Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks

Weekend Observations: 25 things from the week that was

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Each weekend we bring you 25 random observations from the NBA week that was. 

1. Ramon Sessions is not shooting well, but he’s drawing a lot of contact and his assists are up this year. He’s got a 19.5 PER and can’t get over 25 minutes per game on the Cavaliers. He’s much more of a playmaker this year. It’s hard to understand why no one will make a move for him.

2. Derrick Williams has that tweener offensive game, but that’s becoming less of an issue in this league. Coaches have started to understand how to use athleticism from bigs effectively on the perimeter. Williams has great scorer’s touch and that doesn’t always translate from college to the NBA. He’s drawing fouls and converting a high percentage from the field. Rubio gets all the attention but there are two good rooks in Minny.

3. If Ricky Rubio can shoot like this, if this isn’t an aberration, he’s going to be a perennial All-Star. As in, next year. As in, he’d be one this year if it weren’t for the shortened schedule keeping him from nabbing the starting job in time.

4. Efficiency is a big key word in the NBA. The Bulls aren’t particularly efficient, in terms of style of play (they are 6th in offensive efficiency, 2nd in defensive efficiency, so overall pretty efficient), but they are hyper-effective. The things they do are proven to work (defend, draw fouls, have a guard that blows by everyone), and they do them insanely well. They create open jumpers for Deng who can hit them, and create space. They grind you into oblivion. It’s not a lot of fun to watch. Not that defense isnt’ fun to watch, but that they make the opponent so bad and their offense is so grinding there’s not much spectacular play outside of Rose.

5. Paul George has been phenomenal on teh catch and shoot this year. It’s such an underused element in the NBA and he’s killing it. With his range and size, it’s a near-impossible matchup for opponents. The guy has a 67 TrueShooting percentage this year. That’s insane.

6. Danilo Gallinari is going to find his long-range shot and when he does he’s going to be terrifying offensively. His awareness this season of when to pump fake and drive and when to shoot has been really impressive, as has his ball-hawking (2 steals per 36 minutes).

7. I don’t have a specific name or description of the award that Gerald Wallace needs to win for his performance through the first two weeks of the season, but he deserves it. No one has made more of a positive impact for his team than Crash so far. Both ends. His work on Kobe Bryant this week was the stuff of legend, wrist or no.

8. James Harden still has a hand full of plays per game where he tries to do too much. But it’s mostly on account of the fact that the rest of the time, you’re pretty sure there isn’t anything he can’t do.

9. The Hawks really aren’t as bad as they looked against Miami. They have played really well top to bottom this season outside of that game. The Hawks have a greater penchant for playing down to the lowest level they can on national television of any team in the league.

10. Gerald Henderson has improved in just about every phase of the game. 47 percent from the field, 38 percent from the arc. He needs to learn to draw more fouls and finish at the rim in traffic, but there’s a lot to like about him for Charlotte.

11. Greivis Vasquez is a fine NBA player who has worked exceptionally hard to get where he is. He also should not be playing as many minutes as he is.

12. You want to blame everything for Memphis on injuries. But so much had to go right and did last year for what the Grizzlies accomplished, you feel like this is some sort of karmic payback. Crushing to see a team with that much effort struggle so much with execution.

13. Can we talk about Bosh? 21 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block per game, and he’s been a go-to for them on offense. This is the best I’ve seen him play, maybe ever. His defense has been rock solid, too, though he’s struggles in the post. As scary as the Heat have been overall, Bosh has been an important element in it.

14. Both the Knicks and Clippers have shown the true power of star power this week. In close games, they simply gave the ball to their best player and let him do damage to close out a game. The Clippers used it to give the Blazers, the best team in the West, their first loss. The Knicks used it to beat the Wizards, the worst team in the East. Same result, though, with Melo doing Melo things.

15. Greg Monroe has been a much more complete player offensively this year. He’s passing out of the post well, and is getting better on weakside defensive rotations. 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists (!) per 36 for the second-year big. He and Jerebko are the best players on the Pistons right now. Which says a lot about the Pistons, but still.

16. Utah’s starting to get it together, and Al Jefferson has been part of it. It continues to boggle my mind that no one is making a sronger push for Paul Millsap on the trade market.

17. Double-small-guard lineups are a rage right now and they’re being deployed really effectively. Denver with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller and Indiana with Darren Collison and George Hill (Hill’s a pretty legit two, but still) are some examples.

18. The schedule is slamming down on teams right now. It’s not really conditioning, which has been good, but the initial rush of the season is over and teams are struggling with these back-to-back sets. It’s not pronounced on the back-to-backs or even the back-to-back-to-backs. It’s just the overall play as we see scoring drop and injuries piling up.

19. The Blazers play really balanced, well-executed ball for about 44 minutes. Jamal Crawford takes care of the rest. That’s been a huge pickup this season.

20. Andrew Bynum is an All-Star and for once the hype is deserved. He’s finally put it all together.

21. Some teams lose because they’re just terrible at multiple aspects of the game. The Rockets, instead, are good in multiple aspects of the game. They’re just immensely solvable. Their schedule has been brutal, though.

