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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 11/2

Basketball Insiders looks back at some of the articles from last week in case you missed any the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin

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Reggie Jackson is a Keeper

By Moke Hamilton

Let’s play make believe.

You’re a standout free agent who has played 10 years in the league. Let’s say you’re 29 years old and seeking a maximum contract.

You get the meeting you coveted with the team of your dreams and have an opportunity to ask the owner one question before you sign on the dotted line and commit yourself to spending the next four years with this franchise.

What do you ask?

My question would be simple.

Do you value winning a championship more than your bottom line?

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Jack Ready to Make Noise on Nets with Vocal Leadership

By Jessica Camerato

Jarrett Jack ran the ball up the court during a mid-July pickup game at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas. His voice traveled through the gym as he began calling out to his teammates before he reached half court. The basketball and his mouth moved simultaneously.

“Good shot!” he yelled on offense.

“I got ball!” he bellowed on defense.

“Talk to me! Talk to me! Talk to me!” he repeated throughout the game, constantly urging his teammates to increase their communication.

The fact it was an offseason workout was irrelevant to Jack. Being a vocal leader is a year-round role the Brooklyn Nets point guard has embraced.

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Dirk Nowitzki Disappointed by Steve Nash’s Latest Setback

By Cody Taylor

Perhaps the biggest story to come out of the preseason thus far has been the news regarding the future of Steve Nash. The Los Angeles Lakers announced on Thursday that Nash will miss the entire 2014-15 season due to a lingering back injury. Considering everything that Nash has accomplished throughout his 18-year career, the news left many disappointed, including former Dallas Mavericks teammate Dirk Nowitzki.

“He started off well in Los Angeles and then he broke the bone in his leg and kind of messed up his nerves so it’s been a tough couple of seasons for him at the end,” Nowitzki told Basketball Insiders. “I think he would have been fine if he wouldn’t have broken his leg, I think he could have still played at a high level because he’s so smart and he still moved okay, but once that happened it’s tough.”

Nash was traded to the Mavericks during the offseason in 1998 after his second season with the Phoenix Suns and was paired up with Nowitzki the next season during Dirk’s rookie year.

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Who’s Got Next in 2014-15: Centers

By EJ Ayala

Today, we’ll look at the next crop of players from the center spot who show the type of budding talent that fan bases hope will pay dividends sooner rather than later. We are no longer in the era of dominant big men. That being said, there is plenty of talent in the league and a big man with skills at the center spot is still very much valued. The old adage of you can’t teach height is something you will hear in NBA circles that still holds weight today. It’s the reason you will see big men drafted near the top of the draft time and time again, even if the prospect may appear to be unpolished as many teams in the league hope to find the next Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon or Bill Russell.

Right now, the cream of the crop are veteran players such as Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Al Jefferson, Marc Gasol, Al Horford and (when healthy) Brook Lopez. These are guys that your team can count on to perform at an elite level every night. Joining them, you also have players who have started to mature early, showing they can produce at a high level such as Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. So who’s next in line you might ask? Which big men have the talent to take things to the next level?

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Tyrus Thomas Determined to Resume NBA Career

By Alex Kennedy

Tyrus Thomas had always been successful. As a high school star in Baton Rouge, he nearly averaged a triple-double and was honored as one of Louisiana’s best players. In his lone collegiate season at LSU, his incredible athleticism allowed him to become the team’s starting power forward and fill the stat sheet. He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, leading the program to their first Final Four since 1986 and earning the Most Valuable Player award of his tournament region. Shortly after, Thomas was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

A rocky seven-year NBA career followed and then Thomas experienced what he calls “one of the hardest times of my life.”

Thomas disappeared from the spotlight after being amnestied by the Charlotte Bobcats in July of 2013. In addition to losing his career and stepping away from the game he loved, Thomas also went through a divorce and what could have been a career-ending surgery to remove a cyst from his back.

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Was Bulls’ Nikola Mirotić Worth the Wait?

