Category Archives: NBA

Reflecting on Rajon Rondo’s Time in Boston

Last night, the Boston Celtics traded Rajon Rondo and Dwight Powell to the Dallas Mavericks for a pair of draft picks, Brendan Wright, Jae Crowder, and Jameer Nelson.

But let’s pause and go back a few years.

It was April 2009. The NBA postseason was in full swing and the second seed Boston Celtics were struggling against the up-and-coming seventh seed Chicago Bulls.

The defending champion Celtics had been dominant in the regular season, at one point winning 19 straight games, but they entered the playoffs without their defensive rock, Kevin Garnett, who was lost for the season when he injured his knee in February.

Ra-gone Rondo: the enigmatic point guard is headed to Dallas.

Ra-gone Rondo: the enigmatic point guard is headed to Dallas.

The Bulls, led by dynamo rookie Derrick Rose, were showing a lot of spunk. Celtics stars Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were doing their best to keep the C’s afloat, each averaging 23 points per game over the series. But it was the play of Rajon Rondo that put Boston over the top in a seven game series that spawned seven overtime periods.

At that moment, Rajon Rondo looked like the Celtics’ future. He was dominant, filling up every category in the stat sheet. In Game 1 he poured in 29 points. In Game 2 he put up 19 points, 16 assists, and 11 boards. In Game 4 he notched another triple double and scored 25 along the way. He finished Game 6 with 19 assists.

The media was billing the Rondo-Rose matchup as a battle between the NBA’s top two point guards of the future. Rondo, who a year previous had been little more than a fourth leg on the Celtics’ championship team, seemed to be blossoming into a bona fide star.

Celtics fans were dreaming big for Rondo. But he never reached the elite level we saw in him that series. At least not for an entire season.

Which is not to say there haven’t been glimpses. Or even prolonged stretches of tremendous play from the lightning quick point man. But Rondo, now 28, has never fully realized the potential once seen in him.

The glimpses have usually come in nationally televised games. Often in the postseason. If there’s been a consistent criticism of Rajon over the years, outside of the fact that he can’t shoot the dadgum ball, it’s that he’s always had a propensity for turning it on with a national audience watching–and off the rest of the time.

Among the highlights that came post-’09: a tremendous series against Cleveland in 2010 in the Conference Finals, as the Celtics blasted their way past LeBron and into the NBA Finals; a 20 assist performance in Game 3 of the Celtics’ four game sweep of the Knicks the next year, as his passing wizardry helped lead to a 38 point performance for Paul Pierce and a 32 point outing for Ray Allen; an unbelievable series in the Conference Finals in 2012 against a LeBron-led Heat team during which Rondo was unquestionably the Celtics’ best player and looking the part of the league’s best point guard; and more jaw dropping dimes than could be accounted for in any blog post.

Rondo has had to share the spotlight for most of his time in Boston with future Hall of Famers. Since the departures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett before last season, that has changed. And the results have been ugly. Rondo stumbled his way through an injury-filled season last year and was lifeless when he did see the floor. This year has been worse. No starting point guard in the Association has scored less, and Rondo rarely looks even interested in trying to score. He defers. He searches for assists. Post-Pierce Rondo has been largely devoid of fun.

So what is Rondo’s legacy in Boston?

I’m certainly not the one to answer that question. I’ve never been Rondo’s biggest fan. His tendency to hold the ball deep into the shot clock has always driven me bananas. In fact, when Rondo missed much of the 2012-13 campaign (and playoffs) due to injury, I thought the Celtics became a more cohesive offensive unit. (When a post-prime Paul Pierce proved unable to carry the C’s past New York in the playoffs’ opening round, I questioned this assertion.)

Nonetheless, it is indisputable that Rondo was an irreplaceable cog in some great Celtics teams. He grew up faster than expected on the way to the ’08 title. Then he kept getting better. Eventually, he became the best and most exciting Celtics’ player, eclipsing an aging Pierce.

At this point, the happy Rondo days are merely memories. There’s little doubt that he wore out his welcome in Boston in the eyes of many. It feels like the Celtics have been trying to trade him since the dawn of the dinosaurs. And, as my brother noted to me last night, his departure draws easy parallels to that of Manny Ramirez. Perhaps a more apt comparison, though, would be Nomar Garciappara.

