Posts Tagged ‘Dwayne Wade’

After 50 Greatest: The Next 10


VIDEO: Shaq breaks out his list for the Next 10

It’s been more than 17 years since the NBA named its 50 Greatest Players in History as part of the annual All-Star weekend in Cleveland. Almost from the moment the list was revealed, the debate began.

How could the legendary Dominique Wilkins be left off? How could a 24-year-old Shaquille O’Neal, who was in just his fifth pro season, be included?

I was privileged to be among the 50 players, coaches, league executives and media members that made up the selection panel. Yes, I voted for Dominique. Not for Shaq. I thought it was too soon, his resume still incomplete, though he did, of course, become a no-brainer. The others I voted for that missed were: Bob McAdoo, Slater Martin, Dennis Johnson and Mo Cheeks.

As the 2014-15 season approaches, the gang at NBA TV’s Open Court decided it would be a time to expand the list of the 50 Greatest and choose The Next 10. The panel of O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Chris Webber, Isiah Thomas, Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups and Ernie Johnson had a lively discussion. You can see their picks on Tuesday night’s season-opening edition of Open Court (NBA TV, 6:30 ET, replay at 1:00 ET on Wednesday morning).

That got me to compiling my own Next 10 list. My parameters were not to re-legislate the past, so I’ve made my picks based only on players that played the majority of their careers after the original list in 1997:

Tim Duncan, with coach Gregg Popovich (Andrew D Bernstein/NBAE)

Tim Duncan, with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (Andrew D Bernstein/NBAE)

1 — Tim Duncan — It’s quite fitting that the Spurs made him the No. 1 pick in the Draft just months after the celebration of the 50 Greatest. He’s the perfect torch bearer at the perfect time to lead into the next generation. Five-time NBA champ, two-time MVP, three-time Finals MVP, 14-time All-Star, the Big Fundamental has been able to do it all for the past 17 seasons, staking his claim as the greatest power forward in history.

2 — Kobe Bryant – How many other 36-year-olds could enter a 19th NBA season coming off Achilles’ tendon and knee surgery and still defiantly believe that he’ll be able to dominate games and make his team contender? And you give him the benefit of the doubt? Currently fourth on the all-time scoring list, Kobe is poised to pass Michael Jordan this season. Call him ego-driven, a lightning rod or whatever you want, but since 1996, after winning five titles, an MVP award and two Finals MVPs, you have to call him elite.

3 — LeBron James — Not since Wilt Chamberlain has a player come into the league with such fantastic, over-the-top hype. Jealous criticisms aside, all he’s done is live up to it. The perfect combination of size, strength, speed, smarts and unselfishness. He’s just 29 years old with  four MVP awards, two championships, two Finals MVPs and 10 straight All-Star appearances already. And now he’s going back to Cleveland to keep writing the tale. As the late Howard Cosell once said, his critics might as well be shooting “spitballs at a battleship.” Clearly the best all-around player of his generation. He ranks only third here out of respect to his elders.

4 — Dirk Nowitzki — Did the Milwaukee Bucks know what they were trading away when they made him the ninth pick in the 1998 Draft and shipped him to Dallas for Robert “Tractor” Traylor? Did the basketball world remotely expect that a raw, gangly 7-footer from Wurzburg, Germany could grow into probably the best shooting big man in history? MVP, Finals MVP, champion, 12-time All-Star, he’s one of the Mt. Rushmore faces of international players that changed the NBA.

5 — Kevin Garnett — From those early days as a raw 19-year-old who became the first high schooler in nearly two decades to jump straight to the NBA, his calling card has been intensity. Of course, K.G. also has a bundle of talent at both ends of the court. NBA champion, MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, 15-time All-Star. If you needed somebody to play in a game with your life on the line, you’d want Garnett on the floor.

6 — Allen Iverson – You can keep Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. When it’s the toughest, most resilient pound-for-pound fighter we’re talking about, The Answer is the answer. The little guy was bruised, beaten, body slammed on a nightly basis and just kept popping back up to fire off another dozen or so shots. MVP, 11 All-Star appearances, four-time scoring champ and three-time steals leader. Watching him drag that 2001 Sixers team to The Finals was a joy.

