Posts Tagged ‘Bulls’

Cavaliers Really Needed This Win


VIDEO: GameTime crew breaks down Deng-to-Cleveland trade

They were staring at the possibility of Pau Gasol or Richard Jefferson and came away with Luol Deng, looking at a season screaming off a cliff  and ended up with a new chance, trying to salvage something – anything – for a mistake in the past and turning it into a future.

The Cavaliers saved the day, and a lot more. They got 2012 and ’13 All-Star Deng for Andrew Bynum, a much better outcome than Gasol from the Lakers or Jefferson from the Jazz as either short-term rentals just to avoid having to leave Bynum by the side of the road or opportunities to flip into another deal. They got a two-way player and a good professional attitude for a roster sorely lacking both.

Best of all, though, the Cavs got a new start, because the previous new start was not going well.

This blows up in their face only if Deng leaves as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, but it’s a reasonable assumption that Cleveland pulled the trigger Monday night knowing it would have to do whatever it took to re-sign him, even if that meant over-paying. Deng and his camp surely know this as well and in July will gladly capitalize on the situation, but he may have signaled a willingness to stay if the numbers are right. Multiple reports after the Bulls and Cavaliers completed the trade stated Deng turned down $30 million over three years as Chicago’s final attempt to keep him, so Cleveland knows it’s looking at demands that will reach the teens of millions of dollars.

At the very least, the Cavaliers presumably did not get a thumbs down from Deng indicating he is against re-signing. That alone is a win considering how their season has gone.

Bynum was a bad signing, even with the safety net that only $6 million of the $24 million over two seasons was guaranteed, once it became obvious through a December suspension for conduct detrimental to the team that he was not entirely focused on trying to re-start a career that once had superstar potential. (And that’s not even getting into 41.9 percent from the field in 24 games.)

Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick last June, isn’t in the rotation and is shooting 27.8 percent. Dion Waiters, the 2012 lottery pick, can’t stick in the starting lineup. The Cavaliers don’t defend or shoot well and are 11-23, although in the East, that’s also known as “three games out of eighth place.”

That’s where Deng comes in. He is a big part of the solution in those aspects, addresses a position need at small forward, can become a positive locker-room presence, and provides new momentum. Kyrie Irving, Deng, Tristan Thompson doing grunt work inside, Anderson Varejao in the middle of a successful comeback, Cleveland’s own first-round pick in 2014 – that’s something to build on. There is the chance for recovery this season plus get somewhere much bigger in the future, again with the speculation that Deng stays.

The only risk Monday was trading the first-rounder that belongs to the Kings, and that almost certainly won’t be conveyed this year because of protections. So Cleveland gave up a player it was going to cut anyway, a Draft choice it wouldn’t have gotten until 2015 at the soonest and probably not even then because of additional protections for Sacramento, the option for the Bulls to swap 2015 first-rounders to take the Cavaliers selection instead but only if the Cavs are between 15 and 30, and the Trail Blazers’ second-round picks in 2015 and ’16.

It’s a win for the Cavaliers. It’s hope for the Cavaliers.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 23


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Sometimes Love isn’t enough | Stephenson spoils Indy return for Stevens | Pistons ride roller coaster | Wade’s Holiday surprise

No. 1: Timberwolves get monster effort from Love and still lose – Kevin Love has been toiling like this now for a while. He puts up monster numbers, epic numbers often, only to see his Minnesota Timberwolves come up short in seemingly winnable games. Sunday night was no different, with Love posting just the fourth 45-points on 65-percent shooting, 15-rebounds and 5-assist game since the NBA/ABA merger and the Timberwolves found a way to fumble away a late lead in regulation and lose to the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime.

It makes you wonder if the Timberwolves are ever going to figure things out with this particular group … Rick Adelman in charge, Love and Ricky Rubio leading the way and Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic and others as role players.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com ponders the thought:

It’s getting harder and harder to believe in Minnesota, even for those among us who were ready to anoint them as this season’s Warriors. It all looked so promising six weeks ago. The Wolves were quickly mastering Adelman’s read-and-react offense from the high post and perimeter, but could also bully opponents down on the block.

The defense wasn’t half-bad either. Through the end of November, the Wolves ranked 9th in defensive efficiency. They didn’t have a legitimate rim protector on the roster, but they had good size, Ricky Rubio’s pressure up top, Corey Brewer’s skills as a stopper on the wing, and a very large man in Pekovic who nobody wants to encounter in the paint.

The December schedule hasn’t been terribly friendly, but the Wolves have been terrible, their big home win over Portland last Wednesday the one strand of hope. The offense looks nothing like anything Adelman has ever presided over. Half-court possessions are labored affairs, slow grinds into post isolations for either Love or Pekovic.

Martin has battled a knee injury for much of the month and hasn’t looked like himself. As a linchpin of the corner offense, Martin is often a bellwether for Adelman offenses, and if he’s not producing, chances are the offense is dragging.

The Wolves’ 3-and-D guy, Brewer, is shooting 17.1 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, defenses willingly slough off Rubio, practically begging him to shoot. With his confidence waning, Rubio is still racking up assists, but is less a playmaker than a reversal machine, swinging the ball to the second side without truly challenging the defense.

