SH Blog: Melo ponders playing for Tom Thibodeau

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Next time I write a blog for Sheridan Hoops, barring unforeseen circumstances, it’ll be the first day of the playoffs. This is what the whole season has been building towards, and it’s always a fun time. Every year has one of those “where were you when” moments. In 2012, I was mowing the lawn when Derrick Rose tore his ACL when he should have been on the bench, and I was debating whether or not to stay for the last set of a weekend-long music festival when the Heat won the title.

In 2013, I managed to actually be in front of the TV for the big moments, including my fellow Calvert Hall College alum Gary Neal going off in the Finals, and Steph Curry and the Warriors knocking off the Nuggets and kickstarting the Great Denver Exodus.

This year could be just as memorable. The Heat will be gunning for a threepeat, the West will be insane, and the Raptors, Wizards and Bobcats will be there. They might even win a few games. The Knicks, Celtics and Lakers, on the other hand, will be sitting at home. Internet points to anyone who can figure out when the last time that happened was.

Now let’s get to the latest news from around the NBA:

SH Blog: Knicks waiting for 2015; Cavs want to keep Spencer Hawes

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Jeff Hornacek SunsMonday night. 10 p.m. Eastern. Memphis Grizzlies. Phoenix Suns. Only one of them can make the playoffs. The Grizzlies will be coming off a game the previous night against the Lakers. If they win that game, they’re a game up on the Suns. If they lose, the two teams are tied. Phoenix has to be praying the Lakers get the win, because they’ve lost all three games against the Grizzlies this season, and they need to claim the eighth spot outright.

If Memphis wins tomorrow night and again Monday, they’re in. If they lose both, they need to beat Dallas on Wednesday. So it has to be said that while the clock hasn’t struck midnight on the Cinderella Suns, it’s 11:58.

Regardless, they’ve won 47 games with a lineup full of players only the most diehard fan could have named at the beginning of the season. In an era where NBA coaches are more expendable than ever, Jeff Hornacek is proving that the right guy can make a huge difference.

Now let’s get to the latest from around the NBA:

SH Blog: Gay happy with Kings; Keeping Faried will cost Nuggets

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Image.AdamSilverWe’ve got a very important piece up here on Sheridan Hoops today. With the Northwestern football union case picking up steam, the NCAA’s amateurism policy is coming under fire, and that could have effects on the NBA’s age limit, which Adam Silver wants to raise, and Danny Schayes says would be a disaster for the players.

Personally, I like the MLB’s system, where players can get drafted out of high school, and if they don’t sign, can go to college for three years and get drafted again. In the NBA, that would mean the best players (LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, etc.) can make the jump and get paid right away, and the ones who need development can do that in college. It would also mean an end to the one-and-done policy that many feel is killing college basketball.

Of course, the MLB draft is 50 rounds and the NBA’s is just two. And MLB teams have six or seven levels of minor league teams that players can advance through, whereas the NBA doesn’t even really have one. For the NBA to adopt an MLB-like system, every team would need their own D-League affiliate, over which they would have a sizable amount of autonomy. That’s not there now, so it looks like we’re stuck with the current system, or raising the age limit to 20. And as Schayes writes, the NBPA doesn’t have an executive director, and until they do, Silver and the NCAA can put whatever they want out into the court of public opinion.

Here’s the latest news from around the NBA:

WHAT COULD KENNETH FARIED MAKE WITH THE NUGGETS?

Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post:

Kenneth FariedFaried isn’t a LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love or Blake Griffin, all big names with even bigger contracts, but his player efficiency rating ranks right up there with them. Taking New Orleans’ Anthony Davis into account as well, it could be argued that Faried is about the seventh- or eighth-best player at his position in the NBA.

And he’s getting better.

So, right this minute, that’s under the $14 million to $22 million the top power forwards make but more than the $9.5 million of a player such as Atlanta’s Paul Millsap. Add in his standing on the Nuggets’ roster — he’s the team’s second-best player — and his exploding box-office appeal, and the price tag could fall right in that $10 million to $11 million per-year range. Modestly. He will be in search for more, no doubt.

It might be difficult for the Nuggets to justify to themselves shelling out a contract to Faried worth more than Ty Lawson’s $12 million average, however.

