Blogtable: Best offensive rebounder in NBA today?

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: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever? | NBA’s best offensive rebounder today? | What you remember most about Malone?

VIDEOMoses Malone’s 30-point, 30-rebound game from 1982 vs. Seattle

> Moses Malone is the NBA’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds, but who is the best offensive rebounder in the NBA right now, today?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comWhen Detroit’s Andre Drummond grabbed 440 offensive rebounds in 2013-14, he was the first player with more than 400 in a season in 16 years (Jayson Williams had 443 in 1997-98). Drummond had 33 percent more than the No. 2 man, DeAndre Jordan. Then last season, Drummond grabbed 437, topping runner-up Jordan by 40. So with all due respect to the Clippers center and to wily Zach Randolph in Memphis, the easy answer here is Drummond.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Andre Drummond. More than five per game last season? That’s how to make a big contribution on offense while not having much of an offensive game, or at least a traditional offensive game.

Shaun Powell, After watching him rip through the playoffs last season I’m tempted to nominate Tristan Thompson. He goes for more second helpings than you at Thanksgiving. But the premier offensive rebounder is Andre Drummond, and he’s still learning how to play the game. Imagine what happens when he develops a post move or a mid-range shot. Until then, the offensive glass is what he does very well, better than most.

John Schuhmann, Andre Drummond was the league leader in offensive rebounding percentage last season, but DeAndre Jordan was second while playing for a coach — Doc Rivers — who doesn’t want to sacrifice transition defense for offensive boards. No team allowed a lower percentage of their opponents’ shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock than the Clippers, who ranked 28th in offensive rebounding percentage as a team. With that context, the case could be made that Jordan is the better offensive rebounder among two similarly long and bouncy bigs.

Sekou Smith, Andre Drummond‘s the only player in the league to average more than five offensive rebounds per game last season, so he has to get the nod. But I love watching DeAndre Jordan (4.8 offensive rpg and a league-leading 15 rpg last season) do his work around the rim for the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s huge, like Drummond, and uses every bit of his size and athleticism to his advantage on the boards. He does it with more flair than Drummond and does it in a dominant fashion on a team where he’s never really been featured on that end of the floor.

Ian Thomsen, Andre Drummond dominated during the regular season, but the big man who made you think of offensive rebounding as a weapon last year was Tristan Thompson. As the Cavaliers’ scorers went down during the playoffs, Thompson tirelessly created second-chances while helping to drive his team within reach of the championship.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogBy all the stats, Detroit’s Andre Drummond is pretty effective, by a pretty healthy margin, with DeAndre Jordan not far off. But fresh in my mind is the work Tristan Thompson did during the NBA Finals. We always hear from coaches that rebounding is mostly about effort over anything else, and I thought Thompson showed that during The Finals.

Blogtable: What will you remember most about Moses Malone?

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: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever? | NBA’s best offensive rebounder today? | What you remember most about Malone?

VIDEOMoses Malone career retrospective

> The NBA lost one of its all-time greats when Moses Malone died Sunday at age 60. What will you remember most about the “Chairman of the Boards?”

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’ll remember Moses as a man of few words, whose comments took on greater import and pithiness because he wasn’t all that talkative. I’ll remember the pools of sweat he left at both ends of every court on which he played – hardest working and most perspiring man in the game at the time. Unfortunately, though, I think I’ll remember how jarring it was to see Malone play for so many teams in his career. Legendary players aren’t supposed to pack their bags that often – even skipping his ABA stops due to that league’s shoddy finances, Malone changed NBA teams eight times. For a while it almost seemed like a Moses-of-the-month club, with Malone spread around the league so everyone could have him for a stint. Guess that makes him both old-school and very modern, as pro athletes go.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Probably the tenacity. It seemed like if there was a rebound anywhere in the area code, he would grab it. Imagine the number of times an opponent got chewed out by their coach for not sealing Malone off the offensive boards. Coaches must have gone hoarse. Moses had good size, but he wasn’t Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain. But when the ball was coming off the rim, it didn’t matter.

Shaun Powell, Moses wasn’t the most eloquent speaker and was rather reluctant to do interviews, but he came up with a few gems. Of course, there was “fo, fo, and fo” and also the quip about “me and four guys from Petersburg” being able to beat up the Celtics in The Finals. He nicknamed his two young boys “Harvard” and “Yale” because that’s where he said they were going to school (neither did). And finally, Moses remarked how he “learned” Hakeem Olajuwon how to play the game and after getting roasted by a young Hakeem regretted that he “learned him too good.”

