Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

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

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

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

The stat

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

The context

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James And Wade Still Plenty Motivated

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MIAMI –
The Miami Heat’s drive for a third straight championship begins Tuesday in the Bahamas, a trip that head coach Erik Spoelstra called “a little bit of a mental reward for what we accomplished last year.”

But there will be no settling for two championships, especially from the Heat’s two biggest stars, who spelled out their motivation for further success at Media Day on Monday.

“I want to be the greatest of all-time,” LeBron James said bluntly. “That’s my motivation. It’s that simple and it’s not that simple.”

That crown currently sits on the top of Michael Jordan’s head in the minds of most. But James has been the best player in the world for five seasons, he has clearly gotten over whatever was holding him back in big moments before 2012, and he took his game to a whole ‘nother level last season. At this point, the thought of him eventually taking Jordan’s spot is impossible to dismiss.

James isn’t worried about how other people rank him, though.

“It’s not to be the greatest of all-time in anyone else’s book or how they judge the greats,” he said. “It’s for me. I feel like I have a potential to continue to get better and maximize my time while I’m able to play this game of basketball. I want to be the greatest. That’s my motivation. That’s all I need.”

In his eyes, he’s still got a long way to go to surpass his idol.

“I’m far away from it,” he said, “but I see the light.”

And if the other 29 teams didn’t have enough to worry about, James said he got better this summer.

“I’m a better basketball player than I was last year in every aspect, he said. “I feel very comfortable and confident in my game right now.”

With James on that “greatest of all-time” path, Dwyane Wade knows his place.

“I’m the second option,” he said Monday. “But I’m a pretty good second option for this team. I’m one of the only second options that averages 20 points a game. That’s not bad at all.”

Questions surround Wade’s health, of course. After suffering a bone bruise, he struggled down the stretch of last season and shot 35 percent from outside the paint in the playoffs.

On Monday, Spoelstra downplayed the long-term outlook on Wade’s knees.

“There’s a major misconception, a major misconception about his health and where he was last year,” the coach said. “He had one of his most efficient, productive years, up until the point he had the bone bruise.

“It was a bone bruise. It wasn’t a knee issue of wear and tear, something completely different.”

Wade said he’s “feeling a lot better,” but will go at his own pace in training camp and the preseason. Until he’s at full speed and looking as explosive as he has in the past, the questions will remain.

But like James, Wade provides his own motivation.

“I always enter [the season] with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “People always think something about something. I play with that chip just because of who I am and where I come from. I’ll always play that way. My thing is to prove myself right more so than to prove you wrong. That’s kind of how I approach things.”

(He just happened to write a note to himself that was inspired by something Kevin Durant said.)

Though they have their own individual goals, James and Wade both know that this is a team sport. To consider himself the best ever, James must win more championships. No one will question Wade’s health if he’s still standing in June. And with much of the Heat roster on expiring contracts (or contracts with options next summer), time itself is plenty motivation.

“I think we understand the team that we have,” Wade said, “and understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us as a group. And we want to take advantage of it as much as possible.”

Blogtable: It’s Not Just Practice

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.


Making Training Camp Count | Shaq, The Owner | It’s The Name On The Back


Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose is back. But is he … back? (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

Training camps open later this week. Give me a player and a team who might best use training camp to their advantage.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDwight Howard and the Brooklyn Nets. Howard needs to make October all about basketball, about his new teammates and surroundings and about a full cleansing of the past 24 months. We’re overdue for a recommitted, newly dedicated Dwight. If training camp with Houston is all slaps and tickles, many NBA fans may never take Howard seriously again … The Nets’ job in October is obvious: Turn Jason Kidd into a coach. How much those Brooklyn veterans support him early, and permit Kidd to deploy them, will go a long way toward determining the season they’ll have in 2013-14.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comTeam: Lakers. There were a lot of personnel changes and odds suggest Kobe Bryant will miss the start of the season. Mike D’Antoni didn’t get a training camp last season so this is huge for him to implement his scheme and set the tone, to get a team minus Kobe working together. The first month’s schedule is tough and if the Lakers aren’t careful, their playoff hopes can fly out the window before Kobe ever steps back on the floor. Player: Dwight Howard. When Oct. 30 arrives, the Rockets need to have seen the emergence of a down-to-business, fully engaged, all-for-one, two-way dominant center. Distractions are eliminated. Excuses are inexcusable.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Team: The Bobcats. And not just because they could use the extra practice no matter what. But with new key players in important roles (Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller), a new coach and the reconstruction of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot since early summer, the time will be particularly valuable for Charlotte in a season when it desperately needs forward progress. Player: Danny Granger. I would normally be hesitant to pick an established veteran because they are better at just getting through a camp, but Granger is coming off a major injury and needs to fit back into the roster. The Pacers are good and have not passed the time waiting for him.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe player is Derrick Rose, who has to get comfortable playing full-speed basketball, defending in Tom Thibodeau’s system, and finding his teammates in their spots. No matter how healthy he is, none of that can be simulated. On the team front, it’s the Nets and Clippers, the two contenders with new coaches and new starters. Those teams need time to put in a new system and, more importantly, develop trust and chemistry. For both teams, defense will determine just how good they are.

Doc Rivers talks to the media

Lots of eyes will be on Doc Rivers and the Clippers.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Derrick Rose has some work to do if he wants to restore the faith of Bulls fans who grew tired of his “will he or won’t he” routine from last season. Every step he takes in training camp will be scrutinized by the diehards and they’ll treat training camp like a much more important test run for Rose this time around. As far as a team goes, the Memphis Grizzlies have me wondering what they’ll be like in the aftermath of the greatest season in franchise history (one that ended with the removal of coach Lionel Hollins). I need to know in training camp if this team is going to change its stripes under Dave Joerger or if they’ll continue to grind their way up the Western Conference food chain.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAs for a team, how about the Clippers? They were good enough last season, but they’ve added some new moving parts, and most importantly they’ve got Doc Rivers roaming the sidelines, so I’m sure there will be some significant changes in terms of philosophy. I’m very curious to see how these new Clips stack up against last year’s team. As for a player, I’ve got an eye on Josh Childress in Washington, not only because I like the dude, but because the Wizards could be a really good fit for him. He can be a terrific complementary player, and he fit so perfectly with the Hawks, and then didn’t fit at all in Brooklyn or Phoenix. So I’m rooting for him to earn a place in the rotation in Washington.

Akshay Manwani, NBA IndiaDerrick Rose. If Rose is 100 percent fit, as he now claims to be, he will be itching to go at full throttle from the beginning to return to MVP form and make the Bulls a contender again. Team pick, however, would be the Brooklyn Nets. They are looking to contend immediately, but have a host of new faces on their roster, including a new coach, Jason Kidd. They need to click as soon as possible and training camp would be where it all starts for them.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA DeutschlandPlayer: Andrew Bogut. He’s been injured for a while, but is now back to 100 percent and is hoping for a huge year. He obviously needs training camp to get in the best shape possible, and if he stays healthy he can be a game-changer for the Warriors. Team: Minnesota Timberwolves. They’ve had a bunch of injured players and have brought in new guys to help them make the playoffs. To get all those guys to be a cohesive unit, they need to get a lot of practice under their belts. Same goes for the Mavs and Trail Blazers, of course.

Blogtable: The Big Front Office Dude

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.


Making Training Camp Count | Shaq, The Owner | It’s The Name On The Back


Shaquille O'Neal, Vivek Ranadive

Shaquille O’Neal, Vivek Ranadive (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

Shaquille O’Neal is now an owner of the Sacramento Kings. Thoughts on how this will play out?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comOwners are overrated. No offense to the Forbes 400 set, but the best owners in sports are the ones who hire the right presidents, general managers and coaches and let them do their jobs. If Shaq were a big-man coach or a GM, he’d have a unique impact on the Kings (and presumably DeMarcus Cousins). But as an “owner,” he’s just another guy with a fat wallet. Maybe he’s buying himself a high-priced apprenticeship to learn front-officing for a future team and role. Or maybe it’s all a set-up for a reality TV show.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comShaq is the icing for this new optimistic and opportunistic Kings ownership group and front office as they attempt to resuscitate the franchise. There’s few bigger names in the game than Shaq, no larger personality to shine attention on a woebegone basketball team. He might even punk DeMarcus Cousins a time or two, and that would be funny. It will be interesting, however, to see just how vocal a typically filter-less Shaq will be, win or lose, but especially if the transitioning Kings continue to play like the, um, “Queens,” of the past half-decade.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI predict he will demand more touches. Oh, wait. That was the old Shaq. This one will work fine as long as he doesn’t start calling out players, coaches or executives. In other words, it may not work out fine. Maybe it’s a new day as O’Neal moves into a new role. Maybe he beats the odds and stays low key. If that happens, he can do a couple years and turn it into a larger role somewhere else. The Kings will have benefitted from the marketing, as well, and everyone goes home happy.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIt’s interesting, but I don’t know how important it is. As the majority owner, Vivek Ranadive is the most important person in that organization, because success in the NBA starts at the top. And after him, it’s GM Pete D’Alessandro, because you need talent to win and right now, this team doesn’t have enough of it. If the new Kings are still the old Kings on the court, it won’t matter what Shaq is doing. Sacramento fans are great and a new arena will be a boost for the franchise, but current stars will fill those seats better than a retired one.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Things can only get better for the Kings, who have languished in basketball purgatory for the past few years. And no offense to Shaq, but the franchise has another big man who is far more important to their future. The Kings need Cousins to be their center of attention now and for years to come. If adding Shaq to the ownership group means Cousins has someone inside of the organization he respects, someone whose voice carries weight with him as a mentor, then this whole #Shaqramento thing could pay off down the road. The attention spike for the Kings with Shaq on board is evident and already in play (the Kings got positive vibes across the basketball universe with Tuesday’s announcement). But when the novelty wears off, that other big man is the one who will have to carry the Kings.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think in a perfect world, Shaq becomes a public face and voice for the Kings ownership. Not that new majority owner Vivek Ranadive isn’t capable of doing this on his own, but Shaq is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and at the very least his involvement should give Sacramento a dose of much-needed excitement. In some ways it would be interesting to see Shaq take a role almost like a Vice President takes in the debate season, and becoming the person who takes shots at opposing teams. Because if anyone can talk a big game, it’s the Diesel.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: It’s still difficult to think about Shaq not as a basketball player. But the Kings are a interesting organization in development right now, and the Big Diesel could help them out in making the right calls. I’m not only talking about mentoring Cousins, the best talent in Capitol City, Calif., but bringing the winning mentality Shaq had throughout his whole career.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: I’m really looking forward to this. The NBA was a great place when the Kings were relevant, and I’m optimistic that the franchise is moving in the right direction. New ownership, new coach, new front office — and now Shaq and a new arena in a couple of years: This will all help to bring the Kings back to where they were a decade ago. And Shaq might also help turn Cousins into the franchise player that he is supposed to be. Great news all around.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Putting Shaq in the mix (in any mix) is always fun. And interesting. The team former known as “Sacramento Queens” (Shaquille’s words, not mine) has a new boss. Even if he is part owner, Shaq is the real deal — the true superstar — and everybody should be excited to have him around the hardwood once again. And because of what might come out of him, to be honest, I don’t know if it will better (from a fan’s perspective) if the Kings win or lose from the start.

Blogtable: It’s The Name On The Back

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.


Making Training Camp Count | Shaq, The Owner | It’s The Name On The Back


 

Pistol Pete Maravich jersey

Nicknames on jerseys? It wouldn’t be a first. This one was from 1973. (Dick Raphael/NBAE)

The NBA reportedly is considering letting teams put players’ nicknames — in a limited manner, we’d guess — on jerseys. Good idea or not? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comBad idea. Blatant pandering for replica jersey sales. Beyond that, though, nicknames are meant to be said, not spelled out and written down. They shouldn’t be crafted into jewelry, monogrammed onto fine linens or tattooed onto body parts, either. Nicknames are what other people call you, not what you call yourself – that almost veers into weenie, third-person-reference territory. Putting them on the backs of jerseys? That’s best left to beer softball leagues and frat-boy reunions. Even the old “Pistol” nickname on the back of Maravich’s jersey was back-in-the-day dumb.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comSounds like a publicity gimmick for a league that doesn’t need publicity gimmicks. If they want to put “King James” on the back of LeBron‘s jersey for a night, have at it. It’s doubtful it will one day make the rotation on NBA TV’s Hardwood Classics. Always remember, ladies and gentlemen, you don’t play for the name on the back of the jersey! You play for the name on the front of the jersey!

