Sheridan Hoops http://www.sheridanhoops.com Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:46:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Tweet of the Night: Ricky Rubio has an idea for a new handshake http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/23/tweet-of-the-night-ricky-rubio-has-an-idea-for-a-new-handshake/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/23/tweet-of-the-night-ricky-rubio-has-an-idea-for-a-new-handshake/#respond Tue, 23 Sep 2014 04:44:17 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80896

Most players around the league have some sort of pregame ritual. They can’t go without it, whether it’s doing something with chalk, eating something, or doing a dance with teammates.

The most popular, of course, is the handshake. It’s the most common form of unity among teammates, and players are constantly looking for new material. 

For Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, this goofy mishap between Ronny Turiaf and Chris Bosh may be just what he’s been searching for:

Rubio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tweet of the Night: James Harden learns the “Carlton Dance” from Alfonso Ribeiro

Tweet of the Night: Ryan Hollins excited to join the Sacramento Kings with Omri Casspi

James Park is a blogger and editor of Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on twitter @SheridanBlog.

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Photo of the Day: Shaq Stares Down Gator http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/22/photo-of-the-day-shaq-stares-down-gator/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/22/photo-of-the-day-shaq-stares-down-gator/#respond Tue, 23 Sep 2014 02:27:57 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80872

Everyone knows Shaquille O’Neal likes to be the life of the party.

From his “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segments on NBA TV to his verbal jousting with Charles Barkley on TNT’s Inside the NBA, Shaq is always all smiles.

On Monday, however, most people would hope he was a bit more serious than usual.

O’Neal posted a picture to his official Instagram account to show just why he calls himself Superman.

 

ShaqGator

Yes, that is a real alligator. The caption under the photo read: “GATOR STARE.”

Maybe Shaq was reprising an old SEC rivalry. After all, he went to LSU, and the Tigers played the Florida Gators every season. Or maybe Shaq was just trying to find out if alligators blink.

Even if you are over 7 feet tall and 300-plus pounds, it’s still not the best idea to go sticking your nose into an alligator’s face. Especially when you consider O’Neal is not in his natural habitat, like the gator.

My money would still be on Shaq. After all, why do you think they call him the Man of Steel?

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Durant calls Iverson best pound for pound

 

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Levi: The Russell Westbrook debate – Most Polarizing Player in NBA? http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/22/levi-the-russell-westbrook-debate-most-polarizing-player-in-nba/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/22/levi-the-russell-westbrook-debate-most-polarizing-player-in-nba/#respond Mon, 22 Sep 2014 18:01:56 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80755

OrenLeviRussell WestbrookRussell Westbrook personifies the story of his generation in the NBA. He is probably the most polarizing player in the league.

Here we will try to layout the arguments of his loyal supporters, who believe he is one of the top 10 players in the NBA, as well as the reasoning of his naysayers, who believe he is far too out of control to play point guard.

Once we do that, we will debunk both. Then, with a clean slate, we will dive in once again to the Westbrook enigma.

The Pros

thumbupThe new-agers – the open-minded and those who try to see the big picture – will make the 95 percent case, meaning Westbrook is so good, his bad 5 percent sticks out like a sore thumb. His athletic ability is unmatched, as his competitive flair. His energy is contagious.

Without Russ, the Thunder had an early second-round exit in the 2013 playoffs. Kevin Durant talks of him as his brother. Westbrook is a top 10 player in this league, and is the beating heart of OKC. Asking him to play more cautiously is like telling the Hulk to chill out. Westbrook brings it every night, plays angry, at full speed, and that’s that. Russ fills your cup all the way up, and every once in a while it spills. You can’t have it both ways.

The Cons

thumbdownThe former coaches, the idealists and the old-school purists all look at Westbrook and gently tilt their heads sideways.  They see the talent and athleticism and feel the frustration building. They want a point guard to be a point guard. It’s a team game. Hybrid combo guards aren’t their cup of tea.

Westbrook freezes out his teammates, most notably Durant, who inexplicably takes fewer shots per game than his point guard. When Westbrook was out last season, Durant terrorized the NBA, securing the MVP before his wing man was even back. Westbrook is a bad decision-maker, and if you don’t make the right choices, it doesn’t matter how fast you run or how high you jump. Too often he is out of control, and his mental lapses hurt the team. Westbrook simply cannot be trusted manning the position that requires stability before all else.

Basically, after a while, the argument is taken over by the extremes on both sides.

With Westbrook, the pros are always entangled with the cons. This isn’t to say that the debate is pointless, but it’s a hard job; you must go in with a fine-toothed comb and evaluate what part of his game is a necessary evil, and what negative he can eventually delete from his game.

Not many current or former players can say they scored 43 points in an NBA Finals game. Reality, of course, is always more layered than those big headlines. The Thunder lost that game, for the record.

westbrookAt his best, Westbrook is everywhere. At his worst, he’s all over the place. The difference is so often only a matter of perception, and that is why Westbrook is such a fascinating case to crack.

If you’re a starting point guard, Westbrook is the most terrifying player to go up against. With his superb physical gifts, ruthlessness, and never-ending motor, Westbrook will leave both your body and ego aching with bruises.

He loves contact, with an impressive array of finishing moves at the rim. In transition, when he goes into downhill mode, the only one player who can prevent him from getting two points is himself – which he sometimes does. Funny as it may be, at times Westbrook is too fast for his own good. Layups at 100 mph are tough to make.

Not quite as advanced of a ballhandler as other elite point guards, Westbrook has remarkable body control and an intuitive knack for pace and rhythm. These aspects of the game are difficult to explain, let alone teach, but Westbrook just has them as a natural part of his game.

Westbrook’s outside shot is a good example of where the conflict resides. He puts the “jump” in jump shot, seemingly launching from a trampoline when he pulls up. Most of his shots, even off the bounce, are virtually wide-open, with smaller defenders hopelessly extending their hand toward his chin.

