Posts Tagged ‘Steve Aschburner’

Blogtable: Where will Dirk finish?

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 Cavs’ deal? | Struggling marquee teams | Where will Dirk finish?



VIDEODirk Nowitzki is now the NBA’s No. 7 all-time scorer

> Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki has zoomed up to No. 7 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. With two years left on his contract after this season (and who knows after that?) where do you think Dirk will settle on this list when all’s said and done?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I was in the visitors’ dressing room in Milwaukee last month when Nowitzki sat out a game (second of a back-to-back) he otherwise could have played in. His comment on that night of rest for his weary bones: “I want to play for the Mavericks for a long time, so…” Clearly he has no intention of stepping off the all-time points ladder anytime soon. But if he settles into, say, a 17 ppg scorer and manages his body through 70 games a year, that moves him along at about 1,500 points per season. That gets him past Shaquille O’Neal (28,596) and perhaps Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) but Micheal Jordan (32,292) might be a rung too high.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: As long as he stays healthy, I’m thinking Dirk won’t be ready to hang it up in two more years. He’s got Mark Cuban, who’ll keep pushing at the envelope to surround him with a roster that will keep the Mavs in playoff contention. So I’m going high and guessing that he does what would have been unthinkable when he was drafted back in 1998 and passes Michael Jordan, but tucks in behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant at No. 4.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comAnother spot for sure, past Shaquille O’Neal, and probably past Wilt Chamberlain to crash the top five. That’s remarkable real estate even for the staunchest Dirk backers. I wouldn’t count him out of No. 4 and Michael Jordan either. I just don’t think it’s an easy call at that point.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI say he finishes 5th at best and passes Wilt and Shaq. It’ll help to have Rajon Rondo around to get easier buckets (assuming Rondo sticks around after this season). Of course, we are also assuming Dirk stays healthy, something he has managed to do for much of his career.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comDirk will get past Shaq next season, but unless he misses only a few games, he won’t catch Wilt on this contract. So the question really comes down to whether you think he’ll play another year (at the age of 39) after that. I’ll guess that he does, passes Wilt, and finishes at No. 5, where he’ll eventually be passed by LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comGiven the way his career started, Dirk working his way into the top five will stand as a truly remarkable feat. I think he slides into the top four before it’s all said and done, not that I put a ton of stock into the top whatever when you get to the single digits on this list. Anyone in the top 40 all-time has done ridiculous work. The top 20 is unbelievable. The top 10 jaw-dropping. And that top five makes you one of the unquestioned greatest scorers in the history of the game, a Hall of Fame shoe-in and a guy in need of a statue outside of an arena somewhere around the league.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: If his team is in title contention, he’s healthy and he’s loving the life, then he could extend beyond 2017 because his length and skills would enable him to play for as long he likes. But he will be 39 at that time. Think about all of those hard private workouts that enable him to maintain his current level. We should be appreciating Nowitzki on the likelihood that we’ll never see anyone like him again after 2017, when he’ll probably retire as the No. 6 scorer, just behind Wilt Chamberlain.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: This question involves a lot of math and therefore heavily favors Schuhmann. Just wanted to point that out. Dirk is 36 years old and is averaging just over 18 points per game this season. Let’s assume he plays until he’s 40, so four more seasons including this one. Let’s also assume his scoring rate slows by a point each season, so he goes from 18 to 17 to 16 to 15. And let’s also guess there will be games missed due to injury, so let’s just say he averages about 65 games a season for four seasons. By my calculations, that’s: (18 x 65) + (17 x 65) + (16 x 65) + (15 x 65) = 4290

So, if Dirk scores 4,290 more points, he’ll have a total of 31,702 points, which would put him into fifth all-time, behind Michael Jordan and ahead of Wilt Chamberlain. This now concludes my one arithmetic problem for 2015.

Blogtable: Struggling marquee teams

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 Cavs’ deal? | Struggling marquee teams | Where will Dirk finish?



VIDEOAre the Lakers better off with Kobe Bryant playing less?

