67RIEFNS No. 6: Return of injured players


The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the doldrums of 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.

It’s always fun to see familiar faces back on the court. Usually, that means watching someone you haven’t seen since the end of last season.

But for a few players, it’s been much longer.

Here are some injured payers I’m especially looking forward to seeing back in action, sorted by the date of their last game:

Danilo Gallinari – April 4, 2013

Gallinari tore his ACL late  in the 2012-13 season, missed all of last year and might not be ready to start this season.

But, man, the Nuggets’ offense sure runs more smoothly when he plays.

Kenneth Faried’s contract extension has hinged on several questions, maybe chief among them: How large a role can he fill offensively? He’s not a traditional go-to payer, which is a fair criticism for someone who might command a max contract. But that matters a whole lot less when Gallinari plays.

Gallinari can drive to the basket and spot up from the perimeter, allowing him to contribute both on and off the ball. His skilled versatility allows Faried freedom to focus on hustle plays, what he does best.

In the last three seasons including the playoffs, Denver has gone 80-41 with Gallinari and 56-66 without him.

JaVale McGee – Nov. 8, 2013

Whenever someone makes the case Masai Ujiri is overrated as a general manager, McGee is Exhibit A. Ujiri dumped an overpaid Nene on the Wizards for McGee, but he also gave McGee a big contract extension.

McGee has started a grand total of 10 games for Denver. Some of that is due to injury, but the center has also underwhelmed when healthy.

The Nuggets are committed to making McGee look good so they look good, and I doubt they let up now. McGee has the physical talent to annually make an All-NBA team, but his focus often drifts.

Can he come closer to reaching his potential? That eternal struggle will resume soon.

Derrick Rose – Nov. 22, 2013

Rose has played just 50 games, including the playoffs, since becoming the youngest MVP in NBA history.

It’s been a rough few years.

Rose is back to playing. We saw that in the World Cup, though the results weren’t impressive.

Will Rose ever return to his previous levels? I’m not so sure. If he lost any athleticism, his game takes a major hit. Rose is definitely skilled, but his explosiveness made him special.

There’s no shame in being “just” a good point guard, but Rose was more than that. Even fully healed, he might no longer be on that track.

Kobe Bryant – Dec. 17, 2013

Kobe is 36, and he played six games last season.

I don’t care how strong willed he is. The odds are stacked highly against him ever finding major success again.

However, I can’t wait to watch him try.

Kobe can channel stubbornness and anger nobody can match. Either he’ll will himself back to stardom, or his downfall will be steep.

Al Horford – Dec. 26, 2013

When Horford got hurt, the Hawks were the third-best team in the East. Without him, they barely slipped into the playoffs with a losing record.

Of course, Atlanta was just 16-13 with Horford. Other teams in the conference grew throughout the season and/or upgraded this summer.

Horford and Paul Millsap are one the NBA’s most skilled big-man tandems, but they’ll have their work cut out to lead the Hawks back to the playoffs.

Having Horford helps, though. He’s a potential All-Star when healthy.

Brook Lopez – Dec. 20, 2013

Before going down, Lopez was having the best season of his career. He was averaging 20.7 points per game on 56.3 shooting, and his PER (25.4) would have ranked seventh in the NBA behind only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Chris Paul.

But the Nets played better without him, as Jason Kidd shifted to a small-ball scheme.

Lionel Hollins brings his own system, and it should welcome back Lopez. But there’s that lingering curiosity: Is Brooklyn better off without Lopez?

I don’t think so, but if he defends and rebounds a little better, it would be easier to prove his scoring provides more than an empty contribution.

Ryan Anderson – Jan. 3, 2014

Want to pressure a defense? Play Anderson and Anthony Davis together.

Davis can pull defenders all over the court, and Anderson can stretch them even further. In 324 minutes together last season, they posted a 115.4 offensive rating.

