Kurt Helin

Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons

Report: Pistons’ Jennings not close to being cleared

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Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson are going to make an interesting one-two punch at the point guard spot in Detroit — and Stan Van Gundy still plans to play the together at points.

But we’re not going to see that for a while because Jennings is still trying to recover from his torn Achilles suffered last January. That’s not new news, but it was confirmed by David Aldridge of NBA.com in his must-read Monday column.

Jennings is “not close” to being cleared, according to a source. He is currently shooting and running on a treadmill at 60 percent of his body weight, but the Pistons need to be able to see him run, cut and shoot off of one leg before he’s cleared to even begin non-contact drills on court.

Previous reports suggested it will be December before Jennings returns.

When he does return he will come off the bench, but once fully healthy he’s going to get plenty of run — in part because he can play, and in part because the Pistons will want to showcase him for a potential trade. Detroit committed to Jackson as the point guard with his massive new contract this summer, he’s not the guy SVG wants to move. Rather, it will be Jackson in the last year of his contract who will be shopped as a rental.

But we’re a long way from that, too, because any team is going to want to see him play a little before getting serious about trade talks.

Report: Cavs’ Love, Irving to be limited in camp

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Four

The only thing that appears to be standing between the Cleveland Cavaliers and a return to the NBA Finals is health. (It’s not the rest of the Eastern Conference.)

On that front, the latest report is good news for Cavs fans — Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Timofey Mozgov, and Anderson Varejao are all going to be participating at the start of training camp, reports Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Although, you’ll have to use a broad definition of participating — the two big stars will be limited, he adds.

Irving (fractured knee cap) and Love (separated shoulder) will be active during camp, but on a limited basis. The Cavaliers will work the two in slowly and cautiously. The anticipation is that Love will be fully cleared with no limitations before Irving is given the green light, I’m told.

Love said on the “Late Night with Seth Meyers” talk show Sept. 11 that he was “a month and a half away” from returning.

Love is expected to be cleared and ready to go full speed around the start of the season.

Irving will be longer and is expected to miss opening night, although the reports of a January return were just someone trying to control the spin. (Say he’s out until January and he returns in early December and it looks like he beat the timetable.) I’ve heard to expect his return somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Mozgov had his knee scoped, while Varejao is coming back off a torn Achilles tendon. Both are expected to have no restrictions on them when camp opens.

All of that should not be a problem for the Cavaliers and not hurt their standing in the Eastern Conferernce. They have a full season to get healthy, integrate everyone into the offense, and hone their defensive rotations. Their success this season will be judged only on a return to the Finals, and maybe winning it. And they need to get healthy to have a shot at it.

Blake Griffin “absolutely” wants role in Space Jam 2

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There is still nothing official, but after LeBron James teamed up with Warner Bros. the rumors of a Space Jam 2 have been flying around faster than the Roadrunner. IMBD says the project status is unknown but does have a writer listed. It seems to be in the early stages of development without an official green light from the studio, but there is some heat off the fire.

Blake Griffin wants in.

You probably could have picked that up from the ad for his Superfly 4s ad (above). The Clippers’ big man recently talked to Alex Kennedy Basketball Insiders, and when asked about a future comedy acting career, he played it down — until Space Jam 2 was mentioned.

“Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I’d love to be involved in any capacity, really. ‘Space Jam’ was a huge part of my childhood. I actually had a “Space Jam”-themed birthday party as a teen. Then, when I turned 21, my friends got me a ‘Space Jam’ cake again just to re-live the glory days. It has been a big thing for me so being able to be involved in any capacity would be great, even just being one of the guys that’s in there would be cool. I think it would be a lot of fun. If you told me when I was 8 years old that I could possibly have a chance to be in ‘Space Jam 2,’ it would have blown my mind. That would just be like another check off the bucket list.”

Griffin surrendered all leverage in trying to negotiate a bigger check to be in that film with those comments. And it sounds like he doesn’t care.

There’s no doubt Warner Bros. could slap together a Space Jam 2 and make a ton of money off it, by the time you factor in international and streaming revenues. NBA players and Bugs Bunny are going to draw people to screens. My hope is that they don’t just slap it together. Think Pixar — get a good script together, then build off that. If you’re going to do it, do it right. We don’t need the “Sideout” of basketball, we need a good film.

Report: Timberwolves, Anthony Bennett talking buyout

Men's basketball, Gold medal game,

Anthony Bennett played well for Canada this summer — he averaged 7.6 points per game on 64.7 percent shooting, plus pulled down 5.4 rebounds a game in the FIBA Americas tournament. He had some quality games in the run-up to the tournament as well.

But that doesn’t easily translate to playing well in the NBA — and the Timberwolves aren’t going to wait around to find out if it’s going to this time.

Bennett and the Timberwolves are talking buyout, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Bennett is owed $5.8 million this season, with a team option for $7.3 million next season (part of his rookie contract). The Timberwolves need to buy one of their players out, they have 16 guaranteed contracts currently and can only carry 15 when the season starts.

This news comes just days after Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he thought Bennett would remain on the team. Minnesota had tried to trade Bennet before, but there were no takers. Minnesota got Bennett from Cleveland in the Kevin Love trade (remember the Timberwolves tried to spin it as “we got two No. 1 picks for Love, although all they really wanted was Andrew Wiggins). The Cavaliers took Bennett with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft in a surprise move (most teams had him ranked between eighth and out of the lottery).

Minnesota is stacked up front. They have a five-man big rotation already of Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, Nikola Pekovic, and Adreian Payne. They don’t need Bennett.