> Three of the NBA’s marquee franchises — Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, L.A. Lakers — are a combined 27-77 and hold little hope for short-term success. If these teams were stocks, which one would you buy, which one would you hold, and which one would you sell?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’d buy more Lakers stock, hold what I have of the Knicks and sell my Celtics holdings. The Lakers have the greatest upside because of their culture and their climate — they’re the biggest free-agent magnet of the three thanks to their market and their recent history. Now that Phil Jackson has begun the serious demo work in New York, I think he and the Knicks can build something better, especially as Carmelo Anthony‘s dominance of the team begins to recede. As for that storied franchise in Boston, I’d invoke the phrase familiar to financial speculators: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I can’t convince you to take all three off my hands for, say, the Grizzlies? OK, if you’re forcing me to buy, I’ll take the Lakers. They’re still THE marquee team in the league and when Kobe Bryant finally does retire — looking more and more like after next season, for sure — they’ll have the salary cap space and the cachet that will let them start over. Not to mention a rehabbed Julius Randle and another high draft pick from this season. I’m holding the Celtics because I believe Danny Ainge has the right coach to build on in Brad Stevens, a future All-Star in Marcus Smart and a patient long-range plan. I’m selling the Knicks because, well, they’re the Knicks. After this salary dump this week, Phil Jackson will go into next summer with the space to sign two max level free agents, maybe three. if the cap takes a big leap. Trouble is, he’ll do the usual NY thing and after finding the possibility of luring LeBron James or Kevin Love from Cleveland a pipe dream and having LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol not willing to climb aboard the worst team in the league, Jackson will wind up grossly overpaying the likes of Jimmy Butler or Goran Dragic and merely making the Knicks mediocre to good, but not contenders.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comHold the Lakers, hold the Celtics, sell the Knicks. (Why did you ever buy on the Knicks in the first place? No wonder you switched brokers.) Investing in the Lakers now looks bad because not only is it a lottery team, it’s a lottery team with one piece in place for the future and he is injured. (Julius Randle.) But I’d hang on to stock on a team in a destination city and Mitch Kupchak with a loud voice in management. It would not be a surprise if even the lottery Lakers bag a big free agent. The Celtics front office likewise has a proven track record, plus the best young pieces among the three. Boston also has the advantage of being in the East.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Definitely buy the Celtics. They have seven extra first-rounders (some conditional) coming between now and 2018 and there isn’t a sluggish contract weighing down the salary cap. Plus, Boston remains a destination for free agents. Hold the Lakers. I realize they owe future picks to Phoenix and Orlando and Kobe is clogging up cap space, but they’re still the Lakers and somehow find a way to keep their pain to a minimum (I know, I know, GM Jerry West isn’t walking through that door). Sell the Knicks. Phil Jackson deserves a chance, but this team is cursed.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI’m buying the Celtics, because they have the best group of young players (by far), the most future picks, and the GM/coach combination that I have the most confidence in going forward. I’m holding the Lakers, because they have one Lottery pick already on board, maybe another on the way (it may go to Phoenix), and a shorter contract with their 30-plus, former league’s leading scorer who doesn’t fit the rebuilding timeline. And I’m selling the Knicks, because they have nothing beyond a 30-year-old forward they just signed to a five-year, $124 million contract (Carmelo Anthony), an unproven team president (Phil Jackson) and an unproven coach (Derek Fisher). Nothing’s guaranteed in free agency.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’m buying Lakers’ stock, holding the Celtics’ stock and selling all of my Knicks stock. I know that the Lakers never stay down for long. It’s just not what they do as a franchise. They’ll do whatever takes to get back on track. They’ve operated that way and probably always will — provided there is a Buss in charge. The Celtics have some decent pieces and a bright, young coach in Brad Stevens. They just need time to figure it all out. The Knicks have no business being in this marquee mix with the Lakers and Celtics. They haven’t come close to the championship success the other two have enjoyed in recent years. I’m selling on them until Phil Jackson works his Zen magic and convinces another superstar to join Carmelo Anthony in the seemingly eternal quest to return the Knicks to their 1970s glory.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI would buy the Celtics, who are fully committed to rebuilding and are two years into the business of asset (Draft picks, young players and cap space) aggregation. I would hold the Lakers, who — eventually — will draw the interest of free agents. And I would sell the Knicks, who after so many self-destructive years are unworthy of faith until they themselves prove otherwise.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: SELL, SELL, SELL! OK, to really answer your question, I’d buy the Celtics, hold the Knicks and sell the Lakers. Danny Ainge gets the benefit of the doubt in Boston because we’ve seen him reboot his franchise before, plus the Celtics have five first-round picks in the next two Drafts. That’s a heckuva place to start. I know the Knicks are terrible this season, but I like the direction Phil Jackson’s going — bottoming out before building back up. That starts with clearing salary and getting young players in to learn the triangle offense and grow along with the franchise. With the Lakers, I’m not quite sure what they’re doing. They’ve tried to rebuild through free agency but the current management hasn’t shown an ability to recruit the marquee free agents we keep hearing about them going after.

Blogtable: Thoughts on Cavs’ deal?

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 Cavs’ deal? | Struggling marquee teams | Where will Dirk finish?



VIDEONBA TV’s crew discusses the three-team trade

> Cleveland’s deal for Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith was made, seemingly, to shore up some holes on defense. Mission accomplished? Or more to come?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIf the Cavaliers are done sprucing up their roster defensively, then I think they’re done, period, as a serious contender this season. It’s not like I expect them to lure Dikembe Mutombo out of retirement and coax assistant coach James Posey back into uniform, but they’re going to have trouble coughing up from within the proper defensive intensity, on the fly, in what’s left of the season. Rim defense in particular is needed, and no one on the current roster (with Anderson Varejao out) is capable of filling that void. As for finding one of those much coveted 7-foot shot swatters walking around outside the arena, good luck with that. The Cavs need to make another deal.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDefinitely not. From the beginning of the season the Cavs have been short on big men and the loss of Anderson Varejao for the season only exacerbated the problem. More than one hole in the hull of the S.S. LeBron. Still need bigs.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comMission accomplished to get away from Dion Waiters. Maybe Shumpert makes the Cavs better on defense, but the primary goal was addition by subtraction, not shoring up holes on defense. Although Waiters has talent, he obviously wasn’t a good fit there, and that’s not just with the new roster, either. More to come? I could see it. Cleveland doesn’t have many trade chips left, but any tinkering is possible after the way the season has started.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI wouldn’t say mission accomplish or that there is more to come. Not sure if the Cavs, at this point, have any more disposable assets to swap that will fetch the shot-blocking rim protector they need. Shumpert is just a band-aid. The Cavs need more of a team effort defensively that will help hide the shortcomings of Kevin Love and, to an extent, Kyrie Irving, but I’m not so sure that mentality is there. LeBron can only do so much, and even he isn’t the defender he used to be.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe mission certainly hasn’t been accomplished, because they still lack rim protection and both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love still need to show that they can play both ends of the floor. But the trade is definitely a step in the right direction. Trading Waiters is addition by subtraction, Shumpert gives them more perimeter defense than they had, and Smith is a good shooter if he can just play off LeBron James and Irving and limit the isolation, step-back nonsense. I’ll be curious to see how coach David Blatt finds playing time for all these guards, though.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIt has to be a little of both. The Cavaliers certainly found a potential perimeter defensive stopper (no offense to Shawn Marion, who has performed those duties in the past) in Shumpert. So that part of the mission has been accomplished. But there has to be more to come in terms of shoring up the rim-protector/post-defense deficiency that was created when Anderson Varejao (Achilles) was lost for the season. The Cavaliers have plenty of time to continue exploring their options. And based on what we’ve seen from them so far, they need to turn over every rock in the basketball world in search of the idea fit.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comMuch more to come … and much of it must happen in-house. Shumpert is a good pickup because he join LeBron James in his commitment to defense. Will everyone else come around? The mentality in Cleveland needs to change in addition to the mandatory acquisition of an intimidating big man. If everybody isn’t paying attention at that end of the floor, then nobody in Cleveland is going to be winning the championship.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThe more I think about this deal, the more I like the way it works out for Cleveland. First of all, Dion Waiters either wouldn’t or couldn’t fit into the sixth man role he’d been asked to occupy, so the Cavs went out and got a former sixth man of the year in Smith. On top of that, they added Shumpert, the Knicks’ most versatile player and a true a-level wing defender. I think this will really help Cleveland down the stretch in games, where they’ve tried auditioned various players, from Matthew Dellevadova to Mike Miller, as Irving’s backcourt mate. Doesn’t matter which one, Shumpert or Smith is an upgrade.

Waiters, J.R. Smith, Shumpert traded in Cavs-Thunder-Knicks deal


VIDEO: Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick describes the surprise in Cleveland over the Waiters’ trade

On a perfectly good night of NBA action, with 22 of the league’s 30 teams open for business, it was a flurry of activity on social media that seized much of the attention Monday evening.

The buzz: The New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder were orchestrating a three-team trade that was leaking out piece by piece, important details backed up by not-quite-right speculation.

It started with some rumblings on Twitter by someone in Dion Waiters‘ camp, suggesting the Cleveland guard was being dealt by the Cavs. Soon enough, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports was breaking the news, as is his wont:

The prospect of Waiters, Cleveland’s third-year shooting guard considered a poor fit on the newly configured Cavs, being traded in mid-season was juicy enough. Most insiders anticipated some chafing from the No. 4 pick in the 2012 draft after Cleveland coaxed back LeBron James and built the team around the four-time MVP, point guard Kyrie Irving and former Minnesota power forward Kevin Love. Soon enough, Wojnarowski followed with more info on the deal, including this:

But not long after, the NBA scribe from Yahoo! updated, still ahead of the pack:

Various reports also sketched out the three-team transaction, mentioning  J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert as Knicks who were headed to Cleveland. Also, veteran big man Samuel Dalembert‘s name popped up, his destination initially not known. Later, it was reported that Dalembert would be waived by New York.

With Waiters headed to the Thunder and Smith and Shumpert bound for Cleveland, fans in New York might reasonably have wondered: Who’re we gettin’?! Turns out, Knicks president Phil Jackson was maneuvering for salary-cap relief along with, perhaps, some addition by subtraction.

