No. 20 Maryland overcomes deficit to avoid upset

Maryland overcame a halftime deficit to pull away from South Carolina Upstate 67-57.

      
 

 

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Golden State Warriors Should Avoid Collateral Damage of Signing Ray Allen

Between their 14-game winning streak and Stephen Curry‘s MVP-caliber play, the 19-2 Golden State Warriors have quickly inserted themselves into the title conversation just a month and some change into head coach Steve Kerr’s first season at the helm.

So it’s only natural to expect a coveted free agent like Ray Allen to take notice as he mulls a potential return to the NBA at age 39. 

The Warriors certainly haven’t forgotten about him.

General manager Bob Myers admitted on Thursday to 95.7 FM The Game that Golden State had expressed interest to Allen’s camp. Via CSNBayArea.com, he added that, “it’s uncertain as to what Ray wants to do.”

It’s also uncertain just how interested the Warriors are.

Here’s the problem,” Myers said. “We don’t have enough minutes as it is, so it’s just a question of chemistry.”

In addition to the heavy minutes starters Curry and Klay Thompson demand in the backcourt, Kerr also has to find playing time for Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston at those forward and guard spots. Upon power forward David Lee‘s return, Draymond Green may have to spend less time at the 4 and more time at the 3—further complicating the crowded wing rotation.

Though Allen could theoretically usurp the 13.6 minutes per game currently going to Leandro Barbosa, that’s nearly half the playing time he earned with the Miami Heat a season ago. That means he’d likely siphon at least 12 more minutes away from others—potentially more as the rotation shortens during the postseason.

There’s no getting around the temptation to add an iconic shooter who’s made more three-pointers than anyone in league history. Two-time champions with a penchant for clutch heroics are few and far between.

And there’s little doubt Allen would earn his share of playing time, which—in one sense—is precisely the problem.

What happens when guys like Iguodala and Livingston see their roles shrink? Already relegated to reserve gigs in spite of their starting pedigree, the prospect of further marginalization could ruffle feathers and disrupt an already-delicate balance.

Barring a serious injury that would create a need for Allen, it’s hard to see his addition ending well for everyone involved. Virtual players may deal with that kind of thing in video games, but damaged chemistry is a hazard in real life. When guys stop buying in, it shows on the court.

The Warriors can’t risk that, not with things going so unbelievably well at the moment. 

They’re already making 37.6 percent of their three-point attempts, which is tied for the league’s fourth-best mark according to TeamRankings.com. And with a respectable 25.1 long-range attempts per contest, it’s hard to argue this team really needs another marksman.

Even if Allen marginally improved an offense that currently ranks sixth in efficiency (with 107.3 points per 100 possessions according to Hollinger Team Stats), it’s less clear that he’d be of much value to a defense that’s been exceptional so far. Allowing just 94.5 points per 100 possessions, the Warriors lead the league in defensive efficiency, and that has a lot to do with personnel like Iguodala and Livingston—the same guys who stand to lose the most from Allen’s addition.

Per TeamRankings.com, Golden State’s opponents are only making 30.5 percent of their three-point attempts (fourth best league-wide) while scoring just 19.3 points per contest via three-pointers (fifth best league-wide). Maintaining that kind of pressure on the perimeter is a tall order for a guy in his 19th season. That three-point stroke may be immortal, but lateral quickness rarely is.

With their chemistry and defense already in championship form, the Warriors would have to think long and hard about any tinkering, even when it comes to an apparent no-brainer addition like Allen. 

The 10-time All-Star is also giving his future plenty of thought. Earlier this month, ESPN Radio’s Ryen Russillo tweeted that he’s “Hearing Ray Allen is telling teams ‘talk to me in January’ [and] will make a decision in February.”

In November, ESPN the Magazine‘s Chris Broussard noted the range of suitors who’ve likely made Allen’s decision such a difficult one.

While none of those teams has a desperate need for Allen, all but San Antonio could almost certainly use another shooter off the bench.

Joining former teammate and four-time MVP LeBron James in Cleveland is the safe bet. While the Cavaliers haven’t been as dominant as Golden State in the early going, they remain among two or three teams favored to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

By the time Allen’s ready to make a decision, the Cavaliers will have likely developed more of a rhythm with one another. They may not be better than the Warriors, but they may well be the more attractive destination—and a better fit.

