D.J. Foster

T-Mac Back? McGrady Might Play in China Again

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Just a few shorts weeks ago, Tracy McGrady announced his retirement from the NBA. It’s always hard to gauge when the right time to go out is, but this felt right. McGrady had an incredible career that was ravaged by back injuries and bad luck, as he and Yao Ming rarely seemed healthy at the same time.

In my mind, McGrady belongs in the hall. Although playoff success eluded him, for many years McGrady was considered a Top-5 player in the game. It’s different eras, but if Bernard King’s lack of rings or playoff series wins didn’t stop his inclusion, it shouldn’t stop McGrady’s either.

But let’s snap back to what’s going on right now, because McGrady’s basketball career might not be over — at least overseas.

Although he’s retired from the NBA, McGrady is contemplating playing basketball one more year in China. “I have a lot of fans over there so we’ll see,” he said.

Via Mary Perez of the Sun Herald.

One thing that we know the basketball hall of fame takes into account is international play. While McGrady’s influence in China might not be a huge factor, another season at least puts it on his resume, right?

For those fans of the CBA in China who love McGrady so much, it’s the Sichuan Jinqiang Whale who have reportedly shown interest (h/t to HoopsRumors.com) in the 34-year-old. Yesterday, the team signed the 6th pick of the 2009 draft, Jonny Flynn to a contract. Could a Flynn-McGrady backcourt happen? I’d watch that.

If McGrady wants to keep playing in China or anywhere else around the globe, best of luck to him. He was robbed of a lot of time in his prime, so he deserves every minute he can spend on the floor.

Dirk Nowitzki Playing 5-on-5 Before Training Camp for First Time in Years

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15 seasons. Over 45,000 minutes of regular season and playoff minutes. International play. Training camps. Practices.

That’s a lot of miles on the old odometer, but that’s not stopping Dirk Nowitzki from getting acclimated to his new teammates.

After all, there’s only so much time Nowitzki has left in his career, and after the Mavericks balked at the chance to rebuild, both Nowitzki and the Mavs are all-in on the present. That means guys are ramping up a little earlier than usual.

“He is playing 5-on-5 with the guys,” owner Mark Cuban said. “(That’s) something he hasn’t done in years. Actually, all you need to know is that he’s talking about possibly playing more internationally. I don’t think he’s doing it just to make me mad.

“You never know in this business. But he looks good.”

Via Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News.

It’s good to hear Nowitzki is feeling up to the challenge of carrying the Mavericks, because he’ll have to do just that if Dallas wants any chance at the playoffs this season.

Nowitzki missed the first 26 games of the season last year after knee issues flared up in training camp and preseason, but both he and the team appear confident that no health problems will arise this season. The extra time on the court with the newly signed backcourt of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon is important, but working with Samuel Dalembert on their back-line defensive chemistry might be even more critical.

We know Nowitzki will score in a ridiculous fashion, but what we don’t know is how the Mavericks can hold up defensively this season. Calderon and Ellis are swinging doors on the perimeter, and Nowitzki, while crafty with his strips in the post, isn’t as mobile as he once was.

Can a team with so many aging veterans cobble together a defense that’s at least league average? Right next to Nowitzki’s health, that’s the biggest concern this season. But at least on Nowitzki’s front, it’s so far, so good in Big D.

Atlanta Hawks Guard Lou Williams Not Yet Cleared for Training Camp

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As Derrick Rose taught us last season, recoveries from ACL surgery can vary wildly. Some guys can recover in as quickly as six or seven months, while others can take more than a year before they even feel “right” again. Every body is different, and expecting athletes to rehabilitate at the exact same level and pace, both mentally and physically, is silly.

Atlanta Hawks guard Lou Williams is still recovering from his ACL tear on January 18th of this year, and although he’s progressing, it might be a while before we see him in an NBA game.

“Hawks training camp begins in 11 days – on Oct. 1 – and the team has no timeline on the return of Lou Williams from a torn ACL. According to team officials, Williams is progressing well with his right knee injury. However, he has not yet been given medical clearance by doctors to participate in training camp.”

Via Chris Vivlamore of Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

With Williams still working his way back, the Hawks will likely look to second year guard John Jenkins to play the majority of the minutes at the 2. Jenkins was quietly very impressive as a rookie, shooting 38.4 percent from behind the arc for the season while averaging 15.2 points in the final five games of the year. New head coach Mike Budenholzer understands the value of floor spacing and shooting, so Jenkins would have likely seen a bigger role, even if Williams were healthy and ready to go for training camp.

Once Williams returns to action (and we have no timeline for when that we’ll be) he’ll likely slide in as the Hawks sixth man. If he can return to form, Williams can provide quite a bit of scoring pop off the bench, as he’s averaged 18.6 points per 36 minutes on his career. Atlanta should be able to make the playoffs without him, but to do any significant damage, they’ll need all the scoring help they can get.

