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NBA AM: Same Team, New Number

Doug McDermott will join Kobe Bryant as players who changed numbers, but not teams. Here’s the rest of them.

Joel Brigham

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Chicago Bulls forward Doug McDermott is going to change numbers next season, even though he’s not changing teams. Thanks to Dwyane Wade’s arrival, McDermott is giving up his #3 to a guy he knows will be a Hall-of-Famer, but that leaves him with the conundrum of choosing new digits. According to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, McDermott is considering #11, #17, #24 and #34, any of which will look almost as odd as Wade wearing any number in a uniform other than Miami’s.

McDermott isn’t alone in having had to change uniform numbers without changing teams. Plenty of players have done the same for a number of reasons over the years. Here’s a look at a good chunk of them:

Al Jefferson, Boston Celtics, #8, #7 and Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics, #8, #88 – After being traded back to the Celtics in 2005, Walker couldn’t wear #8 again because rookie Al Jefferson had it. Eventually, though, Jefferson surrendered the number back to the vet and dropped a digit to #7 instead.

B.J. Armstrong, Chicago Bulls, #10, #11 – Armstrong got a second stint with Chicago in 1999-2000, but by then the team had retired Bob Love’s #10, so Armstrong tacked on a digit to stay as close to #10 as possible.

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, #23, #45, #12 – Jordan had to wear #12 in a game on Valentine’s Day in 1990 because someone stole his #23 game jersey, and he obviously wore #45, his baseball number, when he came back to the Bulls in 1994.

Brad Miller, Chicago Bulls, #40, #52 – The only time in his career Miller didn’t wear #52 was his first stint in Chicago. He remedied that his second go-round.

Jannero Pargo, Chicago Bulls, #15, #2 – John Salmons kept Pargo from reclaiming his #15 from his first time with the Bulls, so he happily took up #2, a number he also had worn several times in his career.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, #1, #0 – When Chauncey Billups made one last gasp in Detroit a couple of seasons ago, Drummond happily gave up the number he wore his rookie year so Billups could have the uniform he made famous in the Motor City.

Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons, #3, #6 – The city of Detroit got all the warm fuzzies in the world when Wallace was given the opportunity to finish his career in Detroit after spending a few years in his twilight with other teams. By the time of his return, though, Rodney Stuckey had taken ownership of #3 and really wasn’t all that interested in giving it back. So, Wallace doubled his old number and settled for #6.

Rasheed Wallace, Detroit Pistons, #30, #36 – Wallace changed his number to 36 in 2004 to honor his brother, who passed away at the age of 36. He would eventually change back to #30.

Kenyon Martin, Denver Nuggets, #6, #4 – Martin had worn #6 for his entire career before switching over to his college number in 2007.

J.R. Smith, Denver Nuggets, #1, #5 and Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets, #7, #1 – These go together since Smith changed from #1 to give the number to Billups following his trade from Detroit in 2008.

Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets, #1, #3 – Back in 2009, McGrady was doing a lot of work in Darfur, not only for his charity but also for a documentary he was producing entitled, “3 Points.” The number change helped raise awareness for those projects.

Ron Artest, Indiana Pacers, #15, #23, #91 – Artest always has made interesting uniform number choices, but his first diversion away from #15 was a tribute to Michael Jordan. His switch to #91, then, was another tribute, this time to Jordan’s championship teammate, bad boy Dennis Rodman.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers, #24, #13 – Bill Simmons once suggested that George should change his number so that he could assume the “PG-13” nickname, and when George got wind of it he liked the sound of it enough to actually go through with the number change.

Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers, #8, #24 – Bryant wanted to wear #24 as a rookie but it wasn’t available, so he switched over in 2006 to the number he’d desired all along.

Jordan Farmar, L.A. Lakers, #5, #1 – Farmar wore #1 both at UCLA and in high school, so the minute it became available he pounced all over it.

Nate Robinson, New York Knicks, #4, #2 – There were “two” reasons for Robinson to switch to #2, the first of which being that Robinson’s first uniform number ever was #2, and the second being that it was the number his favorite athlete, Deion Sanders, who wore it at Florida State.

Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers, #34, #32 – Barkley changed his number in 1991 to honor his friend Magic Johnson, who had recently been diagnosed with HIV. He did change back to #34 the following season.

Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers, #4, #9 – When Chris Webber came to Philadelphia, the rookie gave up his #4 for Webber to wear, but now it’s hard to imagine Iguodala wearing anything but #9.

Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns, #32, #1 – In coming back from microfracture surgery in 2006, Stoudemire felt he was the only “one” to believe he could be as effective as before, which is why he switched to the loneliest number.

Martell Webster, Portland Trail Blazers, #8, #23 – When Webster first joined the Blazers, Darius Miles wore the #23 that Webster really wanted, so he had to wait for Miles’ departure to wear the number Martell wore in high school.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings, #16, #23 – McLemore chose #16 as a rookie without really realizing that it had been Peja Stojakovic’s number when he was playing in Sacramento. With #23 coming available thanks to the departure of Marcus Thornton, McLemore switched to his preferred digit for his sophomore year while paying his belated respects to Stojakovic in the process.

Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs, #4, #14 – Having worn #14 in high school and college, that was the number he preferred all along, which explains his switch from #4 a couple of seasons ago.

Chris Webber, Washington Bullets, #2, #4 – Scott Skiles wore Chris Webber’s #4 when he was first traded to the Bullets, so he had to wait until Skiles retired to take ownership of the number he wore for the majority of his basketball career.

Brendan Haywood, Washington Wizards, #3, #00, #33 – Haywood at one point apparently didn’t care what number he wore, as he started with #3 as a rookie but gave it up and switched to #00 when Juan Dixon joined the team the following year. Then he gave that number up when Gilbert Arenas came aboard and wanted to wear #0. He finally had enough the next season when Antawn Jamison, who had previously worn Haywood’s #33, found his way to Washington. Haywood declined the option to switch numbers a third time following that acquisition.

Andray Blatche, Washington Wizards, #32, #7 – Ahead of the 2009 season, Blatche wanted to come into camp with a whole new attitude about his career, which is why he chose #7 to represent, as he put it, “Seven days a week of hard work, seven days of being focused.”

Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards, #0, #9 – Arenas changed to #9 in 2010, but to this day nobody knows why. Arenas always did take pride in being an enigma.

Reader Contributions:

Dion Waiters, Oklahoma City Thunder, #23, #3 (@Thunder_Digest)
Perry Jones, Oklahoma City Thunder, #8, #3 (@Thunder_Digest)
Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City Thunder, #2, #25 (@JonMHamm)
DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers, #9, #6 (@JonMHamm)
Tony Wroten, Philadelphia 76ers, #8, #1 (@TaylorOfTerror)
Bruno Caboclo, Toronto Raptors, #20, #5 (@416Basketball)
Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons, #3, #7 (@dropdeadken_)
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets, #1, #15 (@RichieRandall)
Mario Chalmers, Miami HEAT, #6, #15 (@FrankyG_)
Mengke Bateer, Toronto Raptors #42, #14 (@MarkDeeksNBA)
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers, #6, #1 (@EllisD69)
Joe Young, Indiana Pacers, #1, #3 (@EllisD69)
Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers, #9, #8 (@ChefKyrie)
Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors, #36, #5 (@MattRGagnon)

***

Number changes can be a fascinating thing, if only for the reasons behind the switches, and this year Doug McDermott joins the ranks.

This can’t be the comprehensive list, but it sure would be nice to make it that way. If you see any I missed, please hit me up on Twitter @joelbrigham, and we’ll try to make this list whole!

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NBA

Rookie Of The Year Watch – 01/17/18

Shane Rhodes checks in on a tightening Rookie of the Year race.

Shane Rhodes

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As the old adage goes, time flies when you’re having fun. And this NBA season sure has flown.

Not only has there been some great storylines this regular season, there has been even better basketball and, in recent days, plenty of petty fights or squabbles to satisfy the rowdiest of fans.

