Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Five

LeBron told Rose’s brother Rose is “one player away”


There’s been a lot of speculation that last year when the Celtics tossed LeBron James against a wall, stole his lunch money and left him beaten and humiliated, Kevin Garnett spoke to James and reminded him of certain things about the reality of how things are when you’re trying to carry a team on your own. Garnett said post-game when asked about James’ then impending free agency that “loyalty can hurt.” Garnett understood how James felt trying in vain to win with an inferior cast and never getting over the hump, and wanted to share with James his feeling that he should have ditched Minnesota sooner. (Note: Don’t tell Minnesota fans this, they still worship him like the ex-boyfriend who doesn’t mind when the ex-girlfriend comes over, steals his food, makes him do her laundry, and then goes and messes around with one of his richer friends.)

Now LeBron James is passing the message down the line to the next in the franchise martyr line. From the Chicago Tribune, via

Before getting caught up in celebrating his teams series-clinching victory over the Bulls on Thursday night, Heat star LeBron James embraced Reggie Rose, Derricks older brother, and whispered a few words in Reggies ear.

“He said, Tell young fella hes a hell of a player and that hes one player away from a title, Reggie Rose said, relaying James message.

via Derrick Rose: Derrick Rose cant overcome fourth-quarter woes –

We’ve already discussed how James understands what Rose went through in this series, and this just illustrates the connection players who have felt that frustration and disappointment, more than the average player who loses a playoff series. This just shows that James is explicit in his support of Rose, despite the media-driven concept that they have some sort of “humble guy vs. egomaniac” feud.

James is correct in his assessment of the situation. But what everyone’s glossing over is Carlos Boozer’s money. Not Carlos Boozer, he’s being torched in every Chicago blog, message board, radio station program and print publication there is, but Boozer’s money. Boozer still has over $60 million owed him in the five-year contract he signed. This was the big move the Bulls made. Carlos Boozer. I questioned it at the time pretty roughly, so much so in fact that I overlooked how great of a get the rest of the roster and Tom Thibodeau was. I was wrong for it then and I’m wrong for it now, but I was right about Boozer. He is not the go-to guy. He is not the sidekick. He is not the supporting structure. He’s Antawn Jamison, a bit younger and not as good of a teammate or locker room guy. The Bulls don’t just need a weapon, they need production.

The big call right now is for a legit 2-guard. O.J. Mayo is most often mentioned, as is Anthony Morrow. The problem is that both those players are best used as spot-up shooters. Mayo is considered to have the playmaking ability to create his own shot, but in reality his isolation production simply isn’t good enough to warrant being considered a number two option. He’s not going to draw attention away from Rose.

The idea is that a stellar wing player with size and length, next to a better legitimate big man to go with Rose as the MVP-caliber guard will make the Bulls a contender. Sure it will. It will make them the Heat. LeBron is supportive of Rose and everything he’s going through. And just like Garnett, it’s the example James has set that Rose needs to follow, only without the theatrics and franchise abandonment. That’s the big gap here between the three. Chicago’s the place you can get free agents. Rose can do it, it’ll just take time.

And a way to get rid of Carlos Boozer’s money.

51 Questions: Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

Michael Malone
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

One incident sums up how bad things had gotten in Denver under the Brian Shaw regime — breaking a fourth-quarter huddle in the final game of February, Nuggets players chanted “1-2-3-six weeks!”

The players didn’t like the coach, some of them didn’t like each other, and with six weeks and 24 games left in the season they had checked out. The young players (and some of the veterans) partied so much Shaw canceled shootarounds because guys couldn’t roll in for them in the morning. Shaw had lost the team long before when he’d tried to fit square pegs into the triangle holes of his offense, and it spiraled out of control from there. The culture in Denver was broken.

Mike Malone was brought in to repair that culture.

The Jeff Van Gundy disciple has shown he can do that before. Malone was starting to build something in Sacramento (they started last season 9-6 before DeMarcus Cousins got sick), where he was asked to repair a franchise culture that by the end of the Maloof era was something akin to the Lord of the Flies. Malone also turned out to be the one coach who had gotten through to Cousins. Even with his defensive mindset and Cousins in the paint, Malone had the Kings playing at the eighth-fastest pace in the league in pace, but the Kings’ owner wanted to play faster (and maybe didn’t want to miss out on the chance to hire George Karl), so Malone got sacked.

