Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: A Hall Of Its Own?

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

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.


International Shooting Star | About Replay … | Tweaking the Hall of Fame


The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement is this weekend. Do you like the Hall as is, or would you prefer the pro game have its own place, like football?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThe NBA would be better off with its own Hall of Fame. When you go to baseball’s Hall in Cooperstown or hockey’s in Toronto, the emphasis is 98 percent on MLB or the NHL. This league’s history is rich enough now to carry its own shrine and museum, and the crazy-quilt selection process — too many college coaches enshrined, for instance, or relative unknowns from overseas and now the goofy “team” entries — muddies the message and the honor. Right now, the joint in Springfield is a hodgepodge and the NBA inductees and presence wind up with a lower profile out of some notion of “fairness.” Imagine, though, what the league’s marketing machinery could do with its own Hall, balloting system and annual ceremony.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI do like being able to trace the roots of the game all the way back through one Hall of Fame, including high school, colleges, pros and international players, coaches and contributors under one roof. There just needs to be a better ongoing program of education about qualification. I’m speaking specifically about a player such as Ralph Sampson, a three-time College Player of the Year, who unquestionably has deserved enshrinement, but has had to wait due an NBA career that was stifled and cut short by injury.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comIt doesn’t bother me that the NBA does not have its own Hall of Fame. Basketball is different than football. Women don’t play football collegiately or professionally, and American football is not a global game like basketball. So it actually seems fitting that NBA players are included in an all-encompassing basketball Hall of Fame.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Keep it the way it is. I get that a lot of fans in the United States, in particular, don’t like hearing an unfamiliar name get elected when a favorite NBA player has missed. But that’s not because the basketball Hall also salutes the amateur, women’s and international levels. No NBA representative has missed being elected because the coach of the Soviet Union women’s team got in. Putting an occasional spotlight on the parts of the game that don’t ordinarily get much attention is not a bad thing. It doesn’t take anything away from the moment for the headliners.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Hall of Fame voting often confuses me, but it would be weird to have two Halls and two different enshrinement ceremonies for NBA stars. The current set-up isn’t perfect, but for the most part, the right players are in and out and we’re not desperate for a change.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Hall of Fame seems to matter most to the people who are either in it or are hoping to get in. To everyone else, it’s a building in Massachusetts that you can visit and relive some pretty neat memories. Having it be a catch-all Hall for all things basketball, not just the NBA, seems like, if anything, it could be helpful for basketball fans as a way to consolidate different levels of the game. The thing that bothers me about the Hall is how mysterious the entry process is. What are the criteria for nomination? Who are the people deciding these things? Why all the secrecy around it?

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: A member of the Hall of Fame (for more games with a national team) Panagiotis Giannakis, often says that “basketball is one same thing”, whether we are talking about youth leagues or the NBA. I agree with the “Dragon” and like the international flavor that the Hall of Fame is showcasing.

Akshay Manwani, NBA India: That’s why it’s called The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  Why should it be exclusively for pro athletes alone? Imagine where Michael Jordan would have been without coach Dean Smith’s influence on him? The Hall, currently, allows for everyone, be it at the amateur or pro level, who has helped shape the game of basketball into its present form to be enshrined provided they have made an impact. That’s the way it should remain.

Blogtable: International Man of Mystery




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.


International Shooting Star | About Replay … | Tweaking the Hall of Fame


Which player born outside the U.S. is due for the biggest season in 2013-14?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comTony Parker. As much as I’d like to throw some sleeper name out there — Al Horford? Ricky Rubio? — and in spite of the wonder with which I still watch Tim Duncan excel at age 37, I think Parker is the guy. He’s in a sweet spot of having full mastery of his skills and position while, at 31, still being spry enough to put that all to use. And there are worlds left for him to conquer as he shoulders even more load for San Antonio, like averaging eight assists for once in his career.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I guess I’ll take the question literally, ignoring choice of citizenship and just basing my answer strictly on place of birth. I’m going with Melbourne, Australia-born Kyrie Irving to play like an All-Star and lead the Cavaliers back into the playoffs.

Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol (Joe Murphy/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: There’s some interesting choices: Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas coming off his Summer League MVP; Andrea Bargnani getting new life in New York; Enes Kanter moving into Utah’s starting lineup; Golden State big man Andrew Bogut hoping to stay healthy; Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic after signing a big new deal. My choice is Pekovic’s teammate, Ricky Rubio. The gifted Spaniard has put his long physical and mental recovery from ACL surgery behind him and his Timberwolves begin the season with an intriguing, playoff-ready lineup that can play inside-out and spread the floor. He’ll be a much more confident player than we saw last year upon his midseason return and he’ll be eager to put on a show right into his first All-Star appearance.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Marc Gasol, slightly ahead of Ricky Rubio. Gasol was terrific last season and remains in a good position to build on that. A coaching change mostly always creates an unknown — just because Dave Joerger was a Grizzlies assistant doesn’t mean he won’t bring his own imprint on the playbook — but Gasol is still in his prime (28) and among the upper-echelon of centers. Nikola Vucevic should also be in the conversation, just not headed for the biggest season given the strength of the other candidates.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Tony Parker had the edge over Kyrie Irving last season, but Irving will take a big step forward, have the bigger year, and put the Cavs in playoff contention. The kid is a star and will continue to carry a heavy load for Cleveland, even though they made some upgrades. Parker is 31 and should have another All-Star-caliber season, but could get a little more help from Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs’ young back-up point guards.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’ll go with Australian-born Kyrie Irving. We already know that he’s the main man in Cleveland, and if Andrew Bynum is healthy and stays healthy that gives Irving another weapon on the interior and should open up the court even more. He can score, pass, defend and has really developed into a complete player. And if not Irving, it’s hard to pick against Dirk Nowitzki, because Dirk is Dirk and Dirk is great.