Rondo facilitated the Celtics' '08 title and nearly helped lead them to another in '10.

Rondo facilitated the Celtics’ 2008 title and nearly helped lead them to another in 2010.

Like Nomar, Boston got really excited about Rondo. Like Nomar, Rondo had some fantastic moments. Like Nomar, he could be beyond frustrating to watch (cue memories of Nomar whiffing on first pitch balls in the dirt). And, Like Nomar (circa ’04), Rondo’s not the player he once was. Maybe he’ll rekindle the magic in Dallas.

As with Nomar, not many Bostonians are devastated to see Rondo go.

The trade will allow the Celtics to continue building for the future. And I assure you, there will be some outstanding players in next year’s draft.

Ultimately, Rondo will be remembered for what he brought to Boston. He helped bring a title. He brought a swashbuckling (some might say careless) style to the defensive end. There were the passes too. Oh, the passes. Beautiful passes that seemed impossible. Passes he wrapped around defenders while he floated in the air, locating an open target 25 feet away.

And then the other passes. The kickouts to Courtney Lee for a three when Rondo had an uncontested layup right in front of him. The sloppy, lazy passes that he lofted into the second row. Rondo, after all, turned the ball over 1,488 times in a Celtics uniform.

Rajon Rondo delivered excitement, energy, and wins to Boston Celtics fans. And an awful lot of headaches.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA

We Talkin’ About Napkins?

It’s been almost five years since Allen Iverson last played in an NBA game. And, here at College Sports Town, we miss the prodigiously talented combo guard.

AI gave us so much. He put up video game numbers, dished out absurd dimes, took the 2000-2001 76ers to the NBA Finals more or less by himself, and, more than any other player (including that wannabe Kobe) defined an era of NBA basketball. From the late ’90s to the late ’00s, Allen Iverson was to basketball what Derek Jeter was to baseball. But the Answer’s greatest gift to us might be the best press conference rant in sports history.

The Burger’s Priest, an Ontario burger joint just did a spoof of Iverson’s rant, and it’s amazing. Enjoy:

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA

Looking Ahead to the 2014-15 Eastern Conference

It may sound counterintuitive, but the season that I personally link to the sport of basketball is summer. It’s a time when just about anyone who loves hoops grabs a ball and takes to courts on cement, asphalt, blacktop, and even sand to play beneath the blue skies of summer. Basketball is an outdoor sport as much as an indoor sport, and I always find myself most obsessed with it in July and August, even with the college and pro regular seasons months away.

Instead of NBA basketball, we get the whirlwind that is the NBA offseason this time of year. This summer’s has been especially fun, highlighted by The Decision 2.0. In the background, Team USA has been preparing for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Today, I will take a far off look at the upcoming season in the Eastern Conference, which has been so changed over the past 10 weeks.

Of course, when the time comes for College Sports Town’s annual NBA Preview in October, many of the East’s teams may look quite different. As it stands on August 10th, here are my thoughts on each Eastern Conference team, roughly in the order I see them finishing.

Title Contenders:

Chicago Bulls 

Everything hinges on the health of Derrick Rose for Chicago. With the league’s best point guard healthy, the Bulls are probably the favorites in the East, even with the once again LeBron-led Cavs ready to light up the league. This could, and should, be the best Bulls team since the MJ days. Defensively, there’s little doubt they’ll be the class of the Association; Tom Thibodeau is a maestro and the team has stellar defensive players across the board. Offensively, they should explode with Rose initiating things and rookie wing Doug McDermott–the best offensive college player I’ve ever seen–joining the club. Joakim Noah is the league’s best all-around center in my book: he does everything well and doubles as an elite teammate. Carlos Boozer (and his awful contract) is gone, but Chicago won’t miss him much with the additions of post presences Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. If Rose plays and plays well, the Bulls are a lock for 60+ wins and a deep playoff run.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Yes, the King is back. And the league’s best offensive 4 also appears to be headed to Ohio. Folks can argue the merits of the Wiggins-Love trade all day long, but the fact of the matter is that, in the short-term, the trade has very little potential to hurt the Cavs. K-Love is in limbo between very good player and superstar, but the Cavs won’t need him to be a superstar. With the league’s best player already in tow, adding Love was the safe route for Cleveland. The sheer force of LeBron all but guarantees the Cavs at least 50 wins. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are both terrific players too, and, on paper, the new Big 3 is far superior to the one Bron left in Miami. There are certainly question marks though; how will the two younger stars adapt to playing with the King, and how will new coach David Blatt manage the super-team? The Cavs have the potential to be tremendous right off the bat. But not every test tube team can gel as quickly as the ’08 Celtics did.

