Three weeks before he went into the Texas Tech stands to shove Jeff Orr, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had another ugly encounter with fans.
This one was actually much worse.
It involved a group of teenage girls.
Smart and teammate Phil Forte came face-to-face with the high schoolers about 20 minutes after their Jan. 18 loss to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. As the players walked toward the Cowboys locker room after their postgame press conference, one of the girls approached them and smiled bashfully.
“Would you two mind if we got a quick picture?” she said.
Smart kept walking.
“Not right now,” he said.
Forte stopped and tried to coax his teammate into posing with the fans, grabbing his arm and reminding him it would only take a few seconds. Smart rolled his eyes.
“If we take a picture with them, we’ve got to take pictures with everyone,” Smart said as he pulled away.
The point would’ve been valid if there was a throng of fans in the tunnel. But there wasn’t. The only people within an earshot of the group were a pair of security guards—and me. I was trailing the twosome in hopes of scoring a few extra quotes for my game column.
As Smart and Forte barked back and forth for about 30 seconds, one thought lingered in my head.
With the way he’s acting, why would anyone even want a photo with Marcus Smart?
“Just take the picture!” Forte said forcefully, and Smart relented and posed for the shot.
As rude and arrogant as Smart came across that evening, I was willing to give him a free pass. Athletes go through mood swings and have bad days just like the rest of us. Losses sting. Not everyone has the grace of Peyton Manning, who was still in uniform when he signed an autograph for a beer salesman after getting crushed in the Super Bowl earlier this month.
If a player doesn’t feeling like scribbling his name on a basketball or stopping to take a picture with a fan, he shouldn’t have to. Especially when he’s in enemy territory after a gut-wrenching defeat.
The girls’ timing couldn’t have been any worse.
Still, I always thought that Smart was different. Or at least that’s what I’d been told.
For the past year, television announcers have fawned over Smart to the point where it’s strange and uncomfortable. Florida’s Billy Donovan and Gonzaga’s Mark Few, who worked with Smart in USA Basketball, said the point guard may be the best competitor they’ve ever coached. NBA experts projected him to go as high as No. 3 in last summer’s draft—never mind that he’s a mediocre ball-handler who has shot just 28.7 percent from three-point range in his career.
Smart is a leader, they said, a guy who makes everyone around him better.
That may be the case.
But—as we now know—only sometimes.
That’s been the most baffling thing about the past few weeks. We don’t know who Marcus Smart is anymore. Is he the player who changed the entire culture of Oklahoma State’s program with his intensity and work ethic? Or is he the prima donna who snubbed those young girls at Allen Fieldhouse, the bully who punked that doofus fan at Texas Tech?
Smart was phenomenal as a freshman last season, when he led Oklahoma State to a 24-9 record overall and a 13-5 mark in the Big 12. Smart’s performance earned him Player of the Year honors in the conference and a spot on the Sporting News’ All-American team.
When faced with adversity this season, though, Smart has floundered. He’s clearly under an immense amount of pressure, and the shame of it all is that Smart brought the pressure upon himself.
Smart should’ve never returned to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. Sure, it was a feel-good moment when Smart made the announcement last spring, but the Oklahoma State fans who clapped at his press conference had to have been wondering what Smart was thinking. Or if he was thinking at all.
Most experts guessed that Smart would’ve been a top-three pick after his freshman season, an instant millionaire who could’ve provided immediate help to his mother, who has one kidney and goes to dialysis three times a week.
But instead Smart chose to return for another year, risking injury and giving NBA scouts more chances to dissect his game, more opportunities to detect flaws that could lower his draft stock and cost him millions.
That’s exactly what’s happened.
Smart is averaging a team-high 17.5 points, but he’s shooting just 42.2 percent from the field overall and a measly 28.1 percent from three-point range. During one particularly brutal stretch last month he missed 25 of 28 shots from behind the arc and was 13-of-53 overall.
Once ranked as high as No. 5, the Cowboys had lost four straight games before Smart was suspended for three contests for shoving Orr, which was hardly the only sign Smart was beginning to crumble under the scrutiny and expectations he brought upon himself by deciding to return to school.
