Bernucca: Among the Elite, Thunder the Team to Beat

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Kawhi Leonard A look at the overall NBA standings shows four teams at the top – Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Miami – separated by one game in the loss column. In fact, they were dead even until three of them lost Sunday. 

Just a notch below them are three more teams – Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland – separated by two games in the loss column. They also would have been dead even had the Blazers held on Sunday against the Rockets.

Let’s call these teams the Magnificent Seven, because your NBA champion is somewhere among them. Dismiss any of them at your own peril; these are the only teams who, at the season’s three-quarter pole, have won at least two-third of their games.

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SH Blog: Knicks offer Phil Jackson front-office job; how likely is LeBron returning to Cleveland?

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PHIL JACKSON HEADING TO KNICKS?

Phil JacksonThe cynic in me wonders if this is all a ploy to keep Carmelo Anthony in New York. The rest of me wants the cynic to quit trying to ascribe ulterior motives to good decisions. Phil Jackson would probably do a pretty good job running the Knicks, and his years of working with Kobe Bryant should prepare him well should he end up working with Melo.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

Phil Jackson is seriously considering the Knicks’ offer to join their front office in a role that would give him final say on basketball decisions, a league source told CBSSports.com on Saturday.

Jackson, 68, is said to be leaning toward taking the job if the structure is right, said the source, who has been briefed on the Knicks’ conversations with the 13-time NBA champion.

Jackson is considering a front office structure with Steve Mills and Allan Houston handling the day-to-day duties while reporting to Jackson, the person said. At this point, it is not clear whether the rest of the Knicks’ front-office lieutenants would stay if Jackson were to take the job.

Jackson, an 11-time champion as a coach — and two-time champion as a player for the Knicks — has stated he is finished on the sideline. The Knicks’ front-office job is extremely appealing to him “if the setup is right,” the person briefed on the discussions said.

But that, according to league sources, may be a big obstacle given Madison Square Garden’s complicated corporate structure and the overbearing influence of owner and Garden chairman James Dolan.

Jackson recently told USA Today that he was speaking with several teams about various front office roles. Indeed, the Knicks’ opportunity is not the only one he is considering. Jackson was expected to head up basketball operations for the Kings franchise if it had moved to Seattle last year.

LEBRON UNLIKELY TO RETURN TO CLEVELAND

170px-LebronFT2This season is just going from bad to worse to the absolute worst for the Cavs. After early returns suggested Chris Grant botched another lottery pick, he was fired, and while that means the Cavs might be better in the long run, it also may mean they lose out on the game’s best player, and the whole “return of the prodigal son” story.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

The Cavs even chose this date in October after consulting with James on whether he’d be able to fly over from Chicago, where the Heat are staying on an off night. Technically, James is coming at Ilgauskas’ request, but the process of picking the game revolved around James’ schedule and was orchestrated by the Cavs.

This is one of the reasons why over the past year, the Cavs have started to genuinely believe there was a chance they could get James to return in free agency this summer. The thaw between James and Cleveland and James and the Cavs organization has been clear. The Cavs even started making roster moves — signing players on short contracts like Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark and Luol Deng — to try to assure they would have open cap space in order to sign him.

But however large the crack might have truly been, that door has virtually slammed shut now for reasons both within and outside the Cavs’ control.

There were two people within the Cavs organization with whom James maintained good relations over the past four years. They were general manager Chris Grant and Ilgauskas, who joined the team’s front office in 2012 after his retirement.

Grant was fired last month, blamed for the Cavs’ underwhelming season, while some of his recent draft picks were heavy scrutinized. Ilgauskas, meanwhile, has taken on a reduced role.

Grant was not without his flaws — this season did not go the way he plotted it at all and the blame was reasonable. James, however, was not among those who criticized Grant’s draft picks and saw good futures for Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett.

“If they get things in order, they have some really good pieces here,” James said after a game in Cleveland earlier this season. “We’ll see what happens.”

What happened was the Cavs shook up their front office, with Gilbert moving onto his third general manager in less than nine years of owning the team. It was suggested that Grant’s maneuvers, which were part of a once-Gilbert-endorsed rebuilding project, were a reason that James’ chances of returning to Cleveland had been diminished.

In reality, it is the opposite.

SACRAMENTO SIGNS ROYCE WHITE

WhiteIt was hard for me to believe Daryl Morey when he ranked White as one of the worst first-round picks of all time. Sure, it turned out about as badly as it could have for Houston, and sure, they knew about White’s condition and drafted him anyway, but the way I look at it, it’s no different from drafting a Greg Oden or Len Bias. It’s not like they completely missed and took someone who did play and was terrible. The NBA might not have many JaMarcus Russells, but there are a few Hasheem Thabeets.

Jonathan Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom:

For the new Kings’ front office, they are looking at their signing of White like many things in their tenure thus far – as a process. Right now, their primary focus is on assessing White’s NBA potential and upside. Any baggage he may bring from his struggles with mental health are secondary at this point.

“We’re not making too much out of it,” Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro said to Cowbell Kingdom recently of the decision to pluck White out of basketball purgatory. “This is a 10-day basketball contract for a guy that wants a chance and we want to give him that chance.”

The Kings’ actions so far have been a reflection of their words. No special arrangements have been made between the Kings, Bighorns and White’s camp on how to handle his anxiety issues. The Bighorns’ staff has been instructed to treat White just like any other player and White has fully cooperated.

“We did some research about him,” Bighorns coach Joel Abelson told CK on this week’s Cowbell Kingdom Podcast. “Ty Ellis, on my staff, knows (Iowa State head coach) Fred Hoiberg really well and he coached (White) in college and he said just treat him like a normal guy.

“It’s not fair to us and to our players to cater everything around anybody,” Abelson added. “Nobody’s bigger than our team. He’ll be treated like anybody else and I think he’ll flourish and he’ll do very well.”

SEVERAL PLAYERS SIGNED TO SECOND 10-DAY CONTRACTS

This is an excellent thing for the player, since it almost always leads to being picked up for the rest of the season, almost always with playoff teams, which almost always means playoff money.

First, the Heat re-signed DeAndre Liggins.

 

 

 

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

Bernucca: NBA Buyout Season’s Winners and Losers

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I’m kinda high on what the Charlotte Bobcats did with Ben Gordon.220px-Gordon7_20091204

The Bobcats waived Gordon on Sunday, preventing him from appearing in the postseason should he sign with another team. While they may have alienated his agent – not a trifle thing in the business world of the NBA – two things should be pointed out.

1. When teams waive or buy out players at this time of the season, they are essentially establishing a price they are willing to pay to that player to not play for them.

2. In this case, the Bobcats made it impossible for Gordon to come back to haunt them in the playoffs.

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SH Blog: Nene to miss six weeks, Clippers interested in World Peace, Jamal Crawford wants to come off bench

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NeneNot unlike seasons of past, key players for many teams around the league have missed significant time due to a variety of injuries this season.

It looked as though Nene Hilario would suffer a similar fate – and then some – when he went down with a scary looking knee injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. Some in the organization feared that it may have been bad enough to be season-ending.

Lucky for the Washington Wizards, the power forward suffered nothing more than a sprained ligament, from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports

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The NBA Offseason: A Betting Preview

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dwighthoward

The Dwight Howard signing had a humongous effect on the futures market for who will win the NBA title.

And then it started a trickle-down effect.