Speaking of defense, the Wolves have given up 106.6 points per 100 possession, a mark that would rank 28th in the NBA. Asked to identify the specific problem prior to the game, Adelman said, “We’re not guarding anybody.” Those big bodies now just look slow. Whether it’s Martin or J.J. Barea alongside Rubio, the Wolves don’t get much defensively at the 2. Brewer has conceded that his wayward shot is affecting his defense.

***

No. 2: Stephenson’s triple double trumps homecoming for Stevens – So much for that storybook homecoming for former Butler and now Celtics coach Brad Stevens. The Indiana Pacers, particularly Lance Stephenson, were having no part of the Holiday cheer. Stephenson collected his league-leading third triple-double of the season as the Pacers trounced the Celtics. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t help but dance a little bit (something Pacers coach Frank Vogel could have done without) on his way to yet another stellar performance.

Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star explains:

Stephenson finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and looked very much like a player deserving of his first All-Star berth. No other player in the NBA has more than one triple-double this season.

“I’m happy I did it,” he said. “It was in the flow of the game. My teammates helped me out. We played smart. It was easy because I know my teammates are going to knock down shots.”

Stephenson did get plenty of help, most notably from Paul George, who scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Danny Granger, playing in his just his second game after returning from a calf strain, was 4-for-5 from 3-point range and had 12 points. Roy Hibbert had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

But his teammates acknowledged afterward that Stephenson provides them an emotional lift like no one else.

“He’s just starting the game off more aggressively,” George said. “In practice, he’s been great. We’ve seen it develop over time. Now, when he gets into the game, it’s second nature to him.”

Added veteran forward David West: “One of the biggest things for young guys in the NBA is that once you work your way into the rotation and you become a guy we rely on, that just fills you up. We give him a lot of room to go out and play his game. … He definitely keeps us on our toes and keeps things light. He’s able to just do something we’ll talk about on the plane. It’s just who he is.”

Vogel wasn’t thrilled with a couple of celebration dances Stephenson did after baskets, but didn’t have much else to complain about.

“He’s such a gifted passer and playmaker for us and a huge part of our team success,” Vogel said.

STEVENS‘The emotions are in coming back and seeing friends’

Stevens, the former Butler coach who left the school in July to join the Celtics, got a warm ovation during pregame warmups and his team kept it close for one quarter.

But after that, the Pacers (22-5) showed why they have the Eastern Conference’s best record. They outscored Boston 50-22 in the paint, got 40 points from their bench and held the Celtics to just 38.1 percent shooting (32-for-84) en route to an easy victory.

As the game ended, Stevens shook hands with Vogel, a rarity at the end of a NBA game. He also shook the hand of several Pacers players.

“It was just because we’re friends and we know each other well,” said Vogel, noting they also shook hands after the Pacers’ 97-82 victory in Boston last month. “I came down and told him he was doing a great job with that team.”

***

No. 3: Pistons’ roller coaster season confounds – If Maurice Cheeks had the answers he’d have pushed those buttons already. But he doesn’t and he hasn’t. And therefore, the curious ride of the Detroit Pistons continues as the coach and his staff try to figure out how to stop the roller coaster ride that is their season and stabilize things. That’s a lot easier said than done, however, as Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News points out:

The last two home games, losses to the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Bobcats on consecutive nights over the weekend, is a clear example of nobody knowing which team will step on the floor on a given night.

“You know we’re still trying to get better,” Cheeks said. “As I said to our players, there’s going to be some good nights and bad nights. Last night (Friday) and (Saturday) was not our best.”

Cheeks believes the Bobcats loss led to the poor showing against the Rockets. The Pistons blew a 20-point lead to Charlotte on Friday and looking almost apathetic on Saturday.

“I believe there could’ve been some carryover,” Cheeks said. “I can’t discount that because it was a tough loss.”

Losing five of six at home is an unexpected circumstance, although there isn’t much shame in losing to the Miami Heat in a game where the champions were intent on sending a message.

But blowout losses to the Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves are combined with come-from-ahead losses to the Bobcats and Portland Trail Blazers, mixed in with a win against the Brooklyn Nets that was tougher than it needed to be.

“I don’t know, I don’t know. I guess that’s determined when we go up and down the floor a few times,” said forward Josh Smith, when asked about getting a pulse on the team’s energy before games.

.***

No. 4: Wade surprises Union with Holiday ring – Heat guard Dwyane Wade has no problem mixing business with pleasure. He used Heat boss Pat Riley‘s annual Holiday party as his impromptu engagement party after officially popping the question to longtime girlfriend Gabrielle Union before they arrived at Riley’s affair. The surprise engagement was announced via social media. But Union showing up with a huge diamond ring on her finger added an extra dash of flair to the festivities, upstaging Riley at his own gig in the process, not that anyone was complaining about that. In fact, Wade popping the question was a bit of a team effort, so says Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

Wade proposed to Union before the party at his home and then announced the engagement on Twitter and Instagram.

Wade said his children helped him pop the question.

“We asked her to marry all of us, not just me,” Wade said. “It was a package deal.”

Wade and Union have dated since 2007.

“She was ready,” Wade said. “She had the ‘yes’ in her back pocket.”

At the holiday party, Wade then surprised his teammates with green custom-made sports coats commemorating their 2013 championship. The blazers featured the players’ jersey numbers on the sleeves and white Heat logos on the front pockets.