22. If the Wizards could just learn to close a game… they’d still be pretty terrible. But you have to think this team will look better at season’s end than they do now. Some pieces you started to see coming along this week.

23. Chris Singleton keeps winding up having to defend players who are offended he’s guarding him. Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony. Gotta feel for the kid.

24. Dallas. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad bad. Bad bad bad.

25. And in conclusion, Iman Shumpert.

Shaq’s list before leaving Magic for Lakers also included Knicks, Pistons, Heat, Hawks

1 Nov 1996:  Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O''Neal moves down the court during a game against the Phoenix Suns at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  The Lakers won the game, 96-82.    Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn  /Allsport
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Shaquille O’Neal said he regretted leaving the Magic for the Lakers as a free agent in 1996.

So, why did he bolt Orlando?

It was an intriguing high-stakes saga, and agent Joel Corry — who helped represent O’Neal at the time — retells it with behind-the-scenes detail at CBSSports.com.

One part I found particularly interesting was the rest of Shaq’s list besides the Lakers:

The idea was this: Identify the teams that could get to at least $9 million under the cap without gutting the roster in order to offer a seven-year, $100 million contract voidable after three years, when Shaq would have Bird rights with these teams and could thus opt out to take advantage of his presumably increasing value. Also, if he left Orlando, his preference was to go to a big market. There weren’t many teams that fit all these requirements. This is the list we came up with:

  • NEW YORK KNICKS: This was a longshot from the start, as it was contingent on New York being able to trade Patrick Ewing. The Knicks also went after Jordan, who promptly re-signed with the Bulls on a one-year, $30 million deal. The market was there. But moving Ewing was never really an option. And when they signed free agent Allan Houston for $56 million over seven years, the cap situation just became unworkable. Nothing ever really materialized.
  • DETROIT PISTONS: Detroit was attractive because of 1995 NBA co-Rookie of the Year Grant Hill, who had already earned All-NBA honors in his brief pro career. Allan Houston was also starting to emerge, and the thought of putting Shaq with a scorer like Hill and a shooter like Houston was attractive. But when Houston made his move to New York, this pie-in-the-sky scenario went with him. Plus, frankly, the Pistons never really showed much interest in making a deal for Shaq happen. Detroit was out.
  • MIAMI HEAT: The Heat had the most roster flexibility and potentially the best cap situation of the bunch, but renouncing the rights to Mourning, who was also a free agent, to wipe out his cap hold of 150% of his 1995-96 salary was going to be a necessity. Mourning became a central barometer for all of our negotiations. Mourning had gone No. 2 in the 1992 draft, right behind O’Neal, and their careers had been linked ever since.People casually put them in the same conversation as big men, but Mourning wasn’t the player Shaq was. When Miami signed Mourning to the aforementioned seven-year, $105 million deal, not only did it end any chance of O’Neal going to the Heat, it also served as an easy benchmark contract for Shaq’s personal market.

    No way was O’Neal going to get a penny less than Mourning, and in fact, Armato was adamant that O’Neal get substantially more than Mourning for he did not see them as anything close to the same class of player.

  • ATLANTA HAWKS: While Atlanta wasn’t on our initial list, the Hawks quickly became a viable option when I, along with a colleague, took a call from current Los Angeles Dodgers CEO and President Stan Kasten about the Hawks’ interest in Shaq. Kasten, who was president of both the Hawks and Atlanta Braves at that time, indicated that the merger between Hawks owner Ted Turner’s broadcasting companies (CNN, etc.) and Time Warner would be able to generate significant ancillary income for Shaq.On the basketball side, he viewed Shaq as the missing piece to a championship in Atlanta and was comfortable offering him a seven-year deal averaging somewhere between $10 and $15 million per year. He was not, however, interested in breaking up much of his team to do so.

    This is kind of crazy to look back on, but in 1996, Kasten considered Mookie Blaylock and Christian Laettner to be the Hawks’ foundational players. They weren’t going anywhere. Two other players from a group consisting of Stacey Augmon, Alan Henderson, Grant Long and free agent Steve Smith also needed to be retained.

    This was the snag. After running all the numbers, Smith, an All-Star caliber player, was probably the odd man out, and we didn’t like the idea of losing Smith. Eventually, Atlanta, which had become a legitimate contingency option, fell completely out of consideration when it signed Dikembe Mutombo to a five-year, $50 million deal.

I suggest reading Corry’s account in full.

Suns GM: Phoenix will likely preserve most of $13 million cap space into season

Ryan McDonough
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The Suns have more than $13 million in cap space remaining.

Don’t count on them spending it anytime soon.

Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough, via Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:

“I’d be surprised if we spent a lot of that cap space now or over the summertime,” Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough said. “More likely, we’ll preserve most, if not all of it, and go into the season and look at either in-season signings or probably more likely in-season trades that are lopsided where we take back more money than we send out. There are a decent amount of advantages to operating as an under-the-cap team in terms of player aggregation and trades and things like that.”