Taking the current roster and projecting it out over the next few years, in the summer of 2015 the Nuggets could have wiggle room. There is currently roughly $59 million in salaries, including qualifying offers. Cap holds present another challenge. But the contracts of Darrell Arthur, Nate Robinson and Anthony Randolph expire after next season and Wilson Chandler’s $7.1 million salary for 2015-16 isn’t fully guaranteed.

Christopher Dempsey takes readers’ questions about the Denver Nuggets and NBA.

If that’s the route they want to go, the Nuggets can figure out the finances and broach the subject of extension talks with Faried’s agent after the July moratorium this summer.

WISCONSIN STARS RETURNING TO SCHOOL

Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com:

WisconsinWisconsin’s duo of Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky remained steadfast after Saturday night’s loss to Kentucky that they will both be back next season for the Badgers.

The 6-foot-8 Dekker finished with 15 points in the loss and is considered a potential first-round pick. But he reiterated he will be back in Madison for his junior campaign.

“I’m coming back,” said Dekker, who entered the game averaging 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds.

The 7-foot Kaminsky struggled for much of the game after averaging a team-high 14.1 points and 6.4 boards.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Kaminsky said.

Wisconsin is expected to return four starters from a team that finished 30-8.

RUDY GAY COULD BE IN SACRAMENTO LONG-TERM

Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders:

Rudy GaySometimes what seems like the most unlikely of pairings winds up working better than anyone could have imagined. The Sacramento Kings made an aggressive move midseason when they acquired Rudy Gay from the Toronto Raptors, and while the trade has not resulted in a ton of wins in the short-term, there are indications that Gay might be a big part of the Kings’ rebuilding plan going forward.

“I have to [keep a positive attitude], man,” Gay told Basketball Insiders. “No matter where I go, I have to be me and be the best me I can be. Honestly, I feel like I do that better here. The wins don’t really pan out like I like for them to, but I definitely feel comfortable here.”

“I’m not even sure of the exact record, but I know we’ve shown the ability to be a great competitor and beat a lot of the best teams in the NBA when those guys are all playing,” Kings head coach Mike Malone said of Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas in a recent interview with Basketball Insiders. “When they play at a high level, three 20-point scorers, we become very hard to guard because you have a low-post force, a wing with the versatility and athleticism that Rudy has and a point guard in Isaiah who can score, get to the foul line and make plays for his teammates. Not that many teams have that three-headed attack. It’s great to have and hopefully we’ll be able to keep those together because with that core you add some pieces to that and you allow Ray [McCallum] and Ben [McLemore] to continue to mature and get better and I think we have a solid foundation. Those guys, offensively, are terrific and they’re getting better defensively.”

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Dan Malone is currently in graduation limbo after finishing his journalism degree at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent last summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.

SH Blog: Phil Jackson meets with Lamar Odom; Kyrie Irving says he doesn’t deserve the media barrage

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ShabazzNapierIt’s only been a week since I last wrote here at Sheridan Hoops, but it feels like a lot longer. Finishing a degree and switching countries will do that.

Earlier today, UConn knocked off Florida to advance to the national championship game. Their coach, Kevin Ollie, is drawing lots of buzz as a potential NBA coach (he was the first guy Bobby Gonzalez mentioned as the next Brad Stevens), and their star point guard, Shabazz Napier, is looking like a future NBA player. But let’s not forget the ultimate cautionary tale of overvaluing success in the tournament: former LSU player Tyrus Thomas. Napier is an entirely different player, of course, but this tournament could go down in history as synonymous with his name, just like the 2006 edition was with Thomas (and George Mason’s Jai Lewis, but he was never an NBA prospect).

Napier is a great player: he’s a smart, heady point guard who basically runs an NBA offense already (thanks again, Kevin Ollie), and he could be an NBA rotation player. But if he jumps into the lottery, somebody’s probably paying too much attention to tournament games.

Now let’s get to the NBA’s latest news:

SH Blog: Will Kevin Love return to L.A. as a Laker?

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LAKERS TARGETING KEVIN LOVE

ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 02 Arizona v UCLATimberwolves president Flip Saunders will do everything he can to keep Love, who is fourth in the league in scoring at 26.3 points per game and third in rebounding at 12.6 per game this season. And Minnesota will have the advantage of being able to offer a five-year extension, versus a four-year deal from any other team.

But if Love makes it clear that he has no intention to re-up with the Wolves, Saunders will be forced to shop Love or risk seeing him walk for nothing in return.

Which is where the Lakers come in.