The question becomes, is Malone alone going to turn things around in Denver and bring them back to relevance?

Not alone, and not just in one season, but he will get them on the right track.

The first step to show management was behind Malone was the trading of Ty Lawson. No doubt when focused Lawson is a quality point guard (as Houston likely benefits from this season), but he was part of the problem in the end in Denver, to the point of picking up two DUIs in six months (he checked into a rehab facility after the second one). He had mentally checked out and his example was an issue the Nuggets needed to change.

That turns the keys for the offense over to rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who impressed a lot of people at Summer League after bailing on SMU to play in China last season. But he’s still a rookie with a long way to go — as the 15 turnovers in his first two preseason games attest. Things that worked in China and Summer League don’t fly against an NBA defense.

With Mudiay at the point and a team that plays half its games at high altitude, Monroe wants to take advantage of that and get out and run. Expect the Nuggets to get back to their traditional up-tempo games, but with some things Malone loves to run (such as the Rick Adelman corner action).

But for Malone, all things — including good transition basketball — starts with defense. You have to get stops and steals to run well, and the Nuggets were 26th in the league in defensive rating last season (105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). In the first two Nuggets preseason games, that was the Nuggets focus (with mixed results).

Malone’s challenge starts with getting Kenneth Faried to buy in and play as hard on defense as he does on offense — something Faried has never done. Faried has been a defensive minus since he entered the NBA and that becomes one of Malone’s first major projects (even if it’s just to boost Faried’s trade value). Faried, who clashed with Shaw over his role, has said he’s felt energized under Malone, now the coach just has to steer that energy to the defensive end of the court.

Malone will be searching for the right center to put next to Faried, and I expect that will mean a lot of Jusuf Nurkic (who is young and shows it at times). But also expect to see some small-ball lineups with Faried at the five. Something like Mudiay, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Faried. A lineup with some athleticism and shooting that could put up points, but would they get any stops? If Gary Harris slots in for Foye, does that help the defense (Harris is guy Nuggets fans may see more and more of as the season goes on).

The roster is a work in progress, and if you were to bet on the Nuggets doing one thing this season, it should be making trades. Things are going to change.

There are nice pieces on the Nuggets, but not enough of them and with some real questions about how it all fits together. This is not a playoff team this season, not in the West.

But it’s a team that Malone could have playing a lot better late in the season than at the beginning, once some of those questions start to be answered, and the young players gain experience. That should be the goal in Denver. Begin to change the culture, get buy-in on the system, get guys playing hard again rather than dreaming of Cancun vacations by February. Change can be incremental, but Malone will start the change.

Then in a couple of years, you’ve got the team you want.

Well, so long as the Nuggets ownership doesn’t get impatient and decide it needs to change directions again.

Another Pelicans center down: Omer Asik out three weeks

Omer Asik, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
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The Pelicans will have to play Anthony Davis at center now.

With backup center Alexis Ajinca already sidelined, starting center Omer Asik suffered his own injury.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that center Omer Asik is expected to miss the next three weeks with a right calf strain. The injury occurred during Wednesday’s practice.

If that three-week timeline is firm, Asik would miss two regular season games – at Warriors and at Trail Blazers.

Davis figured to be the most natural fit at center in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo scheme. What happens if the Pelicans excel with him there and then stumble once Asik and Ajinca return? Because New Orleans had Bird Rights for Asik and Ajinca, re-signing them made some sense. And once they’re re-signed, Gentry must find a role for them. But that could get harder if it becomes obvious the team is best with Davis at center.

As long as Asik and Ajinca are out, Kendrick Perkins probably moves into the rotation. Jeff Adrien could also see minutes at center. Suddenly, Adrien, on an unguaranteed contract, has a much better chance of making the regular-season roster. Ryan Anderson probably plays more at power forward, too, with Davis logging more time at center.