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: The New York Knicks

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Last season: If you’ll recall, New York’s offseason leading up to last year was widely regarded as a joke. Jeremy Lin was let go, Raymond Felton was brought in, and then the Knicks seemed to sign all the oldest players available in free agency. But with the benefit of hindsight, the Knicks did about as well as you could hope for given their lack of flexibility thanks to Amar’e Stoudemire’s albatross of a contract.

Maybe it’s because a championship was never a realistic goal, but the New York’s season felt like a resounding success. Winning 54 games, battling a very, very good Indiana Pacers team in the second round of the playoffs, and developing a style of play to set the table for future teams turned what should have been a wasted season into a building block going forward.

Signature highlight from last season: Do we really have to pick just one from the KnicksTape? Well, alright.

Key player changes:

IN: Metta World Peace, Beno Udrih, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway, Jr.

OUT: Chris Copeland (signed with IND), Jason Kidd (retired), Marcus Camby (traded to TOR), Steve Novak (traded to TOR), Quentin Richardson (traded to TOR), Kurt Thomas (retired), Rasheed Wallace (retired), James White (released)

The Knicks certainly added some players with name recognition, and replaced a lot of end of the bench filler with some pretty solid depth. Buying way, way low on Andrea Bargnani is a risk worth taking (if it wasn’t for that rascally draft pick surrendered), and Udrih and MWP can still produce, even if their games are in the shadows of their names at this point.

The biggest mistake may have been letting go of Chris Copeland. He was under-utilized last year under head coach Mike Woodson, and his ability to stretch the floor and score might be missed. Seeing him go to a conference rival had to sting.

Keys to the Knicks’ season:

1. Can the 3-point barrage continue?

No team in NBA history attempted or made more 3-pointers than the Knicks did last season. The decision to fire up an unheard of amount of 3-pointers certainly paid off, as the Knicks pieced together the 3rd best offensive efficiency in the league last year. The Knicks are on to something on the offensive side of the ball, but can they keep it up with all the personnel changes?

Jason Kidd’s shooting ability with his feet set and his masterful extra passes on the perimeter helped father New York’s perimeter ball sharing that led to a lot of really high quality looks. He’ll be missed along with matchup nightmare Chris Copeland, and it will be interesting to see if Udrih and Bargnani curtail their usual mid-range based attacks and opt to take more 3-pointers. Will old habits die hard?

2. Can Tyson Chandler hold the defense together?

Thanks to a little duct tape, WD-40 and the presence of Tyson Chandler in the middle, the Knicks were able to muster out the 18th best defensive efficiency mark in the league. Now, that might not sound great, but given the injuries, age, and minus defenders on the roster, it probably should have been much worse.

There is good news on the horizon though. Iman Shumpert is fully recovered from his ACL injury, Pablo Prigioni is a known entity now, and Metta World Peace and Tim Hardaway, Jr. should provide some muscle and speed on the perimeter. Ultimately, however, everything defensively for the Knicks boils down to the big man in the middle. If Tyson Chandler gets hurt for an extended period of time, this thing could ugly fast. Having Kenyon Martin a full season will help, but the Knicks will be playing defensive sieves like Bargnani and Stoudemire real minutes. Chandler has to be healthy, and he has to erase a ton of mistakes his frontcourt partners are bound to make.

Something to keep in mind: Over the last decade, no team with a defensive efficiency worse than 15th in the league has made an NBA Finals. Only 20% of those below-average defensive teams have made the playoffs.

3. Can all the personalities co-exist?

The Knicks are two-deep at every position. Everyone won’t be healthy at the same time, but it isn’t hard to imagine there being junctures where playing time becomes a big issue in the locker room. Adding Metta World Peace to this eclectic group of characters may seem like it would push this thing over the top, but in reality the Knicks played some of the most unselfish ball in the league last year. So long as Carmelo is getting his, J.R. is allowed to be J.R., and the big dog in the paint gets fed every now and then, the Knicks just might make it. But if they don’t, it will sure be entertaining.

Why you should watch the Knicks: When Carmelo Anthony catches fire, there isn’t much quite like it in the NBA. The Knicks are a little goofy, but a lot of fun to watch offensively when the ball is really swinging around the horn. Also, J.R. Smith is a national treasure.

Prediction: 51-31. For all the hand-wringing over the Bargnani deal, the Knicks didn’t seem to do an awful lot to swing the needle either way this offseason. There might be some early stumbles as the new additions acclimate to their roles, but so long as Carmelo Anthony is on the floor and the threes keep flying, the Knicks have enough firepower to be finish safely in the 50 win area. That said, this preview will self-destruct if Chandler misses a significant amount of time.

JaVale McGee swats Kobe Bryant (VIDEO)

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The Nuggets ran the Lakers out of the building last night, and big man JaVale McGee had a lot to do with it. In just 23 minutes, McGee was pretty dominant with 7 points, 7 boards, 4 blocks and 2 steals.

McGee’s leaping ability made Dwight Howard look ordinary, and that’s no easy feat. On one possession, Dwight tried a little jump hook without blasting McGee back with his shoulder. Bad idea.

But Dwight wasn’t the only one to get rejected by McGee — even Kobe Bryant felt the wrath. Here’s McGee going way, way up to get Kobe’s shot: