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Posts Tagged ‘Orlando Magic’

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 27

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Miami moves on from Bosh | Wall, Beal downplay rift | Spurs missing their ‘In-Tim-idator’ | Losing Middleton stymies Bucks

No. 1: Miami moves on from BoshPat Riley, Miami Heat president, went so far as to mention Magic Johnson‘s stunning HIV diagnosis. That’s how seriously and emotionally Riley and his organization were reacting to what they consider to be the end of Chris Bosh‘s NBA career in south Florida. The latest chapter in Bosh’s ongoing health concerns, stemming from blood clots that have snuffed the second halves of his past two seasons, came Monday as Riley confirmed the Heat no longer are open to bringing the All-Star power forward back. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel had the details:

President Pat Riley said Monday that the team views Chris Bosh’s career with the team as over, that the team no longer is working toward his return.

“We are not,” Riley said in his office at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I think Chris is still open-minded. But we are not working toward his return.

“We feel that, based on the last exam, that his Heat career is probably over.”

Asked if he felt Bosh’s NBA career was over, as well, Riley said, “that’s up to him.”

Bosh has been sidelined for the second half of each of the past two seasons due blood clots, recently failing the Heat’s preseason physical.

“It’s pretty definitive from us, in our standpoint, that this is probably going to be a time where we really have to step back,” Riley said

“His health, playing and economics — it’s been health, health, health,” Riley said before the start of the team’s media day at AmericanAirlines Arena. “Whatever the cap ramifications are, they are there, but we never ever thought about that.”

Of going forward, Riley said, “This one is cloudy, the environment, because of the C.B. situation, and we have to deal with that.”

The Heat would receive salary-cap relief going forward on Feb. 9 if Bosh is ruled medically unable to play by an NBA specialist.

Bosh said over the weekend he planned to continue his comeback attempt, posting on Twitter, “Setbacks may happen, but my intentions remain the same. Thank you all for the warm wishes and support.”

He then on Monday released the latest chapter of the video series chronicling his comeback attempt on the Uninterrupted digital-media platform.

“I put in all the work, so let’s see where I’m at,” Bosh said in the piece, which apparently was completed before his failed Heat physical. “I’m still hoping to have my moment.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the situation with Bosh has been emotionally grueling.

“I love C.B. dearly,” he said. “It was tough to watch C.B. and his family go through this the last couple of years. Your heart just goes out to him.”

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Blogtable: Which two teams are most intriguing in the East?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Intriguing East teams? | Intriguing West teams? | Taking slow approach with rookie

> As the start of Eastern Conference training camps near, which two teams are you most intrigued by? And what depth chart battle/storyline/offseason move(s) by those teams will you be watching most?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Two? Thought you said there wouldn’t be math on this. Well, I’m curious about a pair of East also-rans, New York and Milwaukee. The Knicks have undeniable buzz now, and I’m curious to see (in order of intrigue) how “back” Derrick Rose really is in his new surroundings as he eyes next summer’s free agency, how high of a priority Kristaps Porzingis‘ development remains on New York’s to-do list and to what degree Joakim Noah can put the paddles to that team’s collective heart. The Bucks, meanwhile, need significant bounce-back because they messed up the ramp-up of their rebuilding (you aren’t supposed to go from 15 victories to 41 to 33, especially when healthier and sporting an alleged big free-agent “get” in Greg Monroe). Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s nine-figure contract extension signed this week is the latest step toward a season that’s showtime now rather than any more dress rehearsals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Celtics and the Magic, for different reasons. (Among the many possible answers.) Boston has a chance to push into the top three and be in good position if the Cavaliers falter. Brad Stevens is a leading preseason candidate for Coach of the Year. Orlando won’t play at the same level, but several offseason moves (especially up front, and hiring Frank Vogel as coach) definitely qualifies as intriguing. The Magic sorting through options and now without Victor Oladipo should be a good watch wherever they are in the standings. The depth-chart battle among Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka will get the most scrutiny.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Bulls and Knicks. And not exactly a coincidence. The defections of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah this summer will have a measurable impact on each team; we just don’t know whether it’s positive or negative and to what degree. Both teams will give off some hints during camp about their identity and what we might expect at least for the first month or two. The Bulls need to address their power forward spot with either Nikola Mirotic or Bobby Portis, while the Rose-Courtney Lee dynamic will bear watching.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Indiana and Philadelphia. The Pacers could see a boost in their offense with the additions of Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson, along with the development of Myles Turner. But their defense is likely going to take a big step backward with the departures of George Hill, Ian Mahinmi and Frank Vogel. Can Nate McMillan find the right balance, and how much longer will Monta Ellis be around? And of course, it will be fascinating to see just how good the Sixers’ trio of rookies — Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons — is and how Brett Brown is going to work out the frontcourt minutes while he still has all those guys plus Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Chicago Bulls and their three-alpha attack should provide for a fascinating chemistry experiment for Fred Hoiberg and his coaching staff. We all know what Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler bring as individuals. How they mesh together and whether or not they can make the Bulls a top-four contender in the conference playoff chase remain the outstanding questions regarding this trio. The Boston Celtics swung for the fences in free agency and came away with a seemingly perfect fit in Al Horford, a veteran center/power forward who should stabilize things in the frontcourt immediately. He helped make Atlanta one of the top teams in the conference the past two seasons. I’m curious to see if Horford can do the same for the Celtics now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Heat have enough talent to contend for homecourt advantage in the East — if they can resolve their many issues, including the absence of Dwyane Wade’s leadership, the medical uncertainty of Chris Bosh’s future, the chemistry between Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, and the potential of Goran Dragic to become a go-to star, which at age 30 he must fulfill this year. This looks like an entirely different franchise because Wade is no longer there to accept the responsibility of making things right. It was his team and he took it personally when the team struggled. How do they replace that level of authority? The other fascinating team is Indiana, which will be playing in a hurry after surrounding Paul George with Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. How quickly can 20-year-old Myles Turner emerge as their No. 2 star while creating mismatches at center? Another intriguing addition is backup center Al Jefferson, whose low-post game could enable Indiana’s second unit to change and control the pace.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Atlanta, for one. I know bringing in Dwight Howard to replace Al Horford was made with an eye on the box office, but what kind of result will it have on the win column? I also wonder if enough attention is being paid to the change at the point, with Dennis Schroder replacing Jeff Teague and being asked to take on a starting role. Another Eastern Conference team I think may be interesting is Orlando. I’ve always admired Frank Vogel‘s ability to get a team to play a cohesive style of play. The Magic are still staffed with a lot of youth, but I wonder if Ibaka playing a more central role will get him back to being the dominant player he was a few years back?

