- Mikhail Prokhorov is guaranteeing that the Nets will make the playoffs, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. That’s not going out too far on a limb, but he is standing by his prediction that the Nets will win a championship by the end of the 2015 season: ” ‘For me, there’s only one place: number one,’ Prokhorov said Friday inside his team’s brand-new home, Barclays Center, in Brooklyn. ‘And I do my best to reach the championship. We’re moving on … slowly, slowly, step by step. It’s easy to make a strong team, but it’s very difficult to make a championship team. So we’re on the right way. And still, I’m expecting our championship within three years.’ ”
- In other Prokhorov news, the Russian billionaire wants to add Russian players to the Nets, according to RT.com: “Russian basketballers will soon be defending the colors of the Brooklyn Nets, owner Mikhail Prokhorov said after the opening ceremony of his team’s new arena – the Barclays Center. ‘I’m thinking about recruiting Russian players to our lineup in the nearest future,’ Prokhorov told ITAR-TASS news agency. ‘I really want this to happen.’ ”
- In all the excitement over Dwight Howard going to the Lakers, it could be easy to overlook the other major acquisition Mitch Kupchak’s team made, future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash. But Pau Gasol isn’t doing that. Rather, as he tells Marca.com, he’s excited to be teaming with Nash, as the two are longtime friends. Gasol’s quote roughly translates as: “For me, it was a great joy, the signing of Nash. He’s the most unselfish player in the NBA. I’m excited to play with Steve and all that brings. He is the most generous player in the NBA.”
- How will former Celtic Ray Allen get along with his new Miami teammates after switching sides in the rivalry that has grown more and more bitter? Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel talked to Udonis Haslem to find out: “To say Heat-Celtics has grown contentious over the years would be an understatement. And more often than not, Heat forward Udonis Haslem found himself in the middle of the turmoil. So it was with a bit of trepidation that he approached Ray Allen during a recent workout at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I’ve had a chance to talk to Ray,” he said of the former Celtics shooting star and prime Heat offseason free-agent acquisition, “and kind of explain to him my situation. I told him, ‘I’m not the guy that you see when we play the Celtics. That’s just how the games end up turning out.’ So we’ve talked and we’re all ready to go.” “
- This is a fascinating piece about the use of advanced statistical analysis in basketball, written by Eric Koreen of the National Post. Here’s a quick excerpt from the introduction: “Nothing works independently in basketball. The ball, optimally, is in near-constant motion on offence, meaning the defence responds accordingly. A player cannot truly be assessed without considering how he relates to his teammates, to his coach, to his circumstances. Apart from the free-throw line, there is no situation in basketball as simple as batter versus pitcher from which to establish singular value. Yet, advanced statistical analytics have taken off in basketball, with more influence than in any sport other than baseball. Given the above, however, how much should they dictate the decisions that teams make? ‘In any discipline, if you can get it down to something unbiased at a decision point, I think that’s fundamentally correct. When a general manager makes a decision about a player, you do want that to rest to a certain extent on analytics,’ says 37-year-old Alex Rucker, whose KBAR Consulting is under contract as the Toronto Raptors’ advanced statistics experts.”
- Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune updates Raja Bell’s status with the Jazz via a series of tweets: “A contract buyout before training camp continues to be the most likely option for Bell. But terms must be agreed upon, and everything from a trade before the regular season to Bell sitting on Utah’s bench all year are realistic possibilities. The Jazz have been open to trading Bell for a long time. Both sides want to move on. But the fact Utah hasn’t resolved anything with less than a week before camp begins has created a surreal situation. It’s almost unthinkable Bell could be in uniform for the Jazz this season. But it’s actually become a remote possibility since the Jazz have yet to officially address his status with the team.”
The Shell Answer Man is a column theme that was inspired by my 8th grade journalism teacher Bill Ehrlich, who taught me as much about basketball as he did about journalism. The background story is linked right here.
Essentially, these are questions I’ve either been asked on Twitter, on the radio, in person, or questions I’ve asked of myself.
So let’s get right to it:
What can we expect from the Chicago Bulls this season?
On the surface it appears as though the Bulls have created more problems than they’ve solved this past offseason. The Derrick Rose knee injury has made things very tricky. The first and most important issue revolving around Rose is his return date. If the Bulls thought they were getting him back in December, then they certainly could plan to be a top-tier contender again. However, that’s not the case.
With a knee injury like Rose’s, the return date hinges upon the progress of his rehab and the strength of the knee. And considering how much cash the Bulls have tied up in Rose for the next 5 years, they’ll be smart and err on the side of caution. If their offseason is any indication, erring on the side of caution seems to be the philosophy.
The Bulls had one of the more dynamic benches in the league last season. They would use a group that was absolutely elite defensively.
Omer Asik is one of the best defensive bigs in the NBA. Taj Gibson may be the best bench player in the NBA this side of James Harden and Manu Ginobili and certainly one of the better defensive players in the entire league.
Ronnie Brewer is not much on the offensive end, but is a tremendous defender. C.J. Watson was more than adequate as Rose’s backup — save for one play at the end of the Philadelphia series, but no need to dredge up bad memories. And Kyle Korver is not much on the defensive end, but gave the Bulls a 3-point shooting threat they desperately needed.