Surefire Playoff Teams:

Toronto Raptors 

Move over Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson! DeRozan is the best player in the NBA with an alliterative name.

Move over, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson! DeRozan is the best player in the NBA with an alliterative name.

The Raptors exploded onto the scene last year, and at the moment they have me feeling like they’re not that far from the Title Contender category. DeMar DeRozan’s emergence has been a joy to watch–he’s gone from a great athlete who put up some nice stats to a guy you could almost feel comfortable building a team around. 2013-14 was a career year for the former Trojan, and he thrived in the Raps’ first round loss to Brooklyn. The Raptors are a good, balanced team with a top 10 point guard in Kyle Lowry and a cornerstone big man in Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors are young and the upcoming season will be a sort of litmus test to see if, as currently constructed, they can compete for titles in the coming years.

Washington Wizards 

The Wizards are a superstar away from contending for a ‘ship. Still, for a franchise that has had a miserable decade, these are happy days indeed in the nation’s capital. The Wiz inked Paul Pierce in July, and PP will slide onto the scene for a squad that apparently thinks it’s 2002 (two seven footers on their frontline). Washington is balanced and decently talented, and John Wall and Bradley Beal make up one of the more entertaining backcourts in the league. The Wizards will make the playoffs this winter, barring a disaster. But they won’t go that deep unless Wall takes a huge step forward and Pierce plays like he’s 26 instead of 36.

Miami Heat

The Heat are basically back to where they were before LeBron arrived. They’ve got star power, but modest title hopes. In addition to resigning Chris Bosh to a huge, and likely misguided contract, the Heat added Luol Deng last month. Deng’s no LeBron James, but he’s also far from a scrub. As long as Dwyane Wade and Bosh can stay healthy, the Heat look like a solid playoff team on paper.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets barely made it into this category. The reason they made it: Lionel Hollins is the new coach in BK and he’s a good one. But it’s easy to worry about the Nets. Billy King elected not to open up their checkbook to bring back Pierce, who was their best two-way player for much, if not most, of last year. You wonder how many good years Joe Johnson has left–it feels like he could fall off the map John Salmons-style any time now. And then there’s the fact that Deron Williams manages to lose a couple of steps each year. In the playoffs last year, he even managed to lose his jump shot. Locals say it was last seen in Oceanside. Brook Lopez will return, and that will help, but the Nets likely will wind up going as far as Mirza Teletovic can take them (read: not very far).

Mediocre Fringe Playoff Teams

New York Knicks

Melo elected to stay in NYC.

Melo elected to resign with NYC this summer.

Some people say that this is the worst category to be in. I disagree. I like the low playoff seeds. Sure, they don’t have true title aspirations or a long-term plan to win a title in 2023, but at least their regular season isn’t tainted by tanking or coasting. But I digress. Let’s talk about the Knicks. In theory, Carmelo Anthony alone should get them to the playoffs, and he almost did last year in spite of the hurricane around him. Knicks president Phil Jackson has calmed the storm, brought in a new coach, and locked Anthony up long-term. The rest of the Knicks’ roster is, more or less, a farce. Jackson will be presiding over an overhaul for the next couple of seasons, but the first goal should be to restore some positive vibes*.

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks sucked last year and shouldn’t have made the playoffs. In fairness, they had to go almost the whole year without Al Horford. And, yes, they almost beat Indiana in the first round. But Horford is never healthy, and the Hawks only nearly pulled the upset thanks to some smoke and mirrors magic from coach Mike Budenholzer. The Hawks resigned Kyle Korver in July and probably will make the playoffs again in the winter if they stay healthy. Still, if they don’t, nobody will be that surprised or upset.