But they’re nearly as bad defensively, where neither is beefy enough to bang inside for too long. Omer Asik should help, and that will allow the Pelicans to more selectively deploy the Davis-Anderson tandem.

Everything in New Orleans revolves around Davis, and Anderson fits well offensively. Asik makes it so Anderson’s defensive fit is less of an issue, and as Davis grows into his frame, maybe he and Anderson can click on both ends. This season should reveal more.

Jrue Holiday – Jan. 8, 2014

If the loss of Anderson didn’t damage the Pelicans’ playoff hopes, Holiday’s injury really set them back.

New Orleans invested heavily to make Holiday its point guard of the future, and while his play still falls short of star level – yes, I know he made an All-Star Game with Philadelphia – he’s still just 24. There’s still plenty of time for Holiday to sand his rough edges.

Mainly, he needs to get on the court and get better. Last season interrupted his progress, but if the Pelicans want to make the playoffs quickly, they’ll need Holiday to surge forward.

Larry Sanders – Feb. 8, 2014

Technically, Sanders returned late last season to serve his marijuana suspension, but he didn’t actually play.

It was a regrettable year for Sanders, who got demoted, got injured in a bar fight, argued with teammates, got hurt again and then failed a drug test. In the first season of a large contract extension, there’s worry Sanders isn’t handling his payday well.

But he’ll be back Milwaukee, because the Bucks can’t won’t trade him.

Sanders came up from the bottom once before. He’ll have to do it again if he wants to avoid another embarrassing season.



Bulls re-sign Nazr Mohammed, who once shoved LeBron James during playoff game


This offseason was an arms race between the Cavaliers and Bulls.

Cleveland signed LeBron James, traded for Kevin Love and extended Kyrie Irving.

The Bulls signed Pau Gasol, signed Nikola Mirotic and (hopefully) got Derrick Rose healthy.

At this point, it’s the Cavaliers and Bulls and then everyone else in the East. A Cleveland-Chicago matchup in the conference finals seems destined.

But within that top two, the Cavaliers have a clear edge. LeBron just does that for a team.

So, the Bulls need someone who can help them challenge LeBron, who  isn’t not afraid to stand up to LeBron, who will galvanize his teammates through his intensity against LeBron.

Someone like Nazr Mohammed, who shoved LeBron during a 2013 playoff game.

Bulls release:

The Chicago Bulls announced today the team has re-signed center Nazr Mohammed

Mohammed becomes the Bulls’ 14th player, returning to Chicago for a third straight year. Last season, he set an NBA record for fewest minutes per game (7.0) by someone who played at least 80 contests.

This year, his role should be even smaller. Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson can all play center ahead of Mohammed, and with Mirotic – and maybe even Mike Dunleavy and Doug McDermott – getting minutes at power forward, there isn’t much room to maneuver Mohammed into the rotation.

At 37, Mohammed provides depth and little more. But if push comes to shove and the Bulls and Cavaliers in fact meet in the playoffs, maybe Mohammed can offer a little more.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Chicago Bulls


Last season: Derrick Rose appeared in just 19 games after suffering an injury that would sideline him for the season for the second straight year. Luol Deng was traded at the deadline in a cost-cutting move, after being far apart on a contract extension and in advance of him becoming an unrestricted free agent. As usual, the Bulls made the most of what they had, finishing with a record of 48-34 that was good enough for fourth place in the East, before being bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

Signature highlight from last season: Rose missed all of the 2012-13 season due to injury, so when he returned for the home opener on Halloween against the Knicks, there was obviously an electric atmosphere. Rose didn’t disappoint, and finished with 18 points while hitting the game-winning shot.

Key Player changes:

Keys to the Bulls Season:

Derrick Rose: As has been the case since the wildly skilled point guard won the league MVP in 2011, the success of the Bulls begins and ends with Rose. One of the game’s most dynamic playmakers when healthy, Rose is a cornerstone superstar who is more than capable of leading his team to the promised land. Injuries have derailed him for the past two seasons, however, and it obviously remains to be seen whether or not he can not only stay healthy for the bulk of the 82-game regular season, but be able to return to playing at an All-NBA level along the way, while still having enough in the tank to be ready for the playoffs.

The good news is that Rose got an extended training camp of sorts by playing for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup, and by all accounts, came away feeling as good as ever. He showed flashes of his former self there, but is traditionally patient in an All-Star type setting, so his numbers didn’t necessarily jump off the page. But his time spent with USA Basketball should give him some confidence heading into the season.

Pau Gasol: The big man who spent six and a half seasons with the Lakers and helped the team win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 was marginalized by the team in recent years, which, along with L.A.’s recent slide into lottery land made his decision to sign with a contender like Chicago an easy one. Not only was Gasol’s name constantly mentioned in trade rumors, but he wasn’t utilized properly in Mike D’Antoni’s system, which led to his being less than pleased with his new role in Los Angeles.

But as we saw with Spain during FIBA World Cup Play this summer, Gasol remains one of the most skilled bigs in the league. And on a team where he’s properly motivated and allowed to do what he does, it’s easy to envision him returning to All-Star form — and no coach consistently gets more out of his players than Tom Thibodeau.

Continue to dominate defensively: The Bulls were second in the league in defensive efficiency a season ago, allowing just 97.8 points per 100 possessions. They have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Joakim Noah, who should continue to be an absolute menace inside. Jimmy Butler applies pressure on the wing and the perimeter, and Rose has proven to be tenacious on that end of the floor, as well. Defense wins championships, as the saying goes, and to get out of the East against a Cavaliers team that’s loaded offensively, this, along with the health of Rose, will be the biggest factor in determining just how far Chicago can go this season.

Why you should watch: Rose is one of the game’s most entertaining guards, a player whose speed and athleticism are capable of producing a dazzling highlight every time he touches the ball. Gasol’s fit will be interesting, too, and guys like Noah and Taj Gibson are so active around the basket that their intensity simply makes the game a joy to watch.

Prediction: Going out on a bit of a limb here, considering how stacked the Cavaliers are with the additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love. But I like the continuity in Chicago under Thibodeau, and the effort with which he gets his guys to play should put the Bulls over the top, and help them finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

If the pieces come together as expected, the Bulls should at minimum find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals, with a trip to the championship round a real possibility.

James Harden tries to do the Carlton dance with Carlton (VIDEO)


We know James Harden can dance a little because we just saw him do the Shmoney on an international stage (while holding the FIBA World Cup winner’s trophy).

But the Carlton… not so much.

Yes, that is Alfonso Ribeiro, best known as Carlton from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” (although I like to think of him as the two-time winner of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Celebrity Race). Of course one of the iconic parts of that show was the Carton Dance, which we see he can still do. He got together with James Harden recently and tried to show him the dance.

Harden, he gives it a shot but doesn’t really let himself go. Maybe it’s the beard holding him back.

(Hat tip to Bleacher Report)

Bulls officially sign E’Twaun Moore, he’s likely to stick with team


E’Twaun Moore is potentially a good fit for the Bulls — if he is used properly.

Orlando used him at the point, the Bulls are set there. Chicago plans to give most of their minutes at the two guard to Jimmy Butler, behind him is Tony Snell who showed real signs of improvement at Summer League. Where Moore comes in is he is a 6’4” guard who can knock down threes (35.4 percent last season). The Bulls have point guards like Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks slashing the lane and a very good passing front line with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah — a guy who can stay at the arc and knock down shots has value. Plus he can play the one some if needed.

So as had been expected the Bulls signed Moore to a deal — but the terms of the deal reported by Shams Charania of Real GM are such that you can bet he makes the roster.

Consider this an insurance policy signing — don’t pick Moore for your fantasy team — but in that vein it’s good one. He can provide some depth at the guard slots if injuries or fatigue become an issue in Chicago. Both of which are not out of the realm of possibility.