“Until he signs, that’s going to be a target for everybody,” Cavs general manager David Griffin told reporters in September. “Ray is someone who fits us as a shooter. His championship pedigree fits us at a really high level. With James [Jones], Mike [Miller] and LeBron here, I think he’d feel comfortable with our group.”

It might not be a fairy-tale ending, but it probably makes more sense than trying to make things work on the West Coast.

No one will fault the Warriors for doing their due diligence. In a world where injuries strike without warning, it would be irresponsible not to.

But sometimes the best moves are the ones that aren’t made—especially when your team holds the league’s best record and shows no sign of slowing down.

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Michigan Basketball: How U-M’s Frontcourt Can Avoid Getting Crushed vs. Arizona

As if things couldn’t get any worse for the Michigan Wolverines, they have to head to Tucson to play No. 3 Arizona Saturday. 

How the Wolverines recover from a second deflating home loss in a row could determine just how brutal their season will end up being. 

While hope is something that is hard to find in Ann Arbor at the moment, the Wolverines do have a chance of upsetting the third-ranked Wildcats if they get their act together in the frontcourt. 

In the losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, the starting frontcourt duo of Mark Donnal and Kameron Chatman combined to score 10 points. Regardless of who the opponents were during the two-game span, those numbers are flat-out unacceptable to post at a big-time program like Michigan. 

To add to the misery, the players off the bench at the forward position have contributed little. Ricky Doyle earned a whopping six points in both games, while Max Bielfeldt contributed five points in Tuesday’s loss to Eastern Michigan. 

Scoring points hasn’t been the only problem for the Michigan forwards this season, as rebounding has turned into a major issue as well. During their two-game losing streak, the Wolverines have been out-rebounded 62-53. This is not a concern tied to the two losses, either, as two guards currently lead the team in rebounding. 

If you base Saturday’s result at the McKale Center just off those frontcourt statistics, Michigan could be in for an extremely long day in the desert. If you also look at Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski’s numbers to start the season, a 20- or 30-point loss at the hands of Sean Miller’s team becomes a even bigger reality. 

With all that in mind, it is still possible the Wolverines find a way to keep the score close enough for Caris LeVert to take over in the final minutes. 

One way for John Beilein to get the best out of his big men Saturday is to switch up the starting lineup. Donnal is experiencing plenty of growing pains in his freshman season, and it would not be a bad idea at all to let him come off the bench. 

The ideal replacement for Donnal would be Doyle, who has scored over 10 points in three of his last six games. Beilein has already shown he has trust in his other freshman forward, as Doyle has played more minutes than Donnal in five of the last six games. 

Since the Michigan head coach clearly has a preference as to which big man he wants to use, he should finally pull the trigger and sit Donnal. If he does do that, Beilein could also light a spark under Donnal to get his season going. 

Putting Doyle alongside Chatman in the frontcourt may not put the Wolverines on the same level as the Wildcats, but it could give them a chance to challenge them over 40 minutes. 

While a switch in the starting five can solve a few issues for the Wolverines, they still need to improve their shooting. For Michigan to have a chance at opening up the court for the bigs, the team has to shoot better than it did against Eastern Michigan. In the defeat to their in-state rival, the Wolverines were 14-of-43 from the field. 

As we saw in the loss to NJIT, LeVert is capable of carrying the team during long stretches when he gets hot from the field, but the Wolverines need to develop another scorer in the paint to keep some attention off the star guard. If not, LeVert could be in for a rough night against the guard duo of T.J. McConnell and Gabe York. 

If the passing of LeVert, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. can open up the Arizona defense early on in the game, the Wolverines could create chances in the paint. Even if they only make a few shots down low, the Michigan big men will keep Arizona’s defense honest. 

If that happens, the guards could exploit some one-on-one matchups during half-court sets to make big shots from beyond the arc. Add in a boost off the bench from Spike Albrecht, and the Wolverines could have the perfect formula to keep things interesting in Tucson. 

Beating Arizona after two soul-crushing defeats is not an impossible task for the Wolverines, but a lot has to go right in the paint for them to avoid a third straight deflating loss in nonconference play.

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

All statistics obtained from ESPN.com. 

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76ers snap 0-17 slide, avoid tying NBA-worst start

The 76ers were one game shy of tying the Nets’ record for worst start of 0-18 in 2009.

