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Wizards Fan

2014 Washington Wizards Preseason Report posted by Wizards Fan

2013-14 was a good season for the Washington Wizards, even though they were defeated by Indiana pacers in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference. Up to now, the Wizards were considered a mediocre team, as they have never made it to the playoffs since 2008. However, last February, the team had risen above .500 in standings, and managed to defeat the Bulls in the first playoff round. They ended the season with an impressive 44-38 record.

In season 2014-15, Washington Wizards could come in the top three spots in Eastern Conference, provided the team remains healthy. The Wizards are primarily focusing on John Wall and Bradley Beal, who are the young duo in the backcourt. Wall, who was first overall pick in the draft has performed excellently in breakout season, and could be the best point guard of the league. Beal on the other hand is SG and he has averaged over 17 points per game. If the duo is rested adequately and they stay focused, the team could perform much better.

Marcin Gortat has been re-signed for anchoring in C, and Nene in F/C could have a productive year. This duo with their size and toughness can provide excellent inside presence to the team. Last season, Otto Porter displayed mediocre performance at small forward, but he could improve under the mentorship of Paul Pierce, who has been brought in through free agency.

Randy Wittman, the head coach, was able to generate good performance from the team last season, and his contract has been extended. This means the team could improve under his guidance and make more progress in the playoffs. The 2014 draft was loaded, but Washington Wizards did not have a pick in the first round. Hence, whatever improvement is expected has to come from the available talent. Winning the championship might be a stretch, but they can manage second seed position in the East.

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Jazz Fan

2014 Utah Jazz Preseason Report posted by Jazz Fan

Utah Jazz did not have a good 2013-14 season, as they performed quite poorly. In his rookie year, Trey Burke did not play the first 12 games due to finger injury, and Jazz lacked the depth needed to fill the point guard void. The team was overall 4-19 without Burke, but after he came back, there were some improvements. However, in March, the team started declining again, and the last 24 games were a disaster. Burke was struggling with his shots, and Hayward was worse. The team ended the season with a record of 25-57.

For 2014-15 season, Utah Jazz is upbeat with training going full steam. However, the shaping of the roster will play a major role in their success this season. Ranking 20th in shot blocking last season, the team has good chances of making it to the top 12. Rudy Gobert performed well this summer and if he enters through rotation, the team will progress. However, Derrick Favors has dropped unexpectedly from 2.6 to 1.8, and his BLK has gone down from 5.7% to 3.8%. He is becoming more confident, and could return to his former play this season.

Alec Burks has improved considerably in the last season. He has gained more confidence, and he is able to take good decisions. Statistics indicate career highs across the board with AST% at 16.9, FTr at 449, and PER at 15.8. Corbin should also be credited with this improvement, as he changed Burks's point guard back-up position to that of scorer. It seems Burks might be the top scorer this season.

Utah Jazz is likely to open the roster with 15 this season, while in the past the team has started with 14. The team might be able to include a player with a guarantee date in January, which will cost less. Ian Clark and Felix might have guarantees, but if the free agents stick out, Utah might get rid of one of them to acquire long or short-term potential.

Continue reading "2014 Utah Jazz Preseason Report"


Raptors Fan

2014 Toronto Raptors Preseason Report posted by Raptors Fan

Toronto Raptors missed the second round of the 2013-14 season playoffs by one possession. With 6.2 seconds remaining in Game 7, the ball was in the hands of their best player, Kyle Lowry, who made the shot, but Paul Pierce of Brooklyn Nets rejected it. Even though this was quite disappointing, the Raptors had a lot to cheer about in the season. In December, it almost ended for the team, but the Rudy Gay trade for four good players, saved the day. Demar DeRozan was awarded the all-star berth, and Lowry was clearly considered to be number one. The Raptors ended the season with a record of 48-34, which showed the franchise was progressing.

For 2014-15 season, things look promising for the Raptors. Even though DeRozan is the best player of the team, Lowry is still the force that drives the Raptors. Lowry has good decision-making skills, apart from being aggressive and a good shooter. However, any struggles or prolonged injury to Lowry would not be good for the team.

The backcourt of Toronto Raptors has been doing the major work in offense. On the other hand, the frontcourt has provided excellent protection, which ranked the team amongst the top ten in defense. Jonas Valanciunas was the main defense contributor, and his performance this season will play a major role in the success of the team. The only drawback could be his inexperience, as he sometimes was not sure about how to manage near the post.

Toronto Raptors will most probably start with Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Terrance Ross, DeRozan, and Lowry, which is a great combination, as it features very strong backcourt and ideal overall defense. The trade of Rudy Gay during the mid-season, has brought about ideal pairing of DeRozan and Lowry, and bettered the depth of the team. All this puts the Toronto Raptors in a better position than what they were in the last season.

