Posts Tagged ‘Ben Gordon’

Middle class getting rich in free agency

The Lakers brought back Jordan Hill (left) and Nick Young for a combined

The Lakers brought back Jordan Hill (left) and Nick Young (right) for a combined $39.5 million

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Early into this free-agency period there was hand-wringing over the alleged travesty that superstars commanding the highest salaries were being prodded to take less money for the good of the team.

And certainly under the current salary-cap structure of the collective bargaining agreement, if highly paid players want to band together, but also expect to have funds available to sign quality role players, the price (as dictated by the current salary-cap structure) is settling for less than market value.

James Harden didn’t want to settle so Oklahoma City traded him to Houston. In Miami over the last two weeks, we saw how steep of a cut each of the Big Three (and really Chris Bosh and Dywane Wade) were in for if the group was to stay together and have a legitimate shot at signing a difference-making-type player such as Kyle Lowry or Marcin Gortat.

If superstars opt not to form super powers and the top-tier talent spreads to more teams (the goal of ownership in this CBA) than they can all collect their max money. LeBron James is expected to get his max deal, roughly $21 million next season by leaving Miami for Cleveland. Bosh’s loyalty to the Heat (aided by not having to pay James) was rewarded with a maximum $118 million over five years and Carmelo Anthony will accept a deal close to the max, reportedly about $120 million over five years, from the New York Knicks.

The next tier of talent has also done quite well this summer. Lowry re-upped with Toronto for $48 million over four years, almost doubling last season’s take. Gortat re-signed with Washington for $60 million over five years. He made $7.7 million last season and is 30 years old. Not bad if you can get it.

The Utah Jazz on Saturday matched Charlotte’s aggressive offer sheet of four-years and $63 million for 24-year-old small forward Gordon Hayward. He’ll earn more next season, about $14.7 million, than he did in his previous three seasons combined ($11 million). The Dallas Mavericks have made Chandler Parsons, 25, a rich man with their three-year, $45 million offer sheet that Houston has until Sunday night to match or pass. Neither player has ever been an All-Star, yet both will get paid like one.

It’s theme of the summer. Players at every level of the talent hierarchy are cashing in big. Why? It’s simple: The big fish, as long as they swim their separate ways, are going to get paid, while this league-wide run for cap space has greatly inflated salaries for a widening middle class. It’s produced eye-opening contracts such as these: Jodie Meeks (Detroit), three years and $19 million; Jordan Hill (L.A. Lakers), two years and $18 million; Darren Collison (Sacramento), three years and $16 million; Nick Young (L.A. Lakers), four years and $21.5 million; Chris Kaman (Portland), two years and $9.8 million; C.J. Miles (Indiana), four years and $18 million; Ben Gordon (Orlando), two years and $9.8 million.

The CBA hammered out during the lockout of 2011 placed a premium on cap space. Harsher luxury tax penalties and tighter controls designed to restrict roster flexibility for tax teams has created a much larger pool of teams than ever before that strategically plan to create maximum cap space each summer to dive into free agency and chase max-level free agents.

Only there aren’t that many big fish, far fewer than there are now teams ready to pay team. It leaves an overload of cap space around the league that must be spent and this summer role players — the league’s middle class — are reaping the benefits.

Any player it seems who has been in the league a handful of years can turn his nose at any offer starting at less than $4 million. Thirty-seven-year-old Vince Carter wanted to return to Dallas, which was offering $2.73 million for next season. So he took the $4 million ($12.2 million over three seasons) Memphis showed him.

And then there’s free-agent shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha coming off an awful year shooting and who twice fell out of the Thunder’s rotation during the playoffs. He secured a raise from Atlanta — three years and $12 million.

Blogtable: Summer, when gabbing is easy

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: Idle summertime chatter | LeBron + Cavs = ??? | The Good & Bad of ‘Melo in NY


> It’s been a confusing, chatter-filled start to the NBA summer. What’s the dumbest, most forehead-slapping headline or storyline that you’ve seen?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Geez, so many from which to choose —  Jodie Meeks‘ contract, Carmelo Anthony supposedly leaving New York and $30 million or more on the table, Klay Thompson suddenly being regarded as a combo Jerry West/Dwyane Wade in trade value. But I’m going with the hand-wringing in Chicago over Derrick Rose’s alleged “unwillingness” to recruit free agents. That sort of thing, in the best of places, probably ranks 8th or 18th or maybe 28th in what sways a player to choose a new team/market. All Rose should be doing is what he did – allow the targeted player, like Carmelo Anthony, to watch a workout so he can gauge Rose’s health and comeback potential. Beyond that, it’s sheer high-school silliness.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I was very tempted to say “all of the above” since the entire free agency period is mostly rumor, innuendo and flat-out lying posing as pseudo-journalism.  But if I must choose, well, Jodie Meeks at more than $6 million per is a head-slapper.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Orlando agreeing to pay Ben Gordon $9.5 million over two years. That slightly edges Portland agreeing to pay Chris Kaman nearly $10 million over two years.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: You’re asking me to pick one grain of sand on the beach. We know, for example, that the Heatles are definitely splintering, unless that they’re not and are simply giving Pat Riley time to make moves before closing their own deals. And Kobe, Carmelo and Kevin Love definitely magically appeared at the same pickup game at UCLA, except that they didn’t. The silly season in full effect. If there an option to expand beyond free agency and make it the entire offseason for dumbest, most forehead-slapping storyline, it’s an easy call: Jason Kidd.

Gordon Hayward (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE)

Gordon Hayward (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE)

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: How about the latest one, “Hayward get max offer sheet from Hornets.” In a summer when financial haircuts are being discussed for All-Stars — superstars in some cases — a guy who has never sniffed the All-Star team gets a $60 million offer from an Eastern Conference playoff team. Hayward is worth whatever someone is going to pay him, so I’m not mad at him. But, as I said on Twitter last week (when Hayward was supposedly on tap for a max offer from the Cavaliers that never happened), something is awry in this system when Lance Stephenson (as flawed or deficient as he might be in some areas) sees this headline about Hayward and is supposed to be cool with an offer $16 million lighter in total. Even if Utah matches, as they have said all along that they will, this is still one of the gems of “Crazy Season!”

