positive story.
Zach Harper They booed him against the Spurs like they already were in it. Yes, I think there was a home opener there, just like they were doing in your beat.
Jason Concepcion This is listen, we can argue about whether or not that is wise or pathological or whatever, but that’s just Philly. Yeah. So folks, I think it needs to happen. I agree with you. I would take the under. Yeah, I would say they go if they open first ten games, if they start like three and seven or even five and five, if it’s a bad five and five.
Zach Harper Right.
Jason Concepcion I think that it’s probably curtains for for Doc Rivers.
Zach Harper I think they desperately need the Phillies to win the World Series. I really.
Jason Concepcion Do.
Zach Harper And the Eagles, if it’s anything less than the conference championship, the Sixers team can’t handle the rain, though. It’s horror that is going to befall this roster every single home game.
Jason Concepcion Okay. Let’s talk about the other team about which it is absolutely appropriate to make sweeping statements about three games, four games, one week into the season. And that is the L.A. Lakers who there is nothing that they can do. Yeah, that there is nothing they can do. I mean, every single day, every single game is followed by six, seven, eight viral plays that get blown up on social media. That is like Russell Westbrook. Yeah. Breaking an 18 footer with 20 seconds left in the shot up Russell Westbrook blowing a layup Patrick Beverley running around like a madman and then shooting off the side of the backboard. People standing 15 feet away from every single Lakers player. I mean, and there’s nothing they can do. No, Zach, there’s no move that they have.
Zach Harper I have no skin in this game with the Lakers. I don’t hate the Lakers, like, in any way. Like, I don’t care if they’re good gravy or not. I’ll make jokes like, I don’t care. So I’m not one of those people. Like takes joy in watching them win against Portland. When the Lakers had a two point lead with like 29 seconds left in the game and the ball and Russell jacked up a mid range shot. I literally yelled at my TV in my bedroom like, What are you doing? Like I felt so upset in that moment and now I’m trying to picture myself as a Laker fan and like what that moment must have been. And Russ is going to get scapegoated. Like, this team sucks. It’s not just Russ. He maybe embodies some of that, but, like, it is not that guy. LeBron is just a scorer at this point. He’s so bad defensively. Yeah, but we just marvel at, Oh, you’re 20, going to catch Kareem, which is fine. Like that’s the vibe of this Lakers season.
Jason Concepcion I mean, that’s what the mission is going to be really soon. We’re going to go for that soon.
Zach Harper You have to like they have to focus on that. Jason, I have seen Andre Miller make more baskets on an errant alley oop pass than I’ve seen three pointers go in for this Lakers team so far this season.
Jason Concepcion Like it is, if you told me they’ve hit three total three, I don’t know what the number is, but if you told me it was three, I believe you. I believe you.
Zach Harper It is that. Look, check out these numbers. Look, look, LeBron, 25.9% from three. Anthony Davis 20%. Lonnie Walker the fourth 17.6%. Patrick Beverley 21.4%. Russell Westbrook 8.3%. Austin Reeves 28.6. Once It’s Got to Anderson 12.5. Kendrick Nunn 23.1. It takes to the ninth most attempts on the team, which is Matt Ryan at five to get to a 40% shooter.
Jason Concepcion You know, LeBron famously said that we don’t have lasers on this team.
Zach Harper They don’t have a slingshot lasers.
Jason Concepcion They don’t have a slingshot. They don’t have a spitball. They don’t have anything. And listen, I’m not going to present myself as some sort of basketball genius, but it does seem to me when you don’t have shooters, the blueprint is defense. Like we’re going to grind it down. Sure, we’re going to work for everything. And because we’re not going to be able to outscore you, certainly not efficiently. And this is also a team that’s not going to do that.
Zach Harper Right. Well, you know, if you look at this team and see like, oh, there’s really no shooters on this roster, would you take 40 a game? Would you take 40 threes again? Because that’s what they’re doing. They look at this roster and say, jack them up, boys.
Jason Concepcion Is that is the part of it that doesn’t make sense. Why is Russell Westbrook taking six threes a game? Why does that happen at all? I do actually feel bad now for the way because he is not specifically the only problem.
Zach Harper Right. But he is like the symbol for it for some reason.
