Amir Johnson elephant

Friday And-1 Links: Toronto’s Amir Johnson rides an elephant


Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points more than Fox News loves blond female anchors…

• That is the Raptors’ Amir Johnson riding an elephant. What more need be said?

• Knicks fans: Would you be willing to part with Iman Shumpert to move Amar’e Stoudemire? Here are some trade scenarios for you.

• While we’re talking Knicks, here is the best spin on Andrea Bargnani: He could be a better version of Steve Novak. Maybe a better version of Chris Copeland. The two caveats there are: 1) He has to hit his threes again, he hasn’t for a couple of years; 2) Bargnani is going to make $11.5 million this season, Copeland $3 million, is Bargs that much better?

• The best case scenario for Pau Gasol is he’s going to have a really good season without Howard clogging the post. Question is, if he plays well there will be interest from other teams and will the Lakers keep him the full season?

Great look from Sean Highkin at the USA Today of every NBA jersey.

Sports Illustrated with a fantastic — and long, and detailed — look at Brad Stevens of the Celtics.

• Interesting stat idea: Total Burden Ratings. The basic idea is how much of an offense does a player take on and how well does he do with it?

• If NBA rookies were on Iron Chef, what would they cook? Not a lot of winning dishes, it seems.

• Negotiations to move a $100 million renovation of the Target Center in Minneapolis are nearly done. The Timberwolves will pitch in $44 million toward the costs.

• Shareef Abdur-Rahim has been named as the general manager of the Reno Bighorns, the Kings D-League team.

• If you haven’t looked yet, here is DraftExpress’ 2014 mock draft.

• Jordan Williams, formerly of the Nets, has signed with Bilbao in Spain. That’s an amazing city, by the way.

• Finally, Jonas Valanciunas and his Kung-Fu defense.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Markieff Morris will be a happy Sun

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After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.

So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?

Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.

The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.

Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.