Wade said his inspirations for the unique mementos were the Masters golf tournament and Rasheed Wallace. Wallace famously had pro wrestling-style replica championship belts made for his Pistons teammates for winning the 2004 NBA Finals. Wade liked Wallace’s idea but wanted something a little classier.

Said Wade: “You know me, I’m always trying to do something different and out of the norm, and I started thinking about what have previous champions done … and then it came to be me, because of fashion and because of the Masters and how amazing it is when they win the green jacket and all the previous winners come back and take pictures with the green jackets and how prestigious it is … so I got with my stylist and created this Masters kind of feel.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Thunder fell victim to the red-hot Raptors and the schedule in their first home loss of the season Sunday … Much like their NFL counterparts, the Dallas Mavericks are having no problems scoring. It’s the defense that they are struggling with these days … The Hawks have brought big man Lucas Nogueira to Atlanta for treatment of his ailing knees.

ICYMI Of The Night: Kevin Love put up the stat line of the night and delivered the elbow of the week, but Blake Griffin got the win, the knot on his forehead and the shine on Nightly Notable …


VIDEO: Blake Griffin gets the shiner (on his forehead) and the shine in the end

Money Talks, Asik Doesn’t Walk

Omer Asik's "poison pill" contract may have backfired on Houston (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

The “poison pill” in Omer Asik’s contract may have backfired on Houston. (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

HOUSTON — Follow the money. It’s an adage that’s been around as long as Deep Throat whispering to Bob Woodward in a garage.

The Rockets’ efforts to trade discontented center Omer Asik by their self-imposed deadline this week have ended in large part because other teams are leery of the structure of the Turkish 7-footer’s contract and the cash payments due. As a result, even though the official NBA trade deadline is not until Feb. 20, a league source said Asik could wind up staying in Houston for the length of his deal.

Asik signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Rockets in the summer of 2012, which included a so-called “poison pill” final season salary of $15 million that was put in place to discourage his previous team, the Bulls, from matching the offer. Even though the money can be spread out evenly over the deal and applied to the salary cap at $8.3 million in the 2014-15 season, many of Houston’s would-be trade partners balked at laying out so much cash for a 25-30 minute per game player.

Asik averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds while starting all 82 games for the Rockets last season. But he has repeatedly asked to be traded ever since the club signed free-agent center Dwight Howard in July. Coach Kevin McHale tried Howard and Asik together as a Twin Towers combination in the starting lineup to open the season, but pulled the plug on the experiment after eight games when there was little chemistry or effectiveness at both ends of the court.

After Asik begged off playing on Nov. 14 at New York and then repeated his trade request, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey stepped up his efforts to make a deal, talking at times to the Sixers, Celtics, Hawks, Bucks, Cavaliers and others. A deal that would have brought Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a draft pick to Houston was discussed more than a week ago and rejected by the Rockets.

Evidently, the more that Morey pressed to move Asik, the more other teams expressed their reticence and began to lower their offers.

A hint that no deal was forthcoming may have come from McHale both before and after Wednesday night’s 109-94 win at home over the Bulls. On two different occasions, the head coach made reference to “when Omer gets back.” Asik has been sidelined since Dec. 2 with a severely bruised thigh that eventually caused a fluid build-up around his knee.

The Rockets would like nothing more than for Asik to accept his role as Howard’s backup, giving them a chance to keep a good rim protector on the court at all times. However, that will require a significant attitude adjustment by the 7-footer who has pouted openly and made no secret of his desire to go to a team where he could be a full-time starter.

There is nothing to stop Morey from continuing to peddle Asik around the league. And the market could percolate as the Feb. 20 trade deadline approaches. But it is that clever contract with the $15 million final year payout that landed him with the Rockets that could keep them stuck with him.

Clock Ticking … Woodson Will Serve As Sacrifice For Knicks’ Bigger Failures




VIDEO: The GameTime crew breaks down the final plays of the Knicks’ loss Monday

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It won’t be cheerful around Mike Woodson‘s household come Christmas — provided the embattled New York Knicks’ coach lasts that long.

Woodson did the right thing Monday night, manning up to his failings in the final stages of the Knicks’ gut-punch loss to Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards.

But his own words may well cost him his job.

“I probably should have taken it, the timeout, there at the end,” Woodson said after the final frantic moments of what New Yorker’s have already crowned the “Manhattan Meltdown.”

Woodson didn’t call the timeout to organize his troops in those chaotic final seconds. His team didn’t foul Beal before he was able to glide to the rim, basically uncontested, for the game-winning layup. In the waning ticks of the clock, Woodson stood silently, with three timeouts unused.

So it was left to Carmelo Anthony to try to atone for his coach’s mistake. Melo’s desperation heave at the buzzer couldn’t salvage a disastrous situation.

Then things got really bad for Woodson.

“I should’ve reacted a lot sooner once the ball went through the bucket,” Woodson said of Beal’s game-winner, “so that’s on me … It happened so fast.”

Woodson, of course, will serve as the sacrifice, but there’s a much bigger failure by the organization here. After all, he’s not the one who made the personnel decisions that have left the Knicks with a mismatched roster of players incapable of repeating what last season’s Atlantic Division-winning crew did. He’s not the one playing defense. (Or, as in the Knicks’ case, not playing defense).

