Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: Free-Agent Reaches

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.

Summer Loving | Free-agent Flop | Top of the East

Give me a free-agent signing that you just don’t like.

Steve Aschburner, I’m not a fan of World Peace. World Peace is overrated. New York is not a place conducive to World Peace. OK, enough playing around … But I don’t think Metta World Peace does much for the Knicks other than generate tabloid headlines. He’ll be 34 two weeks into the regular season, his game has more football than basketball in it now and he’s 10 seasons removed from his 2004 Defensive Player award. I know the price was right, given the Lakers’ amnesty move, and the personality is appropriately outsized for that market, but I think the city and the spotlight will distract him. Best thing about the move? He can hop in a cab when the NBA’s new discipline boss Rod Thorn calls him in.

Jeff Caplan, I could list a few the Bucks made, particularly handing O.J. Mayo $24 million over three years, but I’m going with the Mavs giving Jose Calderon four years and $29 million as he turns 32 before the start of training camp. Hey, the guy can shoot the 3, there’s no doubt about that, and he’s a heady player that doesn’t make many mistakes. But he’s a poor defender and can’t get to the rim. Seems like a lot of years and cash to give the Spaniard when they are also still expected to sign Devin Harris (his initial deal with Dallas fell through after the discovery of a toe injury that requires surgery) and have a couple of intriguing rookies that need developing in Israeli Gal Mekel and first-round draft pick Shane Larkin, both of whom now seem to be buried on the depth chart. The Mavs continually talk about developing their own, but they don’t stand by that.

Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans (NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, Josh Smith to Detroit. As much as Smith can make an impact, especially on defense, that money for that team at this time strikes of a franchise desperate for a free-agent splash. Desperate to the point of forcing it. How much time will he get at power forward to slow the development of the two young bigs, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond? How many shots will he take from the lottery-pick rookie, Kentavious Caldwell Pope?

John Schuhmann, NBA.comMonta Ellis, of course. He should be slightly more efficient playing next to Jose Calderon and Dirk Nowitzki than he was next to Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, but he’s still going to miss a lot of bad shots and hurt the Mavs defensively. He’s a player that makes more of a negative impact than a positive one and for $8 million a year, that’s not good. But hey, the Mavs were desperate.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe New Orleans Pelicans signing Tyreke Evans gives me pause for financial and fit reasons. The price, four years and $44 million, was steep. But adding Evans to a shooting guard group that already includes Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers doesn’t make much sense to me, unless the Pelicans plan on deploying Evans at small forward, where Al-Farouq Aminu is a much better option. Of course, the Pelicans could be embracing the “positionless/small ball” fad that requires LeBron James (or a LeBron James-like figure … though there is only one) to run properly. Keep in mind, the Pelicans added Evans after trading for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. Signing Evans to potentially come off the bench for that price just doesn’t make much sense.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogAndrew Bynum to Cleveland. I know the deal is only partially guaranteed and there’s a team option after the first year, but a risk is still a risk. And if you’re a young team trying to make the leap into being not only a playoff team but becoming an upper echelon team, I’m not sure taking a risk right now is the most prudent thing to do. I like Bynum, as a player and a person, but if I’m Cleveland, at this point I’d need him to prove himself first.

New Crop Of Bigs Vie For USA Spots


LAS VEGAS – In the last two Olympics, the starting forwards for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team were Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. In the 2010 World Championship, the starting forwards were Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala.

As the U.S. has gone undefeated in those three major competitions, they’ve started just one traditional big man — Dwight Howard in 2008, Lamar Odom in 2010 and Tyson Chandler in 2012 — and had just two others on their roster. Though the numbers made it clear last year that the presence of one of the bigs on the floor was critical, only two of them were in the rotation.

One of the two was Chandler, who is probably done playing international basketball. The other was Kevin Love, who was also on the roster in 2010 and could be back for next year’s World Cup in Spain.

At this point, more than 13 months before the World Cup tips off, absolutely nothing is set in stone. A couple of bigs that aren’t at this week’s mini-camp — Taj Gibson and David Lee — are still in the mix. So there could be as many as three and as few as one roster spot available for the 10 bigs that are here.

One of those 10 is Anthony Davis, who was the 12th man on last year’s Olympic squad. He was raw then, didn’t make a big impact as a rookie with the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans), and said this week that he’s not guaranteed a roster spot next summer. But USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had good things to say about Davis on Tuesday.

“He’s had some experience, real early, last year with us,” Colangelo said. “He observed and he learned a lot, just playing with the guys he did. I can see growth and experience and maturity already in him. And you can kind of project him out. He could be a tremendous shot-blocker in the international game.”

We’ll have to wait and see how Davis does in his second season in the league, but his experience, potential and skill set make him the likely frontrunner among this week’s group of bigs. With his athleticism, his ability to protect the rim on defense and finish at the rim on offense, he’s the prototypical USA Basketball big man. With stars in the backcourt and in those forward positions, those are the kinds of skills that are needed from the guys who will play the five spot.

Colangelo doesn’t want to think that specifically just yet. This week is just about seeing what guys bring to the table, and the selection process will wait until next summer.