But this much lift also costs him in stability, as fatigue takes its toll. With a career mark of 30.5 percent from three, Westbrook could stand to be more selective. The ball is in his hands a huge portion of the possessions. In the playoffs, Westbrook led all qualified players in usage rate with a whopping 34.3 percent of his team’s plays, according to Basketball-Reference.com. At times, when the clock runs out, hoisting one up is the only real option. Still, Westbrook often falls in love with very low-efficiency pull-ups. Good can turn bad – it’s a matter of dosage and context.

Curry WestbrookOn defense, Westbrook’s fantastic athleticism is only rivaled by his recklessness. His explosiveness makes him is prone to gambling and over-helping. Playoff teams make you pay for a lack of discipline, and Westbrook exposes his team too often.

Nevertheless, Westbrook has the defensive tools to affect every play, lurking around the ball, racking up rebounds and steals, and making his presence felt on the court as much as in the box score.

It is established that Westbrook is one of the very best players in the NBA. But can he be the point guard of a championship team?

The Thunder’s injuries in recent playoff runs may have been masking a bigger issue in their hunt for a title. Their offensive system is built upon two great scorers but is predictable and lacks sophistication. In the regular season, the Thunder can rely on their superior talent and defense to cruise to 55-60 wins. However, thinking that X amount of regular season wins makes for a title contender is a gross oversimplification.

We know playoff teams play better defense, but it’s the specific way in which they are better that really hurts the Thunder. When attacking a good, zeroed-in defense over the course of a series, actions have to lead to reactions, and then flow to counters once you are cut off. The Thunder only have actions. Their playbook must become thicker, and wondering whether Westbrook is a point guard that can lead that type of change is justified.

When you look at it with fresh eyes, the simplest answer just smacks you on the nose. Westbrook is not a point guard in a shooting guard’s body, but a shooting guard in a shooting guard’s body. I’m not of the school of thought that is in love with the “pure point guard” concept, and Westbrook does need the ball in his hands.

However, after six years as a pro, it is clear that Westbrook’s decision-making is not good enough. It’s not even where it should be for a shooting guard, but it will be more acceptable and far less damaging. Westbrook is an emotional spark, not the intellectual link between coach and players. When you ask him to initiate the offense and maintain floor balance, you are setting him up for failure.

While not the ideal fit along Westbrook, I believe starting Reggie Jackson at point guard is worth a look by coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder. This summer, Jackson was talking about wanting to become a starter and lead a team. And while not a pure point guard, his size and skills fit the position more than does Westbrook.

After the James Harden trade, the Thunder can’t just close their eyes and hope Jackson will give them a discount so he can keep coming off the bench. Starting Jackson would feature him and make him a better trade chip if he were leaving.

And lastly, it might actually work.

(RELATED: WILL REGGIE JACKSON GET A CONTRACT EXTENSION BY OCT. 31 DEADLINE?)

Through the years, there have plenty of amazing players that could only thrive on bad teams because of their personality and style of play. Russell Westbrook is too competitive to be OK with that route, and it means he has a lot of work to do, regardless of the position he ends up playing.

Oren Levi is an amateur scout, a professional writer and a diehard NBA fan. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE FROM OREN LEVI: 

HOW WILL KYRIE IRVING ADJUST TO SUPERSTAR-LADEN CAVS?
THE DAWN OF THE BROW — ANTHONY DAVIS TAKES OVER

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SH Blog: Dwyane Wade Planning To Play In More Games This Season http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/22/sh-blog-dwyane-wade-planning-to-play-in-more-games-this-season/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/22/sh-blog-dwyane-wade-planning-to-play-in-more-games-this-season/#respond Mon, 22 Sep 2014 04:37:42 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80791

Dwyane WadeEsauThe departure of LeBron James as a free agent earlier this summer left a void for the Miami Heat to fill. With the leagues best player taking his talents back to Cleveland, there isn’t really a viable way to replace such a loss. Determined to remain competitive the Heat retooled by adding new free agents, but they’ll also be relying on their returning stars to contribute in a major way.

This plan will also include more participation from Heat star Dwyane Wade. Last season Wade missed 28 games in an attempt to keep himself rested for what was an inevitable playoff run. The method certainly seemed like it worked to an extent, but losing James will force Miami to re-think that approach. Games will be much harder to win this season, and despite bringing in solid veterans like Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts, the Heat are far from the favorites in the East this year.

Fortunately Wade seems committed to carrying a greater workload in the absence of LeBron. Health permitting, Wade looks to increasing his availability for Miami this year. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he covers a variety of topics, but most importantly addresses his outlook on his role this season.

Via the Wall Street Journal:

How many games do you expect to play this year?

As many as god will let me. You always want to be on the court. This year, without LeBron, we don’t have the luxury we’ve had the last few years. But you can’t control that. I’ll hope for the best, knock on wood that everything will go great, and I’ll play as many games as I can.

 

In addition to his comments on the upcoming season, Wade also gave insight as to what he studies in relation to the game during the off-season. This included watching YouTube clips of fellow NBA shooting guard, Kobe Bryant.

Per WSJ:

You watched YouTube clips of Kobe Bryant on your honeymoon. There are lots of ways for you to get video clips of other players. But do you often watch on YouTube?

I do. Honestly, we can call the Miami Heat and say, “Can you put this together for me?” But sometimes, in my spare time, YouTube has certain clips and I might want to watch a certain game.

What numbers do you study?

I’m not really into all that. I look at my own scouting report, but I like to play the game and just react. I look and see that this guy loves to go left. But I want to play the game. I like to react toward the game. I do have in the back of my mind his strengths and weaknesses, but I don’t want to get too crazy and say, he only goes right 14% of the time. I don’t want to think that way.