A week after big-timing those young fans at Allen Fieldhouse, Smart became frustrated with his play against West Virginia and kicked over a chair during a timeout. He drew a technical for doing a chin-up on the rim and slapping the backboard after a dunk at Kansas State, forcing him to the bench with foul trouble, which played a huge factor in the Cowboys’ loss.
Smart complained to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman about how “inconsistent” officials have been when it comes to enforcing the new hand-check rules.
And Monday night, while serving the final game of his three-game suspension, Smart criticized an Oklahoma State blogger on Twitter for being too negative.
In less than a month, Smart completely unraveled.
I’ve never heard anyone say Smart is a bad person. The story of Smart overcoming a tough neighborhood as a child and the death of his father speaks highly of his character and drive.
Instead, I look at Smart as a cautionary tale, an illustration of why it’s better to make the wise decision rather than the popular one when it comes to the NBA. The same people who applauded Smart’s choice a year ago now feel sorry for him because they realize it cost him a fortune.
An assistant coach at a high-level program told me last week that Smart’s confidants—his coaches and advisers—should’ve stepped in last spring and convinced him to turn pro, mapping out why it didn’t make sense to return to Oklahoma State.
“With all that’s happened now,” the coach said, “I don’t know how those people sleep at night.”
While last year’s draft class was considered weak, the 2014 class appears strong. Even if Smart would’ve had a banner season, there’s no way he would’ve gone in the top five.
The most recent mock drafts have dropped Smart from the No. 6 overall pick to the middle of the first round.
It’s obvious Smart knows it.
He’s become irritable, defensive and selfish. When Orr screamed at Smart that night in Lubbock, he was poking a caged bear.
Hopefully Smart has been able to simmer down during his three-game suspension. Hopefully he’s collected his thoughts and will revert to his old form Saturday, when he returns to a squad that has now lost seven straight.
At 16-10 overall and 4-9 in the Big 12, the Cowboys will need a miraculous finish to make the NCAA tournament. Getting them there through leadership and gutsy play would help Smart save a little face and reestablish his reputation.
Maybe then, someone will want his autograph again.
This Week’s Grades
A: Tubby Smith – The first-year Texas Tech coach has led his team to victories over Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma—all of whom have been ranked—and in the last week the Red Raiders have lost to No. 11 Iowa State and No. 8 Kansas by a combined seven points. People are excited about basketball in Lubbock, and the United Spirit Arena is becoming a difficult place to play. Texas Tech made the best hire of the offseason.
B: Terran Petteway – Nebraska’s sophomore wing has keyed the Cornhuskers’ resurgence under second-year coach Tim Miles. Petteway, who redshirted last season after beginning his career at Texas Tech, is averaging 17.7 points and 5.2 rebounds for a squad that is a surprising 6-6 in the Big Ten. Petteway scored 23 points in Sunday’s mammoth upset of then-No. 9 Michigan State in East Lansing.
C: Arizona and Syracuse – The Wildcats and Orange are proving what I’ve been saying all season. Although both are great teams, neither is significantly better than the other squads ranked in the Top 10. Syracuse’s inability to put away bad teams at home finally caught up with the Orange in Wednesday’s overtime loss to Boston College. Arizona lost in overtime to unranked Arizona State on Friday and needed overtime to put away Utah on Wednesday.
D: Washington – It may be time for the Huskies to make a coaching change. Lorenzo Romar has had some good moments, but he’s never taken Washington past the Sweet 16, and the Huskies appear destined for the NIT for the third straight season. Heck, two years ago, Washington won the Pac-12 regular-season title and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. Washington’s program has too much going for it to accept that kind of mediocrity.
F: Court-storming snobs – I get so tired of people who try to dictate when it’s acceptable to storm a court. Do you really think the students in the stands—some of whom are probably liquored up—are thinking deeply about etiquette and tradition and sportsmanship? They’re simply having fun. At schools such as Duke, Kentucky and Kansas, students are basically told upon enrollment that it’s never OK to storm. And that’s fine. The tradition at those schools is unmatched. But as far as everywhere else? Let college students have their fun. What’s wrong with a little enthusiasm and excitement in college basketball?
Starting Five: Best first-year coaches (listed alphabetically)
Steve Alford, UCLA – The Bruins are 21-5 overall and at, at 10-3, are just one game back of Arizona (11-2) in the Pac-12 race. Great hire by the Bruins.
