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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 6/8

Basketball Insiders looks back at some of the articles from last week in case you missed them the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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A “Big Splash” Summer Move?

By Bill Ingram

Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander made quite an impression when he claimed that his team would make a “big splash” addition this summer. With one quick quote he fired the imaginations of Clutch City fans who were left cold when the team that hoped to contend was ejected from the playoffs in the first round. Several weeks have passed since Alexander dropped that bomb, and rumors are starting to leak out about just which ripples Alexander is targeting. The ever-entertaining, often-wrong rumor mill has it that Houston will chase Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving this summer. Of course, chasing and landing are two different things, as the Rockets have often learned. Here’s a look at the scenarios surrounding each player and how they would help Houston grab a spot in the NBA Finals. In each case, we assume that the Rockets are able to move Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, either to Minnesota, New York or Cleveland, or to some third team that just wants to take on those balloon-payment ending deals. The Rockets have zero ability to add a big name this summer if they don’t move Asik and Lin in the process.

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What’s Next for the Indiana Pacers?

By Joel Brigham

Last week, the Miami HEAT mercifully put the Indiana Pacers out of their misery, finally ending one of the weirdest seasons in league history. No team was hotter coming out of the gates in 2013-2014, and considering the team had advanced one step further in the playoffs every year for the last three seasons, it really was starting to look like the time had arrived for a promising young team to unseat the mighty HEAT.

That, of course, changed almost immediately following the All-Star break, which was when Indiana entered an embarrassing and frustrating skid that sent them into the postseason limping. A lot has been written about the Pacers in the last few weeks explaining why, exactly, things went down the way they did for Indiana, but mostly it all comes down to a combination of Roy Hibbert’s lack of confidence, Paul George’s inconsistency and Lance Stephenson’s selfish vendetta to prove Eastern Conferences wrong for not voting him onto the All-Star team.

Whatever the reason, the Pacers are left a bit of a mess despite finishing among the league’s final four teams, meaning some changes should be expected this summer, so here’s a breakdown of what’s next for Indiana moving forward:

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Breaking Up The Thunder?

By Steve Kyler

With the Oklahoma City Thunder failing to advance the NBA Finals, it’s not altogether surprising that the common belief among fans is that it is time for a change.

Is it?

The Thunder endured an interesting season filled with injuries to guard Russell Westbrook. They put arguably their youngest supporting cast on the floor in as many years and still came away with a 59-23 record and another appearance in the Western Conference Finals. Star forward Kevin Durant earned his first MVP award and from most accounts Westbrook evolved into a more balanced force, especially late in the postseason where his defense pulled out some close plays and won them some games.

There are a number of teams in the NBA would have loved to had the season the Thunder had, but because they are not in the Finals again, there are doubts. There are questions. There is a sense that this team can’t get over the hump.

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Will HEAT Complete Three-Peat?

By Alex Kennedy

Back in 1988, Pat Riley trademarked the word “three-peat” several months after his Los Angeles Lakers won their second consecutive NBA championship. Riley’s Lakers didn’t go on to three-peat (they were instead swept by the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 NBA Finals), but he has made some money off of the trademark thanks to teams like the Chicago Bulls and New York Yankees winning back-to-back-to-back titles. The Lakers did go on to three-peat from 2000 to 2002, but Riley was long gone by that point.

Riley has never had one of his teams pull off the feat, but that may change over the next few weeks. Over 25 years after he trademarked the phrase, the 69-year-old president of the Miami HEAT may finally be able to experience a three-peat rather than just cashing in on other dynasties.

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The San Antonio Spurs: All-Time Great Franchise?

By Moke Hamilton

Without question, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics reign at the top of the NBA. At 1A and 1B, the general consensus among those that cover the league and those that follow it is that the two winningest franchises in NBA history sit alone.

But are we blinded by the gold sparkle of the Larry O’Brien trophy?

When it comes to anointing greatness, do we simply give that title to the Lakers and Celtics because they have won 16 and 17 NBA championships, respectively?

Is that taking the easy way out?

I think it is, and I also happen to think that a closer look could have one arguing that the San Antonio Spurs are much closer to being the greatest NBA franchise ever than many people think.