After your playing career, if you’re in a front-office role, would that change?

I mean, yeah. You have to do what’s working or what people are doing. But because I played the game, a lot of it is going off of what I know of their talent just by watching. My whole life, I’ve had to break down film and watch players. It’s never really been about numbers for me. I’ve always had a good eye for watching players and seeing what they’re good at and what they’re not good at.

With LeBron James, Miami played in four straight NBA Finals in four years. While daring to contend in a fifth would be almost impossible, the odds of that have gotten lower since the loss of James. It will be interesting to see how Dwyane Wade plays now that there will be a larger burden placed on himself, and fellow teammate Chris Bosh for this upcoming season.

Other News Around The League:

  • Philadelphia 76ersFree agent Evan Turner is close to signing with the Boston Celtics. It was reported back in July that Turner and the Celtics had reached an agreement, but other factors seemed to have delayed the process. According to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, the two sides are close to finalizing the deal.  Per Jay King of MassLive the deal was delayed so that the Celtics could handle other needs: The Celtics kept Turner in limbo for a bit more flexibility throughout the offseason. Now, though, we’re fewer than 10 days away from training camp. The Celtics still need to trim at least one other player from their roster by then, plus two additional bodies before the regular season. Those numbers do not include training camp invitees Tim Frazier, Christian Watford and Rodney McGruder; all have little to no chance of making the final cut and could be destined for the Maine Red Claws.
  • Charlotte Hornets player Jeff Taylor say’s he’s fully recovered from his ruptured achilles injury that kept him sidelined for most of last season. While it will certainly be good to see him back on the court, it will be hard for him to get quality minutes. The Hornets are stacked with depth at the wing positions, and Taylor looks to be last in the pecking order for now. Per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte ObserverTaylor, a 6-foot-7 forward, will be in Charlotte Hornets training camp Sept. 30, almost nine months after he ruptured his right Achilles tendon in a game against the Detroit Pistons. Taylor injured himself Dec. 20 and he was given the option to put off surgery until after the holidays. That’s not Taylor’s way; he had the tendon reattached Dec. 22. He spent Christmas and New Year’s in a cast, followed by a boot, followed by a corrective shoe. It’s the first time he was ever seriously injured, and the experience was enlightening. “It’s been a long road,” Taylor said. “With an Achilles injury, you have to be really patient – slowly getting back all your strength, back to what you were.”
  • Tony Parker headshotSan Antonio Spurs All-Star point guard Tony Parker was caught having a little fun this weekend. A viral video shows Parker displaying his ability to hit trick shots with a behind the back over-the-head half court shot.

 

Esau Howard is a regular contributor to Sheridan Hoops. You can follow him on Twitter here.

 

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Terrence Jones, Gorgui Dieng Lead West’s Breakout Team http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/21/terrence-jones-gorgui-dieng-lead-wests-breakout-team/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/21/terrence-jones-gorgui-dieng-lead-wests-breakout-team/#comments Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:00:47 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80748

Patrick BeverleyOn Saturday, we gave you our All-Breakout Team for the upcoming season for the Eastern Conference.

Today, we bring you our Western Conference All-Breakout Team. These are the players we believce are on the verge of breaking out or standing out.

We used the same parameters – five players, one at each position, but no rookies.

Let’s get right to it.

 

Patrick Beverley, PG, Houston Rockets

Beverley’s defensive exploits have been well-documented, leading to his placement on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team despite playing in just 55 games. He brings high energy and intensity on every possession to the delight of fans and to the detriment of opponents, most notably Russell Westbrook.

However, Beverley’s 108 defensive rating is a bit misleading because Houston’s fifth-ranked offensive pace, a team’s possessions per 48 minutes, causes it to lose out a bit on the defensive end. It is his offensive game where his breakout season could occur.

Beverley shot 41.4 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from the arc and had very good true shooting and effective field-goal percentages for a point guard. They were similar to his 2012-13 rookie season despite playing nearly 14 more minutes per game. Another underrated factor is his offensive efficiency. Although Beverley didn’t log enough minutes to qualify among the league leaders, his 115 offensive rating last season was better than star point guards John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Tony Parker.

With Isaiah Caanan essentially replacing the departed Jeremy Lin as the team’s backup point guard and Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons now elsewhere, the stage is set for Beverley to take on more offensive responsibilities and make the next progression in his game. If he brings that trademark intensity to both sides of the floor, there’s no reason why he should not succeed.

Draymond Green, SG, Warriors

We’re stretching things a bit here, because Green is a forward. However, he can defend shooting guards. Like Beverley, he is another player known for his defensive prowess that could make a jump on the other end.

From an offensive standpoint, the 2013-2014 season was an it-can-only-go-up-from-here year for Green. His overall shooting percentage increased eight percentage points – to 40.7 percent. His 3-point percentage rose an impressive 12.4 percentage points – to 33.3 percent. We could discuss Green’s shooting progression from abysmal to below average even more, but we’ll digress.

Green not only improved his defensive rating to 97.7 (fifth in the league behind only Tim Duncan, Paul George, teammate Andrew Bogut and Joakim Noah) but more impressively scored 15 more points per 100 possessions last year (102)  than his rookie season.

Green will always be a top notch defender; in addition to his defensive rating, he also was seventh in steal percentage at 2.8. But his offensive game has the ability to take another quantum leap and earn him a whole lot more respect around the league.

Terrence Jones, SF, Rockets

Terrence_JonesMany have called the Houston’s offseason an abject failure, and there’s certainly a case to back that up, But Terrence Jones is someone well-positioned and well-equipped to soften the losses on this roster. Parsons, Asik and Lin are out and Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry will be joined by Jones and his larger role.