“It depends on who your nucleus might be,” he said. “It’s way too early to know what our nucleus is. That’s why we have to continue to look at all the bigs. And then when the time comes, when we have to select those who we want to bring into camp next summer, it’ll be based on what kind of complementary players we have.”

It will also be based, in part, on how these guys do with their NBA teams next season. And since most of the group is so young – seven of the 10 are 23 are younger – one or more just might have a breakout year and prove to be better than Lee or Gibson by next July.

“Some of them just have more growing to do,” Colangelo said. “They’re young bigs. And of all the positions in basketball, it takes them longer to get where they can be.”

This is the first exposure to Colangelo’s program for most of this group of bigs. In addition to Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors were here last year as a member of the Select Team that practiced against the Olympic Team. But the rest are new.

The rest = Ryan Anderson, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe, Larry Sanders and Tyler Zeller.

Maybe one or two of those names might get a trip to Spain next year, because there’s a possibility that Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski take four bigs instead of three to the World Cup. Better safe than sorry, especially if one or two hasn’t played in a major international tournament before. For Krzyzewski, the lack of bigs on last year’s roster — a result of injuries more than anything — was a concern.

“We were actually really vulnerable in London, because Tyson was our only true center,” Krzyzewski told NBA TV before camp opened. “We were vulnerable in the fact that then we had to use LeBron, Carmelo and Kevin Durant as guys who would have to guard the fours and the fives. And since you only get five fouls, we were vulnerable in that one of those guys could get in foul trouble.”

So it’s good that they have a deep group here in camp this week. It’s a little difficult to envision any of the 10 as a starting center on a U.S. National Team, but things could certainly be different a year from now.

Point Guards Aplenty In USA Camp



LAS VEGAS – There are 28 players in USA Basketball’s mini-camp this week, eight of which are point guards. And with shooting guard Bradley Beal not participating in scrimmages (because he’s still rehabbing a right fibula injury), those point guards will be spending time on the floor with one another.

In one scrimmage on the first day of camp, we saw Mike Conley and John Wall team up against Ty Lawson and Damian Lillard. Kemba Walker and Jrue Holiday played on the same team.

In speaking with NBA TV over the weekend, coach Mike Krzyzewski said that one of the things they’ll be looking at is how all the point guards mesh on the court and “adapt to a few different roles.”

Two-point-guard lineups aren’t just a necessity because of the numbers here in Vegas or even the lack of star shooting guards in the NBA. It’s a big part of the identity Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo have developed with USA Basketball over the years. They stress speed and athleticism and that starts on defense, where the guards are asked to put pressure on opposing ball handlers. So we’ve seen Chris Paul and Deron Williams share the floor in the Olympics and Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook play together in the 2010 World Championship.

“We’ve all watched the Olympics,” Walker said Monday. “We’ve seen those guys play, so when we get out here, we know what time it is already.”

For some, playing alongside another point guard is no big deal. Lawson has played almost 2,000 minutes alongside Andre Miller with the Nuggets over the last two seasons. Pushing the ball at every opportunity is all he’s known playing under former Denver coach George Karl. Having played FIBA rules in Lithuania during the lockout, Lawson also knows the importance of on-ball defense.

“In the European game, it’s huge for pressure to be on the ball,” he said. “If not, they have a bunch of shooters, so they just come off and knock it down. Pressure’s huge. I’m not really used to it like this, but I’m getting used to it.”

For some of the others here, there’s an adjustment to not being the only point guard on the floor.

“Last season was my first time really doing it,” Conley said. “With Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten and those guys, I got to play off the ball a little bit. So I’m starting to get used to it. I’m still not all the way there, but it’s not my first time.

“The toughest part is being able to play without the ball. You got to learn where you get the ball, where you need to be, roll and replacing, getting spacing right and getting to the corners instead of always wanting the ball and needing the ball in your hands.”

Still, Conley knows what he’s doing when his fellow point guards kick the ball out to him on the perimeter.

“When I’m playing that off-guard, I’m thinking shoot first and pass second,” he said. “It puts me in a different mode, more of a scoring mode.”

And for Conley, the USA Basketball identity is a fun change of pace from the way he plays with the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies.

“I love it,” he said. “Who knows? The Grizzlies might turn into that one day.”

More quotes from Monday…

  • Walker on playing with Holiday: “I’ve been around Jrue for a long time, since high school. I enjoyed it. It was cool to not be the only one having to make the plays.”
  • Conley on playing with Wall: “We’re pretty unselfish guys. We let whoever has the ball take it and the other person runs. We both like to get up and down, so it was fun to play alongside him.”
  • Lawson on Lillard: “He was killing today. You can see he’s been working on his games. His shot’s smooth. He’s a great player. I like playing with him.”
  • Lawson on the advice he’s received from the coaching staff: “Throughout practice, they were like, ‘Just play your game,’ because they saw me try to run plays and I guess they wanted to see what I can really do. So the last two games we played, I just started pushing it and felt a lot better. That’s what they wanted to see.”

Colangelo Ready To Introduce New Blood Into USA Basketball Program


As Summer League wraps up, it’s time to turn our attention to USA Basketball.

The Men’s Senior National Team won’t be playing in any tournaments this summer. They qualified for next summer’s World Cup by winning last summer’s Olympics, so they’re not sending a team to the FIBA Americas tournament that begins Aug. 30 in Caracas, Venezuela.

But managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski aren’t taking the summer off. Instead, they’re bringing 29 young players to Las Vegas for a mini-camp that begins Monday and concludes with an intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

USA Basketball 2013 mini-camp roster
Player Team Pos Age YRS
Ryan Anderson NOP PF 25 5
Harrison Barnes GSW SF 21 1
Bradley Beal WAS SG 20 1
Mike Conley MEM PG 25 6
DeMarcus Cousins SAC C 22 3
Anthony Davis NOP PF 20 1
DeMar DeRozan TOR SG 23 4
Andre Drummond DET C 19 1
Kenneth Faried DEN PF 23 2
Derrick Favors UTA PF 22 3
Paul George IND SF 23 3
Gordon Hayward UTA SG 23 3
George Hill IND PG 27 5
Jrue Holiday NOP PG 23 4
Kyrie Irving CLE PG 21 2
DeAndre Jordan LAC C 25 5
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist CHA SF 19 1
Ty Lawson DEN PG 25 4
Damian Lillard POR PG 23 1
Doug McDermott Crei. PF 21 -
Greg Monroe DET PF 23 3
Chandler Parsons HOU SF 24 2
Larry Sanders MIL C 24 3
Marcus Smart Ok. St. PG 19 -
Klay Thompson GSW SG 23 2
Dion Waiters CLE SG 21 1
Kemba Walker CHA PG 23 2
John Wall WAS PG 22 3
Tyler Zeller CLE C 23 1

It’s an opportunity for the players to make a positive impression on the USA Basketball staff, and for the staff to develop thoughts about next summer’s roster, which could include players from last year’s Olympic Team.

To preview the mini-camp, spoke with Colangelo, who first broke the news that the Bulls’ Taj Gibson was a late scratch with a sprained ankle. That leaves 29 healthy players – 27 NBA vets and two college players – for the four days of camp. What would you like to get out of next week’s camp?

Jerry Colangelo: Let’s go backwards, first. Let’s go back to Beijing. We had our Olympic roster and we weren’t sure what would take place in 2010 for the World Championship. As it turned out, we got an entirely new group of young players, who did an outstanding job. That was really a great effort in Istanbul to win that, with guys who went on to have outstanding seasons after that performance there. Then in London, in turned out as I expected, that the roster would be made up of probably half and half of the World Championship team and the Olympic team.

So now, as we look to ’14, some of the younger Olympians have indicated they definitely want to play next summer. So this roster for the World Cup primarily could come from this group plus a few players that we had that won’t be here. [Stephen] Curry and [David] Lee are just two names that have been involved with us in the past and are out because of injuries and rehab. And Kawhi Leonard, who was originally part of this group – we knew right away that he would not be able to [participate] because of rehab during the offseason this year.

So, primarily this group, a few others and some carryovers from the Olympic team in ’12 will make up the roster. So this process is to take a good look at this group of roughly 30 and come up with some determinations about the people that we would consider moving forward, in terms of selections for next summer.

But we’re not going to select the players from this camp. This is another preview. We also have the next NBA season to look before we select a team. In 2010, you started with 20 players in training camp and eventually pared that down to 12 for the World Championship. Do you expect to do the same next summer?

Colangelo: It’s pretty hard to speculate what we would do. If we did that in the past, that’s probably our M.O. It’s hard to get down. It really is. So many players are close to one another. So the more we can see, the better it is. And it’s better for them too.

The good news is this thing is purring. The machine is going extremely well. The players want to be a part of this, as evidenced by all of this participation. And the pipeline is full. All that’s evidenced by how successful our junior teams are. The 19-and-under team that just won the gold medal is a terrific team of young talent. So they just keep coming, and as long as the players continue to aspire to be a part of the USA Basketball program, we’re in good shape. This is a four-day camp with 30 players, including nine point guards. Will guys have enough opportunity to make an impression?

Colangelo: Oh, we think so. This is going to be a lot of scrimmaging. We think that’s the best way to look at a group like this. Obviously, we’re going to put in some of the stuff that we use.

By the way, with Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams coming in, they have to get assimilated. So part of this camp is everyone getting reacquainted and (for the first time) getting acquainted. And so it’s good to keep indoctrinating younger players into our program and our system, on the court and off the court. On each of the last three rosters, you’ve had three NBA point guards and three NBA big men. Do you think you’ll continue using that formula or do you take it year by year?

Colangelo: It’s year by year, but what we do have is great athleticism with our players. We have a lot of wing players. We have a terrific number of point guards.

If you look at the roster we have in this camp plus the carryovers at the point guard position, that’s a very, very competitive position. But we have a lot of twos and threes also. There’s always been a shortage of bigs. You go with your strength and start with that. When you bring these guys into the gym, do you learn a lot more about them than when you’re watching them during the NBA season?

Colangelo: Oh yeah. It doesn’t take a genius to look at talent and know who can run, jump, shoot, defend, etc. But it’s all the other things, how people relate, how they articulate, how they get along with one another, how they relate to us. So this is all part of the process. I think it’s really important to do exactly what we’ve been doing, because it seems to be successful and it’s what we believe in. So how does a player make a positive impression on you next week?