Charlotte Hornets

What is there to say about the Hornets? They’re not very good…but they made the playoffs last year thanks to one of the league’s best defenses (turns out the fat Steve Clifford, AKA the fat Scott Skiles, is a pretty good coach) and a monster season from Al Jefferson. Next year, they could be even better defensively due to the addition of the erratic but talented Lance Stephenson. The Hornets might make the playoffs. They might not. Either way, at least they don’t have to call themselves the Bobcats anymore.

Boston Celtics

Rajon took a career high three treys a game last year. He made 29% of them.

Rondo shot a career-worst 40.3% from the field last year.

The Celtics are a mystery to me at the moment. They still haven’t traded Rondo and it’s hard not to wonder if they can even get much for Rajon at this point. Jeff Green has a horrible contract and has seemingly settled into the role of being the Emeka Okafor of wings. The C’s drafted a couple of studs in Marcus Smart and James Young. Smart’s game is a work in progress, but he’s got future star written all over him. They also picked up Evan Turner on the cheap, and he’s clearly got some game. If the Celtics want, they can probably make a push for that 8 spot. The question: do they want to?

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers won more regular season games than any other Eastern Conference team last year. Then they fell apart late in the year. Then the offseason arrived, Stephenson got signed by Charlotte, and their dynamite superstar suffered a truly gruesome leg injury that should keep him from playing at all next season. Which leaves them right about here. David West is probably their best player, although he’s 33 and not getting younger (or better at free throw shooting…). They’re right on the cusp between categories for me. They do have an outside shot at the playoffs, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see them tank in hopes of drafting another future star to put alongside George.

Tank Cittttyyyyyyy

Orlando Magic

This team recently signed Ben Gordon to a two-year $9 million contract. Gordon played in 19 games last year, shooting 34% from the field and 27% from three-point land. YES, MAGIC FANS, THIS IS WHY YOU CANNOT HAVE NICE THINGS.

Philadelphia 76ers

MCW's potential remains off the charts.

MCW’s potential remains off the charts.

Philly is going to be good…the question is when and how good. Reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter Williams has legitimate top-5 superstar potential in my eyes, but he’s got a loooong way to go. This winter, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid are going to debut. The rest of the roster is fluff.

Detroit Pistons 

Chauncy Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Richard Hamilton ain’t walking through that door, fans.

Milwaukee Bucks

Jabari is a very good basketball player. Fans in Milwaukee will get to see him do very good things on the basketball court next year.

*To be honest, I think the Knicks will probably be better than the Nets next year. Why, then, do I have them a notch below the Nets? Answer: I could see the Knicks falling apart and missing the playoffs more easily than I could see the Nets doing so. Carmelo could get injured or decide to mail the season in, Derek Fisher could struggle in year one as coach, etc.

1 Comment

Filed under NBA

Why I Love Lebron’s Return

Tim Balk may not be captivated by LeReturn, but I’m here to say that it’s a story worthy of captivation.

Let’s go back to the evening of July 8th, 2010. It was one of those seminal moments where you’ll always remember where you were. I was lying down on my living room floor, staring up at the TV. ESPN blared on the screen as I looked blankly at my surroundings, shocked by what had just occurred. LeBron James was forming a super team in South Beach along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. My Knicks hat, which I had been wearing for good luck in the hopes that LBJ would bring his talents to MSG, was discarded, as my head was too full of thoughts of the Heat domination of the rest of the league for me to don it.

Four years later, I was again lying in my living room, ESPN murmurings in the background, when I heard the news of LeBron’s return. In the same way LeBron handled his free agency completely differently this time around, I reacted in the opposite manner as I had four years prior. The level of desolation I had felt in 2010 was matched by the level of excitement I felt in 2014. I leapt to my keyboard, reading LeBron’s letter about as fast as I could. It wasn’t just a matter of the best player in the game moving teams, it was a matter of the best player I’ve ever witnessed fulfilling a terrific narrative.

The romance of the story is unquestionable. The shunned prodigal son returns home, forgiven for his past sins, in exchange for optimism. LeBron’s image in Cleveland rising out of the ashes of burnt jerseys, giving the people of Ohio the opportunity to witness one of the best players in NBA history perfecting his craft, making his young teammates realize their full potential. As nasty as his return to Cleveland after The Decision was, I can’t wait for the Cavs home opener. I’ll be watching with a box of tissues handy, hopefully wearing a maroon and gold Cavs jersey with #6 emblazoned on the back. It’s not a matter of being a Cavs fan, or even a basketball fan. If you enjoy the basic narratives which have run throughout the course of human history, you can enjoy LeBron’s return. This IS more than basketball. I’m waxing poetic about a transaction. This is the beauty of sports.

He's back, baby!

He’s back, baby!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA

Responding to LeBron’s Return

LeBron-James-1

LeBron: savior…traitor…savior again.

Forgive me for not being romantic about LeBron James’ decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Because I’m not. At all.

That’s not to say that I have any problem with the King’s homecoming. His return should be fantastic for the sport and, of course, the city of Cleveland. But I don’t buy for a second the narrative, so willingly lapped up by the media, that LeBron presented in his exclusive Sports Illustrated letter. James and the press have framed the move as one eclipsing basketball motivations, a mature decision to return to one of America’s most forsaken cities out of a combination of altruism and good ol’ American hometown pride.

In his SI feature, LeBron states “this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball.” I’m calling BS on that one, LBJ. If the Cavaliers had the roster of, say, the Utah Jazz or Orlando Magic, I have a tough time believing James would be heading back to the shores of Lake Erie. LeBron is returning to a franchise that has a top flight point guard in Kyrie Irving and the top pick from this year’s draft: the prodigiously gifted Andrew Wiggins. The Cavaliers represent a beautiful landing pad for James while his old supporting cast in Miami has aged somewhat ungracefully in the past couple of years.

I’m not doubting that location played a role in James’ decision. It would be outrageous to suggest that it didn’t. Of course he wants to bring a ‘ship to Cleveland. And I also am willing to believe that it was, as he says, always his plan to return to the city on the Cuyahoga. By the same token, he must also have seen appeal in the sunny beaches of South Beach when he made his decision to head south in 2010.

LeBron James is a basketball player. He’s a very good one–the best one on earth and probably one of the two or three best in the history in the game. I’m here to tell you that his decision to return to Cleveland, much like his decision to leave, is motivated by one thing more than any other: basketball. The Cavs have a basketball future as sunny as the Florida coast. After the aging Heat got dominated by the Spurs in this year’s NBA Finals, their future looked as clouded as the Cuyahoga River. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are beyond their best years. The Cavs are young and talented.

I’m a fan of LeBron James. He appears intelligent, articulate, and a selfless teammate. He’s a tremendous ambassador for the game of basketball and one of the most enjoyable athletes to watch in any sport. I’m looking forward to seeing him don the maroon and mustard yellow jerseys of the team that plays their games about 40 miles north of Akron.

That being said, just as he was excessively criticized and maligned for moving to Miami, James has received more praise for returning than he deserves. The pendulum has swung the other way.

2 Comments

Filed under NBA

The Balk-Cooper NBA Offseason Conferences: Part Two

Tim Balk and Danny Cooper continue their conversation about the NBA offseason below. Click here for a link to the first part of their discussion, and stay tuned to College Sports Town to see further Tim-Danny discussions.

Tim Balk: Let’s start things off by delving deeper into free agency. Dallas locked Dirk Nowitzki up for another three years. Dirk is 36 years old, but he’s still an elite weapon. His numbers have remained fairly constant over the past few seasons and he has to be the league’s best player over 35. Another guy over 35–Paul Pierce–is one of the hottest commodities in this year’s free agency. Pierce is coming off the worst season of his illustrious Hall of Fame career, but the wily wing still played staunch defense and provided efficient offensive production for the inconsistent Nets. Brooklyn surely wants Pierce back, but they’ll have to compete with a horde of other suitors including the Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Bulls. If Pierce does come back to BK, he’ll rejoin a nucleus of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and a now healthy Brook Lopez. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers inked a deal with the oft-injured Chris Kaman and the Kings picked up Darren Collison.

Dirk Nowitzki will be a career Maverick (Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Dirk Nowitzki will be a career Maverick.

Danny Cooper: It’s certainly been a busy couple of days in the free agent market. Dirk has long been one of my favorite players, and I’m glad to see him basically commit to being a Maverick for life. He’s still got some gas left in the tank, and the Mavericks could only be a high-profile free agent signing away from real postseason success, being that they pushed the eventual world champions to 7 games this past spring. I’d also just like to point out the contrast between the hometown discount Dirk took to benefit his squad and the exorbitant $48.5 million 2 year extension Kobe signed last year.

The Clippers with Paul Pierce could be really dangerous next year. A reunion between The Truth and his old coach Doc Rivers could prove fruitful for the Clippers. A hard-nosed defender with a smooth jumper such as Pierce would fit in well in their sets, and he could provide valuable veteran leadership alongside Chris Paul. I know you are already emptying out your wallet to get a fresh #34 Lob City jersey, no? At this point, I’m just hoping I can wear my Carmelo Anthony Knicks jersey without it being a throwback.

TB: Los Angeles would be an interesting landing spot for Paul. Personally, I wouldn’t mind The Truth following me to Chitown. He’s not Melo, but Pierce would be an awfully solid add for Chicago…or any team really. I actually don’t see Pierce shipping off to his hometown; for #34 to land in LA a sign-and-trade deal between the Clips and Nets would likely need to go down and I have my doubts about how much interest Billy King has in a Jared Dudley or a Matt Barnes.

The hot new rumor is that the Lakers made a strong push for Carmelo Anthony, but I don’t see what the Lakers possibly can offer him beyond a 35 year old ballhog co-star whose knees are failing him, an uncertain coaching situation, and a spot in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Not to rehash thoughts from our last post, but Chicago continues to be the clear basketball choice, and New York remains the comfortable, potentially more lucrative option. When it all shakes down, it’s probably still the best bet that Paul and Carmelo will be playing their basketball in the concrete jungle of New York in the fall.

In one of the stranger stories of the offseason, rookie Hornet P.J. Hairston punched someone in a pickup game. This is another in a line of bizarre off-court incidents for Hairston. The former Tar Heel is a fantastic talent–he’s a big, athletic, wing with an impossibly sweet stroke–but it’s getting harder to see him ever realizing his potential at the NBA level.

DC: Los Angeles is obviously an attractive location for any superstar athlete, but I agree with you. The strongest basketball decision for Melo is no doubt Chicago, and the stronger financial decision is clearly New York. I’m anxious over this decision as a Knicks fan, but I am looking forward to the drama being over.

I’m not so sure Hornets owner Michael Jordan is bothered by P.J’s behavior. Sure, he prefers that Hairston stay out of legal trouble, but MJ was no stranger to getting fired up in the heat of battle on the basketball court. If Hairston is throwing punches in the YMCA, I’d love to see his competitive fire in the NBA. Hopefully, the legal situation will blow over, and Hairston can focus his energy on improving his game and staying out of trouble.

P.J. will need to stay out of trouble as he attempts to make an impact in the NBA.

P.J. will need to stay out of trouble as he tries to break into the league.

I’m afraid we can’t complete this post without mentioning the ongoing LeBron saga. Misinformation is being fired at the general population from all sides, meaning no one really knows where the King is going. Zydrunas Ilgauskas reportedly flew to South Florida on Dan Gilbert’s private plane, supposedly in an attempt to lure LBJ back to Cleveland, a move that seems increasingly likely each passing day. Meanwhile, the Heat signed former LeBron opponents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, each giving their consent with the understanding LeBron would be returning, according to a tweet from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Frankly, I’ll be happy when the entire ordeal is over, but, like the majority of basketball fans, I’d like to see LeBron go back home. Tim, where do you want to see the King end up?

TB: I’d like to see LeBron in Boston or Chicago. OK, maybe not THAAAAT realistic. A LeReturn (I know, I know, that’s terrible) to Cleveland would be loads of fun and they’d be quite good. At the same time, I’ll believe it when I see it. The media is clearly excited about the possibility, but as you note, it’s impossible to get a read on how legit Bron’s interest in taking his talents back to the Mistake by the Lake is. What I’m more confident about: the Heat’s championship window is closed up, barring a miracle. LeBron-Wade-Bosh is not the trio it once was and the King’s going to have a tough time chasing ‘ships in South Beach EVEN IF Chris Bosh spurns the outlandish offer the Rockets have presented him. A move to his hometown might be a win-win for the King, but it also would mean turning his back on Dwyane Wade and rest of the Heat organization.