John Schuhmann, I don’t know if “underrated” is the right word, but looking back at Malone’s career, he clearly doesn’t get mentioned enough as one of the best big men in NBA history. When you look at his shooting numbers (49 percent for his career, only five seasons at 50 percent or better), he obviously wasn’t as efficient as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal. But by rebounding so many of his own misses (and that he shot free throws better than all of those guys), he kind of made up for that. Really, his numbers are right there with Shaq.

Sekou Smith, In addition to this Air Force 1 poster that hung on the bedroom wall when I was a kid, it’s the fact that Moses was a technician. The polish and proficiency of his game, on both ends of the floor, is what will always stick out to me about him. He dominated with what would classify now as an “old school” style that didn’t rely on his physical prowess as much as it did his pure skill and ability to wear you out by beating you to all the sweet spots on the floor. You don’t score and rebound the way he did, at his size, without being an absolute technician. 

Ian Thomsen, I think about how he was underestimated when the ABA folded in 1976. In the ensuing dispersal draft Malone was chosen second by the Blazers (their first pick was Maurice Lucas) and was then unloaded to the Buffalo Braves for a first-round pick (which turned into Rick Robey). The Blazers already had Bill Walton, who would lead them to the 1976-77 championship — but that doesn’t change the fact that they and the Braves undervalued 21-year-old Malone, who was traded again for a pair of first-rounders (Wesley Cox and Micheal Ray Richardson) to the Rockets. Two years later, Malone would be the NBA’s MVP, and in 1981 he would lead the Rockets to the NBA Finals. The misunderstanding of his potential was stunning.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog I was in middle school in 1988, when my hometown Atlanta Hawks signed a then 32-year-old Moses Malone to team him with Dominique Wilkins and Reggie Theus and give the Hawks, finally, a potent inside-out attack and make them a presumptive Eastern Conference contender. I may have only been a kid, but I knew enough about the NBA to know that these Hawks had a chance to be special, so I mowed lawns all summer and raised $205 and bought a $5 season ticket for that ’88-89 season. By then Moses wasn’t the dominant glass demon he’d been earlier in his career, but he was still effective and still worthwhile. The main thing I remember was how often he seemed to miss short shots intentionally when nobody was near him, and how through this my friends and I learned what it meant to “pad” one’s stats. Many times after games, we would hang around near the locker rooms and ask for autographs. Moses wasn’t the most enthusiastic autograph giver, but he usually made himself available eventually. One night someone asked him if he had any extra shoes he could give away, and without looking up, Moses said, “Ain’t got no shoe contract.” What made this even better was he was starring in a national Nike commercial at the time.

Blogtable: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever?

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: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever? | NBA’s best offensive rebounder today? | What you remember most about Malone?

VIDEOThe Sixers sweep away the Lakers in the 1983 Finals

> After winning 65 games in the 1982-83 regular season, Moses Malone’s 76ers went 12-1 in the postseason and swept the Lakers 4-0 in The Finals. Was this the most dominating postseason performance ever?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThanks to Malone’s “Fo’, fo’, fo'” prediction, the 1983 Sixers’ postseason run might be the easiest to remember in terms of their 12-1 record (only Milwaukee got a game from them, defending home court while down 0-3). But it takes two teams to make for a great series and a succession of them to elevate a playoff run. While Philadelphia’s gauntlet to the title was challenging, it wasn’t as tough as the one the Los Angeles Lakers ran in 2001 while going 15-1 or what the Chicago Bulls faced either in 1996 (15-3) or 1991 (15-2). The ’00-01 Lakers outscored Portland by an average of 14.7 points, Sacramento by 9.2 and San Antonio by 22.2 in starting 11-0. They dropped Game 1 of The Finals against feisty Allen Iverson (48 points) but were far superior to that overmatched Sixers squad as they won the series’ next four.

Scott Howard-Cooper, That team, the 2001 Lakers that went undefeated against three 50-win opponents in the West before beating Philly for the title or the 1996 Bulls that crushed everyone in sight before a brief stumble in The Finals. Maybe the 76ers of 1983 get the edge because they swept a very good Lakers club, the defending champions, for the championship. That was a higher degree of difficulty than the others. L.A. had a lot of talent and couldn’t come close to keeping up.

Shaun Powell, Well, the Shaq-Kobe Lakers of 2000-01 get the nod because they had to play an extra round (under the 16-team playoff format) and their only loss in the postseason was in overtime during The Finals (coincidentally in Game 1 against the Sixers). Also, the Moses-Doc Sixers had a few close calls along the way; winning two against the Knicks by a total of five points and sweating out an OT win against the Bucks. Besides, while that Bucks team was maybe the best in Milwaukee history (they swept the Celtics), the Sixers didn’t have to go through Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, who tormented them the years before.

