Gay Finds A Home with Kings?
By Bill Ingram
Sometimes what seems like the most unlikely of pairings winds up working better than anyone could have imagined. The Sacramento Kings made an aggressive move midseason when they acquired Rudy Gay from the Toronto Raptors, and while the trade has not resulted in a ton of wins in the short-term, there are indications that Gay might be a big part of the Kings’ rebuilding plan going forward.
Are The Wolves Keeping Kevin Love?
By Steve Kyler
With a small handful of games remaining for most of the NBA, several teams are heading into the offseason with looming doubts and daunting questions; none may be bigger than the Minnesota Timberwolves’ and their future with star forward Kevin Love.
Love’s name has been kicked around in trade rumors for most of the season and it’s expected that Love-mania will resume in full force this summer.
Time For Pacers’ Frank Vogel To Feel The Heat?
By Lang Greene
If you haven’t been following the league closely over the past two months and just decided to pick up the morning paper and look at the standings, you might be fooled when evaluating the Indiana Pacers.
On paper, the Pacers have the league’s fifth-best record, have already clinched the Central Division crown and own one of the best home records (34-6) in the NBA this season. Dig even deeper and you’ll notice the team’s 53 wins this season is the franchise’s most since 2000 when they lost in the NBA Finals.
So things are trending up for the emerging Pacers heading into the playoffs, right? Unfortunately the situation in Indiana has gotten progressively worse as the season trudges along.
Al Jefferson Deserves MVP Consideration
By Alex Kennedy
Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson deserves to be in the Most Valuable Player discussion. This sentence would’ve seemed like a joke before the start of the 2013-14 NBA season, but that was before Jefferson had the best season of his career and transformed the Bobcats from the laughingstock of the league into a playoff team.
Jefferson won’t finish ahead of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant or Miami HEAT forward LeBron James in MVP voting, but he certainly belongs in the conversation and deserves credit for his remarkable season. He also has a strong All-NBA argument.
NBA Power Rankings: One Week Remaining
By Moke Hamilton
With the NBA going dark on Monday night in order to give the NCAA national championship all of the basketball-loving eyes that this country has to offer, there are only nine days remaining in the NBA’s regular season. That means this is the final full week of the regular season and these are the penultimate Power Rankings from Basketball Insiders.
Over the course of the season, we have seen the Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Miami HEAT all possess the top rank for multiple weeks, but as we said in our Sunday dialogue with Bill Ingram and Joel Brigham, it’s not who you are at the beginning of the season that matters, it is who you are at the end.
Rumors Surrounding the Lakers
By Yannis Koutroupis
There are only eight days left in the NBA’s regular season. Once April 16 rolls around, the offseason will begin for 14 teams. The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be one of those teams for just the third time since 1994. It’s not something they’re accustomed to as an organization and as a result, talk about potential changes they could make have surfaced left and right.
Last night was supposed to be about UConn and Kentucky, two teams who persevered through tough seasons (two in UConn’s case), facing off for a national championship. Instead, with one tweet from Rex Chapman, a former NBA player and a member of the Kentucky broadcast team, the biggest story prior to the tip was that Kentucky head coach John Calipari was set to become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers regardless of the outcome. Calipari’s Wildcats went on to lose the game to the Huskies, although it’d be unfair to blame the loss on anything other than their poor free throw shooting and just how good the Huskies are. Still, it was an unnecessary distraction that really became amplified due to the followings that the Lakers and Kentucky have and the way that rumors can now spread like wildfires with today’s technology.
Kevin Durant Is Already An All-Time Great Scorer
By Jabari Davis
“KD [Kevin Durant] is a special player,” head coach Scott Brooks said when asked about Durant earlier this season. “Some nights he’s going to have a high-scoring game, but I just like the way he thinks. He thinks about the team. He [takes] great shots and everybody else gets involved.”
That’s particularly what’s so “special” about Durant, as even though he is the most lethal scoring force in the NBA, he still maintains the team’s best interest in mind while out there dominating on most nights. It just so happens that on many nights, his scoring prowess is precisely what the team needs; whether pacing the offense over the course of the action or picking moments to assert himself for a lightning-quick 15-point personal blitz Durant is prone to do at the drop of a hat.