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Well to be fair, it was probably a headline that I wrote that was dumb. But as far as a wild storyline, the thought that signing Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts will put Miami over the top is pretty out there. I mean, the Pacers basically let Granger walk, and Basketball Jesus a.k.a. McBob is a nice player but … putting Miami over the top? That’s a head-slapper. The Spurs beat Miami up and down and left and right in the Finals. It’s going to take more than just one or two additions to make the Heat a Finals winner. Then again, getting LeBron to re-up would be a pretty good start.

Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: The most confusing thing for me is that everyone is waiting for everyone. Melo is waiting for Bosh’s decision, Bosh and Wade are waiting for LeBron’s decision. LeBron is waiting what the Heat will do, but the Heat have to wait, what their Big 3 will do to know how much cap space they will have. Then the second row with Deng, Parsons and Ariza are waiting what Melo, Bosh,Wade and LeBron will do. And all teams with cap space are waiting for the decisions of the superstars to remain flexible. So everybody is waiting and the worst is, we have to wait, too. LeBron, get the ball rolling!

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I’ll go with Jeremy Lin being upset because Houston used his uni to court Melo. Free agency is like love and war: all’s fair. It has been done before (Rockets GM Daryl Morey remembered they used Patrick Beverley‘s #12 last year to recruit Dwight Howard) and you shouldn’t be upset when your team is trying to get  one of the best players in the game, especially if you are in the trade rumors mill.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: After LeBron’s “Decision” in 2010, nothing in the NBA off-eason really surprises me anymore, and I truly leave all options open to possibility. That said, there were a couple of stories that made me shake my head with mild disbelief. One was The Pick-Up Game that Never Happened rumours of Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and even Kevin Love playing ball at UCLA, as reported by some sources, as a hopeful indication of what the Lakers roster could look like next season. The second was the Recruitment Pitch that Wasn’t Made, a saga of Derrick Rose – did he or didn’t he try and recruit Carmelo Anthony to Chicago.

Steal of a deal? Bazemore has a shot

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

bazemore

Kent Bazemore opened eyes by averaging 13.1 points over a 23-game span. (NBAE via Getty Images)

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – As the world waits for the big fish to name their teams already, a few eye-popping (-rolling?) contracts have been agreed upon, such as Orlando eager to prop up Ben Gordon for a couple more seasons at $9.5 million, Detroit promising Jodie Meeks $19 million and Portland giving Chris Kaman a raise!

All three players have logged enough NBA service time that we know more or less what each brings. Maybe Gordon will magically adjust his attitude along with his 3-ball, and maybe Kaman mixes in a pass, but all-in-all there’s not a lot of unknowns here.

So what of an actual surprise, a virtual unknown out there who could become the steal of free agency?

The versatile, 6-foot-5, 201-pound Kent Bazemore always thinks he’s capable of making believers. He always has.

He went undrafted after four years at Old Dominion, where he won NCAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. In 2012, after signing with Golden State, he was ranked No. 499 on ESPN.com’s list of the top 500 NBA players. So he had “499″ stitched into his sneakers the ensuing July and turned in the best Las Vegas Summer League performance of anybody.

On Feb. 19, 2014, with the Warriors needing a veteran backup point guard and Bazemore in his second season riding the pine, Golden State traded him to the depleted Los Angeles Lakers for Steve Blake. Suddenly, the kid from rural North Carolina, and an admitted Kobe Bryant admirer growing up and who is equal parts fun-loving and hard-working, was granted real playing time.

Mike D’Antoni threw him into the starting lineup, played him at shooting guard, at small forward, at point guard. He gave the developing talent the green light to shoot the 3. Bazemore’s infectious, goofy smile and full-time hustle and work ethic became instant hits. And then as if catching the injury bug that decimated L.A. last season, his came to a screeching halt five games shy of completion when he tore a tendon in his right foot that required surgery.

But he had opened eyes around the league by averaging 13.1 points, 3.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and shot 37.1 percent from deep in 23 games, 15 of which he started.

At the time, Bazemore described the injury as stemming from “overuse,” which it might have been considering he more than doubled his total minutes played with the Lakers (643) in half the number of games he played in with the Warriors (268 minutes in 44 games) before the trade.

In that short span, Bazemore put up numbers similar to those of rejuvenated journeyman Gerald Green in his first season with Phoenix. Green finished fourth for Most Improved Player of the Year. Now Bazemore, who turned 25 on July 1, the first day of free agency wants to show he can do it over 82 games.

The Lakers could have retained him for a qualifying offer of $1.1 million, but they passed to ensure as much cap space as possible on the gamble that both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James would want to join Kobe. It allowed Bazemore to become an unrestricted free agent.

According a source, Bazemore is seeking a boost in salary, around $3 million per season, as well as a little stability in the form of a two- or three-year contract. Such a commitment would suggest any team that makes it will be willing to give the athletically gifted Bazemore what we really desires — consistent playing time.

Interest in the long-limbed and innately motivated swingman has been encouraging. The Lakers remain interested in bringing him back. Atlanta, Charlotte, Boston and Utah join L.A. in the top five in terms of teams that have shown consistent interest.

Dallas, Houston, Golden State, Phoenix and Philadelphia all had at least preliminary discussions with Bazemore’s camp.

Bazemore met with the Hawks in Atlanta on Monday. His representative has meetings scheduled this week with San Antonio, Boston and Charlotte, and Utah could be added.

Bazemore will be back in Las Vegas later this week to check out the start of Summer League. He won’t be playing this time around, but it is the perfect backdrop for the long shot to continue the pursuit of his next team, his next contract and a breakout season.

The steal of free agency? Bazemore has a chance to be just that.

Morning Shootaround – Jan. 2


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Miller argues with Shaw | Garnett continues to struggle | Gordon seeks contender

No. 1: Miller argues with Shaw — This season has been a roller-coaster ride for the Denver Nuggets. After a disappointing 1-4 start, they surged to 11-6 thanks to a seven-game winning streak. It looked like the 50-win Nuggets from last season were back. But now Denver is 14-17 and in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Emotions are as high as the altitude. So much so that point guard Andre Miller has been suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team. Miller decided to voice his frustrations to head coach Brian Shaw during last night’s game, according to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post:

After the Nuggets’ eighth consecutive loss, 114-102 to Philadelphia on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center, J.J. Hickson agreed with the notion that the Nuggets have hit rock bottom. But that point may have come earlier, in the second half, when Andre Miller, headed for his first healthy scratch, decided he would verbally take it out on coach Brian Shaw.

Miller yelled about the disrespect he felt he was being shown by sitting. And if he was being disrespected, he’d do the same to the Nuggets’ first-year head coach.

“There’s a time and place for everything,” Shaw said. “In the middle of the arena in front of everyone … I just tried to calm it down.”

Asked if Miller understood the reasons for his one-game seat on the bench, Shaw said, “You’ll have to ask him.”

But by that time, Miller had already left.

Many of his teammates remained, however, to explain the free-fall the Nuggets are in.

It is the team’s longest slide since dropping eight straight to end the 2002-03 season. It is also the Nuggets’ fifth consecutive home loss. And this one came with an increasingly agitated fan base that peppered the team with boos at the end of the half and in the third quarter, and then flat-out started leaving en masse with 5:33 left in the fourth and the team down 104-89.

The fans booed again as time ran out on the latest defeat.

“We deserved every bit of that,” Shaw said.

It was that kind of night.

“It’s not even a slump right now,” Shaw said. “It’s worse than a slump.”

***

No. 2: Garnett continues to struggle — The Kevin Garnett acquired by the Brooklyn Nets this summer was never expected to be MVP-level Garnett from the mid-2000s. But his massive struggles so far this season were equally unexpected for the future Hall-of-Famer, even at the age of 37. Garnett is still searching for a rhythm within the Nets’ offense, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“It shouldn’t,” Garnett said when asked if his shooting struggles have impacted his confidence. “Obviously, the most frustrating thing about me is I could see if I wasn’t hitting shots and I wasn’t in here working or taking [expletive] days off.

“I put time into my craft for it to come out, but then that’s rhythm on offense. And I don’t have that right now. I’m not [expletive] about it, nor am I complaining. I’m just trying to adjust to it.”

After missing all five shots he took Tuesday, Garnett is now shooting a dismal 36.4 percent for the season — more than a full 13 points below his 49.6 percent clip last season in Boston — and looks as if he is years removed from the player who averaged 12.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in Boston’s first-round exit against the Knicks at the end of last season.

“Honestly, I have no rhythm,” Garnett said. “I’m trying to establish some confidence, and figure out where I fit into this whole ‘where I fit into the offense’ thing.”

Garnett and Nets coach Jason Kidd were asked Wednesday if part of Garnett’s inability to get into a rhythm stemmed from him being placed on a minutes restriction this season, as he’s played less than 30 minutes in every game he’s participated in and hasn’t reached 20 in four of his last five games and seven of his last nine.

“[We’re] sticking with this,” Kidd said when asked whether the minutes limit could change, adding it’s in place to “get [Garnett] through the season.”

“He’s getting great looks,” Kidd added. “Some of them haven’t gone in, but we believe as a team they will.”

Garnett said that more than just the minutes, this season has been difficult for him because of all of the adjustments he has had to make.

“Yeah, and a lot of the offenses I’ve been in I’ve been pretty much a primary,” he said. “This has been an adjustment period. Coming here, I didn’t expect a lot of minutes, I didn’t expect a lot of touches, so I figured I would come in here and help and be a kind of liaison, or kind of attach things to where they lacked at.

“I don’t [think] the objective to bring the three of us [Garnett, Pierce and Terry] here was to play a bulk of minutes or be primaries … it’s [been] a lot of moving parts throughout the year, and it’s hard to get a rhythm with that.”

***

No. 3: Gordon seeks contenderIt’s no surprise that an NBA player would prefer to play for a contender. But this urge must be especially high for Ben Gordon who has spent the better half of his career on the struggling Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats are finally making some noise this season, but that didn’t stop Gordon from voicing his aspirations to Lang Greene of Hoopsworld:

For Gordon, an unrestricted free agent next summer, his present and future is all about getting back into the mix of contenders as he closes out his career.

“It means everything,” Gordon told HOOPSWORLD on the importance of closing his career with a title. “That’s why we play the game, just to have a chance to get into the playoffs and see what happens. For me especially, I haven’t been to the playoffs the last four seasons so making it this year is a big goal of mine. Not only for me but my teammates as well.”

However, Gordon says he’s learned through the years free agency is based on many other factors outside of box score results and maintains he isn’t letting his looming free agency status this summer impact him mentally.

“You pretty much don’t think about,” Gordon says of his impending free agency. “It’s something I learned earlier in my career, that those situations are out of your control. A lot of times it’s just a waiting game. But the most important thing is what you’re able to control and do on the court out there. It’s the same mindset.

“I’m a veteran now so I know [free agency] relies on so many factors  that are out of my control that I’m just focused on the things I can control and take it all day by day.”

The rise in the standings didn’t come as a surprise for Gordon, who credits the arrival of head coach Steve Clifford as one of the reasons Charlotte has significantly improved over last season.

“Not at all because coach has been around a really long time,” Gordon said. “He hasn’t been a head coach but he’s been around as far as being an assistant. He’s worked with some of the best coaches in basketball, so it’s not a surprise. I think with the talent we have we’re still building chemistry.

