Kurt Helin

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets

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

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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.

Predicting Team USA’s 12-man roster for 2016 Rio Olympics

File photo of U.S. basketball Chairman Colangelo and the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team posing in Las Vegas
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The Rio Olympics are less than one year away — opening ceremonies are Aug. 5, 2016. Set your DVR now.

In preparation, USA Basketball opens its 2015 mini-camp in Las Vegas Tuesday and players who wants to make the 2016 cut have to at least show up. It’s an embarrassment of riches — you could make a second team of 12 guys from the couple dozen that will not make Team USA’s roster for Rio and win a medal comfortably.

There are only 12 spots on the roster and two-thirds of it seem all but locked in right now. That leaves some interesting battles for a few spots. Obviously, injuries and the coming season will alter the roster, but we have a pretty good idea of what it will look like.

Who makes it to Rio?

THE LOCKS

• LeBron James: A three-time Olympian and the leader of the 2012 gold medal team in London. He is still the single best player walking the face of the earth. The only question here is, does he want to play? He will be at mini-camp in Las Vegas to keep his options open, but no decision has been made.

• Kevin Durant: When healthy the best pure scorer on the planet (he just has to stay healthy enough to play). A member of the 2012 gold medal team in London who begged out of the 2014 World Championships after the Paul George injury.

• Anthony Davis: Maybe the new face of Team USA, and he has already a gold medal from his time in London. He is central to what Team USA likes to do — he’s a big man who can protect the rim on defense but can get out and run on offense, plus has a shot that can space the floor.

• Russell Westbrook: He won gold in London in 2012, and he’s the kind of athlete Coach K loves to use to overwhelm opponents — other countries do not have a guy like him.

• James Harden: He won gold in 2012 and was part of the 2014 FIBA team that won the World Cup, he will be there in Rio. The man can just flat-out score the rock.

• Stephen Curry: The reigning MVP and the best shooter in the game was with Team USA in 2014, and his ability to both catch-and-shoot or create his own shot off the bounce makes him invaluable. Plus in Rio his shooting range starts about Copacabana beach.

That’s six. Half the roster is done.

THE LIKELY

• Kawhi Leonard: Coach K likes to have one defensive-minded, shut down wing on the roster. Kobe Bryant played that role brilliantly in 2008, Andre Iguodala was there in 2012, now it is Leonard’s turn. Plus he gets them buckets in transition.

• Blake Griffin: Not only can he overwhelm teams with athleticism and finish in transition, but also he has shooting range now to the arc and in international ball bigs have to stretch the floor.

• DeMarcus Cousins: The USA will likely start with Anthony Davis as the center (as they did in 2014) but you need some more traditional size behind him, and that’s where Cousins comes into play. He can body up other bigs, he runs the floor well (when he wants to) and he has a reliable outside shot.

That makes nine guys: three are three guards, three wings, and three bigs. We need one more of each to round out the roster.

THE FINAL GUARD SPOT

• Chris Paul: It’s his if he wants it — there still is no better floor general in the game, he has gold from 2012,. Plus he is a better defender than the guys below him on this list. Coach K trusts him, but will CP3 want to go to Rio after his 11th NBA season?

• Kyrie Irving: If it’s not CP3 it’s likely Irving, who played for Coach K at Duke, then did a good job for him at the 2014 World Cup (he played more minutes per game than anyone else on the team in Spain last year).

Missing the cut: John Wall, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, Michael Carter-Williams, DeMar DeRozan.

THE FINAL WING SPOT

• Klay Thompson: Go ahead and argue he’s a guard not a wing if you want (it’s splitting hairs), but he fits perfectly in the international game. He is a great shooter, runs the floor well and can defend multiple positions. He’ll be in Rio.

• Rudy Gay: He was on the 2014 roster at the World Championships and Coach K likes his versatility, this is a possible fallback if there are injuries.

• Paul George: He’s a feel good story and certainly brings defense and scoring — if he’s healthy and good to go. I don’t expect him to make the cut, but if he has a strong regular season he’s a guy to watch.

Missing the cut: Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Draymond Green, Tobias Harris, Chandler Parsons.

THE FINAL BIG MAN

• Dwight Howard: His game isn’t a perfect fit internationally, but there is not going to be a more athletic big man or rim protector in Rio than Howard. It’s hard to leave him off the roster.

• Kevin Love: The Cavaliers may be struggling with how to use him but Coach K is not — bigs who can stretch the floor are key in the international style game. Plus the USA wants to run and he has the best outlet pass in the game. He won gold in 2012. He could make the team.

• LaMarcus Aldridge: He has a rocky history with USA Basketball, but for all the reasons Love is a good fit on the team and in the international game, Aldridge works just as well.

• Carmelo Anthony: He’s got multiple gold medals (2008 and 2012), and when used as a four he becomes a dangerous weapon in the international game. Coach K likes and trusts him, but it’s a tough numbers game for him to get to Rio.

Missing the cut: DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, Kenneth Faried.

Next up for NBA impersonator Brandon Armstrong: JaVale McGee

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee could return to the NBA this season, which would certainly make life easier for the guys cutting the video for Shaqtin’ a Fool.

McGee is as athletic a big man as you will find, and he has averaged 11.3 points (on 55 percent shooting) plus 7.8 rebounds a game in a season. He can dunk with the best of them, and he will block shots. But that’s not what fans talk about. McGee’s list of mental blunders is legendary — he may not like to speak about it, but it’s all fans want to talk about.

Or do impressions of.

McGee has played 28 games the past two seasons due to some pretty serious injuries — he needs to prove he can get back on the court and be productive. Then he can worry about his image.

Hat tip Eye on Basketball.