There’s certainly a logic to maintaining cap space for in-season deals. But the value is far less this year, when multiple teams will have room due to the skyrocketing salary cap. If they have their eyes on getting positive assets in salary dumps, the Suns will have to compete with other teams — and settle for weaker positive assets.

That still might be the right course if Phoenix doesn’t like any remaining free agents. (This removes one possible destination for Maurice Harkless, whose standoff with the Trail Blazers appears more likely to drag on.)

The Suns have 15 players — the regular-season roster limit — though John Jenkins and Alan Williams have unguaranteed deals. Phoenix could sign another low-priced player or two to compete in training camp, but that’s small potatoes. The Suns appear set to hoard their cap space.

The catch: This is also what cheap teams say. They hide their frugality by saying they’re maximizing flexibility. It’s impossible to tell the difference at this stage. So, keep an eye on Phoenix’s in-season moves.

Brandon Ingram far from soft, but going to have to get stronger to do what he wants in NBA

Los Angeles Lakers' Brandon Ingram shoots against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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When you see Brandon Ingram in person, you can’t help but have your first thought be “man, is he skinny.”

When he starts to play then you see why he went No. 2 in last June’s draft to the Lakers — he has a smooth, fluid game, can shoot the three, good IQ,  he even ran the offense at points, and looked like a modern NBA four who can do a lot of damage down the line in the league.

Once he gets stronger. Teams at the NBA Summer League tried to cover him often with shorter but physically stronger players — the Sixers’ Jerami Grant, for example — and Ingram struggled with that. It will only get worse once real NBA games start.

Just don’t confuse his physical strength with being soft, scouts and coaches of other teams told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s a difference between being soft and being weak. He’s just weak right now. He’s not soft, by any stretch of the imagination,” a Western Conference head coach said of Ingram. “The kid is skilled. He’s got a good basketball IQ. He’s going to be more than fine. I think the Lakers got themselves a big-time player who is going to be around a long time.”

“I saw a good-looking prospect,” an Eastern Conference scout said of Ingram. “There were some games where he excelled, and there were some games where he struggled. But overall . . . he’s a matchup nightmare.”…

“Every time somebody got physical with him or leaned on him, he just wilted. He just kind of folded. And he was kind of like that the rest of the summer league,” a Western Conference assistant coach said of Ingram. “It’s going to be interesting to see how he adjusts to the NBA. The summer league is not the league.”

It’s going to take Ingram a season or two to put his imprint on the NBA. He’s got to get stronger, and like every rookie he’s got to see how his game and skill set fits in the league. What can he do, what should he stay away from.

What you had to like if you’re a Laker fan is how hard he continued to play, how he got better as Summer League went on. Then he stayed in Las Vegas as was part of the USA Basketball select team, where he was pushed around by the Olympians and challenged by the other guys just starting in the NBA. It’s a great learning experience. Both those situations were also chances to bond with Laker star D'Angelo Russell, both on and off the court.

There’s a lot to like with Ingram. Now someone get that kid a protein shake.

 

Report: Some in Chris Bosh camp suspicious of Heat’s intentions

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 25:  Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat watches on from the bench against the Charlotte Hornets during game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 25, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Pat Riley said he’s open to Chris Bosh playing this season.

Not everyone is convinced of the Heat president’s authenticity.

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald:

Some in the Bosh camp remain angry and suspicious of the Heat’s intentions, wondering if Miami was motivated by clearing cap space. A Heat source insists this is not the case, that Miami wants him to play if doctors are comfortable with it.

An NBA-employed friend says Bosh very much wants to play and believes he should be cleared. If the Heat fights him on this, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bosh takes this issue to the players union

one issue that has been discussed is whether Bosh should come off blood thinners or continue taking them, according to a person briefed on the matter.

If Bosh comes off the medication this summer, there’s no reason why he couldn’t play.

But even if he stays on the thinners, Bosh has tried to convince the Heat to allow him to play while taking a new medication that would be out of his system in 8 to 12 hours, or by game-time, thus lessening or eliminating the inherent risks of playing a contact sport while on thinners.

It’s hard to believe the Heat have nefarious intentions — not just because they reportedly expect Bosh to play next season, but because a salary-cap workaround would likely fail.

If Bosh goes a year without playing (last game:Feb. 9), Miami waives him and a doctor approved by the NBA and players union says Bosh’s condition is career-ending, the Heat could exclude Bosh’s salary from team salary. He’d still get paid. He just wouldn’t count toward the cap.

So, the $75,868,170 Bosh is owed the next three years is protected. It’s just a matter of whether Miami frees cap space.

But even the Heat sitting Bosh for a year and convincing a union-approved doctor of Bosh’s inability to safely play wouldn’t be enough.

If Bosh plays 25 games for another team after an injury exclusion, his salary would be put back on Miami’s books. That might allow the Heat temporary cap room to sign someone, but with Bosh’s salary applied, their luxury-tax bill would be prohibitively enormous.

So, we’re probably back to the previous questions:

Can Bosh safely play while on blood thinners? Probably not, though there might not be total agreement on that.

Does Bosh need to continue taking blood thinners? That’s a much more complicated question. Hence, the lack of a resolution to this issue.