Morning shootaround — Sept. 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Paul touched by HOF trip | Report: Smith to skip Cavs’ mini-camp | Report: Meeks set to return in November | Stevens says veterans will push Brown

No. 1: Trip to Hall of Fame resonates with Paul – LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul was honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer with the Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award for his work with his organization, the Chris Paul Foundation. Initially, Paul was hesitant to come out to Springfield, Mass., for the event, but since then has drastically changed his tone about both the Hall itself and has a newfound respect for his the game at large. Jackie MacMullan of ESPN.com has more:

Chris Paul admits it — he viewed his trip to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last week as a bit of a nuisance.

It wasn’t the first time the Hall had reached out, but it was the first time the nine-time All-Star finally acquiesced.

“They ask,” Paul conceded to ESPN.com, “but you think, ‘I’m busy’ or ‘Oh no, it’s too far,’ or ‘I have too much other stuff going on.”’

During his tour of the birthplace of basketball, Paul was moved by the stories of African-American pioneers who were banned from hotels and restrooms that welcomed their white teammates. He delighted in locating the plaque of Clarence “Big House” Gaines, the legendary African-American college coach at Winston-Salem State, just miles from where Paul grew up.

It prompted a reflective Paul to deliver one of the most memorable and impassioned speeches from an elite player who wasn’t actually being inducted.

“Today was my first day having the opportunity to come here, and it was kind of touching,” Paul told the audience upon accepting his award. “If not for this game, I am not here. If not for this game, my family is not in the situation we are in. And so I’m grateful for this game and what it has done for me and my family …”

With his voice breaking, and tears welling, Paul pressed on.

“It really hit me today being here around all the history that we take so much for granted,” he said. “And I know I do [that] a lot of times.”

Before long, as Paul shared the story of how he pressured his parents to buy him a pair of Allen Iverson‘s signature shoes, he had Iverson — a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee — weeping, too.

“To be here on his special day … man, this game has taken me places I never imagined,” Paul said. “Guys, you gotta come see this, because it’s bigger than any of us.”

“I haven’t never been here before, and as I walked in I actually felt bad about it,” Paul said. “It hit home today, in a big way, what this game has done for me, and the people I love. You walk in and you see all the history and you realize, ‘I need to support this.’

“I’m one of those people who, my wheels get turning. You want other people to see this. You think, ‘Maybe it would be better if this was in New York or L.A.,’ but that doesn’t make sense. The game was invented here. There is where it has to stay.”

Paul, who is also president of the players’ union, said he plans to go back to his NBA brethren and encourage them to see for themselves how the pioneers of the game paved the way — and to spur them to give back.

“Every experience is different for every person, but this place? It got me,” Paul said. “I can’t wait to bring my son.”

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Morning shootaround — Sept. 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Riley: ‘We move on’ from Wade | How Magic nearly flubbed drafting Shaq in ’92 | Towns on Wolves: ‘We’ve got to make the playoffs’

No. 1: Riley has ‘no regrets’ as 2016-17 season nears — The Miami Heat have retooled their roster this summer and as part of it, watched as franchise icon Dwyane Wade left in free agency to sign with the Chicago Bulls. Team president Pat Riley knows a new era is afoot in Miami and acknowledged as much in an interview with the Palm Beach Post‘s Tom D’Anglelo:

Heat president Pat Riley is looking forward to Sept. 27, the start of yet another era in his 22 years with the Heat. While the expectations have been lowered, that does not mean Riley and the organization will approach this year any differently.