Colangelo: In our minds, what players do on the floor and off the floor are equally important. How they get along with one another, how they relate to the coaching staff, how attentive they are in our meetings…

I’ll give you an example. Paul George last summer was on the Select Team, getting our Olympic Team ready. We saw a lot in Paul George. This kid was really coming. And of course, that translated into a terrific year in the NBA season. But throughout the season, he was quoted as saying things about what he learned during his time with USA Basketball and how much he wanted to be a part of it. So it works both ways.

Pierce Ready To Embrace A New Reality


It’s unclear which idea is easier to believe: A tornado of sharks or Paul Pierce playing for the Brooklyn Nets. The former (“Sharknado”)was just a terrifically bad TV movie, while the latter became one step closer to reality on Thursday as the Nets introduced Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry on the floor of the Barclays Center.

We forget that it was just three years ago that the New Jersey Nets completed one of the worst seasons in NBA history and that the following season, they were starting Travis Outlaw at small forward. Since then, general manager Billy King has turned Devin Harris into Deron Williams, Courtney Lee into Joe Johnson, Outlaw into Pierce, and Kris Humphries into Garnett, all while keeping a young and talented All-Star center in Brook Lopez.

And it’s not like this new team is only five deep. They should have one of the better second units in the league with Terry, Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche also in the fold. And with franchise hero Jason Kidd taking over as coach, Nets fans might feel the need to pinch themselves.

Pierce looked like he needed to do the same. After 15 years with the Boston Celtics, the idea of playing for another franchise was not easy to swallow. And it was clearly written on his face as he sat on that dais that he wasn’t 100 percent ready to start repping Brooklyn. As evidenced by the amount of Boston media that made the trip down, this day was almost as much about the end of an era in Boston it was about the superteam that Nets have put together.

But it was Pierce who sold Garnett – over a 90-minute phone call – on the idea making this change. He knew where the Celtics were heading when they were discussing Doc Rivers‘ departure earlier in the summer and he knew that he’d be making  a big adjustment whether he stayed in Boston or not.

“You sort of kind of felt it coming,” Pierce said. “You figured if Doc was going to be leaving, you figured that was going to be the end of an era of me, Kevin and [Rajon] Rondo together.”

And though he still clearly needs some time to get used to his new reality, Pierce said Thursday that he’d rather be winning in Brooklyn than rebuilding in Boston.

“When you get that taste of success, you get that good meal or a taste of something good, you don’t want to go backwards,” he said. “That’s how I felt. I think Doc felt the same way. Kevin felt the same way. And that’s why all of us put ourselves in these situations where we can try to win.”

So here they are. Two guys that have bled green for the last six years wearing the black and white of a franchise that has seemingly reinvented itself twice in the last 13 months. And if you had any doubts that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wasn’t afraid to spend money, realize that he just flew across the world in his Gulfstream to show up late for a 90-minute press conference.

But even Prokhorov knows that it takes more than a willingness to pay $80 million in luxury tax to win a championship.

“In the NBA, money, it’s important,” he said. “But you can’t buy a champ only spending money. The most important is to put pieces together and to create championship contender.”

The next step is getting Brooklyn’s Big 8 together on the floor. Right now, they’re a great team on paper. But so were the Lakers last season. Garnett and Pierce will be 37 and 36 years old respectively when the season starts, and LeBron James still resides in Miami.

For the Nets to challenge the Heat this season, they will need to stay healthy, play defense and develop chemistry. Pierce and Garnett did just that in Boston six years ago. But though they came a few minutes away from another championship in 2010, they’re still seeking a second ring.

“I felt like the difference in the years we spent in Boston when we won vs. when we didn’t,” Garnett said, “was just how we dealt with each other and how we communicated with each other.

“That’s going to be the biggest question mark for this team, how well are we able to jell and how quickly are we able to jell.”

The good news is that Pierce and Garnett bring six years of chemistry with them, and having a partner in this transition was critical for both of them. Though leaving Boston was difficult, they know that they have the potential to win big in Brooklyn. They wouldn’t have come if Williams, Johnson and Lopez weren’t already here.

It’s just a shame that we have to wait more than three months to see how all of this will work out.

“I’m here to try to create some kind of legacy here in Brooklyn,” Pierce said. “It’s sinking in and I’m liking what I feel right now.”

Blogtable: Lottery Teams In Free Agency

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.

Week 38: On lottery teams | Playoff wins: Nets or Knicks | Playoff wins: Rockets or Spurs


Which lottery team made the biggest free-agency splash?

Steve Aschburner, The Minnesota Timberwolves have made some surgical signings to fit their needs and coach Rick Adelman’s offensive system. Kevin Martin (via sign-and-trade from OKC) and Chase Budinger (their own FA re-upped after an injury-spoiled 2012-13) bring much-needed shooting and movement. Former Nugget Corey Brewer also happens to be a former Wolf returned to the fold now, and his defense on the wing and ability to run the floor will be big boosts. (Caution: This is predicated on Wolves boss Flip Saunders getting center Nikola Pekovic re-signed as a restricted free agent; if he gets a bonanza offer and Minnesota blinks, we take back this whole paragraph, OK?)