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Spurs Fan

2014 San Antonio Spurs Preseason Report posted by Spurs Fan

San Antonio Spurs performance was almost perfect, which earned them the 2013-14 season, championship title. The players performed as expected, and there was not a single contract, which could be considered bad. The Spurs ended the season with an impressive 62-20 record.

For the 2014-15 season, San Antonio Spurs have second best chance of winning the title again. The Spurs have met Miami Heat in the finals two times in a row, which makes Miami the favorite this season; however, changes in the team could keep shifting the odds between them. San Antonio Spurs have an excellent system in place for a long time, and Gregg Popovich could again lead the team to victory. The three star players, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan are no doubt getting older, but Popovich has managed their time excellently up to now, and he continues to do so this season as well.

Kawhi Leonard, who is a star and MVP of the last series, has been retained for $3million for the next season. Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, and Paddy Mills are all key players, and are re-signed by the Spurs, and Greg Popovich, the coach, obviously had his contract extended. San Antonio Spurs are focusing completely on this season and considering legacies as well. Tim Duncan who was a rookie in 1999 anchored the team's first championship. He has five rings up to now, and he will be concentrating on getting his sixth, even though he is aging. For Duncan, a sixth title would make him all-time great, and he will not want to miss this opportunity.

Coach Popovich, and international stars, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will also be aiming for the same thing of being listed as the all-time greats, and hence will be working hard towards their sixth win. Quite a bit is riding for these players this season, and hence we can expect the best from them.

Continue reading "2014 San Antonio Spurs Preseason Report"


Sac Kings Fan

2014 Sacramento Kings Preseason Report posted by Sac Kings Fan

The Sacramento Kings performed the same in 2013-14, as they have been performing in the past ten years, which is not great. The season started with a positive note, as Mike Malone was very fit as the coach, and Vivek Ranadive the owner, along with Chris Mullen and Pete D'Allessandro, the brain trust, displayed an aggressive attitude by picking up players with good potential, such as Derrick Williams and Rudy Gay. However, as usual, the team made many mistakes, missed the playoffs, and ended up with a dismal record of 28-54.

For 2014-15 season, Ranadive and the brain trust have high expectations, which could make some difference. The draft will provide the team with SG Nik Staukas, who is a good shooter, but this inclusion could be redundant, since the team already acquired SG Ben McLmore last season. Darren Collison was signed in a three-year deal, but the Kings had to give up Issiah Thomas, who was incumbent PG. However, the team has managed to acquire Thomas, who could be a valuable asset.

DeMarcus Cousins at C is Sacramento centerpiece, and the whole team is practically built around him. Cousins has made a big statistical jump, but this has not necessarily converted to wins. However, since he is Team USA player, the experience will provide the required maturity. Eric Moreland, Reggie Evans, Derrick Williams, Rudy Gay, Carl Landry, and Jason Thompson, will be playing along Cousins, which means the team's forward is well stocked with length and size. The team has also acquired Sid Bullar for C, who is a 7'5" Indian. However, he may not be as skillful as Yao Ming.

Continue reading "2014 Sacramento Kings Preseason Report"


Blazers Fan

2014 Portland Blazers Preseason Report posted by Blazers Fan

Portland Trail Blazers had a great 2013-14 season, as they managed better efficiency rather than a wider offense. In the season's initial two months, the team held the best Western Conference record. However, with the great start, everyone predicted the imminent fall, which eventually happened. Up to end of January, Portland Blazers were 11-3, which went down to 4-6 from February. By March end, it seemed the Warriors would overtake Blazers for the fifth spot, but the team finished strong by making the fifth seed. The Blazers finished with an impressive 54-28 record, and ousted the Rockets in the playoffs before being defeated by the Spurs.

For 2014-15 season, Portland Blazers are amongst the top teams, but certain experts believe they might not have a realistic chance for the title. In the current draft, a pick was not available for the team, and they opted for veterans in free agency. They acquired Chris Kaman and Steve Blake, and the team hopes their young players will begin to play as expected. C.J. McCollum, the pick in the first round of 2013 needs to up his game, as he did not play well after returning from his injury. Similarly, Thomas Robinson, who is the fifth pick of 2012, has to focus considerably on his defense skills. The veterans Blake and Kaman may not be excellent at defense, but they might be able to lead the available talent to meet expectations.

In the last season PG LaMarcus Aldridge and Damina Lillard performed much better than expected, and this year expectations are high for the duo. Robin Lopez at C, Wesley Matthews the shooter, and SF Nicholas Batum are considered the super three of Portland Blazers, and all of them will have to be at their best to meet expectation. Terry Stotts, the head coach will also have a major role to play in the success of the team, as experts are skeptical whether he could lead a team into the playoffs.