Chris Collins, Northwestern – Who says you can’t win in Evansville? Collins has led the Wildcats to victories over Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue.
Bobby Hurley, Buffalo – One season after going 14-20, the Bulls are 15-8 overall and 9-4 in the MAC under Hurley, the former Duke star.
Richard Pitino, Minnesota – The Gophers head coach apparently takes after his father. Minnesota is 6-8 in the rugged Big Ten, but six of those losses have come by eight points or fewer and three have been in overtime.
Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin – Frank Martin’s former assistant hasn’t lost since Nov. 23. He’s 24-2 overall and 13-0 in the Southland Conference. Underwood won’t be at SFA long if he keeps this up.
A Dozen Words On My Top 12 Teams
1. Florida – Gators have won 18 straight games but nearly choked Wednesday against Auburn.
2. Wichita State – Shockers are on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. Well-deserved.
3. Duke – Blue Devils play North Carolina, Syracuse in a span of 48 hours.
4. Syracuse – The Orange were playing with fire and they finally got burned Wednesday.
5. Louisville – Cardinals have won five straight games by an average of 26 points.
6. Kansas – Jayhawks will be looking for revenge Saturday against Texas in Allen Fieldhouse.
7. Kentucky – John Calipari’s squad played well at times against Florida and dominated Ole Miss.
8. Creighton – Can the Bluejays reach the Final Four? With Doug McDermott, why not?
9. Arizona – The margin for error is small, but the Wildcats are tough defensively.
10. Michigan State – Losing to Nebraska at home was a wake-up call for the Spartans.
11. San Diego State – The Aztecs are proving how much it helps to have experienced players.
12. Virginia – I’m calling it now. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers will win the ACC title.
Heating up: UCLA and Louisville
Cooling down: Florida State and Ole Miss
Too much credit: James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina; Jahii Carson, Arizona State
Not enough credit: Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati; Juwan Staten, West Virginia
Time for someone to hire: Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland
Time for someone to fire: Jeff Bzdelik (Wake Forest) and Stan Heath (South Florida)
Saddening: Oklahoma State
What the heck has happened to: Indiana and Temple
Quietly doing a nice job: Danny Manning, Tulsa
Would someone help me choose: The Big 12 MVP
Wings in Kansas City – As the regular season begins to wind down, I figured it was time to give a shoutout to the various wing haunts in my current city of residence.
Before I begin, I want to remind everyone that I’m a Texan at heart. I was born and raised in Dallas and, when the time is right, I plan to move back to my hometown. One thing keeping me from pulling the trigger, though, is that Dallas is a terrible wing city. There simply aren’t any good spots for top-quality wings. The bird there has no character (and, please, don’t pollute my inbox with emails about how good the wings are Pluckers, BW3, Angry Dog and all of those other pretenders).
Luckily, there are plenty of options in the Kansas City area, where it’s common knowledge that The Peanut wings are the best in town. One wing at The Peanut is like two wings anywhere else–mainly because you get the full wing, with the drummie still attached to the flapper. Things can get a bit messy when you’re eating one of these bad boys, but The Peanut’s tangy, peppery sauce and its homemade blue cheese makes digging into the trenches worthwhile.
No. 2 on my Kansas City wing list is Mac’s Sports Pub. Love the spicy garlic wings and the regular buffalo wings, too. My good friend Courtney McReynolds makes the sauce in-house. The wings aren’t small and wimpy, and it’s obvious she and her staff take a little pride in their preparation, even offering to toss them on the grill for a minute or so to give them that charred flavor before serving.
A few other recommendations: Tanner’s has the basic SBW (Standard Bar Wing) that won’t exactly wow you. But the charred wings (try either buffalo or teriyaki) are a hit. The “Simmons Wings” at Johnny’s Tavern are a local favorite. Johnny’s spreads a mixture of its barbecue and buffalo sauces on the wings, flash fries them and then tosses them on the grill.
In Lawrence, I’ve always been a fan of Henry T’s, which has long been a staple on my all-time top-five list. Lately, though, I’m hearing that Six Mile Tavern has made in-roads on the Lawrence wing scene. I’ll hit that up next. As in, this Saturday after the Kansas-Texas game.
