Weekend Observations 2.4.12: Where corn don’t grow

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

 

1. Blake Griffin is not human.

2. Denver’s a really great team this season, they’re just not so impressive you know you can count on them in the WCF. The lack of star power is going to continue to be a question and it’s really going to come down to which matchups they land as to how far they go. The losses to the Lakers are probably indicative of something, regardless of how close they are. But their ability to consistently show up in spots they should fold says something as well.

3. Atlanta is nothing if not consistent.

4. Given Joe Dumars’ continued insistance on building around veterans, isn’t it worth it for a team to at least explore trying to pry Greg Monroe away? Detroit’s likely laughing as they put down the phone, just seems terrible that Monroe’s not only stuck on a terrible team, but one without a youth movement to allow for improvement.

5. Rajon Rondo should sit the All-Star game out if he’s selected as a reserve. With the injuries and the need for rest, it’s just going to have been too soon for him not to take a breather. If he does, I like Kyrie Irving over Brandon Jennings for the replacement. Irvin is one of the league leaders in true shooting percentage for a guard and of Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Rondo, Jennings and Irving, he’s second in PER behind Rose. Jennings and he both suffer for assists but you have to wonder how much of that is a product of who they’re surrounded by. If Griffin made it last year, Irving’s just as deserving.

6. The 8th spot in the West could actually get interesting. It’s unlikely Golden State won’t stabilize to a certain degree with the talent on roster. Utah is starting to wobble, but has the depth. Memphis is a total question mark, and Minnesota is able to make a run. Do you go with star power? Team defense? Youth and vitality? Interior scoring?

7. Isaiah Thomas is a more complete ball player than Jimmer Fredette. We probably should have seen this coming.

8. The Pacers do two things incredibly well. They follow transition layup misses for putbacks and space the floor incredibly well. Their balance means that they’re pretty much always shooting inside the paint or on the perimeter. Smart basketball.

9. The Rockets may have a very low ceiling, but they continue to make the most of it. They’re 7-3 in their last ten. This is better than any expected from Kevin McHale’s first year.

10. Philadelphia not being able to beat Miami should not diminish their accomplishments with the schedule toughening for them. Miami’s a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams, but Philly is modeled in such a similar way to Miami (no quality centers, abundance of perimeter ability, do-it-all wing) it shouldn’t suprise that Miami overwhelms them with talent. The Sixers are still going to be an absolutely brutal out in the playoffs.

11. Brian Cardinal told me last weekend he’s reading “Boomerang” by Michael Lewis. So there’s that.

12. If anyone, at all, can figure out Memphis, please let me know. Because this team is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle disguised as a mystery.

13. Milwaukee has defeated Miami and the Lakers in the past week. So naturally they lost to Detroit on Friday.

14. If you comprised teams of non-stars who were All-Star snubs, those teams would probably have a fighting chance against the All-Stars just due to ball movement and cohesion, right? No? Because star players are better? OK, then.

15. The Clippers have an excellent model for the whole star-power team thing, offensively. For 45 minutes they play a pretty complete game with contributions from everyone, with an emphasis on Griffin, Paul, and Billups. Then in the final three minutes of a close game, Paul takes over and just slams the door shut. Their defense is why they won’t win the title. But offensively, they kind of have the model for how the star teams should operate.

16. Kyrie Irving’s change of pace on his dribble-hesitation at the elbow bodes really well for his long-term viability as a scorer at the rim.

17. The Nets got 42 points from Anthony Morrow and still lost. I’m just going to leave that one be. This has to be the year Morrow is let into the 3-point Contest, right? He’s suffered enough?

18. I’ve kind of moved on from “the Knicks need a point guard” as the source of all their troubles. If they did have a capable point guard, say Baron Davis does come in and be the savior. Is that going to make Carmelo Anthony work off-ball? Because that didn’t really happen in Denver. Anthony’s making a concerted effort to pass and not gun in the last few games, and that’s not helping because his teammates can’t hit either. It’s a no-win for Melo, because his DNA is what it is, and it’s not really built to share.

19. Do you think Luol Deng has recurring nightmares about having to play 55 minutes a night during back-to-back double-overtime games through Tom Thibodeau’s rotations?

