In today’s news, an Olympic gold medalist officially retires from the NBA. Meanwhile, in Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge is having a change of heart about his stance with the Trail Blazers.
Capping off a mediocrity-defining three-year stretch that saw them finish ninth, ninth and eighth in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks should have entered the summer of 2013 with change as the most obvious mandate.
As in change everything.
Despite a return to the playoffs and encouraging progress from big men Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson, the Bucks had little to show for their efforts last season, as coaching upheaval and a dysfunctional locker room motivated GM John Hammond to take a flamethrower to his roster once again.
SH Blog: Carlesimo says Nets have unrealistic expectations, LeBron disagrees with MJ’s scouting report
P.J. Carlesimo, the former interim head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, is now an ESPN analyst. Able to share all his thoughts in an objective matter, Carlesimo had plenty to say about what level of talent the Nets really have, why it’s bad for the league to be a players league, and what it really means when headlines say a coach has “lost the locker room”. Stefan Bondy of New York Daily News has all the details:
We are down to the bargain bin of free agency.
Reduced for clearance! Everything must go! Up to 90 percent off!
Yes, we know Mickael Pietrus and Derek Fisher aren’t exactly scrap heap material. Both were key players for playoff teams last season, as were Leandro Barbosa and Kenyon Martin.
But most of what is left falls into three categories: Olympians, amnesty victims and veterans too proud to take minimum deals.
There is some variety remaining at both forward spots and shooting guard but little left at center and the point.
Here’s a positional look at the 20 best available free agents.
MICKAEL PIETRUS: Became a victim of a money game in Boston, which is strange given that the Celtics still don’t have a true backup for Paul Pierce. Agent Bill McCandless has said Pietrus won’t play for the minimum, which may mean he is headed overseas.
JOSH HOWARD: Can still have an impact off the bench as a slasher and defender. Once a borderline knucklehead, his experience could help a young team in need of a veteran presence.
MATT BARNES: The irony here is that last season, Barnes was the best of an awful group of Lakers small forwards that included Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono. Now he is unemployed and apparently being stalked by cops. Hard to imagine his toughness and experience not being valued by any team.
ANTHONY TOLLIVER: Like Pietrus in Boston, one of the odd men out in Minnesota. There is some interest from Washington, Charlotte and Indiana, as there should be for an athletic 27-year-old combo forward with arc range.
MARTELL WEBSTER: Since he was waived by Minnesota, there has been virtually no buzz around him. That’s strange, given that he is still just 25 with good size and athleticism. Maybe it’s his haircut, one of the worst in the NBA in some time.
ALONZO GEE: Did not sign a $2.7 million qualifying offer from Cleveland, looking for a better offer that never came and never will. If he returns to the Cavaliers, he will now have to battle C.J. Miles for minutes.
TERRENCE WILLIAMS: Could be the steal of free agency – or a huge headache. When given minutes, has shown awesome skills for the 3-spot. Has also shown himself to be a clown and doesn’t seem to be in Sacramento’s plans. He needs to land where he can play rather than just deepening a bench.
KENYON MARTIN: Still available because he wanted more than a minimum deal, based on his defense, toughness and 100 career playoff games. But he is 34 and has had two microfracture surgeries. Philadelphia, Phoenix and the LA Lakers all could use his snarl.
ANDRAY BLATCHE: Undoubtedly the most talented player with the biggest upside on this list. Also has the most work to do in rebuilding his wrecked reputation, which has him on the verge of being out of the league at age 25. Amnesty victim has $25 million coming over the next three years, so he should pick a place that will afford him minutes and the right surroundings. San Antonio has been mentioned and would be ideal.
LOUIS AMUNDSON: Always seems to be overmatched but always finds a way to contribute. Still not yet 30 and would be an ideal fourth or fifth big on any roster. He may be holding out for the mini-midlevel exception with a contender.
YI JIANLIAN: Could a 7-foot stretch-4 really be done at age 24? He averaged 15 points and 10 boards in group play in the Olympics, not a bad audition after sinking to the end of the bench in Dallas last season. If he returned to China, he would instantly become the league’s biggest homegrown star. But he wants to play in the NBA.
D.J. WHITE: His 36-minute numbers last season (12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds) were not bad. The question remains can he do it with a team other than Charlotte, which had no interest in bringing him back. Also may be hoping for a mini-midlevel deal somewhere.