Jason Concepcion Yes, he is the symbol for it. And listen, we could relitigate the deal that brought him here and the fact that we’re going to extend all that, forget all that. Sure. What do we do now is the question. And the answer is, I don’t know. Like even if you attach the draft picks, which I think the Lakers are wise to think about, not attaching to anything and protecting like the crown jewels right now for that long rumored deal that would deliver. Buddy Hield And I don’t know. Myles Turner, I guess, yeah, that what does that do? Does that play in maybe like I’m not sure what that does because the other part of this that is really and truly scary is that LeBron Nnadi are still top 25 guys, right? Sure. They’ve slipped down that ranking. And when you do that, like the air up there is very thin. So coming down, going from like the fourth best guy to the eighth best guy, that’s a drop. And I think it’s a drop that significantly alters the ceiling of this squad.
Zach Harper I think like a potential body healed. Myles Turner trade it at least gives them a lineup, right?
Jason Concepcion There’s a lineup.
Zach Harper That I’m like, sure, like that. Like that works, right? If I’m Steve Kerr or Bob Myers or Steph Curry or Andre Iguodala, I would go up to Draymond Green after every single Lakers game and say, I fucking dare you to sign with that team this summer. I dare you like go do it like we’ll replace you with Kuminga for it. We don’t give a shit. We dare you to go sign with that team because they’re going to give you the max because of clutch.
Jason Concepcion I mean, it’s really what they need is another, you know, low double digit three point shooter.
Zach Harper We were shooting 21% of the season. Well, we’ll fix that. Let’s get Trayvon in here. Let’s let’s let him mix it up with his backpack, jump shot.
Jason Concepcion Like, listen, if the Lakers could do the things that they really need to do, they would just blow it up entirely. Yeah. Focus on catching Kareem. Okay. That’s going to be our narrative this season. And just that’s it. And then just blow this team up. Blow it up.
Zach Harper Do you think that I realize, like, I think I have a skewed view on this because I’ve never really been an ad guy. And so as I see him like be borderline useless out there in terms of like getting the team to two wins, I feel vindicated. Finally, like that championship really brought me down. It’s not like I have never thought he’s bad. I’ve just been like and I think I can be honest about this. It was when he was coming out of Kentucky. You’re like, Oh, he’s like Kevin Garnett. I was like, Oh, okay, like this. Yeah, like Gary. This is like, I know Katy’s a piece of shit everyday when I love him. And, like, that was my childhood. And, like, don’t. Yeah, like, this dude’s nothing like CG. So I do feel vindicated that I never really bought in. And this is him at his peak and everything. And the championship definitely took a hit to that agenda. But are there teams that would look at AD right now and say, not like, oh, will we trade for him? I think you would trade for him. But what is like a like could you get what the jets. Has got for Donovan Mitchell like you’re not getting.
Jason Concepcion What you’re not getting.
Zach Harper For Gobert. You’re not getting anything close to what you gave up for him in terms of that deal to to New Orleans. So like what is, what is he, 29 like? Yeah. What are you giving up for a 29 year old Anthony Davis at this point, who doesn’t seem to affect winning in the way that you would expect?
Jason Concepcion I completely agree. And then to your point, because of the way Victor is going to warp the lower end of the league this season, yeah, you’re really only working with teams like Sacramento, you know, like teams on the bubble who want to be good and are too good to tank.
Zach Harper Right.
Jason Concepcion And, you know, but but then again, I don’t know why Sacramento would do that, considering the kind of, like, good vibes they have around the team.
Zach Harper Well, they suck.
Jason Concepcion They they suck. But like, there’s glimmers there. And it is also a, you know, you could see that ownership group being like, push all in, let’s go. Here it is. Now is the time.
Zach Harper What is what is pushing all back? What is it. Because I thought it was when they acquired Kevin Huerter like I thought was like oh shit, they’re going for it like.
Jason Concepcion You know but like to your point, I don’t know what the market for it is right now, considering his injury history, his age, he appears to be in his career and the fact that, you know, like Russell Westbrook, I think he sees himself in a certain way and carries himself in a certain way that’s probably not amenable to whatever team would want him.
