Alright folks, we’ve got a bit of a surprise for you this week as we are going to welcome our first special guest into the ‘Shop. Jamieson Welsh (Fox Sports Radio, BelieveTheHypeNBA) is kind enough to take a seat in the chair for today’s discussion. We certainly appreciate you joining us, Jamieson. Let’s jump right into the mix.
Jabari: We’ll welcome the guest in first this week, and start with the Eastern Conference this time around. How real are the Hornets and can they be the challenge we’re all hoping the Cavaliers receive in order to at least make the Eastern Conference race interesting come next spring?
Jamieson: First of all thanks for having me, I definitely appreciate it. When I think of the Hornets I think of a tough team that plays hard but is a piece or two away from being a serious contender. Kemba gets better every year and he’s their leader but he’s not enough to get by the Cavs. In order to be able to compete with the Cavs you need to have multiple all stars and the Hornets don’t have that right now. Right now the best bet would be to get to the second round first before we take on much bigger challenges. It’s good to see MKG back and Kaminsky looking like a lottery pick, but in order to be a contender they must make a big move.
Lang: Good to have you in the ‘Shop, bro. I think you nailed the current state of the Charlotte Hornets. They remind me of … the 2009-2014 Atlanta Hawks. A team with a nice collection of parts, but not good enough to get past the second round of the playoffs. I think Kemba is a fantastic player and has a big heart. I also absolutely love Steve Clifford and how he gets guys to buy-in. He obviously cares about his relationships with players and their productivity shows it. But against a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, as currently constructed at least, the Hornets are nothing more than roadkill. Against Cleveland, my nickname for them is “five and out” because that’s how long their series would last.
Jabari: #CavsIn5 is hilarious, Lang. Speaking of the Cavs, well, LeBron specifically. I have to admit to having mixed feelings about the whole “posse” situation Phil created. I want to say, for the record, I don’t think Phil Jackson is some diabolical racist or anything of that nature. That said, I still say he “created” the issue because he decided to needle LeBron and his associates without cause. He essentially opened the door for this scrutiny, seemingly just to throw a little shade.
While I’ve always viewed Jackson as a progressive thinker and someone devoid of racial bias, I do see where Maverick Carter and James are coming from in that his tone and message were very dismissive, so I see why the conversation about the verbiage is necessary.
Jamieson: The conversation is definitely necessary because of the context of the word Phil used. If the situation was different it wouldn’t have created a stir but, Phil being Phil, he knew what he was doing. A lot of credit has to go to Lebron and his people on the business decisions they’ve made. He’s empowered people who wouldn’t have normally gotten a chance to get that opportunity.
The biggest problem I have is why is Phil commenting on other teams situations and not his own. At the end of the day people in the front office and high ranking jobs in the league are fearful of Lebron and the rest of LRMR because of how powerful they are and how quickly they’ve made a mark in that industry. With that being said, when’s the last time Phil has been relevant in a basketball situation? Because the Knicks aren’t relevant at all.
Lang: Think about this … after all of the hype the Knicks had coming into the season, the biggest storyline surrounding the team right now has been generated by Phil Jackson, a 71 year-old clad in a suit far away from the on-court action. How sad is that? Really. This is the state of the Knicks?
But I’ll go deeper here … his star player, Carmelo Anthony, has been very vocal speaking out on minority inequality the past few months. Very vocal. How could you miss it? You would think Phil would be a bit more cautious with his words from that fact alone. Team executives know what kind of civic activities their stars are involved in … they’re asked about it all the time. Especially in a place like New York. Where is the self-awareness?
Do I think he’s racist? Nah. But the word he chose to use, and he knew exactly what he was doing, is filled with all types of code. As a minority I’ve heard them before; posse, entourage, gang, mob, cronies, bandits, etc. He could have just said “LeBron’s crew” and no one would have raised an eyebrow. It would have been as quiet as a mouse relieving itself on a piece of cotton. He could have said “L.eBron’s inner circle” or “LeBron’s clique” for instance. I don’t think it was racist. I think it was typical old man – these young guys move differently than my generation and I can’t understand it – type of talk. But since we have a country right now dealing with a lot of racial issues, it is perfectly normal for people to question Phil’s angle on this. He was born in 1945 … he was about to turn 19 when the Civil Rights Bill passed in 1964. For him to be so careless with his words is downright disappointing – especially with his background.
Jabari: Excellent points by each of you, so I won’t belabor the subject any further beyond saying, in contrast, how refreshing it has been to see head coaches like Gregg Popovich, Stan Van Gundy and Steve Kerr being so progressive, open and honest about recent events, issues and some of the difficult conversations others are either uncomfortable or unwilling to have. In fact, each of them is not only invited to the cookout, but they can have the last few ribs.
Ok, Jamieson, the last topic of the week will be the point guard position. With Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul playing so well for their respective teams, let me get you to rank the following group and let me know which you’d go with if you were starting YOUR squad: Westbrook, Paul, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving?
Jamieson: Man that’s a great question and tough, but give me Steph at number one. He’s the MVP and the guy who is changing how the game is played. My number two guy is Dame because of what he’s doing on the court and his leadership abilities. Let’s face it, he probably has the worst supporting cast of all the guys listed. Next is Russ, he’s the guy that’s must see TV and most capable of getting a triple-double on any given night. I don’t know how this season will turn out but I do know we’ll see a modern record for triple-doubles in a season for him.
This is a very tough list but putting Kyrie at four is really intriguing because you can make a case he’s the number two guy. Even though he doesn’t facilitate the offense he’s found his spot in that offense and is as confident as ever. Last but not least the face of the point guard position over the last decade is CP3. His body of work has been extremely impressive over his career and he is still an elite point guard.
The PG spot is a young man’s position and the other guys are in the prime of their careers more so than Paul is. Still, no one has been the face of a position over the last decade like Chris Paul and he’s also the guy who has displayed the best balance between distributing the basketball and scoring.
Jabari: I’ve always been of the opinion that when you are dealing with the top three or four players at a given position, you really can’t go wrong in terms of ranking. It often comes down to what type or style of player you prefer, so I can certainly appreciate your reasoning there. On behalf of Sir Greene, thanks again for joining, Jamieson.
Folks, that will wrap it up for this week, but make sure you keep providing your feedback via Twitter with the new hashtag: #ShopTalk. Our own Alex Kennedy will pay the ‘Shop a visit next week, so make sure you share your topics with @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene and @JabariDavisNBA.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN