The Kyrie Irving Quandary
By Moke Hamilton
When Kobe Bryant began playing basketball at the ripe young age of three, what do you think he dreamed of?
When, at the age of 10 years old, he began dissecting film of some of his predecessors, what do you think he imagined for himself?
Do you think Bryant hoped to merely be renowned as the Robin to Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most dominant centers the league has even seen?
Or, do you think Bryant dreamed of one day being known as the greatest player that has ever lived?
What do you think Kyrie Irving dreams of?
Which Struggling NBA Teams Should be Concerned?
By EJ Ayala
Every offseason is full of optimism and promises of improvement from everyone up at the top of NBA front offices all the way down to the players. We are now a little over a month into the regular season and are able to gauge the reality of how teams are starting to shape up. Teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves were expected by many to have a rough go of things this year due to having rosters filled with younger players, lack of superstars, coaching changes, and/or very little team continuity. Today here at Basketball Insiders we are going to take a look at some of the teams whose early season struggles were a little more unexpected and need to be looked at further. These are teams with losing records that had higher expectations that we may need to keep an eye on later for possible player movement and coaching changes later on as the season progresses.
Full 2015 NBA Mock Draft (11/16): Who Does Philly Take?
By Yannis Koutroupis
The 2014-15 NCAA season officially kicked off this week, giving us our first chance to evaluate the 2014 recruiting class and the improvements of some of the top players who passed on the 2014 NBA Draft. However, in our first full 2015 NBA Mock Draft, it’s not a college basketball player at the top, but an international prospect as Emmanuel Mudiay has not only shown some serious potential while playing professionally in China, but also fits the 76ers’ needs more than Jahlil Okafor given the presence of Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Just like in season’s pasts, underclassmen not projected to go in the first round are not included at all and team needs are taken into account.
Is Oladipo Orlando’s Missing Piece?
By Steve Kyler
The Orlando Magic didn’t get off to the best of starts this season, but as things are starting to settle in the Magic are starting to find their way. The return of second year guard Victor Oladipo should help, as his energy and defensive presence was clearly missed as he rehabbed from a broken orbital bone he sustained in practice just as the season opened.
With Oladipo back in the lineup this week, his team’s energy level has been noicably better, especially on the defensive end.
“I just think they feed off the way I play,” Oladipo told Basketball Insiders. “When they see me flying around and playing D, helping and rebounding, I think it’s contagious. We just got to continue to build off that and continue to do that.”
Oladipo’s role as spark plug has been welcomed by his teammates, pushing Oladipo into a leadership role especially among the young guys on the team.
Copeland Steps Up for Depleted Pacers
By Joel Brigham
When Chris Copeland was first signed to play for the Indiana Pacers, the plan was for him to help fill out a rotation that many thought had the chops to make the NBA Finals. They came close last year, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but Copeland was barely a footnote in the journey there. He averaged a paltry three points in just under seven minutes per contest in the playoffs.
However, this year has been an entirely different story, as Copeland leads the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game. A lot of that has to do with all of the injuries the team has sustained this season, but regardless of the reason, he’s taking advantage of a really solid opportunity. He says last year’s banishment to the back of the bench has helped him appreciate the current season a whole lot more.
10 Biggest Early-Season Surprises
By Alex Kennedy
It’s been three weeks since the 2014-15 NBA season started, and there have already been a number of interesting surprises. While the sample size is still relatively small since it’s still early in the season, we wanted point out some of these shocking developments and look at the reasons behind them. Here are 10 of the biggest early-season surprises:
5 NBA Players Off to a Surprising Start
By Cody Taylor
As most NBA teams approach the 10-game mark on their season, we’re beginning to get an idea as to which teams are for real and which teams might need some more work. While it’s entirely too early to gauge a team’s season, there have been some starts that have been surprising either for good or bad reasons. Additionally, there have been some individual performances that have garnered a lot of attention thus far. Let’s take a look at some of the most surprising starts of the season:
The Education of Gerald Green
By Jessica Camerato
There are a lot of things Gerald Green would have done differently throughout his NBA career. How he started it is not one of them.
Green entered the NBA Draft in 2005 from Gulf Shores Academy in Houston, Texas, prior to the league eliminating the possibility of making the jump straight from high school. He was a teenager at the time who thought he was ready to tackle the pros. College was of little interest to him.
The high-flying dunker was quickly grounded, though, as he bounced around to four teams in as many seasons. He was out of the NBA by 2009. If Green were to start his career all over again, he wouldn’t change its beginning.
Dunc’d On: NBA Rookie Report
By Nate Duncan
A look at the rookie PER leaderboard is a stark reminder of how unprepared almost all rookies are to contribute to winning basketball. This is especially the case in the modern era, where the highest-drafted players are usually 20 or younger and the more polished older players often lack the talent to make an immediate impact. At this point, all that can be hoped for are flashes indicating what these rookies can someday be, as well as confirmation that they can compete athletically. Let’s check in on some of the more heralded rookies.
Nuggets Looking To Unload Faried?
By Lang Greene
As the 2014-15 NBA season continues to gain momentum, one date to mark on the calendar is December 15, 2014. This is the day where free agent signees become eligible to be traded and perennially kicks off the NBA’s trading cycle. So in essence we’re just a month away from when things could get very interesting around the league.
While league executives aren’t restricted from making moves before December 15, most front office’s opt to be patient during the early going in order to allow their respective rosters to gain cohesion.
With an influx of players becoming eligible in the trade market, executives can put together more robust deals involving more impactful assets. This becomes helpful in pulling the trigger for bigger name players or guys on the rise at their respective positions.
NBA Rookie Of The Year Watch: Parker Still in the Lead
By Jesse Blancarte
Three weeks of the season are in the books, and for the third week in a row Jabari Parker takes the top spot in Basketball Insiders’ Rookie of the Year Watch.
Despite being heralded as one of the most talented rookie classes of the last decade, this year’s rookie class collectively is struggling with consistency. There have been flashes of excellent play from notable players like Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, but overall it has been a shaky start for the rookies. Basketball Insiders’ analyst Nate Duncan just released a thorough breakdown of some of the rookies, which you can find here.
With that said, let’s see who has made the biggest impression through three weeks of the season.
New York Knicks’ Season Is Slipping Away
By Tommy Beer
The expectations for the Knicks heading into the 2014-15 season were not high.
Considering the Knickerbockers were coming off a bitterly disappointing 2013-14 campaign in which they missed the playoffs despite playing in a sub-par Eastern Conference, the bar was set rather low.
Still, with Phil Jackson now calling the shots, and a new head coach in place, there was hope in some corners of NYC that this group might actually turn it around. Some believed the mythical triangle offense might release untapped potential.
However, the Knicks have somehow managed to disappoint even those New Yorkers who had low-to-modest expectations back on Opening Night.
NBA MVP Watch 11/22/14
By Jabari Davis
For the first time in ages, LeBron James is not currently a part of any legitimate MVP discussion. That isn’t to say he isn’t still one of – if not the – best basketball players on the planet, but James, while playing phenomenally by just about anyone else’s standards, simply hasn’t reached the level we’ve all grown accustomed to expect from him. More importantly – especially when discussing the MVP award – his Cavaliers have yet to figure out how to maximize all of the talent on that roster.
It’s still very early and while players like James, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin among others will undoubtedly receive all the praise they are due at some point, for now it is admittedly as refreshing as it is surprising to have some new names entering the conversation alongside a few familiar ones.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN