Author: Rob Mahoney


Blazers release Armon Johnson to clear roster spot for Joel Przybilla


The team on the cusp of contention with a full roster is typically a bad omen for some deep-reserve player or another; in their efforts to improve via trade or free agency, teams almost inevitably have to release players as a space-creating endeavor, getting nothing in return but the freedom to go about their transaction business.

Such is the case with the Portland Trail Blazers’ Armon Johnson, who from this moment on will be former Portland Trail Blazer Armon Johnson. In order to consummate the signing of free agent center Joel Przybilla, the Blazers will waive Johnson, who has played only five minutes this season and was only briefly a relevant member of Nate McMillan’s rotation last year.

The roster-clearing decision essentially came down to the release of Johnson or former No. 1 overall pick/walking NBA tragedy Greg Oden. The Blazers opted to keep Oden, but as noted by Jason Quick of The Oregonian, the decision was hardly made on the basis of hope or sentiment. Oden’s contract simply makes for better trade filler, and as the Blazers eye further improvement before the impending trade deadline, his $1.5 million deal could prove helpful in completing a transaction on financial terms. It’s horrifying what a run of bad luck and a seven-foot frame can do to a promising player and an entire franchise, but this is where Odom and the Blazers are at present: contemplating a pragmatic split in order to bolster emergency depth. The hopes for better days and careers resurrected has run its course, and if the possibility of Oden’s release alone doesn’t signal that Portland is ready to move on, I don’t know what possibly could.

As for Johnson, the 23-year-old guard sits in a curious position. According to Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge, a league source intimated that the Blazers shopped Johnson pretty aggressively at the D-League showcase, but received no interest whatsoever in their pursuit of a second-round pick in return. Considering Johnson’s minimal salary and relentless on-ball defense, one would think he would be able to latch on somewhere as a waiver candidate. Yet that reported lack of interest casts Johnson’s immediate NBA future very much into doubt; the league still has little patience for nominal point guards with minimal offensive skills, and Johnson’s inability to either score or create plays with any consistency could push him out of the league entirely for the time being.

Reggie Miller, Don Nelson, and Bernard King among 2012 Hall of Fame candidates


Enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is a distinct honor to many in the basketball world, no matter how ridiculous and arbitrary the criteria for inclusion seem to be. With that in mind, here are the candidates for the Hall of Fame class of 2012, as announced by press conference on Friday:

  • Reggie Miller
  • Mo Cheeks
  • Don Nelson
  • Bernard King
  • Bill Fitch
  • Don Nelson
  • Hank Nichols
  • Rick Pitino
  • Jamaal Wikes
  • Ralph Sampson
  • Katrina McClain
  • All-American Red Heads

Regardless of the fate of these individual candidates, don’t let your feathers get too ruffled; we’ve all already wasted more than enough time trying to decipher the Hall’s baffling guidelines. There are plentiful examples of worthy players who were excluded for no reason whatsoever, and just as many cases in which a seemingly undeserving player was ushered in with a raised eyebrow.

But if you can find legitimacy in the somewhat inexplicable directives of Hall of Fame voters, then feel free to parse this list and display your nodding approval, insistent outrage, or overall contentment.

Fan voting will weigh into Hall of Fame selections beginning in 2013


Here’s a curveball for you: Beginning with the Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2013, fans around the world will be able to take part in the Hall of Fame selection process. That’s a pretty significant step for any Hall of Fame body, much less one with a history of controversial, closed-door decision making.

According to an announcement made by Jerry Colangelo at a press conference in Orlando on Friday, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has partnered with ESPN to create an online voting framework based on the accepted finalists for each Hall of Fame class, following a simple “yes or no,” format. The top three online vote getters among each crop of finalists will receive one additional “Yes” vote for the sake of final tabulation; enshrinement requires 18 of such votes in total, leaving the online portion of the balloting a relatively small — but not unsubstantial — piece of the final decision.

Odd though it may seem that any basketball fan  — regardless of whether they’re well-versed or misinformed — will be able to vote on something as enduring as a Hall of Fame honor, this is a zero-risk enterprise for the Hall. Online voters will be restricted to a pre-screened crop of worthy candidates, effectively limiting their influence. Plus, the online vote only impacts the top three vote getters overall, meaning that in most cases, the fans will simply be affirming the no-questions-asked inclusions who already would have been selected without issue.

It’s a nice token gesture for fan involvement in an oft-debated process, but this isn’t earth-shattering, even though it may be ground-breaking.

Derrick Rose ruled out for Sunday’s game against Boston

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat

Derrick Rose may be able to quietly slink to the bench prior to a Friday night game against the Charlotte Bobcats without much notice, but ducking out of the lineup due to injury before a nationally televised Sunday matinee against the kind-of-rival Boston Celtics? That’s another matter entirely.

