Blogtable

Blogtable: Bulls Future Without Derrick Rose

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Cavs And The Trade Deadline | Kevin Garnett’s ReturnBulls Without Derrick Rose



VIDEO: Derrick Rose injury

> Tough blow for the Bulls, with Derrick Rose sidelined again and possibly out for the season. What’s Chicago’s next move? And what does the long term future look like now?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comBetter call Nate. Nate Robinson might be the best the Bulls can do, if they can plug him into the role he filled as Rose’s surrogate in 2012-13. Otherwise, this news is a gut punch to the team and to Chicago fans, and clearly even worse to Rose. If, somehow, some way, this meniscus tear were cleaned out rather than stitched up, the medical experts say Rose could get back in time for the playoffs. That might keep a glimmer of hope alive, though it’s not the way he and his “camp” have done things with the previous two injuries. They favor longer vs. shorter rehabs, and they’re probably thinking about Dwyane Wade’s meniscus-deprived knee issues. Just so they and everyone else knows, going the long route likely will slam shut this roster’s championship window. And frankly, the city is ready to move on from Rose and this Groundhog Day marathon screening.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comCircle the wagons, batten down the hatches, bar the door.  Get down, get gritty, sink your teeth in on defense, roll with Aaron Brooks and don’t feel sorry for yourselves.  In other words, just another ordinary day with Tom Thibodeau.  In the short term, the Bulls will still be a tough out for any playoff opponent, but obviously slip down in the pecking order for the Eastern Conference title.  In the long run, when you lose your franchise player for the third time in four years, it’s probably time to look at a re-boot at the point.  The pressure will be ramped up even more to keep free agent Jimmy Butler next summer.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: There is no next move. At least not this season, because losing Rose is a huge blow and losing him now, immediately after the trade window closed, adds to the hurt. The only thing the Bulls can do is play through it. The good news is, they have before, just not at a championship level. Depending on the matchup(s) and the health of other teams, I could still see Chicago winning a playoff series or two. That’s a tough group with an excellent coach. As for the long term, this is the moment for me that says once and for all the Bulls cannot rely on Rose to get through 82 games and an entire postseason. Hopefully he proves me wrong. But the future has to include finding a starting point guard.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: It won’t be easy for the Bulls to lift their morale off the floor, but that’s the first order of the day. Next, they must find a replacement ASAP and hope he can do for them what Nate Robinson did a few years ago and D.J. Augustin did last year. As for the long-term answer, nobody knows yet because Rose hasn’t gone through recovery. But let’s not try to kid anyone here: The Bulls can no longer resolve around Rose.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’m guessing that the next move is signing Nate Robinson for the rest of the season and hoping Rose can make it back for the playoffs. They’ve already taken steps to be less dependent on Rose this season, and there hasn’t been much of a drop-off when he’s been off the floor. But the defense (which hasn’t been up to the Bulls’ standards in the first place) will suffer with a lot of minutes for Robinson or Aaron Brooks, and the offense with suffer from too much Kirk Hinrich, who’s had a rough year. Long-term, they just have to hope for the best, because they’re paying Rose more than $41 million over the next two years, a tough number to work around when you’re not willing to pay the luxury tax.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com​It’s a wicked blow for Rose as well as for the Bulls organization and a passionate fan base that believed Rose would lead them back to a championship level for the first time since the Jordan era. Next up is to get Nate Robinson on the line and give this unit some security and a spark. There isn’t much more you can do in the short-term because you don’t know exactly how Rose will respond from this latest bit of adversity. The long-term future changes dramatically now. The prospects of a Rose-led Bulls team hoisting a Larry O’Brien trophy one day is hard to imagine given the grueling road he’ll have to travel to ever come close to playing at a MVP level again.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe team that expected to own the Eastern Conference playoffs can now hope only to remain competitive with the Hawks, Cavaliers, Raptors and Wizards. The Bulls will put up a good fight, will probably fall short of the NBA Finals, and then will go into a summer facing no good options: It’s either continue to build around a star who has been unreliable physically, or else trade their 26 year old league MVP for pennies on the dollar – knowing full well that Rose could suddenly enjoy a long run of good health for his new team. It is an awful predicament with no certainty whatsoever.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI saw reports last night that depending on the severity of the injury, there’s a chance Rose could return for the postseason. So I suppose first of all, the Bulls should wait exactly how long Rose is out. In the short term — meaning through the end of this season — I think Chicago does what they always do: The soldier on and they grind and they leave it all on the floor. And then they probably lose in the first or second round of the playoffs. Longer term, and it hurts to say this considering all Rose means to the city and the franchise, but at some point I wonder if they consider moving Rose, giving him a fresh start elsewhere and giving themselves a more reliable piece without the injury history.

