76ers’ Wright says Bynum is better than Dwight Howard

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We are still in the honeymoon period with Andrew Bynum in Philadelphia. Fans love him. Teammates love him. Coaches are excited about ways they can use him in the offense.

That honeymoon will end, it always does. Ask every Philadelphia sports hero. It will be interesting to see how Bynum handles it when things turn, when the tabloids smack him around a little.

But we are not there yet. Until then, it is strawberries and champagne and the beach in Fiji. It is a honeymoon. And among those insanely happy people to be playing with Bynum in Philly is Dorell Wright.

Wright went way over the top speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, saying Bynum is better than Dwight Howard.

“He’s going to need two defenders to stop him; I would say he’s the best big man in the NBA right now, hands down,” Wright, speaking at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, said. “He’s a guy that can give you baskets with his back to the basket; a guy who makes free throws at 7-feet. You’ve just got to respect him.”

The reporter gave Wright an out and said is this because Howard is coming off back surgery?

“No way, I’d say it any day. It’s because I know he can put his back to the basket and give us a basket and request a double team and make free throws,” Wright continued. “It’s his all-around game. Hopefully he can stay healthy and we can ride, he can put us on his back and he can take us as far as we can go.”

Dorell, you are wrong. Well meaning, but flat out wrong.

No doubt Bynum opens up the Sixers offense and is going to make things better. I don’t want to demean Bynum here, I like the guy. And if you just look at the offensive stats Bynum and Howard are comparable — Bynum averaged 1.03 points per possession last season, Howard .97 but with a higher percentage of the team offense run through him. In the post they were almost identical (.88 and .89 points per possession). Howard is better as the roll man when he gets the ball back, and he draws more fouls. But it all evens out because Howard shot 49 percent from the free throw line, while Bynum was 71 percent. There is no hack-a-Bynum.

Honestly, the offensive numbers are pretty much a wash.

But there are two key areas where Howard is superior. One, consistency of effort. Until the back injury and whatever went down at the end of Howard’s time in Orlando, the guy brought it every night. You gut his best effort. Bynum… let’s just say the Lakers intentionally tried to get him touches early in the game so he wouldn’t go on mental walkabout some nights. When challenged (like facing Howard) Bynum was there and ready, but that wasn’t every night.

Second is defense — Howard is a flat out better defender. While opponents overall shooting numbers are again similar against them watch the film and you see Howard blow up pick-and-rolls and recover much faster than Bynum, who often sits back on those. Howard is faster weak side to strong. Bottom line is Howard is more fleet of foot and uses that to be a far more disruptive defensive presence than Bynum. Again, don’t get me wrong, Bynum is a good defender and the Sixers paint protection just got better. But Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year for a reason.

But Dorell, it’s a free country. Believe whatever you want.

Bill Laimbeer on LeBron vs. Jordan comparisons: “I’ll take LeBron James, absolutely”

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LeBron James is headed to his seventh straight NBA Finals. He just passed Michael Jordan to take over the top spot on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Fourteen years into his NBA career, he has put together a resume that few in the game’s history can match — and he’s not done.

You don’t have to think that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan, however, if you don’t think it’s a valid discussion, you’re blinded by bias.

Former NBA All-Star, champion, and WNBA coach Bill Laimbeer of the “bad boy” Detroit Pistons was asked about the LeBron/Jordan comparison on “The Rematch” podcast, and he said we’ve never seen anyone like LeBron (hat tip the USA Today).

“I’ll take Lebron James, absolutely,” Laimbeer said to host Etan Thomas… “He’s 6-8, 285 (James is listed at 250 pounds). Runs like the wind, jumps out of the gym. Phenomenal leader since he’s been 12 years old. Understood when he came into the league how to involve his teammates from the start. And you can’t guard him. You can’t double-team, he’s too big, he powers through everything. Michael was a guard. Yeah, he was 6-6, but he wasn’t a real thick and strong guard. It took him a lot of years to learn how to involve his teammates in order to win championships. Don’t fault him for that, it’s a learning experience. But we’ve never seen anybody like LeBron James physically. He just bullies you.

It was Laimbeer and the Pistons who taught Jordan to win — they beat the Bulls year after year in the playoffs, until Jordan broadened his game (and got better teammates) and the Pistons started to fade. People point to MJ’s unblemished Finals record, but he was seen for years as a guy who couldn’t get a team to the Finals because of those Pistons (LeBron learned his lessons on a different stage, taking some early Cavs teams that had no business in the Finals to that stage anyway, only to get crushed).

LeBron has a more versatile game than Jordan, which better suits this era: When Jordan was a force in the ’80s and ’90s there was no zone defense, which led to a lot of clear-out sets where eight guys watched a one-on-one battle from the other side of the key, and if the double-team came it was obvious from where. Jordan’s skill as a guy who could get his shot, kill it from the midrange or get to the rim, his ability to physically play through contact, and the legendary killer instinct made him great. But he was aided by timing — the booming popularity of the sport in the 1990s, the rise of Nike as a marketing giant, and the fact he didn’t have a true rival, a Bird to his Magic, that could best him.

LeBron has reached the point in his career that the legacy talk and where he ranks all-time is the only real discussion left — and Jordan sits as the bar to clear. Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Bill Russell, and a few others should be on that tier as well, part of the discussion, but the point is LeBron has moved on to that level of discussion. He’s earned it. The fact some people on Twitter/sports talk radio feel the need to rip him for everything doesn’t change that — if Jordan played the social media era he would have heard the same things from the same people.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.