Posts Tagged ‘Hoopsworld’

Confident Thunder Back On Track?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –It’s okay to admit it now, to say it out loud.

We were worried about the Oklahoma City Thunder a few weeks ago. The James Harden trade rocked the locker room, altered the way the defending Western Conference champions played and tinkered with championship-level chemistry at a time when the Thunder’s young core was still in the developing stages.

But they’ve emerged from that fog to resume the position most expected them to — being at the top of the conference standings along with the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.

If there is still a lingering bit of uncertainty about this team, it’s not coming from inside OKC’s locker room. In fact, veteran center Kendrick Perkins has never been more sure of his team’s ultimate fate than he is now, after they’ve run off eight wins in their past 10 games and have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in a groove.

Perkins is convinced the Thunder is ready for finish what they couldn’t against Miami last year in The Finals, telling HoopsWorld‘s Alex Kennedy:

“On a scale of one to ten, I’d say we’re about an eight,” Perkins said of this year’s Thunder. “We have a lot of new guys and a lot of young guys so we’re just trying to build our chemistry one game at a time. The thing is we lost a lot of veteran guys. We have a lot of talented guys, but they’re not as experienced. We just have to make sure we follow the process and keep getting better.”

“We’re all growing together,” Perkins added. “We have to be a better defensive team all-around. We have to do a better job of cutting down on our turnovers. We have to do a better job of executing our offense. We have to get better at the little things like talking on defense, setting good screens, cutting even when you’re not getting the ball so that someone else gets an open shot. Those are the things that don’t show up in the box scores, but those are the things that help teams win championships. Those are the things that we’re striving to get better at.”

Bluster or not, Perkins does have championship experience that cannot be ignored. His time in Boston provided him with insight into the inner workings of a Celtics championship team in 2008 that only a dozen or so active players around the league can match. So he might know a thing or two about a team’s championship mettle when he sees it.

If he says Kevin Martin is more than up to the task of replacing what Harden gave the Thunder in production and intangibles, then maybe we ought to listen.

If he believes that the Lakers, Spurs, Grizzlies and even the Los Angeles Clippers don’t pose the imminent threat to the Thunder’s dominance that we happen to think they do from our view here at the hideout, then maybe it’s worth a little more deliberation.

But we’re betting Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn’t nearly as confident in his new-look group just yet. Fourteen games are a limited sample size for making lasting prognostications about any team, even one as talented and accomplished as this Thunder crew. Their tussle with an upstart Charlotte team tonight (8 ET, League Pass) will provide another glimpse into their basketball souls.

The Thunder played with a chip on their collective shoulder last season, scratching and clawing for respectability every step of the way. There have been times this season, however, that they didn’t exhibit that same sort of edge. Part of that comes with the journey they’ve been on as a group. Part of it has to do with the fact that they’ve gone, in three short seasons, from the hunter to the hunted.

There is an attitude adjustment that comes with that change in dynamic. Perkins knows all about it, having toiled for a Celtics team that served as a league punching bag before the Big 3 showed up and guided the franchise to a championship in their first season together.

That thin line between confidence and arrogance has to be navigated carefully, especially so early in what the Thunder hope will be a long season.

Draft Deal Based On Pursuit Of Beal?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We go through this in the days leading up to the NBA Draft every year. One college star always seems to generate buzz and you start hearing the rumors about teams falling over each other to trade up and get him.

Former Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal is that player this time around. The Cleveland Cavaliers are fans of the player some Draft pundits compare favorably to Ray Allen when he was just a teenager and rumored to be interested in doing whatever it takes to trade up by Thursday night to acquire that No. 2 pick so they can select Beal before someone else does.

The Bobcats currently own the No. 2 pick but, per Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld, they are considering all of their options:

Since landing the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery the Charlotte Bobcats have made no secret of their desire to move down from the #2 spot and try to secure multiple assets in this draft in efforts to rebuild the team around a youth movement.

The Bobcats met with Kansas big man Thomas Robinson over the weekend and are debating their options with the #2.

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Magic Making Moves To Keep Howard?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If Dwight Howard is indeed planning on leaving Orlando for greener pastures, the Orlando Magic don’t plan on making it easy for him to leave.

The Magic, with just a couple of weeks left to make a trade that might convince the free-agent-to-be Howard to stay, are reportedly making the moves necessary to convince the league’s best big man that he can reach all of his goals in a Magic uniform.

Instead of pursuing deals for Howard, ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard is reporting that they are pursuing deals to surround Howard with the sort of talent (Golden State’s Monta Ellis) to compete with the Heat and Bulls for the top spot in the Eastern Conference:

Howard has long mentioned Ellis, who is the seventh leading scorer in the league with a 22.2 points average, as someone he would love to play with.

Golden State is willing to listen to the Magic about a potential trade for its shooting guard, but there is little on Orlando’s roster that appeals to the Warriors, according to sources.

Thus, the sides are not close to having the parameters of a deal in place. Instead, Orlando will begin looking for other clubs to get involved in a three-or four-team deal that would satisfy the Warriors and bring Ellis to Orlando.

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Welcome To Recruiting Season

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is always our favorite part.

Now that you can actually back up the rumors with real, live contact with free agents, we’re going to get a chance to see exactly who is serious about taking home some prizes in this compressed NBA free agency period.

Contact between team officials and players can be made this morning, meaning we no longer have to subsist on a daily diet of unnamed sources and innuendo. With courting season tipping off, we’ll get a chance to see what teams are ready to back up the hype generated in the past week.