John Schuhmann, Statistically, the 2000-01 Lakers (15-1) were the most dominant team in the postseason, outscoring their opponents by 13.5 points per 100 possessions. Nine of their 15 wins came by more than 10 points. The ’82-83 Sixers only outscored their opponents by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, winning only two games by more than 10 points. The ’90-91 Bulls (15-2, +12.6 points per 100 possessions) aren’t far behind the Lakers.

Sekou Smith, It was indeed the most dominating postseason performance in my lifetime. The Sixers were loaded and swept the defending champion Lakers in The Finals. How good or great a team was depended on its parts, how dominant it was depended on the quality of the competition. The 1983 Sixers reached The Finals with an 8-1 record and then swept a championship team. That speaks volumes.

Ian Thomsen, I’ve got to go with Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls. After going 72-10 in the regular season, they won 14 of their first 15 playoff games, including seven straight victories against teams that had won 60 games. Can we forgive them for losing twice in the NBA Finals after seizing a 3-0 lead over the Seattle SuperSonics? We should: That team was unbeatable.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogJust how old do you think I am? I don’t remember the 1983 Finals, but a 12-1 postseason run, at least on the surface, sure seems dominant. The only other team to me that sticks out as similarly dominant is the 2002 Lakers, who won a title with a 15-4 postseason record.

Blogtable: Taking Mozgov or Thompson?

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: New coach with toughest gig? | Best international player today? | Mozgov or Thompson?

VIDEOTimofey Mozgov’s game was sparked by a trade to Cleveland

> Timofey Mozgov or Tristan Thompson? Assuming the Cavs won’t sign both players to lucrative long-term deals, who’s the better choice for the money in Cleveland?

Steve Aschburner, Straight up, I’d prefer Tristan Thompson – five years younger, more vaunted upside, high-revving motor, great disposition, more versatility. But for this Cavaliers team, it’s Mozgov. Those four inches and 20 pounds or so he has over Thompson matter, even in today’s corner-3-crazy game. More than that, LeBron James “plays nice with” and really seems to value traditional big men, from Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Anderson Varejao to Mozgov. He banged the drum for TT as a “lifetime Cav” too, but that team took off after Mozgov’s arrival and James knows it.

Scott Howard-Cooper, It’s Thompson. In the conversation that Thompson will be back this season, Mozgov will cost less, and there is something to be said for that considering the money the Cavs have already pushed to the middle of the table. It will be slightly less if Thompson takes the qualifying offer or a lot less if Thompson and Cleveland do a new contract. Either way, Thompson is the better choice for the money. He has a longer future and more upside, along with the larger contribution now.

Shaun Powell, I’ll go with Timofey Mozgov if only because he’s a natural center, while Tristan Thompson must share the power forward position with a guy who just received a ton of money from the Cavs. Besides, Mozgov brings better offensive skills and a few extra inches in height.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThompson is five years younger and has missed only six games in his four-year career, but he plays the same position as Kevin Love.  Mozgov, meanwhile, is the more important player right now, because he’s the better rim protector on a team that needs defense more than offense from its role players. If I could keep Mozgov at 2/3 the price of Thompson (giving me more flexibility to build around my core), it would be an easy choice.

Sekou Smith, I’m going with Tristan … until we see another half season, or more, of Mozgov playing the way he did in the playoffs (and specifically The Finals). They are both hugely important to Cleveland’s title chances going forward. And while Kevin Love could easily take those minutes Thompson played during last season’s run to The Finals, I still think the Cavaliers are at their best with Thompson controlling the paint with his rebounding and defense. It’s not an easy choice, but Thompson’s value on and off the floor wins out.

Ian Thomsen, Thompson is more versatile defensively – they can play small around him – and his departure would threaten a rift between the franchise and LeBron James. If they’re going to keep only one of them then it has to be Thompson, in spite of Mozgov’s effectiveness.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI thought Mozgov and Thompson were equally impactful in their own ways during the postseason for the Cavs. And while Mozgov has developed into a nice center, particularly when he’s playing alongside LeBron James, if I have to commit to one of these guys long term, I’m going with Tristan Thompson. Not only is Thompson five years younger than Mozgov, but it seems like last season, Thompson realized that hustle will get you everywhere, and he started playing with the pedal floored at all times. Thompson is not a great shooter, but he doesn’t have to be if he’s going to work the boards and take most of his shots from a few feet from the basket. The offensive skills can still be developed. But if he can sustain the hustle, that’s the guy I want on my team for the long haul.