By Joel Brigham

There’s a reason that the Chicago Bulls have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of rookie big man Nikola Mirotić, and it has everything to do with his decorated career in Spain over the course of the last five years. During that time, he won a Spanish League MVP award, two Spanish King’s Cup championships and two Spanish Supercup championships.

He’s a unique big man in that he has a nose for rebounding but can also score the ball from all over the floor. He’s been an exciting prospect to follow since being drafted in the first round back in 2011. He was the 23rd overall pick despite the fact that every team knew it would be at least three seasons before he made his way to the NBA, which just shows how talented he is and how excited Chicago must have been to get him over to the U.S. this summer.

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Defending a Title Isn’t Easy

By Steve Kyler

There is a reason that sports teams rarely repeat as champions. It’s hard to keep all the little motivations and situations that converge to create success all together after you have won. Contracts come into play. Roles get redefined. Players get older. It’s not easy to repeat in sports.

The San Antonio Spurs open their regular season on Tuesday with their 2014 NBA championship ring ceremony, and while they have long been the gold standard other teams strive to emulate, this year they also open the season as the hunted since they’re the reigning champs.

As much as the Spurs tried to keep things the same – returning virtually everyone from last season’s team – the preseason hasn’t reflected the continuity and momentum the team had hoped for.

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NBA Trade Watch: Central Division

By John Zitzler

After taking a look at the players most likely to be traded in the Southeast Division, we take a look at the Central Division.

Trade rumors fly each and every year. Things really tend to heat up around the trade deadline when contenders try to find that missing piece and rebuilding teams look to add young talent and/or draft picks. Inevitably many names will be mentioned as trade candidates as the deadline approaches, with many of those rumors never coming to fruition. While many trade rumors may turn out to be just that – rumors – there are always a few deals that get done during the season. Here is a list of six players in the Central Division who may end up playing elsewhere by season’s end.

 

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Ryan Gomes Axes deal in Spain; Orlando Johnson, D.J. White Next?

By David Pick

Spanish power-club Laboral Kutxa Vitoria – Baskonia in short – have kicked off its season on the wrong foot.

Led by head coach Marco Crespi, an Italian tactician and former scout for the Boston Celtics, Baskonia put together a promising squad. However, over the weekend, wind has shifted in Espana as multiple players have either left or are leaning toward a split.

Small forward Ryan Gomes, a 32-year-old former NBA veteran who once suited up for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, recently cut ties with the club.

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Julius Randle is Irreplaceable for the Lakers

By Yannis Koutroupis

The injury bug has taken a bite out of the Los Angeles Lakers once again, this time claiming heralded rookie Julius Randle. Randle suffered a broken leg in his NBA debut last night against the Houston Rockets and, after a successful operation this morning, he has been ruled out for the rest of the season, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. This comes less than a week after finding out that projected starting point guard Steve Nash would miss the season in its entirety as well due to nerve issues in his back.

As much as the loss of Nash hurt the Lakers, there were minimal expectations for the future Hall of Fame point guard because of how much trouble he’s had over the last two years. They brought in Jeremy Lin this offseason largely because of his ability to handle starter’s minutes in the case that Nash wouldn’t be able to play a significant role. Veteran lead guard Ronnie Price was also a late addition brought in primarily as insurance in case Nash got hurt. Based off of what the Lakers have gotten from Nash the last two years, replacing him wasn’t difficult. In fact, it’s something Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak planned to do in the final year of his contract when he first signed it.

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NBA Trade Watch: Southwest Division

By Mary Stevens

The NBA season is underway and while the action on the court is exciting, the action off the court can also be intriguing. Trades in the NBA can come at anytime and it keeps players, teams, reporters and fans on their edge of their seats until the trade deadline hits on Feb. 19, 2015 at 3 p.m. EST. This is one of the most unpredictable and interesting times of the season and while rumors are always circulating, only a few trades happen each year.