“I think that’s our focus night in and night out with the pieces we have. The Eastern Conference has allowed us to have a decent record so far. I think we still have huge room for improvement, but right now I wouldn’t say our play is a surprise at all. We expect to be a playoff team.”

.***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kyrie Irving has a left knee contusion and is questionable for tonight’s game … Philadelphia 76ers Arnett Moultrie participated in scrimmages and may return later this month … Cody Zeller tried to dunkPortland assigns C.J. McCollum to the D-League … Boston Celtics Rajon Rondo is expected to travel with the team soon … Some believe there is not much of a trade market for Andrew Bynum

ICYMI of The Night: The Toronto Raptors continued their hot streak last night with an impressive win over the equally hot Indiana Pacers.

VIDEO: Raptors Cool Pacers

It’s Time For New Year’s Resolutions

VIDEO: The Starters review the year so far

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ring out the old. Ring in the new. As the calendar turns, it’s time for resolutions throughout the NBA:

Atlanta Hawks — Look Back to the Future: This was supposed to be the start of a brand new era for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, and things were actually looking good until Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle. With their undersized big man done for the season, the Hawks will only stay afloat because they’re in the horrid Eastern Conference. But they’re going in the right direction under GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer, and will get the lottery pick of the sinking Nets, so there’s reason for hope out of a draft class teeming with talent.

Boston Celtics — Move Fast on Rondo: According to the old saying, you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. When Rajon Rondo is finally able to get back onto the court and prove that he’s close to his old self, rookie coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge have to find out right away if he’s mentally ready to anchor the rebuilding project. If not, the Celtics could reap a windfall in new pieces ahead of the trade deadline.

Brooklyn Nets — Fuhgetaboutit: OK, it was a nice little pipe dream to think that a couple of old codgers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce could shuffle up and down the court in slippers and robes to tangle with the Heat and Pacers. Fortunately, team owner Mikhail Prokorov can afford their salaries with the kind of change he finds in his sofa cushions. Pay them off, send them away and get back to building around Brook Lopez and Deron Williams with players who aren’t signing up for Medicare.

Charlotte Bobcats — Keep Him: For the first time in who can remember how long, Michael Jordan won’t have to spend next summer looking for a coach. The merry-go-round can stop. Steve Clifford has given Charlotte a sense of purpose, respectability and a solid identity on the defensive end. Now they’ve got to work on boosting production out of that woeful offense. One thing at a time.

Chicago Bulls — Play Derrick and the Dominoes: Even Layla couldn’t have knocked the Bulls off their feet like the second straight significant injury to their All-Star, MVP guard Derrick Rose. It might be time to reshuffle the bones on a club that hasn’t even won a conference title and already has significant money locked up in Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson before re-signing Luol Deng to a big contract.

Cleveland Cavaliers — Stop Winning the Draft Lottery: Of course, that would require the Cavs to actually make the playoffs and not qualify for the lottery. This is a team that was supposed to be on the rise with enough young talent to make LeBron James think about returning, but instead has Kyrie Irving trying to do everything, Dion Waiters angry and Andrew Bynum maybe ready to give up the game. Time for an adult to take control here, coach Mike Brown.

Dallas Mavericks — Embrace Reality: It’s a bit ironic that a guy like Mark Cuban that has made a name for himself in the world of reality TV shows rarely faces up to it with the Mavs. He’s fun. He’s entertaining. He’ll say anything, such as there’s no telling whether Houston getting Dwight Howard or Dallas getting Monta Ellis was a better free agent signing last summer. Now go get yourself some defense, Mark, before Dirk Nowitzki winds up running on his tongue trying to outscore everybody.

Denver Nuggets — Respect Yourself: There shouldn’t be a decent team that breaks camp without a solid sense of its identity. A year ago with George Karl pulling the strings from the sidelines and Andre Iguodala setting the pace on the court, the Nuggets had that. Now they are often just a bunch that is stuck in the middle of the pack on offense (18th) and defense (16th) and too often can’t defend its home court.

Detroit Pistons — Say It Ain’t So, Joe: A few years ago, it was signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva as big-money free agents. This time GM Joe Dumars figured it would be a good idea to upgrade the Pistons by tossing the combustible Josh Smith onto the fire to light up the frontcourt. So, Smith is already calling out coach Mo Cheeks and the Pistons are backsliding from the .500 mark. Things are getting ugly early again in the Motor City. And, oh yeah, nobody is coming to watch the Pistons, who are last in the league in attendance.

Golden State Warriors — Do the American Hustle: Like the hit movie, was last year’s magical little run through the playoffs by Mark Jackson’s team just one glorious con job? Yes, they’ve played a tough schedule, but something is missing. Lack of last year’s bench? A failure to take care of the ball? You get the sense that the Warriors were just trying to pick up this season right where they left off without putting in all of the gritty groundwork.

Houston Rockets — Rebound, Then Run: Everybody loves watching the Rockets run like methamphetamine-fueled hamsters on a wheel. But for a team that has Dwight Howard in the middle, they are horrible at giving up second-chance points to opponents and it has often proved costly. It’s nice to run, but better not to turn your back and head down the court while the other guy is dropping another put-back into the net.

Indiana Pacers — Don’t Stop Believing: The Pacers came into the season convinced that they could live up to the old axiom of playing them one game at a time and that grind-it-out method would eventually deliver the best record in the league and home-court all the way through The Finals. With Paul George tossing his hat into the MVP ring and Roy Hibbert making opponents ears ring with his physical style, it’s working quite well for coach Frank Vogel’s team.

L.A. Clippers — Say Goodbye to Hollywood: The sooner the Clippers can get rid of all the extraneous things in their game — yes, you, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — and get down to the serious business of playing some real defense around the basket, the sooner we’ll take them seriously as real contenders in the Western Conference. At this point, despite all the good work by Chris Paul, the Clips are still one of those acts that gets eliminated early on “American Idol.”