Quickie analysis? Waiters wasn’t going to adjust to the slippage in Cleveland’s pecking order forced on him by the new and improved Cavs. He still has superior offensive tools, if his game can be harnessed and disciplined, but James & Co. have little time for that. Smith is an established NBA knucklehead, but he can score as well or better than Waiters and he might lock in on a team with real purpose. Shumpert is a valuable role player who should help Cleveland defensively.

Wojnarowski cited league sources in reporting that the Knicks would be getting rookie center Alex Kirk from Cleveland in the deal, along with a protected future first-round pick from OKC.

There were other facets to the deal that were picked up and kicked around – in excitement, in mirth and in all seriousness – by the usual suspects on social media, including these:

Late Monday, the Knicks, Cavaliers and Thunder officially announced the deal. The Thuunder receives Waiters from the Cavaliers in exchange for a 2015 first-round pick and Lance Thomas was sent to the Knicks. The Knicks acquired Lou Amundson and  Kirk from the Cavs in exchange for Schumpert and Smith.

Defiant Rose a good sign for Bulls


VIDEO: Bulls.com recaps Chicago’s win against the Nuggets

CHICAGO – This time, Derrick Rose wasn’t just determined. Or stubborn.

This time, Rose was defiant. And it worked out for the Chicago Bulls, in a way by which the team’s followers should be encouraged with 60 percent of the NBA schedule and all of its postseason remaining.

Rose, the Bulls’ star point guard and most important player whether healthy or hurt, scattershot in the first half against Denver Thursday night at United Center and sputtered nearly as much in the third quarter. Whatever was ailing his jump shot as he clanged out the old year – 7-for-35 in Chicago’s final two games, the narrow escape at Indiana and a lifeless loss to Brooklyn – was making for a lousy New Year’s hangover in the new year. Through the game’s first 36 minutes, Rose was 2-for-14, making him an 18.3 percent shooter (9-of-49) over a span of about 72 hours.

So what did Rose do in the fourth quarter to try to salvage something positive to start 2015? Did he shift into playmaker mode and let teammates with hotter hands chase down and fend off the Nuggets?

Nope. He doubled down and shot 11 more times. Made five of them, too, and that was enough.

“I’m not going to let anyone dictate the way that I play,” Rose said after. The idea of holstering his weapon on a night its sight was sideways apparently never crossed his mind.

“If they’re giving me shots, I’m going to take them. Shots that I normally make, I’m going to keep taking them. I could care less what anyone says or talk about my game. They’re giving me shots, I should be able to make those shots.”

Rose’s increasing reliance on jump shots — including 3-pointers, which he’s hitting about as often as folks pulled from the stands during timeouts (32 of 121, 26.4 percent) — has been a noticeable and much-talked about change in his game.

Coaches such as Denver’s Brian Shaw and Brooklyn’s Lionel Hollins have lauded it as a means of self-preservation for a player whose explosiveness when attacking the paint might be too violent for his own good. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau mostly encourages Rose to be aggressive and avoids criticism — other than reminding him not to “settle” for an outside shot when lanes to the basket are available.

“Really, it’s my teammates giving me confidence,” Rose said after the 106-101 victory, which he helped seal with 13 of his 17 points in his final 7:49. “Even when you’re missing shots like I am the past couple games, teammates are still giving me the ball, giving me confidence, telling me to shoot the ball, still giving me the ball in position to shoot the ball. I’m very fortunate.”

Said forward Taj Gibson: “We kept telling him the whole game — the last couple games — to keep shooting. He understands that we all believe in him, but you keep putting the work in, you keep pushing through, keep taking the same looks, something special is going to happen.”

That Rose’s teammates aren’t second-guessing the choices he’s been making on the floor is nice. But frankly, given his nature, it’s not likely he would change things up or shy away from his shot even if they balked. The same hard-headedness that so exasperated Bulls fans during his extended recoveries from two knee surgeries and the tentativeness with which he seemed to play for much of the early 2014-15 season might have turned in his, the team’s and their favor now.

“My mentality is not going to change,” he said. “I’m going to shoot the ball. I’m a scoring guard.”

You can’t score if you don’t shoot. Rose’s jaw is set, his mind is made up and he’s going to play the way he thinks is best. Chicago, well, it signed up for that a long time ago.

Cavaliers lose LeBron for 2 weeks

VIDEO: LeBron out for two weeks

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are having a lousy year.

The year 2015 wasn’t even 15 hours old, after all, when the Cavaliers announced that James, their franchise guy for the second time, was going to miss “the next two weeks” with left knee and lower back strains. James already had sat out the Cavs’ back-to-back games at Atlanta Tuesday and against Milwaukee Wednesday with left knee soreness, so if he truly is out two more weeks, he will be sidelined until or through the Jan. 15 game against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

That one is the fourth on the Cavs’ five-game upcoming West Coast swing. If that timetable holds, it means James would be sidelined for nine or 10 consecutive games, the longest stretch of his 12-season career. It also would cause him to play his fewest games ever in a full season – he missed seven of 82 games in 2007-08, with a maximum of 71 possible if he’s back in time for the Lakers. Even in 2011-12, James’ 62 appearances in the lockout-shortened 66-game schedule were the equivalent of 77 in a normal season.

