Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What pseudo-contender most needs a trade and won’t get it by Thursday’s deadline?
Steve Aschburner: Philadelphia. The Sixers sure could use a closer, a star offensive player who could get his own shots and, better still, earn trips to the foul line late in games. Evan Turner has been a boost to the starting lineup, but he’s not that guy. However, it’s hard to envision them breaking up the crew that has been so productive or tinkering with the chemistry of the ensemble. Getting center Spencer Hawes back is the next-best thing to a notable trade but a surgical move might have this team really pushing the Heat and the Bulls.
Fran Blinebury: Taking you at your word — pseudo-contender — then the biggest fake in the league was the notion that the Knicks could combine Jeremy Lin with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to make noise in the playoffs. In two weeks, we have gone from Linsanity to Linadequate and Linsufferable watching Melo and coach Mike D’Antoni do their dance of mistrust. The Knicks need a makeover. What they’ll likely get instead is D’Antoni’s head.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The Magic (with an emphasis on pseudo-contender, not top contender). I will stick to my belief of several weeks that they are not going to deal Dwight Howard, and there is no sense in the thinking that they will be able to make a major addition to convince Howard they can surround him with a championship roster. The second-best trade asset in Orlando is Ryan Anderson. That doesn’t generate a big return. (more…)
ORLANDO – The silence, and we’re talking crickets, in the Amway Center after several of the dunks was the first sign that All-Star Saturday night’s signature event was going to be a little off.
That “worst dunk contest ever” chatter seems a little strong, but the 2012 Sprite Slam Dunk contest certainly exposed the fact that a serious tweaking of the format, namely the rules and regulations of the competition, is in order. No offense to the league’s new slam dunk king, baby-faced, human pogo-stick Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz, but not even his peers around the league were satisfied with the competition or the results.
The 4 million fans that cast the deciding votes on NBA.com, Evans snagged 29 percent of them compared to Chase Budinger‘s 28 percent, were drowned out after Evans was handed the trophy by a flood of Tweets from other players around the league who didn’t agree with the results.
A small sampling of the instant, and at times brutal, reaction that reflected the mood in the building:
Roy Hibbert: Robbery!!!!
Jason Richardson: I think Paul George or Chase Budinger should of won…. Guess all  million votes came from Utah lol
Hassan Whiteside: u tellin me I could of won a NBA slam dunk contest in HIgh school Jump over 5’5 Kevin hart n a reserve dunk with a cam n dunk 2 balls smdh
Stephen Curry: Even though the 2 ball dunk was nice prolly the best of the night, u can’t have the WORST dunk ever and win.
Hasheem Thabeet: “@MAL___: This is what happens when you let half a million ppl that probably can’t touch the backboard vote. Jeremy Evans?!? Smh” LoL
Shane Battier: Evans had the best single dunk, but this voting process was seriously flawed. #airbudwazrobbed
There are so many elements involved in pulling it off just right, but Battier said it best, the voting process is seriously flawed. We need the on-site, human element involved. Evans admitted that his first dunk was “awful” and that if not for his splendid two-ball dunk where he jumped over the head of a sitting Gordon Hayward, who tossed the balls into the air for Evans, the trophy probably would have gone to either Budinger or George.
(For the record, my ballot would have had George edging Budinger for the top spot with Evans and Williams rounding out the field.)
Shaq is back with more antics from around the league and once again you can vote for the most foolish play of the week. This week Shaq calls out Jason Richardson, Nate Robinson, Roddy Beaubois, ‘Boomer’ the mascot and yes, The Diesel himself. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
Smith now faces the unenviable task of finding the best package he can for Howard, knowing that he’d lose him for nothing if a deal isn’t done by the trade deadline, and knowing that he’s really only got two teams to work with: the Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers. Other teams would be wary of giving the Magic any strong assets, knowing that Howard’s heart is elsewhere and he can leave next summer.
Smith has tried his best to build a title contender around Howard, and the Magic did get to the Finals in 2009. They were even a very strong team last season. But the moves that Smith has made over the years have driven the Magic to a point where they have neither the financial flexibility nor the assets to bring in another star.