Out of the five members of this bench mob, Gibson will be the only one back with the Bulls this season.
Asik signed a rich backloaded offer sheet with Houston and the Bulls chose not to match. Watson signed a free agent deal with Brooklyn. They didn’t offer Brewer a contract so he landed in New York on a one-year deal, and they traded Korver to Atlanta for cash and a trade exception.
They replaced this highly productive bench mob for a motley crew of players on short-term deals. They signed Marco Belinelli, who out of them all has the best chance of fitting in because he can shoot it a little and comes from the Monty Williams school of working hard on defense. They signed Nazr Mohammed to replace Asik as a backup big man, which is like replacing James Gandolfini in The Sopranos with the kid who played Steve Urkel on the TV show Family Matters.
They signed Vladimir Radmanovic, who should have been back in the Adriatic League 2 years ago. Then, to top it off, they signed Sideshow Nate Robinson, who is as unapologetic a chucker as the league has and his best defensive asset is his ability to get out of the way so he doesn’t get hurt.
Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau may actually vomit on the court while trying to coach this group. Then again, he probably won’t because this is all part of team president John Paxson and GM Gar Forman’s master plan.
For a variety of reasons, look for the Bulls to extend Thibodeau’s contract before the start of the season. They’ll do it because he’s a great young coach whose philosophy fits well with the city and the organization, but they’ll also do it because they’re not going to send Thibodeau into the last year of his contract during a semi-tanked season. The Bulls are setting up this season perfectly. They’ll never beat the Heat with Rose only getting back a month before the playoffs, which begs the question why even bring him back at all. By letting Asik and Watson walk and moving Korver, they stay under the luxury tax line. They still have their amnesty clause to use, which will come in handy when they decide to unload Carlos Boozer and his awful contract before the start of next season. If they play it right and don’t bring Rose back, they can end up with a lottery pick, have enough money to bring back Gibson and still have some cap space to add another meaningful player. It may be ugly in Chicago this season, but in the case, the ends will almost certainly justify the means.
Will Miami’s addition of Ray Allen make them unbeatable?
I will start this answer by saying that I believe Miami will most likely repeat. When I preview the season, I’ll discuss this in more detail, but one thing is for sure. This year’s Heat team will function and look much different than last year’s team.
Last season, the Heat manned the center position with the pu pu platter of Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, and for a short time Ronny Turiaf. Finding productive minutes at that position was like finding a pimple on the underside of Shaquille O’Neal’s belly. Its something you can feel if you’re looking for it, but you’ll never quite get to see it.
The Heat played their most productive basketball on their way to a title playing Chris Bosh at center and LeBron James at big forward. James showed how he can be an absolute all-time great playing big forward with his skill set. However that left Bosh in an uncomfortable role in which he appeared miscast. This is why my mom always told me not to judge a book by its cover. Bosh did a tremendous job manning the middle for Miami. He rebounded harder than Robert Downey Jr. He protected the rim like Michael Oher protected his family in the movie, “The Blind Side.” He played a huge role in Miami winning title to such an extent that it’s quite accurate to assert that Miami doesn’t win it all without him. This has afforded Heat President/GM Pat Riley the luxury of making personnel moves with the vision of James at big forward and Bosh at center.
So Riley makes two big moves in the offseason. He signed future Hall of Famer Ray Allen to a 2-year contract. With James at big forward, Allen can play on the floor with James, Wade, and Bosh in a smaller highly skilled lineup. Plus, when the Heat play a more conventional lineup, Allen can help relieve the enormous minutes burden that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra heaps on James and Wade.
Just as important as the Allen signing is Miami’s signing of Rashard Lewis. Lewis offers the Heat some very complementary versatility. Lewis is a 6’10” forward who plays out at the 3-point arc on offense and will bang with the big guys inside defensively. Playing Lewis next to James in the frontcourt maximizes James’ strengths on both ends of the floor. James gets to play on the low block inside without Lewis invading his space and gets to guard the perimeter defensively, where he is positively special.
This all sounds so wonderful, so what’s the problem? The problem is that all of these personnel combinations are completely reliant on Bosh at center.
As great as Bosh played against the Thunder in the finals, he was playing against a center in Kendrick Perkins who is not an offensive threat at all and a big man in Serge Ibaka who likes to hang on the perimeter offensively. He didn’t carry the burden of guarding bigger more physical players who were going to take him into the low post. That will be very different in an 82-game regular season. There will be many nights where Bosh is going to have the primary responsibility of guarding centers like Andrew Bynum, Roy Hibbert, and Brook Lopez frequently in the East and then having to defend guys like Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, and Marc Gasol less frequently in the West.
Can Bosh do it effectively? There isn’t a doubt in my mind.
Can Bosh do it without wearing down physically and getting injured? I’m not so sure about this.
This has the potential to take an enormous toll on Bosh’s body. Things get complicated when you factor in Spoelstra’s nasty habit of running his main players way too many minutes. If Bosh is going to Miami’s center for the long haul, there needs to be a premium placed on the preservation of his body. As I stated earlier, the Heat don’t win the title last season without the contribution of Chris Bosh as a big man. If they’re not careful with him this season, not having a healthy Bosh will most certainly undercut their chances to repeat.
