These Six Still Have Something To Prove

 
It’s just two weeks from tonight when Miami and Boston resume their blood feud on the occasion of the Heat’s ring ceremony, and then the rebuilt Lakers will take on the Mavericks to close out the TNT doubleheader on opening night.

But that means there is still time for adjustment, improvement, healing and just plain eyeballing players who had something to prove going into training camp. Now midway through the preseason schedule, here’s a six-pack who still bear watching:

Jeremy Lin, Rockets — Nobody expected him to walk in and turn the clock back to the “Linsanity” of last February. But now that he’s been installed as the face of a completely rebuilt team, the Rockets need Lin to play more confidently and effectively than he’s shown in his first four preseason games. The point guard has made just 21.1 percent of his shots, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers, and averaged 4.7 assists.

“I’m just trying to find my rhythm, find my comfort level again,” Lin said. “I can’t live with this in a season. I have a lot to learn.”

“He’ll have to be better,” said coach Kevin McHale after a particularly dismal effort against the Spurs on Sunday, where Lin made just 1 of 10 shots.

“That’s going to be a thing where he’s going to have to … He’s a young kid. We’re not talking about a 30-year-old guy, 10-year vet. You’re talking about a guy that has 20 starts under his belt.”

Michael Beasley, Suns — How many second chances does one guy get?

It was barely 18 months ago when former teammate Dwyane Wade said: “With more patience (from a team) and hard work by Michael, he could really turn into a star.”  Of course, Wade’s Heat had already shipped him on to Minnesota by then and now Beasley has a blank slate with the rebuilding Suns at the start of the post-Steve Nash Era.  If there was ever a time a place for the 6-foot-10 forward to prove he belongs, this is it.

In two preseason outings, Beasley is averaging 12 points in 22 minutes per game, but managed to bump into just five rebounds.  Of his 17 field goal attempts, more than a third of them have been 3-pointers as the Suns coaching staff has encouraged him to take the shot.

“This is the first time I’ve really been encouraged to shoot even more than I already do, and we all know that I shoot a lot,” Beasley said. “My last two teams, I’ve been asked to try to be a passer-playmaker.”

Brandon Roy, Timberwolves — Virtually the entire league has had its eyes on the return of the former Trail Blazers All-Star guard as he not only tries to come back from a premature retirement, but to fit into a lineup that should contend for a playoff spot in the rugged Western Conference.

Roy has played just under 20 minutes per night and averaged 10.7 points in three games, including a preseason high 27 on Saturday against the Bulls. The one thing coach Rick Adelman hasn’t done yet with Roy is put him on the floor to finish a game.

“The knee is fine,” Roy said. “I think the handle is still there. The thing I really like with being on a good team is Coach has given me the opportunity to have that ball. Luke (Ridnour) is a long-time friend of mine and when we’re on the same team, he knows my capabilities. I think one of my greatest strengths was being able to create in the pick-and-roll. A lot of two-guards aren’t used to having the big guys that can handle the ball and create off the dribble. That’s still one of my strengths.”

Kyle Lowry, Raptors — For all of the anticipation in Toronto surrounding rookie big man Jonas Valanciunas, perhaps just as significant in the offseason was the addition of Lowry from Houston.  After missing the first three games with a groin injury, the point guard is expected to get his first game action on Wednesday night against the Wizards.

“I’m going to be rusty but I’ll try to pick up where I left off earlier in training camp,” Lowry said. “I haven’t played in a game yet but there are some things I’ve picked up on the team that I’ve seen watching on the sidelines.”

If the Raptors are going to even flirt with being significant this season, they’ll need the aggressive, attacking, cocksure Lowry to set up their big men and especially get the most out of Andrea Bargnani and Valanciunas.

“He can run the pick-and-roll because he’s a smart guard,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “He creates a problem just with his speed and strength and quickness. It’s a different type of pick-and-roll attack. Jose (Calderon) approaches it more with intellect, conservative when he comes off reading where Kyle comes off with speed, quickness and he gets the defense to react in a different way.

“He’s a student of the game, he’s probably one of our smarter players, he won’t miss anything intellectually, the only thing he’ll miss will be conditioning.”

Eric Gordon, Hornets — Another injured player who still hasn’t gotten onto the court in preseason is the guy who needs to start rehabbing his image with the home fans. After saying that his heart was in Phoenix when he signed an offer sheet with the Suns, the best way for Gordon to make amends is to start making buckets. Especially after he was healthy for just nine games last season after coming over from the Clippers in the Chris Paul deal. His sore right knee is the same one that underwent arthroscopic surgery last February.

“I’m involved watching things,” Gordon said. “For sure, I have to definitely know what’s going on and I’m always watching. I’m definitely putting input in the young guys’ ears, just let them know what’s going on and what’s the easy tricks to getting things down. I’m definitely looking forward to when I get back.’’

Hasheem Thabeet, Thunder — The old adage is “you can’t teach height” and it’s the fact that he’s 7-foot-3 that will keep getting Thabeet’s foot in the door with NBA teams probably for years to come. But if there was a nice place to fit, it would be OKC, where the former scourge as a college shot-blocker could help in a limited role.

The problem is that Thabeet has never been much of a defender in three NBA stops at Memphis, Houston and Portland and, for his size, gets pushed around quite easily.

“For a guy 7-3, you don’t normally say athletic,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.  “But he’s pretty athletic. He gets up and down the court. He can move pretty good.”