Continue reading "2014 Portland Blazers Preseason Report"


Suns Fan

2014 Phoenix Suns Preseason Report posted by Suns Fan

Phoenix Suns were supposed to be in their downward spiral in 2013-14 season, but they managed to be the best team amongst teams that did not reach the playoffs. Ryan McDonough, the new general manager, before the starting of the season, gave up veterans, Luis Scola, Jared Dudley, and Macin Gortat, in trade. However, the new inclusions coexisted quite well, and Jeff Hornacek, the rookie coach, freed Bledsoe and Dragic for making plays and pushing the pace. Good comebacks were Gerald Green and Channing Frye, but when Bledsoe was injured, everything seemed bleak. However, Dragic came to the rescue by raising his game considerably. The Suns ended the season with a record of 48-34.

For the 2014-15 season, Ryan McDonough wants to bring back fast-paced offense with a lot of aggression, and build a team that can handle both the floor ends. In the previous draft, Phoenix selected Archie Goodwin and Alex Len, who are athletic and known for their two-way skills. With several picks in the current draft, Phoenix Suns select would be Alec Brown, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Tyler Ennis, and T.J. Warren. Ennis could be an upgrade from Ish Smith, as he is quite fluid, with a great handle. Even though he is not considered fast or athletic, Ennis makes up by this fast direction changes and quick bursts.

However, Phoenix Suns seemed to have passed certain players that could have fitted better into the system, such as Patric Young, K.J. McDaniels, Andreian Payne, and Garry Harris. Secondly, Goran Dragic, who is the best offense, might be more susceptible to injuries this season, as he has not rested at all. The Suns strategy seems to have shifted from two-way highly athletic players to prospects that can bring in skills and depth. The focus seems to be on intensifying and expanding, and the team seems to be satisfied with the existing athleticism.

Continue reading "2014 Phoenix Suns Preseason Report"


Sixers Blog

2014 Philadelphia 76ers Preseason Report posted by Sixers Blog

Even though the Philadelphia 76ers ended the 2013-14 season on a strong note, their overall 19-63 record was quite dismal. Out of the last eight games, the team managed to win three, which is not much, but considering they were1-26 during February and March, the last stretch does not seem bad. Earlier in the season, the 76ers displayed some hectic style, which brought some success, but it did not last. Brett Brown, the new coach seems to have introduced a strong pace where the players seemed to be fiercely jumping around the court, which gave them 3-0 start.

For 2014-15 season, the Philadelphia 76ers are as far away from winning the title, as they were in the previous season. Philadeliphia is known for gathering younger assets, and this year they seem to focus on the same strategy, rather than winning. Most probably, 76ers will trade their PF starter of last season for Anthony Bennett, who was overall first pick last year. Even though Bennett might have had the worst rookie season, he is still young and in good shape.

Nerlens Noel who did not play in his rookie year is quite raw, but he will be eager to show his athleticism and talent that made him the first overall pick in the draft last year. Joel Embid is another player having great potential, but unfortunately, he might be sitting it out this season due to his foot injury. If Noel and Embid are able to deliver their full potential, then Philadelphia will have a good foundation and might even reach the playoffs.

Elfrid Payton who plays PG was second selection by the 76ers in their first round picks. Payton has good length and is ready; however, he was traded for Dario Saric. This means Philadelphia is again trading wins in the new season for later.

Continue reading "2014 Philadelphia 76ers Preseason Report"


Magic Fan

Orlando Magic Preseason Report 2014 posted by Magic Fan

The starting of the 2013-14 season might have looked promising for the Orlando Magic, but they went into a downward spiral very soon, and ended with 23-59, which was the third worst NBA record. Nikolar Vucevic in spite of his athletic abilities was not able to deliver, and Victor Oladipo, who in spite of being best rookie since January could not win Rookie of the Year. The veterans were quite ineffective and they did not seem comfortable playing together.

For 2014-15 season, Orlando Magic might need to implement major changes. Willie Green, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo might be given PG positions. Oladipo has gained good experience compared to Payton in the last season. Even though Payton has good potential, he has a weak offense, and has issues moving the ball. For the offense, Aaron Gordon would be ideal at small forward, paired with Tobias Harris at PF.