As we’re about to start the 2nd season of this new Collective Bargaining Agreement, is it having its desired effect?
The answer to this question depends entirely on whom you’re speaking to. I think that both sides have some mixed emotions about how it looks so far.
The players are seeing less money as a whole, but the decrease in their share of basketball related income has not affected the top end salaries of the superstars. The middle class is seeing less money, which is exactly what the owners intended, but more importantly for the players, we’re still seeing ridiculous contracts to guys whose ability doesn’t justify the salary. Players like Caron Butler, Jeff Green, and Landry Fields to name three signed contracts that were untradeable albatrosses the second they were signed.
Furthermore, the two superstars who forced their way off their teams to go to larger markets (Chris Paul and Dwight Howard) weren’t able to get their first choices but both certainly got their second choice of destination.
For the owners, besides the extra money in their pocket, the new CBA is a lot like the old CBA. First of all, the ultra punitive luxury tax has still not deterred the large market owners from spending. The Lakers have a TV contract that rivals the U.S. national debt. After a year of attempting to exercise more fiscal responsibility, the Lakers saw an opportunity to add Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and decided that frugality was for the birds. When the Buss family is working on a deal to retain Howard on July 1, 2013, you can rest assured that the new punitive luxury tax will not be at the forefront of their minds.
The luxury tax certainly hasn’t been a deterrent for the Brooklyn Nets and their owner, Russian billionaire and International Man of Mystery Mikhail Prokhorov. In addition to being like really really wealthy, Prokhorov has a sweetheart real estate deal in Brooklyn that makes the revenue he takes in from the Nets the cherry on top of the sundae.
The Nets absorbed the ugliest contract in the NBA in Joe Johnson onto their payroll. They signed Brook Lopez, who only played 5 games last season, to a max contract. They gave Kris Humphries the same money per year than the Oklahoma City Thunder are paying Serge Ibaka and more than the Boston Celtics are paying Rajon Rondo. They’re paying Gerald Wallace the same amount of money that Rondo makes for the next 4 years right after he crosses over to the other side of 30 years old. While the Nets were throwing all this money around, Prokhorov wasn’t concerned with the punitive luxury tax. Even the owners’ former version of the unruly class clown, Mark Cuban, tried to reach out to Prokhorov to preach some fiscal discipline.
Even the New York Knicks, who claimed fiscal responsibility in making the arguably asinine decision not to retain Jeremy Lin, are not letting the luxury tax deter them. Would a team that’s concerned about the luxury tax do something as ridiculous in signing a one-dimensional easily replaceable piece like Steve Novak to a 4-year, $15 million deal. Know this about the Knicks. If Jeremy Lin doesn’t renegotiate his offer sheet with the Houston Rockets, their owner Jim Dolan would have cared about the luxury tax just about as much as Prokhorov or the Buss family, but I digress.
The other big principle that was rammed down our throats during the lockout was competitive balance.
I never saw competitive balance to be anything more than as a moniker for the owners controlling player movement as much as possible. Considering how good the ratings in the playoffs are in big markets, it’s in the league’s best financial interest to have superstars in these markets playing deep into the playoffs.
The owners’ big test on whether their lockout accomplished competitive balance will take place in Oklahoma City as we start training camp. The Thunder are an organization that has truly done everything right. They’ve drafted as well as a team can draft. They lucked into Kevin Durant with the second pick in the 2007 draft. In 2008, they took two unproven players in the first round, including what appeared to be a reach in one-and-done UCLA freshman Russell Westbrook.
Their 2nd first rounder that year was the #24 pick and they selected a raw big man prospect from the Congo named Serge Ibaka. The 4-year $48 million deal that he just signed with the Thunder would strongly suggest that Thunder GM Sam Presti is happy with the pick.
In 2009 with the 3rd overall pick they selected an undersized shooting guard out of Arizona State named James Harden who in spite of his issue with facial hair, has been a tremendous fit. The one bad draft pick they made, Jeff Green in 2007, they were smart enough to trade to Boston at the 2011 trade deadline for a more useful player for their purposes in Kendrick Perkins.
Their short-term reward was earning a trip to the NBA Finals last June. Considering how young the core players on this team are, their future looks very bright. This CBA was supposedly designed to help small market franchises like Oklahoma City stay together. However, it may not work out that way.
The Thunder have already locked up Durant and Westbrook with long-term max money contract extensions. Just last month, they extended Ibaka at a very reasonable rate. Harden is the last core member left waiting to get an extension.
From what other players have commanded on the open market, Harden can certainly make a case that he deserves max money. If the Thunder give it to him, they’ll be paying the luxury tax. As opposed to the Lakers, the Nets, and the Knicks, Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett has to worry about the luxury tax. It possible he could be close to being below the tax line if they amnesty Perkins, which is a possibility, but it doesn’t solve everything. He doesn’t have the revenue sources that the Lakers, Nets, and Knicks do. The Thunder have until Oct. 31st to sign Harden to an extension or he can be a free agent next year. The Thunder are far too smart (insert Knick/Jeremy Lin joke here) to lose Harden for nothing. If they don’t sign him, I would expect them to shop him hard for a premium package of young players and picks for the sole purpose of cutting costs.
Presti and Bennett will try to sell you on the fact that they love second-year player Reggie Jackson and that Eric Maynor is fully recovered from his knee injury and ready to make a major contribution, but that’s not a reality yet.
The owners set out to put a system in place that would allow a small market team which made every right decision to compete for a title with that core. Very frankly, that’s the bare minimum if all the competitive balance talk was even remotely in earnest.
If the Thunder are forced to tear apart their core just when their team has become a legitimate title contender, that will be the ultimate failure for this CBA, and certainly won’t bode well for the possible opt out in 2017. It’s not exactly a rosy picture, but now it’s out of the way and we all can get ready to enjoy a normal season.
Executive producer and co-host of soon-to-launch SheridanHoops radio, Brian’s true passion is the NBA. He grew up in a basketball family. His father, Burt, was an elite college basketball player for Newark Rutgers in the late 40′s and was drafted by the Tri-City Hawks (now Atlanta) in 1950 by their GM Red Auerbach. Brian gets his money’s worth from his NBA League Pass. He lives in Livingston, N.J. with his wife and 4 children.
The Minnesota Timberwolves made some serious roster adjustments over the summer, all for the better. The most notable move was the acquisition of a revitalized Brandon Roy, but they also got a huge upgrade at small forward by obtaining Andrei Kirilenko and signed the likes of Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham. As Kevin Love would tell you though, the real best part may have been “cleaning out the bad blood in the locker room”, and he believes the current roster should make the playoffs. See what Love had to say about his team, why Channing Frye will miss the upcoming season, the reason for Keyon Dooling’s retirement from the NBA and much more below:
- Kevin Love likes his chances of seeing playoff action for the first time, according to Kerry Eggers of Portland Tribune: “It would be a big surprise to me if we didn’t make a huge leap this year and make it to the playoffs,” the Lake Oswego native told me Wednesday… “We’re going to have a chance to be very good,” Love said. “We’re hoping Brandon can stay healthy through 82 games. Kirilenko is a big addition. Shved hopefully is going to be a big deal for us. “We’ll have more firepower in terms of veterans. Brandon and Andrei will help our locker room and on the court. It will make Coach Adelman’s job a lot easier. “If everything is put together, if Ricky comes back healthy, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
- There is some very bad news on Channing Frye, according to Marc J Spears of Yahoo Sports:
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic has updated news on Frye: “Suns forward Channing Frye told azcentral sports that he will miss the 2012-13 season because of medical concerns. Frye developed a dilated cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart. This was found during a routine preseason physical by Suns team cardiologist Dr. Tim Byrne. ”The good news is it is a virus so it does have a good chance of going away,” Frye said. “My heart can be normal again.” Frye will not participate in any basketball activities and his progress will be re-evaluated in December. He said he would rest for six months, confining his activities to golf and yoga. Frye visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota Wednesday. ”It was very shocking and, at the same time, scary,” he said of his situation. “It’s not like an arm or a knee or an elbow where you’re like, ‘Maybe I can just rehab this.’ It’s something that keeps you going.”
- Keyon Dooling has been waived by the Celtics and consequently retire from the league. Jessica Camerato of CSNNE has the details: ”Keyon has decided that he has given the NBA twelve good years and that it’s time to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family. He will never forget his time in Boston with the Celtics.” – Statement from Keyon Dooling’s rep, Kenge Stevenson.”… “We’ll miss Keyon’s spirit and energy, both on and off the court,” said Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. “The whole Celtics family wishes him well as he enters the next phase of his life.”
- The Celtics will instead work with Darko Milicic aka Mana from Heaven, according to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: “Free-agent center and former No. 2 pick Darko Milicic has agreed to sign with the Celtics, sources close to the situation confirmed. The deal is guaranteed for one year at the league’s minimum salary, according to one of the sources. Milicic, 27, had been looking for his next job since July 12, when the Minnesota Timberwolves waived him with the amnesty clause in order to erase the final two years of his controversial four-year, $16 million deal off their books for salary-cap purposes. Because Milicic will still be paid by the Timberwolves, he was less focused on the financial aspect of his next contract than he was finding the right fit.”
- Austin Rivers explained how losing Ray Allen could benefit the Celtics, transcribed by ESPN Boston: ”As funny as it sounds, I actually think both teams benefited (from Ray Allen signing with the Heat,” Austin Rivers said. “I think the Heat got a lot better obviously, because now the floor is spaced with Ray Allen. ”And I think the Celtics got better, because first off it was disappointing to (see him) leave because he was a part of that whole buildup to the Celtics again, but now you have a better defender in Courtney Lee, who is a great on-the-ball defender and someone who is going to add to the great defense the Celtics play already. And then you have Jason Terry, who is instant offense, something the Celtics need when you have older players like KG and Paul Pierce that get hurt. So when you have guys that are going to be inconsistent, not due to how good they are but how old they are, and the fatigue of a long season, you have guys who can come in and give you instant offense.”
- The Clippers have exercised a team option on guard Eric Bledsoe, from Ben Bolch of Los Angeles Times: “Eric Bledsoe’s strong playoff performance might have ensured he’ll be wearing a Clippers uniform for at least two more seasons. The Clippers exercised a team option on the third-year guard for the 2013-14 season after he averaged 7.9 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 58.7% in 11 playoff games. Bledsoe, who is entering his third NBA season, was particularly good against San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals, averaging 11.5 points while shooting 70%. He will earn $1.7 million this season and $2.6 million next season. Bledsoe averaged 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds while shooting 38.9% in 40 regular-season games, making one start.”
- There is some great news on Stephen Curry today, from Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area:
- Terrence Williams has agreed to deal with the Pistons through training camp, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
- Stephon Marbury shared his thoughts on the combination of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. In short, he doesn’t like it, from Ian Begley of ESPN New York: “Amare needs a point guard like Steve Nash (to thrive). He’s a pick-and-roll guy, a pick-and-pop guy. He can’t play in the half court where everything’s slowed down,” Marbury told ESPN New York during a brief interview in Manhattan on Wednesday. When asked if he thought Anthony and Stoudemire could flourish together, Marbury said flatly, “Nope.” Many have expressed the same concerns with the Knicks’ star duo. In their season and a half together, the Knicks have a sub-.500 record when both are in the starting lineup. But Marbury brings a unique perspective to the debate. He played with Stoudemire in Phoenix during the 2002-03 season and for 34 games the next season before Marbury was dealt to the Knicks. He also spent five mostly rocky years with the Knicks. In addition to his thoughts on Stoudemire, Marbury also questioned the Knicks’ motivation in obtaining Anthony. New York executed a three-team blockbuster deal to bring Anthony in from Denver in February 2011. ”I don’t know if (Knicks owner James) Dolan brought him in to win games or to make money,” Marbury said. “I think it was to make money.”
- While certain big men around the league were working with Hakeem Olajuwon, Joakim Noah decided to work with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to help improve his game, from Gary Washburn of Boston Globe:
- Mike Wells of Indianapolis Star details his workout session with Roy Hibbert. If you know Hibbert, you could probably guess that the workout wasn’t basketball-related: “The big fella took it to another level this offseason when he started doing MMA training at Integrated Fighting Academy on the Southside of Indy to help his conditioning. Hibbert and I have had countless conversations over the years about his workouts. But rather than talk about what goes into his MMA training, Hibbert invited me to participate in a session so I could get a first-hand experience of the sweat and pain he goes through. Pacers rookie Orlando Johnson and Hibbert’s nutritionist Mike Roussell also took part in the workout on Wednesday. We started with four, three-minute rounds of sparring with a trainer with only a minute break in between each round. I was good for the first two rounds, but that’s when reality set in for me. I was so tired by the third round that I was throwing three-six combinations instead of the one-two combinations my trainer Sam was calling for.”
- Walt Frazier believes the Knicks must capitalize within two years to win a championship with the current roster, and Carmelo Anthony must follow the path of LeBron James, from Nate Taylor of The New York Times: “I think their window is a two-year window right now,” he said of the Knicks’ chances at a championship. “They have to capitalize right away.” Frazier knows what it takes to win a title. In the 1972-73 season, Frazier said that he, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed and other teammates had great chemistry. Like a number of Knicks fans, Frazier is eager to see if Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire can form a stronger bond this season. “They better forget last year and do whatever it takes,” Frazier said of Anthony and Stoudemire. “They have to look at Miami and what LeBron James was able to do, Carmelo especially because James became the consummate player — defense, passing and whatever else it took for that team to get a championship.”
- Why didn’t the Heat take a chance on Hassan Whiteside? Ira Winderman of Sun Sentinel has the answer: “Q: Why did the Heat pass on Hassan Whitehead? He’s a 7-footer, decent shot-blocker, a bigger version of Joel Anthony with less athleticism but also less expensive. — Smitty, Tampa. A: Because Joel already is under contract and finding a taker for the two years left on Joel’s contract likely would mean having to throw in a first-round pick to sweeten the deal. Joel still can fill a regular-season niche for this team, helping ease the man-on-ball defensive burden for the Heat’s veterans, with his second line of defense. Then, come playoff time, he likely would step aside when the need becomes more apparent to have all five players on the court “live” in the offense.”
- Michael Jordan’s best scoring output in a regular season game was 69 points. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points. So who had the better overall game? Coach Nick of Bballbreakdown has the answer:
- Watch Blake Griffin act like a chicken on Sesame Street, via The NBA Mistress.
When training camps open later this month, a handful of teams will be at less than full strength. And some of them may be that way for a while.
The Los Angeles Lakers, a legitimate title contender, will be without the biggest prize of the offseason. The Chicago Bulls, who have the NBA’s best record over the last two seasons, will be without their best player.
The New York Knicks, who claim to be contenders, will be without two of their three shooting guards. The Golden State Warriors, who are talking about crashing the postseason party, could be without their two best players.
And the Los Angeles Clippers, a darkhorse to upstage the rival Lakers and win the Western Conference, could be without their three best players when camp opens.
Each of these teams will be waiting for a key player to return from an injury suffered last season or during the offseason. Some will be waiting until the preseason. Others will be waiting until early in the regular season. And the Bulls and Clippers likely will be waiting until 2013.
Even the Miami Heat had their offseason injury issues. Unfortunately for the rest of the NBA, the defending champions should be at or near full strength when training camp begins.
Some teams have all the luck. And some don’t. Here’s the breakdown.
DERRICK ROSE: The 2011 NBA MVP tore his ACL in Chicago’s postseason opener vs. Philadelphia and did not have surgery until mid-May, allowing the swelling to reduce. The length of recovery from ACL surgery can be as short as six months (Wes Welker), which would have Rose back before Christmas. It can also be as long as 12 months (the long-range period given by Dr. Brian Cole, who performed the surgery), which would mean Rose misses the entire season.
Rose has said his recovery is ahead of schedule. However, his timetable likely will be determined by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who has to pay Rose $95 million over the next five years and told a Chicago radio station, “Until the doctors say he’s 100 percent and they put their reputations on the line, he’s not coming back.” PROJECTION: Sometime after the All-Star break. That could be an issue for the Bulls, because their top scorer other than Rose is Luol Deng, who chose not to have surgery on the torn ligament in his left wrist.
DWIGHT HOWARD: Everybody’s favorite diva had missed seven games in seven years before last season ended prematurely with a back injury that required surgery in April and cost him a spot on Team USA. The procedure repaired a torn herniated disk and removed disk fragments and was not categorized as major surgery. The surgeon said Howard should be able to return to full contact in four months, which seemed long for a lumbar discectomy. So why will he be unavailable for the start of training camp and possibly miss the start of the season?
Howard has both said he will be ready for the start of the season and may not be ready for the start of the season, which begins in late October. Meanwhile, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has refused to establish a timeline for Howard. Remember, Howard is a free agent next summer and could react unfavorably toward a franchise that pressures him to return. It also behooves the Lakers for Howard to be healthy for the start of the playoffs rather than the regular season. PROJECTION: Howard plays on Opening Night – after skipping training camp and preseason.
BLAKE GRIFFIN: The All-Star forward hurt his left knee during training with Team USA in July, right after he had signed a five-year, $95 million extension with the Clippers. Protecting their investment, Griffin was pulled out of the Olympics and underwent arthroscopic surgery.
The scope was in the same knee in which Griffin suffered a fractured patella that cost him the entire 2009-10 season. Although the injuries are in the same joint and create some concern about Griffin’s long-term durability, they are said to be unrelated. Griffin has been playing pickup ball since last month. PROJECTION: Griffin will be ready for the start of training camp, where he certainly will be closely monitored.
CHRIS PAUL: The All-Star point guard suffered a torn ligament in is right thumb during the Olympics but played through it, helping Team USA beat Spain with a huge fourth quarter in the gold medal game. Paul had surgery on Aug. 21 and could need up to eight weeks of recovery time, which would mean he misses training camp and almost all of the preseason.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has said Paul will be back for the start of the season. He also has said his most indispensable player will be return during training camp. That is as much as a three-week window, a pretty big difference. However, no one is saying Paul will miss any games that count. PROJECTION: Paul has an unreal competitive streak that will have him back at the outset of training camp. The Clippers will rest him during the preseason, and he will play on Opening Night.
CHAUNCEY BILLUPS: Paul’s return will afford Billups the opportunity not to rush back from a torn left Achilles tendon suffered last February. The injury could have been a career-ender for Billups, who turns 36 later this month. But he has worked hard through his rehabilitation and has said he is ahead of schedule.
However, Billups was expected to need at least eight months for the tendon to heal following surgery, which puts his earliest possible return in November. If Paul is healthy, the Clippers can make due with the improving Eric Bledsoe as their backup point guard. Upon his return, Billups is expected to play many of his minutes at shooting guard. PROJECTION: Givn his age and LA’s backcourt depth, expect Billups to return in December, sometime before Christmas. That would be a full 10 months after the injury.
RICKY RUBIO: The Timberwolves were in the Western Conference playoff race until their sensational rookie point guard suffered a torn ACL on March 9. Minnesota was 21-19 before Rubio’s injury but collapsed without him, losing 21 of its last 26 games. Last week, Rubio said he believes he could be back on the court before the end of 2012.
However, Rubio has yet to start running, let alone restoring his conditioning and attempting sharp cutting. The Wolves will start the season without him and use Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea as their point guards. The biggest difference from last season is that Ridnour and Barea should not have to also be used as shooting guards after the offseason acquisitions of Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved. PROJECTION: Rubio should be back in December – a nine-month recovery – but may have to rely more heavily on his outstanding court vision before his quickness fully returns.
STEPHEN CURRY: Recurring right ankle injuries forced Curry to miss 40 games last season and has cast a shadow over his potential contract extension. The sweet-shooting combo guard appears to be one of the franchise’s cornerstones and has had preliminary discussions with the Warriors, who are adopting a wait-and-see attitude in advance of the Oct. 31 deadline.
Curry had ankle surgery in April and has moved past his rehabilitation, going full speed for spurts of 10-15 minutes during workouts before backing off as a precaution. He has said he will be fully recovered by the start of the season but gave no indication of his readiness for training camp. PROJECTION: Barring a setback, Curry will start Opening Night. The offseason acquisition of Jarrett Jack will allow Golden State to protect Curry through training camp and preseason.
ANDREW BOGUT: Golden State’s second cornerstone has yet to play for the Warriors, already declared out for the season when he was acquired at the trading deadline. He had surgery on his left ankle in late April to remove bone spurs and loose bodies. When healthy, he is a top-five center. But he has missed 130 games over the last four seasons.
As of late August, Bogut had yet to run at full speed on a court. He has said he will not push himself to be ready for the start of training camp but rather is targeting the season opener for his return and Warriors debut. He could possibly play in some preseason games but not at the expense of a full recovery. PROJECTION: Like Curry, Bogut will start Opening Night. There are some who believe Golden State can make the playoffs, but not without full, productive seasons from Curry and Bogut.
BROOK LOPEZ: The Nets center never missed a game in his first three seasons but played just five last season due to two separate injuries – including a stress fracture – in his right foot. Lopez spent the offseason recovering from the injuries and wondering whether he would be traded to Orlando for Howard.
When that deal fell through, Lopez signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Nets. That’s a lot of iron for a 7-footer who doesn’t rebound and is coming off a serious injury, but Lopez should be fully healthy by the start of training camp. PROJECTION: Alongside Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams in an awesome starting lineup in the season opener.
AVERY BRADLEY: It’s hard to believe that a player with 536 career points is on this list, but Bradley ended last season as Boston’s starting shooting guard, having supplanted Ray Allen with his dogged defense. Unfortunately, his season ended prematurely due to separations of both shoulders that required separate surgeries.
The required extensive rehab means Bradley will miss all of training camp, the preseason and the first month of the season. VP Danny Ainge even intimated that Bradley could miss two months,a dn coach Doc Rivers said that Bradley’s recovery won’t be rushed. The offseason acquisitions of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry will let Bradley take his time. PROJECTION: Sometime in December. Keep in mind that his injuries prevent Bradley from working on dribbling and shooting.
IMAN SHUMPERT: One of last season’s better rookies, Shumpert showed flashes that he can be the shooting guard for the Knicks for years to come. However, he suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs, and for the second time in as many seasons will not have a true training camp.
Shumpert reportedly has been taking his rehab very seriously but as of last month still had not begun basketball workouts. The Knicks knew he would be sidelined for some time and addressed his anticipated absence with their offseason moves. PROJECTION: Sometime in January. Until his return, J.R. Smith and Ronnie Brewer will hold down the position, but …
RONNIE BREWER: Signed late in the offseason, Brewer tore the meniscus in his left knee in August and underwent arthroscopic surgery last week. He is expected to be sidelined six weeks and maintains that he will be ready for the season opener, although likely without conditioning and rhythm. PROJECTION: Active for the opener but fully ready sometime in mid-November. Smith and Jason Kidd – who played plenty of 2-guard in Dallas – will fill in.
KYRIE IRVING: The face of Cleveland’s franchise – now and for the short-term future – suffered a freak injury in the offseason when he broke a bone in his right hand hitting a wall during a workout vs. Team USA in July. But he has already resumed playing and will be ready for the start of training camp. PROJECTION: Starting on Opening Night.
DWYANE WADE: The All-Star guard of the defending champion Heat has a new injury – writer’s cramp in his right shoulder, brought on by autographing thousands of copies of his book on his current three-week tour. However, he is fully recovered from offseason knee surgery that slowed him at times in the postseason and forced him to tap out of the Olympics.
Wade said he will be ready for the start of Miami’s training camp in late September. Now on thw wrong side of 30, he should see limited action throughout the preseason. PROJECTION: Starting vs. Boston on Opening Night.
RAY ALLEN: The all-time leader in 3-pointers struggled on both ends of the floor and lost his starting spot in the postseason due to bone spurs in his right ankle that required surgery in June. In the offseason, he left Boston – presumably because the Celtics tried to trade him at the deadline – and took less money to join Miami.
A month ago, Allen said he was at 75 percent and expected to be 100 percent healthy for the start of training camp. His well-documented work ethic has illustrated that there is no reason not to believe him. PROJECTION: Subbing in for Wade about seven minutes into the season opener to fire daggers at his former team.
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.
Hope everyone in the States is enjoying the holiday weekend.
We’re now into September, and that means we’re less than two months away from the start of the new NBA season. We have fresh items for you to check out: LeBron’s pink kicks, and A.J. Mitnick’s extensive update on the qualifying for Eurobasket ’13 that is definitely worth reading all the way through.
You should also check out Chris Bernucca’s previews of the playoff pictures in the Western and Eastern Conferences, and Moke Hamilton’s column on which NBA teams still have exception money to work with.
Here’s the latest news from around the NBA.
- Scott Layden, who once traded Nene, Marcus Camby and Mark Jackson to Denver for Antonio McDyess when he was running the New York Knicks, has a new front office position with the San Antonio Spurs as assistant GM. He has spent the past several seasons on the bench in Utah as an assistant coach. From Adrian Wojnarowski Yahoo Sprts, who broke the story: “Layden had a well-regarded run as the Jazz GM before embarking on a tumultuous 4½-year stay in New York in 1999. As Jazz GM from 1992-99, Layden’s draft picks and deals played a significant part in the organization’s two trips to the NBA Finals and three straight 60-victory seasons. One of Layden’s primary responsibilities will be administering the Spurs’ scouting department. Houston Rockets VP of Player Personnel Gersson Rosas had also been a serious candidate for the Spurs job, league sources said.
- Check out this tweet from Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com: “Talked with a (non-Kings) exec who said feeling around the league that it is “more and more remote” team stays in Sacramento. Just the vibe.”
- But where are they going? A place that keeps coming up is Virginia Beach, but Mike Gruss of the Virginian-Pilot thinks that’s unlikely. Here’s an excerpt from a fantastic piece that looks at whether the Hampton Roads area can sustain an NBA team: “I put together a spreadsheet of stores from five sought-after chains within a 50-mile radius of every NBA arena. I found that the average NBA market has 1.25 Ikeas, three Crate & Barrels, 3.5 Brooks Brothers stores, almost five Anthropologies and at least five Apple retail stores. If you’re afraid the major media markets like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago skew the data toward big cities, we can deal with the median, too. The median NBA market has one Ikea, one Crate & Barrel, two Brooks Brothers, three Anthropologies and 4.5 Apple Retail Stores. Compare that to Hampton Roads: zero Ikeas, zero Crate & Barrels, one Brooks Brothers, zero Anthropologies and one Apple Retail store. Those numbers create, in basketball lingo, a matchup problem. Hampton Roads doesn’t look like other NBA markets. Hampton Roads shoppers don’t have the same choices as people in other NBA markets. Why? By their actions, high-end retailers have said they don’t think we have the money. And if we don’t have the money for high-end shopping, how are we going to afford pricey NBA tickets and foam fingers? Most likely, we won’t.”
- Another option is Louisville, which Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier-Journal writes seems realistic: “Less than two years since it opened, the KFC Yum! Center still carries its showroom shine. It is a gleaming, gawk-worthy reality and, at least from a structural standpoint, what the real estate types like to refer to as ‘move-in ready.’ What it needs is another tenant, a professional team or some other entity that can fill up a calendar currently overcrowded by open dates. What it needs, Mayor Greg Fischer believes, is a city prepared to pounce should an opportunity arise.’If an NBA team comes knocking, we want to be able to open the door,’ said Chris Poynter, the mayor’s communications czar.” However, Sullivan goes on to write that while an NBA team in Louisville seems realistic, there’s a major problem: “The Yum! Center’s doorman, however, reports to the University of Louisville. … U of L’s lease essentially precludes serious discussion of professional hoops hereabouts. So long as the ’Ville controls the Yum! Center’s schedule, and retains a financial incentive to remain inflexible, efforts to take the taxpayers off the hook in the event of debt service shortfalls will face Yao Ming-high hurdles. If the NBA were to come knocking right now, in fact, it would find Greg Fischer and his open arms effectively barricaded behind pages of fine print.”
- Here’s an excerpt of an interview Ethan Sherwood Strauss of Bleacher Report did with Rajon Rondo. In it, he gets asked whether Ray Allen leaving had anything to do with him, and brushes the question aside with this: “I think Doc answered that question pretty much. I don’t have anything to say about that.” In case you forgot what Rivers said, here it is: “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.” Also be sure to click through for an entertaining interview about what Rondo’s up to this offseason, what’s the weirdest thing he’s eaten while touring the world, and a lot more.
- Gregg Popovich has a mailbag on Spurs.com, and in his most recent one, he got asked about Kawhi Leonard, and had some high praise: “I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.”
- Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com has an update on the Knicks’ plans: “A source familiar with the Knicks’ free-agency plans told ESPNNewYork.com that the team is considering signing forward-center Sean Williams, who was waived by the Rockets this week. There has been some speculation that the Knicks are interested in unrestricted free agent Josh Howard, but according to the source, they are not into him. Instead, the team wants to add a big man — likely to serve as a backup to Amare Stoudemire on the depth chart. Currently, they don’t have one.”
- Another New York team is also looking for frontcourt depth, reports Howard Beck of the New York Times: “The Nets’ ongoing search for frontcourt depth has led them to Houston, and a meeting with Andray Blatche, who was cut this summer by the Washington Wizards. Blatche, 26, has been working out in Houston with a number of other N.B.A. players, under the guidance of John Lucas. He was set to meet with Nets Coach Avery Johnson sometime this weekend, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting. It was not clear whether the Nets were prepared to make Blatche an immediate offer or were simply exploring their options.”
- Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype: “Free agent guard Blake Ahearn and the Indiana Pacers have agreed to a deal, one source told HoopsHype. Ahearn, mostly known as a shooter, finished the 2011-12 season with the Jazz after getting called up from the D-League. Ahearn’s deal with Indiana is a make-good training camp contract with some guaranteed money, the source said.”