L.A. Lakers — Lock Up Kobe: Yes, we know he’s the Black Mamba. We know that he’d be the guy standing out in the rain with a fork and still believe he’d quench his thirst. But the Lakers aren’t going anywhere this season and it doesn’t help their cause for next year if Kobe Bryant returns and pushes himself to the limit again in a debilitating run that winds up far short of the playoffs. It’s time to think about the limited — and high-paying — future he has left. Oh yeah, and trade Pau Gasol.

(more…)

One Team, One Stat: Bobcats Rookies Brought Defense To The Table

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. The order will be worst to first, which means that the Charlotte Bobcats — who finished with the league’s worst point differential last season — lead off.

The basics
CHA Rank
W-L 21-61 29
Pace 94.0 16
OffRtg 98.3 28
DefRtg 108.9 30
NetRtg -10.6 30

The stat

99.8 - Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Bobcats in 590 minutes with rookies Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor on the floor together.

The context

Overall, the Bobcats’ defense was terrible. They ranked last in defensive efficiency (see the table on the right), allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions. But the mark with the two rookies on the floor was that of a top-five defense. Considering that rookies are usually defensive liabilities, it’s pretty remarkable. Both guys are long and active, with good instincts.

Here are a few examples of MKG’s and Taylor’s defensive prowess…


The contributions of Brendan Haywood shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s a proven defensive center* who was on the floor for 246 of those 590 minutes. Charlotte was a plus-10 and allowed a paltry 91.2 points per 100 possessions in those 246 minutes with their three best defenders on the floor.

*The Mavs’ defense regressed more when they went from Haywood to Chris Kaman at starting center last year than when they went from Tyson Chandler to Haywood the year before.

Of the 14 Bobcats who logged at least 300 minutes last season, Haywood had the lowest on-court defensive rating. Charlotte allowed 5.7 fewer points per 100 possessions with Haywood on the floor than they did with him on the bench.

So, with the Bobcats’ defense in mind, there are a couple of interesting questions regarding Steve Clifford‘s rotation this season…

1. How much playing time will Haywood get? Al Jefferson is the starting center and was a necessary addition to kick-start an offense that was barely better than the defense last season. But Jefferson is a defensive liability, so the Bobcats will continue to struggle on that end if he takes most of Haywood’s minutes. Jefferson and Haywood could only play together against other big lineups, and if Haywood is the backup center, does that mean that Cody Zeller is a power forward and/or that Charlotte has given up on Bismack Biyombo?

2. Will Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor play together much? A lot of their minutes together came in games that either Gerald Henderson or Ben Gordon missed. If everybody’s healthy, Gordon will back up Henderson and Taylor will likely back up MKG. Taylor might make a decent small-ball four, but that takes away playing time from Zeller, Josh McRoberts (who was pretty good for the Bobcats at the end of last season) and Anthony Tolliver (a solid glue guy).

The Bobcats were the worst team in the league last season and still have one of the weakest rosters, but they strangely might have too much depth at certain positions. If injuries don’t make certain decisions for him, it will be fun to see how Clifford distributes minutes.

Either way, there’s promise in the Bobcats’ returning, second-year small forwards. Kidd-Gilchrist has all the tools except for a jump shot, while Taylor showed some improved offensive skills at Summer League and EuroBasket. If Clifford can find playing time for both of them, the Bobcats’ defense might not be so terrible.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

No Deal For Deng Means Drama For Bulls

Regardless of how well the players and the coaches fended off the distraction of it, the Chicago Bulls’ 2012-13 season was preoccupied, overshadowed and generally beholden to one question: “Is Derrick back?”

Odds are good, as of Tuesday, that 2013-14 will be colored by a variation on that query, as in: “Is Deng gone?”

With reports that talks of a contract extension between Luol Deng and the Bulls have broken off [CSNChicago.com], followed up by agent Herb Rudoy‘s quote that the All-Star forward “will definitely go through” free agency next summer [Chicago Tribune], a team that grappled with considerable unknowns last season assured itself of a fat one for this year. What it means to the depth and cohesiveness of the Bulls as they try to chase down the Miami Heat and a couple other improving Eastern Conference contenders remains to be seen. But it adds drama where there might have been none.

Derrick Rose, obviously, is the fulcrum on which this season tilts; if he can return from extended rehab (since April 2012) to his status as one of the NBA’s most explosive, elusive players, Chicago looks equipped to challenge the Heat and jockey with Indiana and Brooklyn for East surpremacy.

But Deng has been the Bulls’ glue and constant for the past three seasons, at least. From coach Tom Thibodeau‘s arrival through Rose’s major absence (and lesser ones), the 6-foot-8 forward has been a two-time All-Star and two-way player, coping with and often playing in spite of his own less-spectacular injuries. Deng has been Thibodeau’s go-to guy in you-name-it situations, and it took a rather serious scare last spring – he developed a serious infection after undergoing a spinal tap during the first-round series vs. the Nets – to sit him down for good.

Still just 28 after nine NBA seasons, Deng has been taken for granted by Bulls fans who remember the contract haggles that he and teammate Ben Gordon went through in 2007 and 2008. Deng finally landed his six-year, $71 million deal while Gordon left to seek his fortune (five years, $58 million) in free agency, yet the climate at United Center often seems almost as chilly toward the former as the latter.

As a performer and a teammate, as a workhorse who soaks up innings (Deng has averaged 39.1 minutes the past three seasons, leading the NBA over the past two), the man from the South Sudan has been terrific. His biggest failing? Probably his timing.

Deng’s current contract, signed in 2008, will pay him $14.2 million this season, a big number under the current CBA. He’s coming off what for the Bulls, for all its pluckiness, largely was a lost season, given Rose’s absence. And his own health issue late flipped more opportunity to Jimmy Butler, who emerged over the second half as a potential Deng replacement.

