The Extra Pass: What can we expect of Derrick Rose in his return?

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The Extra Pass is a column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we look at what to expect from Derrick Rose when he returns.

This was supposed to be a lost season for the Chicago Bulls. Even the most ardent believers in Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system didn’t see this coming. The Bulls didn’t have depth, they didn’t have room for improvement, and most importantly, they didn’t have Derrick Rose.

But what do the Bulls have now? A 29-19 record, the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, and a legitimate chance to catch the East’s leaders as the All-Star break approaches.

It was once easy to assume that Rose would return from his torn ACL to a floundering team just trying to stay alive. Instead, he’s coming back to a flourishing one.

That success has altered the expectations for Rose in his return. He is no longer required to be a savior, but rather a solid contributor. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bulls actually have a decent shot at winning a title. That would sound preposterous a few months ago — and to some it still might — but according to Memphis Grizzlies front office employee and former ESPN writer John Hollinger’s playoff odds, the Bulls currently have a 16.5 percent chance at making the finals.

That may surprise some, but Chicago’s 4th ranked defense is suffocating. They have two scary wing defenders in Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler to throw at Miami, they have the passing big men to dice up a slow defense like New York, and you have to imagine they’d welcome a grind out battle on their terms against an Indiana or Brooklyn. Point being, we know this is a very capable team. They’ve proven that early on.

That said, what we don’t know about the Bulls looms large in the big picture. What can we expect of Derrick Rose when he makes his return?

The good and the bad

The hopeful few will quickly cite the name of Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings running back who won the league’s MVP award and put together his best season after an ACL injury. The line of thought isn’t hard to follow — Peterson is an athletic wonder that shines over his peers, and Rose is cut from the same cloth. Special athletes are more equipped to deal with this sort of thing, you would think.

Ignoring the apples and oranges that is football and basketball for a second, it’s important to remember that we can compare players physically, but we can’t do the same mentally. Although I wish I weren’t speaking from experience, the mental hurdles after an ACL injury are the most difficult to overcome. Trusting your knee not to give out when you euro step, not hesitating to take off in traffic for a floater — these are things that take different amounts of time for everyone. What Peterson did was as much a triumph over mind as it was body. That’s not to say Rose can’t do the same, but success following an ACL injury goes deeper than what you can do physically.

That said, we should deal in what we know and what we’ve seen in the past from NBA players coming back from ACL injuries. Last season, Kevin Pelton broke it down at Basketball Prospectus:

“Going back to the 1999-00 campaign and not including this year’s (2012) results, I found 40 ACL tears suffered by NBA players in games, practices, or even during summer workouts while under contract.

Of those 40, 22 involved players had usable pre- and post-injury numbers to compare. That’s a relatively small sample size, but such is the nature of rare injuries. On average, these players saw their per-minute winning percentage drop from .452 to .405, a 10.4 percent decline in their effectiveness. 15 of the 22 got worse.

A comparison of some of their key statistics before and after the injury:

Period     MPG    Usg    TS%   Reb%   Ast%   Stl%   Blk%   FTA%   Win%
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Before    24.0   .206   .528   .113   .026   .013   .013   .119   .452
After     21.7   .194   .502   .114   .024   .013   .012   .114   .405

Pelton goes on to explain that the biggest differences in players that come back from ACL injuries are found in usage rates and shooting percentages. This is particularly noteworthy for Rose, a player who contributes primarily with his ability to score.

More recent examples of guards with ACL tears foretell a difficult path ahead for Rose. Although Iman Shumpert and Ricky Rubio have very different games than Rose, they have suffered massive drops in shooting percentages this season. In eight games so far, Shumpert’s True Shooting Percentage is down from 48.4 percent last year to 43.3 percent. In 19 games, Rubio’s percentage is down from 47.6 percent last year to 42.7 this year. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Eric Maynor is down from 46.6 percent to 40.3 percent as well.

Corey Brewer is probably the last perimeter player to come back strong from an ACL tear. Brewer averaged his highest points per game total of his career after his injury, and he saw a bump in his percentages as well.

But again, Rose is not Rubio, Shumpert, Maynor or Brewer. He’s a much more explosive scorer that uses almost a third of Chicago’s total possessions. He’s a star. History indicates he might not be that right away coming off his injury, but the Bulls might not need him to be, either.

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.

Report: Nerlens Noel switches agents in hopes of max deal with Mavericks

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Is Nerlens Noel worthy of a max contract? Not on your life.

But will he get it? That remains to be seen after reports that Noel recently fired his agent and will make the switch to Dan Fagen.

According to NBC 5 in Dallas, Noel has done just that and will be seeking a huge deal from Mark Cuban’s organization.

From NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs:

No other NBA clubs tried to sign the restricted 6-11 center. He has a one year qualifying offer of $5.8 million on the table but it’s not to his liking so he switched agents.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” is what Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told me back in July on NBC Sports Radio when I brought up the contract talks between Dallas and Noel. The NBA salary cap didn’t go up has high as many previously projected, so the summer of 2017 was not a bonanza some players hoped for.

Even with the increase in the cap, and with big contracts flying around for young talent, Noel has done nothing to prove himself worthy of an offer like that for the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, his advanced numbers from his third season in the NBA looked much better, and that was great news as young big men often take time to develop.

Yet the body of work for Noel is simply not there. Fifty games of good play over a 200 game career does not, or should not, earn you a max contract.

Then again, this could simply be Noel preying on Cuban’s need to rebuild.

With Dennis Smith Jr. at the helm, an aging Dirk Nowitzki, and the team that could soon be irrelevant in a increasingly tough Western Conference, Noel stands as a future franchise piece if he does indeed fulfill his potential.

The question now is, especially after how this summer has gone, do you pay upfront for potential talent to an extent that seems unreasonable to a fault?

I would still doubt that Noel ends up with that max contract, but some positioning here could earn him a few extra bucks.

NBA confirms Lakers under investigation for potential tampering with Paul George

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Paul George is not a member of the the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet.

The California native has one year to go on his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded there by the Indiana Pacers. Rumors have been swirling for months about whether George would stay in Indiana, a new city, or if he would bolt for his hometown in LA after the upcoming season comes to a close.

Even more rumors have said that the Lakers have felt confident enough that they are going to get George in the summer of 2018 that they weren’t grabbing him wasn’t considered so urgent that it was a matter of life or death.

Meanwhile, the NBA has confirmed that the Pacers have filed tampering charges against the Lakers, and that the league has hired an independent law firm to conduct the investigation.

From the NBA’s press release:

At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers. The independent investigation is being conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made. We have asked both teams to refrain from commenting all the investigation is ongoing.

The rumor first broke this weekend when Peter Vecsey published it on his Patreon.

Magic Johnson has spoken publicly about George, explicitly stating that he knows he is not supposed to tamper with players. However, on an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show, Johnson did say that he would give a wink to George if you happen to see him.

Via Jimmy Kimmel:

“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school. You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”

“We gonna say hi because we know each other. You just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’

Punishment from tampering charges are rare in the NBA but are not unheard of. In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings were fined for name dropping Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

According to ESPN, Johnson is at the center of the investigation for tampering with George. If evidence is found, the punishment could be significant for LA, and could include future restrictions when it comes time to acquire George.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN.

If the league office’s probe can prove the Lakers were guilty of tampering with George while under contract with Indiana, Los Angeles can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.

It’s still unclear at this point if anything is going to come out of this investigation, but it certainly does seem as though Los Angeles is confident that they are going to be able to sign George next summer.