Jones’ 118.8 offensive rating ranked 12th in the NBA, and he rewarded Kevin McHale increasing his minutes in grand fashion. In just 27.1 minutes per game, he shot 54.2 percent to go with 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. His 19.1 PER, plus-15 net rating, 7.3 win shares and .169 win shares per 48 minutes were all huge numbers.

Many would call last season a breakout for Jones, but his game can grow even further, as evidenced by his play after the All-Star break.

T.Jones MPG FG% PPG RPG BPG True FG ORate DRate NetRate
Pre-Break 28.2 52.4 11.7 7.3 1.4 55.8 114 105 9
Post-Break 25.8 57.3 12.8 6.3 1.14 61.0 125 106 19

Houston outscored its opponents by 19 points per 100 possessions when Jones was on the floor after the break, a 10-point improvement. Jones’ shooting and efficiency become other-worldly; he even shot 34.4 percent from three compared to just 29 percent before President’s Day.

Jones will probably play 30-plus minutes this season, which is a good thing considering that in the 31 games last season in which Jones logged 30-39 minutes, he averaged 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds on 55.2 percent shooting with an offensive rating of 127. He also shot 35.8 percent from three in those games.

The sky is truly the limit for Jones, who could have a jet-fueled ascent into the stratosphere of top frontcourt players.

Markieff Morris, PF, Phoenix Suns

There was a time where Markieff Morris was an undistinguished player — from his twin brother Marcus or any other potential-filled lottery pick destined for a flameout and a contract in Europe. Then last season happened. He has the ability to break out even further in 2014-2015. Just look at his year-to-year progression over the last two seasons.

Markieff Morris MPG FG% PPG RPG True FG% PER ORate DRate WS
2012-2013 22.4 40.7 8.2 4.8 47.3 12.6 96 106 1.7
2013-2014 26.6 48.6 13.8 6 56.4 18.4 111 106 6.4

Markieff Morris Progression

While playing just four more minutes per contest, the growth of Morris’ game is almost staggering. His field goal percentage went from below average to a very healthy 48.6. His PER and offensive efficiency went way up, and his per-game trips to the line more than doubled.

With Channing Frye now in Orlando, Morris should slide into the starting lineup, see more playing time and have a breakout season for the second straight year.

Gorgui Dieng, C, Minnesota Timberwolves

Gorgui DiengWe saw glimpses of the player Dieng could be while at Louisville, but his rookie encore was something to behold. Why get so excited over someone who averaged 4.8 points and 5.0 rebounds last season? Because he was an advanced stats monster and a true beast will be unleashed this season in Minnesota.

For some inexplicable reason, Dieng played 13.6 minutes per game last season. But he shot 49.8 percent from the field with a very good 16.5 PER, a really good 100 defensive rating and an above average .129 win shares per 48 minutes.

With Nikola Pekovic as the starter, Dieng won’t play 36 minutes, but his per-36 minute numbers are simply bonkers: 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.3 steals and a “wow” factor that makes people excited for the new era of Twin Cities basketball.

The Wolves will build around Dieng, Pekovic, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young and Ricky Rubio. On paper, that’s not bad. And with Dieng continuing his meteoric rise, Minnesota should actually be fun to watch next season.

Read the Eastern Conference’s breakout team here on SheridanHoops

Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. You should follow him on Twitter.

 

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SH Blog: Bledsoe to Minnesota is not happening; Kings sign Sessions http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/sh-blog-bledsoe-to-minnesota-is-not-happening-kings-sign-sessions/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/sh-blog-bledsoe-to-minnesota-is-not-happening-kings-sign-sessions/#respond Sun, 21 Sep 2014 02:28:34 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80782

DanMaloneThis Eric Bledsoe situation is a lot like a million-dollar game of chicken.

At one end, you’ve got Ryan McDonough and the Suns, who refuse to offer Bledsoe a long-term deal for more than they feel he’s worth.

At the other, you’ve got Bledsoe and his agent, who refuse to sign a long-term offer for less than they feel Bledsoe’s worth.

If neither turns away, it’ll end up with Bledsoe playing one more year in Phoenix for a qualifying offer, and then bolting for unrestricted free agency. And that’s not a win for either side.

BledsoeIt seemed for a minute like Flip Saunders (with, it must be said, hardly altruistic motives) would swoop in and offer a fourth option, where Bledsoe could get paid and the Suns would keep their cap space next offseason, as well as picking up an asset or two.

But that’s not going to happen, and Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun explains why:

The Phoenix Suns are not interested in dumping Bledsoe on another team for the dreaded trade package of “[average starter], future picks and cap filler”. The Suns already have those in spades.

  • The Suns have 2 near All-Stars (Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe)
  • Six more rotation players with starting experience (Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Miles Plumlee). You can quibble over whether some other team’s average starter is better than one of these six, but the problem is that you’re getting that player for a near All-Star in Bledsoe. That’s a “trade down”.
  • The Suns already have more draft picks than they can use in the next two years. The Lakers’ pick (top 5 protected) and their own in 2015, then Bogdan Bogdanovic and their own in 2016. This on top of four players 21 and under on the current roster already. No, the Suns will not be swayed with “future picks”.
  • “Cap filler” – the Suns have 15 players under contract already. They don’t need cap filler to round out a roster, and they especially don’t need bad contracts as part of that filler.

I know you would like to quibble with the logic I used, and of course you are free to do so.

But I’m telling you right now I have it on good authority that the Suns would only consider sign-and-trade offers for Eric Bledsoe that net them an equal or better individual player in return. And I’ve been saying the same all summer.

I can see the Suns considering a star-quality 2014 draft pick in return to start the conversation (Julius Randle, Wiggins, etc) but otherwise they only will take a veteran back that’s at least as good as Eric Bledsoe.