Blogtable: Kevin Garnett’s Return To Minnesota

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Cavs And The Trade Deadline | Kevin Garnett’s ReturnBulls Without Derrick Rose



VIDEO: Kevin Garnett goes back to Timberwolves

> Kevin Garnett is back in Minnesota. Is this a feel-good move to brighten a dismal season, or is this a significant step toward making the Timberwolves a legitimate contender in the West for years to come?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Can I pick “C. Neither A nor B?” Actually, it might be a little of both A and B – it has been a miserable NBA season in Minny and Garnett, as a tone-setter and occasional blowtorch, can help to mold some of the Wolves’ young talent. But to me, this is about Garnett transitioning to his post-playing days, likely to buy a chunk of the Wolves’ franchise. And it’s about Flip Saunders solidifying his base, too, with his growing equity in the team. KG is one of Saunders’ “guys” and all signs point to them both presiding over what has been a country-club of an organization. Remains to be seen if they get the ultimate results on the floor, though.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comUnless a secret part of that deal to accompany K.G. back to Minnesota was Mr. Peabody and his Wayback Machine, this is nothing but pure nostalgia.  The significant step was trading for Andrew Wiggins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Feel-good. A lot of this will depend on whether Garnett retires or not, and whether he stays in Minnesota if he continues, but there is little chance to make any real impact in what remains of 2014-15. Maybe he reaches the young Wolves a little about a snarling attitude. That can be helpful. He’s obviously not in the picture for when they plan to become a playoff regular, though. At the same time, I don’t think the deal is about brightening a dismal season. While it would be a nice full-circle conclusion to his career, if this is it for KG, grinding out 20-something games isn’t an antidote for fans. Besides, Minny has some bright moments to brighten the season.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: It’s totally a feel-good moment, nothing more. Garnett is too old to be a factor on the floor, and in terms of leadership, that tends to be over-rated, especially if the designated leader does a lot of barking but is unable to lead by example. I think the real impact of his arrival will be felt if he and Flip Saunders manage to buy controlling interest from Glen Taylor. And even then, the KG/Saunders group will need a deep-pockets guy, and that guy may want to call the shots, turning KG into nothing more than a frontman.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It’s a feel-good move for the most part, but that doesn’t mean that KG can’t help. His offense has fallen off quite a bit over the years, but he can still make an impact on defense, where the Wolves currently rank last, both with his presence and his leadership. Gorgui Dieng, in particular, could really blossom with a mentor like KG.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comEasy. Even when young KG was in his prime in a Timberwolves uniform they were not a legitimate contender in the West, save for the 2003-04 season. So let’s not overstate the significance of KG’s return at this stage of his career. It’s a symbolic move that could lead to good vibrations in Minnesota if Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and some of those other youngsters take to the leadership and mentorship that is clearly on the way. KG learned from one of the best in Sam Mitchell when he was going through the same stage of his career. If he does half the job for the young boys that Mitchell did on him, this is a win-win for all involved.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: This is about turning Andrew Wiggins into a meaningful star who may benefit from a winning example in spite of his team’s losing record. If Garnett weren’t there, then who in Minneapolis would be showing Wiggins how to become a leader? The perception changes from pessimism to optimism that the Timberwolves are now headed in a constructive direction.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI tweeted the other day that I wish KG returning to Minnesota had some practical value, but instead it feels more like just a fun concept. Maybe he will provide a stern voice in the locker room, teach the bigs how to get away with things in the post, show the young guys how to take care of their bodies, and force the young players to make everyone wait 90 minutes after each game before coming out to talk to the media. But I don’t know if KG’s presence will ever pay dividends for this collection of players, as odds are by the time the young guys are old enough to make an impact, they’ll be somewhere other than Minnesota. But I bet they sell a lot of jerseys the next few years.

Blogtable: Did Any Team Do Better Than Cavs At Trade Deadline?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE:  Cavs And The Trade Deadline | Kevin Garnett’s Return | Bulls Without Derrick Rose



VIDEO: How teams are integrating new players after trade deadline

> You’ve had a week to absorb the flurry of trades made on deadline day. But did any team outdo the Cavs, who traded for Shumpert, Smith and Mozgov back in early January?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Cavs win. Arron Afflalo and Mo Williams were nice pickups by Portland and Charlotte, respectively. Goran Dragic sure got what he suddenly wanted, and that was a key addition for Miami, though not as big as Chris Bosh’s substraction. But Cleveland needed rim protection and a viable “big,” and got precisely that in Timofey Mozgov. It needed to move Dion Waiters for chemistry and sanity, and it did precisely that, too. Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith brought much-needed qualities, too, and are better players on a contender, under LeBron James’ watchful eye (that was mostly for J.R.).