20. Everyone brings up Derrick Rose missing free throws against Kansas when he was at Memphis in the national title game, but Rose also missed a big pair last season against the Clippers late, and had issues against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. This doesn’t mean this is a trend or an issue, it’s just something that has happened in the past. It’s not inexplicable. He’s not automatic. Very, very good. But not automatic.

21. The Boston Celtics: Can’t count them out, can’t believe they’re going to drag these carcasses through a compact season like this intact and make it to a meaningful game.

22. If the Lakers can win their third game in four nights against Philadelphia Monday, there’s no reason they can’t sweep their six-game Grammy trip. They’ll get up for the game against Boston, and they’re still a better team right now. The Knicks are a disaster and the rest of the schedule is soft. That could land the Lakers in the top spot in the West with the Thunder showing a few cracks.

23. The Spurs are 19th in defensive efficiency, but have had three solid defensive games. That figure will tell so much about how their season goes. It’s honestly more important than getting Manu back, because of how good their overall offense is.

24. Remember when Portland was a dominant, brilliant team, like two weeks ago?

25. And, in conclusion, Iman Shumpert.

Report: Knicks owner James Dolan considering firing Phil Jackson as Knicks president

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Kristaps Porzingis skipped his exit meeting with the Knicks to express his frustration with the way the organization is being run. He is spending the summer working out in Latvia rather than the Knicks’ facilities. If a franchise cornerstone unicorn of a player skipped the exit meeting with 29 other franchises, the team president and GM would have been knocking on his door the next morning looking to talk about his concerns, listen, and make a guy the team should be building around feels appreciated and listened to.

Instead, Phil Jackson took it as a slight and threatened to trade Porzingis to send a message.

Add that to a treatment of Carmelo Anthony that has other free agents seeing the Knicks as a last resort, and forcing a triangle offense on the team players do not want, and there’s a lot of reasons to question Phil Jackson’s leadership of the Knicks. James Dolan, the Knicks owner, has apparently heard this and is considering making a change, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

New York Knicks owner James Dolan is weighing the future of embattled president of basketball operations Phil Jackson, league sources told The Vertical.

No final decision had been made on Jackson’s future late Tuesday night, but Dolan is harboring uncertainties about how much longer to commit to Jackson as the organization’s top basketball decision-maker, league sources told The Vertical.

Dolan has become increasingly concerned about Jackson’s fitness for the job and the long-term prospects of success for the franchise, especially in the aftermath of Jackson entertaining trades for Kristaps Porzingis, the franchise’s 21-year-old burgeoning star, league sources told The Vertical.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN added:

Jackson is still owed two years and $24 million on his contract.

When Jackson took over the Knicks it was hoped that for $12 million a year he could keep James Dolan at arm’s length from basketball decisions — he has done that — and that he would finally provide a direction and for the Knicks. The latter part has not happened. He hired Derek Fisher as coach, who realized the Knicks were not ready to run the triangle so he tried to run a hybrid offense, but that never clicked. Fisher also never clicked with the players, and got into a spat with Matt Barnes that was very public. Fisher was let go and Jeff Hornacek was brought in to run his more modern, up-tempo offense, but then he was given Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to go with the aging Anthony, with little else but Porzingis around them, and that didn’t work. Now the Knicks are back to the triangle, and players are not happy.

Jackson is unquestionably one of the great coaches the game has ever seen, a man with a great basketball mind, but the skills of coaching and the skills of running basketball operations are different things.

You can say it’s time for the Knicks to move on from Jackson but:

Do the Knicks really want to fire your front office and start fresh days before free agency begins?

If not Jackson, then who? Go ahead and joke that “anybody is better” but we have seen Dolan’s hires before and know that’s not true. Much like Dan Gilbert in Cleveland, you don’t want to just fire your GM at this point of the year unless you have the next guy lined up. Does anyone believe Dolan has thought that far ahead? There are plenty of quality candidates, including the released David Griffin from Cleveland, but how fast can the Knicks get a man with a plan in place.

The Knicks gonna Knick.

Report: Rockets becoming “increasingly serious threat” to sign Chris Paul

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The Houston Rockets are one of only a handful of teams in the NBA with a legitimate ability to add a couple of key pieces and try to make a run at the Golden State Warriors.