Now, $6.25 million a year isn’t that unreasonable for Richardson. It’s almost a 60 percent pay cut from what he made last season. And this is a guy who shot 40 percent from 3-point range over the last four years.
But Richardson is on the wrong side of 30, with his production bound to decline each year of that contract.
More important, if Smith is in the process of evaluating trades for his franchise player and possibly facing a rebuilding process in the wake of a deal, then why is he committing to a contract that won’t expire until Richardson is 34 years old and will be difficult to move in a trade for at least the next two seasons? Wouldn’t he want to remain relatively flexible instead of going deeper into luxury tax territory?
Smith has made a lot of curious transactions over the years. Add this one to the list.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As we’re often reminded during free agency, for most teams it’s not about what you need but what you can afford. Or better yet, what you are willing to pay for.
The Chicago Bulls represent that theory perfectly as they search for the right shooting guard play alongside reigning league MVP Derrick Rose this season as they chase the NBA title. They’ve courted Caron Butler and chatted up the likes of Jason Richardson and Jamal Crawford, all three of them ideal candidate for the job.
The strategy appears to be to let the market come to them as they try to upgrade at shooting guard, armed only with salary cap exceptions. With other candidates like the Suns’ Vince Carter not officially waived yet, management sounds confident one player will sign for the right price for the chance to play for a title contender alongside Derrick Rose.
According to league sources, the Bulls have not yet offered the $5 million mid-level exception to any player, including Butler, who is meeting with the Nets on Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, last season’s starter, Keith Bogans, continues to work out at Berto Center and looks to be in great shape.
So, it’s not just about who the Bulls want as much it is who is willing to come and play alongside a young superstar like Rose for the right price. On a team built on a bedrock of defense first, Crawford probably seems like a strange choice. But from this vantage point, he’s the no-brainer choice from a purely basketball standpoint.
Are they circling the wagons with this pow-wow and gearing up to take another stand against the owners? Or is this the beginning of the end of the “stand united” campaign and the union’s solidarity movement?
Almost certainly it’ll pay off down the line, but the price the Bulls are paying in the conference finals is that the lack of a deal then means the Bulls don’t have enough offense now, not when Miami can send 6-foot-11 Chris Bosh and 6-8 LeBron James to double-team 6-3 Derrick Rose as happened more than a few times. Miami’s 96-85 Game 3 victory produced more than a few storylines, including Chris Bosh’s second huge game of the series.
But what should stand out even more is that the Bulls don’t have enough offense to beat Miami in a seven-game series. Back in late February when Forman and Paxson decided to put off finding a scorer to complement Rose until the summer, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen said, “We’ll be able to beat good defenses, but against a team with great defense and scorers like Miami, we just won’t have enough firepower.”
As the Eastern Conference finals progress, we’re seeing more and more evidence of why Rose was the correct choice for MVP. He’s certainly had to do more of the heavy lifting and carry much more of the load for the Bulls.
The Heat can simply hand the baton off from James to Wade to Bosh in different games or in different quarters. But Rose has got to be the one driving Chicago on virtually every possession. And not coincidentally, when Rose is driving to the basket, Miami defenders have often been able to cut him off and prevent him from finishing.
The Big Three scored a combined 73 points in Game 3.
If Rose doesn’t play his best when Miami is at its best, the Bulls don’t have much of a chance.
Now the focus falls on (coach Tom) Thibodeau. After most practices, he and Rose watch film together to see how best to attack the other team’s defense. Thibs is going to have to be refitted for his genius hat. He has to figure out ways to get Rose free in time for Game 4. If he doesn’t, how does a 3-1 Heat lead feel?
It seems obvious: The Bulls need to run. Let Rose create. Let him improvise. Let him go. Rose in a half-court offense against this good a Miami defense is suicide.
“I tried to let my teammates create for others,’’ he said. “That’s what I made the team try to do. Sometimes I tried to beat the double team, and sometimes I just tried to pass and make it easy.’’
And that’s just it: I don’t want to see Luol Deng trying to create. I want to see Rose doing the creating. The options are limited when the Bulls aren’t shooting well. Rose can dish off all he wants, but if his team shoots 41.6 from the floor, which it did Sunday, forget it.
Can the Bulls now flip the series around and win three of the next four games from the Heat? How much closer would they be to accomplishing that feat if they had another wing scorer/finisher like Lee or Richardson in their lineup?
Conventional wisdom in sports says that if you have a chance to win a championship, you reach out and grab it, then worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes while you’re already polishing your trophy.
But the 7-foot Asik is only 24 years old. He’s active and aggressive. He’s quick, he hustles, he’s improving constantly on offense and he is a big man who can defend the pick-and-roll. In other words, he’s exactly the kind of big man that every team in the league is seeking, which is why Houston and Orlando would have pulled the trigger on deals for Lee or Richardson in a heartbeat.
Will the Bulls regret not making the move sometime in the next two or three days if they can’t get past Miami in this series?
But what about the next two or three (or more) years?
It says here that Forman and Paxson may not have made the popular choice for now, but the right one for the future.
“I don’t think it’s wide open,” Van Gundy said. “The media seems to have made their decision and they’re the ones who vote, so I think it’s over.” Asked to make the case for Howard, Van Gundy said: “To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don’t think there’s anybody that impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does. I think Derrick Rose has been great. I will have no problem at all if Derrick Rose wins the MVP. They’ve got the best record in the East; he’s been clearly their leader. You can make a great case for him. I have never been running down another guy. I think it’s a hard choice to make…but I still don’t think anyone impacts the game as many possessions as Dwight does.”
As much entertainment as Van Gundy provides, the his players are cooking up a hockey-themed stunt for the playoffs that should make things even more hilarious around the locker room in the coming weeks.
After much deliberation, they have decided to grow playoff beards. And they have vowed not to shave them until their playoff run, however long it ends up being, is over. The NBA Finals don’t usually end until mid to late June.
It was one of those nights. You’re tired and ready to go to bed, but there’s one more game still going on League Pass and the score is kind of close. So you put it on and end up catching one of the most entertaining games of the year.
It happened back in December with this crazy finish. And it happened again Friday with the Orlando Magic and Golden State Warriors.
“That was a shootout right there,” Dorell Wright said in the aftermath of his team coming back from a 21-point deficit (with a few minutes left in the second quarter) to beat the Magic 123-120 in overtime.
The score doesn’t do the game justice, because it doesn’t account for a wild double-turnover sequence near the end of OT, nor for how much we were all shaking our heads at the shots the Warriors were making in the final minutes. And though the Magic lost a huge lead, it’s hard to stress it too much, because teams just aren’t supposed to make all of those shots.
Led by Wright, the Warriors hit 21 3-pointers. That set a record for the most in franchise history and tied for third most in NBA history.
Most 3-pointers, single game, NBA history
Jan. 13, 2009
Nov. 14, 2010
March 11, 2011
March 13, 2005
Of course, the Magic were hitting some bombs too, 15 to be exact. And the 36 combined threes crushed the previous record of 32, set by the Sonics (14) and Suns (18) in a double-overtime game on Jan. 22, 2006.
And the most prolific 3-point shooters in the game happened to be the league leaders in treys. Wright was 8-for-11 from 3-point range and, for the Magic, Jason Richardson was 7-for-11, allowing him to maintain an edge for the season.
Most 3-pointers, 2010-11
Only two of the five guys above were in the 3-point contest, by the way.
Richardson has hit a lot of 3-pointers, but he would have to hit seven in each of the Magic’s 16 remaining games to eclipse Ray Allen‘s NBA record of 269 threes, set with the Sonics in the 2005-06 season.
One last note on this incredible game: The 41 combined points in overtime was the third most in NBA history. The record belongs to the Mavs and Rockets, who combined for 46 points (23 each) in a single overtime period on April 11, 1995.