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’s not a good idea or a bad idea. It’s just silly. Someone’s job is actually going to be to rule in what defines “a limited manner”? That nickname works, the other guy’s doesn’t make the cut.” It works just fine now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI like it as something that each team does once or twice per season. It’s a way for fans to more closely identify with guys that are already the most visible athletes in the four major sports (smaller rosters, no masks, hats or long sleeves). Is it another marketing strategy to sell more jerseys? Sure. But nobody is being forced to buy a Chris AndersenBirdman” jersey. It just happens to be much cooler than one that says “Andersen.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As a one-game gimmick, this is fine. It won’t hurt my basketball sensibilities to see nicknames on the back of jerseys as a promotion for one game. But seeing guys with “Pookie” and “Shawty Red” (or other foolishness like that) on the backs of jerseys over the course of an entire NBA season is a premise that I simply refuse to embrace. Call me crusty, ol’ school or whatever you’d like. But I’ve always been a believer in the theory that the name on the front of the chest is far more important than the name on the back of the jersey. That said, if you’re going with a name on the back, it needs to be the name your momma or daddy (or both) gave you and not your Twitter handle.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I LOVE THIS. I want to be on the right side of history here, so I’m all-in on the nickname thing, early and often. The Fun Police will certainly be against this idea — “How can we replace last names with nicknames? Are personalities bigger than the team concept? Blah blah blah …” — but as a kid who would have given all the money I had to get an Atlanta Hawks number 21 jersey that said HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM on the back, I totally get the appeal. (And I still want that HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM jersey, NBA league office.) Perhaps replacing a name could undermine the team concept in a vacuum, but I don’t think LeBron having KING JAMES on his jersey instead of just JAMES is going to make him any lesser of a player.

Hanson Guan, NBA ChinaIt’s a brilliant idea. Bravo! Printing the player’s nickname on back of jerseys would be interesting and entertaining to fans. Also, it should boost the sale of NBA products. In my opinion, for some occasions — such as a particular celebration or player’s birthday — it is more meaningful for him to play with the special uniform. Of course, I will buy one, if they are available.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: Bad idea. I can’t see the point of this at all. I’m all for promoting ways to get the fans involved, but not this way. Shane Battier and Steve Kerr have already spoken out against this, among others. And I totally agree. Dear NBA, please don’t do this.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: I’ve heard about it before but it was not from the NBA, I think the plan is a brilliant idea if for only a limited manner. Marketing and sales-wise it will help bring more attention to the NBA. It would also be fun for the fans and players alike to see their nicknames while playing on the court.

FIBA Wrap: France Takes Eurobasket Gold

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The gold medal game at EuroBasket was a matchup of the tournament’s second best offense and its third best defense. The offense was better as France won its first ever EuroBasket title with an easy 80-66 victory over Lithuania on Sunday.

France’s offense is a thing of beauty when it’s clicking, and it was doing just that in the final. No big heroics were needed from Tony Parker, who scored just 12 points. Nicolas Batum led France with 17, while Boris Diaw added 15.

A big first quarter from Linas Kleiza had Lithuania up three, but France closed the second period on a 14-0 run to take control. They shot just 5-for-21 from 3-point range, but outrebounded Lithuania 42-35. They knocked off two-time defending EuroBasket champion Spain on Friday and backed that win up with the gold medal on Sunday, the biggest win in French basketball history.

NBA TV will air the final at 5 p.m. ET on Monday and again at 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Earlier on Sunday, Spain blew out Croatia to win the bronze medal. Spain lost four times, but finished with, by far, the tournament’s best point differential. The four losses were by an average of 5.3 points and their seven wins were by an average of 27.3.

So men’s FIBA action is wrapped up for 2013. Over the course of five events and 237 total games, 18 teams qualified for next year’s World Cup of Basketball. Here’s the field as it stands, with the U.S. and Spain having pre-qualified and four wildcards to be determined later this year…

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 France Eurobasket champion
16 Lithuania Eurobasket second place
17 Croatia Eurobasket 4th place
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th place
19 Ukraine Eurobasket 6th place
20 Serbia Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

France won the biggest tournament and Spain is still the best team outside the U.S. But the most dominant team this summer was Iran, which went 9-0 at the FIBA Asia championship, outscoring its opponents by more than 42 points per 100 possessions behind the interior defense and rebounding of Hamed Haddadi.

Of course, there were some really bad teams at FIBA Asia (Malaysia shot 27 percent from the field), as well as at FIBA Africa, where Angola went 7-0 and outscored its opponents by over 27 points per 100 possessions. But we can get a decent idea of where teams were weak and strong by looking at their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers.

