Erick Dampier

The Heat don’t need Erick Dampier, but they could surely use him

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Count me among those that sees Miami’s rough start as a temporary turmoil. It’s only a matter of time before the pieces start clicking just right, if only because the level of talent between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade breaks dimensional bounds and head coach Erik Spoelstra won’t rest until the offense is structured and executed correctly. The Heat will figure out how to best utilize the scoring talents of their core (a healthy Mike Miller included), and fire will rain from the heavens. Book it.

So in terms of what Miami needs, time is paramount. This widely watched pot will finally begin to boil at some point, and there isn’t too much that can be done to speed up that process. However, adding Erick Dampier to Miami’s fleet of centers would be more than just a cosmetic change, even if Damp’s presence isn’t flat-out needed. The Heat can get by without him, but why would they want to? Given Dampier’s play throughout his entire career, why not bring him in to play some defense, hit the glass, and drop in a dunk every now and again?

Tom Haberstroh sang Dampier’s praises at The Heat Index, and pondered why the Heat haven’t been more aggressive in their pursuit of a useful, proven center:

At 6-foot-11, Dampier has consistently been a skilled rebounder in his NBA career, who at one point had earned the crown as the very best in the league in 2003-04. As a 34-year-old last season in Dallas, Dampier collected an estimated 11.6 percent of the Mavericks’ missed shots while he was on the floor which ranked him in the top 10 among regular centers. His glasswork has depreciated over the years but he should still be a substantial upgrade over Miami’s current alternatives.

In contrast to Anthony, Dampier’s long enough to block shots without relinquishing his box out position or getting into foul trouble. The 35-year-old veteran was above average in both shot-blocking and defensive rebounding as a center in 2009-10. The Heat may tout Anthony’s visible effort in blocking shots, but they’d be bar better off overall with Dampier’s more conservative approach that doesn’t leave the paint vulnerable to put-backs or routinely send his opponents to the charity stripe.

Offensively, Dampier represents a veritable upgrade to Anthony as well. They’re built from the same mold in that they each fall under the category of low-usage and offensively limited centers. But Dampier’s a more efficient option beneath the basket. When your scoring responsibility is restricted to easy put-backs, Anthony’s career 48 percent field goal percentage should be of great concern. However, Dampier has enjoyed a similar offensive role over the last four seasons in Dallas and has connected on no fewer than 62.4 percent of his field goals in any of those seasons.

Damp has long lived as a punchline due to a painfully ridiculous contract thrown his way by Donnie Nelson, Mark Cuban, and the Dallas Mavericks, but he’s more than serviceable in the middle. Defensively, he’s equipped to tackle the big-bodied conventional center types that give Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony trouble, all while playing solid (though as Haberstroh notes, conservative) help defense.

Toss in a low-usage, high-efficiency approach around the rim and solid offensive rebounding numbers, and it’s quite curious that Dampier hasn’t found a home already. Haberstroh later goes on to wonder how much health and age have factored into Damp’s free agent pinballing, and though neither is a pressing concern (he was effective last season for Dallas), I’m at a loss as to what else could leave a competent center unattached. Miami is but one team that could use Dampier’s size, and he has yet to find an NBA landing spot nonetheless. Color me perplexed.

Kobe Bryant went from DeMar DeRozan’s idol to his friend

Kobe Bryant, DeMar DeRozan
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TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan was 16 when he was invited to Kobe Bryant‘s camp for the top 25 American high school shooting guards.

A friendship grew between the youngster who would become an All-Star for the Toronto Raptors and the player who would become the third-leading scorer in NBA history.

DeRozan talked at length Sunday night about Bryant, who announced on The Players’ Tribune that he’ll retire after the season, capping a 20-year NBA career.

“The knowledge that he tended to give me every time I got the chance to be around him, especially at a young age, carrying over to the league, it was definitely an honor,” DeRozan said after the Raptors’ 107-102 loss Sunday night to Phoenix. “I tried to listen as much as possible, soak in as much as I could all of the time. It’s crazy how much time flies.”