Blogtable: NBA’s best international player?

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: New coach with toughest gig? | Best international player today? | Mozgov or Thompson?

VIDEOTop 10 plays from Grizzlies center Marc Gasol

> The NBA had 101 international players on its opening-day rosters last season, and could add another 10-12 this season. Who is the best international player in the NBA right now, today?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comWe’re not talking lifetime achievement (Dirk Nowitzki), right? Nor are we going with the foreign-born guy we’d draft No. 1 for the career he’ll put together (possibly Andrew Wiggins)?  Fine. For today and this season, give me Marc Gasol, the first-team All-NBA center and a top-10 finisher in Kia MVP balloting last season. At 30, he’s at the peak of his power and in his best physical shape ever. He’s got size, he boasts multiple skills and he’s a tremendous teammate and individual.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Marc Gasol. Tony Parker is still in the conversation with his overall shooting and 3-point range plus the intangibles as one of the centerpieces of all that is right in San Antonio (the underwhelming per-game numbers in other categories are misleading because the Spurs don’t assign him a heavy workload). And there were times in the past it seemed that Joakim Noah was ready to make a push up the ranking. Gasol’s 2014-15 earned the top spot, though. Offense, defense, professionalism. That’s deserving of No. 1.

Shaun Powell, Marc Gasol at one point wasn’t even the best foreign-born player in his own family. But now he has squeezed ahead of not only Pau Gasol but Dirk Nowitzki (on the downside of a great career), Tony Parker, Serge Ibaka, etc. In a few years he may pass the baton to Andrew Wiggins. We’ll see.

John Schuhmann, If Tim Duncan counts as an international player, he’s still No. 1, with Marc Gasol a close second. Duncan is still an impact player on both ends of the floor, and his leadership and coachability can’t be discounted. Tony Parker is more important to the Spurs’ offense than Duncan is at this point, but isn’t the two-way player that his teammate is. Dirk Nowitzki, meanwhile, has become a real liability on defense.

Sekou Smith, This is Marc Gasol’s honor and mantle to carry until someone else from the international pool takes it. A physical brute and an absolute technician as the backbone of the Memphis Grizzlies, Marc is no longer playing in the shadow of big brother Pau. The ultimate testament to Marc’s journey is that you don’t have to make a case for him by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of any of the other candidates. He’s earned his spot at the top of the international heap by working his tail off and becoming an All-Star and All-NBA player without any glaring flaws in his game.

Ian Thomsen, Tony Parker is the best today, and right beside him is teammate Tim Duncan (born and raised in the Virgin Islands) in the present day – in addition to being the undisputed best international NBA player of all time.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogThe first player to come to mind was Dirk Nowitzki, because he’s been the best international player in the NBA for so long. But with Dirk aging and playing less of a role with the Mavericks, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere. Al Horford? Andrew Wiggins? Pau Gasol? (Does Kyrie Irving count, since he was born in Australia?) But even considering all of those guys, I think I might have to go with Marc Gasol. It’s easy to forget about him because while he was one of the top free agents this summer, he stayed below the radar and re-signed with the Grizzlies. But at just 30 years old, Marc Gasol is still one of the top centers in the NBA, with one of the most diverse skillsets in the league.

Blogtable: New coach with the most challenging job?

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: New coach with toughest gig? | Best international player today? | Mozgov or Thompson?

VIDEOFred Hoiberg talks about the Bulls during Summer League

> Including George Karl — who joined the Kings more than halfway through last season — which of the league’s six new coaches faces the biggest challenge in 2015-16?

Steve Aschburner, It’s tempting to say Karl because gawkers already are buttering their popcorn and pulling up chairs to watch the pyrotechnics between the coach and DeMarcus Cousins, his most talented player. But I think Billy Donovan’s challenge in OKC is greater. He has very little wiggle room in shepherding the Thunder to championship contention, what with his stars dragging considerable injury histories while he lugs the “college guy stepping up to the pros” pressure that will lurk just below the surface all season.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Exactly who you named: George Karl. Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan face the most pressure to win big right away, and Donovan has the additional challenge of needing to make a strong connection with free agent-to-be Kevin Durant while winning big right away, Karl is the only “newcomer” who must change the culture as well as the standings. The Kings are expecting to get to respectable this season. They are also expecting to get an emotional stability. George is a linchpin to both.