Fran Blinebury, If we’re talking strictly free agency and not including trades, then I’m going with the Pistons. Signing Josh Smith definitely qualifies as a big splash and getting Chauncey Billups to return to Detroit could make more than a ripple in the pond if he can help with the team chemistry and developing young talent. Gigi Datome could be a bonus. Cleveland is probably closer to making the playoffs, but that’s due to a healthy Kyrie Irving and other returning talent. I like the addition of Jarrett Jack, but think the Cavs are headed for disappointment with Andrew Bynum.

Jeff Caplan, From the standpoint of immediate impact my vote goes to the Detroit Pistons. Josh Smith‘s history with the Hawks wasn’t always pretty and has been an enigma, but the power forward is a talent. If he’s focused and fit — and he better be now that he’s out of Atlanta and has a lucrative contract — he can really help what certainly appears to be a franchise on the move. The Pistons hope he will mesh well with and be a good influence on youngsters Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Add veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, who won a title in Detroit a decade ago, and a young team just got supreme on-the-floor leadership and a respected figure that new coach Maurice Cheeks can lean on as he implements his system. Honorable mentions: Phoenix for acquiring Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler; Portland for adding Dorell Wright and Robin Lopez; Charlotte for signing Al Jefferson, even if they paid a hefty price; and a shaky honorable mention to Cleveland for taking a stab at Andrew Bynum.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Timberwolves. They took care of business with their own free agents by re-signing Chase Budinger and, barring a big surprise, Nikola Pekovic. And they addressed an offseason priority to find shooting help by getting Kevin Martin. Adding the defense of Corey Brewer will help as well.

John Schuhmann, I’m not very bullish on Andrew Bynum’s prospects, but I still like what Cleveland has done, adding a couple of veterans at key positions to accelerate their progress. Their young players were going to get better and their defense was going to improve with the return of Mike Brown, but Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark can get them over the hump and into the playoffs. That’s a necessary step for the development of Kyrie Irving and also to pique LeBron James’ interest next summer. If Bynum and Anderson Varejao can combine to play 100 games or so, then they can get as high as the No. 6 seed in the East.

Sekou Smith, Dallas and Cleveland swung for the fences and came up a bit short. And I love what the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans did to bolster their rosters via trade and free agency. The Detroit Pistons, however, had specific targets and locked down the guys they identified as difference makers for a team that has a legitimate shot to climb up the charts in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The additions of both Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups fill crucial needs for the Pistons. Toss in Italian league MVP Luigi Datome and the Pistons have added three significant pieces. That said, free agency seems a bit thin to me this summer now that all of the major transactions have been completed. The trade market is where the real action was this summer. And no one made a bigger splash there than the Brooklyn Nets.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: The Detroit Pistons? I used a question mark there on purpose, because it doesn’t seem like many of the lottery teams did very much in free agency, post-draft. The Pistons, though, signed Josh Smith, and J-Smoove gives them a heckuva front line, between Smith, Drummond and Monroe. I also like them bringing back Chauncey Billups, who will bring some stability to the backcourt. I don’t think these moves immediately make them a title team, but they should make them a playoff team this season.

Blogtable: Nets Or Knicks In The East?

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.

Week 38: On lottery teams | Playoff wins: Nets or Knicks | Playoff wins: Rockets or Spurs


Who wins more playoff games next season: the Knicks or Nets?

Steve Aschburner, Gotta go with the team that got a heart transplant: the Nets. There is no how, no way that Brooklyn — on its home court against a banged-up, undermanned Chicago Bulls squad in the first round — loses Game 7 if it has the leadership and intensity of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in its locker room and on its side. Then you add a highly motivated Andrei Kirilenko as a retro Swiss Army knife, not required at this stage to log heavy minutes, and for such a tiny price (as if that matters there)? I don’t see the Knicks as having done much of anything to get sharper, more focused or more dangerous. I think the Nets double New York’s postseason victory total, easy.

Fran Blinebury, The Knicks won their first playoff series in ages, flamed out in the second round, and the response was to trade for the soft Andrea Bargnani, re-sign J.R. Smith and then steal faded Metta World Peace from China or the Arena Football League. The Nets get Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko to go with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. It’s the Nets by a mile.

Jeff Caplan, I think — I think — this is a slam dunk. The Nets will win more playoff games. They’ve got All-Stars at the two key positions, point guard and center (Deron Williams reverted to All-Star form in the second half) and then you bring in the savvy of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to a starting five that also includes Joe Johnson. The stunning signing of Andrei Kirilenko really strengthens the bench. I can’t say the Knicks got better this offseason. Metta World Peace can help defensively, but he’s no Ron Artest at this point.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Nets. The Knicks will be interesting, but Brooklyn has positioned itself better for postseason wins. But this is from a guy who thought they had a chance for a long run a year ago, and still believed during sluggish periods in the second half of 2012-13 that the Nets could be the second-best team in the East.

John Schuhmann, Brooklyn, because they will have the better defense. Both teams had below-average defenses last season, and though the Nets were worse, they did more to address the issue – with the additions of Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko – than the Knicks did. New York could put together a solid defensive lineup or two, but still has too many non-defenders in its rotation (particularly with the addition of Andrea Bargnani) to believe it can get back to being the defensive team it was in ’11-12.