Hanson Guan, NBA ChinaMy answer is Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas averaged 8.9 points and six rebounds over 62 games in his rookie season, and was a fitting selection to the All-Rookie Second Team. With the departure of Andrea Bargnani, Valanciunas will have more ability to open fire next season. This kid is mature. He’s got various skills on the offensive end and has already earned the full trust of Coach Dwane Casey and his teammates. Valanciunas has much more to showcase with his incredible talent, and a breakout season is booked in 2013-14 for this wonder kid. Trust me on this: He will dominate the low post.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: Being the editor of NBA Italy, I feel like I must pick an Italian player here. My pick’s Danilo Gallinari. Yes, he’s gonna miss the first couple of months recovering from a torn ACL, but he had a career year last season (16.2 ppg) and he’s working hard to re-start from there and possibly improve. And don’t forget he’s likely going to be the leader of the new Nuggets: they are gonna need him to fight for a playoff spot. Danilo has the talent and the motivation to finally have a breakout season.

Blogtable: More Replay Or Less?

NBA refs huddle during a playoff game earlier this year (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

NBA refs huddle during a playoff game last season. (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

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.


International Shooting Star | About Replay … | Tweaking the Hall of Fame


Major League Baseball just increased its use of instant replay? What do you think of the state of replay in the NBA? Want more? Less? Different?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comMore replay, please. Just less disruption of the game’s flow while getting calls right. This speaks to the concept of an off-site replay system that could expedite rulings while minimizing the time needed to make them. NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy Adam Silver sound like advocates for this NHL-like process, so it’s likely to happen. When it does — and when the replays are handled swiftly, without three game refs huddling over a monitor for a half-minute too long — I expect we’ll see added use. At some point, I think each coach will be allotted some number of “challenges” similar to what the NFL does and to what MLB will be trying.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Sure, let’s have replay on every call. Then the Christmas Day games can end on New Year’s Eve. Enough. Enough. Enough already. Besides, if we work toward the goal of getting every single call exactly right, we’ll remove the fun of calling the referee an idiot and eliminate the constant talk of the great NBA conspiracy in favor of large-market teams like the Knicks, who have the fix in to win a championship every 40-50 years.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comI’m more or less good with NBA replay other than a couple of issues. Last year, replay expanded to rule on goaltending in the final two minutes of regulation or at any time during overtime. I suggest using it at all times. Goaltending doesn’t occur all that often, it affects the actual score and I think it would require only a short game stoppage. Also — and we’ll have to see how this season’s new rule plays out — but I’m not looking forward to refs going to replay with the ability to change a block/charge call, which occur quite frequently. These are split-second calls and arguably the toughest to make, so just go with it. I’ll suggest the refs get this call right more often than not, and is it really worth another stoppage, and potentially excessive stoppages, to review a call that could be tough to determine even in super-slow-mo?

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’s just about right. There is the possibility of an increase, whether by adding situations or when the replay should be used. If the points with six minutes to go in the first quarter count the same as the ones in the final 30 seconds of the fourth, getting the calls right is just as important. But it’s hard to imagine a decrease in the use of replay.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThere should be a replay official on playoff games. A referee with a TV in front of him on the sidelines would expedite reviews in the last few minutes and also fix any correctable errors during the course of the game. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of basket interference and let guys touch the ball after it hits the rim, no matter where it is. Trying to determine if the ball is in the cylinder may be more difficult than block-charge, and officials often get that call wrong.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Here’s what bothers me: How many times have we seen at the end of a game when there’s a contested out-of-bounds call, and the refs gather at the scorer’s table and put on headphones and huddle around a TV and stare … at an image of themselves huddled around a TV staring at an image of themselves? Sure, they eventually escape the rabbit hole and get to the replay, but it’s emblematic of what I feel is the larger issue: The replays can take a really long time. I’m all for getting calls correct, but not at the expense of the the games themselves, which is what it often feels like when there are multiple stoppages of play down the stretch in games. It’s probably impossible to get every call of every game correct, and with all the technology available to us, I applaud the efforts to get as many calls correct as possible. But something has to be done about the implementation of replay as it is in effect today.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: It’s a “less is more” situation for me. Basketball is a game of mistakes. Turnovers, bad reads in “D”, wrong choices. The same goes with the referees. They are human — believe it or not — so their good or bad calls are part of the game. A team commits around 20 turnovers a game, so the referees have the right to make a few mistakes of their own. Why expect perfection from them? We wouldn’t like to see Ray Allen shoot a 3-point shot he missed again, do we? The same with the refs.

Clips’ Hopes Of Contending Depends On Defense Of Jordan, Griffin

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Los Angeles Clippers, a team that won 17 straight games and finished with the league’s fifth-best record last season, made some upgrades this summer in an effort to turn themselves into true title contenders.

On the bench, Vinny Del Negro was replaced by Doc Rivers. And in the starting lineup, Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler were replaced by J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley.

But if the Clippers are to compete for a championship this season, they will need improvement from within, specifically with starting big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who will need to make up for some lost defense on the bench.

L.A.’s bench delivered

One thing that gets overlooked in the Clippers’ rehaul is that they had an excellent second unit last season. Their starters were terrific, but they suffered little drop-off when they went to their bench.

Clippers efficiency, 2012-13

Lineups MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
*Starting lineups 982 91.9 112.8 103.4 +9.5 +181
Other lineups 2,960 94.2 106.0 100.2 +5.8 +348
Total 3,942 93.7 107.7 101.0 +6.7 +529

* Paul, Butler, Griffin, Jordan and either Billups or Green
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The Clippers’ starting unit was ridiculously good offensively, but slightly below average defensively. And though their bench struggled to score (it basically depended on Jamal Crawford‘s one-on-one ability), it still built on leads because it was so good on D.

In general, bench units are going to be better defensively than starting units because they’re going against other reserves. But the Clippers’ second most used lineup in the regular season, comprised of all reserves, was the third-best defensive unit in the league (minimum of 200 minutes played).

Three members of that unit are gone. Eric Bledsoe is in Phoenix, Ronny Turiaf is in Minnesota, and Lamar Odom is in NBA limbo as he deals with whatever off-court issues he has.

The importance of Odom

Here’s the thing about Odom last season. He was a disaster offensively (and was the season before that), but was a big part of the Clippers’ defensive improvement. L.A. went from 20th in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to ninth last season. Their bench — particularly the big men — provided the strongest D.

In 821 minutes with Odom on the floor with either Turiaf or Ryan Hollins, the Clips allowed less than 91 points per 100 possessions. That’s elite defense no matter who the opponent is. No two-man combination in the league that played at least 450 minutes together had a lower on-court DefRtg than Odom and Turiaf.

On-court efficiency, Clippers big man combinations (min. 100 minutes)

Combination GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Griffin + Jordan 80 1,810 112.5 104.2 +8.3 +291
Griffin + Odom 66 502 105.7 97.9 +7.8 +114
Odom + Turiaf 53 479 100.0 91.0 +9.0 +56
Odom + Hollins 41 343 111.4 90.8 +20.6 +118
Odom + Jordan 34 166 99.3 104.6 -5.3 -16
Turiaf + Hollins 32 148 85.6 104.7 -19.1 -45
Griffin + Hollins 26 133 106.1 111.5 -5.4 -13

Why Jordan, Griffin must improve

The Clippers’ starting lineup — with Willie Green at the two — was one of the best offensive lineups in the league. Although Jordan can’t shoot at all and Griffin’s mid-range jumper still needs work, that unit scored at a rate better than the Heat’s No. 1 offense. No lineup that was on the floor for nearly as much time scored as efficiently, and great offense can make up for mediocre defense, especially in the regular season.

But there are reasons why Griffin and Jordan need to get better defensively …

1. In the postseason, it’s better to be a great defensive team than a great offensive team. Over the last 12 seasons, 23 of the 24 teams that have reached The Finals have ranked in the top 10 defensively and 15 of the 24 have ranked in the top five defensively. Only 17 of the 24 have ranked in the top 10 offensively and only eight of the 24 have ranked in the top five offensively.

2. Odom and Turiaf have been replaced by Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens, two defensive liabilities (to put it lightly). The Clips’ bench won’t be nearly as good defensively as it was last season. If L.A. wants to remain in the top 10 on that end of the floor, the starters must make up for the drop-off.

3. The Clippers were just awful defensively in the playoffs, allowing the Grizzlies — who ranked 18th offensively in the regular season — to score almost 110 points per 100 possessions over six games. The only team that was worse defensively last postseason was the short-handed Lakers, who got trounced by San Antonio.

How Memphis exposed L.A.’s bigs

The problems in that series started with the Clippers’ inability to force turnovers and continued with their inability to keep the Grizzlies off the foul line.

Clippers defense, 2012-13

Season Opp2PT% Rank Opp3PT% Rank DREB% Rank OppTOV% Rank OppFTA Rate Rank
Reg. sea. 46.8% 6 37.3% 26 73.5% 15 17.2% 1 .306 29
Playoffs 48.5% 9 32.5% 5 73.3% 12 11.3% 15 .451 16

DREB% = Percentage of defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA

Though it was a slow-paced series, the Grizzlies — a team not known for getting to the line — attempted over 34 free throws per game, 13 more than they averaged in the regular season. They shot better than 50 percent from the field in two of their wins, but 38 trips to the line in allowed them to be nearly as efficient in Game 3, when they shot just 39 percent.

All five L.A. bigs averaged at least six fouls per 48 minutes in the series, with Hollins and Turiaf totaling an incredible 24 fouls in just 96 minutes. Griffin fouled out of Game 1 and committed five fouls in Game 3. Jordan had three fouls in just 17 minutes in that same Game 3.

The combination of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is a tough matchup for any frontline. But the Clipper bigs got worked over, especially in the post …



Where Jordan and Griffin can improve

Griffin and Jordan aren’t terrible defenders. They both rank as “very good” on pick-and-rolls, according to Synergy Sports Technology. And when it came to rotations and team defense, Butler was a bigger liability in that starting lineup. L.A. was better defensively with Barnes at small forward with the other starters.

But the bigs aren’t great and their defensive focus and energy comes and goes. When guarding a big who faces up in the post, they often fail to contest his jumper or bite on his pump fake. And though they might contain an initial pick-and-roll, they don’t necessarily bring the second and third efforts needed against an offense that knows how to execute …


Both Odom and Turiaf ranked higher on pick-and-roll D and on post defense, where Griffin and Jordan rated as just “good” by Synergy in the regular season … and “poor” in the playoffs. The Grizzlies scored 69 points on 61 post-ups against the pair over the six games.

Overall, the Griffin-Jordan combo just didn’t measure up defensively to the big man pairings on other Western Conference contenders …

On-court efficiency, starting bigs, West playoff teams

Combination (Team) GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Duncan + Splitter (SAS) 60 819 106.0 92.7 +13.3 +208
Randolph + Gasol (MEM) 74 1,923 102.6 95.5 +7.1 +322
Ibaka + Perkins (OKC) 76 1,721 109.8 98.0 +11.8 +349
Faried + Koufos (DEN) 79 1,235 106.7 101.9 +4.8 +126
Bogut + Lee (GSW) 31 720 106.7 103.0 +3.7 +50
Griffin + Jordan (LAC) 80 1,810 112.5 104.2 +8.3 +291
Gasol + Howard (LAL) 46 994 103.5 104.2 -0.7 -19
Patterson + Asik (HOU) 46 797 108.3 104.8 +3.6 +78

The Clippers will again be competing with the Spurs, Thunder and Grizzlies, three teams with bigs they can count on defensively. The Rockets have (a healthier) Dwight Howard and the Warriors could have a healthy Andrew Bogut.