7 — Dwyane Wade – It’s convenient in some corners to say that he’s been the ultimate ride-along partner to O’Neal and James in winning three championships. That corner of the world evidently didn’t have a TV to watch the NBA Finals in 2006 when he brought Miami out of an 0-2 hole against Dallas with games of 42, 36, 43 and 36 points. Explosive, acrobatic and willing to make his game fit in with LeBron for two more titles in the Big Three Era, Wade’s crowd-pleasing, no-holds-barred style has taken a toll on his body. But he never stops. Scoring champ, Finals MVP, 10 All-Star Games and the all-time leader in blocked shots for players 6-foot-4 and under.

8 — Jason Kidd – He began his career in Dallas in 1994 as a point guard that could beat you down the floor on the break or break down your set defense. By the time he returned to Dallas to win a championship with the Mavs, he was a slow 3-point specialist. In between Kidd was one of the smartest and best all-around players in the NBA, third on the all-time triple-doubles list and the only player in history with 15,000 points, 10,000 assists and 7,000 rebounds.

9 — Chris Webber — The critics will point to a resume that doesn’t have a championship or even a trip to The Finals. But they would be missing the forest for the trees. From the time he was the No. 1 pick in the 1993 Draft through the next decade, until he needed micro fracture knee surgery, Webber was as good a do-everything forward as there was in the game. He turned lowly teams at Golden State, Washington and Sacramento into winners by averaging 20-10 and being a slick, willing passer.

10 — Kevin Durant — At just 26, with the meat of his career still ahead, there is the temptation to put him in the Shaq category with the original 50 and say let him marinate a while longer. But with four scoring titles, five All-NBA first team selections and the 2014 MVP award under his belt, who needs to wait? He can get off a shot any time from anywhere on the court and never look like he’s straining. A pure scoring machine who makes it all look too, too easy.

Morning shootaround: June 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap for June 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Duncan breaks two records | Higgins out as Hornets president | Sterling hires investigators | LeBron’s decision won’t hinge on title

No. 1: Duncan rewrites postseason history — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his all-time great power forward Tim Duncan won’t care about the two postseason records he set in Thursday’s Game 4. He might not just yet, but once he leaves the game — whenever that will be — those records will probably be quite meaningful to him. Duncan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most career minutes in postseason history (he now has 8,869) and he moved ahead of Magic Johnson for most career postseason double-doubles. Duncan’s 10 points and 11 rebounds gave him his 158th. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News has more:

While Duncan is far more concerned with securing the last victory the Spurs need to earn their fifth championship, he admitted to being honored after passing a pair of all-time greats in Thursday’s 107-86 victory over Miami: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most career minutes in NBA postseason history, and Magic Johnson for the most playoff double-doubles.

Duncan, who scored 10 points with 11 rebounds, now has 8,869 minutes and 158 double-doubles in 233 playoff games.

“I can appreciate you saying the names and having passed them in anything,” he said. “It’s an honor to be in that position. Having won (Game 4) helps, obviously, but the focus is on winning one more, and once that is done I can look back and say hey, that’s truly an honor.”

Abdul-Jabbar feels similarly about Duncan, sending a congratulatory note via Twitter: Congrats to #TimDuncan on passing me for the most minutes played in the NBA Finals – I appreciate the fact that you did it with class!

***

No. 2: Higgins out as draft approaches — A story literally hot off the presses, the Charlotte Hornets issued a press release shortly after midnight on Friday stating president of basketball operations Rod Higgins “has stepped down.” The strangely timed press release, coming not long after the Spurs wrapped up Game 4 in Miami, said general manager Rich Cho will continue in his position. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more details as much more will be learned today:

In an odd and ill-timed press release, the Hornets announced past midnight Friday that president of basketball operations Rod Higgins has “stepped down” two weeks before the Hornets make the ninth, 24th and 45th picks in the draft.

Higgins has effectively run the Bobcats/Hornets basketball ops since June of 2011. He was a key figure in the decisions to sign free agents Al Jefferson and Ramon Sessions.

The Hornets noted in their press release that general manager Rich Cho will continue to report to Michael Jordan and vice-chairman Curtis Polk.

***

No. 3: Sterling hires private investigators — The shamed owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has apparently decided to turn his fight against the league ugly. Donald Sterling‘s team of lawyers have hired four private investigators to dig up dirt on the NBA’s 29 other owners, plus former commissioner David Stern and new commissioner Adam Silver. The Associated Press has the details:

Investigators were given a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league’s finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity. The person wasn’t authorized to talk publicly.