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During the NBA All-Star Celebrity game on Friday night, my sources say that Chris Broussard interviewed Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love talked candidly about his upcoming free-agent in the summer of 2015. In that interview, Kevin Love did everything short of saying “I am sick of playing in Minnesota and I am leaving for greener pastures as soon as I hit free-agency and its going to be awesome.”
Kevin Love jumping ship is one of the worst kept secrets in the NBA. Everybody who even sort of follows the league knows that it will happen if the Timberwolves don’t deal him at an upcoming trade deadline or in the off-season. Most likely, Love wants to go home to Los Angeles, and considering that the Lakers will have cap-room and be looking to build their next great power, well, as a Celtics’ fan, I’m already getting sick thinking about it.
There’s hope though! Most Celtics’ fans also have an idea in their heads of Kevin Love being a perfect complement to Rajon Rondo and that the Celtics’ a
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Late Monday night, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers completed a deal that will send fan-favorite Luol Deng to Cleveland in exchange for Andrew Bynum, a first-round pick, two second-round picks, and the right to swap first-round picks in an upcoming draft. The story, broken by Shams Charania of RealGM.com, was a late-night doozy after many people had gone to bed.
Before the season started, I pondered what Deng’s future might be in Chicago. Reports of failed extension negotiations were already circulating, but it seemed that the Bulls were ready to give it one more go with the core of Derrick Rose, Deng, Joakim Noah, and Carlos Boozer.
Of course, that all came crashing down when Rose injured his other knee.
So now, the questions about Deng’s future have been answered. And it’s a tough one for Bulls fans, and presumably Bulls players
The newest Chicago Bull…and as of this typing, no longer a Chicago Bull!
and coach Tom Thibodeau, to swallow. With Rose out, another season headi…
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In one of the most shocking developments of the NBA season, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had something negative and dissenting to say about something done by the NBA. Will wonders never cease? The always-opinionated Cuban came out and roundly criticized the sleeved jerseys the NBA had players wear for its annual slate of Christmas […]The post Mark Cuban has a negative opinion about something done by the NBA (sleeved jerseys) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.
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After spending the better part of the last century in their good graces, it appears the Los Angeles Lakers have finally fallen out of favor with the basketball gods.
Just when the Lakers had started crawling up off the canvas, they were blindsided by a knockout blow. Again.
Only six games into his comeback from the torn Achilles that ended his 2012-13 campaign, Kobe Bryant is back on the shelf with a broken bone in his left knee that could sideline him for the next six weeks, according to USA Today’s Adi Joseph. Bryant’s backcourt mate, Steve Nash, just had another four weeks added to his rehab schedule as he’s still suffering from nerve-root irritation in his back.
This latest slew of injuries has left the franchise with a host of uncomfortable questions and some even more uncomfortable answers.
With hope diminishing for the present and no relief slated for the future, it’s time for the mighty Purple and Gold to start waving the white flag. The 2013-14 season is already lost; the Lakers can’t afford to give away any more.
Writing on the Wall
It’s been sitting there for months. Even in a best-case scenario, the Lakers figured to be fighting an uphill battle in a fully loaded Western Conference.
This season, obviously, has not been that best-case scenario.
L.A. has been decent (12-13), but decent doesn’t cut it out West. The Lakers might be a playoff team in the other conference, a force even, but an invitation to switch alignments isn’t coming. Not even for teams that are begging for one:
Here’s a sad reality for one of the Association’s proudest franchises—embracing a tank won’t look that much different from its current product.
Standings aside, this is not a good team by any stretch.
The Lakers are one of only four Western Conference clubs with a negative net rating (minus-2.7 points per possession, 20th overall). They struggle to find consistent offense and can’t keep the floodgates closed at the opposite end.
The point guard spot is a wreck, and signing former NBA castoff Kendall Marshall is like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. Marshall’s better than nothing, but the difference between the two could be marginal.
L.A. has shooters, but most are of the water-faucet variety. There will be scalding-hot nights and frigid ones. Given this team’s dearth of reliable scoring options, those in-between nights aren’t enough to put it in the win column.