Zach Harper There was a great question in, I think, a group chat that you’re in as well where our friend Nick Nampa asked about the Blazers. Leave the contracts out of it. Right. Who’s the worst blazer you would trade straight up for? Russell Westbrook and I think they came to a consensus of it was either Keon Johnson or Greg Brown. I think it’s a great exercise to do for every team of like, let’s pretend you don’t have to match contracts. Like who’s the worst player on this team? Like what’s the lowest you would go on that depth chart to trade for Russell Westbrook? It’s like for the Blazers, if it’s above Keon Johnson or Greg Brown’s ability, they’re like, Nah, it’s not worth it.
Jason Concepcion Well, I mean, I mean, I do Julius Randle for A.D right now.
Zach Harper Yeah, well yeah I do.
Jason Concepcion But I’d also trade him for Draymond Green I would think. Yeah, he’s playing well I shouldn’t. Julius is playing really well. Right.
Zach Harper And looks you know what I want to say this about the Knicks. I was very skeptic. I’m still am skeptical, but the energy and the vibe that is there, the first two games I’m all in on, like that’s what I wanted to see out of those guys early on. We’ll see if that sustains because I don’t know. I don’t know how you can be a player on that team and look at Tom Thibodeau’s beard every day and be like, Yeah, I’m going to buy in because that that’s one of the worst periods we’ve ever seen. But the vibes of this team, the energy like it through two games, I know it’s done, but like through two games, I’m like, that’s that I don’t like. It doesn’t feel like last year at all.
Jason Concepcion Like we’ve got good problems. Like when will Hartenstein be starting? Like those are the kind of Yeah. Things. And sadly, because the East is so stacked, it’s like unclear to me how much better actually in terms of wins and losses they’re actually going to be than last year’s team. But they’re just so much more fun to watch. I want to make an admission similar to your admission. Okay. I’ve always kind of been a little bit of a Russ here. Like, I’ve always enjoyed the swagger, the courageousness. Yeah. But also, like, you know, as a person who has watched basketball my whole life, bad basketball plays always, like, just annoy me, you know, not passing to Kevin Durant late in games. Yeah, always. Just really, really frustrated me. And I got to say, I think when the story of Russell Westbrook is all written, one of the things that will become obvious is how at every stage of and every like fork in the road point of his career, people bet on Russ and lost tragically dramatically going back to you know it’s been overblown but going back to the Hart or Russ and Ibaka kind of decision that OKC made and clearly they picked the wrong thing there. And I think you just move it forward. I think that people have been betting on Russ for a while and it’s the returns are only getting worse and worse and worse.
Zach Harper It’s crazy that. I think the Wizards, the only team that’s like really won here and they had to give up a first with John Wall to make that deal. But he dragged them to the playoffs the one year he was there. That second half of the COVID shortened season was insane because they were living like.
Jason Concepcion The first half of the season was very, very.
Zach Harper Rough. They had missed like two straight weeks, so they had to make up all these games. And Russell was just like, I’m built for this. I will like, you want me to play when other guys won’t play and like, put up stats. I’ll do this. I’ll get us two wins. They got through the play and they got to the first round. They got bounced and then they traded them for like KCP and Cous when they’re like, that’s the best. Westbrook like experience, return, start to finish. That has been like completely positive and not like a dramatic drop off.
Jason Concepcion Well, I think that’s the blueprint for what you have to do with Russ now. Like if you want to get the most effectiveness out of him, you turn over the keys to him completely.
Zach Harper Yeah.
Jason Concepcion And come what may, you know, I think it was the first part of that Wizards season was really, really shaky until he kind of like shook the rust off and started doing the thing. And that mostly involved like Russ just being Russ. Yeah, but you also have to be very, very clear eyed about the ceiling of that kind of play. And it’s a low playoff berth and it is definitely not a championship. And it’s not even the second round.
Zach Harper No, definitely not. But you just you also have to be careful because if you bring him off the bench, it’s he’ll get injured because his body isn’t built that way. I guess that’s my favorite. That’s like early leader in the clubhouse for just quotables. Right.
Jason Concepcion So what you were referencing is a quote by VI Russ. He was asked if coming off the bench at all played into like a hamstring tweak that he suffered and he said, Yeah, you know, like, I didn’t yeah, I didn’t even know how to warm up, he said. Which to me, listen, ask any number of players that you play with right now who come off the bench. You could, Hey, what do you do to warm up? Would you guys go out the bench? That’s one like if you were being sincere that sincerely like yeah I take and then two like you’re the first player that’s ever transitioned from the starting role to the.