Sekou Smith, The Knicks have two clear advantages over the Nets and that’s in the coaching department. Mike Woodson is far more experienced than Jason Kidd and Carmelo Anthony plays for the Knicks. But the Nets have the advantages basically everywhere else and that’s why I think they win more playoff games next season. Both of these teams have the tools to make it at least to the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Knicks, while built for success in the regular season, struggled to get past the adversity they faced last season. The Nets, if Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are healthy, have a crew built for success in the second season.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogThe Nets. The Knicks will win more regular season games, but the Nets strike me as a team built to win in the postseason. I just hope there’s some point in the regular season where Nets coach Jason Kidd has to activate himself for a game or two.

Blogtable: Rockets Or Spurs Out West?

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.

Week 38: On lottery teams | Playoff wins: Nets or Knicks | Playoff wins: Rockets or Spurs


Who wins more playoff games next season: the Spurs or Rockets?

Steve Aschburner, Sticking with the Spurs for now. Their championship window might be closing — how long have we been saying that? — and the Rockets’ might be opening, but the former’s still bigger for the spring of 2014, in my view. I assume Gregg Popovich already has drawn up a dozen or so things he wants his guys to do against Dwight Howard in Houston garb. I worry a little about the shell-shock of Game 6 and The Finals That Got Away, but it also gives San Antonio something fresh for motivation. Kind of like a boxer tasting his own blood and the rush that can come from that. The Rockets? Their days will come.

Fran Blinebury, The Rockets could jump into the top half of the Western Conference playoff bracket, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a deep playoff run. That won’t happen until Dwight Howard makes a real commitment to being a serious competitor. You can keep thinking the Spurs’ time as a contender is over at your own peril. While Manu Ginobili is showing wear and tear with his age, Kawhi Leonard has much more upside. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are still the heart and soul and the free-agent signings of Jeff Pendergraph and Marco Belinelli add depth. The Rockets are hopeful. The Spurs are still very much for real.

Jeff Caplan, Now this is a good one. Can I call it a toss-up? Had the Spurs not pulled out that Game 1 thriller against Golden State in the West semifinals, they might have been out on their rears and all of us would be picking the James Harden-Dwight Howard Rockets as a no-brainer over the forever-aging Spurs. Instead, the Spurs made it back to The Finals and came within 28 seconds of knocking off the Heat in Game 6. So what does it all mean? I have no idea. Plenty of skeptics will follow Howard until he proves he’s a serious leader of men, even with a smile on his face, which I think he will do during this first decision-less season in a couple years. I’ll take the Rockets.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Spurs. I think the Rockets will become a greater factor in the West, after a first-round elimination this year, but I have decided to be a year late on burying the Spurs since everyone else annually decides to be a year early. Besides, the Spurs will be good.

John Schuhmann, San Antonio. The Spurs will likely have the more consistent offense and already have a great defense, having allowed the third-fewest points per 100 possessions last season. The Rockets can get there, but it will take more than the addition of Dwight Howard, because they already had a great defensive center with Omer Asik. For the Rockets to improve 10 or more spots from 17th in defensive efficiency, they will need improvement on the perimeter.

Sekou Smith, Great question. At first blush, the Spurs would seem like the ideal pick. They were 30 seconds away from dethroning the Miami Heat and taking Larry O’Brien back to San Antonio. With the cast coming back mostly intact, there is no reason to believe the Spurs will take a step back in the Western Conference playoffs next season. Sure, the Rockets have the summer buzz, courtesy of their successful courtship of Dwight Howard. But until I see the new-look Rockets in the flesh, until I see Howard and James Harden figure out the nuances of leading a young crew through some of the trials and tribulations that are sure to come, I’m sticking with my gut instinct. The Spurs win more playoff games next season … the Rockets’ time will come later.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: The Spurs. I think Houston will be pretty good and will probably finish in the top half of the Western Conference, but I learned many years ago to never bet against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are the Jason Vorhees of the Western Conference — every time you think they’re out, they return and just keep coming after you.

Who’s Left? A Look At The Numbers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s been 15 days since teams could start talking to free agents and six days since contracts could be signed. And at this point, pickings are slim. If you want an impact player, you’re probably going to have to settle for a guy that makes an impact only some of the time.

Here’s what’s left on the free-agent market as of Tuesday morning, according to the numbers guys put up last season.

There were 30 free agents available on July 1 (or who became available afterward) who had played at least 2,000 minutes last season. Only three remain …

Most minutes played, remaining free agents

Player Old team GP GS MIN MIN/G
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 80 2,896 36.2
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 58 2,133 31.4
Nate Robinson CHI 82 23 2,086 25.4
Nikola Pekovic MIN (R) 62 62 1,959 31.6
Jason Maxiell DET 72 71 1,789 24.8
Antawn Jamison LAL 76 6 1,636 21.5
Lamar Odom LAC 82 2 1,616 19.7
Alan Anderson TOR 65 2 1,495 23.0
Gary Neal SAS 68 17 1,484 21.8
Beno Udrih ORL 66 9 1,457 22.1

(R) = Restricted free agent

There were 21 free agents who played at least 200 minutes in the playoffs, and six of those guys are still left …