Pau Gasol is the best healthy player on the roster, but his production is capped by a coach that doesn’t know how to use him. There are complementary pieces masquerading as focal points and benchwarmers serving as role players.
Even at 35 years old, Bryant’s still the best scorer on the roster and maybe the best setup man, too. But he’s only as good as his body allows him to be, and that’s a battle he’ll likely be fighting over the rest of his career.
The Lakers might not even have enough talent to ward off the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies (two of the four Western Conference teams behind them), let alone climb over any of the 10 teams in front of them.
This latest round of injuries isn’t fair:
But now is not the time to pout or ponder what could have been. This franchise needs to find some light at the end of the tunnel, a process that requires welcoming darkness in the present.
L.A.’s future is about as uncertain as it can get.
The Lakers have three financial commitments beyond this season: Nash ($9.7 million for 2014-15), Bryant (two years, $48.5 million remaining) and Robert Sacre ($0.9 million for next season). Nick Young has a player option for $1.2 million, while the Lakers can decide whether to extend a $1 million qualifying offer to rookie Ryan Kelly.
Other than that, every player on the current roster is slated for free agency next summer.
L.A. knows this and is expected make a furious pursuit of the top names leading the 2014 free-agent class.
But is this roster really one player away from championship contention? Even if it is, would that be the player willing to sign on as Kobe’s sidekick next summer?
The Lakers can’t overspend on a style-over-substance move. “Pair an aging Kobe with another established, high-priced player like [Carmelo] Anthony or Rudy Gay and the Lakers still won’t have enough to fill out the rest of a contending roster,” USA Today‘s Sean Highkin wrote.
This offseason isn’t about finding a running mate for Bryant. It’s about landing the type of player that Bryant can pass the torch to when his body has had enough.
Luckily, this draft class happens to be loaded with (potentially) transcendent talents. This crop of new NBA blood has drawn comparisons to the 2003 draft class, a superstar group headlined by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
It’s a versatile group offering help from any angle.
Duke’s Jabari Parker is an NBA-ready scorer, relentless rebounder, terrific passer and natural leader. He’s also now sitting atop B/R draft expert Jonathan Wasserman’s big board.
The player Parker surpassed, Andrew Wiggins, had drawn best-prospect-since-LeBron hype before arriving at the University of Kansas. While his production as a Jayhawk highlights the fact that he’s still a project (15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds), his physical gifts are tantalizing.
Wiggins’ teammate, Joel Embiid, is a 7’0″, 250-pound package of intimidating rim-protection, fancy footwork and tremendous upside. A native of Cameroon, the 19-year-old just started playing organized basketball three years ago.
If the Lakers want a point guard, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Australia’s Dante Exum could be franchise cornerstones. At the forward spots, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon have freakish size-explosiveness combinations.
L.A. needs a game-changer, and this draft board is littered with them. Now the Lakers need to put themselves in position to land one of those rising stars.
The Lakers need to illuminate the seat-belt sign. There’s some turbulence on the horizon, worse even than what already has shaken this franchise to its core.
Tanking won’t come easily for Hollywood’s finest.
This is a proud franchise, arrogant even, but one with justifiably high self-esteem. The banners hanging from the Staples Center rafters speak for themselves.
Championship thoughts are hard to shake, even when the odds are stacked against them. This organization has a way of weathering some rough storms and always emerging remarkably clean at the other side.
But look at this roster—there is no quick fix in the cards.
Surely the Lakers would like to send Bryant out on a high note, but would a few first-round (or second-round even) exits really do the trick? Would anything short of that elusive sixth ring leave Vino with the last chapter he’d love to write?
The Lakers can’t worry about a proper exit for their franchise centerpiece. It’s time to start thinking about finding their next one.
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Understandably, some, upon reading this proclamation, will sputter, “How can you say that?! They’re horrible!”
But that’s precisely the point. They are horrible.
It’s Better to Be Really Bad than Kind of Good
Signing Mike Dunleavy, for better or worse, was the right decision. If the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose stayed healthy, he was the right choice. Now that Rose is gone, that hasn’t changed.
The most important thing about Dunleavy’s signing was that he was a wing who could log minutes, and he has done that, averaging 25.2 per game. As a result, Luol Deng’s minutes are down, even in spite of Jimmy Butler’s injury. Last year he averaged 38.7 minutes; this year that’s down to 36.8.