Overall, FIBA Americas was the most efficient tournament of the four. Here are the OffRtg (points scored per 100 possessions) numbers for each tournament…
FIBA Africa: 90.9
FIBA Americas: 105.1
FIBA Asia: 98.2
Eurobasket: 102.8

(Yeah, be happy you didn’t watch those FIBA Africa games.)

And here are the numbers for the 17 World Cup qualifiers that played at the four big tournaments this summer. We’re not including FIBA Oceania qualifiers Australia and New Zealand here, because they just played a two-game series against each other.

World Cup of Basketball qualifiers, 2013 stats

Event Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK
Africa Angola 104.2 2 +13.3 3 77.0 3 -13.8 5 +27.2 1
Africa Egypt 86.8 9 -4.1 39 89.6 6 -1.3 24 -2.8 8
Africa Senegal 84.9 11 -6.0 46 87.1 5 -3.8 14 -2.2 7
Americas Argentina 110.9 2 +5.9 13 102.9 4 -2.2 19 +8.0 2
Americas Dominican Rep. 108.7 4 +3.6 18 102.8 3 -2.2 17 +5.9 5
Americas Mexico 111.8 1 +6.7 12 104.1 6 -1.0 25 +7.7 3
Americas Puerto Rico 109.5 3 +4.4 16 103.1 5 -2.0 20 +6.4 4
Asia Iran 117.7 1 +19.5 1 75.6 1 -22.6 1 +42.1 1
Asia Korea 111.4 2 +13.2 4 86.8 2 -11.4 6 +24.6 2
Asia Philippines 107.6 5 +9.3 7 95.3 5 -3.0 16 +12.3 4
Eurobasket Croatia 102.0 13 -0.7 34 101.9 8 -0.9 26 +0.2 8
Eurobasket France 110.5 2 +7.8 10 100.6 5 -2.2 18 +10.0 2
Eurobasket Lithuania 104.1 11 +1.4 28 96.1 3 -6.7 11 +8.1 3
Eurobasket Serbia 105.5 7 +2.8 22 108.1 21 +5.4 51 -2.6 11
Eurobasket Slovenia 104.7 10 +2.0 27 104.0 12 +1.2 32 +0.8 7
Eurobasket Spain 109.8 3 +7.1 11 88.7 1 -14.0 4 +21.1 1
Eurobasket Ukraine 100.8 16 -2.0 38 105.7 16 +2.9 40 -4.9 16

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
AdjO = Points scored per 100 possessions, compared to event average
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
AdjD = Points allowed per 100 possessions, compared to event average
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
RK = Rank within that event
ORK = Rank among 65 teams in four events

Four teams – Egypt, Senegal, Serbia and Ukraine – qualified with negative point differentials. And there were teams that played better overall, but failed to earn an automatic bid.

Wildcard candidates, 2013 stats

Event Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK
Africa Nigeria 109.4 1 +18.5 2 93.8 9 +2.9 41 +15.6 5
Africa Tunisia 98.8 3 +7.9 8 81.7 4 -9.2 7 +17.1 4
Americas Brazil 94.9 9 -10.2 58 107.4 7 +2.3 38 -12.5 8
Americas Canada 107.0 5 +2.0 26 97.6 1 -7.5 10 +9.5 1
Asia China 110.7 3 +12.4 5 90.2 3 -8.0 9 +20.4 3
Eurobasket Greece 110.6 1 +7.8 9 104.0 13 +1.3 33 +6.6 4
Eurobasket Italy 105.2 9 +2.4 25 102.5 10 -0.3 28 +2.7 6
Eurobasket Latvia 105.3 8 +2.6 24 99.7 4 -3.1 15 +5.6 5
Eurobasket Russia 97.8 19 -5.0 43 104.5 15 +1.8 36 -6.8 19
Eurobasket Turkey 103.5 12 +0.7 30 113.3 24 +10.6 59 -9.9 22

Again, the Africa and Asia teams look the best by the numbers, but Canada, Greece and Italy are probably the most deserving, given the competition that they faced. It’s pretty amazing that three teams in the top six in NetRtg at EuroBasket failed to finish in the top seven.

Brazil played terribly at FIBA Americas, but by adding a few of its NBA players — Leandro Barbosa, Vitor Faverani, Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao — it can make the most upgrades to its roster for the WCOB. Canada, with Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, can make some too.