“No apologies, no regrets – except for one – no tears,” Riley told me today, obviously referring to losing franchise icon Dwyane Wade to the Chicago Bulls. “Good luck. We move on. Players come and go, but franchises move on.”

The reason for our conversation was to speak about Shaquille O’Neal’s induction into the basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Riley took the time to speak from San Tropez where he and Heat owner Micky Arison are on a five-day journey through the Mediterranean to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Magic and Cookie Johnson. (More in this below)

Riley, 71, does not sound like a man ready to cruise into retirement. He clearly is looking at ways to rebuild this team into one that can one day compete for the organization’s fourth title.

The Heat have been remade since losing Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson among others. They are a mix of young athletic players with fewer veterans than Heat teams of recent years.

“I’m excited for our new guys,” he said before already talking about the next move. “Maybe we make a deal or catch lightening in a bottle again next summer (in free agency) like we did in 2010.”

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Morning shootaround — Sept. 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rivers says Pierce still unsure about playing | Mitchell sounds off about dismissal | Gordon, Magic expecting playoffs in 2016-17

No. 1: Rivers says Pierce still unsure about 2016-17 — The last news we heard about Paul Pierce was that the 38-year-old former Finals MVP was leaning toward returning to the LA Clippers for what would be his 19th overall NBA campaign. Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who was speaking at a fundraiser for the ABCD Camp in Boston, told reporters he remains unsure if Pierce will play for LA next season. ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg has more:

“Depends on the day I talk to him. Paul has had the summer, he’s gone back and forth,” Rivers said while back in Boston to host the annual ABCD Hoops Dream fundraiser at TD Garden. “I think he has a right to do that. I really do.

“Paul didn’t have the best year last year. I don’t think he wants to go out that way. So I think that’s why he’s working to try to come back. But he still may change his mind next week. So we just have to wait. I told him if I see him at training camp, I’m assuming he’s playing.”

Rivers plans to talk with Pierce again this week but does not expect an answer until training camp draws closer.

Rivers said he would be brutally honest with Pierce if he didn’t think Pierce was capable of helping the Clippers next season.

“If I don’t think they can play, then I tell them that. But I think Paul can play,” Rivers said. “I don’t know how much he’ll play, but he can play. I’ve always thought it’s easy for someone else to tell you to retire; I think that’s something that the player has to come to by himself.”

Rivers reaffirmed that, should Pierce choose to retire, he’ll encourage him to sign a one-day contract with the Boston Celtics in order to retire as a member of the Celtics organization.

“I think it’s important. I think we have to do that. And I think we will,” Rivers said. “[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and [assistant general manager] Mike [Zarren], we’ve already talked.

“The day [Pierce] retires, he’s going to retire a Celtic. He has to. Paul’s a Celtic. So when he retires, he’s got to retire as a Celtic. I don’t think anyone disagrees with me.”

Rivers talked with Ray Allen this summer but wouldn’t tip his hand on whether he thought Allen would resume his NBA career after sitting out the past two seasons.

“I don’t know. I won’t talk about what we talked about. I think if Ray was in the right spot, he may play,” said Rivers. “I think Ray wants to golf a lot too, right now. But Ray is in amazing shape. I don’t know how he does that. I didn’t know how he does that as a player; I don’t know how he does it as a non-player. He’s probably in top-5 shape in the NBA. So could Ray play? Absolutely, I believe he could.”

Rivers sounded most confident that Kevin Garnett would continue his playing career, even as he aids the rebuilding process with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I think Kevin — and I know it, because I talk to him — loves the young guys on his team,” Rivers said. “He loves how they work. He thinks they have an old-school mentality. So I think he’s really gotten into Kevin, the teacher. And I honestly never saw that coming, either. Yet he was a phenomenal teacher with [Boston]; I just didn’t think he would have the patience to do it. And I think Kevin loves teaching these young guys.

“And I think Paul just loves playing. He was the one that I thought would play the longest because the way he plays, and he’s doing it.”

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kerr: Don’t call Durant “villain” | Gores: Pistons are in a good place | Cuban behind Bogut’s Olympic run | Ray Allen may not be finished yet

No. 1: Kerr: Don’t call Durant “villain” The Golden State Warriors clearly hit the jackpot in free agency this summer, bringing in Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a move that not only made the Warriors stronger but also weakened the rival Thunder. But according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, in an appearance on ESPN Radio, calling Durant (or any of the Warriors, for that matter) villains would be “absurd.”:

“To think of Kevin Durant or Steph Curry or any of our guys as villains, it’s kind of absurd. Especially Kevin,” Kerr said Sunday in an interview on ESPN Radio’s TMI with Michelle Beadle and Ramona Shelburne. “This is one of the most likeable people in this league. He’s just an awesome human being. What he did in Oklahoma City was just amazing for that community.

Kerr added: “Circumstances kind of dictate, I guess, that some people are going to see him as a villain. But it’s only because he decided to go elsewhere to play. He wanted to change his scenery, he wanted a new challenge. More than anything he wanted to play with our guys. He loves Draymond [Green] and Steph and Klay [Thompson] and Andre [Iguodala]. Seeing those guys in New York, he loved seeing the chemistry that exists and he wanted to be a part of it.”