That safeguard would have been sufficient to keep Deng and Butler from being overburdened had Rose stayed healthy and the team had been able to make a deep postseason run.
But, the “better” scenario didn’t work out, and now Rose is gone for the year, and the Bulls offense has no one who can create points off the dribble. Because of that, they’re losing by 39 to the Los Angeles Clippers and losing games to the Utah Jazz, the worst team in the NBA.
So, it’s understandable that someone would argue, “Wouldn’t it be better if we had Nate Robinson this year?” My answer to them is simple, “Yes, and that’s the problem. They would be better, but not good enough.”
There are different levels of stink. There’s, “the-dog-passed-gas-in-the-living-room-and-boy-was-it-bad” stink, and there’s “a-raccoon-died-in-the-men’s-room-in-Louisiana-in-the-middle-of-the-summer-and-was-sitting-there-for-three-days” stink.
The first kind of stink you can open up a window, air out the room and get rid of. The second kind permeates everything and forces a remodel. Last year’s Bulls offense was the first kind of stink. This year’s offense is the second kind.
There’s no way out of it. This is a truly bad offense, and it’s not getting any better. There’s debate over whether the Bulls should tank. They don’t have to tank. They just have to play; the losing will take care of itself.
But, that actually is the best thing about their current situation. No more watching a defense grind it out, then seeing Robinson come in and save the day, or Marco Belinelli hit a game-winning shot.
With Rose, they were honest contenders. Without him now, they’re not even pretenders. And, in one of the best and deepest drafts in the last decade, that’s not a bad thing, particularly since the Bulls could have two picks coming out of it.
One thing that not even the most visceral troll will deny, the Bulls look like they’re getting a much better draft pick this year.
Even if they don’t need to win the lottery or even have a ball drawn to ensure grabbing one of the franchise players available, they can still revamp their roster around their picks.
This draft is deep. With potentially two lottery picks, the Bulls could add two players such as Gary Harris, Rodney Hood (who can shoot like his distant ancestor, Robin), James Young, Wayne Selden or Glen Robinson III. (All the names link to their Draft Express profiles.)
Not only that, they have Nikola Mirotic—their draft-and-stash player from 2011—ready to finally come over.
The Bulls could add three new starters, all on rookie contracts (or in Mirotic’s case, about a $5 million contract). That means they’d be adding a lot of talent for very little money. Or, if they prefer to do it and can, they might try and bundle those assets together and trade up to get Jabari Parker (join me in my erstwhile effort to get #puckerforparker trending on Twitter—it’s the right thing to do).
Or, who knows, maybe the Fates determine that Bulls fans have suffered enough the last three years, so give us a break and we get a ball chosen.
Either way, this promises to be a much more relevant draft to the Bulls than they’ve had since Rose was selected.
The Expendability of Luol Deng
The other reason the Dunleavy signing makes sense is that now Deng, who is in the last year of his contract, becomes more expendable.
Trading him might not be as easy as some would hope, but it’s possible and becomes more possible as we creep closer to the trade deadline. Then, teams will know where they sit, and the Bulls can do one of two things: either trade for expiring contracts and picks, or trade for a young player to be part of the Bulls’ future.
Either way, it works towards what should be the goal of the Bulls now—rebuilding for the future.
Going into this season, the Bulls were all-in, win or lose. The writing was on the wall. It was the current core’s last shot at a title run, and they were going to be broken up regardless of how the season turned out.
That became clearer when the front office didn’t reach a deal with Deng.
Because of the Dunleavy signing, the Bulls have the freedom to move Deng, start Dunleavy and give rookie Tony Snell more playing time (or perhaps, as was the case in the game against the Utah Jazz, start Snell).
They can also give Marquis Teague more run and accordingly more time to develop. The way he’s played, the more time he gets, the more the losses will pile up. He has the potential to be as good as his big brother, Jeff, but he needs time on the court to get there.
Extended time for Snell and Teague this year could mean a better pick this summer. Because of the experience they gain, it could also mean more wins next year.
If the Bulls had re-signed Robinson, it would have limited their ability to trade Deng, because they wouldn’t have the depth at wing to let him go so easily. It would have also meant less time for Teague and Snell to develop.