Fixing the New Orleans Pelicans
By John Zitzler
The New Orleans Pelicans were very aggressive last offseason in an attempt to upgrade their talent and make their squad more competitive immediately. The team traded the sixth overall draft pick in the 2013 draft, which became Nerlens Noel, and a top-five protected 2014 first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Jrue Holiday and the 42nd pick in the 2013 draft, which became Pierre Jackson. Next, the Pelicans acquired former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans along with the rights to Jeff Withey in a three-team sign-and-trade deal that Greivis Vasquez to the Sacramento Kings and Robin Lopez and Terrel Harris to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The two trades would be the Pelicans’ most noteworthy moves of the summer, but wouldn’t be their last. The team stayed active in free agency, bringing in a number of under the radar players such as Greg Stiemsma, Anthony Morrow and Alexis Ajinca as well as re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu to fill out the team’s roster.
2014 Cap Space Projections – Northwest Division
By Eric Pincus
Twelve teams have officially clinched playoff berths as the 2013-14 regular season heads into its final week.
The league’s early projections for next year’s salary cap is $62.9 million, up from this year’s $58.7 million. The luxury tax threshold is also expected to climb to approximately $75.7 million from $71.7 million.
In the final entry of a six-part of a series, where do the five teams in the Northwest Division stand this offseason?
Life After Basketball: The Next Chapter for Powe
By Jessica Camerato
He sat courtside, legs barely fitting within the boundaries of the baseline and eyes glued to the game being played on the parquet where he helped win a championship. The banner hanging in the rafters above served as a reminder.
The visions of falling confetti flashed into his mind. He imagined the sights and sounds of triumph, the loud bellows of celebration from his teammates and the raw emotions of attaining the ultimate goal. It happened six seasons ago, but it might as well have been yesterday.
Leon Powe returned to TD Garden last weekend for the first time in three years. He had taken on many roles there since 2007, first as a Boston Celtic, then a member of the opposing team, and this time – most dramatically different – a former NBA player.
Fixing the Denver Nuggets
By Jesse Blancarte
The Denver Nuggets are an interesting team. They are currently 34-44 and 11th in the Western Conference. This is not the way this season was supposed to go after the Nuggets secured the third seed in the Western Conference last year. However, some key changes from last season’s team set the groundwork for a letdown season.
During this past offseason, the Nuggets fired long-time head coach George Karl even though Karl had just won Coach of the Year. Then, the Toronto Raptors managed to pluck away the Nuggets’ general manager, Masai Ujiri, who had just won Executive of the Year. The Nuggets hired Brian Shaw, who had no prior head coaching experience, to replace Karl. Shaw had long been considered an up-and-coming assistant coach who would inevitably be hired as a head coach. Tim Connelly was then named the new general manager to replace Ujiri.
Phil Jackson’s Carmelo Anthony Conundrum
By Tommy Beer
When he accepted Jim Dolan’s incredibly lucrative offer, Phil Jackson was well aware he’d have to wait roughly 16 months before he could begin re-shaping and upgrading the New York Knicks’ roster. Jackson’s hands are essentially tied until July of 2015 because, regardless of any moves he may make this offseason, New York will be well over the salary cap during the 2014-15 campaign.
The triumvirate of Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani and Tyson Chandler will account for $50 million in salary next season, which means it is essentially impossible for Jackson to get under the cap prior to these contracts coming off the books. However, that doesn’t mean Jackson won’t have the opportunity to make an immediate imprint on his new franchise.
Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?
Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.
With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.
It couldn’t get worse, could it?
Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.
My understanding is that Kyrie Irving is getting a 2nd opinion on his left knee, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Bottom line: he needs the screws out. Knee is flaring up. He will either play thru it going forward or … he will get thee screws out and won’t play at all. Stay tuned.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) March 20, 2018
With lack of progress on his ailing left knee, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving plans to travel for a second opinion later this week, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 20, 2018
In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.
The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.
Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.
The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.
Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.
Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?
If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.
Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.
NBA Daily: Houston Has It All
Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.
It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.
So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.
As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.
Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.
One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.
Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.
Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.
This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.
Small Ball Ready
Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.
At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.
When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.
Shooting, Versatility and Experience
All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.
Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.
Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.
With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.
PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte break down the Western Conference playoff race and check in on the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.