Shaun Powell, Billy Donovan has the most at stake. I’ll use that as my measuring tool. OKC is primed for a title run and Kevin Durant is staring at free agency next summer. A championship will end most if not all chances of KD bolting. Therefore, Donovan’s importance is twofold. He must show enough as a coach to, at the very least, give OKC some hope and also form a bond with Durant. I’ll go with Donovan just ahead of Fred Hoiberg, who needs to teach Derrick Rose some new tricks.

John Schuhmann, The most pressure is obviously on Billy Donovan, who has to get the Thunder back to the top of the Western Conference and keep Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City beyond this season. But Mike Malone has the toughest task, because there’s no clear path to success on either end of the floor in Denver. Emmanuel Mudiay could eventually be a special player, but as they stand, the Nuggets don’t have much defense on their frontline or much shooting in their backcourt.

Sekou Smith, Billy Donovan and George Karl have a ton at stake in their respective situations, and no one will deal with greater expectations than Donovan will in Oklahoma City this season. But the greatest challenge belongs to Alvin Gentry in New Orleans, where an otherworldly talent (Anthony Davis) has to be nurtured and molded into a player many believe has the potential to soon be the best player in the game. That’s an entirely separate challenge in addition to winning enough games to remain in the Western Conference playoff mix. It’s a huge challenge that I think Gentry is perfectly suited for and will run wild with this season and beyond.

Ian Thomsen, Not only is Billy Donovan facing the biggest challenge, he also has the greatest likelihood for success. One reason why most NCAA coaches fail in the NBA is because their teams lack talent. Donovan’s Thunder rank among the most talented teams in the NBA – and he has the backing of his front office as well as the temperament and intelligence to succeed as efficiently as possible, even amid the complications of Kevin Durant’s comeback and free agency.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog I am interested to see how things will go for Fred Hoiberg in Chicago. Most of the other new coaches (i.e. Mike Malone, Flip Saunders, Scott Skiles and Karl) have walked into situations with low expectations. If they don’t turn things around immediately, well, one could argue nobody expected anything spectacular, at least right away. Billy Donovan is going to face high expectations in OKC, certainly, but a team with a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should at the very least make the postseason, which would be an improvement from last season. But the Bulls are coming off a 50-win season, and they haven’t missed the postseason since 2008. They’ve been good enough for long enough, and fans expect better than they got from the Bulls under Tom Thibodeau. Good luck with that.

Blogtable: Can any team challenge the USA in Rio in 2016?

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: Remembering “Chocolate Thunder | Can anyone beat USA in 2016? |
Name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team


VIDEO: USA Basketball Showcase

>Qualifying for the Rio Summer Olympics continues this month with FIBA Americas and EuroBasket. Is there anybody out there who can truly challenge the USA in 2016?”

Steve Aschburner, “Truly” challenge, as in stand toe-to-toe and slug it out with Team USA? No, I don’t think so. But as a squad capable of pulling off an upset, I wouldn’t want to sleep on Canada. The group of north-of-the-border NBA players is young – Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson – so 2020 might be a year in which Canada makes real Olympic noise, but even one year out is going to make a difference for a tight and budding squad.

Fran Blinebury,  With a full complement of elite players the United States is easily the class of the field. But a key to the success that Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski have brought back to the USA Basketball is having respect for the field. You wouldn’t want to sleep on a Spanish team with Pau and Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez or France with Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert.

Scott Howard-Cooper,  Sure the U.S. can be challenged. The Olympics become a single-elimination tournament at some point, so anything is possible. And the rosters that have been together for years and play team ball are still dangerous. Spain is at the top of that list, while also noting that I like France’s possibilities as well. But it’s still Team USA’s gold to lose. The favorites before will be the favorites again.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe short answer is no. Under Jerry Colangelo and Coach K, the USA has shaped up and restored order in the basketball world. That said, in the future I’d keep a watch out on Canada and Australia.The Canadians under Steve Nash and with Andrew Wiggins and Co. are building something special. And Down Under, gaining steam is a growing generation of teens who are the children of American professional players.

John Schuhmann, In no particular order, the next three best teams are France, Serbia and Spain. The U.S. has a huge advantage in regard to talent and depth, and they put Serbia away early in the gold medal game of last year’s World Cup. But both France and Spain – with more size, experience and athleticism – are better equipped to knock them off should they cross paths. The U.S. will be the heavy favorite in Rio next year, but a gold medal is never a given when it’s a single-elimination format with 40-minute games.