Don’t think of trades in way of aggregation. Don’t think the Suns want a many-for-one trade involving Bledsoe. The Suns are in the business of getting better as a result of trades, not worse. To trade Bledsoe for leftovers is a step back, considering the roster as already constructed.

Bledsoe has more value to the Suns than any trade offer proposed to date.

So now we’re back to the summer-long game of chicken that doesn’t look like it’ll end up making anyone happy.

Here’s the rest of the latest news as the NBA slowly begins to emerge from its annual hibernation:

ANDRAY BLATCHE OFF TO CHINA

Andray_BlatcheHe rehabilitated his public perception with a surprisingly good stay in Brooklyn, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough to get Blatche another NBA job.

Enea Trapani of Sportando:

After the signing of Jordan Crawford and the end of the negotiation with Lester Hudson Xinjiang Flying Tigers arr reportedly close to sign Philippines’ big man Andray Blatche.

There were many rumors around the team about the possibile signing of Australian big man Aaron Baynes. Xinjiang’s management confirmed the addition of a big man who played in World Cup, but denied the deal with Baynes, as reported by Hupu.

Last season Blatche played in Brooklyn and averaged 10.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

KINGS SIGN RAMON SESSIONS

Somehow, there was still an NBA team that wanted to sign a veteran free agent!

 

SHAQ: ANTHONY DAVIS IS 'REAL'

Davis-USABJohn Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

What do you think about the emergence of New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis?

He’s real. I remember when he got hurt (last season), but he came back strong. His jumper looks nice. His legs look fresh. He runs the court and plays that defense. They are going to be a sleeper team this year.

DESMOND MASON MAKING WAVES IN THE ART WORLD

There have been lots of interesting post-playing careers, but this might be a first.

Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times:

It’s been six years since Mason, 36, was last in Seattle. And the former Sonics player returned Friday as different as the city that birthed some of his humorous firsts — glass of wine, fish that wasn’t fried and steak that wasn’t well done.

“I’m a Texas guy and I had never stepped out. Seattle was my first of everything,” said Mason, who was born in Waxahachie, starred at Oklahoma State and was drafted by the Sonics in 2000.

The most significant first developed his painting style. Mason’s then-fiancée, Andrea, was a soccer star at Seattle Pacific needing an elective her final year of school. Mason suggested art history, where viewing a Jackson Pollock film happened to be part of the course.

Mason, whose first dabble in art was at age 11, watched beside her.

“The next day, I went out and bought a canvas and started painting like that in my back yard,” he said. “That’s when I changed to being an expressionist.”

Mason has since shed his basketball persona for his true passion, being an artist. In his return, Mason filled Axis’ Pioneer Square gallery with abstract works on various mediums for a private exhibition benefiting the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound.

In the center of the 18-piece collection was a new piece specifically for the show titled “The Irony of Darks and Lights.” The abstract painting on wood panel looks as if peering through thick evergreens to view Lake Washington.

“It has a very serene and soft feel,” Mason said. “I miss driving across the lake on the 520 and getting into downtown and seeing the Space Needle. Even though it was busy and a lot of traffic, for me, it had a serenity.”

...

“I understand what basketball gave me the opportunity to do,” he said. “It gave me a platform to display my art on a high level. But no one is going to buy a painting from Desmond Mason for $15,000 just because he played for the Seattle Sonics and Milwaukee Bucks. There’s a limit. Now, it’s not so much about me playing basketball. It’s more about they love what they’re looking at.”

Dan Malone is a reporter at a newspaper in northwest Ohio. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.

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Three-Man Weave: A Closer Look at the Bulls-Cavaliers Rivalry http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/three-man-weave-a-closer-look-at-the-bulls-cavaliers-rivalry/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/three-man-weave-a-closer-look-at-the-bulls-cavaliers-rivalry/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 19:00:23 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80779

Kevin Love CavaliersThe most intriguing team in the NBA this season is unquestionably the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And the secocnd-most intriguing team in the NBA this season may be the Chicago Bulls.

This summer, the Cavaliers remade themselves from a laughingstock to a legitimate contender with the additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love. Meanwhile, the Bulls are hoping the return of Derrick Rose and the addition of Pau Gasol puts them in the championship chase as well.

And both teams play in the Central Division, which should create some juicy storylines through the season.

In this edition of the Three-Man Weave, we take a look at a couple of questions facing the Cavaliers and Bulls, who may be on a postseason collision course.

1. Right now, Kyrie Irving is a better point guard than Derrick Rose. Agree or disagree?

CHRIS SHERIDAN, PUBLISHER: Agree. Look, in the past six weeks, Irving went from being Rose’s backup on Team USA to the starter and the MVP of the World Cup. Rose is still trying to get his legs and mojo back, and it really doesn’t matter if Rosethat process takes several months. If he is where he needs to be in April, the Bulls will be happy. Irving himself has to go through a major readjustment now because he will be playing with LeBron James, who dominates the ball the way Irving is accustomed to dominating the ball. So there is a learning curve ahead for both of them.

CHRIS BERNUCCA, MANAGING EDITOR: The play of Irving and Rose in the World Cup merely affirmed what I already believed: At this point, Rose isn’t even the same class as Irving because of how little he has played in the last two years. Making it through the World Cup certainly was a big plus for Rose, but he not only has to show he can handle the relentless NBA schedule but also recapture a good portion of his previous form. Irving still has some work to do to be mentioned with the game’s best point guards but clearly is moving in the right direction and much better than Rose right now.

A.J. MITNICK, COLUMNIST: Agree. If you are talking about right now, there is absolutely no question. Irving still has not reached the level that Rose achieved in his MVP season before injuries began plaguing his career, but he has proven to be in the upper echelon of point guards. It would be surprising to see Rose return fully to his dominant self, and I think its fair to say Kyrie has supplanted him.

2. Cavaliers coach David Blatt will have no trouble adjusting to the NBA. Agree or disagree?

SHERIDAN: Blatt is the master of winning one game, because that is how Euroleague playoffs and international tournaments work. You play an opponent one time, and it is win or go home. How will he adjust in the playoffs when it is best-of-seven? What worked in Game 1 may not work in Game 2, much less Game 7. Also, he has a major ego to manage in coaching LeBron James, who tends to consider himself the alpha dog no matter who are his teammates and who is his coach. Blatt is a very David Blatt, Russiadomineering coach, so that bears watching.

BERNUCCA: Disagree. Wildly successful college coaches historically have had trouble in the NBA. Many ready-made long-time NBA assistants have had trouble sliding over to the next chair. So Blatt will have some trouble. But does it occur to anybody that LeBron James has been entirely willing to accept anyone as his coach? He moved to Miami even though the relatively inexperienced Erik Spoelstra was in place and returned to Cleveland even though Blatt already had been hired. Maybe James believes he can hold more sway over an inexperienced coach. Or maybe his self-confidence allows him to work within anyone’s schemes. But one thing is for sure: The presence of James will make Blatt’s transition less troublesome.

MITNICK: Blatt will likely have a big adjustment this season, only it will be hard to notice it from the outside. With Kevin Love now in the fold, Blatt will be able to play small ball lineups with outside shooters like he did with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and it will be interesting to see if he plays a similar style to what he used in Maccabi’s miraculous 2013-14 season. With the talent the Cavs have surrounding James, they can win 55 games with my grandmother as the coach. This gives Blatt a great opportunity to adjust to the NBA without being in the hot seat from the beginning.

3. The Eastern Conference finals will be the Chicago Bulls vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. Agree or disagree?

SHERIDAN: Agree. I like the Wizards, and I like the Raptors, but Chicago and Cleveland have assembled a pair of powerhouses that should both win 60 games barring injuries. This is much like a year ago, when it was a virtual certainty that 175px-LeBron_James_18112009_1the Pacers and Heat would meet again in the conference finals. There will be a lot of good teams in the East, but only two great ones.

BERNUCCA: Agree on the Cavaliers. There would have to be an unmitigated disaster for the team with arguably the best three-headed monster in the NBA not to reach the Final Four, especially in the weaker East. The Bulls appear to have enough to join them, but here’s what I remember from Chicago’s previous playoff runs with Rose: Opponents load up on him and force him to be a passer, but his stubborn belief in his ability to finish in traffic leads to contested hero shots. It is more than possible that in a big spot against a Toronto or Washington, one of those shots doesn’t drop, costs the Bulls home court advantage and ultimately the series.

MITNICK: Disagree. The Bulls look fantastic on paper, but there are a few factors that bode well in favor of the Washington Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal are coming for blood this season after being snubbed by Team USA, and both could take their game to the next level. The addition of Paul Pierce gives them one more shot creator, and one of the better competitors of the last decade. Chicago will be a lock if Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah have healthy seasons and Pau Gasol’s play resembles what he showed at the World Cup. However, that is two too many ifs for Chicago to be overconfident.

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Antetokounmpo, Hardaway, Plumlee Lead East’s Breakout Team http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/antetokounmpo-hardaway-plumlee-lead-easts-breakout-team/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/antetokounmpo-hardaway-plumlee-lead-easts-breakout-team/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 15:00:32 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80601

Giannis AdetokunboTraining camps start next week for five teams, and preseason games are just a couple of weeks away. The excitement is palpable as we build towards the 2014-2015 season with players who should have breakout or standout seasons.

Here are five players in the Eastern Conference – one at each position, no rookies – who will take the next step towards greatness this upcoming season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, PG, Milwaukee Bucks

The Greek Freak isn’t a point guard, you say? New Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd must not have gotten the memo. Antetokounmpo handled the ball for long stretches during Summer League in July, dazzling and amazing writers and fans and scaring the bejeezus out opposing coaches and scouts.

He athletically weaved his way to the rim nearly at will, running the floor really well. His decision-making needs work, but he can already penetrate and get to the hole when he pleased based on his play in Las Vegas.

If working with a future Hall-of-Famer in Kidd isn’t enough tutelage for Antetokounmpo, it appears likely that already Hall of Famer Gary Payton will also be working with him on his point guard skills during training camp and the preseason.

Antetokounmpo, who has the most potential of any player in the league, doesn’t turn 20 until Dec. 6. He is extremely raw and his advanced numbers (10.8 PER, a net rating of minus-15 per 100 possessions) aren’t very good, but you could see the bursts and glimpses of sheer brilliance on the floor. He’s already knocking down 34.7 percent of his threes and he figures to play more than 24.6 minutes per game under Kidd.

Look for Antetokounmpo to make big strides this year offensively, including running some point guard and getting to the basket a whole lot more. Just sit back and watch him grow.

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, New York Knicks

No Knicks player will benefit from Phil Jackson’s Derek Fisher’s new triangle offense more than Hardaway, who had a dazzling 112 offensive rating (team’s points scored per 100 possessions while on the floor) and shot 36.3 percent from three in his rookie season. Based on his shot chart from last season, Junior already has some sweet spots on the floor where he’s a deadly spot-up shooter, as shown in his shot chart from 2013-2014.

Hardaway Jr. Shot Chart 2013-2014

Though Hardaway has to work on his corner threes, he is already a very proficient mid-range shooter and excels from the top of the key beyond the arc. His defense still needs a lot of work, but Hardaway should have even better numbers with New York’s improved ball movement and his progression into an impact offensive threat.

Jimmy Butler, SF, Chicago Bulls

jimmy-butlerWith Derrick Rose back in the picture at point guard, Butler now gets to relax and not have to be the focal point of the Bulls’ offense from the perimeter. To say Butler was overworked last season is the understatement of the week.

Butler’s 38.7 minutes per game tied him with Carmelo Anthony for the highest number in the league. Yet he still managed to finish 13th in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing just 100.4 points per 100 possessions, and eighth in defensive win shares.

Jimmy Butler- League Leader Stat NBA Rank
Minutes Per Game 38.7 T1
Steals Per Game 1.9 T4
Defensive Win Shares 4.6 T8
Steals 127 12
Defensive Rating 100.4 13

There’s no question Butler already is one of the finest wing defenders in the game, but where he will really improve this season is on offense. With Rose shouldering the offensive load, Butler could go back to the “quality over quantity” approach that allowed him to shoot 46.7 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three in 2012-2013, as opposed to the disappointing 39.7 percent and 28.3 percent he posted last season.

Case in point: When playing at least 40 minutes last season – which Butler did a staggering 38 times – he shot 39 percent from the field and 24.7 percent from three with a 104 offensive rating. When he played between 30 and 39 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference, he shot 32.7 percent from three with a 111 offensive rating. Once Butler’s minutes are properly managed, look for him to have an offensive breakout in 2014-2015.

Mason Plumlee, PF, Brooklyn Nets

Plumlee-TeamUSABased on Plumlee’s stint with Team USA this summer in the FIBA World Cup, it’s hard to believe he played just 18.2 minutes per game last season. He was mismanaged by Kidd and rode the bench for too long that season. If he gets more playing time under new coach Lionel Hollins, look for Plumlee to not only excel in Brooklyn but become a borderline All-Star in the process.

Plumlee hit a sensational 65.9 percent of his shots and averaged 4.4 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals in just over 18 minutes. His PER (19), true shooting percentage (.670), offensive rating (121), net rating (plus-17) and win shares per 48 minutes (.176) were off the charts.

What’s even more encouraging is how Plumlee excelled past the All-Star break, when injuries mounted and he started most of the games he played. Take a look at his improvement.

Plumlee Starts MPG FG% PPG RPG BPG ORate DRate NetRate
Before Break 1 15.6 63.2 6.2 3.3 0.76 118 107 11
After Break 21 22 68.4 9.1 6 0.83 121 106 15

In just six more minutes per game, Plumlee’s productivity increased and his efficiency got even better, although he has to work on his free throws. It’s easy to envision Plumlee being a regular double-double player if he plays at least 30 minutes. If used correctly, Brooklyn could finally have a healthy young star to look forward to after being disappointed by Brook Lopez and Deron Williams.

John Henson, C, Bucks

It’s another young Buck, and another young player who thrived with more playing time and more freedom on the floor. With Larry Sanders injured, Henson had a standout 2013-2014 season despite playing just 26.5 minutes per game and coming off the bench in 47 of his 70 appearances.

Look at his improvement with an extra year of experience and more than twice the minutes played per game.

John Henson Minutes FG % Points Rebounds Blocks PER O Rating D Rating Win Shares
2012-2013 13.1 48.2 6.0 4.7 0.7 18.2 103 102 1.9
2013-2014 26.5 53.8 11.1 7.1 1.7 17.9 106 108 3.3

John Henson Graph

While his minutes more than doubled, his efficiency remained nearly the same and his per-game numbers skyrocketed. Like Plumlee, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Henson averaged a double-double with 30 minutes nightly. With Antetokounmpo, Henson, rookie Jabari Parker and a healthy Sanders, Milwaukee already has a nice youthful nucleus with which to work.

Check out the Western Conference’s breakout team on Sunday here at SheridanHoops

Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. You should follow him on Twitter.

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SH Blog: Chandler Fires Back at Knicks; LeBron Big in Cleveland; The Dirkumentary http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/sh-blog-chandler-fires-back-at-knicks-lebron-big-in-cleveland-the-dirkumentary/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/sh-blog-chandler-fires-back-at-knicks-lebron-big-in-cleveland-the-dirkumentary/#respond Sat, 20 Sep 2014 07:43:06 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80772

ogdenIn 2011, Tyson Chandler won his first career NBA championship as the defensive anchor for the Dallas Mavericks. In 2012, Chandler took home the Defensive Player of the Year award for the first time in his career as the leader of the New York Knicks.

As Chandler prepares to hit the reset button, one thing keeps him from escaping the past: a somewhat controversial exit from the Knicks.

Under the guidance of new president of basketball operations Phil Jackson, New York traded Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks. For the Knicks, the trade was centered around veteran point guard and lethal marksman Jose Calderon.

This created a long-awaited reunion between Chandler and the Mavericks, but that’s not the end of the seemingly feel-good story.

Around the time of the NBA draft, Jackson explained the reasoning for the trade. He cited a desire to shake things up in the locker room. He also insinuated that there were chemistry issues that needed to be fixed.

According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, Chandler took offense to those comments.

“I did nothing but try to help the culture there the three years I was there,” Chandler said Friday. “You can say I didn’t live up to whatever or you didn’t like the way I played or anything. But to ever question who I am and the type of leader I am in the locker room, I don’t even know where that came from.

“I honestly don’t know where that came from. I don’t know if Phil put that out there or who put that out there, but to me, that was the ultimate shock. And you don’t have to say that to get rid of me or to trade me. The trade is over.

“So to judge my character and what I’ve done, you can go look at all my teammates and ask all of my teammates in the past, and the coaches I’ve played for, and I’ve never been a problem and never had a problem. So that was a shock to me that I didn’t appreciate.”

Just another day in paradise.

This is a surprising development. Chandler is a great player, but he won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012 because of the influence he had on the players around him. For as strong as he individually, the award honored his leadership and influence.

Two long seasons later, those very traits are being called into question.

The good news for Chandler, 31, is that he’s back with a team that never should’ve let him leave in the first place. He and Dirk Nowitzki have a wonderful chemistry, and Rick Carlisle clearly knows how to put him in the proper places to facilitate victory.