Last season, Andrew Nicholson seemed buried at the PF position, and he would do much better at center. He was not able to defend effectively at PF last season, and his playing time was not much. Center would be a good position for Nicholson, as he can shoot jumpers and 3's, and he can be good at immediate offense, which Dedmon was not able to deliver. The remaining PF could go to Marvin Williams as free agent, and Kyle O' Quinn. For SG positions, Bend Gordon, Roy Deyvn Marble, and Evan Fournier would be ideal, whereas for SF, Moe Harkless and Aaron Gordon would be more suitable. Dewayne Dedmon, Andrew Nicholson, and Nik Vucevic would do well in C.

With this overall lineup, Orlando Magic might be able to deliver much better games, compared to what they did last season. Seth Curry would be a good inclusion to the team as a PG third-string, and Osby being a versatile player would suit the team as well.

Continue reading "Orlando Magic Preseason Report 2014"


Thunder Fan

Oklahoma City Thunder posted by Thunder Fan

The 2013-14 season for Oklahoma City Thunder came to an end when they lost in the finals of Western Conference in Game 6 to San Antonio Spurs, who were eventually the champions. The Spurs were able to defeat Oklahoma three times, but in two of those games, Serge Ibaka was not playing due to his calf injury. However, overall, the season was quite good for Oklahoma, finishing with 59-23. In the postseason, the team survived tough games from Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies. In the end, Oklahoma was simply not good enough to match the Spurs.

For 2014-15 season, Oklahoma City Thunder has as much chance to be the champions as the Spurs. There seems to be changes in Oklahoma's approach, as indicated by the change in roster. During offseason, the team brought in veteran Sebastian Telfair and Anthony Morrow, and in the draft, they managed to snag Mitch McGary.

Even though they are an elite NBA team, the Thunder fell in its ranking for offense in the last season. From second place, they dropped to seventh; however, one of the main reasons for this slip was Westbrook's injury, and the team had to rely heavily on versatility of Durant. The new acquisitions seem ideal for seeking better shots and more movement of the ball.

Experts feel that it is going to be Thunder-Spurs final, but one must not forget that the Spurs have eliminated Oklahoma for last two years in succession. Oklahoma will have to prove that they are ready for the Spurs with a great offense. People are expecting a prolonged fight, and both teams will have to compete fiercely throughout the season for earning the first seed, which will provide advantage of playing on home grounds. However, Oklahoma City Thunder may not have performed enough during the offseason for closing the gap.

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NBA Basketball News

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Lakers' Ronnie Price lost his shoe and threw it at Andre Iguodala to try to stop a fast break (V

Listen, sometimes you try to do something cool, and you screw it up, and you get flustered, and you don't really know quite how to make it better, so you do something that actually makes it worse. This is part of being a human person with flaws and sweat glands and inappropriate responses to stress and anxiety, and it's something we all experience. For most of us, though, those inappropriate responses don't unfold on a basketball court, in front of thousands of people, and in front of millions more watching via television. In this respect, then, we are all Ronnie Price losing possession of the ball and his sneaker and then trying to stop a fast break by throwing his shoe at Andre Iguodala, and we are in no way Ronnie Price losing possession of the ball and his sneaker and then trying to stop a fast break by throwing his shoe at Andre Iguodala. And these two statements are both true, all the time. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] This play occurred with the Los Angeles Lakers trailing the Golden State Warriors by 25 points after just 15 minutes of preseason play on Sunday, so things were already out of hand when Price momentarily lost touch with what's reasonable. So how does a 31-year-old guard with nine years of NBA experience under his belt get here? We'll let Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News explain : Price may have said facetiously he was “just trying to get it out of bounds.”But he then became pretty honest on why he would throw his shoe after it slipped off during an unsuccessful drive to the basket. “I was just trying to stop the ball as fast as possible,”Price said. “The shoe was in my hand so I thought that would stop the play.”Well, consider it mission accomplished. Officials blew their whistle with 8:50 left in the second quarter to give Price a technical foul. “He shouldn’t have thrown it. It cost us a technical,”Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I don’t even know how it came off. I saw him slipping and the shoe was off and he picks it up. He was trailing on defense so I guess he figured, ‘Let me see if I can hit the ball out of his hands with his shoe.’" Yeah, I guess he did. The Warriors, of course, instantly turned the ludicrous play into a meme: . @Lakers ' Ronnie Price throws his shoe at @andre , receives a T. pic.twitter.com/5w4CqBao6q —Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) October 13, 2014 Sadly, Price was too far away from Iguodala to pull off a full Marc Gasol: But he did , kind of, accomplish his goal. “It did stop the fastbreak, so we only gave up one point instead of two or three,”Lakers coach Byron Scott said, according to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register . That might make it the best defensive play the Lakers made in their 116-75 defeat . Video via @cjzero . - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Alec Burks crosses up Kobe Bryant somethin' fierce during Jazz preseason loss to Lakers (Video%2