      
 

 

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Philadelphia 76ers Avoid Infamy for Now, and Other Wednesday NBA Takeaways

The Philadelphia 76ers may very well finish the season with the most losses in NBA history, but they avoided the record book on this night.

An 85-77 road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves guaranteed the Sixers would avoid a record-tying 0-18 start. Philly residents, consult local listings for parade routes and streamer purchases.

Make no mistake, this contest was a horror show from the start, with the opening seconds ranking among the most bizarre. Fourteen seconds after tipoff, the officials realized something strange, per Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press:

Instead of just switching ends, both teams lined up to re-jump, effectively eliminating those 14 seconds from basketball existence. I’m guessing everyone but the Sixers—the fans who rained boos from the rafters, the Wolves themselves and anyone masochistic enough to watch from home—wish the other 47 minutes and 46 ticks could be wiped from memory as well.

Philadelphia built a 23-13 first-quarter lead, reaching new territory in the process, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Both teams coughed the rock up routinely, missed easy buckets and generally played some of the worst ball imaginable. The numbers at halftime were hard to believe.

Things picked up from there, with Philly’s Michael Carter-Williams leading the way with a near triple-double. He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in 43 minutes, topping Philadelphia in all four categories.

Minnesota got 15 points and 16 rebounds from Gorgui Dieng, but only three other Timberwolves reached double figures on the night. Former 76ers forward Thaddeus Young led the team with 16 points.

The Wolves, as they’ve been for a while, were without three starters: Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin. But don’t expect the Sixers to acknowledge any asterisks attached to their first win of the season. For a team whose ownership is so clearly devoted to losing, it was clear that the players reveled in the victory.

Tony Wroten, who wasn’t healthy enough to play (knee), was psyched:

Joel Embiid celebrated the win on social media by doing the same thing he always does—hit on Rihanna:

Even past Sixers greats chimed in, happy for the oh-so-modest achievement:

In the end, neither team shot over 40 percent from the field, and the game featured 36 turnovers against 32 assists.

But the 76ers won, and it’s entirely possible they won’t do that again for another 18 games…or longer. Who knows, really?

For now, it’s probably best to just congratulate Philly on its narrow avoidance of ignominious history and wish it well as it plays out the remaining 64-game string.

 

Around the Association

Buzzkill Extended

The Charlotte Hornets dropped their 10th straight game, falling 102-95 to a Chicago Bulls team one day removed from a double-overtime grinder against the Dallas Mavericks.

Though the streak of futility continued for the league’s most disappointing squad, there were a few highlights and bright spots worth noting. Lance Stephenson played what might have been his best game as a Hornet, tallying a season-high 20 points, along with eight rebounds and four assists. His early activity provided a boost—unfortunately one that wouldn’t linger into the game’s late stages.

Kemba Walker rudely crossed up Nikola Mirotic (who had 11 points and 12 rebounds off the bench), drawing gasps from the crowd and an understated giggle from Hornets owner and reasonably well-known former player Michael Jordan.

When Jordan next takes Walker aside, he’ll likely explain the crossover-enhancing merits of the push-off.

An encouraging sign for the Bulls: Derrick Rose held up, and their gaudy road record got even better, as pointed out by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Finally, there’s some good news for the reeling Hornets. The 4-15 New York Knicks are up next.

 

Mike Fratello’s Czar Status Is Safe

The Brooklyn Nets logged their first win against a team above .500 on Wednesday, knocking off the visiting San Antonio Spurs, 95-93. Brooklyn put forth the best collective effort of its season, capitalized on an uncharacteristically casual Spurs squad and were lucky to get a calamitous late foul from Danny Green that all but iced the game.

Green was not so lucky, as all you lip-readers out there will see in this clip of an apoplectic Gregg Popovich screaming about his late-game blunder. Earmuffs!

In other basketball-related business, Mirza Teletovic threw up 16 points and 15 boards (and a sweet poster jam), while Brook Lopez contributed 16 points and 15 boards. The thoroughly chastised Green led San Antonio with 20.

With that out of the way, we move on to more important matters: Mike Fratello let Nets play-by-play man Ian Eagle use his precious telestrator during the broadcast—with predictable results:

It’s safe to say the Czar’s position is safe.

 

Monta Ellis Have It All…Game-Winners Included

With his team playing without Dirk Nowitzki a day after a double-overtime win against the Chicago Bulls, Tyson Chandler boosted the Dallas Mavericks in their 107-105 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks with 18 points and 20 rebounds. And with victory in sight, Monta Ellis proved that having it all includes icy, back-breaking buzzer-beaters:

The play caught heat around the league for what was perhaps an extra step or two, but let’s not get caught up in petty details, or, you know, rules.

The Bucks didn’t get enough from Ellis when he was in Milwaukee. It’s safe to say they’ve had their fill now. Chandler Parsons thinks so:

 

Elfrid Payton Has Some Mechanical Issues

Someday, Elfrid Payton is going to be a darn good player in the NBA. He’s smart, defends and has the court sense of a 10-year veteran. But he can’t shoot—even when nobody’s guarding him. Coming into the Orlando Magic’s 114-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, he was shooting just 49 percent from the foul line.

That figure is headed south, folks:

That’s right; two consecutive air balls from a point guard. Not ideal.

 

The Lakers Hit a Wall

Kobe Bryant came out gunning, got no help from his teammates (Jeremy Lin was benched in the fourth quarter after missing all 10 of his shots to that point) and the Los Angeles Lakers completely ran out of steam against John Wall and the Washington Wizards, falling 111-95.

The closing sequence summed up the proceedings nicely. Down six with 1:23 remaining, Bryant, isolated (because obviously) on the wing, dribbled between his legs thrice and bricked a contested three. As all five Lakers stood around, the Wizards broke out, and Wall hit Marcin Gortat for a transition dunk.

Bryant turned the ball over on the next possession, leading to yet another breakaway jam—this time for Rasual Butler. A third Kobe giveaway resulted in—you guessed it—a third Wizards fast-break jam with 27 seconds left.

Wall’s four-point play (he was fouled by Bryant) and subsequent shimmy capped off a brilliant 17-point, 15-assist night. L.A. hit a wall in this one, and then Wall hit back.

 

Lowry Making His Case

If the Toronto Raptors—who are now 15-4 after dispatching the Utah Jazz 123-104—maintain their hold on the East and Kyle Lowry keeps getting loose like he did on Wednesday, we may have to start seriously considering him as an MVP candidate.

He dropped 39 points on 22 shots, pumping up his scoring average to 20.6 points per game to go along with 6.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds. With DeMar DeRozan sidelined because of a torn tendon in his groin, we should expect to see plenty more big nights from the King in the North. SB Nation’s Jason Patt noted Lowry’s per-game points average over three games “without DeRozan”: 

This is not a drill.

 

Rockets Cruise On

Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones’ absences should have resulted in a Houston Rockets loss against the fearsome Memphis Grizzlies.

Not so.

Houston improved to 5-2 since Howard has been out with a strained right knee behind 21 points from James Harden and five other Rockets in double figures. The 105-96 road loss dropped the Grizzlies out of the West’s top spot and put the rest of the conference on notice: These Rockets are deeper than anyone thought, as highlighted in coach Kevin McHale’s comments, per the Rockets:

I guess the final takeaway is something we already suspected: Everybody in the West is dangerous—healthy or not.

 

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76ers Avoid NBA Record, Notch First Win of 2014-15 Season vs. Timberwolves

The Philadelphia 76ers avoided matching an extraordinary standard of losing on Wednesday evening.

As road underdogs, Philly averted an all-time NBA-record 18th straight defeat to start the season by notching a 85-77 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center in Minneapolis. SportsCenter had the news:

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today provided context for the record the Sixers were (hopefully) glad to avoid tying:

Sure, Minnesota was without perhaps its two biggest stars in point guard Ricky Rubio and center Nikola Pekovic. But who’s counting? A win’s a win, baby!

Andrew Perloff of Sports Illustrated hinted at the taboo “tanking” concept for both sides after witnessing the game:

Grantland’s Jared Dubin alluded to the disparity between the Association’s two conferences in his analysis:

Marc Berman of the New York Post weighed in, hinting frustration at the New York Knicks squad he’s on the beat for:

Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams had a near-triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to lead the rare winners.

Carter-Williams appears to be one of the few players on his side genuinely interested in putting a quality, professional basketball product on the floor. Or maybe that’s just how much talent the Philadelphia roster lacks as it heads for another draft lottery on a deliberate, prolonged rebuilding process.

Coach Brett Brown discussed before the game how he didn’t expect the results to be so sour after picking up two high draft picks recently, per The Washington Post‘s Michael Lee:

One of those lottery picks, Joel Embiid, led the celebration:

Let’s just hope he didn’t hurt his foot in the process, since that’s keeping Embiid off the court at the moment. Meanwhile, young core players like Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and other misfits are trying to assemble some semblance of competitive ball for the City of Brotherly Love.

The risky plan must be for this adversity to help bring the Sixers’ young nucleus together. ESPN Stats & Info’s anecdote offered little solace in the aftermath of the win, though:

Amid a most treacherous 2014-15 campaign so far, there’s a fine line between creating a losing culture—or breeding a mutinous fraternity, if you will—and setting a foundation for sustainable, long-term success sometime in the future.

Circumstances were too favorable for Philadelphia to be too excited about Wednesday’s win. The next step would be to win a home game as a reward to the fans still attending, bearing witness to what should go down as one of the worst teams in NBA history.

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Chris Bosh Turned Down Houston Rockets to Avoid More Big 3 Pressure

Big Threes are overrated—you know, after you’ve spent four years being a part of one.

And if your name is Chris Bosh.

Instead of following LeBron James’ free-agency lead and forming another NBA superpower with the Houston Rockets, Bosh elected to stay with the Miami Heat over the offseason. Months after the fact, the All-Star big man revealed more about the logic behind his decision to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger.

“I could see where people would think that’s an attractive site,” he said. “They were trying to win right away. And I was really happy to be touted that I possibly could’ve been out there. But you know, that doesn’t guarantee anything, and I know that. All that guarantees is a bunch of pressure.”

Makes sense.

Bosh enjoyed four seasons of title contention in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and James. But he and his partners in crime also faced unparalleled pressure. Every loss was scrutinized and blown out of proportion. That the Heat caged two championships after four straight Finals appearances was somehow depicted as a failure within certain circles.

More of the same awaited Bosh in Houston, where he would have joined James Harden, Dwight Howard and presumably Chandler Parsons, giving the Rockets a Big Four. The pressure there arguably would have been worse.

Jumping to yet another team would mean Bosh was chasing titles. Abandoning Miami would mean he had to win those titles, lest he be remembered as a moderately successful championship hanger-on.

Staying with the Heat was the safe play in that sense. It safeguarded him against Big Three dissection while adding a pinch of loyalty to his NBA resume.

There were other factors, of course. More than $118 million was thrown his way, and the new-look Heat promised a featured role the superstar-stuffed Rockets could not.

Some might see that as a flagrant cop out. Others might interpret it as Bosh prioritizing money over winning. And perhaps it is all those things. But, more than anything else, Berger says this is Bosh absolving himself, however slightly, of Big Three wear and tear:

Before you jump on Bosh for taking the easy way out, consider what the past four years were like for him. He was never the most important corner of the James-Wade-Bosh triangle, except when he missed an open jumper or flubbed a defensive assignment. He had to sacrifice and unlearn key parts of his game to adapt to the more dominant talents and personalities around him. For four years, every day in the life of the Miami Heat was like being on tour with the No. 1 artist in the land.

The perpetual chase, the championship-or-bust environment, the celebrity status afforded basketball’s three-headed monster — all of it wore on James, who spoke often last season of the mental fatigue of pursuing a fourth straight trip to the Finals. Everyone was so busy chronicling James’ every word that they forgot to ask Bosh what he thought.

It wore on him, too.

Remaining with the Heat was Bosh’s escape—his deserved respite from four years of status-wobbling. This is not to be confused with a vacation. There is still work to be done in Miami.

The Heat are battling through injuries and a depthless rotation, trying to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Their 15th-ranked defense is vulnerable to penetration, their 11th-ranked offense is desperately dependent on Bosh and Wade.

Bosh himself is still coming to terms with his new role. His stats are up across the board—most notably his assist and usage rates—and he’s now a defensive-afterthought-turned-focal-point.

Adjusting to life as a grinder has been, and shall remain, a process. For four years, even in the most uncertain times, Bosh had the luxury of knowing the Heat would be right there in the end. No such guarantees can be made now.

“But it’s what I asked for, I guess,” Bosh said of the situation in Miami, per Sports on Earth’s Howard Megdal. “So I have to be stern with myself, and patient at the same time. To just know it’s a process, and to live with that process.”

Tougher parts of this process await. Wade’s status moving forward is unknown, and upcoming opponents include the Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets and Golden State Warriors. Each contest is another measuring stick, and a chance for Miami to show where it stands.