That said, someone has to serve as the fall guy. And firing the coach is often the only way to pacify an uneasy fan base.

Is it fair? Probably not. It usually isn’t. But Woodson and the other members of the NBA’s coaching fraternity are paid handsomely to shoulder this sort of burden. They get hired knowing that the ending is usually an ugly one, with the coach being shown the door without any of the pomp and circumstance that accompanied the process on the front end.

“As far as I’m concerned he’s secure right now,” Anthony said in defense of the coach that engineered the Knicks’ 54-win season a year ago. “I haven’t heard anything. Nothing to discuss, so he’s our coach and we’re rolling with him.”

The other words he spoke, however, are the ones that will resonate with the masses.

“We were supposed to call a timeout, we didn’t, and we lost the game,” Anthony said. “If he said it’s his fault, then it’s his fault. There’s no need for me to talk about that or make excuses for it.”

The chances of Woodson turning this around any time soon are remote. Tyson Chandler‘s return from injury won’t save him. Neither will compliance from J.R. Smith. Jim Dolan‘s vote of confidence at this point will serve only to stir the drama.

So the rumors will persist. Rumblings about the Knicks pursuing the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau as a potential replacement/savior will no doubt intensify, stoked furiously by the New York media machine.

And Woodson will bear the brunt of it all. Because, fair or not, this is on him.


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony on the Knicks’ loss to the Wizards

13 NBA Reasons To Be Thankful


VIDEO: NBA players give thanks for their communities and more

Before we dig into the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, here’s a baker’s dozen things on the NBA plate to appreciate on Thanksgiving Day:

Kobe Bryant: We get two more years — at least — of the most ruthless, relentless, never-show-a-weakness competitor the league and maybe pro sports has seen since Michael Jordan was chewing up the scenery and opponents in Chicago. In the wake of his signing a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension, we also got a slew of critiques about impact on the salary cap and physical limits of your average 35-year-old body that overlook his unquenchable thirst to play, his drive to get back onto the court for the Lakers. Love him or hate him, you’ll miss him when he’s gone.


VIDEO: The Starters talk about Kobe Bryant’s new deal

The Heat Wave: Never mind that the Celtics did it in 2008 with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the Celtics did it in 1980 with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, the Celtics did all through the late ‘50s and 1960s with Bill Russell and an entire wing of the Hall of Fame and the Lakers did it with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. The Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami is just what the doctored ordered in the overreactive, hypersensitive age of social media — something to cheer, complain and obsess about. And, oh yeah, they’re damn good.

LeBron James: For all of the disappointment over not getting to the top in Cleveland, bad judgment and bad taste of “The Decision,” he took his talents to South Beach and has delivered on the promise. Would Jordan or Bird or Magic or Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell have stood up to the 24/7 scrutiny under which James has played his entire career? Be thankful you get to see him now, because 20-30 years from now you’ll be bragging to the grandkids that you did.


VIDEO: LeBron James is off to a monster start again this season

Riquickulous: It’s not just a clever TV commercial for Nike. On almost any night he laces up his sneakers, it never gets old to know that the game’s greatest ball handler and top point guard Chris Paul is quite likely to pull off a variation of the “the pull-back-hop-step-under-the-left-leg-behind-the-back-right-hand-two-dribble-half-pokey-crossover-between-two-defenders-drop-step-take-tweet-through-over-the-shoulder-pop-pass-into-the-sidestep-power-jump-stop-double-clutch-offhand-reverse-floater-layin.”

Anybody need me to repeat that?


VIDEO: Chris Paul puts a ridiculous move on the Rockets’ Jeremy Lin

The Spurs Way: They’re the often unseen lining on the inside of an expensive fur coat, the overlooked soles on the bottom of a pair of $1,000 designer shoes. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and all of the stability and professionalism they stand for in San Antonio prove that you don’t have to live in the headlines to be deserving of them.

John, Paul George & Ringo: Because of where they’re from, because of who they are, the Pacers will likely never be known as the Fab Four or Five, even if they’re lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. It’s a team-wide commitment to the task that has the Pacers steely-eyed and focused on the rolling up the best record in the league. But watching the growth and transformation of George from talented rookie into team leader and MVP candidate has been nothing short of breathtaking.


VIDEO: NBA Action takes a closer look at Indiana’s fast start to 2013-14

LaMarcus Aldridge: Another MVP candidate from another team with a geographical handicap that keeps the world of headlines and acclaim from beating a path to his door. The Blazers forward could have become discouraged and looked to bail out of Portland after three straight non-playoff seasons in the prime of his career. Instead he’s doing it all and having his best season in the NBA Go ahead, tell me you saw 13-3 coming.


VIDEO: The Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge has helped Portland start off solid

Gregg Popovich vs. Craig Sager: Those terse, contentious in-game chats on TNT between the acerbic Spurs coach and a guy wearing one of Secretariat’s old stable blankets are some of the most uncomfortable and hilarious bits in the history of television. Other sideline reporters have tried to horn in on the act, but this is Ali-Frazier of the genre.

