PRO BASKETBALL TALKPBT Select Team

Andrew Bynum gets no slack from his former high school coach

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Andrew Bynum is not exactly the most popular sports figure in Philadelphia right now. To put it kindly.

The man the Sixers traded Andre Iguodala for, the guy they planned to rebuild the roster around, has not played a game for them all season. He was injured, recovery times got pushed, back, and next he had an injury setback while out bowling. Finally he said he didn’t want to play through pain — fans and teammates (who are playing through pain) don’t want to hear that. Bynum’s low pain tolerance and seeming lack passion for the game have been talked about behind his back by former teammates for years.

Now Bynum is going to have surgeries on both knees before becoming a free agent this summer. Philly fans are pretty much done with him.

So, does anyone have his back? You know things are rough for him when Bynum’s former high school athletic director and coach didn’t have his back in an interview with the Star-Ledger’s Dave D’Alessandro.

“Everyone here at school says the same thing: What’s wrong with him? Why does he act like that?” says St. Joe’s athletic director Jerry Smith. “He went from someone we’re proud of to someone whose name we don’t even mention anymore.”

“Yeah, I never respond to that kind of request (to defend Bynum), because Andrew has chosen not to stay in touch for whatever reason, so I just don’t get involved with it,” says Mark Taylor, who now coaches the St. Benedict’s Prep powerhouse. “I don’t dislike him, and he’ll continue to do well if he can stay healthy, but I’m sure he’s got people who will guide him in times like this.”

“Like most big guys with big expectations, he seemed uncomfortable with them,” says Wendell Alexis, the former Syracuse star who was Taylor’s assistant in 2004-05. “And subsequently, he seemed leery of people around him — coaches, or agents, or could be anybody. He had a very serious nature for a 17-year-old, actually, whereas most people that age — with that talent — would think the world was their oyster.”

That kind of aloof posture is how many former teammates speak of Bynum.

The question now becomes what kind of deal is Bynum going to be offered? D’Alessandro suggests it’s in the one-year, $8 million range. I think Bynum is the first big test of the new CBA and tax rules — while that one-year deal is what he should get, I think some team will gamble more because of the potential return. He is an All-Star and game changer at both ends when healthy, teams in the past have taken risks and overpaid bigs (Kris Humphires got $12 million a year for two years last summer). I expect an offer more like two or three years in the $12 million to $15 million range, with teams using an exemption that lets them waive him if he can’t play due to his knees.

But we’ll see. If I’m Philadelphia I’m more likely to bid low and just move on, despite the huge loss. Because Bynum isn’t going to help you sell a lot of tickets again. Except to boo him.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.

James Harden says playing in every game should matter in MVP voting

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James Harden has played in every Houston Rocket game this season so far. Russell Westbrook has done the same thing for Oklahoma City.

When voters sit down in a few weeks to choose the league’s Most Valuable Player — in one of the most wide-open races in memory, with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making legitimate cases as well — Harden says they should take playing every game into account. It’s the latest part of the rest discussion going on around the league. Here’s what Harden told Calvin Watkins of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you’re not leaving your teammates out there to dry, ” Harden said Tuesday morning, before the Rockets’ game against the Warriors. “For me, I worry about always having my teammates’ back and always being out there….

“I’m going to have [my teammates’] back and they know that they have mine as well,” said Harden, who is second in the league in points and first in assists. “For the coaching staff and the fans, especially here in Houston, the front office, I’m here to play.”

Both LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard have had rest nights.

This injects Harden into the rest debate, where recently Harden’s teammate Patrick Beverley came out and said players are “disrespecting the game” when they rest. Gregg Popovich sees more nuance in the debate and certainly backs resting players. On the latest PBT Podcast, former Bull B.J. Armstrong told me that they didn’t have rest days back in his day, but players were kept out of games for things they could play through to get right for the playoffs, it was just listed differently. He added that the rest situation might have been different back in the day if the data about the increased chance of player injuries on the second night of a back-to-back (and it goes up from there with four games in five nights) had been available.

In this case, Harden lobbying for his case in the MVP voting. The thing is, his numbers make the case for him: Harden is averaging 29.4 points per game, leading the league with 11.3 assists a night, and he’s creating the most points per game 27.5 (buckets and direct assists. He has taken on the point guard duties in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has taken on the largest load on offense he has in his career — and he has continued to do it efficiently.

However, one can make a strong statistical case for Westbrook (who carries a larger load for an OKC team that has less talent around its star than Houston), Leonard (best defender of the group), and LeBron (the Cavs recent struggles may doom his chances).

Little details are going to divide this group, and Harden is trying to get his point out there.

That said, the Rockets are almost certainly locked into the three seed in the West, and once it’s clear they are in that slot team management should discuss giving Harden a night off before the playoffs, to let his body rest. Whether he wants to or not.

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