Kurt Helin

Chicago Bulls v New Orleans Pelicans

Russell Westbrook says Derrick Rose is back to his old self

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The Derrick Rose pre-injuries was explosive and dynamic — a guy who you could not take your eyes off of, who could carry his teams to wins, and was virtually unguardable. After his injuries Rose relied more on skill than athleticism, and getting there is a process. There’s nothing wrong with that — the great players evolve over the course of their career. The 2010 Kobe Bryant was not the 2002 version, and guys like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson evolved their games over time. Rose’s evolution was forced by injury and with that was uneven. Choose your advanced stat from last season — VORP, win shares, adjusted +/-, PER — and Rose was pretty blah.

However, there were stretches of quality play from Rose last season, and each time he had a great game we heard the same refrain: “the old Derrick Rose is back.” Which never felt true nor was it sustained, but it makes a great narrative.

So pardon my cynicism as Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com passes along this note from the explosive Russell Westbrook about Rose.

I’m going to act like I’m from Missouri on this one — show me.

I’m not alone in my scepticism. Even Goodwill threw this out.

I hope for the sake of the Bulls and fans of the game everywhere Rose proves me wrong. But I need to see it.

Paul George is excused from Team USA mini-camp

Team USA Showcase
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One can understand if Paul George may not want to play in the Team USA intrasquad exhibition game in Las Vegas this week. He’s not exactly had positive experiences with that in the past.

Still, George wants the opportunity to make the Team USA roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics, so he was in Las Vegas Tuesday for the opening of Team USA’s mini-camp (players had to show up in Las Vegas to be considered). But he was one-and-done — one day and he was excused from hanging around for the rest of camp, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources told ESPN.com that George attended both a team meeting Monday night as well as a one-on-one sitdown with Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, thus satisfying a mandate from USAB managing director Jerry Colangelo that any player who wants to be considered for the 2016 Olympic team must show himself in Vegas.

But sources say George — who was always expected by USAB officials to sit out this week’s two light workouts as well as Thursday night’s intrasquad scrimmage — was spared the chore of being forced to watch Tuesday’s noncontact session from the sideline and then face the media hordes in attendance.

After his horrific leg fracture a year ago at a Team USA exhibition, George missed almost the entire next NBA season.

He’s a bit of a longshot to make the roster for Rio, if he’s going to make it then it all starts with him looking like his old self this coming season. If he’s defending well on the wing and racking up points efficiently (and showing off a sweet outside stroke) then it’s possible he makes the cut.

But he doesn’t need to hang around Vegas a few extra days to prove anything.

Markieff Morris on Phoenix Suns: “I am not going to be there”

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets
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Last summer, twins Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris each took a little less money so they could play as teammates with the Phoenix Suns, as they had done since high school and through college at Kansas. Then this summer the Suns turned around and traded Marcus to Detroit to clear cap space as part of their failed effort entice LaMarcus Aldridge.

That has not set well with Markieff at all — he feels the franchise stabbed them in the back. Suns management hoped he would come around, but reports were Markeiff wanted out.

Now those are not reports — Markeiff said just that to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“One thing for sure, I am not going to be there,” Morris said Tuesday after a morning workout at Competitive Edge Sports in King of Prussia. “If you want to put that out there, you can put that out. ” he added. “I don’t give a [freak]. I am not going to be there at all. That’s just what it is.”

What happens if the Suns don’t trade him before training camp starts?

“I’ve got to show up. No question.” said Markieff Morris, who is scheduled to make $8 million this season. “You can’t do that. I will be a professional. Don’t get me wrong.

“But it won’t get that far. … I’m going to be out before then, should be.”

Morris would get fined by the league for saying “I am demanding a trade.” But this is as close as one can get to that line without crossing it.

Markeiff is not likely landing with his brother in Detroit — just-drafted Stanley Johnson is the future at the three for the Pistons, they are not going to pay two twins at that spot in front of him. But it doesn’t sound like Markeiff cares as much about that — he feels betrayed, and he wants to be somewhere else.

Everyone in the league knows that, good luck getting market value for him in a trade. The Suns have put themselves in a bind.

Phil Jackson: “I think we succeeded” in changing Knicks’ culture

Phil Jackson
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The Knicks were a flat out disaster on the court last season.

New York fans are not renown for their patience so rebuilding there would always lead to cries of pain, but the Knicks being terrible on the court was to be expected last season. The real question in Phil Jackson’s first season was not wins and losses but rather something more intangible:

Could he change the culture of the organization and start to lay a foundation for future success?

Jackson thinks he did, as he told Charlie Rosen for ESPN.

“I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the Knicks since I left here. Love, because playing here was such a joy. Hate, because the Bulls always had to get past the Knicks in some very contentious series to advance in the playoffs. But I had to break up the team for us to move forward in the right direction. That means getting talented players that fit with each other on and off the court. Also getting players who understand that while playing basketball is fun, this is also a business. So we need guys who will ice after practice, watch what they eat, avoid having those three extra beers when they party, and get the rest they need. I think we succeeded in getting this particular cultural change.”

Guys such as Andrea Bargnani certainly did not get how to be professional, and they are gone. In their place come solid pros such as Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo. Those players should lead the way and set the example for Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, and Langston Galloway.

Throw in a healthy Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks should be improved on the court and better off it. Is that enough to make the playoffs in the East? If everything comes together they may be in the mix for a spot.

Is that enough to make the New York media and some fans happy? Certainly not.

But I’ve said this before: If Phil Jackson can keep owner James Dolan out of the decision-making process and guide/let the basketball people just do their thing, he’s worth $12 million a year. It still will take years to build the Knicks back up (and we can debate if Jackson is capable of that, I think the jury is still out) but if he can keep the Knicks on one path rather than the constantly changing it will let them build a foundation.

Reminder: LeBron James has a lot of miles on his tires

LeBron James
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LeBron James is near the peak of his powers and is still only 30 years old.

LeBron James also has now played more minutes — regular season, playoffs, and international combined — than Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Larry Bird, or Isiah Thomas did in their careers. LeBron is ninth on the all-time minutes played list already and should pass Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing this coming season. All of those guys started to battle injuries late in their career, it should be noted.

The folks over at Hoopshype put this in a handy graphic form to make their point.

That is not the all-time list. The All-Time minutes list starts with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (66,297) and then goes to Karl Malone, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Ewing, Barkley, and then LeBron.

What do all those minutes mean? Not much yet. Mostly because LeBron is built like a super-human cyborg and as such has rarely seen injuries or other human frailties in his career. In the playoffs last season he gave us a reminder that he is still the best player alive. I still fully expect him to lead the Cavaliers to a couple titles the next handful of years.

LeBron has seen a dip in efficiency the past couple seasons, although that likely has more to do with the fact he had to carry more offensive load. Probably.

The minutes is just something to keep in the back of your mind as we head into a new season. At some point those miles will catch up with him.