Bryant was DeRozan’s favorite player while growing up in Compton, Calif.

“I’ve tried to emulate and learn so much from him ever since I was a kid, watching every single game growing up in Los Angeles, having a chance to get with him and learn from him, from conversations even when I was in high school from playing against him, completing against him, being in big games with him,” said DeRozan, who scored 29 points in Sunday’s loss. “It’s definitely a sad, sad day, but he’s been in the game a long time.”

Bryant’s announcement came just before the Lakers’ game against the visiting Indiana Pacers. Fans at the game received a letter of thanks from the 37-year-old player in a black envelope embossed with gold.

Bryant has struggled mightily with injuries the past several years, and is shooting a career-worst 32 percent this season.

“It don’t matter. That man has five rings, 17 all-stars, MVP,” DeRozan said. “There’s nothing he hasn’t done. It’s just father time catching up with him, injuries catching up with him this past year. People will appreciate it when he’s away from the game.”

DeRozan has his favorite Kobe memory – Bryant scoring 81 points against Toronto in 2006. DeRozan, who would join the Raptors as a rookie three years later, said he felt as if he was playing a video game watching the high-scoring spectacle unfold on TV.

DeRozan is in his seventh season with Toronto. He can’t imagine playing 20 years.

“Especially playing at a high level, doing the things he was doing … people don’t understand how hard that is,” DeRozan said. “Even now, a lot of us find ourselves tired (on) back-to-backs. It’s tough. It’s really tough. To do it 20 years at a high level, you have to give that man every credit in the world.”

Hornets’ Al Jefferson out 2-3 weeks with strained calf

Al Jefferson
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The Hornets have been playing well of late, going 7-3 in their last 10 and outscoring opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions. They are solidly in the playoff picture out East, in the six slot right now.

This is not going to help matters.

The team announced that an MRI confirmed center Al Jefferson will be out two to three weeks with a strained left calf muscle, suffered during Charlotte’s 87-82 win over Milwaukee on Sunday.

Jefferson missing a few weeks due to injury at some point during the season is an annual event, like the Rose Parade or the Head of the Charles Regatta — but this year the Hornets are better prepared to deal with it. This is the deepest Charlotte team in recent memory.

Tyler Hansbrough, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky will get more run — plus Spencer Hawes may be back in the rotation — and if they can step up the Hornets will not slow down much.

This season the Hornets defense has been downright stingy when Jefferson is on the bench, giving up 94.2 points per 100 possessions (which is 10 better than when he is on the court). However, the Hornet offense and rebounding efforts are stronger when he plays.

PBT Extra: How did Thunder, Pacers move up in PBT Power Rankings?

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As they do every Monday during the season, the PBT Power Rankings came out and while the top three remained the same there were some climbers.

Specifically, the Thunder at No. 4 and the Pacers at No. 5.

Why they are there is the latest PBT Extra topic with Jenna Corrado. The simple answer is they are both excellent teams. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Paul George are all playing like Top 10 players.

PBT Podcast: We’re back talking Kobe, 76ers, Warriors, Pistons, more

Kobe Bryant
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The ProBasketballTalk NBA podcast is back.

Sure we’re a month into the season, but we’re going to get this podcast rolling again and you can expect us on each Monday and Thursday, with a variety of guests talking everything around the NBA.

Today NBC’s own Dan Feldman joins Kurt Helin to talk Kobe Bryant‘s retirement announcement, and what that means both for the Lakers going forward this season and beyond, but also what that could mean for Byron Scott’s future as the Lakers’ coach.

We also delve into the “showdown” between the Lakers and Sixers on Thursday, talk about the job Brett Brown is doing there as coach (a good one), we talk some Warriors, some Draymond Green, Pistons, Spurs and Pacers to round it all out.

Listen to the podcast below or you can listen and subscribe via iTunes.