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: No.  It’s only fair to give a month or so to let trades settle in and I like what OKC did by strengthening its bench, though the continued nagging injuries and another minor surgery for Kevin Durant will slow the evaluation period.  Over the long run and assuming that Chris Bosh makes a full recovery, I like the addition of Goran Dragic in Miami.  Meanwhile the Cavs have gone from staggering around aimlessly to becoming the team to beat in East since making their deals early.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I thought the Heat and the Trail Blazers had particularly good days. Miami took an important step for the future by acquiring Goran Dragic, assuming, and probably safely assuming, it re-signs Dragic. They can look to him as the starting point guard for years to come. Portland got deeper without giving up a key asset. While Dragic/Heat was more about the long-term for a team that isn’t in the championship mix, Arron Afflalo/Trail Blazers is an immediate boost for a roster that should be looking at a postseason run.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I wouldn’t say the Thunder out-did the Cavs but in due time their haul might pull equal. We’ll see. Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler and Steve Novak were all necessary additions and three of them, or maybe all four, could figure somewhat prominently in OKC’s post-season. Two long-distance shooters, a backup point guard and an offensive-minded center can only help. The new Cavs have the benefit of time, since they arrived earlier, so we’ve already seen their impact. Here’s a suggestion: How about OKC and the Cavs meet up in the NBA Finals? They can settle the issue there.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. No team more directly addressed their needs than the Cavs, who improved a bottom-10 defense by adding Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert, and added some much needed depth on the wings (where they were counting on a rookie second round pick at times) with Shumpert and J.R. Smith. The addition-by-subtraction move of sending Dion Waiters to Oklahoma City can’t be ignored either. Oklahoma City reinforced its bench at the deadline, but that deal had a lot to do with Reggie Jackson’s unwillingness to be there, and the Thunder didn’t need a trade as much as they need a healthy Kevin Durant. The Heat addressed a real need at point guard, but Goran Dragic could opt out this summer and the Chris Bosh situation takes away the pick-and-pop big that would have made Dragic especially tough to defend.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I don’t know if they “outdid” them or not, but I love what the Thunder did in remaking their bench with the additions of D.J. Agustin, Enes Kanter, Steve Novak and Kyle Singler. They did jettison one of my favorite players in the league in Reggie Jackson, who clearly had to go somewhere to run his own team (and Detroit is a great landing spot for him). With rookie big man Mitch McGary stepping up and Kanter showing some early signs, the Thunder have a young big man rotation (that also includes my main man Blunt Force Trauma himself, Steven Adams) that should be the envy of the league. It might not take this season but a year from now, a healthy roster with these guys holding down the middle, looks formidable.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comWhat is interesting about the moves by Cleveland and Oklahoma City is that both teams are trying to win the championship right now. I’m guessing it will be easier for the Thunder to integrate Enes Kanter and the array of new shooters. But if Perkins and Shumpert are able to instantly improve the defensive focus and toughness, then the upside may be higher in Cleveland.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To be honest, I still don’t think I’ve processed everything that happened at the trade deadline, which felt like an elaborate set-up for the greatest all-time edition of “Who He Play For?” While I like what Houston managed to do, adding a backcourt defender (Prigioni) and an elite wing athlete (McDaniels), A lot of the other trades felt like they were targeting the future. So from that standpoint, I think Cleveland made out the best. I was bullish on the trade at the time, because they added three quality players to a team that already had a lot of quality players, who’ve had an immediate, tangible impact. And they may not have made a trade at the deadline, but picking up Kendrick Perkins just continues to elevate their overall talent level.

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Blogtable: Thankful for a break

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Team that needs a break? | Top Popovich memory? | East’s future title team?



VIDEO: Blake Griffin is expected to miss at least a few weeks as he recovers from surgery

> It’s an extended All-Star break this season, with most teams getting at least 7-8 days off between games. Which team needs this break the most?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s easy to look at teams’ records over their past 10 games or so and point to the one(s) limping into the break at 3-7 or 2-8. But there’s no assurance stepping away from the court will fix anything. My answer is Sacramento – the Kings look like they’ll have a new, permanent coach in George Karl, clearing their air and bringing changes for what’s left of this regular season. 

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe Rockets and Clippers in the Western Conference can use the break just to keep the clock ticking on the rehab times of Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin. But the Rockets have demonstrated all season that they’re still capable of riding James Harden to wins and DeAndre Jordan showed the good things that can happen when he stepped up Monday night. But the team that could benefit most is Miami. The time off will help Dwyane Wade’s hamstring recover and to make sure Hassan Whiteside’s ankle is 100 percent. The Heat will need them both healthy for the stretch drive if they’re going to hold onto a playoff spot.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Clippers and Trail Blazers come to mind first. Not because they have hit a bad stretch, although that too, but because of the prominent injuries. Blake Griffin may be back soon and LaMarcus Aldridge gets a few days to rest his injury, too. Being able to heal without missing a game for a week or so is a help. That would be the case anyway, but especially in the cage match that is the Western Conference standings.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Clippers. They just finished up a tough Grammy road trip and when they return from the break, 11 of their next 14 games are against teams with winning records. Oh, and did I mention Blake Griffin needs perhaps three weeks to heal from elbow surgery? Done, then. Doc Rivers needs this time to help them regroup, find a system to use in Griffin’s absence, and also to study who might become available at or after the trade deadline to improve the bench.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWith a lot of guys picking up injuries in the last couple of weeks, there are a lot of teams that could use the break to reduce the number of games those guys miss. And obviously, the most important of those guys is Blake Griffin, not only because he’s a great player, but because the Clippers’ bench is so awful. He’s still going to miss a lot of games after the break, but every little bit helps and seven days off is seven days closer to Griffin’s eventual return.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe rest that comes with this extended All-Star break will be enjoyed by all 30 teams. But no one needs the time to fine tune things more than the Oklahoma City Thunder. They need to take a deep breath before making their second half playoff charge. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook need a little practice time with Mitch McGary, the Thunder’s second-half X-factor, and they need to make sure they get everyone the needed time to recharge their batteries for what is going to be an absolutely wild ride to the finish.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThere must be a dozen title and/or playoff contenders who are going to benefit. But I’m going to focus on the Thunder, who are fighting with the Pelicans and Suns for the final playoff spot and can use these extra days to renew the health of Kevin Durant.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogUm, all of them? Honestly, I can’t think of a team that doesn’t need a break, except for maybe Atlanta and Golden State, who have been so hot they may not want to disrupt their rhythm. I guess one team that may appreciate a rest more than most is Oklahoma City, which faces an uphill task the rest of the way as they try to fight their way not only toward finally getting everyone healthy but also up and into the postseason. And unlike most teams on the outside looking in, the Thunder will the hunted not the hunters, so they’ll have to do this with a target on their backs. Rest up, Thunder. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Blogtable: Future title team in East

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Team that needs a break? | Top Popovich memory? | East’s future title team?



VIDEOBrandon Knight has proven vital to the Bucks’ revival this season

> If you had to pick which Eastern Conference team will be closer to an NBA title in three years, who would you pick: Bucks, Celtics, Sixers or Knicks?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Give me Milwaukee. New York will buy stars, Boston has tradition, Philadelphia is rounding up high draft selections, but I’ve seen up close the changes in the Bucks culture with Jason Kidd and his staff on board. Kidd isn’t a great media guy but he apparently clicks with those in his locker room. The Bucks have several boxes already checked if they keep their guys (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker at forward, Brandon Knight in the backcourt), and more depth than the other three. This isn’t the old Milwaukee culture, either; new ownership has lit a fire under this franchise, with grandiose plans that center on a championship-contending team in a sparkling new arena, with retail and residential development and on and on. The Bucks are thinking of themselves as the little franchise that can.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThis is like asking which three-legged horse is going to win the Kentucky Derby in 2018. Of course, in thoroughbred racing so much is about bloodlines. So without counting in a lottery win by any of the teams this season, I’ll saddle up with a Sixers roster that in three years could include a healthy core of Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Dario Saric and Michael Carter-Williams and have the potential of Secretariat. With a foundation of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo and the continued good work of coach Jason Kidd, the Bucks will have a California Chrome chance. In three years, Danny Ainge’s master plan for the Celtics that began with Brad Stevens as coach could have his team looking like Smarty Jones. And the Knicks, well, that’s why they have glue factories.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Bucks. I don’t know that I would have said that at the start of the season, but Milwaukee has proven that it has the best building blocks. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker showed they are real building blocks, not potential in the distant future. They are both better — based on what we saw from Parker in the court, not on his game at this very moment — than any prospect on the other teams you mention. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, but if the topic is three years from now, ‘Melo may be hanging on. Ask again in mid-July. If Joel Embiid looks good in summer league and the 76ers have a good draft and/or add a veteran contributor in trade or free agency, I could see Philly getting close to the front of the line.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Bucks, only because I can see more evidence of them turning the corner right now than the Sixers, Celtics and Knicks. The Bucks have at least 2 players with high ceilings, Giannis and Jabari Parker (assuming he returns OK) and a few others with decent ceilings (Khris Middleton, John Henson, Knight). They also own their picks and Jason Kidd seems like he’s made for coaching. Man, if Larry Sanders starts taking his maturity pills … 

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Bucks. They have two young stars – Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker – with high ceilings, more length and athleticism beyond those guys, and a defense that already ranks in the top five. I do like the potential of all the young guys the Sixers have already acquired (with one more top-seven pick on the way), and coach Brett Brown has proven that he can coach defense, too. But there are still more questions to be answered in Philly than there are in Milwaukee.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: There is so much that could happen between now and the next three years. Milwaukee appears to be closer than the others to the playoffs, but there is no guarantee they will be anywhere close to sniffing a NBA title. Based on history alone and Danny Ainge’s penchant for rolling the dice on smoething big on the trade and free agent front, I’m going with the Celtics. You have to take risks when you’re talking about contending, and no one is more willing to do that than Ainge.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Based on what we know today? It will be the Bucks. They have a young emerging (and inexpensive) roster with at least two future stars and new owners who are promising to adorn their franchise with the best of everything. The big question is whether the owners will be wise enough to recognize what they have in GM John Hammond – or will they want to hire their “own guy?” (If it turns out to be the latter, then I’ll retroactively change my pick to the Celtics.)