Zach Harper The.
Jason Concepcion Way it’s just I feel bad.
Zach Harper His answer was absolutely not maybe not. Yeah it was it was did this he said absolutely no doubt. No notes, just off the bench hamstring.
Jason Concepcion Well, let’s bring on noted NBA expert, one of the greatest to ever do it, John Hollinger, to help us talk about these issues and more.
Jason Concepcion [AD].
Jason Concepcion The season openers are in the books in the 2022 NBA season is underway. Here to discuss this season’s storylines as they exist right now. The one banana tankers and everything in between is John Hollinger, senior NBA columnist for The Athletic. John, welcome back to Takeline. John, welcome to the program. What a entertaining first week of the NBA season. Any surprises jump out to you right off the bat?
John Hollinger Yeah, I mean, Utah inadvertently winning three games, I think. Certainly.
Jason Concepcion How dare you.
John Hollinger Stands out.
Jason Concepcion How dare you?
John Hollinger What is going on here?
Jason Concepcion Words to that fine franchise.
Zach Harper Yeah. Yeah. John, Will Hardy. Hot seat or what? What’s going on.
John Hollinger No! You’re screwing it all up dude, what are you doing?
Jason Concepcion Well, that it feels like, you know, obviously, if there are two good. There’s various things that Ainge could do, but that it feels like that’s a squad that will come down to earth at some point.
John Hollinger No, they’ll get to the number they need to get to in due time. And you know, the flattened lottery odds, though, really change this because you just need to achieve a certain level of badness. You don’t need to humiliate yourself the way the process Sixers did, let’s say, in order to get roughly the same potential reward, because the bottom six or seven teams could have roughly similar odds. So it’s not quite the race to the bottom that it was maybe four or five years ago.
Zach Harper On a scale of one to process, you know, the process, Sixers went three. Oh, no. They beat the heat behind Michael Carter-Williams like to start that season.
John Hollinger They did. You know Tony Rhoden had a triple double and like we were getting shit about it like how could you trade that guy?
Zach Harper Oh, my God. All right. I just wanted to 20 quick minutes on Tony Rhoden and then then you guys talk whatever you want. But but so I’m wondering, like, is that more surprising or is it. Lowry Markkanen and Kelly Olynyk like can’t be stopped as a duo and and there’s just nothing anyone else can can do about it.
John Hollinger I actually thought Utah would be okay to begin the season until they start trading some more guys because they do have a lot of offensive talent on this team right now. I mean, you look at the stats, they’re sort of benefiting from Jedi three point defense and that’s going to even itself out. But there’s enough offense on that team to kind of stick around 500 for the first half of the season, but they’ll work it out. Don’t you worry.
Jason Concepcion They’ll figure it out. To that end. Baxter Holmes of ESPN had a story that that dropped late last week in which it quoted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as saying, you know, we put teams on notice regarding the tanking for French Prospect Indiana. And that, you know, one of the things that they had talked about was relegation and it Adam didn’t really expound on in what context he brought that up. But my initial reaction to that was, come on, man, get Syria. Why are you even bringing up a thing that will never, ever, ever happen?
John Hollinger Relegation seems totally hopeless to me. Like it would completely change how the league operates. Basically because there would be this class of teams that sort of operated in the netherworld between the the first division and the second division, but couldn’t go all the way in on investing in their teams because they knew the chance of relegation was out there. So you sort of have the core teams that always stayed up the way you do in English football, and then you’d have this second tier of teams that can maybe get relegated and maybe not like I mean, you know, theoretically, yes, Manchester City could get relegated, but like, you know, what’s their budget is like five. Yeah, everyone else is like it’s not going to happen.
Jason Concepcion Yeah. I can’t wait to watch Lakers versus Maine Red Claws on Twitch. Next season. *laughs*
John Hollinger And then like with the salary cap and everything, like, yeah, yeah. Like, okay, you’ve been relegated to the G League, but you still have $120 million payroll for the next year. Like, no, it’s it just there are too many structural impossibilities in how the NBA operates.
Zach Harper I’d love to see Fort Wayne put up the Lakers for a minute. And just how are we going to how are we going to make that work? How are you going to deal with the mad and sort of back to back with with Sioux Falls?
John Hollinger I want to see the Lakers actually staying in the best Western Ram Kota in Sioux Falls where everyone stays when they play there.
