Tag: Samuel Dalembert

Andrea Bargnani

Andrea Bargnani to miss first three games of Knicks’ regular season


Andrea Bargnani will miss at least the first three regular season games for the Knicks, according to the team. He’s sat out the last two weeks of training camp and preseason with a hamstring injury and underwent an MRI earlier this week.

Bargnani will miss the Knicks’ season opener on October 29 against the Chicago Bulls, the October 30 game in Cleveland against the Cavaliers, and the November 2 home game against the Charlotte Hornets. And possibly more.

Bargnani has been plagued by injuries for several years, appearing in just 42 games last season after suffering a torn ligament in his right elbow. He averaged 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in his first season with the Knicks.

With Bargnani out, it’s likely that Jason Smith will start at power forward, with either Samuel Dalembert or Cole Aldrich at center. There’s a good chance that this will continue even after Bargnani returns — the former No. 1 pick is a complete liability on the defensive end who doesn’t really fit with any other combination of bigs on the Knicks’ roster. Last season, Mike Woodson attempted to play Bargnani at center in some smaller lineups with Carmelo Anthony at power forward, which proved to be a disaster. New head coach Derek Fisher will have other options. Not great ones, but other options nonetheless.

Bargnani is in the final year of his contract, which will pay him $11.5 million. Phil Jackson will undoubtedly try to shop him before the trade deadline in February, but it’s unlikely he gets anything of value in return, whether Bargnani is injured or not.

Five teams poised to make a big leap forward this season

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans

Last year it was the Phoenix Suns — they made a huge leap forward, one few saw coming (they were considered a tanking team before the season). Credit Jeff Hornacek for putting together a system that really took advantage of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. The Suns were almost a playoff team in the deep West.

So who makes the leap this season.

It’s always a little tricky to predict, but here are my five picks for the teams that will make big leaps forward in 2014-15.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers. Well, duh. This is obvious but the list is incomplete if the Cavs are not on it. As everyone who has not spent the past four months backpacking through rural Thailand knows, they added LeBron James and Kevin Love to a roster that had the All-Star Game MVP in Kyrie Irving. Plus the roster has solid role players — Anderson Varejao, Mike Miller, James Jones, Tristan Thompson, and on down the line. The only questions about this team are of the “can this keep them from winning a title this year?” variety. The Cavs won 33 games last season with a bottom 10 offense, they are now likely to have the best offense in the league and push 60 regular season wins.

2. New Orleans Pelicans. There are a lot of reasons the Pelicans are going to jump from 34 wins up to contending for a playoff spot. First, Anthony Davis is going to make a third-year leap from “basketball fans know he’s very good” to “everyone knows he’s very good.” As in he gets mentioned in the MVP voting good. But it’s a lot more than one guy in the Big Easy. New Orleans made one of the most underrated moves of the off-season when they got Omer Asik from Houston — he is a rock solid defensive and rebounding center who lets Davis move to his more natural four spot. This should improve the Pelicans defense, which is the key to them making a step forward (they were bottom five on D last season). Also, this team gets a seemingly forgotten quality stretch four back in Ryan Anderson. If the trio of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans can just stay healthy this is a high-40s win team. Even in the West.

3. Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte made a leap forward last season because coach Steve Clifford got a team anchored by Al Jefferson in the paint to be a top five defensive squad. He should have gotten more coach of the year votes because of that. But holding them back was the need for more shot creation — enter Lance Stephenson. He and Kemba Walker give them two guys who can create both in transition and in the half court. Charlotte’s offense will not be bottom 10 this season. The Hornets won 43 games last season and in a deeper East it’s not like they are going to win a whole lot more, they are not contenders, but they are a team that can make the second round of the playoffs and will be a tough team to beat nightly.

4. Dallas Mavericks. If you’re betting on Dallas getting considerably better — as I am — then you’re really betting on two things. First, and most importantly, that Tyson Chandler in the paint can lift the defense up from bottom 10 to above average or higher. He’s a big upgrade over Samuel Dalembert, but Chandler was slowed by injury to start last season in New York and didn’t ever move very well. He has to regain his form, and as a team the Mavs need to be more defensively focused. The other bet you are making is that Chandler Parsons is going to live up to his new, massive contract. His ability to draw defenders to the weak side, who then can’t jump in to help on the Monta Ellis/Dirk Nowitzki pick-and-roll should get everyone better looks (Dallas has had the third most efficient offense in the NBA during the preseason). If these two things happen Dallas can be a four seed and make the second round in the West playoffs.

5. Detroit Pistons. This is a vote for Stan Van Gundy. He’s going to make the Pistons better by first not trying to force feed the Andre Drummond/Greg Monroe/Josh Smith combination — it didn’t work, it’s time to move on. Second, SVG’s teams have always been fierce defensively and this Pistons team was bottom 10 on that end of the court last season (despite having Smith and some good defensive players). The Pistons aren’t contenders, but they are not going to be pushovers anymore. The challenge is even if they improve by 10 games this season, that only brings them up to 39 and that may not be enough to make the playoffs in the East this season. Bottom line, even though they take a step forward that may not get them to the postseason.

Phil Jackson breaks down the Knicks roster. He’s high on Shumpert, says Carmelo must move ball

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks

One thing Phil Jackson has promised would change with him in charge of the Knicks has already come to fruition — he is a lot more open. Knicks GMs used to appear in public about as often as the giant squid, but Jackson has kept an open, running dialog with the New York media.

He’s even gone so far as to break down the Knicks roster.

He did it for ESPNNewYork.com, and while there are no shocking insights here I can’t remember another GM/president doing this publicly with their team.

A few highlights, starting with Carmelo Anthony:

“Carmelo Anthony is obviously the team’s only certified All-Star. It’s also no secret that Melo has to keep the ball moving, but he’s committed to doing this. Passing has never been a great strength of his, but in the triangle he’ll be able to have check-off reads like a quarterback looking for his first-option receiver, then his second and then his third. There’ll be plenty of iso opportunities for Melo, and in the triangle it’ll be very difficult for defenses to double-team him.”

On Iman Shumpert:

“Even though Iman Shumpert was in [former Knicks coach] Mike Woodson’s dog house for much of last season, he’s one of my favorites because he’s simply our best on-ball defender at the 2 position and also against the bigger 1s.”

On J.R. Smith:

“The 2 position is our deepest, and J.R. Smith is easily the best athlete on the team. But J.R. has to learn the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. He has to trust that the triangle will create good shots and to avoid searching for his own shot.”

On Samuel Dalembert:

“I’m encouraged by how well Dalembert played against the Spurs in the playoffs (with Dallas). However, throughout his career he’s been very susceptible to foul trouble, so his floor-time will most likely be limited to about 26 minutes. Even so, we’d like him to be a 10-and-10 player.”

That’s optimistic for Dalembert.

I love that Jackson did this, and he tried to be positive in his assessments. I don’t think by January Knicks fans are going to be as forgiving with these guys. Learning the triangle takes time, it takes trust of your teammates, and it takes the right kinds of players to fill roles. Players the Knicks are not exactly flush with.

If the Knicks are going to find their way into the playoffs in the East, it’s going to be because Derek Fisher got the team to play improved defense. Anthony will still put up points, the Knicks will score, but that is not the end of the floor where they really need to make strides.

Sixers’ K.J. McDaniels with a two-handed rejection, has more preseason blocks than Anthony Davis (VIDEO)

2014 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot

On the surface, to the vast majority of the league’s casual fans, K.J. McDaniels is nothing more than an unrecognizable fringe player on a 76ers roster that’s full of them this season by design.

But in reality, he’s proving to be an elite defensive player, and an extremely smart business man.

In Monday’s preseason contest against the Nets, McDaniels gets a hold of Alan Anderson’s shot in midair, and pins it to the glass with two hands. Thanks to the mics behind the backboard, watch this one with the volume turned up, because the rejection sounds as good as it looks.

It’s worth noting that this was far from a random highlight play for McDaniels; he’s been blocking shots like crazy all preseason long. He’s fourth in the league with 14 total, behind only Andre Drummond, Pau Gasol and Samuel Dalembert, and ahead of proven rim protectors like DeAndre Jordan and Anthony Davis.