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Milwaukee. Only because the Celtics, Sixers and Knicks are all rebuilding with no clear direction to where they are going. At least the Bucks have their core of Giannis, Brandon Knight and, when he gets healthy, Jabari Parker. They have a coach who has shown he can communicate with these players, and new ownership committed to raising everyone’s circumstances. One of these other franchises may come across a pot of gold eventually, but right now they’re still searching for the ends of their rainbows.

Blogtable: Memories of Popovich …

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Team that needs a break? | Top Popovich memory? | East’s future title team?



VIDEO: The Spurs’ superstars reflect on what coach Gregg Popovich has meant to them

> He has 1,000 victories, multiple Coach of the Year awards, five NBA Championships … what’s the one thing (listed or otherwise) that stands out most in your mind about Gregg Popovich’s NBA coaching career?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’ll count down my top three Popovich thoughts. At No. 3, his maneuver to land Tim Duncan largely has been forgotten,but it was a tank job before people even called it tanking; David Robinson was hurt, so Popovich gassed then-coach Bob Hill and took over the coaching reins to make sure the Spurs had a legit lottery shot at their all-time franchise guy. Second, few coaches intimidated me as much when I first started covering him – I felt his early attack mode was driven at least partly by his own discomfort in those media exchanges – but now that we know each other, I look forward to the conversations (not mere interviews) we can have. And my No. 1 thing is Popovich’s resiliency. He went from defensive grinder to offensive innovator in mid-career to adjust to his roster, and he somehow turned the ultimate defeat in 2013 into the inspiration for yet another title with a group whose window allegedly had slammed shut.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: His unwavering dedication to doing whatever is in the long-term best interest of his players. It has cultivated an atmosphere of belief, loyalty, respect and those five championships.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comNone of the above. Nothing speaks to his greatness more than the accomplishments you listed, but I have ways been struck by the emotional more than the tangible. Pop’s ability to know which players need more maturing and which can handle his fury (Tony Parker) is a quality that brings out the best. He has developed younger players, plugged in veterans, completely changed his team’s style of play and hired great assistants because Gregg Popovich knows people as well as he knows an X or an O.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWell, it’s hard to ignore his championships or longevity, both of which will be written on his coaching tombstone once he retires. But the other thing that strikes me most is his ability to avoid the relationship issues that hurts so many coaches, even the successful ones. With few exceptions, maybe Stephen Jackson in his second stint with the Spurs, I can’t think of any player who ran afoul of Popovich. That’s hard to pull off for a guy who isn’t afraid to, um, express himself.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Popovich often tells his players, “Get over yourself” and he clearly listens to his own advice, because, though he’s won multiple championships, he’s always been open-minded and willing to adjust as the game and his team have evolved. As Tim Duncan got older Tony Parker got better, the Spurs went from relying more on post-ups to relying more on pick-and-rolls. They picked up things from offenses from Europe and from Mike D’Antoni to eventually evolve into the machine we saw in last year’s Finals. And in the summer of 2012, they took a step back and used analytics to figure out how to get back to being a top-five defensive team, which was the biggest reason they got back to The Finals and, on their second try, won a fifth championship. Popovich is an old-school coach in many ways, but he’s smart enough to know that he’ll never stop learning.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The thing that stands out most in my mind about Pop is that he has always found a way to get the best out of guys who someone else either never believed in or gave up on. Boris Diaw is one of the best examples. I watched Boris struggle with his first steps in the league when the Hawks could not figure out what to do with him (was he a point guard or not?). The Spurs have gotten the very best out of Boris, thanks to Pop’s no-nonsense/tough-love approach. He’s a master at the most important part of the coaching game, getting you to operate at your absolute best, no matter what.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He established the standards of teamwork while bridging the NBA toward its ultimate future as an international league. The day will come – many years from now, but it’s definitely on the way – when Americans will account for less than half of the league’s players. Popovich showed that NBA teams could win not in spite of the international players, but because of them.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: That he’s had exactly two head coaching jobs in his life. One at a Division III college, and then the one in the NBA where he’s won five titles and three Coach of the Year awards over two decades. Without naming names, there are coaches who bounce around and get opportunity after opportunity, and sure, sometimes it works and they finally find the right fit. But watching Pop’s success, and that of a guy like his longtime assistant Mike Budenholzer crushing it in his first head coaching gig, it makes me think that maybe there are times when it’s worth it to give the new guy a chance.

Blogtable: The Suns should root for …?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Cavs’ resurgence | Phoenix should root for …? | Atlanta’s final destination?



