Bernucca: 10 Predictions for the 2013-14 Season

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crystal ballThis is the time of year where everyone and their mothers offer up a series of fearless prognostications about the upcoming NBA season.

Here’s what I can tell you about my skills at predicting the future. If I was really any good at it, I wouldn’t be wasting it on the NBA season. And neither would anyone else.

I am not reading tea leaves, interpreting tarot cards, gazing into crystal balls, holding seances, poring over analytics or buying classified information on the black market. I am doing what virtually all of my colleagues do – making a somewhat educated guess.

While detractors may argue that even blind squirrels stumble upon the occasional acorn, I would like to point out that I didn’t do so badly last season. Make of it what you will.

Our staff here at Sheridan Hoops will be making its award and champion predictions later this month. For now, here are my 10 fearless predictions for the 2013-14 NBA season. ICYMI, Sheridan’s ran yesterday.

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NBA Rumors and News for October 5, 2013

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Saturday, October 5

Daily Trivia: Grant Hill turns 41 today. He was drafted third overall by the Detroit Pistons in 1994, who was drafted second overall that year?

Tyreke Evans X-ray negative on ankle
Posted at 09:42 PM ET
Evans With 9:02 remaining in the second quarter of Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Tyreke Evans, was sprawled on the court at the Toyota Center clutching at his left ankle, via Nakia Hogan of NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune. The injury occurred when Evans landed awkwardly while attempting a running shot driving through the lane. The Pelicans’ training staff attended to Evans on the court and had to help him to the locker room where X-rays on his ankle came back negative. He will undergo an MRI at a later date to determine if there is any further damage.

Blazers rookie CJ McCollum sprains left foot
Posted at 07:08 PM ET
Portland Trail Blazers rookie CJ McCollum sprained his left foot in Saturday’s practice after trying to set a screen, reports Chris Haynes of Comcast Sportsnet. Coach Terry Stotts says he isn’t aware of the severity. McCollum broke the same foot during the early part of his senior season a Lehigh University, forcing him to miss the rest of the year. The Blazers injury list now jumps to six as LaMarcus Aldridge, Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Dorell Wright and Will Barton have also suffered injuries in the Blazers training camp.

Vince Carter not ready for retirement
Posted at 03:35 PM ET
carter Vince Carter is 36-years-old and entering his eighteenth season in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks but has no timetable for his retirement, reports Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram. “I don’t want to do that to myself,” Carter said after Thursday morning’s practice. “I don’t want to limit myself. I think doing that you’ll start thinking about [retirement] as the season goes on. I’ll just let the body pretty much dictate how I’m feeling in the end.” Carter is in the last year of his contract and acknowledges he’s only got a few years left. But the small forward still plays a vital role for the Mavs, said coach Rick Carlisle, “It’s not just his scoring and spectacular plays. It’s what his presence on the floor means.”

NBA Rumors and News for October 4, 2013

Read the Sheridan Hoops blog: D-Rose Suits Up; ‘Lob City’ No More; Kareem Bashes Dwight

Tweet of the Night: New Trend Among NBA Players: High School Football

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Houston Rockets stars Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons made waves Thursday, when they attended a high school football game in Texas at the prompting of one of its players on Twitter.

parsons-howard

Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons seen standing at the front of the stands while watching a George Ranch High School football game.

It seems that attending high school football games is becoming even more popular.

Southwest Division 2013-14 Team-By-Team Season Previews

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benched spursThis is the home of the defending NBA champions.

No, Gregg Popovich, we haven’t forgiven you for blowing Game 6. This podcast, one of the better anti-Popovich rants you’ll hear, might only be topped by this Popovich bashfest. Ah, we sure were spunky back in late June.

Well, the only key guy missing from last season’s Spurs (aside from Pop’s two top assistants, who moved on to bigger and better things) is Gary Neal, who has been replaced by Marco Belinelli, which on the surface is pretty much a wash.

The interesting thing about this division is the competition Pop’s Spurs will get from the Memphis Grizzlies, whose assistant GM is one of those guys who used to risk the wrath of Pop by daring to ask a question at a news conference. (Those were the days, eh, Hollinger?) The Grizz got the steal of the draft, IMHO, by having Jamaal Franklin fall into their laps, and they’ve been a constant factor in the West for three years running, Rudy Gay or no Rudy Gay.

If they are going to measure up to the Spurs, the first thing the Grizzlies should put on their agenda is staying atop this division. Make the Spurs look northward at someone for a change. Give Pop something to worry about other than his postseason media obligations, which are like watching someone go through a tooth extraction without novocaine.

And hey, wait a minute. We’ve gotten this far into the intro without even mentioning Dwight Howard. (Call it Howard Overload Syndrome. I never want another Dwight Howard free agency headline again.)

The Spurs, the Grizz, the Rockets. Damn good division, right? Well, the Pelicans are my sleeper team, and they happen to belong to this division as well. And the Mavericks? I’m down on them, and folks think I’m nuts. If they finish within two games of either side of .500, I will feel vindicated.

