In today’s NBA news, Carmelo Anthony says he’s staying in New York and the Black Mamba is unsure if he’ll be ready for opening night.
Of the popular meanings of the word tank, two have roots signifying damage and destruction. There is the blunt military vehicle, and the less subtle term that is popular in our contemporary basketball lexicon.
The basketball version of tanking will unavoidably be a central theme in the upcoming 2013-2014 season.
Compared to previous seasons, the 2014 NBA draft class is projected to be filled with All-Stars and franchise-changing players, headlined by Canadian wing Andrew Wiggins, who will play at Kansas this coming season. Supposedly, it’s the most “loaded” draft in a long, long time.
The upcoming season is an evaluation campaign for the Phoenix Suns in every respect. They will introduce a new offense designed by former Sun Jeff Hornacek, a new defense spearheaded by Mike Longabardi and at least six new rotation players acquired via the draft and trades by new general manager Ryan McDonough.
With the recent trade of Caron Butler – who never played a game for the team – the Suns have only one player in his 30s: Channing Frye, who is all of 30 and trying to return from a heart ailment.
The only bit of continuity is the vaunted training staff, whose job continues to focus on injury prevention, and the relatively low talent level.
Coming off the second-worst season in franchise history, the rebuilding Suns are projected to be the worst team in the Western Conference. Again.
Fot a team that admittedly will be tough to watch, here are five things to watch for.
SH Blog: Garnett likely to be rested during back-to-backs; Felton questions ranking Nets above Knicks
One of the worst things a rebuilding team can do is completely miss on a first-round pick. With the Celtics now definitely rebuilding, it might be time to question whether they did just that when they took Fab Melo, who was just traded to the Grizzlies for Donte Greene. Of course, it’s not like the Celtics will be set back for years by missing on that pick: they took Jared Sullinger one pick before Melo and Kelly Olynyk this year, both centers whose skillsets are basically the antithesis of Melo’s. It’s not like they whiffed on a top-ten pick and haven’t been able to replace what they thought they were getting, like, say, the Wizards seem to have done with Jan Vesely. Melo isn’t even the first player taken in the first round in that draft to be dumped for a modest return: Royce White’s clashes with Rockets management led to him getting shipped out to Philly before he even wore red and white, and Thomas Robinson’s top five pedigree hasn’t stopped him from going from Sacramento to Houston to Portland, for diminishing returns each time.
Melo, Robinson, Vesely and so many other players taken in the last few years could still be something, obviously, but the odds seem stacked against it. The counterpoint is when picks in the same minefield of lost potential turn into legitimate stars: look at Kenneth Faried and Nolan Smith, for instance. That’s how mid-market dynasties are built.
All this makes you wonder how history will look at this year’s draft. Will Anthony Bennett, Alex Len, and Nerlens Noel be the stars their teams hope they’ll be, or will they be quietly jettisoned for 15th-man fodder in a couple summers? Which, if any, late picks will turn into the value players that are the fuel of so many lengthy runs at the top? Only time will tell.