Russell Westbrook: Yes, he’s wild, restless, unpredictable, flamboyant, stubborn and burn-down-the-house crazy at times on the court. But we watch him with our jaws dropped because of those traits. I know you expected me to say Kevin Durant, and I have nothing but respect for K.D.’s silky smooth, just-go-about-his-business approach to the game. But when it comes to the Thunder, you can’t help but be drawn to the lightning.


VIDEO: Russell Westbrook runs wild on the Nuggets in Oklahoma City’s victory

Love Story: Everybody knew he could rebound coming out of UCLA, but not like this. Everybody knew he could shoot and score and pass when he entered the NBA. But not like this. There are still general managers in the league who foolishly label Kevin Love as “unathletic” every year in their annual poll and you have to wonder how they keep their paycheck or any sense of credibility. The Timberwolves power forward is challenging LeBron in the early MVP race with a game that is deliciously well-rounded.


VIDEO: Kevin Love is leading the league in rebounding

Stephen Curry: Slender as a reed and maybe as frail as a snowflake, Curry is delicate yet dangerous, in some ways the 21st century version of George Gervin because he can shoot with such ease and from unexpected angles and barely ever looks like he’s breaking a sweat. It’s his propensity for injuries that makes you want to take in as much as you can see right now, just in case.

Andre Miller: He’s old and slow … and he’s been that way for what seems like decades now. But at 37 and in his 15th season, if you bounced him out of Denver right now and into Chicago, the Bulls would have just the smart, tough point guard they need to stay in the Eastern Conference race. There’s something about watching an experienced, heady veteran surviving and thriving that is satisfying.

Motor City Jerseys: OK, let’s not get carried away and see Kobe wearing “La-La Land,” Dwight Howard “H-Town” or LeBron “South Beach” across his chest. Detroit and the Motor City nickname has history, tradition, staying power. It really means something to a town that has taken its share of lumps and bruises through the years and a franchise with a long-standing championship pedigree. The Pistons in the Motor City jerseys are just, well, cool.

Injury List Is Filling Up Fast


VIDEO: Marc Gasol leaves game vs. Spurs with knee injury

Everybody knows about the Monday morning blues.

But how about Friday night despair?

Derrick Rose goes down in Portland. Marc Gasol limps off in Memphis. Andre Iguodala feels a “pop” in his hamstring.

It was a painful start to the weekend for at least three contenders in the first month of a season that is already keeping the MRI machines working overtime and coaches and general managers reaching for the aspirin bottle.

Here’s a rundown of the biggest names currently on the injury list:

Derrick Rose, Bulls — Had to be helped off the floor when his right knee buckled while making a back cut Friday night in Portland. Prognosis: Results of MRI pending.

Marc Gasol, Grizzlies — The All-Star center and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year left Friday night’s loss at home to the Spurs with 10:24 left in the second quarter with an injury to his left knee. “Without him, we become a makeshift team,” said Tony Allen. Prognosis: Results of MRI pending.

Andre Iguodala, Warriors — The free agent signing who jumped Golden State from interesting team and tough matchup to true championship contender in the West, was sprinting down court in transition defense when he pulled up holding his left hamstring. Prognosis: Officially called a “strain,” Iguodala will have an MRI performed today.

Stephen Curry, Warriors — It was labeled a “mild concussion” when the sharp-shooting guard had his head bounced off the court in a scramble for the ball with Utah’s Marvin Williams, but he has now missed two straight games. Prognosis: Curry is a game-time decision at home tonight against the Trail Blazers (10:30 ET, League Pass).

Kobe Bryant, Lakers — The most famous Achilles’ tendon since, well, Achilles, has had the Black Mamba on the shelf since April, when any hope of the Lakers as a dark horse contender in the 2013 playoffs went up in smoke. Prognosis: He’s back on the court in practice, looking good, according to teammates. Bryant is proceeding cautiously, but now looks like a good bet to beat the consensus pick of Christmas Day for his return to the Lakers lineup.

Tyson Chandler, Knicks — The Knicks center and second-most important player on the roster behind Carmelo Anthony has been sidelined since suffering a broken right fibula in a game at Madison Square Garden against Charlotte on Nov. 5. The Knicks are 2-6 without him in the lineup. Prognosis: The 2012 Defensive Player of the year did not suffer nerve or ligament damage in his leg and is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Dwyane Wade, Heat — The All-Star guard has been battling balky knees all season. He’s missed three of Miami’s first dozen games, including the last two against Atlanta and at Orlando. Prognosis: Averaging 16.7 points in 33.2 minutes per game,Wade is expected to return at home tonight against the Magic (7:30 ET, League Pass).

Steve Nash, Lakers — Recurring nerve problems in his back have had the 39-year-old point guard out of the lineup since Nov. 10. Since that time, the former two-time MVP has had to push back at reports that he is considering retirement. Prognosis: Reports out of L.A. say Nash will sit for at least four more games, not returning before December at the earliest.

Deron Williams, Nets — He’s played in just two of the Nets’ last five games, leaving both early after re-injuring a bothersome left ankle. Wednesday night against Charlotte he played 13 minutes, making just 1 of 5 shots. He is having the worst season of his nine-year NBA career, averaging 9.3 points and shooting 40.5 percent. Prognosis: Williams sat out Friday night’s loss at Minnesota and is questionable for Sunday at home vs. the Pistons.