Rivers was the coach of the league’s best defensive team of the last six seasons, and this team will likely be the best offensive one he’s ever led. But he’s not bringing Kevin Garnett with him from Boston.

The tools are there for Griffin and Jordan to improve. They have as much athleticism and mobility as any frontline in the league. But it takes a lot more than that to be an elite defender.

Jordan spoke about being a better communicator earlier this summer, and that’s a step in the right direction. But discipline, focus and sustained effort must also be priorities.

The Clips don’t need either guy to turn into Garnett. But if they’re to be included as one of the West teams that could be in The Finals next June, their starting bigs need to go from good to great defensively … especially since they won’t have as much help from their back-ups.

Blogtable: Best Passer, Top Assist Man?




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.


AI, T-Mac and the Hall | Best passer, top assist man | Social media superstars


New Nets coach Jason Kidd wants Deron Williams to average double-digits in assists. Who’s the best passer in the league? Who do you see leading the league in assists a game this season?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Smart to ask this as two questions, because the best passers don’t always play alongside the best shooters or finishers. That, for instance, will be a challenge now for Boston’s Rajon Rondo – when he returns from his ACL rehab, he won’t have Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett converting off his passes, one year after losing Ray Allen (on those occasions he passed to Allen). Anyway, my choice for best passer is Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio, who can see openings and create something from nothing on a nightly basis to elicit smiles. As for assists leader, though, I like the Clippers’ Chris Paul, who led the NBA in that category in 2008 and ’09. With Blake Griffin reportedly polishing his low-post game and J.J. Redick to hit from outside, Paul’s 9.7 apg could easily bump up by two per game. 

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comChris Paul and Chris Paul. Nobody in the league has a better handle and a better idea of what he wants to do with the ball than CP3. Got to think Rondo’s numbers drop because he no longer has Garnett and Pierce around to finish.

Ricky Rubio and Steve Nash (Noah Graham/NBAE)

Ricky Rubio and Steve Nash (Noah Graham/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Rajon Rondo was the assist king the last two seasons and the two seasons before that belonged to Steve Nash. Let’s discount both, what with Rondo returning from ACL surgery and Nash, well, turning 40. That takes us all the way back to 2009 when New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul (11.0 apg) finished No. 1 and Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams (10.7) was No. 2. Back then those two guys were also 1-2, with arguments over which was which, in any discussion about the best two young point guards in the league. CP3, the guy I consider the most gifted passer and playmaker in the game today, has closed that debate — for now. Williams is set up to have a terrific season. He’s got a good friend (Jason Kidd) as his coach who will run an up-tempo, D-Will-friendly offense. He should be in great shape and he has proven weapons inside and out. Williams could not only hit Kidd’s double-digit assist goal, but also lead the league in the category for the first time in his career. I will also note my excitement to watch a fully healthy Ricky Rubio, and a sleeper in new Kings PG Greivis Vasquez, who quietly averaged 9.0 apg last season with New Orleans.    

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Chris Paul is the best passer, and Kidd has a right to place those expectations because Williams isn’t far down the list. Kidd himself wouldn’t be either, still, if he was on the court instead of the sideline, just as Steve Nash should not be overlooked. But Paul plays fast and still makes the right play and precision passes. Who leads the league? I’ll go CP3 over Williams while also keeping an eye on the Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday. The Clippers have several options beyond Paul and his leadership mentality is to put a priority on a night of big assists over big scoring.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: In terms of vision, creativity and intelligence, Steve Nash is the gold standard, especially now that Kidd has retired and LeBron James isn’t technically a point guard. But Chris Paul will lead the league in assists. He was second to Rondo last season and has a couple of more scorers on his team this year, while Rondo will need to do a lot more work to set up his teammates now that Pierce and Garnett are gone.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comChris Paul is the most creative and best passing point guard in the league and has been for the past few years. And he gets that nod from me having risen to the top of the deepest, most talented and diverse group of point guards I can remember in the past three decades of the league. CP3 is an absolute master at the position and as a facilitator and passer, he’s as good as it gets. But he won’t lead the league in assists during the 2013-14 season. That honor will go to Deron Williams, provided he plays the way his coach asks him to with future Hall of Famers like Pierce and Garnett joining forces with Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. He should have no problem averaging double-digit assists, something only Rondo did last season, on a team with as many different scoring options as the Brooklyn Nets will have to choose from during the regular season.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think Chris Paul will lead the league in assists per game. CP3 will have more weapons around him than anyone else, and he’ll be able to pile up those assist totals playing Doc Rivers‘ offense, the same way Rondo did the last few years. But that said, I think Ricky Rubio is the best passer. I’m biased, sure, because I’ve been watching him since he was 15, but he plays with such panache and flair, and his vision is as good as it gets.

Hanson Guan, NBA ChinaIf the category’s restricted to active players only, my answer is Chris Paul. As a point guard, his performance has been nothing but consistent since he joined the league. His 9.8-apg average ranks as the highest of active players. He’s led the league in assists three times. Plus, at critical moments, Paul can dominate the game by scoring. Presently, he is still at his peak. For the next season, I’m still looking forward to another year spent dominating the assist list.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: Two names will likely pop up in the debate for best passing PG: Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. But I’m going to give that honor to Ricky Rubio. Paul is known for his cerebral approach and over-all control of the game, Rondo is known for his all-around abilities while Rubio is known for one thing: passing. The Spanish sensation has the full repertoire and seems genuinely happy with passing the basketball with Kevin Love and Kevin Martin as his targets. Expect Rubio to make a run for the assists title next season.

Eduardo Schell, NBA Espana Steve Nash is still the best. A true magician who makes other betters. Here’s hoping injuries don’t give him as many problems as they did last season. I think Chis Paul will lead this category since Rondo will be sidelined and doesn’t have as much talent around as last year, and top rivals like Holiday and Vasquez have been traded. I would like to see José Calderón up there: not a flashy player but one who makes his team better, and will take advantage of having Dirk, Marion and Ellis with him.

Blogtable: Social Media Superstars

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.


AI, T-Mac and the Hall | Best passer, top assist man | Social media superstars


Name the three players you most enjoy following on Twitter? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Sorry, but I don’t like wearing a seat belt when I’m on Twitter, so I am not a Metta World Peace follower (I’m not convinced that level of crazy isn’t contagious). So here are my Top 3: 1) Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) is a must-follow because he’s a little ornery these days even as he embraces social media. And his orneriness can be newsworthy. 2) While Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32) is genuinely funny, I favor Chicago’s Joakim Noah (@JoakimNoah) by a hair for the emotion and zaniness inherent in his Tweets. And 3) Indiana’s Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) is playful and makes regular-guy observations that play better on Twitter than, say, on the podium after a conference finals game. 

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com1) Metta World Peace. He’s unfiltered. He’s honest. He’s absurd. He’s ridiculous. He doesn’t care what you think or I think or even about what he thinks. The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind. 2) Kobe Bryant. Who else would dare rip his own teammates with live tweets during a game when he’s injured? 3) LeBron James. The fact that he’s the best player on the planet makes him a must-follow and it doesn’t hurt that he is a relentless tweeter who’ll occasionally drop in some news.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: As a general rule, players are bad follows. They’re just boring. So leading my top three list is one guy who is definitely not boring and you’d know that if you follow his offseason travels. Mavs forward Shawn Marion seems to be everywhere and he’s never having a bad time. Whether he’s tweeting his meal at Nabu or which fashion socks he’s wearing, the Matrix (@matrix31) is fun to follow — or live vicariously through. My No. 2 is a guy I’ve begun to like more and more — Pacers center Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer), and not just because he pays homage to his college team. He’s straightforward, real and talks a lot about what he’s doing to work hard and improve himself and his team. I like that. And third is Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) because he just seems like a pretty ordinary dude and he constantly interacts with his fans, doing giveaways for game tickets, etc., and that’s what it’s all about, interacting in a positive and fun way with fans.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comMan, it really is late-August. I like people who have something to say beyond the typical. (“Shoutout to Insert Name Here for his big game tonight!!!” “Puttin in work to get better!!!”) Steve Nash. Nick Collison. Blake Griffin. Tony Allen, Spencer Hawes, Jared Dudley, Kevin Love and a few others could make the list. Kobe Bryant. Insight with a healthy dose of humor always connects.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comShane Battier is self-deprecating and smart. Blake Griffin is as funny as his commercials. LeBron James is pretty down to earth for a four-time MVP. And none of the three ever flood my timeline with retweets of fans saying they’re their favorite player.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I must admit that I’m cool without a daily dose of the corporate/agenda-driven tweets we get from many of the professional athletes who have adopted this medium as their very own marketing machine. I understand that need to promote your brand and all, but I can do without some of the shameless product promoting that goes on. That said, Metta World Peace is No. 1 on my list because … well, who doesn’t need a 140 characters of World Peace in their life on a daily basis. Who cares that I don’t understand 90 percent of what he’s saying? Jared Dudley is busy and good for a two or three tweets a day that either make me laugh or stop and think for a minute. He’s prolific (14,541 tweets and counting) and cares about his followers. And he should be extremely interesting in a competitive twitter environment like the one he’ll be in now alongside Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and others with the Los Angeles Clippers. The great JaVale McGee (and his alter ego Pierre) completes my top three. He’s as confusing on twitter as he is on the court sometimes (Shaqtin’ A Fool anyone?), which is not necessarily a bad thing. He’s always entertaining and has no problem making a little fun of himself. I appreciate the fact that he understands that not everything shared on twitter needs to be so serious.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog1) JR Smith, because nobody is as honest and transparent and funny. 2) Metta World Peace, because his Twitter account is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get. 3) Kevin Durant, because he interacts with fans and isn’t afraid to admit his feelings when he’s upset or vulnerable. It’s cool to see such a huge superstar be so open.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: There are two types of talented basketball players: the one who dominate on court and the ones who dominate Twitter. Luckily for us, a certain @KobeBryant is the perfect combination of both. When he’s not busy cementing his legacy one of the greatest players of all time, Kobe’s tweets help make Twitter a more real, more honest, and hilarious place. Kobe’s teammate @PauGasol is the exact opposite personality on Twitter, but in his way, spreads good will and positivity on a daily basis. And my favourite is another Laker, or now, an ex-Laker, the one and only @MettaWorldPeace. Tread lightly if you’re going to follow Metta’s random, unpredictable, and sometimes incomprehensible tweets, but for me, he’s one of the funniest people – NBA or otherwise – to follow on twitter.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA GreeceFirst of all, let’s salute Shaquille O’Neal, because he was a Twitter (among other things) pioneer. After that being said I have to pick Kobe Bryant, Jarred Dudley and LeBron James. “The antisocial has become social” — that was Kobe’s first tweet, which sums up the enigmatic figure of “Black Mamba”. Dudley is funny, retweets a lot and is really involved in Twitter. Well, LeBron is LeBron.

Blogtable: AI, T-Mac And The Hall of Fame

Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson

Tracy McGrady (left) and Allen Iverson, in 2002 (Fernando Medina/NBAE)

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.