Durant said last month that he didn’t leave the house he’d rented in the Hamptons for 48 hours after he announced his decision because he knew how strongly fans would react to him leaving.

“For a few days after, I didn’t leave my bed, because I was like, ‘If I walk outside somebody might just hit me with their car, or say anything negative to me,'” Durant said last month at Team USA training camp in Las Vegas.

“I mean, I’ve been somewhere for so long, and then to make a change like that, [which] nobody knew was coming, that nobody didn’t think I would do, of course I didn’t know how it would be received afterward. But at some point, I just said, ‘Look, man, life goes on. Life moves on, and I can’t hide forever,’ so I just had to face it.”

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No. 2: Gores: Pistons are in a good place The Detroit Pistons won an NBA title in 2004, but rebuilding following that title run proved to be a tough task. But since becoming owner of the Pistons in 2011, Tom Gores has presided over a building project that finally has the Pistons a perennial postseason contender, with aspirations of much more. As Vince Ellis from the Detroit Free Press discovered in a wide-ranging Q&A with Gores, despite the solid foundation finally in place, Gores isn’t satisfied with just being a playoff team and talks about that, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s future and more:

Q: The Pistons appear to be on the rise. With downtown Detroit becoming more of a destination, it appears the time could be ripe for a move. You’ve never closed the door, but can you quantify the importance of the next year for the franchise?

Gores: “I think last year was the beginning of the important years. I think we began to set the course last year. We proved a point. We got into the playoffs. I really like the way we finished with the roster with (forward Tobias Harris) coming in. This year, everybody’s a year older, we’ve got the core set with our folks, so it’s an important year that we prove that we are making progress. I’ve always said patience with progress, so this is an important year because they really just jelled last year, if you think about it. Tobias was new, what a steal with (forward Marcus Morris), (point guard Reggie Jackson) as a true starter in his first year. (Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) is still a young man. (Forward Stanley Johnson) just turned 20. This a very young team and very, very talented. … It’s an important year for everybody to keep developing, and that’s what Stan’s been focused on, not sitting still to make sure everybody’s got a place to improve. … We have a very focused group. There’s nobody in the locker room that’s a problem for us. These are good guys.”

Q: What can you say right now on the potential to move downtown?

Gores: “We’ve always been open-minded. I’ve always respected (Mike and Marian Ilitch) in terms of what they’re doing. We do have an understanding of some of the things they’re developing down there. There’s a lot going on downtown. …”

Q: Dan Gilbert is doing a lot of business there.

Gores: “Dan (Gilbert), as well. Dan and I have been talking about the soccer team. Whatever we do, I’d like to be that third piece of the triangle between Dan and the Ilitches and then myself to really finish bringing the city together. I think we can do that. I think we have a lot of value to add. Not just the basketball team, but our business expertise. There’s a ton going on and Detroit is getting close to being in the red zone. I don’t know if we’re there quite yet, in terms of the city coming back, but we’re not on the other 20. (Detroit is) getting close, and I think I can be helpful there. We’re staying open-minded and I’ve always said in terms of the Ilitches and what they’ve meant to the city, I think definitely we could be good partners for each other. So we’re evaluating everything and I think we should. I’ve been paying attention to a lot going on in downtown Detroit.”

Q: With a possible KCP extension, you could threaten the luxury tax line (an NBA mechanism to curtail teams’ spending). Thoughts on being a luxury taxpayer?

Gores: “Look, if we weren’t building a core, there’s really no point in paying the luxury tax. Because we are building a core, would I do it? Yeah, absolutely. This is a tremendous team. If you go down the line, player by player, and especially our young folks, these are real players. You look at KCP as a very diverse player. He keeps working at his game and you look at his improvement and just like anybody else, he will improve in other areas. Part of Stan [Van Gundy]’s coaching philosophy obviously is defense. So you say go into the luxury tax for nothing, then that would be silly because then we’re putting the franchise behind. But given that we have such a good core, if that’s what it took, and we feel we’ve made such progress this year, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it because we want to keep getting better.”

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No. 3: Cuban behind Bogut’s Olympic run Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has historically been critical of NBA players playing in the Olympics, rightfully reasoning that NBA teams have huge financial investments with little upside from Olympic success. But in the case of newly signed Mavs center Andrew Bogut, Cuban signed off on Bogut’s appearance with the Australian National Team, telling the AP that they view Bogut’s Olympic appearance as an important part of his comeback from the injury he suffered in the 2016 Finals:

Mark Cuban has been opposed to NBA players competing in the Olympics, but the Dallas Mavericks owner gave Andrew Bogut the clearance he needed to play for Australia after injuring his left knee in the NBA Finals.

And Cuban is pulling for his new center, who scored 18 points to lead the Aussies to an 87-66 victory over France on Saturday in the opening game of the tournament.

“We obviously were nervous and I’m still not a fan of NBA players in the Olympics, but Andrew was going to have to go through a process to get back on the court anyway,” Cuban wrote Sunday in an email to The Associated Press. “Our staff has communicated with him and we knew he would be cautious in his approach to returning.”