Guess it proves the old saying that “getting old isn’t for sissies,” since James just turned 30 on Tuesday.

Social media was buzzing quickly, even on a day with only two scheduled NBA games in the evening (Denver at Chicago and Sacramento at Minnesota). But the Cavaliers were out front of most of it with their official status update:

LeBron James was evaluated yesterday at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health by Richard D. Parker, MD, Cavaliers Head Team Physician. Tests included physical exam, radiographs and a MRI, the results of which revealed left knee and low back strains. These conditions will be treated via a multimodal approach consisting of anti-inflammatories, rehabilitation, training room treatments, and rest. LeBron is currently projected to be Out for the next 2 weeks.

Cleveland’s 18-14 record (0-3 without James), its other injuries (Kevin Love and Shawn Marion both missed Wednesday’s game with back spasms and an ankle sprain, respectively, and big man Anderson Varejao is out for the season after Achilles surgery), head coach David Blatt‘s newness to the NBA and the whole group’s inconsistent progress along the learning curve to presumed contender status has set hands to wringing in northeast Ohio.

Even James has drawn criticism. He remains the only player in the league averaging at least 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while shooting 48 percent or better. But his numbers are down in several categories – his 25.0 PER is the lowest since his rookie year and off from the 31.7, 31.1, 30.7 and 31.6 of his four MVP seasons – and his engagement with the Cavs’ newly assembled roster has been questioned.

As a result, everything from James’ rapport with Blatt to his long-term commitment to staying in Cleveland has been the subject of speculation.

Here’s something else for folks to speculate on: How are the Cavaliers going to do without their best player and acknowledged leader? If Love and/or Kyrie Irving pick up so much of the slack, will people immediately wonder if their games are being stunted by James’ presence? If Cleveland struggles, will James be positioned to make a stronger case for a fifth MVP?

If nothing else, NBA fans are about to see something entirely different in seeing the nothing of James’ immediate future in suits and training rooms throughout the league for the next couple weeks.

Blogtable: Rondo or J-Smoove?

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: Person of the Year? | Rondo or J-Smoove? | Bulls bound for Finals?



VIDEOGameTime’s crew discusses how Josh Smith will help the Rockets

> Dallas trades for Rajon Rondo; Houston grabs Josh Smith. Who made the better move here and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comAny team that switches out its point guard on the fly is determined and committed to change, so Dallas acquiring Rondo is both the bigger and the better move. Smith to Houston is a nice bit of accessorizing, as I see it, but the Rockets’ fundamental approach doesn’t change. Plus, their investment in the Detroit discard isn’t so great that they wouldn’t cut him loose if the negatives start to outweigh the positives. Good for both clubs, escalating the arms race in the West, but the Dallas did the more-real deal.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s far, far too early to tell.  The Rockets made the bigger gamble with a player in Smith who has more physical skills, but greater potential to blow up in their faces. Rondo upgrades Mavs offense at the point, but hasn’t helped plug a leaky defense

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe Mavericks. I get why a lot of teams were running at Smith — only because he was low-cost, low-risk. But I like a lot of the reasons of Dallas getting Rondo. He will move the ball, critical for a team that already has Monta Ellis in the backcourt and Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons needing/deserving the ball up front. He has playoff experience. He has a desire to stay after becoming a free agent. And the Mavericks didn’t have to give up much to get him.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comRondo gets the nod, only because there doesn’t appear to be any chance of a downside. He upgraded the point guard spot and does exactly what the Mavericks need him to do — find Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Monta Ellis or Tyson Chandler. Rondo can’t shoot but in this offense he can hide pretty well. Smith is being celebrated in Houston partly because he came cheaply. His bad habits can hurt Houston a lot more than Rondo’s can Dallas. For all of his skills, there’s a very high “heartbreak” quotient with Smith.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comHouston, because there was a lot less risk involved in waiving Tarik Black than in trading three rotation guys and two draft picks for an experiment that might not work. Rondo helps the Mavs a little bit defensively. But he isn’t a good offensive fit next to Monta Ellis because neither player is an off-the-ball floor spacer. Smith isn’t a great fit offensively in Houston, either, but Houston had more need for help at his position. And, as previously noted, the Rockets didn’t give up nearly as much to get him (though Black is young and serviceable).