Some might argue that Chicago isn’t even all-in on 2013-14, despite Rose’s need for consistency around him as much as added talent. The Carlos Boozer countdown will be busy, with the veteran power forward headed to the amnesty pile next offseason and with Nikola Mirotic stashed overseas like some new-millennium Toni Kukoc. Rose could be rusty, Boozer and Joakim Noah might be due for  breakdowns, the roster still needs another big and Deng is facing the equivalent of a qualifying year. With the exception that he could be dealt by the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

Deng feels he has earned, and will keep earning, another big contract. But with Rose, Noah and Taj Gibson on the books for more than $39 million in 2014-15 and chairman Jerry Reinsorf having to shell out another $16.8 million for Boozer whether he’s on the books or not, the Bulls either will be looking for a hometown discount from Deng or will have moved on to Butler entirely. Meanwhile, Deng will have options, with teams both ambitious and rebuilding, eager to land a solid player, leader and citizen.

This all will be played out over 82 games, many of which Deng probably will play hurt again, will get left on the court too long or will be sent back in by Thibodeau to nail down the outcome. The mileage on his odometer will spike and, this time, it will be dinging a market value in which the Bulls will have no future stake.

It all might set a good team guy like Deng to wondering why one player can get treated as gingerly as the Stanley Cup while others get used as if they’re Dixie.

New Coaches: Heat Is On Already

 

HANG TIME, Texas – It’s not very often that 13 different teams decide to change coaches during one offseason. It’s a sign of these impatient times in which we live, especially when six of those teams finished last season with winning records.

It used to be “what have you done for me lately?” Now it’s “what have you done in the last 10 minutes?”

Of course, not every new coaching situation is the same. No one expects a pair of newcomers like Brad Stevens in Boston and Brett Brown in Philly to perform water-into-wine miracles with stripped-down rosters.

Doc Rivers goes coast-to-coast to show a 56-win Clippers team how to take the next step while Mike Brown returns to Cleveland with a roster full of young talent ready to bloom.

However, not everybody gets to settle in comfortably. Here are the five new coaches who’ll find that seat warm from Day One:

Dave Joerger, Grizzlies – Sure, he’s paid his dues and learned his craft in the minor leagues and as an up-and-coming assistant coach in the NBA. All he’s got to do now is take over a club that is coming off the best season in franchise history, including a run to the Western Conference finals. While that means the Grizzlies have a contending core in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley and a supporting cast to repeat their feat, it also means that every decision, every move that Joerger makes from the first day of training camp through the end of the playoffs will be judged against his predecessor Lionel Hollins, who evidently could do everything except make his stat-driven bosses appreciate him. In a Western Conference that just keeps getting stronger, it will be tough enough survive, let alone thrive with a ghost on his shoulder.

Larry Drew, Bucks — After spending three seasons in Atlanta, where he always had a winning record but could never get the Hawks past the second round of the playoffs, Drew moves to a Bucks franchise that overachieves if it climbs into the No. 8 seed to play the role of punching bag for the big boys in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has turned over its backcourt from an inconsistent pair of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to a spotty trio of Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal. Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has size, athleticism and a bundle of talent. But he’s only 18 years old and the question is whether Drew will be given the opportunity to stick around long enough to watch him grow. The Bucks are one of two teams with plenty of space under the salary cap, but have no real intention of spending it except to get to the mandated league minimum. This is a Bucks franchise that doesn’t have a sense of direction and that hardly bodes well for a coach. It’s not even a lateral move for Drew and could make getting the next job that much harder.

Brian Shaw, Nuggets – After waiting so long to finally get his opportunity to become a head coach, Shaw steps into a situation that is almost the opposite of Joerger. The Nuggets let 2013 Coach of the Year George Karl walk along with Masai Ujiri, the general manager who built the team, and then blew a gaping hole in the side of the 57-win, No. 3 seed in the West roster by letting Andre Iguodala get away, too. Shaw still has Ty Lawson as the fire-starter in the backcourt, but one of these seasons 37-year-old Andre Miller has got to run out of gas. As if the rookie coach didn’t have enough to juggle with the mercurial JaVale McGee, now he’s got Nate Robinson coming off his playoff heroics in Chicago with that ego taller than the Rockies. It’s never a good time to be stepping into a new job when management seems to be pulling back.

Steve Clifford, Bobcats – He’s another one of the longtime assistant coaches that has paid his dues and was ready to slide down the bench into the boss’s spot. But Charlotte? That’s more like the ejector seat in James Bond’s old Aston Martin. The Bobcats have had six coaches in the seven years that the iconic Michael Jordan has been head of basketball operations and then majority owner. From bad drafting (Adam Morrison) to bad trades (Ben Gordon, Corey Maggette), through constant changes of philosophy and direction, the Bobcats simply go through coaches faster than sneakers. Now it’s general manager Rich Cho calling the shots, but that didn’t stop the firing of Mike Dunlap after just one season. Clifford gets veteran big man Al Jefferson to anchor the middle of the lineup, but he’d better have his seat belt fastened tight and watch out for those fingers on the ejector button.

Mike Malone, Kings — Not that anyone expects Malone to be under immediate pressure in terms of wins and losses. What the Kings need now that they have a future in Sacramento is to re-establish a foundation on the court. Of course, the multi-million-dollar question is whether that base will include the talented and petulant DeMarcus Cousins. Everybody knows that he’s physically got what it takes to be a dominant force in the league. But the jury is still out when you’ve played three years in the league and you’re still getting suspended for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.” Paul Westphal and Keith Smart couldn’t get through to Cousins to make him somebody the Kings can rely on and were spat out. Now as the big man heads toward a summer where he could become a restricted free agent, the franchise needs to know if sinking big bucks in his future is an investment or a waste of time. That’s the intense heat on Malone and the clock will be ticking immediately.

Free Agency: Making A Case For Dwight





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In the days, weeks and months leading up to the NBA Draft, the decision makers around the league play a revolving game of chess with agents about their players and where they might draft them, if at all.

It’s a complex, high-stakes game with very specific rules and constraints that only a select few play well enough to actually win. And even when they do win, we don’t find out about it sometimes for years.