Victory heals all, and in 2014-15, wins will be the only thing that matter for both restructured franchises.

Massive Billboard for James

At a time in which news from the sports world has been predominantly negative, it’s imperative to find some good. On Friday, September 19, two very different locations honored their hometown heroes in spectacular ways.

It started with the city of Cleveland putting up a massive billboard to recognize the return of one LeBron James.

James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked many. Despite leaving his home state team in controversial fashion after the 2009-10 NBA season, the four-time MVP returned to open arms in 2014.

The city of Cleveland is taking its welcome back routine to entirely new heights—quite literally. Across from the Quicken Loans Arena will be a massive billboard featuring James and his Cavaliers jersey.

According to a report via The Associated Pressthe billboard is 10 stories high.

A larger-than-life LeBron James will again tower over downtown.

The city’s planning commission approved artwork on Friday for a 10-story-high banner of the NBA superstar, his arms outstretched and “Cleveland” across the back of his jersey.

It will hang across the street from Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers.

Rather than wearing a jersey with his own name, James is pictured with the word, “Cleveland,” over the No. 23.

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That’s an official return to Cleveland.

After four seasons with the Miami Heat and a couple of burnt Cavaliers jerseys, James is back in his home state of Ohio. Roughly 45 minutes away from his hometown of Akron, he’s managed to both salvage and elevate his reputation in one swift act.

As if two NBA championships, four MVP awards and 10 All-Star Game selections left any doubt about why James should be appreciated.

With Cleveland loading up on superstars and Dan Gilbert abandoning his anti-super team mentality, the city is at an all-time high for excitement. The Cavaliers have a genuine opportunity to bring the city its first championship since the Cleveland Indians won the 1964 World Series.

Imagine how big that billboard would be.

The Dirkumentary

Both in the United States of America and overseas, Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki is a man of immense talent, respect and popularity. He’s a legendary scorer with a publicly admired passion and sense of humor that makes him personable.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, fans are about to get to know Nowitzki far better than ever before.

A documentary—or in this case, a Dirkumentary—about the future Hall of Famers life was shown in Cologne, Germany. The title for the film is, “Nowitzki: Der Perfekte Wurf,” which translates to, “Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot.”

Despite the fact that the event was held in Germany, some of Nowitzki’s past and present teammates made sure they showed up to see it all transpire.

…Nowitzki inevitably discovered, well before touchdown, that a delegation of Mavericks players, former teammates, team officials and various staffers would be flying all the way to Germany this week for the premiere of a new German-produced documentary about the future Hall of Famer’s career and life.

Yet Nowitzki nonetheless came away openly touched to see the likes of Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, Rick Carlisle, Donnie Nelson, Keith Grant, Michael Finley and Brian Cardinal among a traveling party of some 40 guests from Dallas, all of whom descended upon Cologne to see the unveiling of “Nowitzki: Der Perfekte Wurf,” which translates to Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot.

That’s camaraderie.

Nowitzki has a very strong case for being the greatest international player in NBA history. He won league MVP in 2007, Finals MVP in 2011 and has 12 All-Star Game appearances.

Currently No. 10 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Nowitzki has revolutionized basketball as a true 7’0″ player who can knock down the 3-ball with ease. He’s No. 23 in career 3-point field goals and his patented one-legged fadeaway may be the most unstoppable shot since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook.

As the title of the documentary suggests, it truly is the perfect shot. Right, Sports Science?

Deadly.

Nowitzki’s path to and through the NBA is just as remarkable as what he’s done on the court. He’s gone from being an international phenom to a sports icon, all the while maintaining loyalty to one specific franchise.

Whether or not you’re a Mavericks fan, “Nowitzki: Der Perfekte Wurf,” will be a must-see piece of cinema.

Around The League

  • Former Kentucky Wildcats and NBA player Rex Chapman was arrested for allegedly stealing more than $14,000 worth of products from the Apple Store at the Scottsdale Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Apple Store employees told police that Chapman picked up items in the store and made it appear that he was paying for them using a self-checkout system via iPhone app. He would then leave the store without actually paying for the items, they said.” Chapman, 46, played in the NBA from 1988 to 2000. ABC15 Arizona provided the report.
  • According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Golden State Warriors have yet to receive a timetable on when Shaun Livingston will return from toe surgery. Livingston was signed to serve as the backup to star point guard Stephen Curry, who has battled injuries himself. Livingston revitalized his career in 2013-14 by starting for the playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets.
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Tweet of the Night: James Harden learns the “Carlton Dance” from Alfonso Ribeiro http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/tweet-of-the-night-james-harden-learns-the-carlton-dance-from-alfonso-ribeiro/ http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/09/20/tweet-of-the-night-james-harden-learns-the-carlton-dance-from-alfonso-ribeiro/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 04:53:23 +0000 http://www.sheridanhoops.com/?p=80770

After helping Team USA win the gold medal in the FIBA World Cup, Houston Rockets guard James Harden is back in the states and apparently getting some dancing lessons.

On Friday, Harden posted a clip of himself learning the “Carlton Dance” from none other than Alfonso Ribeiro himself: 

In his tweet, Harden mentioned the possibility of joining the show “Dancing with the Stars’” If he was being serious, he would join a small list of NBA personnel who have done the show, including Metta World PeaceRick Fox and Mark Cuban. Ribeiro has also done the competition in the past, so he makes a great mentor for Harden, minus “The Carlton.”

Tweet of the Night: Ryan Hollins excited to join the Sacramento Kings with Omri Casspi

Tweet Of The Day: Heat Owner Mickey Arison Applauds Shabazz Napier’s Shot Selection

James Park is a blogger and editor of Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on twitter @SheridanBlog.

 

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