DARKO MILICIC: He has $7 million due over the next two years as part of his amnesty release. Given his size and age (27), he can be a little picky regarding minimum deals. Would be a good fit for any team with a defensive-minded starting center because he can put the ball in the hole a little.
JERMAINE O’NEAL: His experience makes him a nice addition who can back up the center and power forward spots. It is hard to believe he is just 33 because he has looked 43 at times over the last couple of years. He claims to be healthy now, but still no one is biting.
CHRIS ANDERSEN: Apparently not looking for more than the veteran’s minimum; with $9 milion due via amnesty over the next two years, that seems like smart way to continue his career. However, he also has some legal issues hanging over his head.
LEANDRO BARBOSA: Led Brazil in scoring at 15 points per game through Olympic group play and probably will have plenty of offers as long as he emerges healthy, which has been an issue in the past. The Lakers and Cavaliers are said to be interested, with LA offering a chance at a title and the Cavs able to offer more money and minutes.
CARLOS DELFINO: Has always had an inflated opinion of himself, so it’s not surprising he is unsigned, especially considering he is still playing in the Olympics. Undersized for small forward and not quick enough for shooting guard but could back up both positions.
MICHAEL REDD: Nowhere near the player he was in his prime but still a dead-eye shooter who bounced back a bit last season in Phoenix. Was that due to the awesome work by the training staff of the Suns? His agent says he is taking his time picking a team, but his name has been quiet this summer.
LESTER HUDSON: Averaged nearly 13 points in 13 games with Cleveland – which let his second 10-day deal expire. Then Memphis signed him – and did not make a qualifying offer. Already 28, he is worth a one-year deal as a fifth or sixth guard.
DEREK FISHER: If he wasn’t so steadfast in wanting more than the veteran’s minimum, he would have been snapped up long ago. Even though he turns 38 this month, his postseason with the Thunder showed he has plenty left in the tank both on and off the court. Might still get an exception from a contender.
JANNERO PARGO: Not really a point guard but can handle the ball for brief stretches. Those who consider him a journeyman should note that he has played 40 playoff games – and averaged double figures in two postseasons. He has no fear of taking a big shot.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. During the season, his columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.
After beating Tunisia, Team USA has another tuneup coming up against Nigeria. For a recap of all the Olympic action, check out Nick Gibson’s columns. The first wraps up what we’ve seen through two games, and the second predicts today’s winners. And, with the offseason winding down, check out who Moke Hamilton thinks were the biggest losers among NBA players during free agency. Moke will have a winners column later today.
And for all the latest news from around the NBA, start scrolling.
- On the subject of the Olympics, here’s a couple opposing viewpoints on potential future restrictions on NBA players playing in the Games. First, here’s USA Basketball’s Jerry Colangelo, in a Cronkite News story on KTAR.com: “NBA Commissioner David Stern and owners want to restrict players over the age of 23 from playing on the team. They are wary of the wear and tear the Olympic program has on their talent after an 82-game NBA schedule and the long playoffs that follow, arguing sending their highest-paid athletes to represent the country endangers their most valuable assets. Colangelo disagrees. ‘The game comes first, money comes second,’ he said at a team practice. ‘I’m not quite sure that’s true for all owners in sports.’ … Ultimately, the decision isn’t Colangelo’s. But he is lobbying owners not to impose the rule. He said players want to decide whether or not to play for the Olympic team. ‘They love it,’ Colangelo said. ‘I mean, it’s pretty hard to argue with something as simple as supporting the flag and representing your country.’ “
- An opposing perspective comes from Timberwolves GM David Kahn, in a piece from Joan Niesen of Fox Sports North: “Many plans have been put forth, the most popular of which would limit the U.S. Olympic team to NBA players under the age of 23. Other proposals have been for an under-26 squad or a two-Olympics maximum. The under-23 plan has gotten the most press and perhaps the most criticism, but Kahn pointed out that much of the backlash is due to a glaring misconception. ‘The one thing that seems a little bit of a misnomer to me is under 23, I’ve seen people say this would be the last Olympics with NBA players,” Kahn said. “But if it’s under 23, that doesn’t mean there won’t be NBA players. In fact, with the way that kids now come into our sport at the age of 19 and 20, logically there will be NBA players on those rosters, too.’ … The under-23 plan appeals to Kahn because it would still allow NBA players to participate on the international stage. In fact, he said, those young players might benefit more from the exposure than their older teammates, and with the ages at which players are joining the league, plenty of 22- and 23-year-olds are already big enough stars to stir international attention as well. In fact, five of the 12 current players on Team USA would still be within the age limit under such rules.”