He's not exactly a household name, but Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks established himself last season as one of the league's most potent reserve scorers, a 6-foot-6 wing with a knack for getting to the rim. During Sunday's preseason matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, the 23-year-old Colorado product showed off his gift for making something happen with the ball in his hands —as a matter of fact, he made Kobe Bryant disappear: Dang. Don't reach, Regenokine-treated-blood. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] Yes, Kobe's a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer with a dozen All-Defensive Team selections on his impeccable résumé, but he's also a 36-year-old with more than 54,000 NBA minutes under his belt who's coming off two catastrophic left leg injuries in a nine-month span. It'd be unreasonable to expect him to have the same kind of quicks he had in his heyday; he's going to have a tough time shuffling and sliding to keep up with players who only saw mini-fro Kobe on YouTube. That's probably going to mean a lot of reaching and gambling on defense, which is wonderful when it works and ... well, not so much when it doesn't. To be fair, the guards' matchup wasn't exactly one-sided. Burks' shakedown came in response to Bryant dotting him for a long 3-pointer on the other end, and the Mamba had his fair share of moments on a night where he scored 26 points in 31 1/2 minutes to lead the Lakers to a 98-91 comeback win : ... but considering that L.A. went into halftime down 16 to a probably-not-going-to-be-that-great Jazz team when both squads' starters were in the fray, and that the comeback came in a second half during which Utah played without starters Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, some of those Sunday night heroics should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Burks finished with a crisp 21 points on 14 shots in 29 minutes in his first game back from a shoulder injury , continuing to showcase the quickness and explosiveness that makes him one of the more intriguing candidates for an extension of his 2011 rookie contract prior to the Oct. 31 deadline and ringing up a highlight he'll likely savor for a while. "Alec attacks," Hayward told Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune after the game. "He gets himself to the rim. He gets things going. …He’s just always a threat at all times." And if Kobe didn't know that before, now he does. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


The 10-man rotation, starring the case *for* Kobe Bryant (or, at least, that it's not

A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : Silver Screen and Roll . After reading Henry Abbott's ESPN the Magazine piece arguing that Kobe Bryant is the reason for the Los Angeles Lakers' downfall, Drew Garrison presents the counterargument, suggesting that the reasons for the franchise's precipitous recent decline are numerous, varied and not all contained within the Mamba's jaw-jut. A worthwhile hearing for the defense. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] PF : SLAM . Ryan Jones on why LeBron James is the NBA's best player, why ( ownership of the Podoloff aside) there's no real debate on the matter, and how the shifting of James' circumstances as he rejoins a significantly more loaded Cleveland Cavaliers could wind up changing that soon enough. SF : Sports on Earth . Howard Megdal on how —all the internecine drama , back-room dealings and franchise-jumping aside —we've still got quite a bit to learn about exactly what kind of NBA head coach Jason Kidd's going to be. SG : ChicagoNow . Yes, Derrick Rose looked great on Monday, but the Chicago Bulls' loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers showed a few persistent and perhaps worrisome questions for Tom Thibodeau's club, according to Doug Thonus. PG : National Post . Eric Koreen floats an idea that Our Fearless Leader has championed in the past : shorten the preseason and make the regular season longer, not in games played, but in dates covered. 6th : A Wolf Among Wolves . William Bohl sees the Minnesota Timberwolves running more sets for midrange jumpers under once-and-future head coach Flip Saunders, and he wonders whether that approach will prove beneficial for a young Wolves roster without very many knockdown shooters. ( Kelly's not real bullish on it , for what it's worth.) 7th : Raptors Republic . Smart stuff from Blake Murphy on the interesting dilemma facing the Toronto Raptors and surprise 2014 first-round draft pick Bruno Caboclo —how does a team setting its sights on the conference finals find the floor time to develop an incredibly raw player when it doesn't have its own exclusive D-League affiliate? 8th : Detroit Bad Boys . Considering what a more efficient Josh Smith might look like, what Stan Van Gundy's done this preseason to try to conjure such a performance, and whether it's more likely that Smith turns in that brand of play for the Detroit Pistons or gets moved before the February trade deadline. 9th : Posting and Toasting . Derek Fisher says Amar'e Stoudemire —he of the wine baths of indeterminate medical benefit —isn't operating under any sort of minute or playing-time restrictions, and the former All-Star big man says he's feeling great. What does this mean for STAT's role on the New York Knicks this year? 10th : Los Angeles Times . Chris Douglas-Roberts is wearing short shorts —or, at least, the shortest shorts he was able to get from the Los Angeles Clippers —in hopes that they "will give him the freedom to be an elite perimeter defender." - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Jeanie Buss: 'Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser%2