Love’s ties to L.A. are undeniable. He went to college at UCLA. His father, Stan, played for the Lakers — and coincidentally was on the 1974-75 team, a.k.a. the worst team in Lakers history up until this season, so his son could help make up for that. And Love was born in Santa Monica, to boot.

“You know, my parents live there and they had me there,” Love said of L.A., after his Wolves beat the Lakers for the third time in four tries to win the season series Friday. “It’s not my fault. So, I don’t really care about that right now. I just go out there and play and don’t think about it.”

While Love downplayed his interest, the Lakers clearly could use a player of Love’s caliber to jump-start their rebuilding process. Especially with Kobe Bryant recently putting the screws to management to turn things around as soon as possible so he can contend for another championship in the twilight of his career.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported Friday the Lakers would be willing to trade their upcoming pick in the heralded NBA draft — likely to be in the top half of the lottery — to land Love.

DRAFT WATCH: RANDLE’S STOCK UP; PARKER CONSIDERING STAYING?

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

275px-Jabari_ParkerIt would be a shocker, and the Sixers and Bucks wouldn’t like it one bit, but Duke’s Jabari Parker just might stay for his sophomore season, instead of leaving for the NBA draft this June.

“That’s what’s in the air right now, Parker staying, but we haven’t heard anything official,’’ one Eastern Conference GM with an interest in Parker’s plans said on Friday.

If he stays at Duke, the top of June’s draft will be weakened. Despite his poor NCAA Tournament game in a first-round loss to Mercer, there’s still a lot to like about Parker.

“He plays like he’s 23, not 18,’’ said the GM. “He can post and score inside, he has great hands and rebounds. He’s just not a big-time athlete. But he’s got ‘top pick’ written all over him.’’

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:

Julius RandleRandle has been tremendous during the tournament, averaging 15.6 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field. His 23 double-doubles this season leads all Division I players, and he’s just the second freshman in NCAA tournament to have that many double-doubles in a season (the other being Michael Beasley, who had 28 in 2008). In addition to scoring and rebounding, Randle has also done a good job creating for his teammates, as evidenced by his six assists in Kentucky’s upset win over Wichita State. Rather than taking on double teams and putting up bad shots, Randle is taking what the defense gives him and making the right play more often than not.

This was the case in the final minute of Kentucky’s game against Louisville, when Randle spun into a double team and delivered a perfect pass to Aaron Harrison, who hit a three-point shot for the go-ahead score. Moments later, Randle hit two clutch free throws to seal the win for the Wildcats. After the game, Kentucky head coach John Calipari praised Randle’s decision making and pointed out that the clutch assist was an example of just how much his star player had grown in recent weeks.

With Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott among others sitting at home, Randle is the top NBA prospect remaining in the tournament. Throughout the season, Randle has been in the shadow of Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, usually being mentioned as a potential top-five pick in the 2014 NBA Draft but rarely being included in the debate over who will go first overall. The same thing happened during high school recruiting, when Wiggins and Parker were heralded as the next big things while Randle was ranked as the third best player in the class and treated as if he were a notch below the top two.

Like Wiggins and Parker, Randle is 19 years old and has a ridiculous amount of potential. Unlike Wiggins and Parker, Randle stepped up in the tournament and had some of his best games of the season while playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

VINCE CARTER WANTS TO STAY WITH MAVS

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:

Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014In three seasons with the Mavericks, Carter has seen them go from defending champions to barely making the playoffs to missing them entirely.

Neither he nor anybody else knows if this season will produce a return to the postseason. But Carter does know two things.

This team is better than last year’s. And he desperately wants to hang around to see this rebuilding project through to the end.

Or at least next season.

“I think I’ve earned the right to stick around,” Carter said.

The 6-6 future Hall of Famer will be a free agent after this season. Carter’s three-year contract he signed before the 2011-12 season has been a huge bargain, as the Mavericks paid him only about $9.3 million for those years of work.

He hopes it is a no-brainer that he re-signs with the Mavericks.

“My fingers are crossed,” he said. “Next year might be even better. We can attract some more people, more talent. Now I know my role, and I know the system, it’s second nature to me now. I know the city very well. I’m stepping out, going to SMU games and getting out and about. I’m very comfortable here.

“I like the guys. I like the nucleus we have here. With my role and the way I play and the way I go about things, it really helps guys here. And they like that. Hopefully, that’s enough so that they can still have trust in me enough to play significant minutes and help the other guys out.”