Still, nothing is more satisfying than winning. And while most rookies aren’t in a position to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, they are in a position to take home another award; Rookie of The Year. The 2017 rookie class has been one of the more fun and exciting classes in a long time. But, at the season’s midpoint, who is leading the pack?

6. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

While the shot still isn’t there, Lonzo Ball pretty much does everything else well for the Los Angeles Lakers. Averaging a solid 10.2 points to go along with 7.1 rebounds and assists per game, Ball has been an all-around contributor for this young Laker squad and has done it all while playing under the crushing pressure of his father LaVar and the city of Los Angeles. He often tries to get everyone involved in the offense and is constantly pushing the tempo. While it hasn’t resulted in many Laker wins yet, it surely will in time.

However, when I say his shot isn’t there yet, it really isn’t there. Ball’s current shooting splits of 35.6/30.3/40.8 from the floor, three and the line, while improved on his early season numbers, are pretty much a disaster; certainly not what the Lakers expected when they took him second overall. While there have been flashes of the player that shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc at UCLA, Ball’s shooting has been streaky at best but those numbers, alongside his form, should continue to improve over time. The Lakers will need it to if they want to have any chance of climbing the Western Conference ladder in the near future.

5. Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls

Lauri Markkanen has played a major role in the recent surge by the Chicago Bulls. While it may seem strange to say that a 17-27 team is surging, not many people thought the Bulls would win this many games over the course of the whole season after trading star Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the offseason.

Markkanen has averaged 15.5 points to go along with 7.6 rebounds per game this season while shooting 43 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three. While those numbers have dipped since the beginning of the season, Markkanen still ranks fifth among rookies in three-point percentage. The return of guard Zach LaVine alongside the emergence of Kris Dunn — both acquired in the trade with Minnesota — should go along way in alleviating the offensive burden on the Finnish forward as well.

Markkanen’s defense is really the only thing holding back his game; 0.6 blocks per game seems a little too low for someone who stands at seven-feet tall, while his 108.4 defensive rating leaves a little something to be desired.

4. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers

At this point in the season, Kyle Kuzma is still, by far, the steal of the draft for the Lakers.

Averaging 16.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, Kuzma ranks third among rookies in scoring while he sits fifth and sixth in rebounding and three-point percentage, respectively. He has certainly forced his way into the Lakers’ future as a building block, but Kuzma needs to do more on the offensive end outside of scoring the ball. His assist percentage of 9.6 is among the lowest of the team’s regular rotation and could certainly stand to improve as the Lakers continue to push to become a more ball movement oriented team.

Kuzma’s defense, while not terrible, could use some improvement as well. Kuzma isn’t overly athletic, so he has trouble keeping up with smaller forwards and guards when switched onto them. Improving his agility and or quickness could go a long way here.

3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Most rookies in Jayson Tatum’s position — playing on a Conference contender — don’t have much of a shot at taking home Rookie of the Year. That fact alone makes what Tatum has done this season for the Boston Celtics that much more impressive.

Averaging 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, Tatum has played an integral role for the Celtics, who currently sit comfortably atop the Eastern Conference. He remains one of the most efficient rookies on offense, shooting 49.9 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three while maintaining in the poise of a veteran in late game situations. Tatum plays a large part in Boston’s elite, league-leading defense as well, and his defensive rating of 99.1 paces all rookies.

There hasn’t been much to complain about when it comes to Tatum outside his aggressiveness on the offensive end. As the Celtics’ fourth option, Tatum doesn’t really need to shoulder much of a load on offense, but it would still be nice to see him to at least attempt create his own shot on a consistent basis when he is running with the second unit.

2. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

There is no doubt about it, Donovan Mitchell has been the most explosive, if not most exciting, rookie in this class. His 18.9 points per game leads all rookies while his scoring and high-flying athletic ability have created more than a few highlights for the Utah Jazz in recent weeks. Mitchell is also second among rookies in total steals, registering 61 pickpockets on the season.

In the absence of Rudy Gobert, Mitchell has managed to keep the Jazz somewhat afloat in the tough Western Conference. The two should certainly form an interesting pick-and-roll tandem when Gobert returns and, sitting at 10th in the West with a 17-26 record, they are capable of making a late-season push into the bottom of the playoff picture.

The only problem with Mitchell, as it has been all season, is his efficiency. Mitchell is shooting just 44 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three, but a lot of that has to do with his 28.4 percent usage rate. As the Jazz return Gobert and others, Mitchell’s usage rate should drop, which should coincide with a drop in field goal attempts and an uptick in his shooting percentages.

1. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

For better or worse, this award is still Ben Simmons’ to lose. He hasn’t been the dominant player he was in the early season for the Philadelphia 76ers, but Simmons still has a leg up on most rookies thanks to his athletic ability, court vision and ball-handling skills. Simmons and his 16.8 points, eight rebounds and 7.1 assists per game are still a matchup nightmare against most teams due to his sheer size when compared to the average point guard as well.

Simmons is not without his faults, however. Whether it’s because he is shooting with the wrong hand or something else, Simmons’ jump shot needs plenty of work. While he’s shooting 51.3 percent from the field, most of his attempts are dunks or hooks close to the basket. He still has yet to make a three-point attempt, taking just 10 on the season. Simmons’ lack of shooting means defenses can almost completely ignore him outside the paint while the offense goes into a pit when fellow star Joel Embiid is on the bench; that will need to change if the 76ers want to be the powerhouse The Process has led them to believe they will become.

Again, Rookie of The Year is Simmons’ award to lose. However, if he is unable to adjust his offensive game — especially when Joel Embiid sits — he will begin to feel plenty of pressure from his fellow rookies who are on the rise.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Jayson Tatum: Boston’s X-Factor

Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum speaks to Michael Scotto about his early adjustments and success.

Michael Scotto

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When All-Star Gordon Hayward dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia five minutes into the season, the outlook changed drastically for the Boston Celtics this season.

“I think our group, going into the season, there were a lot of expectations with Gordon [Hayward] and then the injury happens, and a lot of our younger guys had to grow up a lot quicker,” Celtics center Al Horford told Basketball Insiders on January 6 before facing the Brooklyn Nets. “It has given our team an opportunity to develop, to embrace the challenge that we have in front of us, and it’s opened up a lot of playing time for guys.

“I feel like we’re taking advantage of it. We’re growing as a group and, really, I feel like there’s no ceiling for our group. As long as we keep defending and keep doing the things that we need to do on the defensive end, I think it’s going to put us in a position to be successful.”

Those expectations included challenging the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference crown and potentially a championship.

In Hayward’s absence, the youngest player had to grow up the quickest: third overall pick Jayson Tatum.

“It just gave me more of an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had,” Tatum told Basketball Insiders in a video interview. “It’s definitely unfortunate that it had to come the way it did with one of our best players getting hurt, but we’ve all just had to contribute more, step up more losing him on the first night. We had 81 more games left, so we couldn’t make excuses for that.”

The 19-year-old forward has made the most of his opportunity as a full-time starter in his rookie campaign. Tatum is averaging 13.9 points while shooting 50 percent from the field, a league-leading 46 percent from beyond the arc, and 82 percent from the foul line as of January 16.

The 6-foot-8 forward has shown a penchant for coming through in the clutch halfway through the season. According to Basketball-Reference, Tatum has shot 60 percent from the field and 54 percent from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter.

The Eastern Conference December Rookie of the Month has taken some notes in the clutch from four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving.

“I grew up in high school and college seeing him on TV and now seeing it live on your own team,” Tatum told Basketball Insiders. “He’s one of the best players in the world, and he puts on a show each and every night.”

Tatum and Irving, both Duke alumni, played for coach Mike Krzyzewski and are in their first season under Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

Tatum notices differences between the two coaches who have molded the talented teenager.

“They’re both great terrific coaches,” Tatum told Basketball Insiders. “Coach K has been coaching for a long time, but they definitely both know a lot. Brad is a lot more chill, Coach (K) is a lot more fired up, slapping the floor and yelling at guys. I definitely respect them both, and it’s an honor to play for both of them.”

Stevens’ defensive system has helped Tatum realize the defensive potential that drew comparisons to Paul George from scouts and executives before the draft. According to Basketball-Reference, the rookie is tied for third in defensive win shares with George (2.5) and ranks eighth in defensive rating (101.5).

On offense, Tatum has put in time with trainer Drew Hanlen of Pure Sweat Basketball to work on his isolation moves and improve his 3-point shooting. Tatum shot a pedestrian 34 percent from 3-point range at Duke, but now leads the NBA shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Thus far, Tatum has shown encouraging flashes of becoming the player he ultimately wants to be on both sides of the court.

“Just being in the All-Star game as many times as possible, win MVP, win a championship,” Tatum told Basketball Insiders. “Everyone wants to win a championship. Just play as long as possible. Hopefully, I can do that.”

If Tatum continues to be near the top of the Rookie of the Year conversation, rise to the occasion in the fourth quarter and remain a lockdown defender and 3-point shooter, maybe he and the Celtics can realize those heightened expectations after all.

Is that a lot to ask of a 19-year-old?

Absolutely.

However, as the NBA has learned, Tatum is no average teenager and the x-factor towards how far Boston can go this season.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Surging HEAT Must Overcome Adversity

The Miami HEAT have been hit with a number of injuries at shooting guard. Can they stay hot?

Buddy Grizzard

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The Miami HEAT have surged to fourth in the Eastern Conference on the back of a 14-5 stretch since Dec. 9, including a seven-game win streak that ended with Monday’s 119-111 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. In the loss, shooting guard Tyler Johnson got his legs tangled with Robin Lopez and appeared to suffer a serious injury.

“I was scared,” said HEAT small forward Josh Richardson, who joined his teammates in racing down the court to check on Johnson. “You never want to see a guy, whether it’s on your team or the other team, down like that. I talked to him when he was in here [the locker room] and he said he didn’t know what was up.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra told pool reporters after the game that X-rays were negative. It was initially feared to be a knee injury, but Spoelstra said the knee is okay and the ankle is the area of concern. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted that an MRI was not deemed necessary and Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the HEAT is facing a serious shortage at shooting guard, having lost Dion Waiters to season-ending knee surgery, Rodney McGruder to a left tibia stress fracture that will likely keep him out until February, and now Johnson. Miami has applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception after losing Waiters, according to the Sun-Sentinel. HEAT power forward James Johnson said the team will be looking for other players to step up.

“I think it’s the next guy’s gonna step up like we always do,” said Johnson. “As we have guys going down we also have guys getting back and getting back in their groove [like] Justise Winslow. Hopefully, it’s going to give another guy a chance to emerge on this team or in this league.”

Johnson added that the loss to Chicago came against a hot team and the HEAT didn’t have the right mental approach or defensive communication to slow them down.

“Our communication was lacking tonight,” said Johnson. “I think our brains rested tonight and that’s not like us. Tilt your hat to Chicago. They’re shooting the hell out the ball. They didn’t let us come back.”

Richardson echoed the theme of communication and the inability to counter a hot-shooting team.

“We weren’t communicating very well and we were not giving them enough static on the three-point line,” said Richardson. “They’ve been the number one three-point shooting team in the league for like 20 games now. They ran some good actions that we were not reacting right to.”

Spoelstra referred to a turnover-riddled close to the first half as “disgusting” basketball and agreed that the defense let his team down.

“I don’t know what our record is in HEAT franchise history when we give up 120-plus,” said Spoelstra. “I would guess that it’s probably not pretty good.”

The good news for Miami is that it can try a combination of Richardson and Winslow at the wings, while Wayne Ellington has been shooting the leather off the ball from three this season (40.5 percent on over seven attempts per game). The HEAT is the latest team to attempt to defy history by making a serious run without a superstar player. To make that a reality and remain in the upper half of the East’s playoff bracket, Miami will have to personify the “next man up” credo.

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