AI, T-Mac and the Hall | Best passer, top assist man | Social media superstars


Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady: Discuss their Hall of Fame worthiness.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIverson is a no-brainer Hall of Famer, as I see it. He owns the NBA’s “pound-for-pound” and “inch-for-inch” greatest-player crowns, at least in recent memory. With a Most Valuable Player award, four scoring titles and a 26.7 ppg scoring average, he’s got the hardware and the numbers for Springfield and he even was something of a pioneer culturally with his headband, sleeve and tattoos (remember the airbrushing controversy?). McGrady? Two scoring titles, which fits an established HOF pattern (scoring champs go in). But he never led a team past the first round and, based on the last seven years of his career, he’s buying a ticket to the Hall rather than making a speech there. Staying healthy is a skill in the NBA, so as laudable as it was for McGrady to hang in as a diminished player, that doesn’t boost his case. My hunch is, he gets in but has to wait a while.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The Hall of Fame is not simply about stats or we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Iverson was a player who got the most out of his talent, was fearless and was able to carry a team in college and in the NBA. McGrady probably had as much raw talent as any player ever to enter the league and simply floated on it like a raft in the ocean. No question that McGrady was a singular talent and could be a joy to watch, but he lacked the leadership gene to rank among the greats. For those who say his failure to win a single playoff series (before riding on the Spurs’ wagon last season) was the result of having bad teammates, consider the roster that Iverson hoisted onto his shoulders all the way to the NBA Finals in 2001.  That was a Hall of Fame performance.  Iverson was a little guy who played big and T-Mac was a big talent who delivered small.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comIverson is a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. He might have introduced a brash new, often cringe-worthy exterior to the game (remember in 2000 when Hoop Magazine, an official NBA publication, featured on its cover an absurdly airbushed Iverson who magically bore no tattoos or gaudy jewelry?), but his interior was that of an old-school warrior. He changed perceptions of what a 6-foot-and-under guard could do. Iverson — who sits sixth on the NBA’s all-time list for highest scoring average at 26.7 ppg, ninth in steals per game at 2.17 and fourth in minutes per game at 41.1 — single-handedly (with help from a coach in Larry Brown, who fought to pry Iverson’s best) led the 76ers to the NBA Finals. He certainly wasn’t the textbook leader or role model or whatever, but he was a hell of basketball player that you couldn’t stop watching. Tracy McGrady was fluid and remarkably athletic and could score with the best of them. I remember an unbelievable duel he had with Dirk Nowitzki, with Nowitzki topping him 53 to 48. But that’s just it, McGrady and his teams always came out on the losing end, and McGrady never seemed all that phased by it. Maybe if injuries hadn’t of interrupted him he’d be all over the all-time lists like Iverson. I thought colleague Fran Blinebury summed up McGrady’s career and Hall of Fame (un)worthiness perfectly, so I’ll leave it at that.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Iverson is in for sure. Maybe not on the first ballot in a message from voters, the way Dennis Rodman did not even make it to the finalist stage his first try and then went all the way to enshrinement a year later. But Iverson isn’t even much of a debate. He will make Springfield. McGrady is much tougher of a call between the two. A great offensive weapon surrounded by questions about many other parts of his career. I think he gets in. But I also think he may have a wait.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIverson is a no-brainer. He won an MVP, carried a team to The Finals, ranks 19th on the all-time scoring list, and was a cultural icon. There are young players in the league today wearing No. 3 because of AI. McGrady is obviously a more complicated case. At his peak, he was one of the best players in the league, but he ranks 57th on the all-time scoring list, had basically no success in the playoffs, was barely more efficient (.519 true shooting percentage, 78th among the top 100 scorers) than Iverson (.518, 79th), and didn’t make nearly the same cultural impact.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is an easy discussion. Both of these guys have Hall of Fame credentials. They pass my HOF smell test, which requires you to ignore the name on top of the list of accomplishments and focus strictly on the work that was done and impact on the game. I’m not saying either one of these guys was perfect. Far from it. But one guy won Rookie of the Year honors, an MVP award, four scoring titles, two All-Star Game MVPs, was a seven-time All-NBA pick, an 11-time All-Star and finished his career with 24,368 points. The other guy was a seven-time All-Star and All-NBA pick, a two-time scoring champ, won the league’s Most Improved Player award in 2001, was the USA Today High School Player of the Year in 1997 (it’s the Basketball Hall of Fame, not just the NBA Hall of Fame) and wrapped up his 16-year NBA career with 18,381 points. Iverson should be a lock, a first-ballot Hall of Famer if you ask me, while McGrady, even if you cannot stand the fact that he never lived up to his own hype in the postseason, is deserving as well. You spend at least a decade of your career among the league’s truly elite and I think you’ve earned your place in the Hall of Fame, especially when you consider some of the questionable coaching and international selections that have been enshrined in Springfield.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: If we’re choosing between the two, I’ll take Iverson over McGrady. Either way, McGrady’s candidacy, to me at least, seems much more questionable that Iverson’s. I know T-Mac scored a bunch of points and made a bunch of All-Star games, but he never got out of even the first round of the playoffs until this season, as a member of the Spurs who barely got off the bench. The entire Hall of Fame admission process is something of a mystery to me, so I’m not sure exactly what the criteria is. But if you’re looking for which player had the most impact on the world of basketball, Allen Iverson’s influence remains undeniable. McGrady was a terrific scorer. Does that mean he belongs in the Hall? I think it’s at least debatable.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: They’re both first-ballot, no doubt about it. They both have a long line of fans waiting for that to happen. And they deserve it. The Answer looked like an average Joe among giants from a physical point of view, but he had talent like few others in the league. What he did in 2000-01, in taking the Sixers to the Finals, was unbelievable. Like Iverson, T-Mac was able to stay in the same sentence as Kobe Bryant in his prime. He had an enormous talent and without his back we would be probably talking about one of the best players of the past 15 years.