Most playoff minutes played, remaining free agents

Player Old team GP GS MIN MIN/G
Nate Robinson CHI 12 8 404 33.7
Gary Neal SAS 21 0 390 18.6
D.J. Augustin IND 19 1 316 16.6
Derek Fisher OKC 11 0 261 23.7
Kenyon Martin NYK 12 1 253 21.1
Devin Harris ATL 6 6 225 37.5
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 4 4 133 33.3
Sam Young IND 15 0 130 8.7
Keyon Dooling MEM 14 0 114 8.1
Ivan Johnson ATL 6 0 108 18.0

There were 31 free agents who scored at least 800 points last season, some more efficiently than others. Only four of those guys are left …

Most points scored, remaining free agents

Player Old team GP PTS PPG eFG% TS%
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 1,397 17.5 46.8% 51.0%
Nate Robinson CHI 82 1,074 13.1 51.0% 54.0%
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 1,055 15.5 46.6% 53.1%
Nikola Pekovic MIN (R) 62 1,011 16.3 52.0% 57.2%
Antawn Jamison LAL 76 712 9.4 53.7% 56.1%
Alan Anderson TOR 65 693 10.7 46.0% 50.9%
Gary Neal SAS 68 645 9.5 48.7% 51.2%
Mo Williams UTA 46 592 12.9 48.5% 51.9%
Devin Harris ATL 58 577 9.9 52.5% 56.5%
Byron Mullens CHA 53 564 10.6 44.4% 46.5%

EFG% = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44*FTA)))

Of the 30 free agents who grabbed at least 300 rebounds, five remain …

Most total rebounds, remaining free agents

Nikola Pekovic MIN (R) 62 230 315 545 8.8 13.1% 18.8% 15.9%
Lamar Odom LAC 82 117 363 480 5.9 8.6% 25.2% 17.2%
Jason Maxiell DET 72 135 274 409 5.7 8.6% 17.7% 13.2%
Antawn Jamison LAL 76 109 253 362 4.8 7.5% 16.7% 12.2%
Byron Mullens CHA 53 71 266 337 6.4 5.3% 21.9% 13.2%
Samuel Dalembert MIL 47 105 171 276 5.9 13.9% 26.6% 19.8%
Ivan Johnson ATL 69 76 190 266 3.9 8.4% 20.9% 14.7%
Brandan Wright DAL 64 85 175 260 4.1 8.5% 16.0% 12.4%
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 55 195 250 3.7 2.9% 10.9% 6.8%
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 59 187 246 3.1 2.1% 7.3% 4.6%

OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds grabbed while on the floor
DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds grabbed while on the floor
REB% = Percentage of available total rebounds grabbed while on the floor

Of the 24 free agents who dished out at least 200 assists last season, six remain …

Most assists, remaining free agents

Player Old Team GP AST APG TO AST/TO ASTRatio
Brandon Jennings MIL (R) 80 521 6.5 203 2.57 24.9
Nate Robinson CHI 82 358 4.4 144 2.49 23.9
Beno Udrih ORL 66 302 4.6 108 2.80 32.4
Jamaal Tinsley UTA 66 290 4.4 106 2.74 45.2
Mo Williams UTA 46 285 6.2 125 2.28 29.1
A.J. Price WAS 57 205 3.6 64 3.20 28.9
Devin Harris ATL 58 197 3.4 88 2.24 24.8
Gerald Henderson CHA (R) 68 177 2.6 108 1.64 13.9
D.J. Augustin IND 76 170 2.2 68 2.50 29.5
Luke Walton CLE 50 166 3.3 60 2.77 39.9

ASTRatio = Percentage of possessions resulting in an assist

There were 49 free agents who recorded a positive plus-minus last season, and 18 of them – including a pair who made a strong impact – remain.

Highest plus-minus, remaining free agents

Player Old Team GP +/- OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
Lamar Odom LAC 82 +296 104.9 95.4 +9.5
Devin Harris ATL 58 +155 105.2 97.9 +7.3
Gary Neal SAS 68 +101 105.4 101.4 +4.0
Brandan Wright DAL 64 +100 107.9 102.8 +5.1
Derek Fisher OKC 33 +64 107.2 100.7 +6.5
Kenyon Martin NYK 18 +58 109.8 101.4 +8.4
Rodrigue Beaubois DAL 45 +36 102.8 99.3 +3.5
Nate Robinson CHI 82 +32 101.9 101.9 +0.0
Mike James DAL 45 +30 106.8 103.8 +3.0
Jerry Stackhouse BKN 37 +27 103.0 104.6 -1.7

OffRtg = Team points scored per 100 possessions with player on floor
DefRtg = Team points allowed per 100 possessions with player on floor
NetRtg = Team point differential per 100 possessions with player on floor

Bench Mobs: Four That Got Better

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Every general manager’s goal is to assembly an energetic, productive bench.

A strong second unit filled with single-minded role players enhances a team’s chances at winning. Just look at the two-time champion Miami Heat and perennially contending San Antonio Spurs: both clubs received significant bench contributions throughout the 2012-13 season. Still, a deep and talented bench does not ensure success — the Los Angeles Clippers being Exhibit A.

Arguably the NBA’s deepest bench last season, L.A.’s reserves ranked fourth in scoring and second in overall production (points, assists and rebounds combined). The second unit of Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf ranked as the third-best defensive unit in the league. Yet the Clippers lost in the first round to the Memphis Grizzlies, whose thin bench was considered a major weakness.

The goal is to build a well-rounded and deep roster that doesn’t falter when the starters sit, that can change pace when needed and can light it up just as well as lock it down.

Four teams looking to make a charge in their respective conferences — including the all-in Clippers and the go-getter Golden State Warriors in the West; and in the East the rugged-but-reinforcement-thin Indiana Pacers and the money-is-nothing Brooklyn Nets — completed significant offseason signings and trades that should bolster each club’s depth:



Loses: G Bledsoe, G Chauncey Billups, F Odom (still available), F Grant Hill (retired), F/C Turiaf

Additions: G J.J. Redick, G/F Jared Dudley, G Darren Collison, F Reggie Bullock (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Only two members of the aforementioned third-ranked defensive unit, Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, are returning as of today (Odom remains a possibility) to the Clippers’ second unit, so they could slip defensively. But the firepower is all-world with Redick (a 39 percent career 3-point shooter) and Dudley (40.5 percent) joining Sixth Man runner-up Crawford (35.0 percent). Collison has plenty to prove after twice losing his starting job in Dallas to late-30-somethings Derek Fisher and Mike James. The ultra-quick Collison backed up Chris Paul as a rookie in New Orleans and he now has a defined role that should suit his game. Plenty of experience and savvy leaves town in Hill and Billups, but they played a combined 51 games last season. Hill was not part of the playoff rotation until former coach Vinny Del Negro got desperate late in the first-round series loss. New coach and senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers has given himself plenty of options with a bench unit that might top last season’s group. Free agents Barnes, center Ryan Hollins and guard Willie Green return.



Loses: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry

Additions: Marreese Speights, Toney Douglas, C Jermaine O’Neal, Nemanja Nedovic (draft pick)

Why they’re better: Simply, Andre Iguodala. Acquiring the veteran forced out Jack and Landry, but also provides instant depth for a young team that basically rode seven players in the playoffs after David Lee injured his hip. The tough call for coach Mark Jackson will be moving either semi-conscious shooter Klay Thompson or confident forward Harrison Barnes to the bench (both started every game they played last season) to make room for the 6-foot-6 Iguodala. Thompson could challenge for Sixth Man of the Year honors and he’d easily replace the scoring punch Jack provided. The second-year Barnes, who truly emerged during the playoffs, can provide everything the blue-collar Landry delivered only with advanced skills in every facet, especially with his burgeoning offensive arsenal. Barnes could discover some very favorable matchups off the bench. Speights, more accurately, will be expected to fill Landry’s role. The Warriors also bring back impressive frontcourt youngsters Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli, who should benefit from the presence of the steady veteran O’Neal.



Loses: F Tyler Hansbrough, F Jeff Pendergraph

Additions: F Chris Copeland, G C.J. Watson, G Donald Sloan, F Solomon Hill (draft pick)

Why they’re better: The wild card here is forward Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last season with a left knee injury but will be back. With Paul George emerging as a star, Granger could find himself as the Pacers’ sixth man — imagine that. A better bench might have pushed Indiana past Miami in the East finals. The Pacers were one of six teams whose bench averaged fewer than 80 mpg, and they ranked 29th in scoring. The veteran Watson should stabilize a backcourt that had no consistent answer (D.J. Augustin) coming off the bench last season. Watson is a solid veteran who rarely turns the ball over — less than one a game in 19.0 mpg last season with Brooklyn — and is the type of team-first player president of basketball operations Larry Bird wants for coach Frank Vogel. And then there’s the unexpected feather in Bird’s cap — forward Chris Copeland. The 29-year-old late-bloomer provided the Knicks with energetic play off the bench and surprising accuracy from beyond the arc (59-for-140, 42.1 percent). The 6-foot-8, 235-pounder gives Indy a rugged backup for David West and weakens a rival.



Loses: G C.J. Watson, G Keith Bogans, G MarShon Brooks, F Kris Humphries

Additions: G Jason Terry, G Shaun Livingston, G D.J. White, F Andrei Kirilenko, C/F Mason Plumlee (draft pick)

Why they’re better: While a pudgy Deron Williams hobbled about on bum ankles for the first couple of months last season, the Nets’ bench carried the team, so they were no slouches to begin with. But when you add Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the starting lineup, that turns rebounding machine Reggie Evans and offensive weapon Andray Blatche into reserves and instantly improves that group. Terry remains a dangerous streak shooter even after a down season in Boston. The 6-foot-7 Livingston has quietly resurrected his career and should find a home backing up D-Will, who played like an All-Star in the second half of last season. The coup was snagging Kirilenko, who signed for $3.18 million after opting out of his $10-million deal with Minnesota. Kirilenko is always a nagging injury away from missing handfuls of games at a time, but the 6-foot-9 countryman of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a do-it-all stat-sheet-filler. He is a sneaky offensive presence on the baseline and a rangy defender the Nets can use against Carmelo Anthony and other rival scoring threats.