Bogut suffered bone bruises in Game 5 while playing for Golden State. Players need a release from their NBA teams to compete internationally if they have a pre-existing injury, and Bogut said he was a little worried he might not get it from the Mavs, who acquired him last month in a trade.

“They were very, very nervous obviously because my prognosis was six to eight weeks and this is right on six weeks right now, but I was open with them and honest,” Bogut said. “I said, ‘Look, if I know I’m not ready and the knee’s swelling up, I’m pulling the pin.’ And they said fine, we trust you.”

Bogut said he even received an email from Cuban before the Olympic opener.

“I told him make sure he has his green-and-gold jersey on watching the game, and he threw a couple of other words I can’t repeat and said let’s go,” Bogut said. “So it’s been a good relationship by email so far.”

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No. 4: Ray Allen may not be finished yet — Sharpshooting guard Ray Allen hasn’t played in the NBA since the Miami Heat lost to the Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. But speaking to the Hartford Courant at a basketball camp this weekend, Allen said he may still be interested in playing if the situation was right:

“I worked out the other day in New York with a friend of mine,” Allen said Saturday, during a break from his annual instructional camp at East Granby High. “I was shooting, I was going through my routine just like I’d always done. Yeah, I was a little winded, but I was able to go through my routine like I’d always gone though my routine and I didn’t feel like I’d missed any time in doing what I was doing. For me, it’s not ‘Can I do it anymore?’ It’s how I feel after I do it. And yesterday, I felt great.

“I could not have learned all that I’ve learned in 20 years of my life, dealing with coach [Jim] Calhoun, and how to sleep right, eat right, and then go to the NBA and do what I’ve done there and then afterwards just drop the ball and let everything go. I still weigh the same I weighed in college.”

Allen, 41, the former UConn star who won two championships and was a 10-time NBA All-Star, is gearing up or a comeback after two seasons out of the league. While he is not certain he will suit up again, he made it clear that this is not just idle chatter.

“My decision is predicated on what is available,” he said. “I said that I was interested because I never retired for a reason. I’ve been watching, seeing what teams have been doing and I’ve been waiting to see if the opportunity presented itself where I think I could fit.”

It has been assumed that Allen, who last played for the Heat in 2014, would be most likely to join the champion Cavaliers, reuniting in Cleveland with LeBron James, or the runner-up Warriors, who have added Kevin Durant to the team that went 73-9 in the regular season.

The Spurs and Clippers have been mentioned, also, but Allen said he has spoken with the Celtics, with whom he won a championship in 2008, and the Bucks, his first NBA stop.

“I would love going back to those places if it worked out,” Allen said, “because both teams are good, too. It doesn’t necessarily have to be championship-or-bust for me to go back to the NBA.

“I want to be in a situation where I thought I could help, play a little bit and help where they have good young talent.”

Allen, who lives much of the time in Miami, has opened a restaurant called Grown, said he is not yet sure what direction the Heat are taking. How about the Knicks? “Spike Lee has been trying to recruit me,” Allen said. “We’ve been texting.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul George is trying to set up a meeting with the French gymnast who suffered a broken leg in the opening days of Rio 2016 … Nick Anderson made it out of the violence in Chicago, and wants to help bring it to an endJoel Embiid was excited by the game-sealing block in Croatia’s win over Spain from his potential 76ers teammate Dario Saric

Blogtable: What grade do you give OKC’s offseason?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Importance of keeping Westbrook? | What grade do you give OKC’s offseason? |
Where do Thunder rank in Western Conference now?


> Overall, how would you grade the Thunder’s 2016 offseason?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: B-. Can’t give the Thunder an A; that would have required Durant to re-up. But I’ll go as far as the B- even though they lost a proven MVP still in his prime. The Westbrook extension allows the franchise and the city, as well as the remaining players, to breathe. And swapping out Serge Ibaka (and unofficially Dion Waiters) for Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova is a strong now-secondary move. Ibaka’s impact was in decline, and with Steven Adams on the rise, the rotation up front is more streamlined now. The team still could use help on the wing, but that seems like a quibble in the wake of Westbrook’s re-upping.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWhen you lose one of the top three players in the league the report card takes a hit. But keeping Westbrook saves the Thunder from flunking summer school. Getting it done before the start of training camp to remove the uncertainty from the 2016-17 gets extra credit points. OKC is no longer among the elite, but I’m giving the Thunder a C+, which includes an A for effort.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBad. You want a letter grade? Let’s say D. The Russell Westbrook deal is big and adding Victor Oladipo could make for a very nice backcourt, but there is no way getting around the bottom line that losing one of the best players in the world, Kevin Durant, without getting anything in return is a crushing setback. The team that could have been a title contender isn’t any more. That’s the bottom line.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI’ll give them a B. They lost Durant, but the Westbrook deal and getting Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in the Serge Ibaka trade made the most of a tough situation.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThey lost one of the three best players in the world and two of their three most important defenders. Adding some depth and tacking another year onto Westbrook’s deal turns an F into a D.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I think a B-minus is more than fair. Since I don’t grade on a curve, the Thunder didn’t make the honor roll. You just can’t when you lose an iconic player like Kevin Durant in free agency. But they salvaged their grade by convincing Westbrook to stick around. We don’t know what the loss of Serge Ibaka will do to this team, if anything at all. If GM Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan are certain that they have a legitimate top-five center in Steven Adams and a potential star in Victor Oladipo, then they could be in line for a grade change.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: It’s a disappointment — with a huge asterisk. They lost Durant and there is no replacing him. His loss removes them from championship contention next season. But they avoided another potential free agent departure by moving Serge Ibaka while they could for three players who will help immediately, including Victor Oladipo, whose rights will be restricted. Based on the events that they could control, they did as well as they could to come out of this summer with a like-minded roster and some level of contractual certainty for the next several seasons.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI liked trading Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis, although I would have liked it much more if Durant was on the roster. Re-signing Westbrook is better than seeing him leave. But then, even while considering the good things the Thunder did, it is impossible to ignore that the Thunder also lost one of the best players in not only the NBA today, but in NBA history. And they got nothing in return. And he went to one of their most bitter rivals. So if I had to assign a grade, I’d say D+. A nice trade, a good extension, but to me they are further away from their goal of a championship than they were three months ago.