I’ll shaddup now. Onto the previews:

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

By Michael De Leon

ProjectSpurs.com

 

Can Kawhi Leonard take the next step? The NBA Finals made one thing obvious: Manu Ginobili is on borrowed time and Kawhi Leonard is becoming a bigger part of the franchise. Leonard had Spurs fans comparing him to Bruce Bowen in his first year out of San Diego State, and he shook off some misconceptions about his offensive game in his sophomore season. Everyone in San Antonio – coaching staff and front office included – is expecting Leonard to take another step forward this coming season and become a bigger part of the offense.

The Finals were proof that Leonard is on his way to becoming a top NBA defender, and he showed enough on offense to make everyone around San Antonio wonder if the guy even has a ceiling. Up until now, Leonard has been seen as a complementary piece to the offense. But he will be expected to carry a bigger offensive burden while guarding the opposing team’s best player every night.

The Spurs have been the Duncan and Parker show for the past decade, with some Ginobili mixed in as well. But they clearly need another player that can penetrate, create offense and not just sit around the perimeter and wait on passes to hit spot-up jumpers. Marco Belinelli is a nice addition, but he can’t do all the things Gary Neal can do.

Cut off Parker’s penetration and the Spurs have had a world of trouble finding offensive options and can become sluggish. Leonard will have to be that second perimeter weapon in the starting unit, and he will have to be consistently reliable for the Spurs to have a shot at a championship.

CONTINUE READING 2013-14 SAN ANTONIO SPURS SEASON PREVIEW

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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

By Andrew Ford

SBNation.com

 

Despite a multitude of momentous changes, the Grizzlies continued to obliterate opponents with nasty defense and grind-it-out offense just like in years past. With that said, the Grizzlies didn’t simply stay on track. They ascended into the NBA’s elite. The team finished with its best record in franchise history and played better than ever, post-Rudy. In the playoffs, the Grizz made an impressive run to the Western Conference finals before being picked apart by the San Antonio Spurs.

All this is to say the Grizzlies know how to handle change and arguably thrive during it. That’s a good thing, because the Grizzlies have multiple changes to adapt to for the 2013-14 season.Pera and company, having never connected with coach Lionel Hollins, clearly became too disenchanted with his philosophical differences by last season’s end to retain his services. However, they didn’t have to look far to find a coach that jived with their organizational philosophy. As a matter of fact, they only had to look to the seat adjacent to Hollins.

Enter David Joerger. He led the defense as the lead assistant for several years, and now will get the chance to shine as a first-time head coach. He will take over a savvy, veteran group of players that know what it takes to be successful. The Grizzlies have one of the strongest starting five in the league. Add Mike Miller (free agent signing), Jamaal Franklin (draft pick), and Nick Calathes (acquired via trade) into the mix, and Memphis might have its most potent roster ever.

CONTINUE READING MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 2013-14 SEASON PREVIEW

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HOUSTON ROCKETS

By Patrick Harrel

DreamShake.com

 

Forget about Dwight Howard for a moment, and let’s skip straight to Factor No. 1:

What are the Rockets going to do at the power forward spot? When the Rockets signed Howard in early July, the early word out of Houston was that Morey would look to move Asik for a legitimate power forward. Josh Smith, Ryan Anderson and Ersan Ilyasova were all mentioned as targets, but such talk has slowly ground to a halt. As a result, the Rockets are likely going to come to training camp with a big question mark at power forward.

The two traditional fours on the roster, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, fit best alongside Howard because of their ability to stretch the floor. But both were hot and cold in their rookie stints. Motiejunas was pressed into starting duty after the trade of Patrick Patterson, and Jones got late season minutes, but both were out of the rotation come playoff time.

With that in mind, what will McHale do with that spot? Will he opt to play Motiejunas and put four shooters around Howard? or will he risk destroying his spacing with an unconventional lineup of Asik and Howard in the frontcourt?

CONTINUE READING 2013-14 HOUSTON ROCKETS SEASON PREVIEW

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NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

By Schlomo Sprung

SheridanHoops.com

 

A lot can change in just under five months. Just ask the basketball fans of New Orleans. They really needed change after what went on last season.

The 2012-2013 season was dark and gloomy for NOLA hoops. The team finished 14th in the Western Conference at 27-55, with an 11-30 road record that was also 14th in the conference. The team had trouble scoring (more on that later) and winning intraconference games. Its record against West teams was 15-37, good for – you guessed it – 14th in the West.

Promising Austin Rivers (more on him later) had a really bad rookie season, being outplayed by journeyman Roger Mason Jr. The depth wasn’t very strong. Although the team was in the top half of the league in scoring defense (14th overall) New Orleans allowed opponents to shoot 37.4 percent from three. That was 27th in the NBA and … 14th in the West.

CONTINUE READING 2013-14 NEW ORLEANS PELICANS SEASON PREVIEW

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DALLAS MAVERICKS

By Tim Cato

MavsMoneyball.com

 

Between the much-publicized decision to let most of the 2011 championship team go, and the subsequent failure to obtain a top-tier free agent, Dallas is treading water – not quite ready to go under but with no real rescue in sight.

