Tag: Andrew Bynum

Raptors Media Day

67RIEFNS No. 46: Jonas Valanciunas on verge of a breakthrough


The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Last year, a 21-year-old Jonas Valanciunas posted 11.3 points on 53.1 percent shooting with 8.8 rebounds per game. Just seven other players have posted those numbers at such a young age:

  • Buck Williams
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Chris Webber
  • Tim Duncan
  • Dwight Howard
  • Andrew Bynum
  • Andre Drummond

All of them – with the exception of Drummond, who seems like a lock – became All-Stars. There’s good reason to believe the Raptors’ center will follow suit.

Valanciunas is a skilled interior scorer. He has excellent hands and good footwork, seemingly making it easy for him to create opportunities in the post.

Toronto just didn’t get him the ball enough last year. It’s on Kyle Lowry to feed Valanciunas more often this year.

If that happens, that All-Star berth could happen sooner than later – for both.

The Raptors exceeded expectations last year. Now imagine what happens if they take full advantage of, arguably, their highest-upside player.

Kobe Bryant on Julius Randle playing with Kobe, for Byron Scott: ‘If you f— this up, you’re a really big idiot’

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day

Lakers coach Byron Scott is trying to motivate rookie Julius Randle by publicly calling him out for not being in good enough shape. Repeatedly.

If that seems harsh, you should see Kobe Bryant’s words for the No. 7 pick.

Remember, this is the same Kobe who called ESPN voters who ranked him the NBA’s 40th-best player “idiots.”

Kobe on Randle playing with Kobe, for Scott:

If you f— this up, you’re a really big idiot. You know what I mean? ESPN are idiots, but you’re a really big idiot if you manage to f— this up.

Unfortunately, it really doesn’t work that way. The best players, even those with championship experience, don’t necessarily make the best mentors and coaches. They can’t just transfer their knowledge and skills through osmosis.

While Kobe has played for the Lakers, a dozen other first-round picks have made their debuts:

  • Javaris Crittenton
  • Jordan Farmar
  • Andrew Bynum
  • Sasha Vujacic
  • Brian Cook
  • Kareem Rush
  • Mark Madsen
  • Devean George
  • Tyronn Lue
  • Sam Jacobson

And here are first-round picks who made their debuts on teams Scott coached:

  • Tyler Zeller:
  • Dion Waiters
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Christian Eyenga
  • Darren Collison
  • Julian Wright
  • Hilton Armstrong
  • Cedric Simmons
  • Chris Paul
  • J.R. Smith
  • Zoran Planinic
  • Brandon Armstrong
  • Jason Collins
  • Richard Jefferson
  • Kenyon Martin

Scott seems to have a much better record of player development than Kobe, both are far from perfect. Perhaps, all the busts just screwed it up themselves, but I think it’s more likely neither Scott nor Kobe provide a perfect Petri dish for rookies to grow.

Unquestionably, Randle can learn from Kobe and Scott. And, so far, it seems Randle has the talent to succeed.

But even if Randle takes every reasonable step, it’s still possible he fails as an NBA player. It’s far to soon to declare he’ll make it – even with Kobe and Scott around.

Report: Chandler Parsons was ‘Cleveland’s guy’ if Cavaliers failed to land LeBron James


Before last season began, the Cavaliers were aggressive in free agency, foregoing a more traditional strategy by signing free agents that the team believed would help them improve immediately, and certainly enough to make the playoffs in the watered-down Eastern Conference.

It’s just that none of those moves worked out.

Cleveland signed Earl Clark after he had his best season with the Lakers, and added Jarrett Jack after he was a key component on a playoff team in Golden State. And, perhaps most foolishly, the team took a chance on Andrew Bynum, which ended in about as messy a divorce as possible.

The point, here, is that the Cavaliers have proven that they would go out and add players in free agency, even if the decisions about specific players were questionable, at best. LeBron James and Kevin Love solved the organization’s problems in that area this summer, but had James chosen to remain in Miami, another curious roster move was reportedly on the horizon.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Yet the most serious early interest in Parsons in 2014 free agency actually came from Cleveland. It was widely assumed in Mavericks circles that Dallas would turn its attentions to Parsons once formally eliminated as an option by Melo and LeBron, but sources told ESPN.com that Parsons — before things really heated up with his eventual new employers — found himself being recruited by another All-Star peer he regards as a friend: Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

Sources say the Cavs, furthermore, would soon inform Parsons he was “Cleveland’s guy” if their ambitious bid to bring LeBron home unraveled.

This detail comes from a longer look at Parsons’ journey as an unrestricted free agent, which ended with the Rockets not matching the three-year offer sheet tendered by the Mavericks.

It’s unclear if Parsons would have considered the Cavaliers as a real option, because like so many NBA cities, Cleveland is undesirable to free agents anytime LeBron doesn’t happen to be firmly in place on the team’s roster. But would he, by himself, really have been enough to push the team to a higher level, and one capable of consistent postseason contention? And, would the salary the Cavaliers committed have prevented the team from making smarter upgrades that would have better-positioned them for long-term success?

Thankfully in Cleveland, these are difficult questions that now don’t need to be answered.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James

Last season: A complete mess. The Cavaliers made well-intended moves in free agency in an attempt to make an immediate run at a trip to the postseason, but Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack and especially Andrew Bynum were of no help at all. Mike Brown had zero control of the team as head coach, which became painfully evident to Luol Deng once he got an up-close look at the team in the second half of the season. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters bickered over their roles behind the scenes, and a miserable season ended with the Cavaliers finishing five games out of the playoffs in the dreadful Eastern Conference.

