Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Read’

The Sunday Read: Some Love for Luol

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

Stan Van Gundy is right. Derrick Rose is going to win the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player presented by Kia Motors. In addition, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has a great shot to win the Coach of the Year award. At worst, he’ll finish second.

But David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune believes that the Bulls have another award winner on their team. He writes Sunday that Luol Deng is the league’s most underrated player

When anybody mentions the Bulls’ Big 3, they usually mean Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. But without the consistency of Deng the Bulls would find themselves fighting for playoff position in the East with the Hawks and Magic in the middle rather than leading the Celtics at the top.

After the Bulls added seven new players last offseason, most notably Boozer, perception grew that Deng would take on a lesser role. The reality is that the less the Bulls have needed to depend on Deng, the more indispensable he became holding things together on both ends of the floor.

Glue-all Deng.

“There’s no way we would be in this position if not for the year he’s having and all the things he does for our team,” Thibodeau said.

There’s no way the Bulls will get to the conference finals they need to reach to meet rising expectations without Deng continuing to play at the elite level that has become the norm this season.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: Grudge Match

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

The Denver Nuggets are 9-4 since they traded Carmelo Anthony. The New York Knicks are 7-7 since acquiring him.

Those results have certainly made for a fascinating epilogue to the ‘Melo drama that lasted six months. But do they mean that the Nuggets are a better team without Anthony than they were before him?

Harvey Araton of The New York Times thinks they’re at least better than the Knicks. And though such a series won’t ever be happening, Araton breaks down the matchups between the only two franchises Anthony has played for …

Consider the compelling and contrasting franchise agendas:

By winning 9 of their first 13 games to start the post-Carmelo era, the Nuggets instantly became a testimonial for the superstar-less collective via the power of 12 opportunistic men. By losing twice each to Cleveland and to Indiana, the Knicks made people at least pause to rethink the rush to marry any combination of the league’s most gifted and talented along the presumed path to championship bliss.

These post-trade records are bound to even out some, but the Nuggets wasted little time in crowing about “playing the right way” and being rid of “sticky fingers” and making a full-blown “commitment to defense.”

Meanwhile, after a 119-117 loss to Indiana on Tuesday, Anthony sniped at his teammate Jared Jeffries and questioned Coach Mike D’Antoni’s defensive schemes. During a defeat to the Pistons in Auburn Hills, Mich., Friday night, Anthony shot miserably, 2 for 12, looked distracted and annoyed with teammates and fans and blew off the news media afterward. Fourteen games into his instantly acclaimed Knicks career, these were disturbing signs if not yet a trend.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: The Cynic Speaks

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

Kobe Bryant‘s post-game workout at American Airlines Arena on Thursday was something we had never witnessed before. But while the act made Bryant even more revered among some, there were certainly some who thought it was all for show.

Count Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald among the cynics. But as Le Batard writes, it wasn’t necessarily just about putting on a show, it was also about trying to out-work the effects of age …

This make me the jerk, of course. Who doesn’t believe in the value of hard work? How can anyone who loves sports and loves champions and loves America possibly find anything wrong with a famous multimillionaire caring so much about his craft, still, after all these years, that he would spend an extra 90 minutes after a loss shooting in the same arena where he had just lost?

Only a jerk would point that he didn’t do this after losing at Cleveland or Memphis or any of the other times there were a lot fewer cameras around. Only a jerk would point that, if he cared to sculpt in private, there was another gym in this same arena where the myth-makers aren’t allowed that he could have used to be all alone with just his pain and work ethic. Only a jerk would suggest that maybe Bryant did this because of how much media was around for this game — and, because his actual work during the game didn’t produce the desired narrative, he somehow figured out a way to get it 90 minutes after both teams had gone home.

Not even Michael Jordan, Bryant’s patron saint, pulled that one off in his career — somehow still winning immediately after losing.

“I want what all men want,” Kobe texted Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski after his midnight workout. “I just want it more.”

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: Nothing New

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

It’s clear that the trades that sent Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams to New York and New Jersey this week were influenced by “The Decision.”

Not only did Anthony (and perhaps Williams) want to team up with at least one more star, but the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz didn’t want to end up like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, who wound up with nothing but a couple of late draft picks when their stars left town.

There are those that believe that the development of these “super teams” is a bad thing. But Harvey Araton of The New York Times writes that it’s nothing new, and nothing to be worried about…

Contrary to growing sentiment, the recent migration of players to large N.B.A. markets to form cabals of superstar power is no more likely to wreck professional basketball than it is to ensure multiple championships for the teams that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony decided to take their talents to.