McDaniels took a unique approach to his rookie scale contract, foregoing additional dollars up front in order to ensure he’d be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Plays like this one, along with his cumulative preseason body of work give us an early indication that he may have made a very wise decision.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Dallas Mavericks

'Nowitzki. Der Perfekte Wurf' Premiere In Cologne

Last season: Dallas was one of the surprise teams in the league last year. A lot of people (myself included) questioned how Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki would pair, particularly with Jose Calderon at the point. Turns out very well — Ellis and Nowitzki made a killer pick-and-pop tandem. And the Mavs could shoot — as a team they hit 38.4 percent from three (second best in the league behind the Spurs). That led to the third best offense in the league pushed them to 49 wins and the playoffs (despite a 22nd ranked defense). Once again in the playoffs the Mavs were written off as just a warmup round for the Spurs, but instead Dallas pushed them to seven games, trying to trap and be more aggressive on defense (Spurs players said at the Finals what Dallas did helped prepare them for Miami’s style). Basically all season long Dallas exceeded expectations… except for Mark Cuban’s, of course.

Signature highlight from last season: Dallas came closer than anyone else to knocking off the Spurs in the playoffs, in part because Vince Carter was clutch in Game 3.

Key player changes: Dallas shook up the roster this off-season. I think they got better but there are a lot of changes, which leads to questions. Gone are guys who played key minutes last season: Jose Calderon, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Samuel Dalembert and Shane Larkin (Dalembert, Larkin and Calderon were traded to New York).

In their place come Tyson Chandler (from that trade with the Knicks), Chandler Parsons, Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, also Al-Farouq Aminu and Richard Jefferson.

Also key, Dirk Nowitzki re-signed for 3 years, $25 million — about the most team-friendly deal of any superstar. That signing cleared the way for the Chandler Parsons free agent signing.

Keys to the Mavericks season:

Can Tyson Chandler lift this defense up to top half of the league at least? Dallas doesn’t win the 2011 NBA title without Tyson Chandler playing elite defense in the paint as a rim protector. Last season the Mavericks had Dalembert in the paint and the 22nd best defense in the NBA. Chandler is going to be expected to clean up a lot of messes and improve that number. The question is can he still — last season he lacked the same quickness and fluidity on defense, but remember he missed the start of the season with a fractured fibula. Is he all the way back now? He also seemed to check out mentally in New York, I’d expect him to be more focused now (he’s fantastic at talking and quarterbacking a defense). Of course, Chandler in the paint can’t be the only defensive improvement, Dallas is going to have to show improved perimeter defense as well. The backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Monta Ellis are not exactly stoppers, but Parsons will help, he’s solid out on the wing. Dallas doesn’t need to be the 2004 Pistons, but they need to at least be in the top half of the league and more ideally the top 10 to really reach their goals. They have a lot of work to do on that end of the court.

Can Chandler Parsons be worth everything he just got paid? It’s easy to see on paper how Parsons can thrive offensively in Dallas — he stays on the weak side while the Ellis/Nowitzki pick-and-roll happens on the other side of the floor. Parsons can cut to the basket, get a pass and finish at the rim or he can space the floor where he is dangerous both on the catch-and-shoot and off the bounce. At age 25 Parsons has gotten paid like a top option player in the NBA, he has the talent to do it, but now he’s going to have to show it on the court. Nightly.

Who will step up off the bench? Last season the Mavericks had a quality bench — Vince Carter got votes for sixth man of the year, they had DeJuan Blair and others that contributed solid play. This season the bench looks consists of Devin Harris, Doran Lamb, Al-Farouq Aminu and Richard Jefferson (plus Brandan Wright up front). And Felton, I guess. Dallas should have a strong starting five but they are going to need quality bench production and that means some of those guys are going to have to step up their game.

Why you should watch the Mavericks: The easy answer here is Dirk Nowitzki — the best shooting big man in the history of the game, a guy with one of the iconic shots in the history of the game (that one-legged fade-away). He is worth the price of admission. Frankly, with all the offensive weapons this season the Mavericks are going to be fun. But if you’re a basketball junkie, you should tune in to see the adjustments and plays from coach Rick Carlisle — he’s as good an Xs and Os coach as there is in the league. He constantly puts guys in great positions to take advantage of their skill set.

Prediction: 53-29, and I think they have a real shot at being a little better and getting the four seed and home court in the first round of the playoffs. This is a better Mavericks team than a year ago. Around the Mavs they seem to think they have another contender on their hands (I’m looking at you, Cuban), I don’t see that. But this team is in the second tier in the West and making the second round of the playoffs is a real possibility. However that’s as far as it goes.