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that Kobe Bryant is some wonderful, cheerful, galoot of a man. That he is super swell to work with, and that his on-record tough guy musings spat out in an expletive-laden style that reminds of a 11-year-old who just realized he could use blue words is just a show for the media. Let’s pretend that, behind the scenes, Kobe Bryant is the ideal teammate, and that he’s promised many things to prospective Los Angeles Lakers teammates through the years. Promised that the storied franchise will be theirs, all theirs, once Bryant retires and the salary cap shoots way up upon his retirement. Assured that he’d willingly give up shots and the ball in order to develop a more harmonious partnership with a free agent partner. Or partners. Pointed out that there are still grapes to be eaten in California, and that he’d sacrifice whatever it takes to win, even if that means abandoning the spotlight and ceding the reins of the offense. Let’s just try to live in that world, for a moment. It may take a Brando-like sense of method acting to put yourself in that spot, but give it a try. Now ask yourself, in the face of a kinder and gentler Kobe Bean, does this make Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Pau Gasol, or even LeBron James “losers” for wanting to play elsewhere? Laker president Jeanie Buss sure seems to think so. From an appearance on ESPN on Thursday : "Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I'm glad they wouldn't come to the team," Buss said during a "SportsCenter" interview Thursday. All of this noise comes on the heels of a much-ballyhooed and much - derided feature from ESPN’s Henry Abbott , who used a retinue of anonymous sources to pin the blame on Kobe Bryant for the Lakers’ demise since the championship season of 2010, and the likely nasty two seasons to come in the final two years of Bryant’s ridiculous $48.5 million contract. Buss, like most of us, has made her way through the tome : "I read the story," Buss said Thursday. "I don't agree with any of it. If there is somebody that's on our payroll who is saying things like that, I'll soon get to the bottom of it, and they won't be working for us anymore." As with all things Kobe, and as what should have been the case with the initial ESPN piece, there needs to be a bit of nuance here. Rebuilding through free agency in the modern era, even with one star or near-All-Star (as a diminished Bryant is, post Achilles surgery) already on hand is no way to build a champion. A team needs younger assets, pieces delivered via trade, and role players that are already in-house. Had Bryant put his ego aside and signed for a contract along the lines of what Dirk Nowitzki recently re-signed for (three-years, $25 million for a player that is better than Bryant right now), and if we’re still working under the assumption that free agents would love to play with a Kuddly Kobe, that’s still a massively long shot that the Lakers would be able to cull together a contending roster full of free agents during the last offseason. On top of that, teams just aren’t dumping overpaid-yet-productive players on other teams with cap space via trade these days. The salaries have evened out, and not even the Brooklyn Nets are dealing Deron Williams just for a trade exception. General manager Mitch Kupchak understands this, and while he was well aware that he was basically signing away two years of his life by giving Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension, that’s what you do when you want to keep a job. That’s what you do when you’re mindful of the fact that each potential Bryant partner had plenty of reasons to say “no” to Los Angeles. All Mitch had to do is look at the list. There are actual people on it, with real names. Dwight Howard? Even with his back worries, he’ll eventually make all the money he can handle, and he left a limping Bryant (who had just torn his Achilles two and a half months prior) to work for a team in Houston with a far younger and healthier shooting guard in James Harden, one that won just as many games as the Bryant-led Lakers the year before. Paul George? He may be from Los Angeles, but the Pacers could offer him far more money than El Lay to stay in Indiana and play for what was then a championship contender. He would have had to wait out his rookie contract, play for less money on a qualifying offer, and explore unrestricted free agency all while hoping that he didn’t suffer a career-altering injury while working his way toward El Segundo. Sadly, George would suffer that sort of injury just a month after he would have purportedly signed with the Lakers. Signed for, again, far less than he’ll make in Indianapolis – an area he actually likes. Chris Bosh? If anything, he should have taken less money to go to the Houston Rockets, and work in a killer lineup with Howard, Harden and an ostensibly re-signed Chandler Parsons. Instead, he understandably chose to take as much money as possible to stay in Miami, a place his family is just-as understandably comfortable with. He won’t win another championship there, but he wasn’t winning one alongside Kobe either. Pau Gasol? The guy seeks challenges, and we dig that. The idea of he and Joakim Noah flinging the ball around the Chicago frontcourt, working in a multi-cultural city, appealed to him. He took less money and moved to a climate that involves tortuous winters, and this is where our doubling down on the idea of Kobe Bryant as a model teammate is starting to crack. LeBron James? Why does he need to play alongside an aging Kobe Bryant (and lord knows who else in L.A.) at this point in his career? Especially when he can go back home to play alongside one of the league’s best point guards, knowing that that Kevin Love deal was already just about signed off on even before James announced his free agent decision. Play at home, make a ton of money, and create perhaps the league’s best roster in a week … or go play with Kobe? Carmelo Anthony? The Knicks won’t be winning a championship either, but he and his family like New York, and they like making as much money as possible. Anthony, as it has been since his AAU days, also likes being the face of a franchise – something he was never going to be in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant (the guy that didn’t bother to stay in Los Angeles during the opening of free agent negotiations), of all people, should understand this. Losers, all? If you want to peel back on the idea of Kobe as a model teammate, fine. Carlos Boozer didn’t even choose to play for the Lakers this year, and he lives in Los Angeles. Jeremy Lin was traded there, Jordan Hill had to be overpaid to stay there, and prized free agent signee Ed Davis strangely wasn’t receiving any offers elsewhere. This summer was as big as free agency whiffs come. The Buss family was wrong to offer Kobe Bryant that much money, but the Buss family (that makes their money off of the Los Angeles Lakers, with no other outside revenue streams) was also right not to alienate a fan base that has already bought tickets, and suites, by entering into an unsettling relationship with their appointed Mr. Laker. Kobe Bryant was wrong to take all that money, especially when he bleats on about wanting to win more than anything else while gumming up the team’s cap picture, but he was completely correct in taking as much as he possibly could from a family that has made so much off of him. Mitch Kupchak was wrong to ignore his better basketball instincts in signing off on the deal, but he also likely knew that each free agent turn involves individuals with different agendas, and sometimes the timing isn’t right. Sometimes the timing is right, and for whatever reason you’re allowed to pull in Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant in the same summer, or grab Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the same summer, or deal for a Hall of Famer like Pau Gasol weeks before the trade deadline. Sometimes, a series of individuals all decline – not en masse, just at various points – to come to Los Angeles to play with Kobe Bryant. For whatever reasons. And, as always, a bit of nuance needs to be tossed out there. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops [read full article]