Nor is this so-called trend that much of a “relatively recent phenomenon,” as Greg Miller, Utah’s chief executive, described it after the Jazz, unwilling to go down the path of free-agent peril as Cleveland did with James, proactively dealt the elite point guard Deron Williams to the Nets.

“I can only speak from the Jazz ownership perspective in saying that I’m not interested in seeing a congregation of star players on a handful of teams throughout the league,” Miller told reporters. “I don’t think it does the teams any good. It doesn’t do the fans any good. It doesn’t do the sponsors any good.”

But the concept actually did the league a world of good during the 1980s when Larry Bird‘s Celtics and Magic Johnson‘s Lakers had star-studded rosters that helped launch the sport into the global marketplace that eventually became Michael Jordan‘s celestial airspace.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: Waiting Frustrations

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

As the Miami Heat prove themselves worthy of “title contender” status and as we compare them to the Celtics, Lakers and Spurs, we often forget that they’re still missing a major piece of the puzzle.

Udonis Haslem hasn’t played since tearing a ligament in his left foot on Nov. 20. The Heat rank fourth both offensively and defensively, but there’s room for improvement, because they rank just 20th in offensive rebounding percentage and 11th in defensive rebounding percentage. That’s where Haslem would obviously help.

Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald writes about Haslem’s frustration in missing so much of the season, and how deep his Miami roots run…

Haslem’s story isn’t just about basketball. It is about who he is, and how much this team and this city mean to him. There never has been a professional athlete in this town who has taken as much pride in his Miami roots and proved it with everything from his scars to his paychecks.

When the Heat won the NBA championship in 2006, bringing it back to the ravaged Liberty City that once rioted around him as a child and now rejoiced around him as an adult, there was only one man in that winning locker room who understood the weight of what that meant to his neighbors. That might explain why so-rugged, so-rough, so-stoic Udonis Haslem was the only one in that locker room sobbing.

Twice, he has sacrificed millions of dollars to remain a part of this team in this city – $14 million the last time, $10 million the time before that. And Wade, James and Chris Bosh sacrificed millions to keep him a part of it, after which Haslem told them, “You didn’t make a mistake. I won’t let you down.” But now he can’t contribute, can’t be accountable, can’t pay them back. He can’t be sure if he will be right again this season even as the doctors work toward a late-March return. His walking boot comes off next week, when he will start water rehab, and the research he has done on his injury has scared him.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: Magic Motivations

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

When you’ve got a star, you have to do everything you can to keep him. Over the last few years, the Cleveland Cavaliers did just that, making trades for high-priced veteran players, hoping they could find the right mix to get LeBron James a championship and keep him home.

Now, with James in Miami, the Cavs are paying the price. They’re the worst team in the league and they’re lacking young players to build around.

Brian Windhorst, writing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer sees a similar situation in Orlando, where the Magic made two major trades in an attempt to upgrade the supporting cast of Dwight Howard, who can choose to be a free agent in 2012…

Complicating everything is that, much like the Cavs were facing with James in 2008, Orlando star Dwight Howard’s free agency had popped up on the horizon. With the Cavs the major fear seemed to be the New York Knicks, even though it didn’t turn out that way. The Magic’s concern, admitted publicly or not, is that Howard will try to find a way to get to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012 because of his interests in music and acting.

So Smith made a decision loaded with risk and under the same circumstances as Ferry did two years earlier. He moved out Lewis and Vince Carter in a large three-team trade that brought in Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu.

Like with the Cavs in ’08, it exploded Orlando’s payroll and locked them into a core roster for several years to come. Like with Cleveland, the Magic looked at the lay of the land, evaluated their limited options, and decided they had to do it.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: Not Nyet

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King seemed to make it clear on Wednesday. The Nets were walking away from the Carmelo Anthony situation, and they weren’t looking back.

But Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post is having a hard time believing the oligarch. He writes that the Nets still need ‘Melo, and that will keep them in the conversation

So Prokhorov took a defiant stand. For a day, he made the Nets appear powerful. He made it seem like his team didn’t need Carmelo and all the trade stress. He even took some swipes at the frustrating process of setting up a meeting with Melo — “Maybe he sent me an e-mail, but I don’t have a computer,” the billionaire said. “Maybe the carrier pigeon got lost.” (I can see Prok- horov’s yes man laughing uproariously at the joke, explaining to his boss, like Kenny Bania would on “Seinfeld” — “That carrier pigeon stuff was gold, Proky! Gold!”)