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The Case For Greg Monroe

By Jabari Davis

Much to the contrary of the initial reports out of Detroit that seemed to immediately follow his agreement to be the organization’s head coach and team president, Stan Van Gundy made his feelings about the potential pairing of franchise center Andre Drummond and (free-agent-to-be) power forward Greg Monroe as clear as possible over the weekend.

“I think it’s an ideal pairing,” Van Gundy told Pistons.com’s Keith Langlois. “If I look at just the film I’ve watched now and looking at the numbers, you would say Greg and Andre together were great offensively. That was a great combination on the offensive end of the floor, especially when the three guys around them were shooters – more conventional perimeter types. That worked very, very well. Now it didn’t work very well defensively. I think it puts a lot of responsibility on Greg Monroe to have to guard out on the perimeter.”

While that was certainly no guarantee of the organization’s intention to re-sign the four-year veteran at all costs, it may at least be an olive branch toward the same reality shared by those of us that could never quite understand why the previous front office regime didn’t seem to hold the same appreciation for having two multifaceted big men nowhere near their respective prime(s) on the roster.

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HEAT, Spurs More Than Just Star Power

By Yannis Koutroupis

As the Miami HEAT and San Antonio Spurs get set to face off in the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season, both teams deserve a lot of credit just for simply getting to this point. Although at times they made it look effortless, getting to the Finals is no easy feat, especially when you’re wearing a target on your back like these two dominant franchises have for the last several years.

Much of the talk leading into the series surrounds the star players, specifically LeBron James and Tim Duncan. The two former No. 1 overall draft selections are widely regarded as the best ever to play their position and this is a Finals rubber match for them, as Duncan topped James in the 2007 Finals, while James got revenge last year.

The importance of those two cannot be overstated. The Spurs, from ownership on down, never mince words when it comes to talking about the key to their success. Duncan’s presence is the first thing that’s mentioned and everything else, even the emergence of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as stars as well, is a distant second. Even at 38 years old, Duncan is the foundation of everything that they do. He sets the tone for the way everyone works off of the court and follows head coach Gregg Popovich’s lead on it.

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Who is the Orlando Magic’s Best Trade Chip?

By Cody Taylor

Draft night in the NBA presents one of the busiest times of the year for general managers, and Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan will be among the busiest. The Magic currently own the No. 4 and No. 12 picks in this month’s draft and figure to be very active all night. The way things play out ahead of the Magic at the fourth pick may very well determine what Hennigan and the Magic do. Having those two picks allows the Magic to listen to incoming offers from teams attempting to trade up and position themselves with possibly one or two more picks in the middle of the first-round.

There has been a lot of speculation about who the Magic could decide to take with their first pick, but given their need for a point guard, Australian point guard Dante Exum is the current favorite to land in Orlando. In recent weeks, the Philadelphia 76ers have been rumored to want to draft Exum to pair up with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. So if the Magic’s clear-cut guy is Exum and the 76ers draft him, what will the Magic do? If Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker fall to the Magic at four, will they take one of them instead of Exum?

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LeBron James: “I Don’t Need Extra Motivation”

By Jessica Camerato

These are the moments LeBron James thrives on. Offseason workouts, training camp, regular season grind, all those instances add up to the ultimate goal — competing for another championship in the NBA Finals.

On Thursday, James will embark on the final stages of his quest for the Miami HEAT’s third consecutive title as they take on the San Antonio Spurs. He is still as hungry now in his fifth trip to the championship round as he was when he entered the league 11 years ago.

“I was a kid who watched so many Finals appearances,” James said on Wednesday. “Watched Michael Jordan and watched Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) and Kobe (Bryant), and we watched throwback Finals games of Magic (Johnson) and (Larry) Bird and Isiah (Thomas) and Hakeem (Olajuwon) in the Finals. I just wished maybe I could see the Finals verbiage behind me and be a part of this. … I don’t need extra motivation. This is motivating enough.”

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Best Fit to Coach the Lakers?

By Jesse Blancarte

The Los Angeles Lakers are taking a slow, deliberate approach toward hiring their next head coach. So far the list of candidates includes Mike Dunleavy, Byron Scott, Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollins, Kurt Rambis, George Karl, Larry Brown and Scott Skiles. Derek Fisher has been identified as a candidate as well, but Fisher has not decided whether he will retire and Phil Jackson is reportedly very interested in hiring him to coach the New York Knicks as well.

Who from this list of candidates makes the most sense for the Lakers? It depends on what are the most important priorities for the front office as they make their decision. With Kobe Bryant signed on for two more years, and a roster that is in need of a significant overhaul, there are competing interests. Bryant wants to compete for championships now, but the Lakers also need to start assembling a core to build around once he retires.

With the new CBA in effect, the most effective way to construct a roster is through the draft and the development of young players. Thus, the Lakers need someone with experience – a proven winner who will demand respect from Bryant, but who can simultaneously develop young players. Ideally, it will be someone who has proven he can develop a culture, give the team an identity and create lasting stability. Here’s a look at the candidates:

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What’s the Next Chapter for Lance Stephenson?

By John Zitzler

Lance Stephenson may only be 23 years old, but his name is one that has been floating around basketball circles for almost a decade. Nicknamed ‘Born Ready’ back in 2006, Stephenson made a name for himself early on competing in summer league games at New York City’s famed Rucker Park, oftentimes against players much older than him. Even at just 15 or 16 years old, Stephenson had a certain bravado about him, a fearless attitude and willingness to take on any and all challengers.

He played his high school ball at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln High School. Stephenson isn’t the first NBA talent to come out of Lincoln; the school has produced the likes of Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair along with a number of collegiate players. However even with Lincoln’s rich basketball history, Stephenson was able to stand out. He led the school to four straight PSAL titles, a first for Lincoln. During his sophomore and junior seasons, he was named New York City’s player of the year by the New York Daily News. As a junior, he was named to USA Today’s All-USA boys basketball team, the only junior to make that list. As a senior, he became Lincoln’s all-time leading scorer, passing Telfair on his way to another PSAL title. He landed a spot in the McDonald’s All-American game that April, another accolade to add to his collection during his historic high school career.

The next chapter in his basketball journey would take him to the University of Cincinnati, hundreds of miles from the New York City streets where he became a star. The expectations were extraordinarily high upon Stephenson’s arrival at UC. His hype was boiling over after tearing through the high school ranks and becoming one the greatest players in New York City history at that level.

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Once Again, Role Players Prop Up Spurs’ Stars

By Tommy Beer

The San Antonio Spurs won Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals on Thursday night, yet hardly anybody is talking about them today.

Sports talk radio and social media are definitely buzzing, but it seems all the discussion is centered on LeBron James’ cramps and the lack of air-conditioning inside the AT&T Center.

Still, the Spurs are used to this sort of treatment. Despite being the most dominant and consistently successful franchise in all of professional sports over the past two decades, somehow San Antonio continues to fly under the radar.

The Spurs’ accomplishments dating back to the late 1990s are legendary at this point. They certainly aren’t the flashiest franchise, and although their old-school approach appeals to many basketball purists, it doesn’t draw as many viewers on national broadcasts. The small-town Spurs may not increase ratings, but they do win basketball games. Since Tim Duncan landed in San Antonio, the Spurs have won more games than any team in any of the four major North American sports.

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Wolves Still Confident In Keeping Love

By Lang Greene

The Minnesota Timberwolves are at a pivotal cross roads. The team hasn’t reached the playoffs since the 2004 campaign and enters the offseason with their franchise player Kevin Love pondering the greener grass on the other side of the fence.

On Thursday the T’Wolves announced team president Flip Saunders would also take command of the club’s head coaching duties. Love and Saunders have a solid relationship, but the executive’s descent back into the coaching ranks isn’t thought to move the needle enough for the All-Star forward to soften his stance about opting out of his deal in 2015.

Saunders readily admits the uncertainty surrounding Love has led to the T’Wolves receiving plenty of calls from opposing general managers looking to pry the forward away via trade.

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NBA Free Agency: Who’s Staying and Who’s Going?

By Eric Pincus

The list of summer free agents will remain unclear until the end of June, when teams and players have decide on any contract options before the July free agency period.

Players with player or early termination options cannot be traded in June unless they opt into their deals.  Teams can trade away a player if their 2014-15 salary is non-guaranteed or partially-guaranteed — but a team option must be taken to deal a player in June.

Most of the players with small deals will opt out to explore the market.  Why would Chris Andersen of the Miami HEAT stay for $1.4 million, when he can sign with any team (including Miami) for the same minimum of $1.4 million?

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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