Sekou Smith,  With all due respect to the competition, they all know they are going to Rio to fight for second place. That’s not American arrogance on display, it’s just reality. Even if there is a team capable of challenging the U.S. for a quarter or two, the group Jerry Colangelo and Coach K have assembled (whatever the 12-man roster) should prove too strong and too deep for Spain, France, Canada or any other crew eager to play hero. A true challenger is not on the radar right now and perhaps not anytime soon, provided the USA Basketball machine remains dialed in and well stocked.

Ian Thomsen, The old contenders – Spain, France and Argentina – could still be hanging on, but the team to watch (pending its qualification for Rio) is going to be Canada. By 2020 the Canadians will be the main challengers to the US – and they may emerge as early as next summer.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: At the risk of sounding overconfident, when Team USA is at their full-strength, I don’t think anyone can challenge them. A lineup of Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant would be dynamic and destructive, and that doesn’t even factor in a bench (Westbrook! CP3! Blake!) that could provide Coach K all sorts of mix and match options. Oh, and sure, Kobe we could use you, too. I assume the USA will meet stiff opposition along the way, perhaps from teams such as France or Spain or a younger team like Canada. But if Team USA is playing at their full potential, I think it will be a dream in Rio.

Blogtable: What will you remember most about “Chocolate Thunder?”

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: Remembering “Chocolate Thunder | Can anyone beat USA in 2016? |
Name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team



VIDEO: Remembering Darryl Dawkins

>The NBA lost one of its most charismatic players ever last week when Darryl Dawkins died at 58. What will you remember most about “Chocolate Thunder?”

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThere have been three players who have come into the NBA since I started paying attention (initially as a kid) about whom I recall thinking, “How is anyone going to stop that guy?” The first was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his sky hook, the third was Shaquille O’Neal with his sheer size and brute force. The one in the middle was Dawkins, a man-child who seemed like he might unwittingly hurt himself or another player with the power and rawness of his game. That he never averaged nine rebounds in a season is, to me, a testament to how undeveloped his skills remained, until injuries undercut his career further. The shattered backboards were sideshow stuff, as I saw it, that didn’t help folks take him more seriously. As for his wacky quotes and personality, I always like the simplicity of this one: “When everything is said and done, there’s nothing left to do or say.” RIP, DD.

Fran Blinebury,  Even as someone who was sitting courtside the night in Kansas City when Chocolate Thunder exploded the backboard, I’ll remember Darryl Dawkins more as the most friendly, charismatic, happy, fun-to-be-around person I have met in nearly four decades of covering the NBA.  Even nights when he was angry about something that happened during a game would end up with him cracking jokes and sending you away from his locker with a smile on your face.  He believed that enjoying life and enjoying people was more important than winning games.  Maybe that held Darryl back from reaching his full potential as a player, but it made him a special person.

Scott Howard-Cooper,  We didn’t realize it at the time, or at least realize the extent, but Dawkins was a marketing marvel ahead of his time. What a gregarious personality, what a gift of being able to connect with people, what a wit, all wrapped up in a mountain of a body that helped him stand out in other ways. Not only shattering backboards, but then labeling the dunk with a lengthy rhyme? The same guy now would break Twitter. He was Chocolate Thunder and he was from Lovetron. We were all better for it that alter ego Darryl Dawkins visited Earth and the NBA.

Shaun Powell, I’m thinking this is a trick question, because “shattered glass” is the first thing that comes to mind. I’ll give you the second and third: That square-off with Maurice Lucas during the NBA Finals; Luke would’ve dropped him had they gone the limit (RIP to Luke, by the way). And those colorful suits he wore, which were louder than an AC/DC concert.

John Schuhmann, When I was 9 or 10 years old (mid 80s), a basketball camp I was at got a visit from the biggest guy I had ever seen in my life. Darryl Dawkins was the first NBA player I ever met and the first autograph I ever got. He told some funny stories, threw down a few dunks, and signed for everybody there. Thirty years later, he had the same personality and the same willingness to engage with fans, young and old. For someone from the planet Lovetron, he was very down to earth.