DC: Although it would be difficult for LeBron to leave the organization he’s been to four straight Finals with, I agree that he’d have a better chance to win his third ring in most of the other potential destinations that have been listed over the past few days. Wade’s game was incomplete in the Finals, as the hobbled former superstar struggled to do what he once specialized in, finishing at the rim. If, and again, that’s a big if, Chris Bosh decides to stay in Miami, who knows how much longer he’ll be an elite big man. Bill Simmons asserted following the Finals that Bosh is already beginning to decline. LBJ would be wise to surround himself with young guns Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and (dare I say) Anthony Bennett instead of his aging old crew. Not to mention the Nike executives already drooling over the prospect of “The Return of the King.”

TB: Anthony Bennett is terrible.

Bennett gets no love from Tim!

Bennett gets no love from Tim!

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA

The Balk-Cooper NBA Offseason Conferences: Part One

Below, College Sports Town editors Tim Balk and Danny Cooper electronically conference to discuss the happenings of  two crazy weeks in the NBA. This is the first in what will be a series of back-and-forth conversations about the NBA.

Editor’s note: After this post was written, the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks agreed on a deal that sent Jason Kidd to Milwaukee in exchange for two second round draft picks. The Bucks fired coach Larry Drew.

Danny Cooper: The last few weeks have been a time of turmoil in the NBA. While the NBA Draft and impending free agency usually brings about radical changes, this offseason has been the craziest in recent memory. The draft had a fair amount of drama itself, with promising but injured prospect Joel Embiid falling to the Sixers at the third pick, after the Cavs and Bucks drafted the safer options of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker with the first and second picks. The rumor mill has been churning at an alarming rate, with rampant speculation about the eventual destinations of superstars such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Love. Front office drama has been prevalent as well, with the impending exile of Jason Kidd from the Brooklyn Nets and the ongoing controversy of the Donald Sterling fiasco. Tim, have you ever seen a wilder offseason?

Flip Saunders is back in Minneapolis.

Flip Saunders is back in Minneapolis.

Tim Balk: They’re all pretty wild. I still haven’t gotten over the Timberwolves inexplicably ceding almost total control of their franchise to Flip Saunders. I mean, I love Flip. Remember when he spent like a month as an assistant on the C’s bench and came to every game looking bored and shabbily dressed? Seriously though, this is a guy with a long history of being a marginal coach–he never got over the hump the first time in Minnesota, he never got over the hump with some extremely talented teams in Detroit, and his time in Washington was a trainwreck. I’m not sure what qualifies a guy who lost in the first round SEVEN years in a row with Minny the first time (and we make fun of the Hawks now…) to now take over the team for a second time as coach/GM/part owner. Even funnier, the Flip deal seems to have Jason Kidd, who, honestly, did a terrible job with Brooklyn this year, thinking he should get a similar deal in Brooklyn.

DC: It’s despicable when Flip Saunders has a job coaching an NBA team and Lionel Hollins is waiting for a call back from the Rockets front office. Head coaching moves this offseason have been bizarre. Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, and David Blatt have been handed the reigns of franchises at major turning points despite no previous NBA head coaching experience. On the bright side, Quin Snyder couldn’t possibly do a worse job than Tyrone Corbin in Utah, and Stan Van Gundy is a sight for sore eyes in Detroit, but there’s a limit to how much they can improve their poor teams. There’s a clear upper echelon of coaches, there’s a hundred yards of crap, then there’s the rest of them. Outside of Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, and Frank Vogel, I’m not sure which coaches are worth the money blown on them each offseason.

TB: I’m not sure I totally agree with your stance on there not being a middle of the pack when it comes to coaching. I’d point to guys like Larry Drew (who may be out of a job quite soon)  and Kevin McHale as fairly average NBA coaches. And there are a lot of other guys I like outside of those four or five. I thought Terry Stotts did a fantastic job in Portland this year. Jeff Hornacek had a great first year in Phoenix. I think we both agree that Spoelstra is an extremely capable coach. Moving back to Kidd, news just broke that the Bucks and Nets are trying to hash out a trade to send him to Milwaukee. First there was the Doc Rivers trade last offseason and now…this? We might be taking the whole coaching carousel to a new level. The weirdest thing to me is that the Bucks are apparently only willing to part with a second round draft pick. If you have enough confidence in a coach to want him leading your team, you’d think you would be willing to give up more than a meager second round pick.  Personally, I’d give up a second round pick NOT to have Kidd coach my team.

DC: Your point is taken. There are some extremely talented coaches out there who performed fantastically last year but aren’t quite at the Poppovic- Rivers- Carlisle level yet. That is not meant as a slight to those coaches but as a testament to the skill of the elite coaches of the league. In any case, dealing coaches is certainly one of the weirder developments of the past few years. I’m not sure that I like it, especially when there is an incumbent in place already, as there is in Milwaukee with Larry Drew. It does make you wonder how much teams would be willing to give up for a great coach like Poppovic.

Where will Melo land?

Where will Melo land?

TB: Shifting the subject from coaches to the draft, I love what the Chicago did. The offensively starved Bulls got a legit offensive weapon in Doug McDermott. Anyone who reads the blog knows I love Dougie. The dude’s got a diverse offensive game and I think he’ll thrive in the Chi. Getting him at 11 smells like a steal, even if they had to flip the 16th and 19th picks to Denver in order to get him. Bringing this thing back to the subject of coaches, Thibodeau was apparently very happy about the acquisition. Given the guys he’s had on his roster the past few years, it isn’t hard to see why he’d be glad to pick up a guy who can put the biscuit in the basket.

DC: No wonder you love McBuckets, you look just like him! In all seriousness, the Bulls are primed to control the East for a long time if the front office can snag highly-sought after free agent Carmelo Anthony. Playing with DPOY Joakim Noah, excellent sixth man Taj Gibson, and perhaps a resurgent Derrick Rose, Melo would prosper, and the Bulls would certainly be perennial favorites in the weak Eastern Conference. Chicago has to sign Melo first, though, and it faces stiff competition to do so. The Rockets and Mavs both have meetings set up with Melo next week, along with the Bulls, and the Knicks won’t let him get away so easy. Tim, what do you think Melo should do? To be honest, I would probably leave New York to create a superteam in Chicago and try to finally get a ring, but as a Knicks fan, that scenario depresses me.

TB: From a purely basketball perspective, Chicago is the clear choice. The Bulls already have a superstar, a proven coach, and a solid supporting ensemble. However, there are other factors at play. New York can pay him more than anybody else. He’s also a New York guy and his family is in the city. Then there’s always the allure of playing in MSG. So I’m not sure what Melo should do. I’ll be going to college outside of Chicago next year, so I’d like to see him take his talents to the United Center for selfish reasons. Even without Anthony, the Bulls should be the class of the East next winter if Rose can stay healthy. By the way, I’m also happy with the draft moves of my hometown C’s; by drafting Marcus Smart and James Young they’ve added some great young talent. Smart’s presence could pave the way for the Celtics to deal Rondo.

We think the C's made a smart move in taking Marcus Smart. (The Smart puns never get old, do they?)

Marcus Smart will be suiting up in Celtic green next season.

DC: The Celtics ended up with two of the better prospects in the draft (thanks Billy King!) in Smart and Young. Smart can let his emotions get the best of him, but if that’s the worst thing there is to say about him, that’s a good sign. Young is a solid sharpshooter who should benefit from playing in a system with Smart and/or Rondo. My issue with the Smart pick is Rondo’s presence on the team. The Celtics need to decide whether they want to deal him to garner more picks in what should be another deep draft in 2015 or if they want to keep him in Beantown for a while. Knowing Rondo’s competitive nature, I’m not so sure he’ll be a great mentor to Smart. Would it be possible for Danny Ainge to finagle a deal with the Timberwolves to exchange Rondo and picks or an expiring contract for Kevin Love? That’s the dream, isn’t it?

TB: That’s the dream.

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA, NBA Draft