Brook Lopez, Nets — The Brooklyn center sprained his left ankle on Nov. 15 at Phoenix and has missed the last four games, all losses for the Nets. Prognosis: It has not yet been determined whether Lopez will be able to play Sunday night against the Pistons.

Andrei Kirilenko, Nets — The free agent forward signee has missed seven consecutive games with back spasms. The New York Daily News reported that he recently received an epidural injection. Prognosis: Kirilenko hopes to be cleared to return to contact and take part in practice starting on Monday.

Deja Blue All Over Again For Rose


VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses Rose’s latest injury

You couldn’t help Bulls fans for feeling like they were stuck inside an adidas TV commercial.

The World Stopped. Again.

With under four minutes left in the third quarter Friday night in Portland, Derrick Rose made a back cut, landed awkwardly on his right leg and needed assistance off the court. Again.

Suddenly another Bulls season is in freeze-frame and just like that so many of the Chicago unfaithful ready to jump ship.

Within hours, even minutes, of Rose crumbling to the floor, there were criticisms of the former MVP being “soft” and “weak” filling up online fan sites. There were those who chastised Bulls management for not having traded Rose away already and others who said it was time to blow up the entire roster and start all over again.

Please.

Can we take a deep breath and at least get the results of the MRI that will be performed On Rose’s right knee today in Los Angeles before jumping off the Willis Tower?

According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was understandably worried.

“He has pain and it felt like he couldn’t push off his right knee,” Thibodeau said. “I’m concerned. Any time anyone goes down, you’re concerned. But I don’t want to speculate until we get more information.”

While no immediate word came regarding its severity, Rose couldn’t put weight on the leg as training staff personnel escorted him to the locker room after Marquis Teague replaced him. Rose, who didn’t address reporters afterward, also used crutches to hobble in and out of the shower after the game.

“He’s disappointed he couldn’t finish the game,” Thibodeau said. “Derrick’s a hard guy to read. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion. But we’re concerned.

“Again, I don’t want to speculate on what it is and what it might be, other than my concern for him. I know how much work he has put into his rehab and the type of person and player he is. So I feel for him because of all the things that he does and what they mean to our team.”

The situation is eerily similar to when Rose was injured late in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs, a shredded left ACL that kept him on the sidelines for 18 months and forced him to miss all of last season.

Back then there was the initial shock, followed by the diligent rehab work by the All-Star point guard and the hopeful message delivered by the emotional, rousing adidas commercial that showed Rose making a triumphant return to the United Center court and bringing an entire city back to life.

That was all before Rose chose the more cautious — and more prudent — route of sitting out the entire 2012-13 season and felt the scorn from those who challenged his courage and commitment to the team.

While still feeling his way along in his comeback, Rose had already tied his season high in the third quarter Friday night with 20 points and seven trips to the free-throw line when suddenly he went down again.

Of course, the Bulls had proved themselves capable of surviving last season without their leader, finishing 45-37. But everyone knows they are no real threat to challenge Miami and Indiana for Eastern Conference supremacy without Rose.

There may have been a glimmer of good news from the Bulls locker room late Friday night, says Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“He (Rose) didn’t seem nervous,’’ teammate Taj Gibson said. “Of course he’s a competitor, he was more focused on us trying to pull that win out.

“Right now, the focus is what that MRI will say. But he’s having good hopes, his head was high. He wasn’t down, feeling sorry for himself.’’

Secondly, Rose was on crutches, but was putting a bit more pressure on the leg on his way to the locker room. When he was helped off the court at the end of the third quarter, he was putting almost no pressure on the knee and noticeably wincing.

There was the matter of a 21-point lead blown to the Trail Blazers, two straight losses to open a six-game road trip and a tepid 6-5 start to the season.

But for now, everything is back in freeze-frame as the world for Rose, the Bulls and Chicago, stops. Again.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness (Or Wins)


VIDEO: A. Sherrod Blakely discusses Boston’s solid start to the season

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Fast starts by teams expected to struggle combined with awkwardly slow starts by teams expected to excel have turned the NBA standings upside-down.

Several of the league’s gold-plated outfits like the Nets, Knicks and Lakers are looking up at .500, while intentionally low-budget operations like the Suns and Sixers sit at or darn near the top of their respective divisions, at least here in the opening two weeks.

It’s all the more interesting when looking at this stage of the collective bargaining agreement. Ratified in December 2011, the CBA ushered in a new era of increased luxury tax penalties and the so-called repeater tax, deterrents designed to curb overspending and promote a level financial playing field across market sizes.

This is the third season under the new rules, but the first with the harsher luxury tax penalties in play — graduated tax hikes as opposed to the old dollar-for-dollar rate. We’ve seen numerous teams adjust how they spend to construct rosters that fall below the league’s luxury tax threshold ($71.7 million this season), to, one, avoid paying a tax and, two, to prevent the clock from starting on (or adding to) the repeater tax, which hammers a franchise with a hefty fine for crossing the luxury tax threshold in any four out of five seasons.

