Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while mourning the loss of Harold Ramis (RIP)…..
Philadelphia 76ers on the court. My. Lord. They. Are. Terrible. The Sixers have lost 11 in a row after getting just routed by the Milwaukee Bucks 130-110. That would be the 11-win Milwaukee Bucks, which shot 57.1 percent as a team (67.2 true shooting percentage) and had an offensive rating of 130 (points per 100 possessions). They play poor transition defense, which is a big issue for a team playing at the fastest pace in the league. I’d say this is rock bottom but I don’t know that it is —Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner are gone and it’s Thaddeus Young, a rookie Michael Carter-Williams and not much else against the world. It’s hard to watch. Honestly if the 15-42 Sixers get to 20 wins this season I’ll be shocked.
Philadelphia 76ers’ rebuilding plan. If you’re going to rebuild by being bad, then be very bad. This is what organizational tanking looks like — it’s not that the players are not trying (Michael Carter-Williams was +6) but there is no depth of NBA talent on this team. Which is what Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was going for — he has loaded up on picks and as of right now the Sixers would have the second most Ping-Pong balls in the lottery. They stand a very good chance of a top three pick and can’t go lower than four. That’s what they should do in this draft — and even if they draft a real star he and Carter-Williams will learn more hard lessons next year and be bad. But after a few drafts and a few seasons it will start to come together. At least that’s the plan.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. You can’t question the man’s effort — 44 points on 14-of-29 shooting, plus he pulled down nine rebounds. He hit the trailing three that got the Knicks going, he found his groove and carried them. Every night on a roster that has deteriorated around him (don’t tell me this is all on Woodson, he didn’t make Raymond Felton take a step back, or J.R. Smith, or trade for Bargnani) Anthony is bringing it like an All-Star. An increasingly frustrated All-Star. And even when he does things right such as play good man defense on Dirk Nowitzki in the final seconds of the game, it doesn’t matter because the bounce goes the other team’s way. But you have to admire Anthony in the face of this disaster of a season.
Knicks perimeter defense. Dallas just carved it up. Yes, Mike Woodson’s odd love of switching everything and scheme (such as it is) doesn’t help matters, but he has just terrible perimeter defenders to work with (and that includes the now waived Metta World Peace, who moves in molasses and is a shadow of his former self). The Knicks play with no defensive IQ. How the heck is Vince Carter left that open all night long to drain threes? The Knicks pick-and-roll defense is atrocious — it leads to open threes or passes to open cutters every time down. I could go on and on, but watch this defense and tell me again how the Knicks are going to make up 6 games in their remaining 25 and make the playoffs.
We’ve now reached the “negotiate through the media” stage of J.R. Smith‘s free agency.
Everyone expects Smith to re-sign with the Cavaliers, but training camp opened without a deal. Reportedly, discussions are somewhere between $10 million and $15 million annually with contract length a roadblock.
Cavs general manager David Griffin, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:
“As we have stated and coach has previously stated, we think very highly of J.R. and we love him as a member of our team, as a member of our locker room,” General Manager David Griffin said. “He was essential to our success and for that reason we have made an incredibly competitive and aggressive offer in re-signing him.”
I bet Smith’s agent, Rich Paul, would say his contract demands are perfectly reasonable, too.
The Cavaliers want to maximize chemistry as the they defend their title, and that means getting Smith signed as quickly as possible. But they also want to avoid paying Smith a large salary – and taking a big luxury-tax hit – as he declines into his 30s.
Something will eventually give, but first, Griffin is telling the world ending the stalemate is in Smith’s court – though not revealing the exact offer(s) to be judged publicly. We’ll see how Smith and Paul respond.
Phil Jackson said the Knicks aren’t concerned about the civil and potentially criminal rape allegations Derrick Rose is facing. Rose doesn’t sound concerned, either.
But is Rose just putting on a front?
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
For now, the Knicks wait – and hope. Hope that the civil suit is resolved quickly. Hope that Rose – who has been troubled by the uncertainty of his legal entanglements more than he is letting on, sources familiar with Rose told The Vertical – is able to block out the distractions and build on the progress he made last season.
Rose should be concerned. Whatever happened that night, the specter of criminal prosecution and/or civil judgment against him are daunting outcomes. He can try to put that aside and focus on basketball, but this is a major event in his life.
The Bulls reportedly has chemistry issues last season stemming from the Jimmy Butler-Fred Hoiberg relationship. Butler’s most public critique of Hoiberg came in December, when the wing said, “We probably have to be coached a lot harder at times.”
A reasonable criticism for the mild-mannered Hoiberg? Perhaps, especially for a team that responded so well to the hard-driving Tom Thibodeau for the better part of five years.
The best delivery? Probably not, considering Hoiberg was still trying to find his way in his first NBA season.
But Butler hasn’t changed his message.
Butler, via CSN Chicago:
“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”
Tim Duncan was celebrated for years for taking the brunt of Gregg Popovich’s criticism in San Antonio, setting an example for younger Spurs. So much of what Butler has done lately has been spun into a negative, but it seems he’s really trying to sacrifice his pride to help teammates like Doug McDermott and Tony Snell.
If Hoiberg goes along, this could quiet complaints about Butler’s leadership and preferential treatment.
With Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in New York, the Bulls are Butler’s team now. Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have said as much.
It seems Butler is doing what he can to lead the Bulls – his way. The question: Does Hoiberg also think that’s the best way?
Jeremy Lin might want to move past Linsanity, but he’ll always be linked to that period in 2012. It was so enthralling for numerous reasons, including:
- Lin played unsustainably great basketball, leading the Knicks to a 7-1 record while starting with Carmelo Anthony injured and averaging 25.0 points and 9.5 assists per game in that span.
- Lin was excelling in New York, America’s biggest media market.
- The Knicks were desperate for success, having not won a single playoff game in the last decade.
- Lin was undrafted and relatively unknown before breaking out.
- Lin played at Harvard, which is universally known for academics and barely known for basketball.
- Lin is Asian-American, a rarity in high-level basketball.
Yes, that last factor mattered.
Lin, via Peter Botte of the New York Daily News:
“In some ways, Linsanity wouldn’t have been Linsanity if I was a different skin color, most likely, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, and that went to my advantage, too, but if you look prior to that, a lot of the obstacles to even get to that point where I could get to a position of getting on the floor, those were definitely obstacles that were very much stereotypes that I had to fight along the way. So I’ve always understood that there’s good and there’s bad and you have to take them together and just be thankful for it all.”
Linsanity was a culmination of all the elements listed above. Maybe it would’ve happened without one or two, but THE essential factor was Lin’s on-court production. Without that, he never would’ve become a national phenomenon.
Lin’s heritage – he was born in California to Taiwanese-born parents – accentuated his basketball skills, but the basketball skills were the base for his popularity.
And as Lin said, his race was a double-edged sword. It made him less likely to get the benefit of the doubt when rising through the basketball ranks. I believe that coaches, scouts and other players were less inclined to believe in his basketball ability because of his race.
But Lin overcame that and eventually reaped the awards of being an outlier.
Lin has long seemed to possess a keen understanding of himself and a willingness to discuss it. I think he’s spot-on here, and it leads to a better understanding of one of the biggest NBA stories in recent years.