The person said the investigators also are looking into whether other owners made any off-color jokes, or racist or sexist remarks.

“The gloves are off, as they say,” the person said. “Have them dig up all the dirt they can find.”

The person who spoke to the AP said Donald Sterling reluctantly agreed to hire private investigators after this week’s legal proceedings in probate court. The NBA submitted a legal filing Wednesday urging a judge to confirm Shelly Sterling‘s authority to sell the team.

***

No. 4: Finals outcome won’t sway LeBron’s decisionLeBron James can opt out of his contract by the end of this month, but his decision won’t be swayed by whether his Miami Heat win or lose the NBA Finals. If they win they will make history as the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 hole. Game 5 is in San Antonio on Sunday night. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com was in Miami:

The Miami Heat would have to make history to come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, but the future of their best player doesn’t hinge on that happening.

The Heat’s success or failure in these Finals will not affect LeBron James’ decision on whether to opt out of his contract by the end of this month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

James and the Heat would be the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and come back and win a title. This is the 32nd time the Finals have been 3-1 after four games.

James, [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents after this season. ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that discussions have begun within the organization about creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sam Mitchell finalizing deal to join Flip Saunders‘ staff in Minnesota … Top European coach David Blatt is headed to the NBA, just not yet sure whereMetta World Peace accepts assistant head coach job — on a high school girls basketball teamCavaliers coaching search kicks tires on Mark JacksonKurt Rambis could join Derek Fisher‘s staff in New York, but remains a top candidate to coach the Lakers.

Let The Season (And The Questions) Begin

There are always questions in the NBA, even with 28.6 seconds left in Game 6 of The Finals, as the Spurs will attest. Here are five of the most interesting for the 2013-14:

No. 1: Can the Heat “three-peat” be beat?

It’s certainly trendy these days to pick against the two-time defending champions due to trades, coaching changes or just sheer boredom. After all, isn’t it far more intriguing to figure out how Doc Rivers is going to upgrade Lob City from sideshow to real contenders, how Kevin Durant is going to climb to the top with a mending Russell Westbrook, how Derrick Rose will restore the Bulls, how Gregg Popovich is going to convince the Spurs that they can spend the next eight months chasing down a redo of those last 28.6 seconds? But sometimes it’s just overreaching and over-thinking things. As long as LeBron James is healthy and engaged, and perhaps because he is just entering what should be the prime of his career, the Heat have the single weapon nobody else can touch. Maybe things will change next summer when the Big Three all enter free agency. Then it will be time to take stock of Dwyane Wade’s health and Chris Bosh’s value as a max-contract player. Until that time, they have something to prove, which can be achieved by a fourth straight trip to The Finals and a third championship. There is no indication that the Heat are satisfied or slipping, only more sure of what they’re doing at crunch time. Count on the “three-peat.”


VIDEO: LeBron James talks with David Aldridge about three-peat hopes

No. 2: Who is the first coach fired?

It’s an unusual season since we can eliminate nearly half (13) of the franchises since they’re already working with first-year coaches. But it would seem that there is a trio on the firing line. The Wizards’ Randy Wittman was a bit of a surprise to survive last season’s 4-28 start and definitely is feeling the heat with the return of a healthy John Wall and the recent trade for solid veteran center Marcin Gortat. Washington’s first month is quite tough and could put Wittman’s neck back in the noose if the Wiz stumble out of the gate. Everybody will be watching the every inhale and exhale of the Lakers every time they step out onto the court or any kind of appearance in public. It would seem hard to evaluate Mike D’Antoni at all until Kobe Bryant returns to the lineup and shows whether he is close to defying the odds at 35 and returning to his old form. But these are the Lakers, the league’s highest-profile franchise. They dumped Mike Brown after five games last season and if the product is horrible early on again, D’Antoni will be under pressure. Especially if Doc Rivers and the new-look Clippers are flying high and doing more than just covering up Lakers banners at Staples Center. But with all of those difficulties in Washington and L.A., the first move could be made in New York. Just a season ago, the Knicks were peddling (and fooling) themselves as true contenders. But after another somewhat early playoff flameout, they are an afterthought in the East. They’re not even the best team in the five boroughs and the tabloid heat applied by the New York media could burn down the Mike Woodson era. Carmelo Anthony has announced that he’ll entertain free agency and we all remember what a ridiculous distraction “Melo-drama I” became in Denver. Woodson will pay the price.