Signature highlight from last season: There were plenty of Kyrie Irving highlights to choose from, but I liked this particular play because it involved three players who should all figure somewhat prominently in Cleveland’s success in the upcoming season. Matthew Dellavedova uses an Anderson Varejao screen to perfection, then finds a cutting Dion Waiters with a gorgeous pass to set up an athletic, one-handed reverse slam dunk.

Key offseason moves:

Keys to the Cavaliers season:

The players: The Cavaliers undoubtedly made the biggest summer splash by overhauling things completely, adding superstar talent while still retaining the team’s core players. Once LeBron James committed to returning home to Cleveland, the team went all out to fortify the roster, trading unproven lottery picks for an established All-Star in Kevin Love, and then signing some key veteran role players to round things out.

Cleveland should be one of the best teams in the league offensively, with enough firepower to simply outscore their opponents most nights. But the defensive end of the floor is a concern, as is the lack of depth on the frontline. Once you get past Love, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, things get dicey fairly quickly, and Varejao, remember, has had trouble staying healthy for the bulk of his recent seasons. The Cavs will be looking at guys like Lou Amundson in training camp, who may have a shot to make the roster.

As for the positives, scoring should come fairly easily, with James, Love, Irving and Waiters all being capable scorers. It will take time to sort out the hierarchy of how the shots get distributed, and it will also take time for the young guys like Irving and Waiters to understand how to play alongside James without deferring too much. But there’s a long 82-game regular season for them to figure all that out, and simply from a pure talent standpoint, the Cavaliers have instantly become one of the favorites to take home the title.

The coach: Cleveland went in a different direction after the Mike Brown disaster of a season ago, hiring well-respected and experienced David Blatt, who built a pristine reputation and a long, successful career coaching overseas. It should be viewed as a huge positive that the organization hired a career coach with tons of experience, and one who is coming off of a championship season with Maccabi Tel Aviv — as opposed to an NBA retread who was fired from his last position.

Blatt has 33 years playing and coaching in Europe, and to a certain extent, basketball is basketball, so the transition shouldn’t be all that bumpy. But it is worth noting that he hasn’t coached in the NBA, where not only is the game different, but so are the player personalities. Blatt was hired before LeBron was confirmed to return, which obviously was a pleasant surprise. But he’ll be thrown into the fire quite quickly, and if things take longer than expected to come together, how he handles it all will be a key factor in the end result of this Cavaliers season.

The pressure: When LeBron left Cleveland to sign with Miami four years ago, the Heat immediately became rock stars. The media crush was palpable, and the team was expected to win on a nightly basis. There was talk of them surpassing Chicago’s record of 72 regular season wins, and every loss was met with an avalanche of criticism, along with questions of whether or not the team had what it took to ultimately become champions.

That Miami team was led by Pat Riley in the front office, and coached by his protege in Erik Spoelstra — both of whom had resumes full of previous championship experience. And, veterans like Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem were similarly there to help keep the panic in check and keep the team focused when there was nothing but constant hysteria surrounding them.

It’s very different in Cleveland. Not only is Blatt inexperienced with this type of situation in the NBA, but Love has never made it to the playoffs even once in six NBA seasons. The Cavaliers as a franchise haven’t been there since James was last on the roster, so it’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts to the circus-like atmosphere that is firmly in place now that LeBron, along with the championship-level expectations, have returned to town.

Why you should watch: LeBron James is the game’s best player, and he’s in the prime of his career. Add Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to the mix, and you have essentially the makings of an All-Star team in the starting lineup every single night. If you’re not a fan, of course, there’s the potential train wreck factor — root for Cleveland to go on a three-game losing streak early on, and watch the ensuing chaos.

Prediction: There should be no reason that the Cavaliers finish anywhere outside of being one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. I think the Bulls have a chance to be better, especially on the defensive end of the floor, but a lot of that hinges on Derrick Rose, which hasn’t worked out all that well the past two seasons.

Cleveland could certainly compete for a title in its first season with all of these new pieces in place, which would make a ridiculous five straight trips to the Finals for LeBron James. I don’t see a championship for the Cavaliers due to a lack of depth and too many new parts needing to fit together seamlessly, but it’s realistic to expect that they get extremely close.

Report: Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum to work out for Clippers

Greg Oden

The Clippers made it to the second round of the playoffs last season, but seemed to hit a ceiling of sorts, at least with the talent that was already in place.

The team didn’t have any frontcourt depth to speak of, which was a glaring area of concern as Blake Griffin was often forced to play heavy minutes during the postseason, and when he or DeAndre Jordan were limited by foul trouble, there was simply no help available to come off the bench.

L.A. addressed that need by inking Spencer Hawes to a free agent deal this summer, and will be looking to add further depth by working out some guys later this week, all of whom could be considered reclamation projects.

From Jorge Sedano of ESPN:

Clippers to work out back up Centers this week. Names that will come thru: Andray Blatche, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum & Emeka Okafor

Blatche is the most talented, and could provide immediate rotation help in the right situation. Attitude issues are the reason the Nets won’t be bringing him back, and the team quietly suspended Blatche back in December.

Bynum has been well-traveled lately, with stops in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Indiana not working out — primarily due to health concerns, but there were some attitude problems with Bynum as well, at least before his departure from the Cavaliers.

Oden doesn’t have any reported issues like the previous two candidates, but he had been unable to contribute meaningful minutes for Miami last year, despite working out with the team all season long in hopes he’d be ready by the time the playoffs began.

Finally, Okafor missed all of last season due to a neck injury, and was traded to the Suns in the deal that sent Marcin Gortat to the Wizards. If healthy, he would pretty clearly be the best option out of the bunch.