Author: Dan Feldman

Jeremy Lin Pablo Prigioni

Michael Jordan: Jeremy Lin will be Hornets’ biggest acquisition


Jeremy Lin is playing pretty well in the preseason, and Hornets owner Michael Jordan is excited.

Jordan, via Xinhua News Agency:

We just got Jeremy Lin, who I think is going to be our biggest acquisition. His penetration, his shooting capability, his point guard savvy, he can really pass the basketball, his energy about the game of basketball something,” Jordan said.

What about Nicolas Batum? Frank Kaminsky? Spencer Hawes?

Lin is a nice player and one of the NBA’s better backup point guards, but he’s not Charlotte’s biggest acquisition.

That’s Batum, whom the Hornets got for the promising Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson. Batum, especially after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s injury, figures to play a big role in the starting lineup. Lin is stuck behind Kemba Walker.

Evan Kaminsky, the No. 9 pick, can make a case as the biggest acquisition of the offseason. Charlotte rejected the Celtics’ offer of four first-round picks – including an unprotected Nets pick – to select Kaminsky. I can concede that Jordan might have been talking about this season only, and rookies rarely make big impacts.

But in that case, Hawes should be in the running. He’s Al Jefferson‘s primary backup, and he could play plenty of power forward to space the floor next to Jefferson, especially if Marvin Williams plays up at small forward with Kidd-Gilchrist out.

For Kaminsky and Hawes, the battle to be known as Charlotte’s biggest acquisition is pretty academic. If I’m Batum, a pending free agent, I’m wondering what my new boss thinks of me.

51Q: How long will the Spurs need to mesh?

LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan

The San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge are undertaking a rare experiment – one that has produced a championship more often than not.

Just five players in NBA history have changed teams in the offseason after averaging as many points per game as Aldridge did last year (23.4) and gone to a team that won as many games as the Spurs did (55):

  • Walt Hazzard, traded from the Seattle SuperSonics to the 56-win Atlanta Hawks after averaging 24.0 points in 1968
  • Oscar Robertson, traded from the Cincinnati Royals to the 56-win Milwaukee Bucks in 25.3 points in 1970
  • Charlie Scott, traded from the Phoenix Suns to the 60-win Boston Celtics after averaging 24.3 points in 1975
  • Moses Malone, traded from the Houston Rockets to the 58-win Philadelphia 76ers after averaging 31.1 points in 1982
  • Jeff Malone, traded from the Washington Bullets to the 55-win Utah Jazz after averaging 24.3 points in 1990

Scott, Robertson and Moses Malone all won a championship in their first season with their new team.

The bar is no lower in San Antonio this year.

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili might be in their final seasons. Tony Parker could be over the hill soon, if he isn’t already.

Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gregg Popovich give the Spurs a bright future beyond this season, but to reward the old guard with one more title, the time is now.

Unfortunately, recent history suggests growing pains.

The only scorers as proficient as Aldridge to change teams in the last eight years were LeBron and Kevin Love to the Cavaliers last year and LeBron and Chris Bosh to the Heat in 2010. Cleveland started 19-20. Miami began 8-7.

But the Cavaliers were awful before LeBron’s return, and the Heat didn’t get out of the first round the year prior to LeBron’s arrival. Plus, both teams added two new stars, more upheaval.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are a model of consistency. They’ve reached the playoffs 18 straight seasons and will mostly rely on other returners, though David West will contribute. Their system is solidified.

And so is Aldridge’s. He works methodically with the ball. He shoots mid-range jumpers, ideally working from the left side. He prefers power forward to center.

He also seems to believe the Spurs won’t change him, a notion they’ve fueled.

But there will have to be change. After trading Tiago Splitter to clear cap space, San Antonio needs Aldridge to play some center. His new teammates might be willing to defer offensively, but there will still be a push for Aldridge to pass more in Popovich’s scheme.

The Cavaliers and Heat reached the Finals their first seasons with their new stars, though both teams were more open to a shakeup.

The Spurs want to do things their way. Aldridge has known only how to do things his way.

Where that doesn’t intersect, both sides must find common ground – ideally while Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are still around.

Damian Lillard: ‘I’m not going to be the hero’

Damian Lillard
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It was Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts who first addressed the elephant in the room.

General manager Neil Olshey took the stage to face the media at the start of fall camp, and Stotts jokingly lobbed the first question: “Why didn’t you sign LaMarcus?”

LaMarcus, of course, is LaMarcus Aldridge, a fixture on the Trail Blazers’ roster for the past nine years, who left for San Antonio as a free agent in the offseason.

Aldridge wasn’t the only starter to leave: So did guard Wesley Matthews (Mavericks), center Robin Lopez (Knicks) and fellow forward Nicolas Batum (Hornets). Those four, along with point guard Damian Lillard, anchored a team that went 51-31 before getting bounced from the first round of the playoffs by Memphis.

Lillard, the only starter standing once the summer was over, now shoulders the “face of the franchise” tag.

He’d prefer the focus be on team.

“I’m not too interested in all this leadership talk to be honest with you. It’s kind of funny that it has become the story,” he said. “Everything that we’re doing is going to be based on the group. I’m not going to be the hero.”

Lillard, an All-Star who signed a five-year, $120 million contract with Portland in the offseason, averaged a career-high 21 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds last season.

He’ll be surrounded by a yet-to-be announced cast of starters, from a roster that ranks the third-youngest in the NBA.

Some other things to watch for when it comes to the Blazers’ upcoming season:

MCCOLLUM AT POINT: Coach Stotts in the preseason played guard CJ McCollum at point guard, suggesting he will be Lillard’s backup. McCollum saw minutes at shooting guard late last season, stepping in after Matthews tore his Achilles, averaging 17 points and four rebounds in the postseason, including a career-high 33 points in Game 5.

“It’s a comfortable role for me, and one that I can thrive in, I just have to get more reps at the NBA level,” McCollum said.

OH MEYERS: 7-foot-1 Meyers Leonard, poised to break out in his fourth season with Portland, made seven starts for Portland last season and appeared in all five playoff games. Athletic for a big, he also emerged as a surprising 3-point threat and came off the bench for a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds) against Memphis in Game 4 of the playoffs.

It’s possible the Blazers slide him to power forward because of his athleticism and shooting ability.

NEW FACES: The new guys include 6-foot-11 Mason Plumlee, who spent his first two NBA seasons with the Brooklyn Nets. He was acquired, along with the draft rights to rookie Pat Connaughton, from the Nets in a deal that sent guard Steve Blake to Brooklyn.

The most veteran of the newcomers is Gerald Henderson Jr., with six years in the league, and center Ed Davis, who has played for the Lakers, Toronto and Memphis over five NBA seasons. Forward Al-Farouq Aminu signed as a free agent after five seasons with several teams.

CONNAUGHTON GOES WITH BASKETBALL: At least for now, it appears Connaughton has settled on chasing his hoop dreams. The rookie out of Notre Dame has a 96 mph fast ball and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2014 before deciding to return to the Fighting Irish for his final season of basketball.

The 31st overall pick by Brooklyn, Connaughton averaged 12.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season at Notre Dame.

SO THAT STARTING 5?: Only the Blazers know for sure, and they’re probably still trying to figure it out, too. Portland is still waiting on Henderson to get healthy from offseason hip surgery. But it appears that it will be Lillard at point (McCollum at backup), Henderson at shooting guard, Aminu at small forward, Davis or Leonard at power forward and Plumlee at center.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Kevin Garnett (video)

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Highlights: The psyche-up speech, causing a tangle and then walking away with arms raised in feigned innocence just like Kevin Garnett would

Lowlight: Not finding someone smaller to play the player Garnett torments

Are Knicks rebuilding? Derek Fisher: ‘Was Atlanta rebuilding last year?’

Derek Fisher

NEW YORK (AP) — When Phil Jackson went looking for players last summer, the best ones available had the same thoughts about joining the New York Knicks.

No thanks. No way.

Jackson should know as well as anyone that a team needs multiple stars to win championships, as he did in all of his 11 championship-winning seasons as a coach. Now as a team president, he still has just Carmelo Anthony.

But though that may mean the Knicks aren’t championship material, they believe Jackson did well enough to make them winners, not just rebuilders coming off the worst season in team history.

“If rebuilding for us is based on the fact that we don’t have a certain caliber of player on our roster quote-unquote other than Carmelo, so people assume that we’re rebuilding,” coach Derek Fisher said. “But was Atlanta rebuilding last year when they didn’t have that quote-unquote player on their roster?”

“So it just depends on who your team is and we think that our group, as we figure some things out, will be more competitive than maybe what people think.”

Players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe couldn’t be enticed to come to New York, but Jackson found interest in another tier of players. The Knicks signed Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Derrick Williams, Kyle O'Quinn, Kevin Seraphin and Sasha Vujacic, players who don’t stand out individually but might fit nicely on a team.

“We want to win, so we didn’t go out and sign six rookies,” Fisher said. “We signed quality veteran players because we’re trying to win right now.”

Jackson said before last season he thought the Knicks could compete for a playoff spot, and they ended up going 17-65. He’s staying away from predictions this time, as did Anthony when he reported for training camp after missing the second half of last season following knee surgery.

But Anthony was adamant that they could be competitive by just a few days later, and is seeing progress as they approach the season opener.

“We’re moving in a good place,” he said. “Some good things that we’re doing, some things that we can get better at, that we will get better at with some time.”

Here are some things to watch with the Knicks:

PORZINGIS’ PROSPECTS: Jackson used the No. 4 pick on 20-year-old Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 forward from Latvia who has range well beyond the 3-point line. Knicks fans are optimistic but cautious, recognizing his potential but fearing the bust factor after getting little or nothing from Europeans Frederic Weis and Andrea Bargnani.

FOCUS ON FISHER: Fisher had a miserable first season as coach and a rocky start to the second after missing a practice following an altercation with former teammate Matt Barnes in Los Angeles. He insists he’s focused on his job, but his team could keep further pressure off him by playing well.

CARMELO’S COMEBACK: Limited to a career-low 40 games last season before left knee surgery after the All-Star break, Anthony has looked sharp and completely recovered during the preseason. Many of the players Jackson added play power forward, which could allow Anthony to spend more time at his natural small forward spot and take less of a pounding.

JACKSON’S JOB: Jackson, at Fisher’s request, plans to spend more time around the coaching staff this season to offer his expertise, saying perhaps he stepped back too far last season in his first full year as an executive.

WATCHING WILLIAMS: The second overall pick in the 2011 draft has averaged just 9.3 points playing for Minnesota and Sacramento, but looked comfortable while providing some surprising scoring punch during his first preseason with the Knicks.