Never mind his scoring, he’s averaged four rebounds and 1.5 blocks in just 15.5 minutes over two games.

12 Comments

  1. TTKIN says:

    Does anyone know what happened to Thabeet. When he was in his last year of college, all I heard were good things about him and how he is a beast. Then I stopped paying attn to basketball for awhile, I came back and Thabeet is like in the D-League. What happened?

  2. charles says:

    McHale is an under-appreciated coach and a fantastic teacher. Lin is playing for the right guy. He’ll bring this team together. They’ll probably lose lots of games but Houston is closer to winning a championship now than they were two years ago. Why? Because the talent they had 2 years ago was mediocre and would never win a championship. The talent they have now, if gelled and coached properly and with the right additions, could become a champion one day. Their move reminds me of the Eddie Griffin trade the nets did that brought richard jefferson, jason collins and armstrong. It wasn’t the move that put them to the finals (Jason Kidd was the final piece on that) but it was the start of the process.

  3. Kamote says:

    LIN: taking the reigns from Yao ain’t a bad business move for Houston as Asian (especially Chinese) fans will be following him. Expect a lot of all-star votes for this guy. Though he may not be that skilled, he is a cerebral player. I was just hoping the Rockets would try to get Sloan, and maybe he can turn this kid into a Stockton-type of player.

    BEASLEY: If Darko is getting second chances, then why not this guy LOL. Darko is a bad decision by the Piston’s but Beasley is actually a shoo-in as the #2 guy behind rose. Any team would’ve still drafted him 2nd. He has real talent, just needs to have his head in the game. Hopefully by being able to finally lead a team is a good chance for him (unlike in Miami and Minny).

    ROY: The only concern are his knees. even if he played 70% of what he was before in limited minutes, he is still very valuable to any team, especially on end games.

    LOWRY: just needs to play his game and pad his market value LOL.

    GORDON: One of the league’s prolific scorers. I just don’t see him though as a team’s franchise player. Davis needs to fast track his improvement to make this team relevant.

    THABEET: If he can man up and bang bodies in the middle, then OKC can finally amnesty Perk and have the money for Harden. Problem solved LOL.

  4. MVP says:

    @E-SY

    Raptors are headed nowhere?????. Quoting the great Stephen A Smith : YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO TALK BASKETBALL!!”

    Beasley has Dragic….and Bynum wont improve?? Come on dude….

    Bynum is one of the best centers in the league and regardless of what team he is on, they will give him touches. Though I agree he should be on this article for he still has to “prove” it

    Overall good article…Andre iguodale anyone? Aaron Afflalo??

    • E-SY says:

      About the Raptors we’ll see what happens, OK? Near the end of the season… I was right!

      You repeated me about Beasley… so we’re on the same page about him…

      And about Bynum I didn’t say anything about his skills. I mean that he won’t make the team better than is was with Brand and Iguodala. I just doubt that… they really had something working in Philly without a star like Kobe, Durant or LeBron in the lineup. A little bit like the Jazz an the Nuggets… adding Bynum and losing those other guys won’t improve the team options.

  5. mario says:

    I cant believe that they chose Lin over Dragic.. Even over Lowry..

  6. E-SY says:

    Lin… very much overrated. Won’t be worth even a fifth of his contract.

    Beasley: A role player with no guard on the team to put him in any position to play efficient…

    Roy; could be effective on this team. He also has a couple of guys around him that can take some of the load off his shoulders – especially when Rubio returns – so this is the most important one to follow.

    Lowry: It’s easy for him to shine on a team that’s heading nowhere. If he comes up short, there’s no reason of signing him anywhere anymore.

    Gordon: Same as Roy maybe, but on a much worse team and I don’t believe in Gordon as much to stay healthy…

    Thabeet: No factor at all in the lineup of the Thunder. Will be able to keep 7-3 foot of the bench warm if he lies down there.

    I actually miss the great addition of Philly, Bynum, in this list. Haven’t seen anything of him yet and I think his addition will be no good for the numbers over there. I think there was chemestry over there and I don’t see how Bynum will be an improvement, concerning the players they had to give up to make the deal.

    • TTKIN says:

      Bynum I think can help cuz it gives Philly an inside out game. Itll be similar to what the Lakers were doing. Bynum takes up the middle, Spencer Hawes can get the Pau Gasol mid-range thing goin, but Philly has 3 point shooters to spread the floor. Dont discount what Doug Collins is planning. But I agree with you Bnymu should be on this list. Im a die hard laker fan who is a big bynum fan, but only Greg Oden is worse at keeping himself injury-free. I thought Bynum was finally past that last year, but now this year he’s at it again.

  7. trix says:

    Lin will help with marketability and help draw crown into houstan. So i guess for that reason he is worth the money. But for his basketball ability no way he should be getting paid what he is getting paid. He is a decent player. But in the last year of this contract he is going to make almost as much Chris paul!!! thats just absurd

  8. Fo Real says:

    I don’t mean to be Linsensitive ..BUT… LIN was and is a WASTE of Money$$$$ pfft stupid houston

    • TTKIN says:

      Agreed. In the last year on the contract, Houston will be paying Lin/Asik a combined 31 million (approximately). Ok so how in the hell is houston going to be able to afford other players?

      Plan A was to get Dwight (good plan, they coulda offered him more monoey than anyone had they succeeded)
      Plan B was Lin/Asik…(BAD plan)

  9. KB24 says:

    It’s been nothing more than a commercial choice for Houston ti improve their position in Asin market; for the rest, he is only a good role player