Blogtable: Biggest team turnaround with new coach?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Which team is poised to have the most dramatic jump in winning percentage next season: Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves, Scott Brooks’ Wizards, Luke Walton’s Lakers, Dave Joerger’s Kings, Nate McMillan’s Pacers, David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, Jeff Hornacek’s Knicks, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets, Frank Vogel’s Magic or Kenny Atkinson’s Nets?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Thibodeau’s Timberwolves will improve the most. No one coaches harder in the 82-game regular season, and Minnesota’s three youngest core players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — would naturally take a step or two in their development under almost any coach. Combine that, along with a pretty easy act to top (29 victories in 2015-16) and I’m expected an improvement of 10-15 games.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe 17-win Lakers have the most room to work with, but the Lakers are also the farthest away. Frank Vogel’s solid defensive base will make the Magic jump if they can sort out the sudden glut of big men. But I’m making it a two-team race for biggest improvement. The Grizzlies and David Fizzle with a healthy Marc Gasol should go from 42 back to their customary 50-plus level. But I’ll give the nod to Minnesota. All that young talent combined with Thibs’ defensive chops will have the Wolves howling with a possible leap from from 29 to 40+ wins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comLuke Walton’s Lakers, but in large part because they have the most realistic room to grow. It’s not hard to see L.A. adding 10 wins based on the energy of the coaching change, the experience D’Angelo Russell and (basically) Julius Randle didn’t have last season, the arrival of Luol Deng as a veteran presence and the addition of Brandon Ingram in the Draft. Ten wins is close to a 60-percent jump. A lot of the other options you mention will improve — Minnesota, New York, Orlando — but the Magic, for example, aren’t going to be 60-percent better in the standings. They will have more wins than the Lakers, just not a bigger increase.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll say the Lakers only because they were mostly dreadful and won just 17 games. Only one way to go, and if they win 30, which is somewhat realistic, that almost a 50-percent jump. Can’t see anyone else in this group pulling that off (where are the Sixers?) But again, it’s a backhanded compliment to the Lakers, who if nothing else should be exciting to watch even in defeat.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Wolves are going to the playoffs next season. Tom Thibodeau will have them improve at least 10 spots in defensive efficiency, where they ranked 27th last season. The development of their young players — along with, hopefully, Zach LaVine playing a lot more shooting guard than point guard — should have them improved offensively as well. Karl-Anthony Towns is the league’s next star and should do well with his first summer of work after finding out what the league is all about. He could make a huge leap.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As entertaining as I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves could be under Tom Thibodeau, I’m going to have to go with Luke Walton’s Lakers. They’ve got as much ground to gain (in percentages and raw numbers) as any team in the league, given their dreadful performance last season and the fresh new look they’ll have under Walton. David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, however, will go into the season as my potential surprise team in the Western Conference (provided they have a healthy roster to work with), where things could shift dramatically with all of the changes that have occurred in free agency.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Timberwolves may reach the playoffs next season because of Thibodeau, who will hasten their development defensively and turn their athleticism into a force. D’Antoni has a history of elevating the value of his players and the Rockets appear to be in the mood to rally around him after embarrassing themselves last year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI don’t know if there is a “most dramatic” winner out there. Scanning past those names, I don’t see any one team that immediately jumps out at me and looks like sudden a title contender. If I had to pick one, I’d pick a team in the East, where improvement may be easier to come by, and say either the Knicks (if they are healthy, which is a gigantic if) or maybe Frank Vogel’s Magic show in Orlando.

Morning shootaround — July 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Popovich reflects on Duncan | Howard energized by move to Hawks | Haslem a last man standing of sorts in Miami

No. 1: Emotional Popovich reflects on Duncan’s career — Stoic. Stern. Unwavering. Just three of many words that describe legendary San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and, to some degree, his recently retired superstar, Tim Duncan. Yet in his address to the media for the first time since Duncan announced his retirement on July 11, Popovich showed a different and more reflective side to his personality in remembering the player with whom he won five NBA championships.

