Weekend Observations 2.4.12: Where corn don’t grow

11 Comments

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.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

Leave a comment

In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

Getty Images
2 Comments

It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.