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BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Phoenix Suns (Ball Don't Lie)

The Arizona desert turned up a UFO crash in 1953, purple alien eggs just last year and Lord knows what else in the 60 years between. It’s only natural the Phoenix Suns add another wrinkle to their own weird science experiment, turning a two-headed snake into a three-headed monster in the backcourt. In a strange summer, general manager Ryan McDonough agreed to  a four-year, $27 million contract with Sacramento Kings dynamo Isaiah Thomas on the day the NBA’s moratorium lifted, seemingly signaling the end of fellow restricted free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe’s fun in the Arizona sun. But the NBA Executive of the Year runner-up doubled down, inking Mini LeBron to a five-year, $70 million deal some two months later. With All-NBA Third Team selection Goran Dragic also in the Phoenix mix, McDonough effectively created the league’s most dangerous polycephalous point guard. So, the Suns will roll the dice with a troika of All-Star-caliber guards, identified flying object Gerald Green and a mysterious frontcourt in an attempt to recreate last year’s bizarre 48-34 record, which tied the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors for the best season by a team that didn't make the playoffs since the NBA switched to the 16-team playoff format in 1984. Under NBA Coach of the Year runner-up (noticing a trend here) Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix played at a top-10 pace in his first season at the helm, and the Suns will run again, even faster if possible. Only, they’ll have to do so without Channing Frye, whose floor-stretching capacity from the power forward position translated into 8.3 additional points per 100 possessions in his 28.2 minutes a night on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com . Out of the Frye pan and into the fire will be Markieff Morris, whose own breakout 2013-14 season (2,153 minutes, 13.8 points, six rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, 56.4 True Shooting percentage, 18.4 Player Efficiency Rating) earned him a four-year, $52 million deal to split unevenly with his twin brother, Marcus Morris. Sharpshooting veteran free agent forward Anthony Tolliver (41.3 percent on a career-high 247 3-point tries for Charlotte last year) and young center projects Miles Plumlee and Alex Len round out a bigs mess. Add a pair of potential mid-first-round steals in T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, another Dragic named Zoran and a post- “super extreme” DUI suspension P.J. Tucker, and it should be another supernatural season for the 2013-14 League Pass legends. Last year taught us this much about the Suns: They are here. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: What the Ish is this? The weirdest collection of awesome under the Suns. Did the summer help at all? The Suns let their most productive big walk , spent the money Frye got in Orlando on a third point guard , handed one contract to a pair of twins , signed their best player’s brother and drafted one half of Bojan and Bogdan Bogdanovic — all as their starting small forward spent a no expenses paid three-day vacation in county jail . So … just yourtypical NBA offseason? Seriously, that’s freaky, even by their standards. Go-to offseason acquisition: Had Thomas not stood just 69 inches tall, he would have commanded far more than $27 million over four years in free agency. After all, the Sactown sparkplug was one of six players to average 20 points and six assists while posting a PER above 20 this past season. The others: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Those dudes aren’t so bad. Thomas comes with another caveat, though, since Sacramento’s fast-paced offense and non-existent defense over the past decade has produced plenty of padded stats that haven’t translated elsewhere. In the past 10 years, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic combined for one 20-point-per-game season upon leaving the Kings. At the very least, Thomas allows Hornacek to keep some combo of Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas on the floor for the majority of the game, strumming that double-necked point-guard guitar all night long. The fact that Thomas’ per-minute averages have remained steady as both a starter and reserve in his three-year career is an encouraging sign that the Suns will be able to keep making the same sweet music they did last season. Glaring weakness: The Suns don’t quite have a black hole in the middle, but it’s an awful dark mass in the space-time continuum. Plumlee and Len are expected to receive the bulk of those minutes, and that duo (mostly Plumlee, due to the multiple injuries that scuttled Len's rookie season) anchored the NBA’s fourth-worst efficiency differential at the position last season, according to HoopsStats.com (minus-3.8). Plumlee’s minutes plunged throughout 2013-14 as Hornacek got more comfortable playing Markieff Morris and the since-departed Frye in smaller, more offensively potent lineups. As a result, though, Phoenix allowed 42.2 points in the paint per game , also the league’s fourth-worst group. Not even highly regarded defensive assistant coach Mike Longabardi could help the Suns rise above the middle of the pack in points allowed per possession. Plumlee is still their best bet to clog the middle on defense, even if he does the same on offense. Contributor with something to prove: Following his client’s second knee surgery in three years, Bledsoe's agent spent the offseason demanding a max contract for a player who has started all of 78 NBA games. McDonough, who reportedly offered four years and $48 million, entered a summer-long staring contest with Rich Paul, and the two sides met closer to Bledsoe's demands. To say the 24-year-old has something to prove is an understatement. For chunks of last season, Bledsoe replicated what so many projected for Chris Paul's former backup. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound brick of muscle averaged 17.7 points (57.8 TS%), 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds while generally tormenting opposing backcourts alongside Dragic in 43 games. That's encouraging for a fourth-year point guard on his rookie contract; now it's expected from an eight-figure-salaried franchise player. Potential breakout stud: Double ankle surgeries stunted Year 1 of The Alex Len Project, presenting a built-in excuse for the No. 5 overall pick’s PER (7.3), true shooting percentage (46.9) and statistical averages over 42 games (two points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in 8.6 minutes per game). Now, double finger fractures — on the same right pinkie, mind you — offer another easy excuse for the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian to start slow out of the gate. Yet Len made huge strides from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Maryland, and the 21-year-old has the potential to take a similar step forward after one year under Hornacek and Longabardi. He added the customary 15 pounds of muscle, and then collected six points, six boards and a pair of blocks before breaking his finger 25 minutes into Summer League. The re-broken finger is a setback for a player in desperate need of preseason practice, but he’ll still start the regular season healthy, and the minutes will be there for him to demonstrate his improvement, especially if he develops a mid-range jumper. Best-case scenario: It won’t be easy for Dragic to repeat his breakout All-NBA season, Green to shoot 3’s at a 40 percent clip again and Tolliver to replace Frye’s 2,312 minutes, but some combo of Bledsoe’s health, the addition of Thomas and the improvements of the Morris twins, Plumlee and/or Len should help the Suns recreate the magic that made them the NBA darlings of 2013-14. Even then, they’ll still be navigating a crowded Western Conference playoff picture that may also include Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans — all for the right to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Them’s the breaks for a franchise on the rise. If everything falls apart: Even if the science experiment takes a turn for the worse and the Suns just miss the postseason for a second straight year, McDonough will still have a pair of lottery picks at his disposal. Phoenix still owns a top-five protected pick from the Steve Nash trade, so barring a bit of Los Angeles Lakers luck, the worst-case scenario — a couple of mid-round picks — isn’t the worst consolation prize. Unless, of course, the team’s talented young core undergoes an abduction of sorts. Stranger things have happened in the Arizona desert. The Suns are on standing on the edge of an event horizon. Strap in for another weird, wild ride. Kelly Dwyer’s Best Guess at a Record: Phoenix will finish 47-35, eighth in the Western Conference. Read all of Ball Don't Lie's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews (links added as they're published): EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards WESTERN CONFERENCE Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz - - - - - - - Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach [read full article]

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