But some team should give him a shot. Bennett is just 22 and entering his third NBA season, and while he’s never going to be a star it is possible he could develop into a solid rotation player. Maybe. He’s shown flashes of quality play before — 2014 Summer League, for example — but he hasn’t been able to sustain that into the NBA regular season. He also hasn’t been healthy until recently, which impacted is conditioning (one of the bigger issues surrounding Bennett).

Canadian national team coach Jay Triano gave Bennett excellent advice — simplify the game, find a thing or two you’re good at and focus on doing those things exceptionally well. Bennett is athletic, long, and can run the floor, but all of his skill still need polishing. In the right developmental setting, maybe he can step up his game. It would be a roll of the dice, but one worth taking.

But that is apparently not going to be in Minnesota.

51 Q: Is coach Fred Hoiberg the answer in Chicago?

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Is Fred Hoiberg the answer in Chicago?

In the minds of a lot of fans and experts, the Chicago Bulls are the team best positioned to challenge to Cleveland for supremacy in the East.

You can credit Steve Kerr for that.

Or maybe you should blame him.

Last season, Kerr came into Golden State with no head coaching experience, following a respected coach who had won 51 games, put in a more up-tempo and motion-based offense, broke up the traditional starting lineup, kept the focus on the defensive end, and won a title.

This season, Fred Hoiberg comes into Chicago with no NBA head coaching experience, following a respected but headstrong coach who won 50 games, will install an up-tempo and more motion based offense, likely will change around the traditional front-court lineup, and is talking about keeping a defensive focus.

There are plenty of similarities.

Will that be enough to make the Chicago Bulls contenders?

Probably not. Because beyond the similarities, the Bulls have far more questions to answer than those Warriors did — specifically ones about age and what their key players have left in the tank. Plus, the Warriors were incredibly lucky on the injury front last season — is anyone willing to bet that happens with the Bulls?

Health of the players — specifically running them into the ground until they were tired and more injury prone — was the biggest sticking point between Tom Thibodeau and John Paxon, Gar Forman and the rest of Bulls management. In this case management was right. In an era where more and more studies are showing players perform better and their injury risk goes down with increased rest, Thibodeau coached from an old-school “if they’re healthy they can play” mentality. The result was Jimmy Butler playing a league-leading 38.7 minutes per game, followed by Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose all playing at least 30 minutes a game (and Mike Dunleavy was at 29.2.). We’d seen this Bulls movie before — they broke down physically and never fully recovered from their injuries. By the time the playoffs rolled around, they didn’t have the legs and health to truly threaten a banged-up Cavaliers squad.

We know this for sure — Hoiberg is going to rest guys. Minutes per game will go down, and there will be more nights off for guys who need it. Bulls players should be fresher come the playoffs.

The question is will that be enough to bring key guys back to near their peak form? Noah, Gasol, Taj Gibson, Kirk Heinrich, and Mike Dunleavy are all 30 or older, and while Rose is 27 there is some heavy mileage on those legs. Even with more rest, at the age of these players injuries are more likely. The bigger question becomes, is a little more rest going to return Rose and Noah close to the level of a former MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively?

That is the one key difference between Kerr’s and Hoiberg’s situations — Kerr took over a young team with guys like Klay Thomson, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and others. Those players are early in their career, relatively healthy, and still taking big steps forward in levels of play each year. Kerr had a team primed to improve, to grow, if the right coach came along.

Hoiberg takes over a Bulls squad that has been a borderline contender for five years now. Even rested, how much more are Rose, Noah, Gasol or Gibson are going to improve? We know who and what they are.

That said, Hoiberg should be able to put guys in better positions to succeed. The Bulls are going to play faster — Hoiberg’s Iowa State teams loved to push the tempo then run drag or double drag screens early in the clock — and that can get guys in better matchup before the defense sets. Gasol and Noah can set a double-drag for Rose, with Noah rolling to the rim and Gasol popping out for a jumper, and you can imagine how that is hard to defend if Rose is his old self. His half court sets have a lot of weakside movement, which is a needed change. Younger players such as Tony Snell, Butler, promising rookie Bobby Portis, and even Nikola Mirotic could thrive off the bench in this system.

The one interesting fit will be Gasol. As we saw at EuroBasket this summer, he operates best in the post or the elbow, where thanks to his fundamentals he can score or beat teams who collapse on him with great passing. But Hoiberg’s system doesn’t run a lot of post ups. If Gasol is relegated more to the perimeter, does this become a situation more like Mike D’Antoni’s Lakers where they struggled to find a fit for Gasol? Probably not, Hoiberg will be flexible, and expect them to try at times to get Gasol the ball deep in the post early in the clock when he beats his defender down court. Still, Gasol’s fit is something to watch.

One thing to expect — Hoiberg to shake up the Noah-Gasol combo, pairing one with Mirotic and one with Gibson in the rotation (then trying to find a spot for Portis). That alone has the potential make the Bulls front court more dynamic. The Gasol/Noah pairing is a little too slow for what Hoiberg wants to run.

As for defense, I don’t expect a big drop off — as much as scheme, Thibodeau’s defense was built around out-working the other team, and that kind of mentality doesn’t instantly fade away. Hoiberg may tweak the system, but the Bulls defense should still be top 10.

Hoiberg is going to bring needed changes to Chicago — ones Thibodeau was too stubborn to implement (in part because of his feud with the front office).

Will it make the Bulls better? Maybe, Thibs is a good coach and Hoiberg is unproven; we’ll have to wait and see.

Will it have them fresher come the playoffs? Almost certainly.

In that sense, Hoiberg is the answer the Bulls have been looking for.

But that answer doesn’t automatically lead to contention for a title. This is still an aging Bulls roster with some Thibodeau-level miles on the key players, and no matter what Hoiberg does it’s hard to imagine him lifting this team up past a healthy Cavaliers team.

It’s going to be interesting to watch them try, however.