Along with Brazil (9), Greece (4), Russia (6), Turkey (7) and China (11) all had places in the top 11 of FIBA’s rankings before the summer began. Those rankings will change now, but picking four wildcards will not be easy.

Serbia Earns Final WCOB Automatic Berth

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Serbia grabbed Europe’s final automatic berth to next year’s World Cup of Basketball with a big win over Italy in the seventh place game at Eurobasket on Saturday.

Serbia took control with a 15-1 run spanning the first and second quarters and they were able to handle any run that Italy tried to make, cruising to a 12-point victory. Nenad Krstic led Serbia with 17 points, while Nemanja Bjelica contributed a double-double and the Warriors’ Nemanja Nedovic added 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.

It was a tough finish to the tournament for Italy, who got just eight points on 3-for-13 shooting from Marco Belinelli. They won all five of their first-round games and beat Spain in round 2, but they lost five of their last six games to finish eighth and out of the WCOB field. Now, they may have to compete with Brazil, Canada, China, Greece, Nigeria, Russia, Tunisia and Turkey for the four wild card spots to be chosen later this year.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 France Eurobasket finalist
16 Lithuania Eurobasket finalist
17 Croatia Eurobasket 3rd/4th place
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th/6th place
19 Ukraine Eurobasket 5th/6th place
20 Serbia Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

Ukraine To WCOB, France And Lithuania To Play For Eurobasket Title

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Lithuania and France will meet for the Eurobasket title, thanks to wins in Friday’s respective semifinals. Lithuania beat Croatia comfortably, while France knocked off Spain in an overtime thriller.

Earlier on Friday, Mike Fratello and Ukraine earned a berth to next year’s World Cup of Basketball with a win over Italy in the loser’s bracket. Ukraine will play Slovenia for sixth place on Saturday, while Italy will face Serbia for Europe’s final automatic berth to the WCOB.

The semifinalists already earned their bids, but they were still playing for big stakes. And Linas Kleiza came up big for Lithuania, registering 22 points and 11 rebounds against Croatia. Jonas Maciulis led all scorers with 23 points, including six during 15-1 run that opened things up in the third quarter.

Spain took control of the other semifinal in the second quarter and led by 14 at halftime, but France slowly fought back and took a brief lead on a Tony Parker 3-pointer with two minutes to go in the fourth. The game was tied in the final minute and both teams had a chance to win it, but Rudy Fernandez made an incredible block on a Parker drive and Jose Calderon‘s 3 in the final seconds was off the mark. Spain then shot 2-for-7 and committed four turnovers in overtime, while France made their free throws down the stretch to pull out a three-point win.

Parker led all scorers with 32 points, with none of his teammates scoring more than 10. Marc Gasol led Spain with 19 points and nine rebounds.

There are two more big games to be played in Slovenia. On Saturday, either Italy or Serbia will be the 20th team in the WCOB field. And on Sunday, either France or Lithuania will be the next Eurobasket champion.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 France Eurobasket finalist
16 Lithuania Eurobasket finalist
17 Croatia Eurobasket 3rd/4th place
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th/6th place
19 Ukraine Eurobasket 5th/6th place
20 Serbia/Italy winner Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

Three More Earn World Cup Berths

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Three more teams earned berths to the 2014 World Cup of Basketball on Thursday. Slovenia, Croatia and Lithuania will be making the trip to Spain next August thanks to big wins at Eurobasket.

Slovenia had to recover quickly from Wednesday night’s disappointing loss to France, playing Serbia just 16 hours later. But they pushed the pace early and got off to a hot start, scoring 30 points in the first quarter. It was the second straight day that Serbia got smoked in the opening 10 minutes. They were able to recover a little better than they did against Spain on Wednesday, but they shot a brutal 2-for-18 from 3-point range and never really made things interesting.

It was Zoran Dragic who led the way for Slovenia with 23 points and nine rebounds, with brother Goran finishing with 15 points and five assists. The win puts the Eurobasket hosts in the WCOB field (see below) and they will play the winner of Ukraine-Italy in the sixth place game on Saturday.

In Thursday’s first quarterfinal, Croatia used a 19-1 run in the second quarter to build a double-digit lead against Ukraine, who could never cut that lead down to less than eight. Bojan Bogdanovic had a relatively quiet afternoon, but Krunoslav Simon picked up the slack, scoring 23 points on just 10 shots from the field. Croatia’s 84-72 win was their eighth straight (after losing their opener to Spain) and put them in the semifinals, with Ukraine being sent to the loser’s bracket, where it will have win one of the next two games to qualify for the WCOB.

