The Washington Post

Posting Up: NBA chat with Tim Bontemps

Dec 29, 2015

The Post's national NBA writer Tim Bontemps answered questions about the NBA.

Thanks for stopping by again this week. We've been through a busy week, including the Christmas Day games. I was out in San Francisco the past few days with the Warriors, including being at Friday's game. But, with that, on to your questions!

Want to get your take on an idea that admittedly doesn't have a lot of evidence yet -- that today's Spurs are a regular season team that pads their record by always beating lesser teams, but doesn't (or won't) have consistent success against the best teams. The playoff loss to the Clippers is an example. My reasoning is that unlike other top teams, the Spurs don't have a star that can take over a game (offensively). They have several above-average starters and an above-average second unit, which is more than enough to beat most teams. But when it's crunch time and they need a key bucket, Leonard/Aldridge are no LeBron, Curry, Westbrook/Durant, Griffin, etc. What do you think?

No offense, but none of this makes much sense. This is what the Spurs have done in the playoffs the last four years:

2012 - WCF loss to the Thunder (easily could've won)

2013 - Finals loss to the Heat (easily could've won)

2014 - Won the title

2015 - Lost to the Clippers in seven games (lost on a buzzer beater in the final game)

So the Spurs lost to one of the five best teams in the league three of the last four years, and won the title in the other season - and that was before adding one of the NBA's best offensive players in LaMarcus Aldridge. You don't think LaMarcus can take over a game offensively? He averaged 23 points per game the past two years on a really good team. His numbers are down because he's playing less minutes and the Spurs don't care about numbers. Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard has become a superstar.

Yes, your idea doesn't have much evidence because the Spurs are really freaking good -- at worst, they're the second-best team in the NBA. 

Also, I wrote this long piece about the Spurs a couple weeks ago, if you want to read more about them: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2015/12/15/while-you-were-watching-the-warriors-the-spurs-were-quietly-crushing-everyone/

Early favorite for ROY?

He's one of the early favorites, yes. Is he the front-runner? No. That would likely be Karl-Anthony Towns, who I do think will win the award. But if Porzingis stays healthy, he should finish second in the voting, and either way the Knicks have what looks like a young star to build around moving forward, making this season a huge success.

How John Wall led the Wizards to a 4-1 record this past week is beyond me. I went to the Clippers game and if I didn't follow the Wizards as closely as I do, I wouldn't have known any of the starting unit he was sharing the floor with. Temple? Oubre Jr.? How this guy isn't consistently called a superstar in the NBA is beyond me. I am starting to worry about their playoff chances. Not because I don't think they can't turn it around, but more so because the teams that I thought would come back to Earth (i.e. Orlando, Boston) don't really seem to be. Thoughts on the Wiz?

Anyone who knows me knows my love for Wall's game. In my previous job, I wrote a column in October saying Wall could be an MVP candidate with the Wizards moving to a smallball, high octane system this season. And, once John got over a nagging ankle injury, his numbers have skyrocketed.

As for the playoffs, they're only three games out, and before long should have lots of reinforcements returning from injury. Assuming they can actually get everyone on the court at some point, I think they'll be fine.

With Beal and Porter out for extended stretches, Oubre has gotten more playing time than was probably expected coming into the season. How do the Wiz evaluate his performance to this point? And given the injuries to Nene and Gooden, would they have been better off drafting Bobby Portis, who is stuck behind Gasol and Gibson in Chicago, but still manages to shine when he cracks the rotation?

This would be a better question for the great Jorge Castillo, our ace Wizards beat writer, but I think Oubre has been fine so far. If he keeps hitting 3-pointers at the rate he has, then things will be fine.

As for if they would have been better off with someone else, who knows. It's two months into their respective rookie seasons. But I will say this: it's a lot harder to find a good win than a good big at this point in the NBA. So if Oubre hits, he'll wind up being more valuable in the long run.

No matter what, though, it's too early to tell what the Wizards have in Oubre.

After the nets pulled off the win last night in Miami I saw your tweet about 8 of 9 wins against +.500 teams. Is that due to their strength of schedule or inconsistentcy against bad teams?

A little bit of both, I guess? It's just been a very strange season for the Nets. They've only really been manhandled in a couple of games, and they've not only won those eight games against at or over .500 teams, but they've also taken both Golden State and Cleveland right down to the wire.

Meanwhile, they're just 9-22. The Nets would love to leapfrog a few of the teams in front of them to get to the seventh or eighth spot in the lottery, as opposed to the third spot they currently occupy, and while they're not very good, those wins over quality opponents at least give them some confidence that they can get there.

Mr. B: Does this look like a "lost" season for the Wiz? Or can they turn it around?

As I said earlier, the Wizards are three games out of a playoff spot in late December. I think they'll be fine once they get healthy. And, if they don't and miss the playoffs, unless they jump up and win the lottery, or even get into the top three, then yes, it would be considered a lost season.

Carmelo?

Carmelo ...

Is a person?

Is a place?

Is a thing?

I've been keeping it in check, but it's starting to feel like I should maybe believe in them (at least to not lose in Round 1). Your thoughts?

I think this may be the sports digital editor at The Washington Post, Glenn Yoder, asking this question, since he's a huge  Mavericks fan. (He and his band, The Western States, also supplied the theme music to the Posting Up podcast, which you should subscribe to here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/posting-up-with-tim-bontemps/id1067171416?mt=2).

Here's the problem with this theory: who are they beating? Dallas isn't better than Golden State, San Antonio or Oklahoma City. Could they beat the Clippers in seven games? Maybe, but I doubt it. So that makes it tough for them to get out of the first round.

That being said, I am praying we get a Clippers-Mavericks series. Oh, what fun that would be after DeAndre Jordan's flip-flop this past summer.

If Durant signs a 1 year deal to stay with OKC (which seems likely), will the Wizards be able to roll over any cap space or will the Beal extension take them over the cap? Is their best course of action to sign another max FA like Batum or wait out Durant?

That's a question that gets very complicated, and depends on too many factors for us to worry about at this point.

If Durant signs a one-year deal, the Wizards should go try to sign someone like Batum, though (and, actually, I think Batum would be perfect, unless Al Horford wants to come play for them). But there are too many variables in play to worry about out years. The Wizards need to start adding pieces. If they don't get Durant, with potential CBA changes coming they can't hope to get him later.

Members of Golden State's team said this week that their team hasn't played particularly well. Just how good could they actually be if this level of play is just "meh?"

I think some of that is facetious, and some of that is that no team plays great for 82 games. That's just the way it is.

But the Warriors have a chance to be the greatest team in NBA history, so I would say they're doing just fine.

Does Harrison Barnes get a max deal this summer? He's a good player, but the Warriors haven't missed a beat in his absence and need to pay Ezeli. Do you think Barnes could start as a 4 for a team like the Wizards if they miss out on Durant?

The second part of your question is the answer to your first. Harrison Barnes is going to get a max contract this summer, whether it's from the Warriors or another team. Why? Because there are going to be a million teams with a ton of cap room, and Barnes is a player worth spending it on.

If the Wizards don't get Durant, which they very likely won't, throwing at max contract at Barnes would be a very nice fallback plan, in my opinion. He's young, can shoot the three and can be a deadly smallball four, which is the direction the Wizards want to go in, clearly.

If we pencil in the Warriors, Spurs and Thunder to the West semis, who is looking like the fourth team?

The Clippers are the heavy favorites to be that fourth team. Teams like Dallas, Houston or Memphis could maybe beat them in a series, but chances are the Clippers advance.

Should LeBron and Co. be worried about the Hawks after their recent surge? Or is the two-headed monster of Bosh and Wade still the Cavs' biggest threat?

The biggest threat to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference is health. If the Cavaliers are anywhere close to healthy in the playoffs, they're going to cruise back to the NBA Finals.

As for the Hawks, they do look like they're back to where they were last year, but ...

Here are their wins during that stretch: Philly, Orlando, Boston, Knicks, Portland Detroit

They lost to the Spurs, Heat and Thunder before those wins, and the Pacers in their last game. That shows me this team still isn't quite the threat their record may indicate.

Cousins is a very talented player, but my goodness he seems like a difficult player to build around. He appears to be a constant headache for coaches and joyless to play with for teammates while shooting a paltry 41% from the floor. Does a change of scenery help or is this who he is?

This is a complicated question. Cousins is a tough person to deal with, for sure: I've had plenty of people who have been around him from other teams and from the league office say he's one of the biggest pains in the neck they've ever been around.

That being said, Sacramento has also been a dumpster fire from basically the moment he got there. Would a change of scenery do DeMarcus some good? Probably. I think he'll have one Rasheed Wallace in Detroit moment during his career, when he finds the right home and, at least briefly, becomes the superstar he should be.

But Cousins also needs to look in the mirror at some point. His antics last night were disappointing.

Hey Tim love your chats. I'm wondering if you have any clue of what Ernie and Co. have in mind if the KD2DC free agency thing doesn't work out. There are no other big name free agents to be had (I know LeBron is one but he isn't coming here) so what's the Plan-B? Will the Wizards just get rid of all the one-year players and go after mid-level guys like Nicolas Batum and Al Horford?

First off, Al Horford isn't a mid-level guy. But yes, I think if KD says no, they'd love to get a guy like Horford. Assuming he is out of the picture, then targets like Nic Batum and Harrison Barnes make a lot of sense to me.

We bought tickets to see Blake Griffin. :( At least we won the battle of the logos - the Clippers logo look like it was drawn by a fourth grader.

Sorry you missed out on seeing Blake play -- he's one of my favorite guys in the league to watch. And can't argue with you about the weird new Clippers uniforms. I still don't understand why Steve Ballmer didn't change the name when he bought the team. I thought it was a missed opportunity -- just like it was for the Brooklyn Nets when they moved into New York City. They should've started fresh with something new, but chose not to instead.

No wonder they never beat Meadowlark & Co.

This is a bad attempt at a joke.

The New Jersey Generals were a USFL team. The Washington Generals were the foils to the Harlem Globertrotters. By the way, if you want to learn a little bit about Meadowlark Lemon, go follow my friend Curtis Harris on Twitter @ProHoopsHistory. He tweeted a lot about Meadowlark yesterday. He has a more complicated legacy than some probably realize within the Globetrotters.

They won 4 of the last 5! Netflix and chill ...

A good friend of mine who works for an NBA team likes to say one word whenever anything comes up at this time of year:

"Chill."

It's still December. There are over 50 games left for every single team.

Hello Tim! You think Bojan gets traded by the Nets before the trade line? Tnx.

I think it's possible, but not likely.

what's your opinion on signing centers over 30 to long term contracts?

It's not smart to sign anyone over 30 to a long-term contract. Sometimes you do what you have to, but it's never a wise business move.

Loser has to buy the New Year's Even champagne.

Not sure what you'referring to, but Gortat is a great guy.

Surprised at how well the Hornets are playing, especially with MKG out?

Yes, I've been surprised to some extent by the Hornets. They have a terrific coach, though, in Steve Clifford, and he's maximizing every ounce of production he can get out of this team.

You really should write for the Style section with that name. Also, do you at Matt Bonesteel ever fight over who has the coolest name?

Would be happy to write some stuff for the Style section at some point. You should take that up with the Style editor -- maybe they'll reach out to me if you do.

As for me and Bonesteel, no reason to fight: I win hands down.

I don't claim to know whether a coach is good or not. However, when a team with talented players like the Wizards underperform, I tend to look at the coach. Do the Wizards need a new coach?

I've had my issues with Randy Wittman in the past, but have you seen how many injuries the Wizards have this season?

Do you think there will be jealousy problems on teams next year and beyond with the cap rising quickly? Wall brought up RJackson and Melo/JR with Lin in past. For example if Batum and Beal are making $25 and $20 million on the Wizards will Wall say something again?

If the players get mad about this, it's partially their own fault. The NBA asked to propose smoothing in the new television money, and the NBPA rejected it. 

Are the young players they're featuring have too similar skill sets (MCW, Jabari, Giannis) to co-exist long term?

I wouldn't say that. I don't think MCW is any good, for starters. The bigger issues with the Bucks is that they only have one player that can shoot (Khris Middleton) from 3-point range, Parker and Greg Monroe can't play together and form a quality defensive partnership at power forward and center, respectively, and their point guard play has stunk.

I know this is difficult to accurately project, but for fun please take an educated guess on the likelihood that John Calipari is coaching the Nets next year.

If Brett Yormark is in charge of decision making, Calipari will undoubtedly be offered everything under the sun to become basketball czar of the Nets. I've heard conflicting opinions on whether he'd take it, but that will undoubtedly be the first call if Yormark gets his way.

Tell him that you have the perfect aptonym to be a style writer. He'll agree and get some space there.

I was kidding about the Style section, but would love to meet Gene at some point. He's terrific.

Should the Wizards trade him? Seriously doubt he's coming back next year and his expiring contract could make him a valuable chip.

What are you trading him for? There aren't many teams looking to get out of contracts at this point. But if they can get something for him, would be worth exploring.

For quite a number of years now the West has outperformed the East. Often their 7th or 8th seeds would be a 3rd or 4th seed in the East. It's not like they get higher draft picks. And there are inter-conference trades all the time. What is causing this phenomenon?

This is way too complicated to try to answer in a chat, but it appears that is finally changing this year. The East looks stronger than the West from top to bottom, even though the top of the West is better than the top of the East.

Hey Tim I'm at Journalims school and aspiring to be a sports writer or broadcaster. Is there any advice you can give me?

First off, good luck. It's a great job, but it's going to require a lot of work.

Second, write as much as you can. Find as many places you can to write, and then write for them as much as possible.

Third, read as much as you can, and not just in sports. Read magazines like Esquire and GQ, read foreign coverage, etc. Try to broaden your knowledge outside of sports -- it'll help your writing and make you a more interesting person.

Finally, be willing to work very hard for very little money for as long as it takes. This is the most important thing. A lot of times, succeeding in this business simply comes down to being willing to persevere through a lot of bad times. That's the reason I'm in the job I'm in today.

But good luck! Feel free to email me with questions.

Following up on the John Calipari question, just how much control does Brett Yormark have on decision making? He's seemingly a genius salesman and marketing guru, but I unfortunately get the feeling he has the owner's ear when it comes to front office hiring and personnel. I seem to recall him having his hands in the ousting of Rod Thorn.

Rod Thorn left of his own accord. He didn't get ousted at all.

That being said, we'll find out how much influence Yormark has over decision making in a few months when the season ends in Brooklyn. That's when we'll know.

It seems almost impossible, but I think they're going to get to 73.

Predictions are dumb, but I think the Warriors can do it -- which is proof enough they're off to a crazy start. It'll be fun to watch things unfold.

Thanks for all the questions guys. Looking forward to doing this again next week!

In This Chat
Tim Bontemps
Tim Bontemps is The Post’s National NBA writer. He is former New York Post staffer and proud St. Bonaventure alum.
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