Zach Harper Oddly specific job. That is a man who has traveled the G League. I wonder it feels like Adam Silver at that point is just the dad saying, I’ll turn this car around. No intention. You’re still doing theater, but you still go to the movies, but like, they’re not going to turn this car around. And I don’t know, John, like, you’re a smart person. Like I’ve always just said, just even the the odds. One 314. If we’re going to. Keep the draft like this. Even odds one through 14 like it used to be. And the argument against is always, well, what if someone takes out of the playoffs to get a pick? I’m like, It’s still just a one in 14 shot. And I don’t know how many like franchise, especially like greedy owners are going to go out there and say like, yeah, well I’ll pass up on a round of, of playoff revenue for, for whatever this is.
John Hollinger Yeah. Nobody’s going to tank out of the playoffs just for a 7% chance at the top pick. I think people did not like the previous format because they felt like it because they did do that for a while and the teams at the bottom were very salty about it and they just felt like it helped teams that didn’t really need to be helped. And so I’m okay with the somewhat staggered odds we have now where it’s highly likely that the top pick will go to a bad team. But you don’t necessarily like the marginal value of Oklahoma City trying to lose one more game than San Antonio. Like it just isn’t there. So I think the way they figured this out is pretty good right now.
Zach Harper But even as unbiased media members like we can all agree, we’re all rooting for the Lakers to get the number one pick and then the Pelicans to get to swap in. Like that’s the best case scenario, right, for this whole thing shaking out.
John Hollinger Oh, of course. Of course. Yeah, absolutely. And I exac I do have to disagree with one thing you said, though. You started this off by saying, John, you’re a smart guy and I just I just need to call bullshit.
Zach Harper Relative to to the one you’re talking to here because I get you started talking like, I don’t know, cosines and tangents and bullshit and I’m just like, I don’t know what’s going on. They would have to.
Jason Concepcion Build a statue of Robert pulling somewhere in New Orleans if indeed that came to pass.
Zach Harper I think you have to change Pier the Pelican to just a remake of Rob Pelinka. Right.
Jason Concepcion The New Orleans Palinkas. I think you name the franchise after him, because not only are you talking about a New Orleans team that like could easily win 50 games this year, I mean, they they look, you know, hopefully Zion stays healthy took a took a knock in the last game getting blocked at the rim but that is a team that is laden with talent and has good vibes around it for the first time in what seems like several seasons if they added one but I’m a forget about it again. Name the team the New Orleans Pelicans after that. John, tell us why, if you could, why is Victor such a general? Why are teams willing to just, like, throw it all the way for a lottery ticket to get this kid?
John Hollinger So I saw him in Vegas play twice and he was unbelievable. I mean, he’s seven and four. He’s sort of a cross between Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson and Dirk Nowitzki because his shot is just butter. Like it is so easy and so pure and so fluid at that size. It’s incredible to see he can really handle the ball for his size, seems very mature and put together to like just watching his interviews and stuff. And so basically like there were 30 teams there who spent five days looking for red flags and they didn’t find that, you know what I mean? They’re looking at this guy trying to ask themselves, okay, what’s the catch? And there’s no catch.
Zach Harper It’s stunning to like because everyone’s been like, it’s this is the guy you create in a video game, right? And yeah. And it’s stunning to look at this like it’s funny because I looked at Chet Holmgren and I’m like, he’ll be a good player, but there’s something about it I don’t like. Like, I don’t know what it is. I think it’s just like he’s not as fluid as I would want him to be on the perimeter. And, you know, this, like bodybuilding, everything Victor went by. Yama is not quite that skinny. He looks a little more built out, but he’s like even more stretched out then hungrier. And I’m just like, Fuck, yeah, yeah. Like, that’s the guy. Like, if you’re not ranking for him, you’re negligent.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, it reminds me of when I as a kid, I first saw Shaq and obviously completely different body types, but it was that, oh, this just looks like a regular sized person that you scaled up.
Zach Harper Yes.
Jason Concepcion To seven foot one. Yeah. And I’m not you know, obviously, again, like Victor is a little skinnier than that. But he looks to your point about like Dirk or like he has moves that a smaller player would use, like he’s got this fade to the corner, which I’m like, Do you even need that? Like, why.
Zach Harper Did you get.
