Can Stoudemire and Shaq work in Cleveland?

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stoudemire.jpgIf you are the Cavaliers — the best team in basketball through 50 games and the frontrunner for the NBA title — making a move to shake things up is a risk. Any move. Even if it does make LeBron James happy.

The ongoing efforts to bring Amare Stoudemire to Cleveland raise the question of if Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal can mesh together in Mike Brown’s offense. Well, LeBron’s offense, really. Amare thinks so and tweeted as much.

I play very well
w/Shaq. I averaged more pts last year WITH him & played better D.
You guys can stop saying we don’t play well together.

ESPN’s JA Adande backed him up with statistics.

A little revision is in order. It’s not that Stoudemire couldn’t play well next to O’Neal; he didn’t play as well next to O’Neal under Terry Porter’s system.

Stoudemire did just fine with Shaq in the house while the Suns were running Mike D’Antoni’s offense. Since Shaq didn’t start playing for the Suns until the first game after the All-Star break in 2008 it’s very easy to look at life with and without the Diesel. Before the break Stoudemire averaged 23.2 points on 59% shooting. After the break, playing alongside O’Neal, Stoudemire upped his scoring average to 28 points per game while maintaining that 59% field goal percentage.

Adande goes on to say that both Nash and Stoudemire struggled in Porter’s “feed the post first” system with Shaq, but when the Suns abandoned Steve Kerr’s experiment, put Alvin Gentry in as coach and started running again Shaq and Amare were just fine.

Adande is right about that. But he leaves out a couple not-so-little details.

First, the Cavaliers don’t play Mike D’Antoni’s system, either. The Cavaliers are a slow-it-down team, playing at the 25th fastest pace in the league right now. They do not run Porter’s offense (although the Cavs do feed Shaq in the post plenty if they like the matchup), but this is a half-court team and that is where Amare struggled was finding room with Shaq. That will be an adjustment again.

Second, it’s the other side of the court that may be the bigger concern. While the Suns offense was fine with Amare and Shaq, their defense (both shooting percentage allowed and points per possession allowed) got worse. How did Orlando defeat Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals last year? Pick-and-rolled them to death. If this trade goes through the Cavaliers have two of the worst pick-and-roll defending bigs in the game. Both Boston with Rajon Rondo and Orlando with Jameer Nelson will run that play every time down until Cleveland figures out how to stop it.

Stoudemire and Shaq may work together in Cleveland, ensuring a title for a title-starved city. But it is a risk. And don’t assume the offensive stats under D’Antoni tell the entire story.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.