Gregg Popovich spoke for about 15 minutes, sometimes unable to hide his emotions, all the while wearing a T-shirt that had Tim Duncan’s face printed on the front. When the last question was answered, the coach turned, put his hands in his pockets and silently walked into a new era for the San Antonio Spurs.

It’s a day Popovich knew was coming.

That clearly didn’t make it any easier.

“He’s irreplaceable,” Popovich said.

Choking up at times and making wisecracks at others, Popovich bade a public farewell to Duncan’s playing career on Tuesday.

Popovich spoke in a corner of the Spurs’ practice facility in San Antonio, the spot where he holds court with reporters after workouts during the season. There was no news conference, no elaborate setup, not even any live coverage permitted. Even for something that will have so much impact on the team, the league and the sport, the Spurs kept things as simple as possible.

Duncan is leaving. In some respects, everything is changing. In others, nothing will.

“I think it will be a seamless transition for the team,” former NBA coach and current television analyst Jeff Van Gundy said. “I think who it’s going to be hard on is Gregg Popovich.”

“I can be on him in a game and ask him why he’s not rebounding in a relatively stern way and really get on him in front of everybody,” Popovich continued. “And on his way back to the court, he’ll say, `Thanks for the motivation, Pop. Thanks for the support, Pop.’ Then he’ll turn away with his eyes up in the air and we’ll both start laughing. And people don’t see those things. But his teammates have and that’s why his teammates love him.”

Duncan will go down as one of the best to ever play the game, and Popovich said he was the best teammate any Spurs player could have had.

There were moments of humor, too, like Popovich saying Duncan made him wear the clothes he gave him – including the shirt he donned Tuesday – or else he wouldn’t play.

“I remember a pretty neat summer league game when he first came in and (Greg) Ostertag blocked his shot,” Popovich said when asked what moment of Duncan’s career he enjoyed most. “That was pretty cool.”

Mostly, Popovich’s words showed sadness and appreciation.

He spoke at length about Duncan’s humility, and how that was instilled in him long ago. Popovich told a story about when Duncan’s father, who died in 2002, told the Spurs coach he needed to ensure his son would not be changed by fame or fortune.

“I can still remember before his father passed away, looking me in the eye and saying `I’m going to hold you responsible to make sure that when he’s done he’s the same person he is now.’ And in that respect, he is,” Popovich said. “He’s grown as a person, as we all do, through experiences. But his inner core, he was over himself when he came in and after all these accolades and all this success, he’s still over himself. Hasn’t changed a lick.”

***

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — June 26

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Jazz seek depth | More straight talk, less Bull, please | Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax

No. 1: Jazz seek depth  — The reported addition of George Hill allows the Utah Jazz to turn their focus to role players, according to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, after a 2015-16 season in which injuries pulled back a curtain on a roster lacking depth:

Though Utah brass like their young core — including rehabbing Dante Exum and Alec Burks, both expected to be healthy by training camp — the organization has an offseason objective of fortifying the roster.

That means, if possible, acquiring more talent via free agency and/or trades.
Securing veteran playmaker George Hill — whom ESPN’s Zach Lowe described as “a really good point guard” — was a good start for this playoff-hungry franchise.

But Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has even more in mind. He’s used words like “active” and “aggressive” in describing how his staff will approach the upcoming free-agency period.

In retrospect, Lindsey took responsibility for not having enough depth on the Jazz roster in 2015-16 to help Quin Snyder deal with the unexpected rash of injuries that the team experienced, including to Exum, Burks, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.

“We’re not going to sit here and alibi. Every single sports team has injuries,” Lindsey said the day after the team’s 40-42 season ended a couple of wins shy of a playoff spot. “Ultimately, I’m the most responsible up here on the dais — not Quin, not the coaches, not the players — about roster construction.”

The Jazz’s plan last offseason seemed to make sense. The team had finished the 2014-15 season on a tear, winning 21 of their final 32 games led by a dominating defensive surge.

Instead of rolling the dice on acquiring experienced free agents to bolster the up-and-comers, Lindsey & Co. opted to gamble on youth. Injuries — and a late-season collapse — made that plan backfire on a team that came oh-so-close but not close enough.

“If we do this the right way with the right character — and Quin’s such a good communicator — we’ll be able to manage the season better,” Lindsey said. “The players are like everybody else. They saw what happened last season and they know that we know that we need some reinforcements. Come early July, we plan on being very active in the free-agent market.”

***

No. 2: More straight talk, less Bull, please — A year ago, it was the coach’s fault. This season, it was the players’ fault. At some point, it’s going to be management’s fault, even if the Chicago Bulls’ top-heavy down management style doesn’t acknowledge that. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has a reputation for backing the suits in his front-office, be it with the Bulls or the MLB White Sox. But sooner or later, general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson are going to face some measure of scrutiny and have to ‘fess up for the team’s underperformance the same way former coach Tom Thibodeau did in 2015 and the way Derrick Rose did with his trade last week to New York. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune looked at the Bulls’ monolithic approach and the growing distrust from many of the teams’ fans:

The bigger issue that emerged is this: Will Bulls fans trust a rebuilding plan designed and executed by a man so many find hard to believe?