- And for a player’s perspective, here’s Tyson Chandler of Team USA, who makes a very good point in an interview with Sean Deveney of the Sporting News: “It’s ridiculous,” Chandler told Sporting News. “Why would you want to do that? Because like I say, throughout the history, just about every time a player has played for the U.S. team, he comes back and had a better season. That goes around the board.”
- Doc Rivers is placing the blame on himself for Ray Allen’s decision to leave the Celtics for the Heat, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: “Rivers told Yahoo! Sports that his decisions to relegate Allen to a sixth-man role and give point guard Rajon Rondo complete freedom with the ball and leadership were ultimately what helped lead Allen to leave Boston. … ‘People can use all the Rondo stuff – and it was there, no doubt about that – but it was me more than Rondo,’ said Rivers, who is working as an NBC analyst during the Olympics. ‘I’m the guy who gave Rondo the ball. I’m the guy who decided that Rondo needed to be more of the leader of the team. That doesn’t mean guys liked that – and Ray did not love that – because Rondo now had the ball all the time.’ The entire interview is a very good read, with some very candid comments from Rivers. Highly recommended.
- Another lengthy coach interview, this one with the Wizards’ Randy Wittman, by Michael Lee of the Washington Post. Again, the whole thing is a good read, but the highlight is probably this, on John Wall’s statement that he wants to be “the savior” to lead the franchise back to the playoffs: “I hope. I mean, this is a big year for John. It’s his third year. He knows the ins and outs. He’s played an 82-game schedule and a 66-game schedule that probably felt like 102 games. John knows, I think, what is expected of him. The thing I like is, he’s embraced it and I think he wants it. Now, it’s a matter of him taking that next step in his game. And he’s put a lot of hard work in thus far and I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen in what he’s been doing. You always want your leader to want to step up to the plate and make that next move. Like I said, we see it on paper we’re taking about it, but we’ve got to do it right now.”
- The Timberwolves recently signed Brandon Roy, who is making his return to the NBA despite not having any cartilage in either knee. He talked about returning to the game after a year off with Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “[Roy] is optimistic his knees — they can’t be repaired, but the platelet-rich plasma therapy reduces swelling and provides pain relief — will allow him to withstand the grind of an 82-game NBA season, plus playoffs. But will he ever be great again? ‘Yeah, that’s the goal,’ Roy said. ‘That’s the whole reason I’m coming back. I told David [Kahn] when we met that I wouldn’t be coming back if I didn’t think I could reach a high level of basketball. You say great. I just call it a high level. I want to play at a high level and right now, my body is giving me all the signs that I can do that.’ “
- Two things from Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida, via Sulia, regarding Darko Milicic: “Marc Cornstein, agent for Darko Milicic, said client giving no thought to playing overseas next season. “No,’’ Cornstein said of the free-agent big man. “He will be back in the NBA.’’ The Miami Heat remain in the mix as a team looking at Milicic. However, Cornstein said Milicic is still looking at a number of NBA teams, and there’s no timetable yet as to when he might sign.” … “That Darko Milicic is not even considering playing overseas shows how the Serbian has changed from a few years ago when he was very unhappy with the Knicks and told me in November 2009, “I think right now the only spot for me is Europe.” Milicic, though, eventually moved on to Minnesota and regained his NBA confidence. The No. 2 pick from 2003 is now determined to continue to improve his NBA career.”
- Another note from Chris Tomasson via Sulia: “Michael Redd’s agent, Kevin Poston, said the free-agent guard is taking his time in finding a team. “I know he can still play,’’ Poston said of the often-injured 12-year veteran, a former All-Star and Olympic gold medalist. “He knows he can still play. He’s made a lot of money (in his career). What matters is the team, what matters is the coach. He’s taking his time.’’ Phoenix and Chicago had shown interest in Redd, who turns 33 Aug. 24, but apparently have backed off for now.”