VIDEO: Bob Ryan on NBA’s coaching carousel

No. 3: Who makes first big trade?

Danny Granger will open the season on the shelf in Indiana, but is likely to finish on another team’s roster by the February trade deadline. At 30, with reduced role and a future price that will be too steep for the small-market Pacers, he’s prime for moving. If the Sixers want to continue their move to do everything except hijack the Andrew Wiggins lottery, they’ll ship out their best player, Thaddeus Young. He’ll be too old to be a factor by the time Philly’s long-term rebuilding project is complete. But when it comes to finding the first square peg that no longer fits, it will probably be Houston’s Omer Asik. A season ago he got his chance as a starter and averaged a double-double for the Rockets. Coach Kevin McHale is determined to try to make a twin towers combination work with Dwight Howard. But it is hard to see this making anyone happy for the long term. The Rockets will have trouble guarding power forwards and the pair of big men will choke off the space James Harden needs to operate in the lane. At this point, Asik is more valuable to the Rockets as a trade chip than as a misfit piece to the puzzle.


VIDEO:
Will the Dwight Howard-Omer Asik combo work?

No. 4: Who is the Comeback King?

The candidates are everywhere, a slate lead by players who’ve become permanent fixtures in the All-Star Game. Kobe Bryant is at the top of the list because of his status and what he means to the Lakers. He’s tough, determined, unwilling to give in even to age and nature, but it’s hard to see him approaching his former self until at least Christmas (and more likely, the All-Star Game). The Thunder need Russell Westbrook to get back into the lineup and begin launching himself into space again as soon as possible. But it is hard to see any return being more successful and more complete than Derrick Rose‘s. He not only brings his explosiveness back to the lineup, but also the leadership skills and sheer desire that will likely make Chicago once again the top challenger to Indiana in the Central Division and Miami in the East.


VIDEO: A slow-mo look at Derrick Rose’s season debut vs. Miami

No. 5: Who crashes and burns?

The Nets have the most money on the line as owner Mikhail Prokorov is on pace to spend $80 million in luxury-tax payments alone on his star-studded lineup. While Brooklyn will likely be the best team in the New York area and keep the pressure on the crosstown rival Knicks, it is hard to see a geezer-laden lineup that relies so heavily on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce leapfrogging Indiana and Chicago. In Denver, the Nuggets have to account for the losses of coach George Karl and do-it-all forward Andre Iguodala to follow up a 57-win season. However, the team that could take the biggest tumble is in Memphis. The Grizzlies not only let coach Lionel Hollins, who carved out their rugged identity, walk out the door, but they still can’t find any kind of an outside shooting game to offset Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph‘s play. If Tayshaun Prince doesn’t bump up his offense considerably, even the return of local favorite Mike Miller won’t be enough to let the Grizzlies make a return to the Western Conference finals. In a worst-case scenario, they could miss the playoffs entirely.


VIDEO:
NBA TV previews the Grizzlies’ season

24-Second Thoughts On Game 2




.

24 – If you believe in good luck charms, then you have to believe that they can wear out, too. After just four home losses during the regular season, the Heat and 12-year-old national anthem singer Julia Dale have three playoffs losses and are just 2-2 in the previous four games. Time for a change?

23 – Does anyone else find it silly that the world of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh seems to end every time Miami loses a playoff game? After all, they’ve dropped Game 1 three times together over the past three seasons and then come back to win each of those series 4-1.

22 – Watching D-Wade firing up his team in the pre-game huddle, knowing the situation they’re in, don’t you just expect the Heat to win big here?

21 – Instant reply? Spurs commit turnover on their first possession, just like Game 1. If they only commit four more rest of the night, just like Game 1, Gregg Popovich will be a very happy — I know, that’s a relative term — man.

20 — For all the talk about how the Spurs stole the win in Game 1 with Tony Parker’s clutch shot at the end, too many people overlooked the Spurs’ poor shooting all night long. San Antonio was just 41.7 percent from the field and 30.4 on 3-pointers. If those start to drop … well, well, well, here comes Danny Greeeeen! 3-for-3 from downtown in first four minutes.

