Kushner, Boogie, and Knickerbockers

The week in TrueHoop

Thank you for your interest in TrueHoop! Here’s what we have been up to lately.

On Saturday, Henry published a story on Jared Kushner’s brother, Joshua Kushner, purchasing part of the Memphis Grizzlies. The transaction had been secret. Once public, the NBA and the Grizzlies hammered home the point that it was Joshua alone who bought in, not his more famous brother Jared or father Charles, who has a criminal history. A snippet:

There is a lot of upside to being born a Kushner. A downside: it can be an uphill slog to earn a reputation as self-made. For instance, Jared has recently been on the board of Thrive Capital, and The New York Times reports that in May 2018, Jared disclosed $8.2 million in income from Thrive funds while working in the White House. That same article notes that when Jared was in Saudi Arabia on behalf of the White House, Joshua had preceded him by a few days and met with many of the same people. A spokesman declined to say whether Saudis invested in any Thrive funds.

The Kushner family has such reach and intertwined interests it would take years of expert work to map the path of every dollar. Even then theoretical questions would linger: Who could know if investors in any of these businesses hoped to also get political clout as part of the deal? Despite those challenges, the NBA and Grizzlies have found certainty: It is strictly Joshua making the purchase, they insist with unusual vigor. The phrasing was delicate, but there was the suggestion of a lawsuit, should TrueHoop claim any other Kushners were involved in this deal. I was swiftly connected to someone who knows the Kushners well, and who had many things to say, but only one of which I was allowed to quote, which was: “Charles is not involved in the deal.”

Sources tell me that the way the deal went down, at some point in the last few months, the NBA had Joshua fill out a detailed set of forms, with invasive questions about references, financials, and more. He did not need the approval of other owners; ownership stakes over 10 percent have to be approved by the Board of Governors; stakes over five percent need the approval of a subcommittee. Below five percent, the league plays a lesser role, largely a background check outsourced to the law firm Proskauer Rose. Sources at the league and Grizzlies won’t share any particulars of the findings, other than delight that this transaction is super tidy.

On Friday, we published David Thorpe’s assessment of DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins and the Warriors. In general, the Warriors have been underwhelming with Cousins on the floor this year. I wondered if it was because, as a traditional, post-up big man who clogged up the paint, Cousins mucked up the Warriors’ normal pacing and spacing. Absolutely not, wrote Thorpe:

This system is no different now that Cousins is on the court, nor should it be because he fits perfectly. Kerr’s offense is all about finding the best shooter when he’s open. Cousins’ screening and passing abilities enhance that goal, as long as he’s focused on that role and not trying to be the primary scorer. It can work: In Cousins’ 26 minutes against the Pacers last night, for instance, the Warriors outscored a good team by 22 points.

Cousins has always been able to do anything a center ever needed to do, plus he became a solid 3-point shooter, averaging 35 percent his last four seasons after shooting just 16 percent in his first five years in the league (making 11 total). He’s very skilled at making passes to create open shots, not just kicking the ball out when doubled. Like this simple back-door to Curry off a loose ball pickup. He sees the game.

Thorpe adds that there is every reason to think Cousins is still recovering from his Achilles injury, and the he’ll only improve from here.

TrueHoop took questions from subscribers last weekend. We published the answers on Monday, free for all to read. Knick fans didn’t like it when we talked about the Knicks potential for signing superstars:

Maybe I’m too cynical, but as an NBA-obsessed dude who has lived in or near New York since 1991, I struggle to imagine it matters whom they sign. Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury, Donnie Walsh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Mike D’Antoni, Phil Jackson, Kristaps Porzingis … maybe the Knicks add names like Kyrie and KD to the list of those who ultimately didn’t save the Knicks, or maybe they won’t.

Many of them were incredibly effective at their jobs elsewhere. But not working for Dolan. D’Antoni is a case study: He actually did save the Suns and Rockets. And when Carmelo and Amar’e were injured, they briefly ran his stuff in New York and we remember it as Linsanity. But when the stars came back, Amar’e and Carmelo rightly deduced that on this team holding the ball was OK, running D’Antoni’s offense was optional, Linsanity ended in a hurry. Now D’Antoni runs a team that scores about 10 percent more points per possession than the Knicks.

Much more in the works for the coming week. Hope you will consider subscribing!