Jason Concepcion Like, you don’t need it.
John Hollinger Yeah, yeah.
Zach Harper Okay.
Jason Concepcion But that, that and it’s the way he moves and the grace with which he carries himself. And then again, the kind of frame that he has where he just looks like a very tall guy who you scaled up in a natural way to be seven four or whatever it is. And he looks like he has complete control of the way his body moves. He doesn’t look like one of these guys who had, you know, a late teens growth spurt where it’s all of a sudden they’re like, oh, how do I move my legs and arms? There is none of that. He looks like he came out of the womb 7’4.
Zach Harper So just yeah.
Jason Concepcion It’s unreal.
John Hollinger Yeah. The absence of one thing kind of stuck out to me, and I don’t think I saw him fall down.
Zach Harper Wow. Yeah. Roy Hibbert used to fall down once every two plays. Like Roy, it was average in most fall downs in history.
John Hollinger Jim McKelvey For the old timers.
Zach Harper Jim. Jim McKelvey Was this was just a slip and slide. Like he was just always going to the ground.
John Hollinger Yeah, yeah. It was it was unbelievable.
Jason Concepcion I was going to say, you know, lost in all the talk about how absolutely tragicomic the Lakers are and I’ll get your take on that in a second. Is the Clippers who maybe ISO too much, but who John Wall is giving them everything they could have hoped for at this early stage of the season? You know, bring Kawhi off the bench. I don’t. We’ll see how that works going forward, but that looks like a good team.
John Hollinger All right. So let me give you a trivia question. Sure. You know who’s 30th on offense right now after our very long season after three games?
Zach Harper I’ll just guess. The Lakers. Yeah.
John Hollinger The Lakers. The L.A. Lakers. They’re like way, way and last. You know who’s 29th?
Jason Concepcion Is it the Clippers?
John Hollinger It is, yes.
Zach Harper Yeah, but the vibes are like a top 15 offense. Yeah, the vibes.
John Hollinger Yeah. It’s interesting how they’re using Kawhi, you know, because what they’re basically decided to do is just skip his first turn in the rotation almost and just pretend as if it happened and then like sub him back in in the middle of the second quarter, except he never played the first quarter and just continue from there as though things were totally normal. It’s a little weird with the clapper. Yeah. I don’t want to overreact to three games almost any anyway. High or low. They are built to kind of need another guy. Norm Powell, they were hoping would be that guy, another guy to step up and score, too. And they haven’t really gotten that yet. Powell has been struggling and Reggie Jackson has really gotten going. John Wall has been really encouraging. He sat out the one game with the back to back, but so that’s been a really nice side for them overall. Like I like this Clippers team. I think they’re deep. I think they can match up a lot of ways. I’m a little worried that they only have one real center, but they’re sort of making it work so far. And Kawhi will eventually play more minutes. But as they go through the regular season, it’s definitely a little still a little bit of like a work in progress feel with them.
Zach Harper For like the melting pot in the east that is like Cleveland, Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago. Who do you believe in the most and who do you believe in the least? Out of those four.
John Hollinger So least is Chicago. That’s an easy one. I didn’t believe in them even healthy, but with no Lonzo with Zach Lavine in the DSU, I don’t think they’re deep enough. I don’t think they have enough shooting. I don’t really like their guards that much. I mean, Caruso is a great defender, but in terms of like offensive and creation and whatnot, there’s just too much of a load on DeRozan right now of that group who I like the most. I’m going to say Cleveland. I think, you know, they’ve been able to play pretty well even without Garland these last couple of games, but worry a little about their depth too, and their small forward position. But with that Allen Mobley frontcourt combo, just putting a lid on the rim, I think really helps them. And then having Mitchell obviously would be the kind of go to score for them. I just think they have a lot of different ways to beat you now. I think they’ll be really good.
Jason Concepcion Does the Bulls medical staff need to stop injecting metal filings into the knees of their players?
Zach Harper Is that what they’ve been doing? I believe so. I think that’s what they pulled out of Lonzo the. Yeah.
John Hollinger That explains a lot. Yeah.
Jason Concepcion I we talked about the Clippers and their lack of centers. Their former backup center, Isaiah Artenstein, now a player for the New York Knicks. One of my favorite subsub sub subplots of the season has been a Reddit user whose name escapes me now, who I have to say did accurately predict that Nikola Jokic would be like an MVP level player back in the day, has now predicted that Hartenstein will similarly rise to the level of an NBA all star that’s optimistic. All that aside, all.
John Hollinger Start like a guy who plays in the all star game.
Jason Concepcion All star like an all star. But I like again, this is crazy and I don’t even know why I brought it.
John Hollinger Up like Bo did. It is part of some, like, internet ruse that, like, catches fire.
Jason Concepcion No, no, no. Like an actual all star, like all NBA level player. It’s one of the greatest threads in Internet history. All that aside, Harden signed. You just feel like he will start at some point, mostly because Mitchell Robinson will, like, get injured, surely. But he, along with Jalen Brunson, are the two greatest additions in recent Knick history that I can remember. Please tell me why that is the case. I just want to hear it. I just love it. They’re not going to be a good team. They’re going to be fighting for the play-in. But it’s the vibes again are wonderful right now around that squad.
John Hollinger A lot of lefty ness going on.
Jason Concepcion Like almost all lefty ness.
Zach Harper Yeah.
John Hollinger No, I mean, having guys who actually know how to play basketball on the team is like a nice little twist.
Zach Harper It’s a weird concept. Yeah.
John Hollinger It’s not typically the type of. The Knicks have been known for making, let’s say, you know, they’ve gone for shiny objects mostly. Yeah. But also Brunson is 26, Harden Stevens 24. Like they’re going to be around for a while. So I think it’s not your typical like 33 year old veteran Knicks free agent pickup. So I think that’s exciting because of that. So New York has done a lot of things right in kind of this rose Leon Rose era, Leon slash derrick, I guess Rose era rebuild. But the they still kind of need that centerpiece, that big fish like Julius Randle is not that guy. Clearly, I don’t think RJ Barrett is going to be that guy. You’ll be a good player, you know, the same with Brunson, but they kind of need a guy who’s going to be one of the ten best players in the East, at the very least, to be kind of the centerpiece of that team. And then I think that’s the point where they turn into a team where their depth really pushes them forward when that when they have star talent and depth as well, because right now they’re just like ten decent to good players, which kind of gets you in the middle of the pack.
Zach Harper Now, John, some pundits have said Cam Reddish is that guy. Some some, you know, pundits with like really good hair and like, amazing. Yeah.
John Hollinger A lot of people here in Atlanta been talking that one up. Yeah.
Zach Harper A lot of people here in this zoom box right here have said that camera, this is that guy. So, you know, I think they maybe have them, but Tom just has to play him more.
Jason Concepcion Yeah, let me just say, he started the season strong and it’s been fantastic to see he for every like incredible like gifted play he makes offensively where he just kind of like instinctively knifes into the lane after getting an offensive rebound or steal or whatever. It’s accompanied by two or three plays where he’s just like, Where’s my guy? I forgot about him. It’s like, Yeah, what am I doing on defense? Where am I supposed to stand over here? And you can actually watch all of that play out. Like if you just watch him.
Zach Harper And he’s middle management JR Smith like he just like.
John Hollinger Lots of dribbling misadventures, too.
Jason Concepcion Any other surprises over this? You know, this early part? I guess we should talk about the Lakers.
Zach Harper Yeah.
Jason Concepcion What actual positive option do they have, if any?
John Hollinger A, just counting on the fact that, okay, even if we’re bad at shooting, we can’t possibly be this bad, right?
Zach Harper Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Jason Concepcion I mean. I mean, they’re shooting open shots, everything, because people are. Leaving them alone.
Zach Harper Yeah, they’re wide open shots.
John Hollinger Like setting aside Westbrook. Okay. Like LeBron, 26%. Lonnie Walker, 17%. Pat Beverley 21%. Austin Reeves 28%. Kendrick Nunn 23%. Like, surely they’re capable of better than that, right?
Zach Harper I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know, John. That’s looked pretty bad.
Jason Concepcion Well, John, thank you so much for joining us. Can’t wait to talk to you again. And of course, we’re going to be going to be following everything you do over the course of the season because you’re one of the greatest to ever do it.
John Hollinger Oh, stop. Thank you.
Jason Concepcion That’s it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to subscribe to take my show. Check out my pop culture and entertainment podcast, X-ray Vision, which comes out every Friday. Check it out. 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.