If you like Caron Butler or Jamal Crawford, invite them to tour your practice facility and chauffeur them around town like the blue-chip free agent many teams think they are.

If Nene or Tyson Chandler is the big man you must have, the one that will solidify your team’s frontline, now is the time to show them just how much they are needed. Someone has to give these guys a reason to sign here rather than there.

And with the finishing touches on the nuts and bolts of a new collective bargaining agreement still in the works, free agency is going to come down to the same thing it almost always does (aside from cold hard cash, of course) — which team can work it best during recruiting season.

The recruiting season does extend beyond middle, high school and college ball.

Good recruiters are just as valuable at the NBA level, because they know what buttons to push to turn the head of players being pursued from nearly every direction.

The universal opinion that this free agent crop is lacking in franchise talent, a theory that is hard to argue when comparing the 2011 crop to that star-studded 2010 bunch. But that’s what makes the right recruiting pitch even more important — there were only a handful of teams with legitimate shots to land the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire.

What franchise worth its private jet doesn’t think it can lure David West or Kris Humphries with the right recruiting pitch?

On to the madness …

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ROCKETS CHASING A NEW BIG MAN

With the Yao Ming era officially over, might Nene be the man the Rockets tab to replace him in the middle? Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Rockets’ interest will shift to a face-to-face meeting with the Brazilian big man today, one of many in-person recruiting pitches Nene is sure receive before making a decision on his future:

The Rockets’ pursuit of free-agent center Nene will move to a meeting Monday in Denver between the coveted center and Rockets coach Kevin McHale and general manager Daryl Morey, a person with knowledge of the meeting said on Sunday.

Nene is considered the top free agent available and has indicated a desire to leave the Denver Nuggets after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension before the lockout. The Rockets had tried to work a deal with the Nuggets to acquire Nene prior to last season’s trade deadline.

Morey has also been in talks with the representative of free-agent center Tyson Chandler.

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Iverson’s Done, Again?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Is it time for Allen Iverson to hang that Besiktas jersey next to the rest of those he’s worn throughout his illustrious basketball career?

That would appear to be the case, if the reports from Turkey are correct and Iverson is on his way back to the states for surgery on an his left calf and ankle. The translated info from Ajansspor, via our friends at HoopsWorld:

“Turkish Besiktas famous import, Allen Iverson, appears close to end his career in basketball. The former Philadelphia Sixers’ guard injured his left ankle recently and can’t stand the pain anymore. Later today, he will do a press conference to announce that he is going to have surgery in the United States and will be treated here. ‘Leaving the basketball world makes me sad but, sometimes, we have to accept things like they are. I can say goodbye to basketball,’ he revealed yesterday.”

This is what, the third time we’ve said goodbye to Iverson in the past couple of years? He’s entering Brett Favre territory here. At some point you have to know when to say when. Now is the time A.I.

And just like we suggested last year, A.I. doesn’t owe any of us anything. He’s milked every ounce of juice out of his tiny body. And no one can dispute his Hall of Fame status.

A six to eight week recovery time after a potential surgical procedure doesn’t bode well for Iverson’s chances of restarting his career at this advanced stage of the game. So why not just hang it up and ride off into the sunset.

ROY Debate Starts Now

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The conversation lasted nearly the entire season with Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans and Steph Curry all spent time in the top spot before Evans snagged Rookie of the Year honors.

If you remember back to the 2009 draft, none of those guards was pegged as the early favorite for ROY honors. That honor belonged to No. 1 overall pick and Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin.

I know he’s dropped off of a lot of people’s radar since missing the entire season recovering from a cracked left kneecap suffered during the preseason, but have you heard what the Clippers are saying about him these days?

They are praising Griffin in ways that make us believe he’ll be more than just temporary factor in the ROY race this season (hold off on handing the hardware over to Washington’s John Wall just yet).

“We think Blake is a star,” Clippers VP of basketball operations Neil Olshey told my main man Eric Pincus of Hoopsworld. “I think he’s one of the great ones.  He’s got a chance based on his work ethic, his commitment and his God-given ability.  He’s going to be a great player and he’s going to be a part of our organization for a long time.”

Sure, you figure Olshey has to praise a No. 1 pick selected on his watch. But this isn’t just cover-your-own-tail rhetoric coming out of Clipperland. Olshey said the Clippers gave no thought to trying to deal Griffin for Carmelo Anthony (not that the Clippers were on Anthony’s rumored short list anyway).

Around here we put more stock in peer evaluation. And Griffin’s teammates are just as giddy about his potential as anyone in the front office. We spoke with Baron Davis earlier this summer on the Hang Time Podcast and he mentioned that he didn’t have to spend time advising a player with Griffin’s maniacal work ethic about the rigors that await.

Clippers All-Star center Chris Kaman also sees something special in Griffin, his new running mate in the frontcourt.

“They have to tell him to slow down and not work as much,” Kaman told Hoopsworld.  “If you let him go he’ll run himself into the ground.  He just loves it and eats it up.  He’s a special player with his athleticism and strength and very explosive.   I know I’m saying a lot but I’m looking for big things out him.”

As are we here at the hideout. While it remains painfully early to start the Rookie of the Year debate, we just want to make sure no one uses Griffin’s season-long absence to keep him out of the collective consciousness. Because if things play out as we think they might, he could be right there with Wall and Sacramento’s DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins in a three-man race for the top spot.

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