Playoff Buzz: Concern about Parker, future for Aldridge and Rondo
Playoff Buzz: Concern about Parker, future for Aldridge and Rondo
In particular, the right Achilles' tendon of point guard Tony Parker.
The Spurs are deep, and in any ways are becoming Kawhi Leonard's team before our eyes (though Tim Duncan, with his 28-point, 11-rebound performance in Game 2, has not let go of the rope yet). But the NBA remains a point-guard league, especially in this series, when Parker's nightly foe is Chris Paul. And it's difficult to imagine the defending champs advancing if Parker's injury becomes a long-term issue.
Late word out of the Spurs' locker room Wednesday night, according to a person briefed on the matter, is that Parker is expected to play in Game 3 on Friday night in San Antonio. But there is legitimate concern within the organization about how effective he will be, and about the injury becoming a recurring problem throughout the series.
San Antonio goes home now for Games 3 and 4, having accomplished what any team hoping to win a playoff series against a capable opponent must accomplish -- win a game on the road. But as good, deep and experienced as they are -- see what I did there, I didn't call the Spurs "old" -- they will need an effective Parker to get past the Clippers.
Parker, 32, missed 14 games this season, mostly due to a nagging hamstring injury. But he left a game against Oklahoma City as recently as April 7 with the same right Achilles tightness that sent him to the bench for all but 4:37 of the fourth quarter and all of overtime.
Spurs-Clippers is shaping up as the best of the first-round series. With healthy combatants, it has a chance to be even better than whatever Western Conference Finals we get -- and that's saying something, since whatever Western Conference Finals we get is going to be stellar.
So the Spurs did what they had to do on Wednesday night, yet came away with news that they could've done without. Parker's health and status for the rest of this series is of paramount importance to the outcome. Maybe the guy who breaks the air conditioner at the AT&T Center is still around, so the Spurs can postpone Game 3 until Parker is 100 percent?
Here's the rest of the news that's moving the needle during the NBA Playoffs:
• With recent reports that his teammates are worried he'll leave as a free agent and that the Spurs and Mavericks believe they have a chance, a person with knowledge of LaMarcus Aldridge's free-agent strategy told CBSSports.com that all options remain on the table -- including parting ways with the Blazers . The person, who has been briefed on Aldridge's plan, said he "wouldn't be surprised" if the four-time All-Star and Dallas native were lured to his native Texas when he hits the unrestricted market on July 1.
Last July, Aldridge said he planned to sign the five-year, $108 million max contract the Blazers can offer him when he hits the free-agent market, saying at the time he wants to be "the best Blazer ever" and adding that signing a five-year deal with Portland -- one more year than other teams can offer, and with bigger raises -- "is the best decision on my part."
But the NBA's $24 billion broadcast and digital rights agreement that hits the system in 2016 has changed the equation for this summer's top-notch free agents. Does a player like Aldridge commit to a five-year deal under the current economics, or do a shorter deal with a player option so he can really take advantage of the TV windfall? NBA executives are projecting that the salary cap will jump from $67.1 million in 2015-16 to $89 million in '16-'17 and a whopping $108 million in '17-'18. A short deal with an opt-out in either '16 or '17, coupled with the opportunity to cash in on the massive spike in the cap, would more than cushion the blow of leaving future money on the table by leaving town as a free agent.
The Lakers and Knicks, flush with cap space in glamour markets, also are expected to heavily pursue Aldridge. The Blazers trail the Grizzlies 2-0 in their first-round series, which shifts to Portland for Game 3 on Saturday.
• After his bizarre performance and ensuing benching in Game 2 of the Dallas-Houston series, Rajon Rondo has been ruled out indefinitely to seek medical attention on a back injury he apparently suffered in the first quarter of that game. Rondo won't be with the team while he receives treatment, and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle stated what has now become obvious: He doesn't expect Rondo to ever wear a Mavs uniform again.
The feeling in league circles going back to before Rondo was traded to the Mavs in December was that he was eyeing the Los Angeles Lakers as his free-agent destination in July. The way his brief tenure has unfolded in Dallas, nothing has happened to change those opinions.
Remember that infamous breakfast in Boston that Rondo and Kobe Bryant shared in December? The one that Rondo later described as, "just two a-holes having breakfast?" Bryant's take on it was a little more detailed.
"We get along extremely well," Bryant said. "We see the game in a similar fashion in terms of our aggressiveness and our mindset. It's good to get together with him."
Given Rondo's formidable postseason resume and his notably tempestuous demeanor, there are a limited number of environments where he would thrive. For Bryant, after his mismatched pairing with Dwight Howard, the two years of injuries that have derailed his quest for a sixth championship and the pain of a 21-61 season that was the worst in franchise history, teaming with Rondo for the final year of his contract could be just what the doctor -- or, psychiatrist -- ordered.
• Negotiations are under way among the Milwaukee Bucks, city and state officials on how to pay for a $500 million new arena or face franchise relocation. The Bucks' current owners, Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, have committed $150 million, and the former owner, Herb Kohl, has committed $100 million. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a presidential hopeful, has proposed borrowing $220 million, but his party's legislature is fighting him on it and wants the state's contribution to be closer to $150 million.
What's a few million among friends? A lot. A meeting Wednesday produced no volunteers to close the gap, with more discussions planned. But as part of the new owners' purchase agreement, the NBA stipulated that, if a new arena weren't completed -- or at least near completion -- by the start of the 2017-18 season, the league would have the right to buy the team (and presumably, relocate it to any number of cities willing to pony up for a new building.)
Given that aggressive timetable, funding would have to be approved by this summer and shovels would have to be in the ground by the fall. So as the Bucks battle the Bulls in the first round, an even higher-stakes political battle is being waged that will determine whether the NBA remains in Milwaukee, where it has enjoyed an uninterrupted stay since the 1968-69 season.
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