So this season we’re at something of a CBA crossroads. There are a handful of teams that have stripped their rosters to bare-bones salary levels (Sixers, Suns, Jazz) to clear out cap space for summer free-agent spending (and OK, maybe even better their chances for a high 2014 Draft pick). There are a few teams that are well into the luxury tax and are essentially locked there until large contracts expire (Lakers, Bulls, sort of the Knicks). And then there is the Brooklyn Nets, the one team that continues to pile on the payroll. Everybody else has pretty well adjusted and falls between the salary cap ($58.7 million) and the luxury tax threshold.

The Nets’ payroll is a stunning $102.2 million. It will ring up a tax bill around $85 million, a league record and larger than the total payroll of all but likely two teams — its own and its Big Apple neighbor, the Knicks ($87.9 million). The Suns’ payroll ranks 29th in the 30-team league at about $53 million, and the Sixers are last at about $40 million, actually well below the league’s minimum cap figure that was instituted in the CBA.

But as is often the case, it’s not always the highest rollers who finish first.

With that, let’s look at how the NBA conference standings (through Wednesday’s games) stack up — payroll vs. actual winning percentage (all team salaries are courtesy of ShamSports.com):

Rank East team payroll rank East team win pct. (through Nov. 13) West team payroll rank West team win pct. (through Nov. 13)
No. 1 Brooklyn Indiana L.A. Lakers San Antonio
No. 2 New York Miami L.A. Clippers Portland
No. 3 Miami Philadelphia Oklahoma City Oklahoma City
No. 4 Boston Atlanta Memphis L.A. Clippers
No. 5 Washington Charlotte Golden State Minnesota
No. 6 Toronto Chicago Denver Phoenix
No. 7 Toronto Toronto Dallas Golden State
No. 8 Indiana Boston Minnesota Dallas
No. 9 Detroit Orlando New Orleans Houston
No. 10 Cleveland New York Houston Denver
No. 11 Charlotte Cleveland Portland L.A. Lakers
No. 12 Orlando Detroit San Antonio Memphis
No. 13 Milwaukee Milwaukee Sacramento New Orleans
No. 14 Atlanta Brooklyn Utah Sacramento
No. 15 Philadelphia Washington Phoenix Utah

Never Too Soon For Snap Judgments


VIDEO: Sixers begin season with strong start

 

So what if we’ll have to skip the clocks ahead again before we even finish the long grind of the regular season? Does it really matter that it will take more than seven months for somebody to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy? It’s never too soon to leap to conclusions about what we know — or think we know — one week into the 2013-14 regular season.

Heat – Nobody this side of Miley Cyrus gets more scrutiny, criticism and hyperventilating overreaction than the two-time defending champs. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade already have to talk over the alarm bells, trying to put out the fires of two losses in their first three games. They still have the best player in the game, still have a more than capable No. 2 man if he stays healthy and still will be the team to beat when the playoffs begin in April. That won’t stop the sky from falling on nearly a weekly basis. But you still want to pick them for next June.

Clippers – So much for the closing down of Lob City by the new mayor Doc Rivers. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still running free and easy with the top-rated offense in the league (119.5), but we’re going to have to see more out of DeAndre Jordan and that unicorn defense before we consider the Clips to be true playoff contenders in the West.

Derrick Rose — The Bulls’ star will be right behind the Heat with the Chicken Little crowd that will fret and worry and complain with every missed shot and turnover. He’ll have the most scrutinized repaired leg in the league until Kobe Bryant returns. The good news is that Rose hasn’t shown any ill effects from the knee surgery and it’s only a matter of time until he regains the stroke and the confidence that make him an MVP candidate and Chicago a threat to push Miami and Indiana in the playoffs.

Advantage Howard – The 2-2 Lakers might be saying they’re having fun without the 6-foot-11 distraction, but Dwight Howard is healthy and living up to all expectations in Houston as both an inside force (15 rebounds per game) and solid veteran presence in the Rockets locker room. No longer suffering from back and shoulder problems, Howard is playing joyfully and stress-free for the first time in three seasons. He’s been accepting of instruction from coach Kevin McHale, willing to move out to guard power forwards as part of the twin towers tandem experiment with Omer Asik, and has the Rockets on track to their stated goal of getting home-court advantage in the West playoffs, at the very least.

Lakers – If they were in a swimming pool, the Lakers would be wearing an orange life jacket and just trying to bob their heads above the water line. It’s a two-part season that’s B.K. and A.K. — Before Kobe and After Kobe – and things just don’t look good for the long haul with Steve Nash struggling badly and a bench that provides as much real support as a, well, bench.

Sixers – Other than LeBron and Wade declaring that they were taking the season off to visit an ashram to find inner peace, could there have been a more shocking start to the season than a 3-0 start in always sunny Philadelphia? Michael Carter-Williams, Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is the real deal. But the Warriors proved Monday that the Sixers will eventually settle down to their real level in the Andrew Wiggins Derby, especially after GM Sam Hinkie possibly parlays the quick starts by Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and maybe Thaddeus Young into deals for more draft picks.

Thunder – OK, everybody kicks five bucks into the pot and the winner is the person who picks the exact time — day, hour, minute and seconds — when some knucklehead rips Russell Westbrook for being the kind of bad/selfish teammate that will never help Kevin Durant win a championship. The truth is, since GM Sam Presti’s benevolent giveaway of James Harden to Houston, Westbrook is Durant’s only chance of getting back to The Finals. No more Memphis getting past half a Thunder team. No more avoiding the toughest challenge in the West, Spurs. Yes, Durant is OKC’s best player. But Westbrook, healthy and with a chip on his shoulder, is the hard edge on the court.