The nightcap was the best matchup of the quarterfinals, and it sure looked like it through three quarters. But Italy went scoreless over the first 5:57 of the fourth as Lithuania built a 14-point lead. They held on for a four-point win that sends them to the semifinals against Croatia and makes them the 18th team to qualify for the WCOB. It was a balanced attack for Lithuania, who played small with only one big man on the floor, leaving Jonas Valanciunas on the bench for all but 10:51. Marco Belinelli led Italy with 22 points.

So here’s where we stand with three more days of action left in Slovenia. Early on Friday (8:30 a.m. ET), Italy will play Ukraine for another spot in the WCOB. The winner of that game will play Slovenia on Saturday for sixth place, while the loser will play Serbia for the seventh place and the final WCOB berth.

Also on Friday, we’ll have the two semifinals, both on NBA TV: Croatia-Lithuania (11:45 a.m. ET) and France-Spain (3 p.m. ET). Both are great matchups between teams playing some of their best basketball. The final will be on Sunday.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 France Eurobasket semifinalist
16 Croatia Eurobasket semifinalist
17 Lithuania Eurobasket semifinalist
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th/6th place
19 Ukraine/Italy winner Eurobasket 5th/6th place
20 Serbia or Ukraine/Italy loser Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

Future Value Key As George, Pacers Hammer Out Contract Extension

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Paul George had his coming-out party in the 2013 playoffs, out-playing Carmelo Anthony in the Eastern Conference semifinals and then going toe-to-toe with LeBron James for seven games in the conference finals.

The Indiana Pacers already knew George’s value. His ability to defend the league’s best players one-on-one was maybe the most important part of their No. 1 ranked defense. So it’s no surprise that they’re working on a long-term extension that will keep him in Indiana for the next several years. George told Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star on Wednesday that he’ll have his extension by the start of the season:

Indiana Pacers All-Star forward Paul George said today the team’s fans don’t need to worry about him going anywhere.

Indianapolis is his professional home and he plans to be here for a long time.

“(A long-term contract) is going to get done,” George told The Indianapolis Star. “There will be a deal signed and sealed on the table before the season. We’re (George and Pacers management) on the same page.”

George, who grew up in Southern California and still lives there during the offseason, was asked in July about the possibility that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant would personally recruit him to play for the Lakers.

“Of course it would be tough (to say no to Kobe),” George told ESPN Radio. “You’re talking about playing (at) home.”

The comments generated a mild firestorm but may have been much adieu about nothing.

“No,” George said when asked if there was any chance he would leave the Pacers. “Honestly, I love it here. I want to be here. It’s a great place. There are no distractions. I can stay focused. It’s all about basketball here. I can stay focused and do my job.”

This should be a no-brainer for the Pacers. They struck gold in drafting George 10th in the 2010 Draft and he really took a big step toward stardom last season in making his first All-Star Game. But there is a element of future value in any contract extension, because George isn’t yet the player he can be.

Offensively, George took a step forward last season, carrying a bigger load with Danny Granger out for most of the season. But George still needs more polish on offense.

George is a good 3-point shooter, but was below average from other spots on the floor. He’s capable of ridiculous dunks like this, but still is a far cry from finishing consistently like James (who shot an amazing 76.0 percent in the restricted area last season) or even teammate Lance Stephenson (67.9 percent).

Field goal percentage, 2012-13

Player/League Rest. Area Other paint Mid-range Corner 3 Above-the-break 3
Paul George 58.8% 30.6% 36.3% 41.8% 34.7%
League avg. 59.4% 38.9% 39.3% 38.9% 35.1%

Turnovers are another issue with George. Indiana ranked 29th in turnover ratio last season and George had 71 more turnovers than anyone else on the squad. Of 82 guards and wings that had a usage rate of 20 percent or higher, George had the 11th highest turnover rate, with only point guards and Manu Ginobili ahead of him on the list.

Still, when you combine his offense with his defense, only James and Kevin Durant stand above George on the small forward food chain. George is just 23 years old and there’s no reason why he can’t get more polished offensively as he continues to lock down the wing for Indiana.

It will be interesting to see if he gets a standard four-year (beyond this season) extension or gets the fifth year as Indiana’s “Designated Player.” Either way, the Pacers have will have a star on their roster for years to come.