This offseason, the Mavericks rolled the dice and brought in an eclectic combination of players through free agency that left much of the league shaking its heads in confusion. But as the end of Dirk Nowitzki’s career grows visible, it was clear Dallas had to take a chance on some guys and pray that it works.

One factor:

Can Monta Ellis change? In a move that was frowned upon by most of the basketball world, Ellis became a Maverick. It’s no wonder – the eight-year veteran is inefficient volume shooter and very poor defender.

But after a particularly awful season in Milwaukee, Ellis arrives on a team with a go-to scorer and a demanding coach, something he has not seen much of throughout his career. If there ever was a team that could emphasize his knack for scoring and underrated passing skills, Dallas seems like the place.

It has been speculated that Ellis might come off the bench as the team’s sixth man, a move that could improve his poor shot selection. Whatever the case, Ellis is a gamble that was necessary at this late stage of Nowitzki’s career as the Mavericks hope to give him one last shot at a championship.

CONTINUE READING 2013-14 DALLAS MAVERICKS SEASON PREVIEW

INDEX OF ALL 30 NBA TEAM PREVIEWS

Evening News: Kobe progressing nicely; Knicks-Nets rivalry heating up; Dirk off to a healthy start

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In today’s NBA news, Kobe Bryant is healing nicely from his torn Achilles, the Knicks-Nets rivalry is quickly gaining steam, and Dirk Nowitzki looks to be healthy heading into training camp.

Black Mamba right on track

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant has been running at 75 percent of his body weight on Kobe-Bryanta treadmill, and looks to be a few weeks away from advancing to full-weight bearing running.

This is music to the ears of all Lakers’ fans, as it sounds as though Bryant’s rehab is going according to plan.

It will still remain to be seen, however,  if the Black Mamba will be able to suit up opening night when his Lakers host the rival Clippers at Staples Center.

“He’s doing well and has had no setbacks,” Lakers’ head athletic trainer Gary Vuitti said on Thursday, “He’ll be ready when he’s ready. Nobody has a crystal ball on this thing.” he later added.

It appears that we will not find out the true timetable on Bryant until deep into training camp, but it is safe to say that even if he’s  not ready to play in the opener, that he will be ready sometime shortly after that.

Kobe, who will be entering his 18th season as a pro, will look to repeat the monstrous season he had last year, when he averaged 27 points on 46% shootin, to go along with six assists and just over five rebounds. “Vino”, as they call him, truly does get better with age. If healthy, Kobe and his Lakers will most likely compete for one of the bottom three playoff spots in the loaded Western Conference.

To see just how well the boys in purple and gold will fare this season, check out our preview.

Battle for NY heating up

The Knicks-Nets rivalry just got a whole lot more personal. A war of words has broken out between Brooklyn Nets’ newly acquired forward Paul Pierce, and New York Knicks’ dynamic shooting guard, and reigning Sixth Man of the Year, J.R Smith.

ESPN.com is reporting that the two have been jawing at each since the summer when Pierce said “it was time for the Nets to start running New York City”

Smith then responded: ”I just look at him as a bitter person just getting out of Boston. He doesn’t really know what New York is all about. He’s been playing in Boston his whole career,” he then added:  “He just knows, just know that his words have consequences and he’s going to have to pay for them.”

Pierce did not take these comments very seriously when he was asked about it, as he would go on to say:Paul Pierce

“Who? Exactly. Who? Who are we talking about right now? Exactly. Who are we talking about? We are talking about nothing.”

Can you feel the tension starting to mount? Surely both teams will use these quotes as bulletin board material when they play each-other this year.

The first scheduled game between the two is set for December 5th, in Brooklyn. Whatever you do, make sure you’re in front of a TV that night — even if Smith isn’t playing. Remember, he still must serve a five-game drug suspension after he is cleared to play.

Check here to see our Knicks and Nets season outlooks.

Dirk’s health looking great early

According to the Dallas Morning News, Dirk Nowitzki looks to be fully healthy entering training camp this season, he’s even been playing 5-on-5 with some of his teammates, which is something he hasn’t done in years.

His Mavericks will have a lot of new faces this season, as the team signed free-agent guards Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon in the offseason.

The offense will still undoubtedly run through Dirk, but he will definitely have a nice supporting cast surrounding him. Health was a220px-DirkNowitzki big problem last year for the 7-foot German, as he missed 29 games due to various injuries.

Head coach Rick Carlisle doesn’t seem to think Dirk will have any trouble meshing with his new teammates:

“Dirk is going to benefit from having guys like Monta (Ellis) and Jose (Calderon) around him and those guys will benefit from Dirk, too,” Carlisle said, “Dirk’s been very consistent on the fact that he’s down with anything that gets us winning more games and back to being one of those teams that has a chance. With this group, I think we have an opportunity to get there.”

Optimism is starting to grow in Dallas as the new season approaches, and if healthy, they could be a playoff team in the wild west this year.

To read our outlook on the Mavs, click here