VIDEOA challenging stretch of games lie ahead for the Thunder

> The Thunder and Pelicans play a home-and-home set this week (Wednesday and Friday). If you’re the Phoenix Suns, who you rooting for here?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: You always root for the team that’s closer to you in the standings, so you root for OKC now and, if the Thunder start to make a real move, for New Orleans later. Overall, though, I think OKC poses the greater threat to Phoenix by virtue of its two stars (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) vs. one (Anthony Davis) but even more so because of the pressure on and expectations for the Thunder. Desperation is great motivation, and OKC should be desperate to salvage its season lest someone slam its championship window shut.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Definitely the Pelicans. The last thing you want to see if you’re the Suns is for the Thunder to get on a roll. With Durant and Westbrook, OKC has greater firepower and greater potential. We keep thinking that sooner or later the Thunder will rip off a long winning streak. The Suns need to have more weeks on the calendar pass before that happens and hope that OKC just runs out of time. On the other hand, the Pelicans have more weaknesses and inconsistency to their game to believe they can run the table for a long stretch.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comOKC to win one of the games in 12 overtimes followed by a dreadful travel delay for both, then New Orleans to win the other in 14 overtimes followed by travel hassles that are even worse. With fire alarms going off all through the night in the hotels of both road teams. That’s my rooting interest if I’m the Suns. It’s too early to scoreboard watch beyond hoping the competition is as worn out as possible for the second half of the season. I think Thunder when it’s OKC-Phoenix, I think Pelicans when it’s NOLA-Phoenix.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe Pelicans must’ve started eating whatever the Hawks were having because suddenly they’re pulling a surprise, beating the Raptors, Mavericks, Clippers and the 19-game-winning Hawks in the last two weeks. That said … if I’m the Suns, I’d take my chances of being chased by Anthony Davis than Russell and Durant. OKC is the more desperate team, in terms of making the playoffs. New Orleans would just be happy to be there.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Pelicans. They have a two-game edge in the standings and they’ve been playing a lot better than the Thunder, with seven wins in their last eight games against other teams in the West’s top 10, along with an impressive victory over the Hawks on Monday. But the Thunder are playing solid defense and just can’t seem to put the ball in the basket. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, I think they can figure out how to do that in the next two months. They’ve also won 12 of their last 14 games at home and have the West’s most home-heavy remaining schedule (20 home, 14 away). So, as Tony Montana would say, “C’mon Pelicans!”

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Pelicans. The Suns have enough drama in their lives just trying to hold on to that playoff spot that they couldn’t snag last year. They don’t need Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and the Thunder making things even more difficult. The Pelicans, playing better of late with Tyreke Evans finding his groove, don’t scare you the way the Thunder can when they get rolling. The Suns need to handle their own business, of course. But the Pelicans don’t make you nervous in the same way the Thunder can when they are playing desperation ball down the stretch of the season.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: You are rooting for New Orleans – but in vain, I fear. With more than two months still to play, OKC has plenty of time to get hot and become the most dangerous No. 8 seed in memory. That’s the most likely outcome, so long as the Thunder are healthy, and regardless of their home-and-home vs. Anthony Davis.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogA split? Can both teams lose? The Suns are in a tough spot, with two good teams breathing down their necks with the postseason not all that far away. As great as the Pelicans looked in dismantling the Hawks earlier this week, they’ve struggled to play with that kind of purpose consistently, which to me is mostly a reflection of their youth and inexperience. OKC may be hovering at .500, but they seem oddly calm considering the circumstances, and not really close to hitting the panic button. So if I’m the Suns? I root for the Pelicans to get these two games on the Thunder, then hope that the Pelicans fly closer to earth down the stretch.

 

 

Blogtable: What’s changed for the Cavs?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Cavs’ resurgence | Phoenix should root for …? | Atlanta’s final destination?



VIDEOJason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal discusses the state of the Cavs