Now let’s get to all the latest news from around the NBA:
- Nik Pekovic is finally signed. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tells us how it got done: “Timberwolves fans might have fretted and feared the worst those six weeks when their team haggled with restricted free-agent center Nikola Pekovic over a new contract. To hear him tell it, even Pekovic’s agents might have done a little of the same. But the big man who on Friday celebrated five years’ job security and a $60 million guaranteed payday by wearing nearly all black never sweated the small stuff when negotiations stalled — until the Wolves offered a fifth year so Pekovic’s side would accept the team’s $12 million salary ceiling. “I always knew it was going to get done,” he said at a Friday news conference that officially presented him and the new deal. “I was not nervous. I think my agents were more nervous, that’s for sure. They were calling me, like, ‘Calm down, calm down.’ I said don’t worry, I’m fine.” “
- Do we have some shots fired in the Nets-Knicks rivalry from Raymond Felton? Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com reports: “The Knicks starting point guard couldn’t believe that ESPN’s 215-member forecast panel picked his team to finish fifth in the conference. He’s also heard other media outlets overlook the Knicks. “I’m like, ‘How can y’all even say this?’” Felton told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday at an Under Armour event in New York City for his upcoming basketball sneaker. “We made changes and I feel like we got better, and we were the No. 2 team [last season]. We won over 50 games, we won our division, but y’all going to sit here and say that, ‘Just because Brooklyn made some changes, they’ll overpower us just like that, like we have no chance.’ Come on. You can put 10 guys on the court and all of them are All-Stars, but they got to work as a team, they still got to work together. I feel like sometimes that’s tough. You never know; you have different egos and personalities that you have to deal with on the court. Sometimes they don’t mix.” “
- Speaking of the Nets, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports that Kevin Garnett might be limited, along the lines of Gregg Popovich’s famous “DNP – Old”: “You might want to count out Kevin Garnett for about a quarter of the season. After Garnett admitted he seriously contemplated retirement this summer, the 37-year-old will “probably” not play in back-to-back games next season, according to Nets coach Jason Kidd. The Nets have 20 sets of back-to-backs, including a Rockets-Knicks combo in April. “We’ve talked about it that there’s going to be (minutes restrictions). When you look at KG, probably no back-to-backs for him,” Kidd said Friday following press conference to announce the renovation of Nassau Coliseum. “Those are just topics we’re talking about, throwing around to keep these guy’s minutes down because we are deep. …you want to be fresh going into the playoffs.” Garnett, who will earn about $11.5 million next season, is the oldest starter on a lineup with an average age of 31.6. He hasn’t played more than 71 games since joining the Celtics in 2007-08, and his minutes dipped to under 30 per game last season. The Spurs have used a similar strategy with Tim Duncan, who is also 37 and played 69 games last season.”
#Sixers Turner talked to Brett Brown last night. ‘I told him everybody wants to be in tank mode and everything.’ …
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) August 17, 2013
Turner: ‘I told him I plan on trying 2 win as much as possible. He said they got the wrong coach if we’re going 2 go out & lose on purpose.’
— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) August 17, 2013
- Alex Len is feeling good, writes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: “Len, the Suns’ No. 5 overall pick in June, has spent most of this year with a protective boot on one foot or the other after undergoing surgery to repair a partial stress fracture in his left ankle after his Maryland season and then another surgery on his right ankle last month as a proactive move when it showed signs of another potential fracture. Len, 20, has been out of the boot for a week and is on schedule to be ready to participate when Suns training camp opens in Flagstaff in late September. He lost weight after his surgery but has gained back 10 pounds during his rehabilitation work in the past month. “I’ve got two more weeks of rehab and then I’ll be back about 85-90 percent,” Len said. “I’ll be back for training camp and be ready for the season. The ankle’s feeling great. I have no pain.” Len went to the rookie orientation program in New York but has returned to Phoenix for good to finish rehabilitation. He gradually will work toward jogging over the next two weeks and said he already has begun some set shooting and dribbling. The 7-foot-1 center is trying to not get caught up in concerns about having two surgeries in two months. He said the Suns asked him to do the “precautionary” second ankle operation and that it will not be an obstacle.”
- There’s a buzz in New Orleans over the revamped Pelicans, now featuring Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans in addition to Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, and, as John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes, it’s translating into ticket sales already: “A new nickname, an improved roster and a significant slash in ticket prices have helped put the New Orleans Pelicans on pace to achieve their highest season-ticket total since the franchise has been in the Crescent City. Michael Stanfield, the Pelicans’ senior vice president of sales, said the franchise has already sold more than 11,000 season-ticket packages in advance of the regular-season opener Oct. 30 against the Indiana Pacers at the New Orleans Arena. The franchise’s sales record for season tickets came in 2008-09 when it sold 11,800 the season after the team won a franchise-record 56 games and clinched its first Southwest Division title. But Stanfield predicts by October, the Pelicans will have 12,000 season-ticket holders.”
Dan Malone is about to begin his fourth year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent this 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.
The draft is officially over, and by now you’ve heard about how crazy it was. For some recap, check out Chris Sheridan’s breakdown of the winners and losers, including my homeland up north with Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk going in the lottery, and Andrew Wiggins coming up next year. When it comes time for the international competitions, some of the European powers might have to look out. It’s not going to be Steve Nash and a bunch of scrubs any more.
Now we’re in the shortest holding pattern of the year as we wait for free agency to kick off tonight. To get ready for that, check out Moke Hamilton’s list of the top 50 free agents. The top two are obviously Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but who is #3? Click through and find out.
And this is the part where we get to the latest news from all around the NBA:
- ESPN’s Chris Broussard is just like the rest of us: he doesn’t know what Dwight Howard is going to do. Here’s what he said recently, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News: “Personally, I think the Rockets are his best option. But I’m told that he really likes the Mavericks. I think it’s neck and neck between the Mavericks and the Rockets. What he likes about Dallas is that it would be his franchise. Even though Dirk is there and certainly a superstar, he’s clearly toward the end of his career and wouldn’t mind passing the reins to Dwight. And then, in 2014, they’ll have cap room to really build around Dwight. He looks back at his time in Orlando when he led a team built around him that had really good players, but no perennial All-Stars, besides him, and he was able to lead them past LeBron James into the Finals. He thinks he can do that again in the right situation in Dallas.”
- On the same topic, here’s what Mitch Kupchak said to the AP, courtesy of USA Today: “Kupchak used the word “optimistic” to describe his feelings about what Howard might do. The Lakers can offer a maximum of $118 million over five seasons, and other teams can offer $88 million over four years. Kupchak thinks that’s one reason for Howard to re-sign in Los Angeles. “I don’t think anything dramatic is going to happen on June 30th at 9:01 regarding Dwight,” Kupchak said. “My understanding is there are several other teams that have great interest, and he’s going to have a process that I understand to be pretty deliberate that he’s going to go through. We’ll be involved in that process and we’ll see how it plays out.” Kupchak said any talk of Howard’s dissatisfaction with coach Mike D’Antoni or his offensive game plan was simply a byproduct of a season that ended with a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs.”
Mavs would love having Rajon Rondo to chase Dwight Howard, but Boston needs Dallas to take multiple contracts off its books, sources say.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 29, 2013
- Here’s Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports with some Jazz news: “Mo Williams will re-sign as a free agent with the Utah Jazz only if he remains the starting point guard next season, a source told Yahoo! Sports on Friday. The demand comes a day after the Jazz traded up in the draft to get University of Michigan star Trey Burke, who was selected ninth on Thursday night. “He’s not going to come back as a backup,” the source said of Williams.”
- Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee looks at how the Kings’ guard rotation could play out with the addition of Ben McLemore and the qualifying offer given to Tyreke Evans: “With Evans playing shooting guard last season, Isaiah Thomas started at point guard. When Evans started at small forward two seasons ago, Marcus Thornton started at shooting guard. This doesn’t include what might happen with Jimmer Fredette or what role John Salmons, who started at small forward last season, might play.”Now we have two young guards to bring into this mix,” D’Alessandro said. “We wouldn’t have gone into this direction if we felt it was a cluttersome thing, but it doesn’t diminish the value we have for the players already in place.” Of the group of guards, Evans has the pedigree to play all three perimeter spots. Thornton and McLemore appear best suited to play shooting guard, while Thomas and McCallum are point guards. Fredette has played some of his best basketball in limited minutes at shooting guard, but listed at 6-foot-2, he is built more like a point guard. Evans feels most comfortable at point guard.”
- Another player who might be squeezed out with a draft acquisition is J.R. Smith. Here’s Marc Raimondi of the New York Post on that situation: “J.R. Smith, with his Knicks status blowing in the wind, caused a commotion among fans yesterday when he tweeted, “It was fun while it lasted…” Did the sharpshooting free-agent guard preemptively announce his departure from the team less than 24 hours after the Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr., a similar player? Only Smith knows for sure, though he tweeted again soon after denying that the initial comment had anything to do with basketball. “What y’all talking bout?” Smith wrote. “I’m talking bout the talk the cab driver an I just had!” “
- Eric Maynor might also be forced out of Portland, where he just came after a deadline deal with the Thunder, writes Joe Freeman of the Oregonian: “It appears the Trail Blazers’ marriage with Eric Maynor will be a brief one. General manager Neil Olshey said late Thursday night that the Blazers will not extend a qualifying offer to Maynor, guaranteeing that their backup point guard will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. It has long been assumed the team would allow Maynor to become an unrestricted free agent because his qualifying offer would have carried a hefty $5.85 million salary cap hold, eating away roughly half of Olshey’s offseason spending power. But it also has been assumed the Blazers would try to re-sign Maynor regardless of his free agent status — after season-ending exit interviews, both sides expressed a desire for a reunion. But that was before Thursday’s NBA Draft, when Olshey selected Lehigh guard CJ McCollum with the No. 10 overall pick. McCollum is expected to play from Day One and his skill-set, which includes the ability to run a team and play both guard positions, is similar to Maynor’s. In fact, Olshey on Thursday said McCollum could have a similar impact — and role — to the one Maynor had last season.”
- Marcin Gortat might be in a different situation, though, according to Shams Charania of RealGM.com: “One day after the Phoenix Suns drafted Alex Len with the fifth pick in the NBA draft, Marcin Gortat was assured by the organization that it has no plan to trade him – for now – and might want to make him part of the future, his agent Guy Zucker told RealGM. After the draft, Gortat had understood the Suns’ clear transition into retooling the roster, leading to belief a trade would be beneficial to both sides. Yet, Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said Thursday that Gortat would fill a mentoring role for Len. “It’s clear they are in a rebuild and they drafted a center, so [a trade] would make sense, but for now they want to hold onto him,” Zucker said Friday afternoon. “As with everything in the league, it should be stated: As of today.”
- Minnesota has to be looked at as one of the big winners of draft night, coming away with Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, and this news (via a wire story) on Muhammad might make some Wolves fans happy: “For the first 20 years of his life, almost every time Shabazz Muhammad turned around on a basketball court, his father was right there behind him. Ron Holmes meticulously planned out and cultivated his son’s playing career, from Muhammad’s very first days in sneakers, through the construction of AAU teams that allowed his son to become one of the most heavily recruited prep stars in the nation and during his one and only season at UCLA. Now that Muhammad is preparing to make the long-anticipated jump from college to the pros, he is telling his famously involved – and occasionally trouble-making – father to take a seat on the bench. Muhammad said the two had a conversation last month setting new ground rules for their relationship going forward. “I talk to him now as a dad,” Muhammad said on Friday after being introduced as one of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ two first-round draft picks. “He’s not really in my basketball (life) anymore. I still love the guy. I talk to him about basketball and life. But he doesn’t really come around with basketball anymore. I think that’s the appropriate thing to do. It’s really helping me out a lot.” “
- The guy Shabazz could replace at small forward in Minnesota just opted out of his contract for next season, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Andrei Kirilenko turned down $10.2 million guaranteed for next season for the right to negotiate, at age 32, a multi-year extension with any NBA team, including the Wolves. Kirilenko’s agent, Marc Fleisher, said by text this morning that his client has decided to become a free agent. Kirilenko had until today to make up his mind on an option year for next season and he went down to the final day before deciding from the south of France. The Wolves still could re-sign their starting small forward from last season. Kirilenko is seeking a three- or four-year extension because he believes this might be the last chance to negotiate the last big contract of his career.”
- Tim Bontemps and Fred Kerber of the New York Post have some Nets news: “In 2003, the Nets drafted Kyle Korver with the 51st pick in the second round and promptly sold him to the Sixers — and general manager Billy King — for $125,000. Every year for the past decade it seems, the Nets have tried to get him back. Maybe the 10th time is the charm — especially with King on the Nets’ side. Multiple sources insist the Nets will take a long free agency look at Korver, who definitely fills the “shooter” requirement on the team’s offseason wish list. Korver shot almost 46 percent on 3-pointers for Atlanta last season, the second best mark in the NBA. The Nets likely would use all or part of their $3.2 million mini-mid-level exception, which presumably had been earmarked for Bojan Bogdanovic. Korver is represented by Jeff Schwartz, whose clients include Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd and Mirza Teletovic.”
Dan Malone just finished his third year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.