Chicago’s recent blowouts of the Nets and Hornets seemed to buy Rose plenty of time to rest, but the ailing back of the Chicago Bulls’ superstar is apparently being less than cooperative. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Rose will meet with medical specialists in Chicago on Monday to presumably structure some kind of productive treatment plan, and in the meantime, he’s been ruled out entirely for Sunday’s game against Boston.

The Celtics may not be the powerhouse they once were, but this was still a game of import for both the C’s and the Chicago Bulls. It still is, in a sense, though without Rose in the mix, the dynamic and strategy of both teams changes significantly.

In the bigger picture, it’s imperative that the Bulls get Rose’s back issues resolved in short order; the uncompromising nature of this season’s schedule provides an added complication for relatively minor, nagging injuries, effectively penalizing players who attempt to play through the pain. Rose deserves plenty of credit for trying to stay on the court, but at this point, taking a few games off — even ones on national TV — should do both him and his team good. That would be true for any rotation player in the league, but it’s particularly so for a player of Rose’s caliber — and one who routinely finds his coach leaving him on the floor for 40 minutes a night.

Spurs decline third-year option on James Anderson

DeJuan Blair, James Anderson

Although the final public analysis of any NBA roster move is usually distilled to a few lines of explanation, every single decision that an NBA front office makes is a complicated one. Salary, fit, production, potential, age, redundancy, personality, character, experience, flexibility — all of these factors — and more — come into play, and it’s up to general managers around the league to make sense of lengthy lists of criteria in the name of making the best moves possible.

San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford has been “making the best moves possible” for over a decade. San Antonio’s enduring success isn’t merely a product of lucking out with Tim Duncan; it’s taken careful, deliberate work to build competitive teams worthy of San Antonio’s transcendent star, and further, more difficult work to keep the Spurs near the top of the Western Conference as Duncan has begun transitioning from star to nebula.

Buford had once hoped that Oklahoma State product James Anderson would be a useful part of that transition as a dynamic wing scorer, and he used the Spurs’ highest draft pick of the Duncan Era to select Anderson with the 20th overall pick in the 2010 draft. But Anderson’s projected rise seemed to fizzle out early; Anderson struggled to even make it onto the court in his rookie season, and couldn’t offer much on-court justification for the influx of playing time he saw earlier this year. All of that played into a decision that, on first glance, may seem a bit hasty: The Spurs have opted to decline their third-year option on Anderson, despite the fact that the once-promising scorer would only cost San Antonio $1.5 million to retain for the 2012-2013 season.

There are plenty of reasons why releasing Anderson actually makes some sense for the Spurs, despite his minimal price tag. But the most persuasive of which — and the factor that stands out amongst all others that Buford was forced to consider — is the emergence of third-year forward Danny Green. Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News walks us through the logic:

So why not hold onto Anderson and see what’s there? Sure, Anderson wasn’t making shots, and he looked at times as if the game was too fast for him. But he was scheduled to earn only $1.5 million next year. Given the promise the Spurs had originally seen in him, and given that he hasn’t had much time to show that yet, didn’t it make sense to wait?

Those are the thoughts that made the Spurs hesitate…Still, the Spurs couldn’t get past what they had — too many wings. But it wasn’t Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Richard Jefferson or Gary Neal who changed the roster dynamics. It was Green.

If he had not emerged, those on staff say, they would have picked up Anderson’s option without thinking.

There are no guarantees the pecking order stays this way. Green could falter as the rest of the season progresses, and Anderson could rise. Wednesday night showed why the latter is still possible. The Spurs told Anderson they were not picking up his option just before the game against Atlanta, and he responded without sulking. They wonder if he will be better for this, as Green was after Cleveland cut him. Maybe it’s what Anderson needed to hear.

…But the Spurs aren’t betting on that. They are betting on a more complete player who they don’t have to wait on, and someone who will also be a free agent this summer. Green.

It’s a roster spot. It’s a guaranteed contract. It’s Danny Green, and Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard. But most of all, it’s a move that the Spurs have the luxury of actually thinking about; it could certainly be argued that that San Antonio is giving up on Anderson a bit too early by declining his third-year option, but the Spurs have put themselves in a position to evaluate Anderson’s future more fully thanks to their finds in the NBA’s bargain bin. Neal and Green truly came out of nowhere, and while both deserve praise for their ability to capitalize on a valuable opportunity with the Spurs, Buford and Gregg Popovich have earned their reputation by helping discarded role players in their vein consistently find their way up through San Antonio’s woodwork.

They just haven’t quite made it work with Anderson, and maybe never will. A declined option doesn’t necessarily mark the end of Anderson’s time in San Antonio, but considering the statement of the move and the dynamics that caused it, the Spurs seem to have the luxury of moving on.