With Rose gone, Forman instantly becomes the most polarizing member of the organization, lacking Butler’s popularity while eliciting the most emotional reaction. Lately, it’s Grrrrrrr, Forman. Chicagoans can detect BS as easily as they can spot red-light cameras, and they dislike both.

Forman first sounded disingenuous when he insisted on saying the Bulls are retooling, not rebuilding. Then consider Forman’s muddled confirmation of the Bulls’ interest in Providence point guard Kris Dunn, selected fifth by the Timberwolves

“We liked him. … We had talks like we do about moving up,” Forman said.

Of course the Bulls did. On draft day, teams in flux as much as the Bulls weigh a variety of options, which is what made Forman’s flat denial of [Jimmy] Butler trade talks so implausible. How did the Bulls admittedly explore trading up for Dunn with the Celtics and Timberwolves without dangling Butler — whom both teams wanted?

Forman comes across to those of us who know him as likable and funny, but you never will hear the words candid or transparent used to describe the Bulls GM. With a return to respectability the most realistic goal for 2016-17, the Bulls could use a little candor and a lot of transparency. Anything less threatens to turn people off. A team likely to struggle on the court need not give fans another reason to look away.

The Bulls have no worries related to attendance — the United Center regularly sells out — but the Rose deal reminds us that this is the wrong week to ignore how perception can shape reality in Chicago sports. No metric accurately measures civic confidence, but experience tells me the Bulls rank lower in that category than any other professional sports team in town, at least rivaling the lack of faith in the White Sox. Since the day the Bulls replaced coach Tom Thibodeau with Fred Hoiberg — Forman’s hand-picked candidate — skepticism has surrounded a team whose dysfunctional decline only intensified the scrutiny

Everybody understood how badly Rose needed a change of scenery because of his incompatibility with Butler. But isn’t it fair to wonder how Hoiberg’s arrival exacerbated the problems that hastened Rose’s departure? And who is most responsible for Hoiberg coaching the Bulls? The same executive who just added “I Traded Derrick Rose” to his legacy.

Yet the Bulls have left no doubt whom they want associated most with their latest plan to get past LeBron James. To articulate the Bulls’ biggest transaction of the post-Jordan era, Forman appeared alone to face questions. To discuss drafting Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine, an excellent pick that created a positive ripple, Forman again sat solo behind the microphone.

***

No. 3: Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax — Reputations matter. So do resumes. So when a successful team completes a trade with an unsuccessful team, there might be some bias involved when folks on the outside evaluate the deal, tilting its apparent merits ever so slightly. That’s what Orlando Sentinel columnist Brian Schmitz sees in the reactions to the Magic-Thunder trade in which veteran power forward Serge Ibaka was shipped to central Florida in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the draft pick that became Domantas Sabonis. What allegedly looks so lopsided to some doesn’t appear that way to Schmitz:

This is what happens when you lose as much as Orlando has the past four seasons: You lose credibility locally and nationally.

A lot of what you do will be panned by the public – no matter if essentially trading Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka makes sense for the Magic.

The Magic had, as [GM Rob] Hennigan called it, a “logjam” of wing players, thus making Oladipo expendable. The Thunder had a stable of big men, thus making Ibaka expendable. The underlying theme in both scenarios is that Oladipo and Ibaka will be looking for new contracts after next season. Neither player was particularly happy at times with their role last season.

So instead of the trade being portrayed more as good for both teams – ESPN’s Chad Ford did call it that — it is being hailed as a win for the Thunder.

“We need to call the cops — OKC robbed Orlando,” tweeted HBO Sports’ Bill Simmons.

“I don’t bet against [Thunder GM] Sam Presti when it comes to picking players. Trading Ibaka for Sabonis/Oladipo/Ilyasova? Advantage, OKC,” tweeted Skip Bayless of Fox Sports.

After I lauded Hennigan’s move, I received an-email from a ticked-off Magic fan that echoed others: “That’s a bad trade and a bad column. Let’s face it. This Magic GM is just as bad as the last one.”

Perception is a funny thing.

The trade made by the Thunder is largely considered genius because they’re contenders. The deal made by the Magic is largely considered wrong-headed because they’re bottom-dwellers.

Orlando also is perceived as a somewhat dysfunctional franchise, and it’s not without merit. They couldn’t keep Dwight Howard or — most recently — Scott Skiles from walking out.

I get it: OKC earns the benefit of the doubt.

But when you have All Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, any move the Thunder make tends to look brilliant. They skew the evaluation system.

Why, all of a sudden, Oladipo has morphed into Dwyane Wade and Ibaka is viewed as a spare part. An ESPN.com article even suggests that this trade moves OKC ahead of Golden State in the West. Wow, if Oladipo had that kind of impact, the Magic should have won more games.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: With Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes on board, Team USA’s roster finally looks set. … There is a Minnesota media crush on Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio that might not be shared by new coach Tom Thibodeau and it has some in the Twin Cities fretting. … What is life like for Knicks’ prospect Kristaps Porzingis back home in Latvia? Esquire magazine with the answer to everyone’s most pressing question.


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