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI honestly liked both moves for the teams and players involved. Rondo, however, gives the Mavericks a makeover at the most crucial position in the game. The Mavericks get a seasoned play-caller with not only a championship pedigree, but also an understanding of what it takes to work in an ensemble cast. The Mavericks are clearly all in for this season. You don’t trade for a player like Rondo unless you are serious about winning it all. And to get through the Western Conference playoff grinder, there is no doubt you have to be as aggressive as possible in searching out and securing the services of true difference makers — like both Rondo and Smith.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comGive Rondo some time to adapt and strengthen his confidence, and he will make a huge difference to the Mavericks. They will appreciate him in the most important games — and in the playoffs especially. His talent for raising his play on the biggest stage is exactly what is needed for a contender. Smith, by comparison, has shown no such big-game ability.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogHouston. I understand why Dallas felt like adding Rajon Rondo was a given — his resume and talent should be attractive to any NBA team. When you have the best offense in the NBA, like Dallas had at the time of the trade, changing your starting lineup and trading away your best backup big man (Brandan Wright) is the kind of move a fearless owner like Mark Cuban thrives on making. I’m just not sure it makes your team better. But for Houston, picking up Josh Smith — a very good forward who can help you on both sides of the ball when deployed correctly — without having to give up any pieces of your rotation is a no-brainer. Now we get to see if Kevin McHale is a Josh Whisperer and can carve out a role that fits Smith’s unique skill set.

Blogtable: Bulls bound for Finals?

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: Person of the Year? | Rondo or J-Smoove? | Bulls bound for Finals?



VIDEOJimmy Butler has emerged as a go-to scorer for Chicago this season

> Chicago is on a roll and appears to be making a beeline to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Is this the season the Bulls return to the NBA Finals? If not, tell me who’s gonna stop them?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThis is the best Bulls team since Michael Jordan retired for the second time, as far as depth and potential, so there’s no reason – on paper – that it shouldn’t get to The Finals. Cleveland, more than its general meshing, has a problem in Anderson Varejao‘s injury that might not get fixed until the offseason. Toronto, in postseason savvy, is a step behind Washington. And the Wizards, for all the confidence they gained last spring, would have trouble defending against this more-potent Chicago lineup. Atlanta? I respect the Hawks, but one-trick ponies have trouble in seven-game series. So the biggest question for Chicago remains Derrick Rose‘s long-term health and availability. Which means the “who” who might stop the Bulls must be … uh, trainer Jeff Tanaka? (Just kidding, Jeff)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: With Jimmy Butler stepping up his game this season, the Bulls have an improved offense and appear to have the pieces. But their defense has lost some of its teeth and Derrick Rose’s continued health still nags. I’m not ready to make Chicago the favorite. Have to like what the Raptors have done with best record in the East even with DeMar DeRozan out. Most efficient offense in the league and no-nonsense bulldog point guard in Kyle Lowry, who won’t go down easy. And let’s not write off the Hawks as just being the same old Hawks.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThey were my pick at the start of the season to come out of the East, and to win the whole thing, so I’m not going to change now. Certainly not with the big jump from Jimmy Butler and the rejuvenated Pau Gasol. Rose’s health history obviously makes it something of a risk pick, and it is tough to push all my chips in with that medical chart, but, yes, the Bulls are the team to beat.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comIf they stay healthy, the Bulls have pole position in the East. They’re not a perfect team, but they bring more size, experience, defense and coaching to the playoff table than anyone else. The Raptors and Wizards haven’t done anything yet, the Hawks are a few stars short of going deep into May, and let’s not get started about the Cavaliers. If Jimmy Butler we see now is the Jimmy Butler we’ll see in the spring, then the East is theirs to lose.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The top four teams in the East – Toronto, Atlanta, Washington and Chicago – all have the potential to be a top-10 team on both ends of the floor. Toronto’s depth gives them an edge in the regular season, but Chicago — with its combination of talent (especially on the frontline), system, experience and coaching — is best set up to win in the playoffs. Health and durability through heavy regular-season minutes will always be a concern and it would be tough to pick them against the field, but the Bulls should be the slight favorite to be representing the Eastern Conference in The Finals.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comAll of the components are there for the Bulls to finally make that long awaited return trip to The Finals. The Cavaliers were supposed to be the team that could roadblock the Bulls, but they aren’t that team in their current state. The Wizards have the talent to give Chicago a major test, yet they still cannot boast as deep or as balanced a roster as the Bulls can when fully healthy. The Raptors and Hawks would provide a stern playoff test, but both would come up short in three extremely important categories (size, seasoning and star power). The Bulls have everything you need, including Derrick Rose in uniform and not street clothes. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows that his team’s time is now. Chicago’s championship window is open now and it must take advantage of it.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe biggest concern for the Bulls is their own ligaments, tendons and muscles. Given the recent history of injuries among their best players, this is no small threat. If they are healthy, then they are it in the East. If they’re vulnerable physically, then the race becomes a scramble with anyone currently in the top five (plus Miami, which still has hope of pulling things together) having a shot at reaching the NBA Finals. Whereupon that team will be destroyed in five games or less.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I will recuse myself from answering the Atlanta Hawks because of inherent legacy fandom. (Even though I think the Hawks could knock off Chicago this season.) But I will say this: Why is everyone writing off the Cavaliers? I mean, I understand that it’s fun to watch a burgeoning empire stumble out of the gates, but the story this week about the team possibly not believing in Blatt reminded me so much of the first months of Erik Spoelstra’s tenure in Miami, when sources said the team may not have been buying into what he was selling. But the Heat stuck with it and I think we can all agree that things worked out pretty well there. The Cavs may have posted more misses than hits to start the season, but I think it’s short-sighted to write them off today. Cleveland still should be running with the Bulls by the end of the season.