19 – This is obviously a pace and style that will make the Heat very happy. Spurs commit fifth turnover of the game with 3:23 left in the 1st quarter. They had five in all of Game 1 and the sloppy play is letting Miami be the aggressor.

18 – What’s left for the LeBron critics to pick at when he’s making the right rotations in the defense, getting that big block on Tim Duncan in the paint?

17 – Scoreboard says it’s tied at the end of the first quarter. But is there anybody who doesn’t feel like the Heat are up 22-22?

16 – Maybe he’s on his best behavior because it’s The Finals. Or maybe it’s just Doris Burke wearing basic black instead of one of Craig Sager’s psychedelic horse blankets. But the biggest under-performer of the first two games has been Popovich in his between quarters interviews. I want some nasty.

15 — Gary Neal takes the long range baton from Danny Green. He’s got eight points in his first seven minutes and the Spurs have hit 5-for-7 on 3s already. That’s one way to make up for all of those turnovers.

14 – Never mind winning the lottery. I’ve decided I could live comfortably plush for years if I just had a dollar for every casual viewer who’s ever walked by a TV and asked “Who is that guy?” the first time they’ve seen Chris “Birdman” Andersen.

13 — Give Chris Bosh credit for being active on the offensive boards. He’s already tipped the ball twice back outside to give the Heat a chance to reset for another possession and both times they’ve scored. He’s given up the long jumpers and playing closer to the basket in general.

12 – Just when everybody’s ready to push 31-year-old D-Wade around in a wheelchair covered in an afghan, here he is looking like his old self again with 10 points and four assists in a first half where LeBron (four points) has been hiding.

11 – In that open court, 1-on-1 showdown between LeBron and Danny Green, come on, admit it, how many picked Danny Boy as the winner? Green suckers James into miss the first time, but LeBron gets the benefit of bad call by ref Joe Crawford on the second time down the court.

10 — Danny Green has taken his talents to South Beach! These 3s are layups for him. Layups, I tell you.

9 – The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard backing off LeBron just a bit and have the other defenders closing down the driving lanes. If James is going to make something happen for himself in this one, it seems he would be wise to get himself down in the low post to show off those moves he learned from Hakeem Olajuwon.

8 – Paint this game Green. Danny Boy rejects LeBron under the basket at one end and then takes the ball to the hoop for his 17th point at the other end. How much longer before we’re calling him “The Chosen One?”

7 – For all the damage being done by the Spurs from behind the 3-point line, the two biggest buckets of the game so far might be those last two bombs from Ray Allen and Mike Miller. Mario Chalmers converts three-point play and 75-65 Heat edge after third quarter is the first double-digit lead by either side in The Finals. People rarely talk about Chalmers, but he has a way of stepping into the offensive gaps and drives strong to the hoop when the Heat need him.  Chalmers flies under the radar like one of those CIA drones.

6 — You can hold down LeBron’s scoring. You can open the door for every critic in every corner of the globe to rip him. But he still plays the game, sees the court and makes the right passes to his open teammates for good shots. See: Double-team from Tiago Splitter and Mike Miller 3.

5 – Now you know why Gregg Popovich looked like he was passing a kidney stone when Doris Burke asked him about those five turnovers in the first quarter. It’s up to 15 turnovers in the fourth and the Spurs are getting burned worse than English tourists on South Beach.

4 – Hello, Tiago! I’m pretty sure the last time anybody threw a tomahawk and did less damage was in the 1960s sitcom F Troop. LeBron at the rim with a facial that usually costs at least $150 at your local spa. Easily the best block of the entire playoffs. And that’s the fat lady you hear singing.

3 — Didn’t you always know that Tracy McGrady would lead a team to The Finals and play significant minutes? Well, it’s happened. That is, if you consider sitting at the end of the bench leading and sweeping up behind the elephants in garbage time significant. The only person who looks more lost and out of place is Manu Ginobili, who is forcing things way too much.

2 —  One word to define the Heat: resilient. They have not lost consecutive games since Jan. 8-10 at Phoenix and at Portland. Following their five losses in these playoffs, they’ve come back to win the next game by an average of 21.6 points. Hold off the end of the world, break-up-the-Big Three talk. Now we’ve got a series. Just the way we always knew we would.

1 — OK, maybe it’s just me.  But seeing Pop sit at the podium and explain to the assembled media that missing lots of shots and making lots of turnovers is a bad combination, I can’t help thinking of Dean Wormer in Animal House: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

Nuggets Still Search For New Identity

HANG TIME, Texas — Leave it to George Karl to enjoy running a gantlet of four games that started at home against Miami and now goes to San Antonio, Memphis and Minnesota.

“I just think I’m a sadistic guy,” he said.

Or more likely a just a coach that likes a challenge.

Karl’s Nuggets were a trendy pick by many to make a strong push up Western Conference standings following the offseason deal that brought Andre Iguodala to Denver.

This was a team of no true superstar that was going to get out in the open court, apply defensive pressure like a vise and run, run, run it’s way into the role of a real playoff contender.

But to date, instead of cranking things up a notch, the Nuggets have regressed, as Karl admitted to our buddy Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post:

“There’s no question we’re not wearing teams out like we did last year,” said Nuggets coach George Karl, whose team, for much of the night, looked like it was the one that played the night before in L.A., not the Heat.

LeBron James finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists, playing point forward for much of the game.

“They made their run, they’re a great team at home,” James said, “but we were able to withstand it.”

The Heat was without guard Dwyane Wade, who sat out because of an ankle injury he reaggravated in Wednesday night’s loss at the L.A. Clippers.

Meanwhile, Andre Miller played like Ty Lawson, while Ty Lawson played pathetically. Lawson went scoreless, 0-for-7, while Miller scored 19 points with a pair of 3s.

“It was a game we definitely needed to win before we go out on this three-game road trip,” Miller said from a nearly empty losing locker room. “We talked about their 3-point shooters, we just didn’t play a good floor game.”

Now the Nuggets stand at 4-5 because they have been the picture of mediocrity. Their offensive rating (103.8), according to Basketball-Reference.com, stands 15th in the league, while their defensive rating (103.3) ranks 17th.

This was supposed to be a newer version of the 2004 Pistons who won a championship without one big dog pulling the sled all season. But instead they have too often looked like Iguodala’s old team that he left behind in Philly, where he leads a team in scoring that for the most part does not a singular focus, except fo the rebounding monster that is Kenneth Faried.

We can cut the Nuggets some slack because they have an absolutely brutal schedule. They opened with six of their first nine games — and 17 of 23 — on the road.

“I’m kind of happy with how we’ve played. I’m not happy with how well we’ve played. But as a coach, how is probably more important than how well.”

Report: Torn Meniscus Knocks Clippers’ All-Star Blake Griffin Out Of Olympics

LAS VEGAS – Not all the news from USA Basketball’s blowout win over the Dominican Republic in their exhibition opener Thursday night at UNLV was good news.

As the U.S. players made their way from the locker room after the game, word spread Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who went home earlier in the day with a sore left knee, was diagnosed with a torn left meniscus and will require surgery early next week, per The Los Angeles Times. He is expected to miss eight weeks, costing him his spot on the Olympic team and putting a huge scare into the Clippers, who signed him to a five-year extension worth $95 million, just two days ago.

No one took the news harder than Griffin’s All-Star teammate Chris Paul, who was informed of the news as he walked up to the assembled media awaiting the team as they exited the locker room.

“Wow. That’s a tough one. It’s a huge blow,” Paul said. “One of the things I was looking most forward to in this whole Olympic experience was being with him, so we both could grow a little bit as players and things like that. But his health comes before anything, so I’m going to go call him and check on him.”

Griffin joins a long list of U.S. stars who will miss the games due to injury, a group that already included Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups and LaMarcus Aldridge.

(more…)

Rose, Lin Rank 1-2 In Jersey Sales





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Someone foolishly suggested to us yesterday that Linsanity was a figment of our imaginations … a blip on the NBA radar and nothing more.

We obviously disagreed and reminded this naysayer that the proof is in the … jersey sales?

That’s right, the NBA’s annual list of the top-selling jerseys saw Jeremy Lin outsell the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and even Knicks teammates Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Lin ranked No. 2 on the list behind reigning KIA NBA MVP Derrick Rose, whose Bulls claimed the top spot in merchandise sales to end the Los Angeles Lakers’ four-year run in that category. The Knicks came in No. 2 there as well.

Rose’s rise from No. 5 last year to the spot can’t touch Lin’s rise from oblivion to the No. 2. The jersey sales and merchandise figures are based on sales at the temporary NBA Store on Fifth Avenue and on NBAStore.com from April 2011 to present.

Click here for the full list of the top jersey sellers and merchandise sellers in the NBA this season.

About Last Night: In The Groove

– Rock Your 2012 All-Star Vote — 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We had too many games and way too many sick highlights from Wednesday night for us to waste your time this morning yapping.

So instead of lowering the boom on the Knicks or Wizards about their feeble showings or celebrating the Clippers … or the Hang Time Grizzlies … or the Heat … or the Bulls for looking great again. While some teams are struggling to find their way, some teams are already in the groove!

You can check them all out on the Daily Zap:

***

***

Heat fans will insist that we don’t dole out the proper love for their team around here on a regular basis. But don’t confuse us keeping two car lengths behind the Heat bandwagon with us not respecting their power.

(more…)

Can New Celtics Still Handle LeBron?

HANG TIME TEXAS – Seasons change and teams change. It’s part of the circle of life in sports.

An interesting angle to watch tonight when Boston plays at Miami is whether the Celtics have changed too much to contend with the new-look LeBron James.

A year ago, whenever James tried to take the ball inside against the Celtics, he was confronted by the hulking and sometimes snarling likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis.

Now the Boston front line consists of the aging Jermaine O’Neal along with Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox.

Bass came up big on Christmas Day in New York, hitting the boards hard for 20 points and 11 rebounds, which our good friend Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald says delighted the men in green:

“Kid can play,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s tough. He can finish. He can offensive rebound. He can do a lot of things. He’s doing it right now, but he’s second guessing half of the things he’s doing because of the execution part of it.

“He’s late on a lot of stuff because he’s just not sure yet. He’s just going to keep getting better and better as the year goes on.”

Kevin Garnett was equally impressed, though when asked about Bass he preferred to refer to the bench as a whole.

“Brandon is going to give us a more mature, consistent scorer off the bench,” Garnett said. “I actually like our bench — not just on paper, but in practice and in games. Not just Brandon, but Chris Wilcox and Keyon (Dooling), too.”

The question can the Celts’ new threesome derail James’ plan to use the post-up drills he did with Hakeem Olajuwon during the summer to do most of his work closer to the basket this season? While the powerful slam dunks and the pretty tip-pass to Dwayne Wade was nice, maybe the most impressive part of James season-opening effort in Dallas was that he did not attempt a single 3-point shot. Neither did Wade.

(more…)

Butler Remains Optimistic About Return

MIAMI – Caron Butler‘s allegiance to his team should never be questioned.

Never.

And especially not on the eve of his Dallas Mavericks playing the Miami Heat in The Finals.

Not that it stopped the question from being raised during Monday’s media availability session. Considering Butler’s ties to the Heat — he was drafted by the Heat with the No. 10 pick in the 2002 Draft, spent the first two seasons of his career in Miami and remains close with Heat star Dwyane Wade — it might not seem like such a strange topic.

But when you consider the year Butler has endured — he hasn’t played since tearing his right patella tendon in a New Year’s Day game in Milwaukee and was forced to retreat into the safety net that is his Mavericks family since then — you’d know why the question makes his laugh.

“Obviously Washington was a great place for me, that’s where I had a huge imprint,” Butler said of his four-and-a-half seasons with the Wizards. “But I’m with who I’m with. I’m with Dallas. I’m with Dallas all the way. That’s a no-brainer … if they win I get a ring, too.”

Speaking about the Mavericks in that tone makes it easy to tell what kind of impact the layoff has had on Butler. Yet he remains optimistic about a potential return in this series, even though it doesn’t seem terribly realistic at this point.

He’s listed officially as day-to-day. But he’s only endured light contact in practice and save for those nine minutes he played against the Bucks, has not seen a second of game action this calendar year. Doubt him, however, at your own risk.

“He hasn’t been ruled out.  It’s unlikely that Caron will play. Probably,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.  “But if you would have asked me on January 1st, the night when he went down in Milwaukee  when he went down on the floor, his right kneecap came about three or four inches up into his thigh, because the patella tendon snapped.  He was on the floor, and he took his right hand and he took his patella  he took his kneecap and he shoved it back into place.  He got up and walked off the floor on his own power.

(more…)