> Don’t look now, but the Cavs are on an 11-game streak and seem to have figured out a thing or two about winning in the last few weeks. What has made the difference for this team, and will it last?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’m tempted to say sheer time – y’know, the weeks and months many of us talked about that Cleveland would need to get all its who’s, what’s and how’s in order (and then impatiently ignored). Clearly GM David Griffin’s moves to acquire Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert have helped. But to me, it was LeBron James’ two-week spa shutdown. James got himself right mentally and physically, while delivering a not-so-subtle message about what life without him might be like again. He came back rejuvenated and the Cavs’ players and coaches closed ranks around him.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: A Healthy LeBron and a healthy defense. In the last nine games of the streak the Cavs have held opponents to under 100 points and shooting no better than 44 percent.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’s too easy to say giving Dion Waiters, the Josh Smith of January, an outbound ticket changed everything. As bad a fit as he was in Cleveland, he was not a central figure on the court. But sometimes trades have emotional impact. It can put pressure on the remaining players that they are out of excuses. And other times, it’s simply a matter of time. The Cavaliers had a lot to figure out and needed time. I was surprised how much figuring out was necessary and how bad things got, but thought it was a team still capable of a playoff run. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James are going good while playing together. This isn’t the end result, but it’s a very encouraging midseason progress report for the Cavs.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Well, the main difference is LeBron. Back from injury, and back with a vengeance. He’s more aggressive, unforgiving and business-like than before. The secondary force, of course, lies from the two trades which may have saved the Cavs’ season. Timofey Mozgov is the big fella they needed, especially defensively, while J.R. Smith is very willing to take big shots (and sometimes makes them). If Iman Shumpert can still D-up, the Cavs might be streaking for a while.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The improvement has been on both ends of the floor, and it starts with LeBron James. Upon returning from his eight-game absence, he took on a bigger load offensively (his usage rate is up) and made more of an effort defensively. When he’s engaged, he’s still the best player in the world. The addition of Timofey Mozgov has also helped the D (the Cavs have allowed less than 93 points per 100 possessions with both James and Mozgov on the floor), and the subtraction of Dion Waiters (the team’s least efficient scorer) also helped the O.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The main difference is the tweak the Cavaliers have made to their pick and roll defensive coverages and the way … haha. Come on, you know LeBron James has made the biggest difference for this team in their turnaround. The moment he returned from his injury/rest and rehab hiatus he’s been a different player and the Cavaliers have been a different team. For all the bellyaching folks did about him he appeared to be something other than engaged early on, LeBron is locked in right now. He’s smart enough to know that he can make the difference for a team with aspirations of being a contender (check the rear view for what’s going on in Miami). When he’s plugged in and energized, everything the Cavaliers do looks different and, for the most part, much better. You are welcome David Blatt. Sincerely, LJ.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Doesn’t it all come down to LeBron’s good health? When fully active he’s able to help everyone else look better, on defense especially. And isn’t it funny how we’re not hearing complaints about David Blatt’s supposed weaknesses anymore …

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, there’s one pretty clear difference that kicked in right around the time this streak started, and his initials are LBJ. But other than being 11-1 since LeBron returned from injury, the main thing I see is that now the Cavs are playing with real speed. After a wobbly start, they’re the running, pace-setting team we expected they would be when they began their extreme makeover this summer. They’ve scored at least 100 points in 11 of their last 13 games and are good enough defensively to have held their last nine opponents under triple figures.

 

Blogtable: The road ahead for Atlanta

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Cavs’ resurgence | Phoenix should root for …? | Atlanta’s final destination?



VIDEOThe Starters point out an area of concern for the Hawks

> The Hawks’ historic winning streak is over, but their season, of course, is not. How will this all end for Atlanta? Will we still be talking about the Hawks in late May? In June?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI still like Cleveland to get out of the East, though a Finals in Atlanta would be a thoroughly unexpected hoot. The Hawks have been good for the league – you don’t need megastars to win, see? – and a conference championship between them and the Cavs would be as much a referendum on modern team-building as it would be a best-of-seven playoff showdown. Can’t say I fully trust their perimeter-based attack in the grinding postseason, and the absence in Atlanta’s rotation of someone like LeBron James or Kyrie Irving to get whistles and earn easy points could swing a game or two at the least opportune time. Anything less than three rounds, though, would be a disappointment now to all concerned, so yeah, I think the Hawks keep flying and ka-kawing till about Memorial Day.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: There is nothing flukey about the Hawks. They’re a solid lineup with three legitimate All-Stars, arguably a deserving fourth in Kyle Korver and with good depth with a fun young wild card in Dennis Schroeder. They’re a top six team in offensive and defensive ratings thanks to the job done by Coach of the Year candidate Mike Budenholzer. They move the ball a la the Spurs, play for and with each other. I’m definitely expecting to see them still playing in late May and, at this point, a push all the way to the NBA Finals isn’t out of the question. The Hawks are for real.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: May, yes. June, maybe. A lot of what happens in the playoffs depends on matchups, so lets wait and see. But if you’re asking if the Hawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwks are legit threats to make The Finals: absolutely. This is no good run. This is a team that has been coming since last season. The first half of 2014-15 is a convincing body of work.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI like the Hawks. When you play good defense, find the open man and make 3-pointers, you tend to go far in the postseason. Provided that there’s no lapse in those areas, I don’t see why the Hawks can’t reach the East finals or even win the conference. Of course, Atlanta’s been healthy. We still haven’t seen the real Bulls, or the real Cavs. Can I reserve my final judgment until then?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I really have no idea. I think they’ll finish the regular season with the best record in the East and it wouldn’t shock me to see them in The Finals. But I still don’t know what to make of Chicago, which has all the tools to be a great team on both ends of the floor, or Cleveland, which has the world’s best player and a strong supporting cast if they can all get on the same page. Especially with the defensive upgrades that the Cavs have made, it’s impossible to dismiss either of those teams as potential postseason roadblocks.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: You mean Hawks fans won’t be satisfied with the fifth-best winning streak in league history and a first-round playoff exit? Kidding, of course. The optimist in me can see the Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals and me throwing a monster barbecue here at headquarters for my NBA.com brothers who travel back and forth between Atlanta and Cleveland or Chicago for that series. I think they are that good and the foundation of what coach Mike Budenholzer has built is that sound. It’s a winning formula that translates to the postseason. If you get that far, June is certainly a possibility. I think this is a season where we’re going to get some new blood in The Finals. I’m rooting for new blood on both sides of the conference divide — no offense to the blue bloods.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: You’re asking whether they’ll be maintaining this high level three months from now. That’s a long run for a team that has never been in this position before. If they could pull it off, then it would be one of the most inspiring performances of this era. But think about it – the reason it would be so inspiring is because it would be so unlikely for a team without stars to dominate this star-driven league.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To me the key thing here is, “How will all this end for Atlanta?” Because regardless of how this ends for the Hawks, considering the recent history and relationship between the city of Atlanta and the Hawks, this season is pretty much the greatest thing that could have happened. Fans are excited and energized and they are so, so ready to embrace a winner. Winning 19 in a row in the regular season is incredible, no doubt, but if the Hawks lose early in the postseason, you’ll probable hear some grumbles around town of “Same old Hawks…” The only way to keep Atlanta invested? Keep winning.

Blogtable: Reflecting on Klay

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Your All-Star reserves | Reflecting on Klay | Bold second-half prediction



VIDEOBrent Barry reflects on watching Klay Thompson’s NBA-record 37-point quarter

> OK, you’ve had several days to reflect on Klay Thompson’s historic 37-point third quarter Friday night. What’s your one takeaway — the one thing that stands out most in your mind — after witnessing that incredible display?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Not to turn this into hockey or baseball, but I’m mostly surprised in the aftermath that Thompson didn’t get knocked down or drawn into a skirmish or otherwise just sent to the foul line to do more of his damage. It reminded me of Kobe Bryant‘s 81-point game and how the Toronto coach, Sam Mitchell, knew that old-school NBA players would have made the Lakers star pay a heftier physical price than just developing tennis elbow from all his shooting. The Kings seemingly did nothing to disrupt the roll Thompson was on, and they got what they deserved.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: That he accomplished something that was beyond the feats of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant — anyone in history — and made it look as smoooooooth and easy as licking an ice cream cone.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: That it won’t be what will define him. It was some meteor shower on Friday night and the third quarter alone was historic, but it also wasn’t a flash moment for Thompson. He has been very good all season, at an All-Star level whether he gets an invitation to New York in February or not because he is not just a scorer. Watch him win a playoff game by grinding on defense. And he may not have a better quarter — 99 percent of anyone who ever played in the NBA won’t — but Thompson will have other monster shooting games. This is not a guy who got on a hot streak. This is a hot guy.

Klay Thompson's shot chart

Shot chart from Klay Thompson’s historic 3rd quarter

 

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: That he assisted on the Warriors’ only basket in the quarter in which he didn’t score? Well, what I really took away is you could make a case for Thompson being as good a player — definitely better all-around because of his defense — as Steph Curry. And Curry was my midseason pick for MVP. Yes, I realize Thompson doesn’t do this every night — who could go for 37 besides Wilt? But he’s a deadly shooter who manages to square up and face the basket every time, and makes for a tremendous duo with Curry. Last year I laughed when coach Mark Jackson said they’re the best shooting backcourt ever (Jerry West and Gail Goodrich are my pick). Now? I’m starting to believe.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe shot chart from Klay Thompson’s 37-point quarter is getting blown up and made into a poster for my office wall. Seriously, how ridiculous was that shooting effort? I’ve been an unabashed supporter of his for a while now. I just like the way he goes about his business and the fact that he’s a two-way cat. He goes as hard on defense as he does on offense. And for a shooter as accomplished as he is, that’s the most remarkable aspect of his game for me. But go back and look at that shot chart one more time and see where he attacked from and how ruthlessly efficient he was. Incredible. Just flat-out incredible.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He seemed to get the shots off faster and faster as it went along. There was zero caution. He wasn’t looking for sure things and he didn’t care if the thing came to an end. The longer he extended his streak, the bolder he grew.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: A few years ago there was some sort of academic-ish study going around that claimed to debunk the “hot hand” in basketball. Getting “hot” or being “in the zone,” whatever you want to call it, was researched and, supposedly, proven impossible. There may not be a way to explain it, but anyone who’s played basketball will tell you about that one time when that one person just couldn’t miss. Well, I didn’t believe the hot hand fallacy then and I still don’t believe it now. And I’m willing to bet if you ask Klay Thompson or anyone who watched that game, they don’t believe it, either.