Wizards – How many times can we wait on the revamped Wizards to have that bust-out season that propels them back into the playoff picture in the East? John Wall is fine, Trevor Ariza is averaging a double-double, they have a healthy center in Marcin Gortat and yet Washington is still 0-3 with a defense that is simply dreadful. Coach Randy Wittman still leads the race for first coach fired.

Warriors – They’re like the magician that has your eyes glued to his pretty assistant in the skimpy outfit that is their high octane, high scoring offense, while coach Mark Jackson’s team really wants to pull rabbits out of their hats with a defense that will get in your face and get after it. Andre Iguodala couldn’t have been a better fit if he’d been sewn into the lineup by a British tailor.

Love Is All You Need – Well, it would certainly help to have Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and the rest of the star-crossed Timberwolves remain ambulatory through the 82-game schedule. But if there were a Comeback Player of the Year Award for the first week of the season, it would have to go to Kevin Love, who’s been nothing short of a beast scoring and rebounding. This is why it was never rash to envision the Timberwolves Western Conference playoffs the past two seasons. If Love stays healthy, they make it even in a crowded race.

Nets – While losing two of their first three was seen as a sign of the apocalypse in Miami, that trendy, high-priced collection of talent in Brooklyn might be the real candidate for being oversold as championship contenders, a win over the Heat notwithstanding. It still remains to be seen if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce can continue to produce like their old selves as they become older selves. In the end, it will all come down to whether Deron Williams can get himself back among the elite level of point guards. So far, the shot just isn’t falling.

Knicks – Like the buzz over Gangnam Style and Zero Dark Thirty, Carmelo Anthony and his friends are just so last year. In fact, since their blazing start out of the gate in 2012-13, the Knicks have been positively mediocre and there is no indication that things will change soon. They were laughably “all-in” for a championship run last season, came up way short and now the brightest news is Melo saying he’d like to retire as a Knick. Perfect. Looks like a lot of them already have.

Anthony Davis – The No. 1 pick from the 2012 draft has positively exploded with his growth in the league, almost doubling his scoring from 13.5 to 23.7 ppg, bumping rebounds up from 8.2 to 12.3 and blocks from 1.8 to 4.0. This the Davis who had everyone drooling over his potential at Kentucky and makes the Pelicans a fun stop when flipping channels on League Pass. Now, if only coach Monty Williams could find a way to put some zip into an offense that is only mediocre because they play at such a horridly slow pace in an up-tempo league.

Pacers — Let the Nets spend all the money, the Knicks suck up all the oxygen with talk of Melo’s free agent destination and the Bulls ride the frenzy around every peak and valley in Rose’s return. Meanwhile in the heartland, Paul George keeps getting better, Lance Stephenson keeps learning about consistency, coach Frank Vogel keeps cranking up the intensity on the league’s best defense and the Pacers happily keep playing in the shadows as the real top threat to Miami in the East.

 


VIDEO: The Beat crew talks about Westbrook’s swift return

Only Time Will Get Rose To Full Bloom

VIDEO: Derrick Rose talks about his long road back to the Bulls

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Can we finally get all those people who climbed on Derrick Rose’s back to play last spring to admit they were wrong, wrong, wrong?

This was the guy who was supposed to risk his MVP career on a surgically repaired left knee to go out and lift the Bulls up, up, up and over the Heat?

This guy who, six months later, has made 15 of his 52 shots (28.8 percent), turned the ball over 17 times, dealt just 13 assists and grabbed only 11 rebounds in three games? This guy who couldn’t keep up with rookie Michael Carter-Williams’ drives to the hoop?

The Bulls are now 1-2 after falling to the indomitable Sixers and, as noted by Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago, the All-Star is taking responsibility:

“If it was up to me, I would blame tonight on me,” Rose said after shooting 4-for-14 with eight turnovers in Philly. “Turnovers, missed shots, missed communication on defense — I just can’t wait to get in my groove. But I can’t hang my head; I know I’ve worked too hard for that, so it’s going to come.”

That’s just the point. The old Rose is going to come, eventually. Now some of those who were so foolishly prodding him to get back on the floor late last season when he did not yet have full confidence in his knee are complaining that Rose could have gotten the “rust knocked off” six months ago, and now would be in full bloom again.

It simply doesn’t work that way. Those who sit at home and watch on TV or even those who plunk down big money for the expensive seats have little understanding what it takes to overcome a major injury/surgery. Then, an Adrian Peterson pulls off a virtually unprecedented feat in the NFL last season and the bar is suddenly raised for everyone.

“Amnesia,” Rose said of his mindset, noting that the season is just three games old. “I have games like this. [I'm] coming off a big surgery or whatever, but all I can do is get the most out of every practice, every shootaround, every shooting session, and go out there and play, but it’s going to come to me.”

It is certainly admirable, and perhaps expected from what we know of his personality, that 35-year-old Kobe Bryant vows to push the limits of credulity and his body in getting back into the Lakers lineup sooner than most anyone thought possible. However, Kobe is Kobe and only time will tell if can live up to his own always high expectations.

Rose’s struggles now only prove that he made the right decision back then.