Sekou Smith,  First and foremost, Darryl Dawkins was a larger than life personality light years ahead of his time. We love to talk about players who could transcend the time they played in and whether or not they could be as effective in another era. I think about him off the court, “Chocolate Thunder” in the social media age … we’d all be in stitches around the clock. That said, the one thing that I’ll remember most is seeing him during All-Star Weekends and other functions when he was around the other living legends of the game and seeing what kind of love they still have for a guy who was a fierce competitor and as big a personality as there was during all of their playing days. Plus, the man gave us a 10th planet, “Lovetron,” something no one will ever be able to top in terms of the greatest marketing creation any athlete has ever cooked up.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI remember interviewing him in his hotel room in Istanbul at the 1992 Euroleague Final Four. At that time Dawkins, 35, had been out of the NBA for three years. He was playing for Milan and coach Mike D’Antoni, who called him “the best player in Europe’’ and the fastest on his team. Dawkins was shooting better than 80% from the field in the Italian league because he was consistently passing up any shot that wasn’t two feet from the basket. “All he does is dunk,” D’Antoni said. In the Italian boxscores he was listed as Dawkins, Darryl Ricardo. “That was my mother did that to me,” he said of his middle name. “That was from her watching ‘I Love Lucy’ reruns all those years.” He was a character even then.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Dawkins was in that last generation of players that was before my time, so by the time I was avidly watching NBA games, Dawkins was finishing his NBA career out battling injuries playing for the Nets and Pistons. To me, more than anything, Dawkins was like some kind of myth. He broke not one, but *two* backboards? How was that even possible? And this was in an era before YouTube, so seeing a replay of one of Dawkins’ glass-shatterers was like stumbling across found footage of a long-rumored treasure. I know it’s much more difficult now with breakaway rims, but I still think someone breaking a backboard during the dunk contest on All-Star Weekend would be an instant contest-winner, and it’s still the one thing that nobody has pulled off in a dunk contest. Perhaps this year someone can figure out how to do it as a tribute to Chocolate Thunder.

Blogtable: All-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team

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: Remembering “Chocolate Thunder | Can anyone beat USA in 2016? |
Name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russia NBA team


VIDEO: The best of Arvydas Sabonis

>Former NBA standout Andrei Kirilenko has been elected president of the Russian Basketball Federation. Perfect time to ask you to name your all-time, All Soviet Union/Russian NBA team.

Steve Aschburner, Nobody told us there was going to be geography and geo-politics on this quiz. But here’s my best group of five: Kirilenko (Russia), Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania) and Zaza Pachulia (Georgia). The best of them likely was Sabonis, but he was an older, slower player by the time he reached the NBA with Portland at age 31. Loved his gruff exterior and his clever, Dan Quisenberry-like submarine passing.

Fran Blinebury,   I’m tempted to just go with the 1988 Olympic gold medalists, but have got to make room for the versatile AK-47 and the leading scorer from the infamous 1972 final over the U.S.

C : Arvydas Sabonis — We never saw him at the peak of his powers in the NBA.
F : Andrei Kirilenko — Slashing scorer, first-rate defender.
F : Aleksandr Volkov — Two so-so NBA seasons, but a force at PF for Soviet national team.
G : Sarunas Marciulionis — The feisty, aggressive guard opened the door for Europeans in the NBA.
G : Sergei Belov — Leading scorer in 1972 gold medal game, first international player voted into Naismith Hall of Fame.

Scott Howard-Cooper,  Fans of some of the former Soviet states won’t be happy — Arvydas Sabonis was Lithuanian, after all, and so on — but for purposes of the question:
C: Arvydas Sabonis
PF: Timofey Mozgov
SF: Andrei Kirilenko
SG: Sarunas Marciulionis
PG: Alexey Shved
If I’m missing anyone, and I can’t help but wonder I am, I hope they’re a guard. The frontline is the strength, especially Sabonis and Kirilenko as the top selections no matter the position. Sabonis is the best talent on the list, but in the context of NBA play, as the question says, Kirilenko is No. 1 after playing more years, playing better, and with his best seasons in the NBA. North American fans sadly mostly saw the injury-depleted Sabonis.

Shaun Powell, Sasha Volkov, Andrei Kirilenko, Arvydas Sabonis, Sarunas Marciulionis, Timofey Mozgov. That’s my squad, with Sabonis the obvious choice as the Godfather of Soviet/Russian ball. Becky Hammon just misses the cut.

John Schuhmann, Picking the frontcourt is pretty easy: Kirilenko, Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And I’ll go with Sarunas x 2 in the backcourt: Marciulionis and Jasikevicius, though the latter was a lot more fun to watch when he played for Lithuania than when he played for the Pacers and Warriors.

Sekou Smith,   Any team of this kind has to start with the great Arvydas Sabonis in the middle, flanked by Alexander Volkov and Kirilenko at the forward spots with the criminally underrated Sarunas Marciulionis in the backcourt alongside one of my all-time favorite big-moment competitors, Sarunas Jasikevicius. If Kirilenko had that kind of starting five to work with as president of the Russian Basketball Federation, he could ride the wave in that job for years.

Ian Thomsen, The old Soviet regime (unlike the former Yugoslavia) did not produce a lot of NBA guards, and neither has the Russian federation. So I am piecing together this team in faith that Sabonis and Ilgauskas could complement one another inside and outside, and that Kirilenko would have the skills and defensive versatility to shift to the backcourt when necessary.
C: Arvydas Sabonis
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
F: Alexander Volkov
F: Andrei Kirilenko
G: Sarunas Marciulionis

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Well, Kirilenko is on my team, if only for that run he had in the 2000’s with the Jazz, when he was fully healthy and seemingly capable of posting a quadruple-double on any given night. We always heard that we in the U.S. never saw the best of Arvydis Sabonis, but even playing with injured knees in Portland, he was pretty great. Sarunas Marciulionis won gold with the USSR at the 1988 Olympics, and had a great run with the Golden State Warriors. How about my main man Sasha Volkov, who was one of the pioneers of the international movement to the NBA when he played for some of the Atlanta Hawks’ better early-‘90s teams? And if we’re picking one for the future, Timofey Mozgov is coming off an NBA Finals appearance and looks like he still has a lot of years left in him.

Blogtable: Is Kobe the greatest Laker ever?

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: Favorite Kobe moment? | Should Kobe do Rio? | Greatest Kobe feat? | Greatest Laker ever?

VIDEOPlayers around the league show their appreciation for Kobe Bryant

> Is Kobe the greatest Laker of all time?  Explain.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comOne’s first duty in answering any question of this sort is to be protective of the predecessors, whether it’s a ’68 Mustang supposedly being eclipsed by the 2015 model or in this case, Kobe Bryant elbowing ahead of Jerry West and Magic Johnson. It’s hard to argue against “The Logo,” one of the best and classiest acts in NBA history, but Bryant – with his rings, his stats totals and his MVP trophy – has climbed higher among the game’s notables, which moves him past West as a swell Laker. I’m holding firm on Johnson, though, as the face of that franchise. We can quibble about the “greatest” definition, but Johnson was remarkable as a 6-foot-9 point guard who helped revive both the Lakers and the league with his team play and his smile. He also is my point guard on any by-position all-time team I put together and Bryant is a backup. So that splits my final hair here.

Fran Blinebury, You can put him in the conversation and I’ll listen. But Kareem and Magic are at the top of my list. One is the all-time leading NBA scorer with six MVPs and the other was the spark that lit the flame on five championship teams, nine Finals appearances in 12 years and began the modern era of the Lakers as the league’s most dominant franchise.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Jerry West is. He was a star as a player and a star as a general manager. It would be hard to find anyone who  impacted any organization in any sport so much. West had massive roles in championships on different levels. He coached the team as well. There is no reason to diminish anything Kobe has accomplished. But “The Logo” is the greatest Laker.

Shaun Powell, Magic Johnson is No. 1. Kareem is No. 2 only because he spent a chunk of his prime in Milwaukee. Then Kobe. By giving Kobe the nod over Jerry West and Elgin Baylor speaks plenty about the brilliance of Kobe’s career, because Elgin and Jerry were certainly no slouches (from what I understand; they were before my time). Kobe got buckets, was clutch and raised his game in the post-season. And aside from injuries, he was all that for two decades.

John Schuhmann, He’s clearly on the short list, but I can’t put him ahead of Magic Johnson, who was the most important player on all five championship teams he played on, had one of the three greatest Finals performances of all-time (1980, Game 6), and was obviously more of a galvanizing force for the Lakers, making his teammates better. I’ll always wonder if Kobe could have won more if he trusted his teammates just a little bit more.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNo. 1? Wow. That’s a tough one. I can’t go there, though, having lived through the Showtime Lakers era and seeing the impact Magic had on not only Lakers fans, but fans everywhere. Kobe’s right up there among the franchise’s greatest players ever, and perhaps even a 1A to Magic, but I can’t give him that No. 1 spot ahead of Magic.

Ian Thomsen, I’m going to say that Kobe rates No. 1, based on his longevity and the fact that he never had so much talent around him as Magic Johnson had in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Byron Scott and the rest. Kobe led from a more vulnerable position, in a league that was more competitive top-to-bottom.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I think he’s top three. To me, the top trio is Kobe, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And within that trio, I’d have Kareem third. Magic and Kobe may each have five titles, but when you consider their places in history, Magic came into the NBA at a time when it was struggling, and he helped transform it into the international behemoth it is today. Purely as a basketball player, Kobe may retire with the better career numbers, but being a Laker isn’t only what happens on the court. And in that sense, to me I don’t know if anyone will ever surpass Magic.