Selçuk Aytekin, NBA Turkiye: Even before you check Iverson’s and T-Mac’s bios and career highlights, I can easily say: “He is a Hall of Famer because my generation grew up with their names.” No doubt in my mind Iverson and McGrady will be Hall of Famers because of the way those two guys left their mark on NBA world. Together, they went to 18 All-Star Games and won six scoring titles (four for AI). On top of those awards, Iverson was the smallest player to ever earn MVP honors. And I still feel sorry for him not to be given one last try in the NBA. You can argue about their respective Hall of Fame worthiness in the United States but when you try to see that issue in any country in the world, you can easily aware that those two names are just like Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen 


Heat, Thunder (And One Surprise Squad) Lead League In Roster Continuity

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – In the NBA, continuity and success are closely linked. Talented teams need time together — maybe two or three seasons — before they can make the most of that talent. And teams that win usually stick with what they’ve got.

So it should be no surprise that the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs — the three teams that won the most games last season — are keeping their rosters mostly intact.

Despite the departure of Mike Miller, the Heat will return 95 percent of their regular-season minutes leaders, a number that leads the league by a good amount. The Thunder lost Kevin Martin, but are still returning 87 percent of last season’s minutes, a number that ranks second. The Spurs swapped Gary Neal for Marco Belinelli and obviously aren’t bringing back Stephen Jackson, but will have 82 percent of last season’s minutes on this year’s roster, a number that ranks fourth.

Who ranks third at 85 percent?

The Indiana Pacers? Nope. They’re eighth at 74 percent, having said goodbye to Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green.

The Memphis Grizzlies? No. They’re sixth at 76 percent, because the 1,514 minutes Rudy Gay played before he was traded are part of the calculation.

What about the New York Knicks? Not even close. They’re 17th at 66 percent, thanks to the departures of Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland.

No, the team that’s bringing back more minutes than the Spurs is … the 21-61 Charlotte Bobcats.

The Bobcats have a new coach, drafted Cody Zeller with the No. 4 pick and signed Al Jefferson. But they’re also bringing back 11 players who logged almost 17,000 minutes for them last season.

Jefferson and Zeller will take minutes away from some of those guys and help on offense, where Charlotte ranked 28th last season. But this is a group that ranked dead last in defensive efficiency, so Jefferson will hurt more than help there and Zeller needs time to adjust to the NBA.

It’s up to new coach Steve Clifford to change things around defensively. Or maybe the Bobcats can count on their continuity.

Here’s the full list of what each team is bringing back. It’s possible that a number here could change, because a few teams have both open roster spots and available free agents (like Atlanta and Ivan Johnson), but they won’t change much.

Returning minutes from last season

Team Total Min. Ret. Players Ret. Min. Ret. %
Miami 19,880 13 18,858 94.9%
Oklahoma City 19,830 13 17,162 86.5%
Charlotte 19,805 11 16,891 85.3%
San Antonio 19,880 12 16,376 82.4%
Washington 19,855 11 16,018 80.7%
Memphis 19,805 9 15,091 76.2%
Orlando 19,780 11 14,910 75.4%
Indiana 19,590 8 14,589 74.5%
Portland 19,855 8 14,555 73.3%
Chicago 19,830 9 14,352 72.4%
Golden State 19,805 8 14,118 71.3%
Sacramento 19,830 9 13,875 70.0%
Houston 19,780 10 13,839 70.0%
Cleveland 19,730 7 13,207 66.9%
Denver 19,905 11 13,278 66.7%
L.A. Clippers 19,730 8 13,119 66.5%
New York 19,730 8 13,009 65.9%
Toronto 19,980 9 13,117 65.7%
Minnesota 19,730 8 12,539 63.6%
Phoenix 19,805 8 12,231 61.8%
Brooklyn 19,855 8 12,073 60.8%
New Orleans 19,780 8 11,991 60.6%
Detroit 19,805 8 12,004 60.6%
Philadelphia 19,755 8 11,312 57.3%
Boston 19,840 7 10,763 54.2%
Atlanta 19,855 7 10,309 51.9%
L.A. Lakers 19,755 7 9,794 49.6%
Dallas 19,980 6 8,723 43.7%
Utah 19,880 6 8,048 40.5%
Milwaukee 19,830 5 6,226 31.4%

Q & A With Trey Burke

Trey Burke

Trey Burke (Brian Babineau/NBAE)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Trey Burke was the biggest star of the NCAA Tournament and the first point guard selected in the 2013 Draft. So he should have been one of the best players at the Orlando Summer League. Instead, Burke shot just 13-for-54 (24 percent) and made just one of his 19 3-point attempts. It was a rough start to Burke’s NBA career, at least in terms of his shooting.

Still, Burke will likely be the starting point guard when the Utah Jazz open their season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 30. With the departures of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams, the Jazz are going young. The 23-year-old Gordon Hayward should be their oldest starter.

Earlier this month, I spoke with Burke at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot, where his fellow rooks voted him as the best playmaker in the class:

NBA.com: How would you grade your summer league performance?
Burke: I’ll say D+, because I feel like I did good in all my other areas, but I just shot poorly. Why? I don’t know. I’ve never shot that poorly before. I think I lost a little bit of confidence after the first game, not shooting well and then trying to adjust to the new system, new players and stuff like that. Besides the shooting part, I think I did pretty well. But I still don’t think it was any higher than a C.

NBA.com: What kind of feedback did you get from your coaches?
Burke: The coaches felt like I did good. Honestly, my shooting percentage wasn’t what they were expecting, watching my play at Michigan. But as far as running the team, getting the team into sets, picking my spots out there on the court, they think I did a really good job at that.