Blogtable: NBA Person of the Year?

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: Person of the Year? | Rondo or J-Smoove? | Bulls bound for Finals?



VIDEORelive the best on-and off-court moments from 2014

> Time magazine editors choose a Person of the Year based on who they think most influenced the news — for better or worse — during that calendar year. Going by that criteria, who should be the NBA’s Person of the Year for 2014?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: We’re not as desperate as mainstream media to stay relevant, so I won’t suggest a “shock” pick – no Donald Sterling, thank you. And while new commissioner Adam Silver had a great “rookie” year, from his handling of the Clippers owner’s mess to his negotiation of the new TV rights mega-deal, I prefer my NBA Person of the Year to not be a “suit.” So I’m going with LeBron James. Maybe not the most creative pick, but his final days with Miami, his refreshing decision to return to Cleveland and the ongoing angst over the Cavaliers’ spotty start – despite all the talk of learning curves and (ahem) patience – have dominated the league’s storylines.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comGregg Popovich. He’s been at the top of the game for quite a while, but 2014 was the year when the entire world finally got validation that Popovich is more than just a grumpy face. He channeled the anger and disappointment from the 2013 Finals loss into a fire that drove the Spurs to redemption. He did it with a masterful use of his roster, conserving veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and at the same time forged a deep bench that would be critical in the playoffs. By the time he got the Spurs back to The Finals last June, Popovich practically had them playing to a musical score in an artistic display of basketball. In winning titles 15 years apart with only one common player — Duncan — Popovich chiseled himself a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of coaches.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comPersons — plural — of the Year. The San Antonio Spurs. I was going to go with Tim Duncan or Gregg Popovich or the Popovich/R.C. Buford combo vote, and then decided it was impossible and unnecessary to split them apart when the group win be so Spur-ish anyway. Did they influence the news the most? No. By that criteria alone, the one-man news cycle, LeBron James, is the winner. But San Antonio influenced the league the league the most. Another title, another calendar year of setting the standard for play and work off the court, another 12 months, into the start of the new season and the final weeks of 2014, of Duncan reaching new heights of impressive when it didn’t seem possible. I can’t wait to ride down the river after presenting the award.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comAdam Silver took over the commissioner’s job and found a live grenade on his desk in about 15 minutes. The way he handled the Donald Sterling situation — swiftly yet not recklessly, and definitely forcefully — gave him a higher profile and approval rating than his more famous NFL counterpart (Roger Goodell). For this particular designation, Silver has lapped the field.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comGregg Popovich. The Spurs were the story of the 2013-14 season, recovering from the ultimate heartbreak in the 2013 Finals, getting back there through a deep Western Conference, and then, eviscerating the two-time defending champs with five games of the best basketball we’ve ever seen. San Antonio’s sustained success over the course of 17 seasons, on both ends of the floor and from the top of their roster to the bottom, has a lot of the league trying to imitate them. Several teams were talking “more ball movement” in training camps and we’re seeing the Spurs’ maintenance program for their vets make its way around the league as well. Tim Duncan is the best player of his generation and there are a lot of reasons why the Spurs are what they are, but Popovich has his hand in everything and is the face of the franchise

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNBA Commissioner Adam Silver is the runaway winner. He wasted no time ridding the league of the Donald Sterling disaster and has shown an ability to lead in ways that his predecessor and current peers in the other major professional sports wish they could under extreme circumstances. We all wondered how things would be different during the Silver administration … and we found out immediately. Doc Rivers, for his leadership of the Los Angeles Clippers throughout the Sterling affair, and LeBron James, who kept us all guessing during the summer before shaking up the league once again by going home to Cleveland (close enough to Akron to qualify as home), round out the top three on my ballot.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comIt has to be LeBron ahead of Adam Silver, because this league – more than the NFL or the MLB – is about the players. LeBron was “person of the year” in 2010, and the decision he made back then was bookended by his return to Cleveland last summer.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To me there are two obvious options, both involved in the same story but from different sides. Donald Sterling was probably the biggest NBA news story of 2014, after his now-infamous racist comments went public and stirred up controversy at the worst possible time for his basketball team. (Well, his former team.) But to me the NBA Person of the Year should be the guy who stepped up and took on Sterling, NBA commissioner Adam Silver. That press conference where Silver announced Sterling’s ban occurred just weeks into Silver’s new gig as commissioner. There were more eyeballs on him than he probably thought imaginable, and Silver handled the moment with aplomb. And actually, even with 20/20 hindsight, it’s hard to find any part of the Silver/Clippers saga that Silver didn’t tackle about as well as it could have been tackled. Factor in Silver inking bank-busting media rights deals this fall, and even though he’s only been on the job since February, Adam Silver has had quite a 2014.

Pelicans’ Davis, Team USA mates shine despite (or because of) summer work


VIDEO: See some of Anthony Davis’s 29 points and 11 rebounds vs. the Bulls in slow motion

Five months after Paul George’s gruesome leg fracture spiked the hand-wringing and hysteria over Team USA participation to new heights, a glimpse at most of teammates on that national squad suggests it might not have been so risky after all.

Player after player from gold-medal winning group in the 2014 FIBA World Cup is having the best season of his NBA career. Several have emerged as early candidates for 2014-15 Most Valuable Player consideration, and a number of them will be able to stage an informal reunion in New York in February at the 2015 NBA All-Star Game.

OK, the regular season is barely one-third over, so some of the overuse and burnout issues cited by critics of Team USA (and other national team involvement) might be lying in wait. But get a load of the benefits flowing so far to some key participants – and the teams for whom they work:

  • Houston’s James Harden is the NBA’s leading scorer with a career-high 27.2 points per game.
  • Stephen Curry’s 26.2 PER is his best, and the Golden State Warriors sit atop the league’s standings at 24-5.
  • Klay Thompson, Curry’s teammate, has been averaging 21.3 points and hitting 43.1 percent of his 3FGAs.
  • Denver’s Kenneth Faried posted 26 points and 25 rebounds against Minnesota Friday, after going for 20 and 14 against Brooklyn earlier in the week.
  • DeMarcus Cousins, around a 10-game bout with viral meningitis, put up some of the best number of his career, including 24.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg, a 28.6 PER and 112/102 offensive and defensive ratings.
  • Rudy Gay, Cousin’s teammate, has hit the reset button on his career with a personal-best 19.9 PER, a 54.8 true shooting percentage and a new three-year, $40 million contract extension.

And then there’s Anthony Davis, the man-ster from New Orleans, who unofficially has become known as The Player Most GMs Would Choose to Start a New Team. Davis is averaging 24.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 1.7 steals. He notched his fourth game of at least 20 points, 10 boards and five blocks Saturday in Chicago, and has 17 double-doubles, a 32.5 PER and a 61.6 true shooting percentage.

Pelicans head coach Monty Williams was an assistant on Mike Krzyzewski’s summer staff, so he was able to monitor Davis’ workload and preparation first-hand. His one scary moment? When Davis dived for a loose ball and went over the first row at United Center in Team USA’s tune-up vs. Brazil in August. Said Williams: “That’s when I wanted to talk to him, like, ‘Dude, tone it down a bit. We’ve got a season.’ ”

Otherwise, Williams firmly is in the camp of those who favor participation over trepidation.

“When Paul George went down, that argument kind of exacerbated it, I guess,” Williams said. “When one guy breaks his leg – and it was a bad injury – I think people wanted to look at all the negative aspects of playing in the summer. But I don’t see any.

“You can get hurt playing anywhere. Guys are going to play all summer long. If you check around the league, they play in L.A. at the Clippers’ practice site. They play in Houston, they play in Chicago. So why not play and practice with the best? And get coaching and travel and see the world and play for your country? Because like I say, guys are going to play regardless.”

Kevin Durant withdrew from Team USA not long after George’s injury. Kevin Love also declined as trade rumors swirled, his status too uncertain to mix in a possible injury, with the rumors themselves a possible distraction. San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have come back hurt or tired from their national team commitments, and Dallas owner Mark Cuban mostly has criticized the process for how much financial risk NBA teams bear for the IOC’s benefits.

But Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, also on the Team USA staff this summer, was eager to have Derrick Rose play – or put himself at risk, depending on your view – to shake off rust from a layoff of nearly two seasons. He is convinced participation in the program helped Rose in 2010 and didn’t worry about his franchise guy’s health, even though Rose had played just 10 games for Thibodeau from April 2012 through this summer.

“I thought, his MVP year, that summer helped him a lot,” Thibodeau said Saturday. “He came into camp in great shape. He hit the ground running. And it was a terrific year for him.

“There’s a great history with USA Basketball, when you look back at Magic [Johnson] and [Larry] Bird, all of those guys. I think it’s important. It’s good for the game and it’s good for the players.”

It has been good for most of them this year, so far.