Chris Paul would be that kind of piece, and the Rockets are ramping up efforts to land him.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets have emerged as an increasingly serious threat in the chase for soon-to-be free agent Chris Paul, according to league sources.

The Rockets still have work to do in terms of clearing sufficient salary-cap space to make a representative offer for Paul, but sources told ESPN that Houston star James Harden has been advocating hard in favor of the Paul pursuit and has made his interest in teaming with the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard known directly to Paul.

Sources say Houston also remains at the heart of the trade hunt to acquire Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, despite the fact George is only under contract through next season and is known to be angling to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018.

The challenge in all of this is the Rockets have just about $10 million in cap space this summer, which is about a third of what it will take to land Chris Paul. That means they need to trade Ryan Anderson and his $19.6 million owed next season and take no salary back, and while there are a few teams in a position to be able to take on that salary — Philadephia, Brooklyn, Sacramento and others — they are going to want a young player or first-round pick as a sweetener. The Rockets also are considering moving Lou Williams and his $7 million salary, or Patrick Beverley and his $5.5 million. However, even moving both of the later two is not getting near the salary Paul will demand.

Chris Paul met with the Clippers front office on Tuesday to talk about the future, but he’s expected to meet with a number of teams in free agency, with the Rockets and Spurs being key suitors. The question is, will any of these teams bring him closer to toppling the Golden State Warriors, and is it worth it to take less money for that chance? Especially after he got the CBA changed so that as of July 1 the “over 36” rule becomes the “over 38 rule” so the Clippers can give him one more five-year max contract.

How much will Dion Waiters earn as a free agent?

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Dion Waiters had the best season of his career last year at age 25 in Miami. The Heat pushed Waiters to get in the best shape of his life (just check out his Instagram), and combine that with the fact that Justise Winslow went down Waiters got the ball in his hands more with a chance to create for himself, and you had a little rush of scoring. He’s still not the most efficient player ever (to be kind), but he’s close to average.

Waiters opted out of his $3.2 million he is owed next season, and he is now a free agent. How much is he will he get now on the open market? Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote this:

One scout said he would be surprised if the bidding for Waiters soars much above $10 million, if that, because of his small sample size of high-level play this past season. One prominent agent who does not represent Waiters predicted he would get $8 million to $10 million annually.

That number seems about right, if it’s a two-year deal (or a team option on the third year). The league average salary will be around $8.5 million, and that’s where Waiters should fall next year.

Whether Miami has that money to spend comes down to whether they land a big free agent such as Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin (both max guys). If so, the Heat will not have the money, and what they do have would be more focused on keeping James Johnson. However, if the Heat strike out then Waiters could be back in Miami.

One way or another Waiters is going to get a raise. That doesn’t mean teams are not still leery.

Report: Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose

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Were they watching the games last year?

Derrick Rose put up decent numbers last year — 18 points per game, PER of 17, true shooting percentage of 53 — but was a mess defensively and does not fit in the triangle offense. He’s a decent point guard now, a replacement level player who can help in the right system.

Since the Knicks point guard rotation right now consists of rookie Frank Ntilikina plus whoever the team signs this summer, turns out Rose is not out of the picture, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

The New York Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose, league sources familiar with the matter said….

The Knicks’ interest in the point guard is dependent on several factors, including his health and his asking price. When asked last week about New York potentially re-signing Rose, team president Phil Jackson said “we’re listening.”

Money will be the key — it’s not going to be anywhere near the $21.3 million Rose made last season. No team is going to offer that.

Can the Knicks get him for less than $10 million? Will another team come in and offer $12 million or more for him? The market for point guards this summer is going to be interesting because after the big name on the free-agent market — Chris Paul (we’re not counting Stephen Curry, he’s not leaving) — there are some quality players out there that can help teams such as Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Patty Mills, Jeff Teague and Shaun Livingston. There aren’t that many teams with money to really spend on free agent point guards, so while a couple (Holiday, maybe Lowry) re-sign with their old teams there are a number of guys who may find the market softer than they expected. Rose is among them.

And that’s where the Knicks come in. Rose is far from a perfect fit, but if the soft market drives his price down closer to the midlevel ($8.4 million) or just above, that may be worth it for the Knicks for a year while they try to develop the rookie.