NBA.com: What do they want you to do before camp starts?
Burke: Just continue to stay consistent with my shot, which, in my opinion, isn’t a problem with me … as well as making that play right when it’s there, not taking that extra dribble … getting the ball up the court with a certain amount of time on the shot clock. I think that’s a big adjustment for me, the time going from 35 seconds to 24 seconds. That’s a lot of time.

NBA.com: Do you watch a lot of film?
Burke: I watch a lot of film.

NBA.com: Yourself or other players?
Burke: I watched a lot of myself last year. This summer, I watched a lot of Tony Parker, a lot of Chris Paul and how they’re so successful in pick-and-rolls. I felt like I was really good at Michigan. Now I’m trying to take it to that next level.

NBA.com: With the moves the Jazz have made, it’s your show. You ready for that?
Burke: Absolutely. I love challenges and this is one of the biggest challenges of my life. I’ve prepared for this challenge. I’m definitely looking forward to going in there and making an impact right away.

NBA.com: Is there a lot of pressure because you’re the starting point guard or not so much because expectations are low for the team?
Burke: I think it’s both. But with my mind set, I love to win, so I plan on winning. As bold as that sounds, I just plan on winning. I think it’s only pressure if you put the pressure on yourself. If I go out there trying to please the fans, trying please the coaching staff, rather than just playing my game, that’s where the pressure comes. But I think I’ll do just fine.

Blogtable: Brooklyn Or Indiana?

Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Paul George

Can Roy Hibbert and Paul George hold off Brook Lopez (center) and the Nets? (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

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.


Western Conference showdown | Eastern Conference showdown | Kobe’s comeback


Of these Eastern Conference up-and-comers, who’s more likely to end up the better team in 2014: Brooklyn or Indiana?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIndiana. Even if, by the phrase “better team in 2014″ we’re talking mostly about the playoffs, I still think the Pacers are poised to achieve more. They’re going the old-school route of improving year by year, with The Finals an expected step next spring. The Nets mostly have gone old, period. Even in the best-case scenario, they have a rookie head coach (Jason Kidd) who should ration his guys’ minutes through the regular season, which would argue against, say, 60 victories. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett engineered an instant turnaround in Boston, but that was six years ago.

Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce

Kevin Garnett (left) and Paul Pierce
(Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Let’s see, the Pacers finished as the No. 3 seed in the East, knocked off the No. 2 seed Knicks and took the two-time defending champs to Game 7 in the conference finals and you’re still calling them “up-and-comers?”  I’m calling them right there on the threshold, banging on the door with younger legs and more significant upside than the Nets.  If Brooklyn added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry five years ago, they’d be real championship challengers.  Now they’re just old.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comIndiana. There might not be a more confident team west of South Beach after last season’s heavyweight tilt with the Heat. The Pacers improved their bench this summer and if Danny Granger accepts a role as a sure-fire Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Frank Vogel‘s humble, hard-working team with a chip on its shoulder could be lethal. Brooklyn is going to be fascinating to watch. We’ve seen these collection of aging All-Star teams go bad, but it will help the cohesiveness that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are longtime teammates and so well respected. All-in-all, this is not an easy task to pull off for rookie coach Jason Kidd, who is already talking about resting Garnett on back-to-backs. Where the Nets finish in the regular season (of course top four is optimum) might not matter as much as how well they’re playing in March and April (a la the San Antonio Spurs).

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Indiana. Tough call, though. Ask the Heat how good the Pacers were last season. And now combine that answer with the “addition” of two players while barely removing any pieces from the core of the 2012-13 roster: Danny Granger and Luis Scola. Brooklyn is also realistically headed for a long run, so this could be close enough to be 2 and 2a. No one should discount the Bulls for 2b if certain health issues that have become tiresome to discuss become part of the past.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe Pacers lose in a name recognition fight with the Nets, but they win everywhere else. I know Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will disagree with me there, but what else would you expect from two of the greatest competitors of their generation? The fact is, the Nets got both of those future Hall of Famers just a bit past their respective primes. The Pacers have a core group that is in the midst of an ascent in the Eastern Conference and league standings, led by All-Stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert and standout veterans David West and Danny Granger, whose return from injury (much like Chicago’s Derrick Rose) should be just as or more significant than any free agent signing by any legitimate contender in the East. Frank Vogel has a team that has been tested and tasted playoff success in each of the past two seasons, a team with chemistry that is proven. Those are crucial components for a contender that the Nets simply do not possess.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Considering the Pacers were one win away from making the NBA Finals last season, I’m not so sure I’d label them an “up-and-comer” — they’re here and ready to go. Of these two teams, I think I’d give a slight edge to Indiana. Aside from that “almost Finalists” thing, they’ve improved their bench, the obvious weak point last season, and they get an All-Star (Danny Granger) back from injury. I wrote a few weeks ago here that I thought the Nets were constructed to be a better playoff team than regular-season team, and I still believe that. But just because they wait to play full throttle doesn’t mean they’re going to be better than the Pacers.

Aldo Avinante, NBA.com Philippines: Brooklyn will be the more improved team next year. The sheer amount of star power and veteran presence will catapult them into one of the true contender to Miami’s throne. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko will bring everything you want to improve on: defense, scoring, playmaking, veteran leadership and then some, with the core of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson in place, expect the Nets to be one of the top teams all year.

Daniel Senovilla, NBA Espana: Scola is a player very familiar to the Spanish people. We have seen him since he was a rookie and I hope he gives the Pacers the perfect “bench man” they sorely needed last season against the Heat. He’ll also bring more power to the paint for a team that’s already very good in that zone. On one hand we have the “romantic” view of the Pacers — young players with talent — and on the other hand we have the rich team with the new old legends from Boston. We’re idealists over here. The Pacers deserve, and will get, another opportunity.