Bernucca: Clippers Captain is Back, But the Ship Ran Just Fine Without CP3

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ChrisPaulSH1Chris Paul returned to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

We don’t want to be party-poopers, but it probably should be pointed out that the Clippers were better without him.

This does not mean that GM Gary Sacks should start exploring trade possibilities for a top-five player. And it doesn’t mean that coach Doc Rivers should go with the hot hand at point guard at the end of games.

But it does mean that if the Clippers want to win a championship this season – which is entirely within the realm of possibility – Paul has to reacclimate himself with his teammates more than they do to him.

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Gambling on the Eastern Conference: Long odds on everyone not named Pacers or Heat

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jameswade

Brain-twister for you today, folks.

Go back to the start of the 2005-06 regular season, and try to name a superstar player who has represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Your answer cannot include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen.

It’s OK. Keep thinking … 

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Mexico Wins Tournament of the Americas

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MexicoStrange things happen in international basketball. If there is one rule of thumb concerning FIBA tournaments, that is it.

And as of last night, we have a new regional champion that absolutely no one would have picked to win the Tournament of the Americas.

Mexico.

Yes, Mexico. They can’t seem to get their act together in soccer, but in basketball they took home the gold medal by defeating Puerto Rico 91-89 to qualify for the World Cup (formerly known as the World Championship) for the first time in 40 years.

2013 FIBA Americas Championship Preview

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2013_FIBA_Americas_Championship_logoThe 2013 FIBA Americas Championship is set to kick off tonight in Caracas, Venezuela, with 10 teams vying for four spots in the Basketball World Cup (formerly known as the World Championship) next summer in Spain.

Who is going to win? Who are the players to keep an eye on? We’ve got you covered on both fronts.

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SH Blog: Oden impresses at workout; is Irving primed for a breakout?

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gregodenI’ve gone over it before, but Greg Oden is probably my single favorite basketball player of all time. That face, that ESPN commercial, and above all, that game. I’m a sucker for a dominant defensive center who can also score around the rim, and oh man was Oden going to be that. We all know what happened after he went first overall to the Blazers, of course, but this summer he’s ready to make a return, and I’m getting to dream again that one day we’ll all get to see that bulldog-like face blocking shot after shot and laying in an easy bucket after a perfect up-and-under. But of course, this is Greg Oden, and I’ve been burned before. I was convinced he’d be a better player than Kevin Durant. Yeah. That didn’t work out.

Anyway, check our roundup of the latest news from around the NBA for the latest on Oden’s comeback, and also on all the other hot topics in the league.

  • Is there still room for Kyrie Irving to get better? He thinks so, writes Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Even before he stole the show in the USA Basketball Showcase on Thursday night in UNLV, Kyrie Irving was turning heads here. He seemed more upbeat, more engaging than he was at the end of last season. While his game was every bit as dazzling — he led all scorers with 23 points in his White team’s 128-106 victory over the Blue — there also seemed to be a new maturity befitting his third season in the NBA — even if he is just 21. It’s not an accident. “This is part of the plan that I’ve kind of planned out for my career and how I want it to go in terms of the third year for different guys in the league,” Irving said. “They either get worse or they continue to get better. The third year is a big year for a person in my position … kind of on the cusp, on the fence between being good and great.”
  • hinkieThe Sixers might have made the biggest splash on draft night as far as rebuilding goes, grabbing two top-ten picks, plus a first-rounder for next year. The mastermind behind dealing Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel was new GM Sam Hinkie, and Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer talked to him about his plans for the future: “Somewhere down the line, when their catch is fully examined, the Sixers hope to have found a few pearls. The history of the league suggests that what you usually find is oysters. This does not particularly deter Hinkie. “Any player we’re investing in, we do it because we assume they’re undervalued,” Hinkie said. This is the true basis of any analytical approach to assembling a roster, whether it is Billy Beane’s Moneyball theories in baseball or Hinkie’s current dredge work in the NBA. Get rid of players who are actually less valuable than the consensus of the market indicates, and acquire players who are more valuable. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. The trick, of course, is making sure your opinion of market value is smarter than the next guy’s. That takes a while, and a lot of shucking, to find out. Ownership has bet heavily on Hickie’s brains, but we are years away from judging the wisdom of that wager. “I’m only trying to do what I think is right, and that’s build something that the owners want and that I think the fans want. I want to build something that is lasting, and that is special with a capital S,” Hinkie said.”
  • Randy Hollis of the Deseret News reports on a new advanced metric, designed by a man named Sotero Muniz. Hollis doesn’t get into the nuts and bolts too much, but it’s still worth a read: “In a nutshell, and to try and simplify things, BPRs are divided into offensive and defensive categories. Offensively, players are credited for each 2-point field goal, 3-point field goal, free throw and assist they make. They are also assessed a penalty of sorts, a “negative productivity” valuation system, for each turnover they commit, as well as for each free throw that they miss. Defensively, they are also credited for each rebound, blocked shot and steal. In Muniz’s BPR format, all rebounds are considered a defensive play because they deny the opposing team an offensive possession. “Nobody in the game has quantified and classified every play, both offensively and defensively, before,” Muniz said. “BPRs look at every single play made, at every single game for every single minute played. All of these plays can determine the outcome of a game, and the turnover is the most damaging play in basketball. In looking at his players, a coach knows what their strengths and weaknesses are, and he can work with each player based on what his weaknesses are and try to improve them,” Muniz said. “I also see it as a motivational tool for players. I want to get this into the game and I think it would help improve the game. I’m doing the game a favor — that’s my goal. It’s for the game.” “
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  • Marcus Camby is going to Houston, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “Free-agent center Marcus Camby has reached agreement to sign with the Houston Rockets, a league source told Yahoo! Sports. Camby previously played with the Rockets during the 2011-12 season and has an offseason home there. He joins two other centers in Houston in Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. Camby yearned to sign with a title contender, leading him to the Rockets.”
  • Channing_Frye_Suns_croppedThere is a bit of a crunch on the Suns’ roster after the Luis Scola trade, and Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic looks at one guy whose spot may be in question, Channing Frye: “The Suns now will have 16 guaranteed contracts once they sign top draft pick Alex Len, whose rehabilitation on his ankles remain on target for him to participate in training camp. The Suns could add free agents on non-guaranteed deals for camp but the regular-season roster maximum is 15. The health statuses of Malcolm Lee, acquired to get Archie Goodwin on draft night, and Channing Frye are not settled. Frye missed last season for an enlarged heart but expressed optimism to azcentral sports about being cleared to play after seeking top cardiologists’ opinions. “We’re optimistic that he’ll be with us and playing,” McDonough said of Frye. “Channing wants to play and the results he has gotten have been good. Obviously, we just want a consensus.” “
  • Gustavo Ayon posted “GO ATLANTA Hawks” on his Facebook page. The obvious conclusion to draw is that he’s headed to Atlanta, but nobody has confirmed that yet which Shams Charania of RealGM confirms via Twitter. Ayon will go to the Hawks on a waiver claim after he was released by the Bucks.

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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.