But let’s look at the Nets. They’re moving to Brooklyn in 2012. They desperately need a face of the franchise, a transcendent player who will help the team win — and help the team sell seats and suites.

Melo, meanwhile, wants to play in New York, and the Nuggets all-star admitted he would, indeed, meet with Prokhorov — thus allowing the Nets to make their sales pitch.

And now, if the Nets are truly out of the picture, the Nuggets could, theoretically, move Melo to the Knicks. This would crush Proky. Not only would the Knicks become one of basketball’s best rosters, but they would then completely overshadow the Nets — even more than they already do.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: Age Before Victory

Will the Lakers overcome their age this season? (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

Is Kobe taking too many shots? Is Phil too much of a nag? Is Ron too much of a flake? Lamar too much of a reality star?

Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times believes the Lakers’ issues go deeper than that. He writes that their issues are more about Father Time

Any or all of the above would be preferable to the Lakers’ real, tangible problem:

They are older and slower, and even when they were younger and quicker, didn’t defend unless psyched to the gills.

As for that Laker Age that seemed to have years left, after two title runs and three Finals appearances, without ever having been at full strength. . . .

They’re now a hulking, low-energy team, bewildered at being challenged in the West at this late date.

The previous two seasons, the Lakers were out of first place in the West for 30 days, none after Dec. 1.

This season, they have yet to show they’re as good as the Spurs or Mavericks, and may have to play them back to back in the playoffs if they can’t catch both.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: The Last Challenge

Jackson's trying to guide his team through one more campaign. (Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

Since the Boston Celtics won eight straight titles between 1959 and 1966, only two teams have made it to the NBA Finals in four straight years: The Los Angeles Lakers from 1982-85, and the Celtics from 1984-87.

This year’s Lakers want to be the first team to pull off the feat in 24 years. And what seemed like a sure thing back in October looks to be far from it these days. First, the Lakers have two challengers in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, who are stronger than we thought they’d be.

Second, the champs aren’t exactly cruising through Phil Jackson‘s final campaign as head coach. Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times takes a look at L.A.’s mid-season struggles

If this is indeed the final finale for Jackson, the real last one, it has gotten off to an interesting start. The Lakers are 23-10 and comfortably ahead in the Pacific Division, but they were hammered on national television by the Miami Heat on Christmas Day and are not intimidating anyone these days.

In no particular order, Bryant is taking too many shots, Pau Gasol is not taking enough, Ron Artest is his erratic self, Derek Fisher is sometimes ineffective, and Andrew Bynum is still trying to put chronic injury issues behind him. The Lakers are aging. Their competitors are better, deeper and hungrier.

Some of the same issues converged on the Lakers the past two seasons, but Jackson coaxed and coached, Bryant bullied teammates into shape and brushed past opponents, and gold confetti ultimately dropped from the Staples Center rafters.

And although there are few doubts that the Lakers are capable of raising the level of their play, this season could be different from the previous two. Dallas and San Antonio are deeper and have added length, and Oklahoma City continues its ascension.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

The Sunday Read: The Life of Fish

Fisher's extra resposibilities put free time at at a premium. (David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Sunday Read is a look at the best Sunday columns around the NBA.

The shadow of the expiring collective bargaining agreement and a possible lockout is hanging over the entire NBA this season. With the possibility that they won’t have a paycheck coming next fall, the players have been told to cut down on expenditures and save some of the money they’re making this season.

For one player though, labor issues mean a lot more than just saving money. Derek Fisher is the president of the Natonal Basketball Player’s Association and is at the center of negotiations, even as he tries to guide the Lakers through another grinding 82-game season.

In today’s New York Times, Karen Crouse details Fisher’s responsibilities and the burden they put on his team, his family, and his day-to-day life …

His whole career, Fisher said, but especially the years when the Lakers had dueling superstars with different agendas, “have been very, very good training, on-the-job, hands-on, in-the-moment type training.”

The most frazzled he has felt juggling his game with his union responsibilities, he said, came one day last month in Minneapolis. He had a teleconference at noon with Commissioner David Stern; the union’s executive director, Billy Hunter; and five others. Basketball practice was scheduled to start an hour later.

At first Fisher had the wrong pass code for the call; then he kept losing the connection. In the confusion, Fisher lost track of the time and did not phone Coach Phil Jackson or the team’s trainer, Gary Vitti, to say he would be late.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.