Noah Recruiting Anthony to Bulls
By Alex Kennedy
Joakim Noah reportedly started recruiting free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls at this year’s All-Star weekend, when the Bulls center gave a pitch to the New York Knicks forward. It was during this conversation that Anthony supposedly asked Noah what it was like to play for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and seemed to express some level of interest in playing for Chicago.
Well, Noah has continued to recruit Anthony, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Joe Cowley writes that Noah and Anthony communicated via text messaging throughout the second half of the 2013-14 season, including talking one day after the Bulls were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.
Is The NBA Becoming Too Soft?
By Jabari Davis
“[The NBA is] more of a finesse game,” Kobe Bryant said. “It’s more small ball…which, personally, I don’t care very much for. Makes me nauseous. You can’t touch a guy.”
Recently, these words certainly rang true, as many fans were actually clamoring for a suspension for Indiana’s Paul George following a minor skirmish between teammate George Hill and Atlanta’s Mike Scott. While Bryant may have been referring to the on-court play when he made those comments during a January interview with NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, the same can be said for how we’ve been reconditioned to consume the product over the last couple decades. Often complained about by players, coaches and observers alike, the NBA has developed and in some cases earned the distinction of growing “softer” over the years.
Chicago Can’t Afford to Sell Off Thibodeau
By Joel Brigham
First it was the New York Knicks reportedly setting their sights on current Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but when those rumors died down in favor of new ones featuring Steve Kerr, the next story du jour was that the L.A. Lakers, on the heels of the Mike D’Antoni resignation, would be asking Chicago for permission to speak with one of the league’s most respected head coaches.
So far, Thibodeau or the Bulls haven’t released any official statement saying that no such conversation will happen between the two parties, but let’s not allow ourselves to believe for one minute that Chicago is really going to let Thibodeau walk.
Studs and Duds from Week 3 of the Playoffs
By Moke Hamilton
And then, there were eight.
With the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs set to begin on Monday night, the masses were treated to a number of thrilling occurrences.
From Vince Carter and Damian Lillard’s respective game- and series-clinching three-pointers to a brilliant Game 7 performance by Chris Paul to a series-clinching block by Paul Pierce, these NBA playoffs have been riveting.
The best part? It’s only just begun.
What’s Next For Kyle Lowry?
By Steve Kyler
As the Toronto Raptors cleared out their lockers and did their requisite exit interviews with the team and the media, a common questions was asked of virtually everyone. ‘Is Kyle Lowry Going To Be Back Next Season?’
The short answer on Toronto’s unrestricted free agent is very likely.
The long answer is it depends on who else comes calling.
Lowry both publicly and privately has said he likes the situation in Toronto and that he’d like to be back. Privately, Raptors president Masai Ujiri has told staffers that re-signing Lowry is a top priority and that the team will meet the expected asking price, said to be in the $10 to $12 million per year range.
The problem for Toronto and for Lowry is that the Raptors won’t be the only team calling.
Who Should Replace Mark Jackson?
By Yannis Koutroupis
The Golden State Warriors fired Mark Jackson today after months of speculation that they would part ways with the third-year head coach at season’s end. They were eliminated from the playoffs this past weekend after a close seven-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers that they played without their starting center Andrew Bogut. Short of winning an NBA championship, though, it just didn’t seem like there was anything Jackson could do to save his job.
His dismissal has been met with a lot of public criticism of the Warriors front office, but this was truly a decision made due to what occurred behind the scenes. On the surface, Jackson deserved an extension/raise. He guided the team to back-to-back postseason appearances, a feat they haven’t accomplished since the early 90s, and had the complete and total support of the locker room. From Stephen Curry to Jermaine O’Neal, everyone backed Jackson.
The opposite was the case with the people in the front office who actually determined Jackson’s fate. According to reports, he butted heads with everyone from the team’s owner Joe Lacob to the highly respected Jerry West. Add in his conflicts with his own coaching staff and a high-profile extortion case last year, and Jackson’s off the court failures triumphed his on the court successes – in their eyes at least.
Fixing the Golden State Warriors
By Nate Duncan
The Golden State Warriors have seen quite a bit of upheaval during the last 12 months. A year ago, they were the darlings of the league after an electric upset of the Denver Nuggets. Since then, they (rightly) let Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack go, then acquired Andre Iguodala in a sign-and-trade that was enabled by the trade of 2014 and 2017 first round picks to the Utah Jazz.
Yet after a 51-win regular season and a hard-fought first round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Warriors have fired head coach Mark Jackson with one year remaining on his contract. Whether that was a wise decision remains to be seen, but with Jackson’s firing the pressure is now squarely on management to nail their next coaching hire and improve the personnel. And, as we shall see, the pressure is also going to be on owner Joe Lacob and his ownership group to open their wallets to maximize this team’s odds at a championship. Here’s what the Warriors should do moving forward:
Hawks Looking To Join League’s Elite
By Lang Greene
From head coaches Mike Woodson to Larry Drew to Mike Budenholzer. From franchise leading men Joe Johnson to Al Horford and to a degree Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague. From general managers Rick Sund to Danny Ferry. No matter the amount of organizational transition over the years, the Hawks have managed to put together an impressive streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances.
However the Hawks’ inability to advance past the second round during any of those postseason appearances is typically the talking point fans and pundits usually harp on when discussing the current state of the franchise.
Knicks, Bulls Should Talk ‘Melo Trade
By Eric Pincus
The New York Knicks hired Phil Jackson as president to make the difficult decisions as the franchise looks to rebound from a down season.
Carmelo Anthony is expected to become the top free agent on the market this summer, presuming he opts out of the final year on his contract at $23.4 million.
The Chicago Bulls are one of the top defensive teams in the league, but are in desperate need of an elite scorer (along with a healthy Derrick Rose).
It could be in the best interest of the Knicks, Bulls and Anthony to work out a trade before the All-Star forward ever hits free agency in July.
Fixing the Charlotte Bobcats
By Jessica Camerato
The Charlotte Bobcats exceeded expectations this season by doubling their win total from the previous year and making their first playoff appearance since 2010, all under a rookie head coach. At 43-39, the team finished seventh in the Eastern Conference. In spite of a first round sweep by the Miami HEAT, the Bobcats had one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the league this season and have positioned themselves as a playoff contender for the future.
The pieces are in place to move forward. Steve Clifford quickly proved he can turn around a team in just his first year. His 43 wins are second only to Larry Brown’s 44 for most in a single season by a Bobcats head coach. Captains Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson provide leadership that will push the team to continue to improve.
When the Bobcats officially become the Hornets next season, they will look to keep their new-found winning ways as part of their identity.
Ranking the Restricted Free Agents
By Jesse Blancarte
There are now eight teams left standing in the NBA playoffs, which leaves 22 teams to start planning for the upcoming offseason. While this year’s draft class has considerable talent, there is also a list of young, promising free agents that will be available. In particular, there are a number of talented restricted free agents that could be snagged away by teams willing to pay the right amount.
This is generally a risky strategy as teams will often match any offer their player receives. It is also risky because often times restricted free agents are still anywhere from 23 to 26 years old, and it isn’t yet clear how valuable they are as players. Teams that extend an offer sheet to a restricted free agent also tie up their cap space for several days while they wait to find out if that player’s original team will match. Still, each season teams look to pry away these young players, banking on their current skill and future potential.
Kevin Durant’s MVP Moment
By Tommy Beer
As sports fans, it’s often difficult to remain dedicated.
The heartbreaking losses pile up (and for most franchises there are far more painful defeats than uplifting wins), which can erode the faith and devotion of even the most ardent fan. In addition, selfish attitudes and/or unconscionable off-the-field behavior by players on our favorite teams can become too much to bear.
Even when things are going swimmingly, disgraceful stupidity can throw things off track. For instance, the 2014 NBA postseason has been nothing short of miraculous. Somehow, these playoff games have provided incredible, edge-of-the-seat entertainment on a near nightly basis. However, a significant chunk of the 2014 postseason has also been unfortunately overshadowed by the specter of Donald T Sterling’s racist ramblings.
Fixing the Houston Rockets
By Bill Ingram
The 2013-14 NBA season was supposed to herald in a new era of contention for the Houston Rockets. After all, they landed the biggest free agent on the market in Dwight Howard, they boasted one of the best shooting guards in the league in James Harden and they have one of the best young wings in the league in Chandler Parsons. That trio was expected to get Houston significantly closer to a return to the NBA Finals.
Unfortunately, despite a radically improved roster, the Rockets still found themselves watching from the sidelines when the second round of the playoffs started.
Postseason disappointment aside, the Rockets did win nine more games this season and they did it on the strength of their offense. They scored 107.7 points per game, second only to the Los Angeles Clippers’ 107.9, and had a league-leading True Shooting Percentage of 57.1. Where they struggled was on the defensive end, where they ranked 12th in the league in defensive rating, giving up 103.1 points per 100 possessions.
Where do the Rockets go from here? Let’s take a look:
NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson
Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.
Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?
Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.
“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”
Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.
While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.
Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.
“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”
Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.
“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.
Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.
Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.
“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”
When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.
And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.
“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”
One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.
“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”
And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.
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.