Free agency, on the other hand, is a wicked venture that plays out every July, with the biggest stars holding most of the leverage and the desperate teams flush with cap space ready to do whatever it takes to win their favor. The winners and losers in free agency are revealed rather quickly. Spend wisely (like the Miami Heat three summers ago, with the aid of cap space and key sign-and-trade assets LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade on South Beach) and you can move into elite company immediately. Spend frivolously (see the Detroit Pistons’ 2009 summer of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva) and you’ll be making an annual date for the lottery.

That superstar list this summer is short, starting with the top unrestricted free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, and falling to a second-tier that includes Josh Smith, David West, Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala, Paul Millsap, Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili and others.

There is also an intriguing list of restricted free agent crop includes talents like Brandon Jennings, Jeff Teague, Nikola Pekovic, Tyreke Evans, Tiago Splitter and others that some teams with cap space will poke around at in an effort to fill out their rosters.

Because unlike the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, whose blockbuster deal on Draft night changed both franchises dramatically before the July 1 start of free agency, not everyone was prepared to handle their heavy lifting in that manner.

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With Doc Rivers fleeing the Boston rebuild for a championship chase in Los Angeles with the Clippers, that leaves Howard alone as the eye of this summer’s free agent storm. And he’s already reportedly set up a timetable of his own to have his future decided. July 10 is his decision day.

That leaves us with a distinctly different free agent landscape than we expected as recently as last weekend and the need for some clarity on exactly who and what will be in play July 1, as well as what teams figure to be the major players in the free agent sweepstakes …
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Morning Shootaround — March 5

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Box scores rarely tell the whole story of a given game and such was the case in last night’s Raptors-Warriors game from The Oracle. A click over to said box score reveals Andrew Bogut‘s return to the Golden State lineup and a somewhat ho-hum stat line: four points, eight rebounds and two turnovers in 29 minutes. But what’s lost in the box score is seen on the court as Bogut helped the Warriors get a sense of what their full starting five is like while also providing some defense that the Warriors have lacked the last few weeks. Steph Curry and David Lee were the box score stars in this game, but don’t discount what Bogut adds to the Warriors.

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News of the morning

Stoudemire ready for more minutes | Nuggets, Korver a match someday? | Jazz’s Williams may play vs. Cavs | Bobcats’ Thomas stays home | Sixers CEO chimes in on Bynum

Stoudemire wants more playing timeWe mentioned in this space yesterday that some were questioning Knicks coach Mike Woodson’s strategy in Sunday’s loss to the Heat, particularly the amount of minutes reserve big man Amar’e Stoudemire was playing down the stretch in that game. After Stoudemire logged 31 minutes and led New York with 22 points in a comeback win over the Cavs on Monday, it appears Stoudemire can handle more playing time. Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com reports that a source says Stoudemire is more than set to take on a bigger role if asked:

… According to a source close to the Knicks, Stoudemire is “ready” and “healthy” to play more minutes to help the team.

“He’s in tip-top shape,” the source told ESPNNewYork.com. “He wants to play; whatever it takes for [the Knicks] to win.”

On Sunday, Stoudemire only got in for 21 minutes — sitting out the last eight — in the Knicks’ losing effort against the Heat. Down the stretch he was needed because when the Heat applied more aggressive defense on Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks didn’t have an inside scoring threat. Tyson Chandler was in the game, but he’s not one to create his own opportunities.

If Stoudemire’s body is ready, it would be important to increase his minutes now, to better prepare him for increased playing time in the postseason. That’s usually what happens during this critical period of the season, as coaches shorten their rotation to focus on their best players.

“Now is the time to be giving him extending minutes to see how his body reacts to it,” the source said, “especially when you’re not on [a] big winning streak. … Something has to shake up.”

Head coach Mike Woodson is still banking on basic perimeter play and 3-point shooting, which worked in the first two months of the season when the Knicks started 18-5. But since then, they’ve been mostly playing .500 ball, and there are still too many outside shots from Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith. In fact, against the Heat, while Smith shot 3-for-14 from 3-point, Stoudemire took just seven shots from the field, making five.

The source said the Knicks are “not a real hard team to figure out right now.”

Nuggets interested in KorverThe trade deadline is long gone, so any hopes of the Nuggets acquiring Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver in a trade (including this smart one suggested by John Schuhmann way back when) are out of the picture. But that doesn’t mean Korver wouldn’t be a natural fit for the high-octane crew coach George Karl is assembling in Denver, writes Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post. In fact, Karl in his pregame comments last night (before Denver hosted Atlanta) couldn’t help but gush about Korver’s skills:

Korver, an unrestricted free agent in his 10th year in the NBA, is expected to be one of the Nuggets top targets in the offseason as the team actively courts players who can fill that shooting void. Denver won’t be the only team looking to gain his services, but if the money is right (Korver makes $5 million this season) the situation might be hard for the sharpshooter, who grew up in Pella, Iowa, to turn down.

Shots figure to be much easier to come by in a system where guard Ty Lawson’s driving is so respected that he sucks defenders into the lane, and other players capable of hitting from long range – Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer – make it so that he would be difficult to devote additional resources to slowing just Korver down in the manner that the Nuggets are expected to try tonight.

“You don’t have a lot of pin-down offenses anymore, for some reason the game’s gone to pick-and-roll and away from the execution of a pin-down,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “You’ve got (J.J.) Reddick and some guys that come off of pin-downs but this kid right now moves without the ball as good as anybody in the NBA, and he will get his opportunity to be the first option in 10-15 minutes of the game that we’re going to have to be responsible and see how he’s shooting it. And then you can’t give them the open three, you can’t give him the ‘oh, what happened’ three. You’ve got to be ready. He’s a big part.”

“He’s an unbelievable shooter, he’s so gifted with that,” Kosta Koufos said. “He just has a positive outlook to everything. That’s why he’s been so successful in the league. He’s just been working hard, day-in and day-out.”

Koufos raved about Korver as a teammate.

“He’s great guy,” Koufos said. “He’s what you think of a professional. He comes in, works hard, he’s very motivational, very positive, a great player. He’s one of the better teammates I’ve ever played with.”

Jazz hoping to get Williams back soonUtah, the No. 8 seed in the West, has stayed in the thick of the playoff chase and gone 18-14 since Dec. 22. Why is that date significant? That’s when starting point guard Mo Williams was lost so he could have surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb. Guard play has been a problem for the Jazz during Williams’ absence, but he practiced with the team in Milwaukee on Monday and could play again as soon as Wednesday in Cleveland. Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune has more:

Williams said Monday at the Jazz’s shootaround in Milwaukee that he could return to games as early as Wednesday, when the Jazz play at Cleveland, where he played from 2008 to 2011.

“We’ll see,” Williams said. “We’ll see. That would be great to play in front of those fans.”

The 30-year-old point guard had two pins removed from his thumb on Feb. 13, and his rehabilitation began in earnest after the All-Star Break, and if Al Jefferson were the final judge, Williams would be cleared to play.

“He said he was a little winded,” Jefferson said. “I told him I couldn’t tell.”

But the Jazz are being cautious with the veteran.

“As he gets close, he’s getting a little frustrated with trying to get himself to get better fast and be ready to go,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. “It’s a process until the body responds and getting stiffness out and feeling comfortable with and not being hesitant with the hand.”

Corbin said he has not yet decided how to integrate Williams back with the Jazz, whether he would start right away or come off the bench to ease back into his leadership role.

“We have to get readjusted to him as he has to get readjusted to how the guys are playing now,” Corbin said. “It’s been a long time. … There will be an adjustment period hopefully we can make it as short as we can.”

Alec Burks has seen a substantial increase in opportunity and productivity since Williams went out, and has averaged 8 points in the 30 games he’s appeared in since Dec. 23. In February, he averaged 9.8 points and shot 44.9 percent from the field.

Bobcats tell Thomas to stay homeAround the trade deadline, there were reports of veteran guard Ben Gordon getting into a disagreement with first-year coach Mike Dunlap. While Gordon is still with the team, his role in the rotation has been diminished. Now another player the Bobcats have had troubles with in the past, Tyrus Thomas, has been told to stay home — although not for disciplinary reasons. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer says the Bobcats told Thomas to stay home during Charlotte’s West coast road swing to work on his conditioning and other aspects:

Charlotte Bobcats power forward Tyrus Thomas was told not to accompany the team on its four-game West Coast trip by team management.

Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said Monday that the front office felt Thomas’s time would be better spent in Charlotte, doing some physical rehabilitation and individual on-court work, rather than on the road with his team.

Thomas, the Bobcats’ second-highest paid player this season at $8 million, has fallen out of the rotation entirely of late. Monday’s road game in Portland was the 10th straight game that Thomas was designated as inactive and the 12th-straight game in which he did not play.

When the Bobcats acquired another power forward, Josh McRoberts, at the trade deadline, McRoberts was activated for his first game before he had participated in a Bobcats practice or shootaround.

The Bobcats have a considerable financial obligation to Thomas going forward – $8.6 million for the 2013-14 season and $9.4 million for the 2014-15 season, both guaranteed.

Sixers CEO: Bynum trade ‘should have worked’We’ve detailed the plight of Andrew Bynum and the Sixers plenty around here during the season, so there’s no reason to get into Bynum’s back story or the latest news. The main takeaway with Bynum is that the Sixers haven’t gotten what they thought they would out of him this season due to Bynum’s lingering knee injuries. Still, the Sixers’ brass is coming out more and more to talk about the trade and a more or less lost season, with the latest name to step to the podium and pontificate being Sixers CEO Adam Aron. He had the following to say to John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com:

“This is a move that should have worked,” Aron said. “But, unfortunately, he got an injury in September and it’s been compounded since, post-trade and we haven’t seen a day. The fans hopes were justifiably high that the Sixers had made a move, a bold move, that would catapult us back into the top teams in the NBA. It hasn’t worked.”

“The issue for this season is not whether Andrew Bynum has surgery, it’s what are the condition of his knees?” Aron said. “We thought he was going to play opening day. His doctors gave us a four-week delay, then another four-week delay. In December, we went out publicly and said he would be out indefinitely because we just didn’t know when he would be back. If you go back in time just three weeks ago, Andrew himself was telling everyone that he thought he’d be actively playing after the All-Star break. He did practice with the team about 10 days ago. There were high hopes and he was working out hard in February behind the scenes at the practice facility. But when he practiced with the team five-on-five his knees started swelling up and that was a big setback.”

Late last week, when Bynum was asked whether his knees are degenerative, he didn’t directly answer the question, saying instead that “50 percent of the people in the United States” are in the same situation. Are Bynum’s knees degenerative?

“I can’t get into his exact medical condition,” Aron said. “But I can say this, which is obvious to all of us: All season long he’s had bone bruise issues. He’s had cartilage problems. It’s March. He’s still not playing. He hasn’t played basketball since last May. Clearly, Andrew is dealing with some knee problems that have prevented him from playing in the NBA.”

Aron said “four doctors cleared the trade in August, and six doctors have actively been treating him and examining him all year long.” The Sixers’ CEO insisted that the team, until now, was confident Bynum would play this season.

“We certainly thought he was going to play in August,” Aron said. “That’s why we made the trade. Even in early October, we thought he would play on opening night. Then there was a delay. Then there was [another] delay. Even when we announced that he was out indefinitely, inside the team we thought he would play in January or February. He himself, in February, said he would play in February. But here we are in March and the team is disappointed. Our fan base is disappointed. And that’s the story of the season.”

ICYMI of the night: One reason Monta Ellis is the 15th-best scorer in the NBA?: it’s because he can always find creative ways to get the ball in the basket, like this: