Give And Go: Reminiscing on our favorite moments from the NBA’s 2013 offseason
3. What was your favorite “boardroom” moment of the offseason, whether it be a signing, a trade, a hire or some other off-the-court highlight?
Golliver: The first one that comes to mind is Boston’s hiring of Butler coach Brad Stevens, which ranks at or near the top of the “Wow” offseason moments. Absolutely no one saw it coming, many thought it would never happen (at least not for years), and it came right on the heels of a franchise-changing, era-ending trade involving Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Celtics president Danny Ainge wasn’t just taking the ship into a new direction; he was blasting into uncharted waters as fast as he could go.
The surprise factor helps this move stand out from the pack, but so too does Stevens’ potential. Read Tim Layden’s excellent Sports Illustrated profile of Stevens and it’s impossible not to get excited about what’s to come, even if Boston figures to be one of the league’s weakest teams this season. A full-scale, multiyear rebuilding effort requires lots and lots of hope-selling, and Stevens comes across as both sharp and genuine, two critical personality traits for this type of endeavor. And let’s face it: There’s pure intrigue at work here too. Outsiders with no dog in the fight will be watching simply to see if an NCAA wunderkind can make the difficult transition to the NBA game. This move winds up being my “favorite” not so much because I think it was a guaranteed grand slam success, but because it was so inspired and outside the box that tracking Stevens’s progress over the next few years will remain must-see TV no matter how things play out.
Mahoney: Mine is the Nets’ signing of Andrei Kirilenko, if only because it would seem to be the fulfillment of a pipe dream. When Kirilenko declined his $10.2 million player option with the Timberwolves for 2013-14, it was presumed he would chase a longer deal to secure more guaranteed salary. In exchange, he was likely to earn a bit less per year than the $10.2 million he left on the table. But Kirilenko was in an odd place; his age and skill set made him of clearly greater value to a playoff team than a rebuilding one, and yet precious few franchises penciled in for the postseason had the salary-cap room to acquire him outright. That left some to wonder if Kirilenko might wind up as a bargain signing for the full mid-level exception — a mechanism that would allow him to join a quality team, provided that he accept a league-average salary.
What unfolded was even more bizarre. A possible link between Kirilenko and the cap-strapped Nets emerged overnight, one that on its surface seemed no different from the goofy hypothetical scenarios linking the Knicks/Nets to every coveted free agent on the market. Brooklyn had already loaded its salary sheet in acquiring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry and had virtually no tradeable assets left to complete a potential sign-and-trade. With those complications understood, the Nets and Kirilenko pulled off something even more insane: a two-year deal (with Kirilenko’s option in year two) that will pay an excellent all-around player a rookie-scale-like $3.2 million.
As much as I can understand Kirilenko’s wanting to play for a quality team, signing for that relatively meager sum is bananas. It also sets an unfortunate precedent for future ventures down the “Nets should sign ________” rabbit hole, but for now we’ll settle on a player and team managing to overcome every expectation in order to strike a deal.
4. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Social media sites produced plenty of fun and follies throughout the summer. What was your favorite social media moment of the offseason?
Mahoney: I’m still a little charmed by Andre Drummond’s online courtship of Disney Channel star Jennette McCurdy. It’s not exactly news that pro athletes tend to have pretty good fortune in their romantic lives, but in this case Drummond managed to make his own luck with the help of a few thousand of his closest Twitter friends. What started as Drummond’s posting a weekly picture of his crush grew into a flirty, virtual relationship, largely thanks to his followers’ insistence that McCurdy touch base with the 20-year-old center. Once she did, their relationship apparently took off across several mediums until they were finally able to meet in person. McCurdy reflected on that whirlwind process in the Wall Street Journal, using her experiences as an opportunity to riff on social networking and online dating in general, all while suggesting that there is a genuine connection between the Twitter-cross’d pair.
There’s some showmanship there — tweeting messages to one another that could be texted, obliging their respective fans with Instagram photos of their meeting, etc. — but this story is a fun one all the same. Even if it is a bit filtered, there remains enough earnestness in their exchanges to make it ideal summer fare.
Golliver: I mentioned Wade’s message above, and there were plenty of other online highlights. I think I’ll settle on Lakers guard Kobe Bryant’s reaction to the departure of Dwight Howard to the Rockets. In case you forgot: Bryant posted a photo of himself with teammate Pau Gasol patting him on the head with the caption “#Vamos #Juntos #LakerCorazon #Vino.” Translated: “we go, together, Laker heart, wine.” Vino, of course, is one of Bryant’s many monikers, a nod to his age.
The more time that has passed since Bryant posted this, the more I appreciate what he did with this message. It was revealed in the aftermath of Howard’s decision that the Lakers had a feeling they weren’t going to keep their All-Star center for some time before things became official. Clearly, in that time, Bryant had the opportunity to think about how he would respond to what would become the biggest defection any team suffered this summer. There were plenty of directions that someone in his position could go. For example, Lakers executive Jim Buss claimed that Howard “was never really a Laker,” while his sister, Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, took the high road, saying that Howard’s departure was “disappointing” and that the Lakers “failed him.”
Bryant carefully walked on the tightrope, refusing to take any direct shots at Howard while keeping the focus on his long-standing, championship-winning partnership with Gasol. It seemed to strike exactly the right chord with Lakers fans, who were processing a whole new post-Howard reality, because it alluded to the winning, unity and passion that was missing for much of L.A.’s 2012-13 season, and from the Bryant/Howard partnership. There’s no good way to watch a top 10 player walk out the door for nothing in return, especially if your unbending personality was a factor in his leaving, but Bryant handled this about as well as could be expected. Bryant’s photo possessed exactly what the pleading “Stay” billboards lacked: the pride of a champion.
5. Some stories and videos just explode during the dead months of the NBA calendar. What was your favorite “viral” moment of the offseason?
Golliver: This one might be the easiest answer of the five we’ve discussed here. How many times did I watch and re-watch and study and dissect Kyrie Irving’s Shammgod crossover at the Jamal Crawford Pro-Am in Seattle? I’m not sure, but it was definitely an unhealthy amount. Let’s take another look via YouTube user HoopmixtapeBlog.
Irving is so media-savvy and such a natural on the court that it’s uniquely enjoyable to watch him in the looser pro-am setting: There’s a sense that he’s operating free, without the limits, expectations and scripts that come with being a franchise point guard who has been anointed as one of the game’s future greats. When he’s out there, totally unencumbered, he’s as filthy as can be.
Everything about this move — the second one in the video clip above — makes you stop and think twice about what you just saw. The change of direction and the change of pace. The smooth purity from start to finish. The ingenuity and the ambidexterity. The knowledge that he clearly spent hours crafting a move he’s incredibly unlikely to use in a game. More than anything: the freakish handle. We’ve seen that on display before in an NBA setting, and it never gets old.
Mahoney: The shaving of Reggie Evans. While he may not be identified by his beard to the extent of, say, James Harden, it’s almost unsettling to see Evans without that sprawling rug on his chin. The Nets’ power forward will certainly have the most unusual reason for coming into camp 10 pounds lighter, though will losing the beard throw off his equilibrium? Will Evans lose his rebounding superpowers? Was his shaved beard used to make a toupée that now wanders the world alone, forever separated from its rightful father? I’m left with more questions on the subject than I’d like, if only to somehow come to terms with the sight of a grizzled, bearded veteran shaved down to a thin ‘stache.