Bosh’s Decision Maintains Hierarchy in Western Conference
On Friday of last week, LeBron James made his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers official. James’ decision grabbed significant attention, and was the main story on a busy day of free agency activity. But make no mistake, as significant as James’ decision to go home was, former teammate Chris Bosh’s choice to stay in Miami will have more of an impact on the 2014-2015 NBA title race than the King’s decision.
In the days leading up to James’ decision, reports surfaced that Bosh was speaking with the Houston Rockets to establish a landing spot in the event that James left Miami. It seemed like a perfect match.
Bosh is from Texas (Dallas), is a top power forward, and would nicely complement Houston center Dwight Howard in the Rockets’ front-court (Bosh has strongly developed his outside game and three-point shot over the last few seasons, while Dwight continues to work exclusively in the paint). So when James’ essay explaining his decision was published on SI.com late last week, it was assumed that Bosh would soon after come to terms with the Houston Rockets.
Well, HEAT president Pat Riley wasn’t ready to start over in Miami, and aggressively pushed to keep Bosh and Wade in South Beach. As he often does, Riley got his man. Bosh accepted Miami’s max contract offer (five years, $118 million), spurning the Rockets, who could only offer a four-year, roughly $80 million contract.
While James’ move back to Cleveland is a great story, and is rightfully the focus of our collective attention, Bosh’s decision will have more bearing on next year’s championship race than James’.
LeBron said in his own essay that the road to a championship would not be easy and that the Cavaliers are probably at least a year away from contending.
“We’re not ready right now,” James wrote. “No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach.”
James wrote that he could help elevate the games of young teammates Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson. After promising not one, not two, not three, not four, not five championships in Miami, James may be underselling the situation in Cleveland. But the fact is that unless the Cavaliers swing a trade for Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love, the Cavaliers will not be a true championship contender next year. The Eastern Conference is wide open, and the Cavaliers will be in the mix, but as the San Antonio Spurs have taught us over the years, stability and veterans win championships, not young talent.
Two summers ago, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey landed James Harden in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then, last offseason, the Rockets swooped Dwight Howard out of Los Angeles to play alongside Harden and small forward Chandler Parsons. As recently as Friday, it looked as though Morey and the Rockets were about to land an all-star player for the third year in a row.
The Rockets agreed to send Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans a few weeks ago. Then, last week, Chandler Parsons signed a three-year, $46 million offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks, giving Houston three days to match the offer. Then yesterday, after LeBron’s decision was published, the Rockets traded Jeremy Lin, along with a first and second round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers in order to clear space to sign Bosh. But Bosh decided Miami was the place for him, leaving the Rockets with roughly $20 million in cap space, and the question of whether to match Parsons’ offer sheet, which they eventually decided to pass on.
Signing Bosh would have guaranteed that the Rockets would match Parsons’ offer sheet, but without the star power forward, the Rockets acquired Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza in a sign-and-trade deal, worth $32 million over four years. This deal allows the Rockets to have considerable flexibility next offseason, which Rockets general manager Daryl Morey puts a premium on.
So, instead of a starting lineup of Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard, the Rockets will likely roll out a starting lineup of Beverley, Harden, Ariza, Terrence Jones and Howard. This is still a very good team, one that could contend in the Western Conference. However, it cannot be said that this lineup is the favorite in the West, not with the champion San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Clippers there to compete with and the Golden State Warriors in the mix as well. This is what was lost when Bosh decided to stay in Miami. Though the Spurs are the champions and gold standard of the NBA, the Rockets had an opportunity jump into the top tier of the Western Conference with San Antonio, and possibly become the favorite to win it all next year.
But Bosh has the right to stay in Miami, even if the HEAT will not be able to compete for a title like the Rockets. Bosh has played third-fiddle to the LeBron James and Dwayne for the last four years after being the number one option with the Toronto Raptors. Bosh conveyed this sentiment in an interview with the Associated Press on Sunday, stating “I’m excited for the challenge. I want to step up to the challenge. I feel this is a chance to prove to myself and others that I can still do this.”
In his last season with the Raptors (2009-10), Bosh averaged 24 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and one block per game. Last season with the HEAT, he averaged 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and one block per game. With Wade constantly battling through injuries, Bosh will likely take on a number one option role with the HEAT next year, and will be able to show the rest of the league how good he still is, and how much of his game he sacrificed these last four seasons so the HEAT could compete for championships.
There is an inclination to feel as though the Miami HEAT are the big losers so far this off-season. Losing LeBron James can have that effect. But the Houston Rockets may have lost more than anyone. Daryl Morey made the right moves, and set a perfect landing spot for Bosh in the event that LeBron went home to Cleveland. But with Bosh going back to Miami, the Rockets have to move forward with Ariza—who is a very good player— instead of Bosh and Houston fan-favorite Parsons, which is a tough pill to swallow after it looked as though the Rockets were cleared for takeoff to the top of the Western Conference, but are now right back in the middle.
King James announced he was going home on Friday, but Bosh keeping his talents in South Beach is what will have the most impact on the 2014-2015 title race.
USA Basketball Announces Training Camp Roster
With free-agency well underway, USA Basketball released the full roster for the 2014 National Team training camp.
Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Stephen Curry, James Harden, and DeMar DeRozan.
Kevin Durant, Kenneth Faried, Kevin Love, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons, and Klay Thompson.
DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Andre Drummond.
Some notable names that are not on the roster include LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook, Finals MVP Khawi Leonard, and John Wall.
Aldridge, who in the past has wavered in terms of interest in playing for the National team, was initially invited to participate, but withdrew from consideration for this summer’s FIBA World Cup to be held in Spain later this summer. Westbrook withdrew his name last week in order to rest after undergoing three knee surgeries that stem from an injury he suffered against the Houston Rockets in the 2013 playoffs. Leonard also withdrew his name from consideration due to lingering lower body injuries, including knee soreness and quadriceps tendinitis. Leonard is also currently involved in negotiations for an extension with the San Antonio Spurs. Regarding Wall, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that Wall could be added to the roster later, but that is not a certainty as of today.
Two new members added to the 2014-16 National Team roster are DeMar DeRozan and Chandler Parsons, who both played in last summer’s National Team mini-camp.
This summer’s roster does not include past National Team standouts such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Kobe Bryant. However, returning from the 2012 U.S. Olympic gold medal team are Davis (who replaced Blake Griffin who suffered a knee injury), Durant, Harden and Love. Also returning from the 2010 FIBA World Cup Tournament held in Turkey are Curry, Durant, Love, and Rose.
The 19-man roster is loaded with talent and includes some of the best shooters in the NBA, such as Curry, Thompson, Lillard, Durant, Love, Korver, and Parsons. It also features some of the most physical, young big men in Griffin, Faried, Cousins, and Drummond.
Marc Stein of ESPN reports that some of the players considered to be locks to make the final team include Durant, Love, Griffin, Davis, Harden and Curry, and that George, Irving, Lillard, and Rose have a good shot as well.
One player to keep an eye on is Rose, who has missed the last two NBA seasons due to knee injuries, but is reportedly now 100 percent healthy. When healthy, Rose is one of the most physically imposing point guards in the league, however, it is unclear just how good he can be after two seasons of rehabbing from ACL and meniscus surgeries.
The National Team coaching staff is once again headed by Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is largely credited with revitalizing the USA Basketball program along with director Jerry Colangelo. Assisting coach Krzyzewski are Jim Boeheim (Syracuse University), Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls), and Monty Williams (New Orleans Pelicans).
The final roster for the World Cup will need to be trimmed down to 12, so National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo and coach Krzyzewski will have some tough choices to make in the coming weeks.
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.