Winderman: David Lee? Really?

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Thumbnail image for nba_lee_250.jpgEditor’s note: From time to time, Ira Winderman will jump in with
longer analysis of some bigger issues. These “Quick Takes” appeared
previously as stories on NBCSports.com and will now appear within ProBasketballTalk instead.

This had better be one of those rest-of-the-story stories, where we find out after the fact that David Lee received his All-Star replacement berth because Josh Smith was out of cell range, Shaquille O’Neal had previous engagements, Andrew Bogut politely declined, Ray Allen was preparing for a potential trading-deadline relocation and Joakim Noah didn’t have a foot to stand on.

Because if David Lee, for all his impressive (if not somewhat hollow) numbers is an All-Star, then the NBA’s annual classic has severely lowered it standards.

Yes, 20 and 11.4 carries plenty of weight.

But how many opponents game plan with Lee as defensive focus?

Probably not nearly as many as those trying to keep Smith from getting out in transition in Atlanta.

Or those fronting Shaq in the post.

Or those rotating a second defender toward Bogut.

Or meeting Allen at the 3-point line.

Heck, David Lee isn’t even the best David Lee in the East this season. That would be the Bulls’ Noah, who has been slowed only by his foot woes.

Yes, the Hawks might not merit three selections, but Smith remains as egregious an oversight today as the day Al Horford was named a reserve alongside Atlanta teammate Joe Johnson.

And Cleveland still remains with a solitary All-Star, with Shaq having emerged as force this past month as the league-best Cavaliers play with a bare naked backcourt.

As for Bogut, his team is on the move, putting the pressure on Dwyane Wade and the Heat for that final playoff berth in the East.

The Jason Kidd emergency selection in the West made enough sense with its hometown angle, considering, with the latest weather developments, that already being in Dallas is emerging as a prime selection criteria. Heck, if Kidd couldn’t make it, the next call was going to J.J. Barea.

But just like the ridiculously rostered Pro Bowl, where Yeremiah Bell somehow was issued a jersey two weeks ago, if being a hustle player is all it takes to make it to the NBA’s annual showcase, then the talent pool isn’t nearly as deep as previously thought.

It is getting to the point where baseball’s policy of one-player-per-team might as well be adopted.

That way, if Lee, too, had been out of cell range, we then could have witnessed the athletic delight that is Wilson Chandler.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball

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When Derrick Rose went AWOL from the Knicks last season for what he called a family issue, rumors swirled that he was contemplating retirement. Rose denied it, but those whispers are reemerging.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.

Before the season, Rose was talking about getting a raise on his next contract. He seemed happy to join a contender and have LeBron James in his corner.

But something is amiss. Hopefully, Rose can find contentment – whether that’s continuing his NBA career or walking away.

Ryan McDonough: Suns want to sign two-way Mike James to standard contract

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Brandon Knight got hurt. Eric Bledsoe got traded.

The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.

Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.

The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, via Scott Bordow of azcentral:

We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.

The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.

The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.

Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.

So, a trade is possible. Greg Monroe never seemed long for Phoenix. Or anyone else could be moved.

If it comes to it, the Suns could send James to the minors to bide time. But they want to play competitive basketball, and he helps. So, expect something else to give within the next couple weeks.

Joel Embiid upgrades himself from 69% to 81%: ‘Shoutout to Jalen Rose’

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A story in three parts:

1. After posting 46-15-7-7 in a win over the Lakers, frequently injured 76ers center Joe Embiid declared himself to be 69%:

2. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose called that joke “unprofessional:”

3. Embiid upgraded his status to 81% with a “shoutout to Jalen Rose:”

In case you didn’t get the joke.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.