Here is a list of five players from the Southwest Division that could be moved prior to the deadline for one reason or another:

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Recapping the 2014 Rookie-Contract Extensions

By Jesse Blancarte

Yesterday was the deadline for first-round picks from the 2011 draft to agree to an extension of their rookie contracts. This year’s extension class featured a lot of quality players, but many of them are not clearly worth max-money. Further complicating matters for this year’s extension candidates is the uncertainty created by the NBA’s recently agreed to TV deal with ESPN and Turner Sports, which will cause a significant rise in the salary cap.

With this in mind, here is a recap of which notable 2011 first-round draft picks agreed to an extension with their teams, and which are heading to restricted free agency next offseason (Note: this list excludes players that have fallen out of the league completely and those who are not extension eligible this season due to staying in overseas for a season or more).

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future

David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.

One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.

House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.

He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.

“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”

This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.

Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.

When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.

Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.

“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”

Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.

In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.

“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”

Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.

In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.

“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”

As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.

The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”

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PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers

Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

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NBA Daily: Ujiri Leading Golden Era of Raptors Basketball

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has taken big risks in going all in for the 2019 season and – with a potentially shortened window – it’s the right move, writes Lang Greene.

Lang Greene

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The Toronto Raptors (43-16) are on pace for their fourth consecutive 50-plus win season and barring a collapse of epic proportions will shortly secure their sixth straight trip to the playoffs.

Make no mistake, this is the golden era of Raptors basketball. Period.

The easiest thing in the world to do is play a situation safe. Minimize risk and accept the near certain outcome. Heading into the season, as previously constructed, the Raptors were already on a trajectory to reach 50 wins and secure a playoff berth. However, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri made the risky decision to turn off cruise control and go all in on a championship this season.

The reason was simple – five straight trips to the Eastern Conference playoffs netted only one trip past the second round and some seriously embarrassing postseason eliminations. So sure, the franchise could have stayed the course with the previous roster framework, but realistic title aspirations were a stretch at best.

To begin the roster reconstruction, the Raptors traded All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran guard Danny Green.

Green and Leonard immediately provided Toronto with championship heart and grit, something lacking from the team in year’s past. The trade was a huge risk for Ujiri with free agency looming this summer for Leonard (and Green) and having to say goodbye to DeRozan, a homegrown talent and the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

Toronto rolled early this season and have remained near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but Ujiri doubled down at the trade deadline by acquiring former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a 2024 second-round draft pick.

In just over six months, Ujiri was able to acquire two former Defensive Player of the Year award winners while gutting his roster of familiar faces fans came to know during the team’s recent run to prominence.

The Raptors currently sit one game out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The moves are driving results and most believe the Raptors are legitimate title contenders. But the risk for the franchise is most definitely real. Gasol, Leonard and Green are all expected to hit the unrestricted free agency market this summer which could leave the franchise facing a real possibility of losing all for nothing in return.

The prospect of losing Leonard and Gasol would undoubtedly take Toronto from the top of the East to a club scrapping to even make a playoff run in 2020. Ujiri went all in for a title this season. Leonard’s future is uncertain and so is Gasol’s. But the prospect of truly competing for a title was too tantalizing to pass up after years of setbacks around playoff time.

Inevitably all teams must go through a time of rebuilding or reloading. Despite Toronto’s previous success, their window was limited in nature and closing rapidly, so you have to admire Ujiri’s daring to be great mindset.

For reference, the Atlanta Hawks reached the postseason 10 consecutive times from 2008-2017 but the franchise’s front office played it relatively safe during their run devoid of any major moves. The Hawks watched All-Star performers Al Horford and Paul Millsap ultimately leave for nothing in return. Atlanta’s rebuild is in good shape with guard Trae Young, big man John Collins and an additional lottery pick this season.

However, the team never swung for the fences during their run – something Ujiri wouldn’t let happen – despite the huge risks needed to be potentially a champ.

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