Succeed or fail, Bosh will be at the forefront of everything—the alpha dog on a Heat team that gave him what he asked for by being less than super.

 

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NBA Trade Rumors: Pelicans Must Avoid Moving Ryan Anderson

The New Orleans Pelicans want to make the playoffs this season in the Western Conference, and Ryan Anderson is a critical piece to any potential postseason puzzle.

Simply put, the Pelicans must not trade the versatile forward if they want to play playoff basketball at the end of the 2014-15 campaign.

Mary Stevens of Basketball Insiders recently provided an intriguing possibility regarding Anderson: “Several teams around the league are in search of a big man that can shoot and Anderson will be a hot commodity if he is put out on the market.”

Don’t worry, Pelicans fans, the qualifying “if he is put on the market” is arguably the most important part of that entire section. It means the Pelicans have not officially entertained or at least publicly advertised the notion of trading him, although that could certainly become a reality at some point this season.

That would be a mistake.

Anderson is one of most reliable shooters in the entire league, which is valuable at any position, but especially at power forward. He is a matchup nightmare for a number of opponents and is a career 38.5 percent shooter from behind the three-point line, shooting 40.9 percent from deep in 2013-14 for the Pelicans.

Anderson can also rebound and averaged 6.5 boards a night for New Orleans a season ago. He is certainly not afraid to mix it up down low at 6’10”.

Anderson’s greatest value to the Pelicans in their hunt for the postseason is how seamlessly he fits in with the current roster as an asset off the bench.

Omer Asik does not stretch the floor at all down low, and Anthony Davis attracts extra defenders as one of the most dynamic players in the league. Anderson fits in perfectly with either one.

He is important when playing with Asik for spacing purposes so defenders cannot clog the lane and block penetration, which also helps Asik snag offensive rebounds. He is important when playing with Davis because he can drill the three-pointer when double-teams come Davis’ way. 

Fran Fraschilla of ESPN noted that Anderson works nicely off the bench with this group:

Anderson’s versatility is also key for a team that isn’t as reliant on its bench for scoring production as many other teams are across the league.

Anderson has played some small forward at times this season to cover up a shallow bench. In fact, only four guys on the team are scoring in double figures a night in the early going, and three of them are starters (Anderson is the fourth at 13 a game). Having someone who can play multiple positions effectively off the bench is massively important for depth and rotational purposes.

Coach Monty Williams discussed Anderson’s time at small forward, via John Reid of NOLA.com: ”Ryan has been a good offensive rebounder, especially before he came here. You could see him rebound a lot better from that position. So that was a good sign.”

Anderson also has postseason experience from his time with the Orlando Magic, which is the ultimate goal for this season’s talented New Orleans roster.

Anderson played in three straight playoffs for the Magic and reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010, where they lost a heartbreaker to the Boston Celtics. If and when the Pelicans reach the playoffs, Anderson’s experience could be a critical factor, especially with the young Davis as the star.

Finally, Anderson is only 26 years old, despite his designation as a veteran.

He should have plenty of productive years remaining in the tank and may even improve, especially since the three-pointer is such a crucial part of his arsenal. Athleticism fades over time, but the long-range shot typically lasts. 

New Orleans needs to make sure that potential improvement comes with a Pelicans jersey on in the coming years.

 

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How NBA players can avoid going broke

Eddie Johnson discusses how NBA players can be smart with their money.

      
 

 

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Minnesota Timberwolves Must Avoid Paying Ricky Rubio After Losing Kevin Love

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

By now, the Minnesota Timberwolves know a thing or two about Love and loss alike. But after being cornered into trading away their disaffected star forward to the Cleveland Cavaliers, there’s a very real danger the franchise could overspend in a bid to avoid more loss.

It flirts with said danger on account of point guard Ricky Rubio, the Spanish would-be star Minnesota selected with the No. 5 overall pick in 2009.

To be sure, Rubio‘s situation shares little in common with Kevin Love’s. The 23-year-old has neither the superstar pedigree nor the requisite leverage to force a trade at this juncture.

Moreover, he’s given no indication that he intends to do such a thing.

“I’m loyal,” Rubio recently told Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. “I want to give them back what they gave me there: a lot of love.”

Unfortunately, that love—not Love—will come at a steep price by all accounts.

The organization has until the end of October to sign Rubio to an extension, but it appears little progress has been made to that end. The chief culprit seems to be a disconnect between Rubio‘s market valuation and his agent’s ambitious agenda.

Back in April, the Star Tribune‘s Jerry Zgoda speculated as much, writing, “Expect Rubio‘s side to push for a contract closer to a maximum salary than the four-year, $44 million extension Golden State’s Stephen Curry received, which the Wolves just might view as beyond their limits.”

Months later, little has changed.

Timberwolves reporter Darren Wolfson told Sportando’s E. Trapani in August that “Rubio is on notice. The Wolves are trying to sign him to an extension, and so far his agent, Dan Fegan, is balking at the idea of a 4-year, $43 million deal.”

“That’s plenty for a player of Rubio‘s caliber,” Wolfson adds. ”It’s a lot more than Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague makes—maybe a better player—and is what Golden State All-Star guard Stephen Curry makes. But Fegan is seeking the five-year max. That’s not happening. The situation is pointing toward Rubio being a restricted free agent next summer.”

In March, Grantland’s Zach Lowe described Rubio as “among the most divisive players in the league now, in part because of the sense that his agent, Dan Fegan, is going to demand an eight-figure extension that Rubio does not yet deserve.”

Accordingly, restricted free agency wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, especially for the Timberwolves.

Unless Rubio make significant strides this season, it’s unlikely other teams will offer him anywhere near a max deal. Even with the massive deals Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward recently signed, the market for a point guard with limited shooting ability is a different story.

The available body of evidence suggests Rubio remains a large step behind someone like Curry. Last season the Spaniard averaged 9.5 points, 8.6 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. There’s a lot to like about the line, but the bigger problem was that 2013-14 was the third consecutive season in which Rubio made well under 40 percent of his field-goal attempts—this time a career-high 38.1 percent.

Zgoda recently tweeted, “[Head coach and team president] Flip [Saunders] also said team will hire a shooting coach for this season. Rubio, [Chase] Budinger & others have been working [with] one based on LA.”

So there’s certainly a chance Rubio emerges as a much-improved shooter at some point this season, but it’s hard to imagine him approximating Curry’s production or efficiency.

The Golden State Warriors floor general averaged 24 points and 8.5 assists per game last season, converting on 47.1 percent of his field-goal attempts in the process. Rubio has a long way to go before putting up those kinds of numbers.

In turn, a deal that pays Rubio somewhere on the order of $10 million annually would seem nothing short of generous.

Exploring the free-agent market next summer may reveal as much.

In the meantime, Minnesota should resist the urge to overpay. Tempting as it may be to lock up a franchise cornerstone (shortly after losing another), Rubio is far more replaceable than Love. 

It’s true that teams like the Timberwolves sometimes have to sweeten deals due to the difficulties they have attracting external talent. Rubio‘s qualified commitment to the franchise may even indicate that now’s the time for such a loyalty bonus.

Until the Timberwolves start winning, money is all they have to offer.

“I like Minnesota,” Rubio explained to NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper in June. “But I want to win too. Of course when a big guy like [Love] leaves you’re thinking about what’s going to be happening with the team. Are we going to lose a lot?”

“Before I came to Minnesota, the season before they won like 17 games,” Rubio continued. “I was a little scared when I went there. I’m coming from Europe, where I was playing in Barcelona. I think we lost six games or seven games in two seasons, and every loss was a disaster. I don’t want to go through a process like every win is something special.” 

Wins may indeed be special this season, which could certainly lead Rubio‘s eyes to begin wandering.

There haven’t been any ultimatums thus far, though. In fact, Rubio has attempted to distance himself from the contract process.

“It’s something I’m not worried about,” Rubio told reporters in April. “It’s something my agent is going to talk [about] with Flip. It’s something I don’t have to be worried [about]. I just worry about playing.”

Soon enough, however, he may be worried about playing for a raise over the $5,070,686 he’s scheduled to make this season, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Unless his camp reaches an understanding with Minnesota, the campaign ahead reasons to be something of a league-wide audition.

An audition Saunders and Co. will watch closely.

In the event Rubio discovers a jump shot and transforms himself into a well-rounded scoring threat, the organization will happily reward him financially. But the Timberwolves would be well-served by allowing the market to make that determination.

They’ll have the right to match any offer Rubio receives next summer, so there’s little need to pre-empt that process with a potentially inflated extension.

This is no time for impulse buys.

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