For those of you who missed the blog for some reason yesterday, our good pal Drew Stonewall is helping out at the University of Iowa basketball camp this week and giving us an insider's look at not only the camp, but Coach McCaffery and his staff. Yesterday he gave us a recap on camp's opening day on Sunday at Coach McCaffery's approach to late game situations. Let's check in with him today to see how Monday's camp went. Again, these are 100% accurate quotes from Drew and not made up at all.
Today was intense. Everything ran really well in the morning sessions. The assistant coaches ran a crisp day of camp and the kids were real energetic. A very productive day of camp. We went to lunch, had a little break time, and came back for the afternoon session. The kids picked right up where they left off from the morning session. Just a great day in the gym. And then Coach McCaffery came in for his session.
Fran walked into the gym and gathered the campers in a circle and talked with them for a bit. He said he was glad to see everyone again and that we were going to focus on 'Mental Toughness' today. Coach talked a bit about how important that was for all athletes, not just basketball players, and really how important Mental Toughness was in life in general. Life is going to be hard at times and it's how you handle those situations. It was like a real life version of Jake Mohling's Twitter feed. Just a great message.
So then he told the campers up front that he was going to be hard on them for the next hour to build up some of that mental toughness. He was going to treat the campers just like he treats his college players. And to know going in, he was doing this out of love and trying to make them into better basketball players....and better people.
But holy shit.
I thought I had a temper at times....but oh buddy, Fran's intensity is unreal. Sure as a coach you try to be perfect but sometimes an occasional expletive or two will slip. You know...a damn here or a hell there. Maybe you even yell a little too loud at an official from time to time. Or point out to an official that there's a lot of humping going on out there tonight. You know, your typical stuff.
But Coach McCaffery takes it to a whole 'nother level. It's Bleep this and Bleep that and you Bleeping little Bleeping Bleep Bleep. I know this is a family Bleeping blog for the most part so I'm Bleeping trying to keep this PG but Fran was Bleeping on these kids. Just relentless. You couldn't count consecutive sentences from Coach McCaffery without a curse word in it. Then multiple times he would get nose to nose with a player screaming at the top of his lungs about how much this kid sucked and should consider going to cross country camp instead of basketball camp. It was both funny and frightening at the same time. At least I thought it was funny, I'm sure the multiple kids who left the gym in tears had a different opinion.
But you have to appreciate Coach's intensity. Like he said at the top of the hour to the players, he's going to act like this today to build that mental toughness and try to get the best out of them. He wants them to reach as much of their potential as they can and provide that experience today to help those players grow....as players and people. Imagine how many NIT games or first-round NCAA games Iowa wouldn't have been able to make if Fran was soft with his players. He got them to that level through his demeanor and intensity.
Then once his drills were done and his hour was up it was like Coach McCaffery just flipped a switch. He went back to being the cordial guy that entered the gym to start the session, thanked the kids for their time, and left the camp back into the hands of his assistants. The mood, however, was noticeably different than it was an hour prior.
Nonetheless, another great day of camp here in Iowa City. Looking forward to filling you in on how Tuesday goes."
Alright, let's talk about this Paul George situation.
My first reaction to hearing the news that Paul George informed Indiana that he would leave after next season was disappointment. I think Paul George is a Top 10 talent in the league and a true franchise player. Those don't come along to small-market teams very often and to have one ask to leave is crippling to your franchise. Indiana isn't Miami, or an LA team. Those markets can lose an elite player and expect to lure another elite player to their roster in a year or three.
But I'm not mad at Paul George. Indiana did a poor job of putting quality pieces around Paul George to help him succeed. Not that the Pacers didn't try. They added pieces the past couple offseasons but not many of those moves panned out. The Pacers were stuck with too many mediocre players and not enough contributors. Granted, losing George to his leg injury right when he was entering his superstar stage was a major setback. The Pacers were just coming off Eastern Conference Finals battles against LeBron James and in position to be yearly threats in the East. Then he was injured. And Indiana never got back to that level.
When George returned he was playing on a team struggling to make the playoffs, a far cry from his pre-injury team that was competing for a trip the Finals. And Indiana doesn't exactly look like they are on the brink of breaking through either. They could, but it's a stretch to bank on it. Indiana could have easily been the third or fourth best team in the East next season and had a great chance to face LeBron in the Eastern Conference Finals again next year had Paul George stayed. Or they could have been only a step above where they finished this season. You never know.
So it's hard to blame Paul George for wanting to leave. Super-star players only have so many years at that Super-star level, it's hard to fault PG for wanting to cash in on a better opportunity when he could.
So now the question is, where does Paul George go for the next two seasons? This could be a really interesting situation to watch. By all my accounts (Twitter), the Pacers want to move PG by the time the NBA Draft starts on Thursday which means this frantic pace shouldn't slow down too much the next couple of days.
George made his intentions clear to the Pacers that he would like to play in Los Angeles once he becomes a free agent. That puts the Lakers in a little predicament. If he wants to be a Laker in a year, the smart move seems to be not to do anything and let Paul George come to them in a year so they don't have to give up any assets to get him. But can they risk letting PG go to a team for a year as a rental and loving it in that city or possibly even win a championship in that city and not want to leave?
Let's say the Clippers rent George for a year. PG13 wants to be in LA, he would be in LA with the Clippers with a couple superstars already. Maybe George decides he's good with the Clippers and doesn't sign with the Lakers.
Or imagine PG goes to Cleveland for a year as a rental and they win a championship. It's not hard to see a team of LeBron/PG13/Kyrie and role players winning a championship, even over the Warriors, next year. Is George really going to want to leave a team that just won a title? Especially one with LeBron James on it. That would scare me if I'm a Lakers fan.
So as of now, I'm leaning towards the Lakers making a move right away to get Paul George. I think the Lakers end up throwing in D'Angelo Russell and a pick or two to trade for George. He wants to be there, the Lakers need a Super-star, and it starts the process right now and eliminates all the guesswork for the next 13 months. The Lakers would know exactly what they have and what assets they maintain. Then they can start positioning themselves for next year's free agency to bring in another Super-star to pair with PG and their young core. Just seems like the most likely outcome to me.
But then again, I was the one who told you less than a week ago there was no way Paul George was going to Cleveland either. So things change and new information comes out quickly that puts new possibilities in play. Should be a fascinating NBA story to watch unfold the next 60 hours.