The Bulls, going forward, can rebuild on the fly with a stable built around Rose, Butler, Joakim Noah, Mirotic, whomever they can get for Deng and this year’s draft pick(s).
Yes, they have a more pressing need at point guard, but they have a more long-term need at small forward or shooting guard, and with Rose’s injury truncating their season, they need to think long term, not short term.
The word, “tank” is an ugly one, and no one is going to come out and say it. Certainly you’re not going to get head coach Tom Thibodeau to think it, much less do it. The same goes for the highly competitive group of players on the Bulls.
However, it’s not tanking if you’re losing while trying.
Whether it’s by brilliant design or sheer incompetence, the front office managed to build a team predicated on the successful return of a single player who hadn’t played in a year. That return, though no fault of Rose’s, was unsuccessful and ended prematurely.
It’s sad but true. Having Dunleavy around improves the future of the Bulls much more than having Belinelli or Robinson would. Whether by intent or blunder, it turns out that the front office made the right decision.
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After five games in the early NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves sitting eleventh in the Eastern Conference with a 2-3 record. However, on the bright side, the two teams they have defeated were the Brooklyn Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, two good teams. Both of those teams’ combined record are 5-4, meanwhile the teams they have been defeated by have a combined 10-4 record. Particularly, the Pacers have been the team that have given the Cavs their biggest defeat of the season.
The Cavaliers have lost three games by a combined total of thirty-six points. If you eliminate the Pacers game, they have lost two games by eleven points. The Cavs have done their fair share of staying in games, but just haven’t had the players to help them make the leap forward to lead them to wins. Andrew Bynum has been a disappointment thus far as he has been limited in playing time due to his injury related issues, and their first overall pick, Anthony Bennett has been nonexistent th…
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The Los Angeles Lakers enter the 2013-14 season with a lot of uncertainty, especially with the starting lineup. One player who will ease concerns early on is power forward Shawne Williams.
With Pau Gasol moving back to center this year, the positional battle at the 4 was one of the more interesting storylines of the preseason. However, Mike Trudell of Lakers.com reports that Williams will get the nod on opening night:
This was not a foregone conclusion with experienced options like Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill and some others fighting for a spot. However, Mike D’Antoni‘s decision will pay off dividends throughout the year.
Williams provides something that the other men on the roster cannot: an above-average shooting ability.
D’Antoni‘s offense is based upon quick movement down the floor as point guard Steve Nash penetrates into the lane and finds open shooters on the outside. Last year, Gasol struggled to fit into this system as the power forward, and the entire offense suffered.
However, Williams has proven the ability to fit into what the coach is trying to do. The former first-round pick out of Memphis had his best season two years ago with the New York Knicks while playing for D’Antoni. That year, he averaged 7.1 points in 64 games while shooting 40.1 percent from behind the arc.
His numbers were about the same during the preseason, although you can expect him to improve upon his 33 percent outside shooting once he gets comfortable in the offense.
Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding also quoted the head coach in his assessment of Williams:
With the lineup as currently constructed, scoring could be an issue for the Lakers this season. Kobe Bryant remains out for an indefinite amount of time, and the team will have to manufacture points in his absence.
This will force the team to rely on the system rather than individual playmakers. Guys like Nick Young and Williams will give the offense the scoring it is missing by simply hitting open shots.
The Lakers are likely counting on plenty of production out of Kaman this season after signing a $3.2 million deal over the summer. However, he has been limited in the preseason with an illness. This will keep him out of the starting lineup, although he did proclaim that he will be available:
Still, the fact remains that he is not the best option for this starting lineup. He does not spread the floor like Williams does, and he would likely clash with Gasol down low.
Meanwhile, the one advantage Kaman has would be with his rebounding ability. Unfortunately, even that attribute has dropped in recent years, as the veteran averaged only 5.6 rebounds per game last season with the Dallas Mavericks.
If the team needs a more efficient low-post player on the floor for matchup purposes, Hill would likely be the best option.
Either way, Williams remains the person who should be in the lineup the most. He helps provide the squad with more offense while allowing the other players more space inside, as his size at 6’9″ allows him to defend inside as well.
D’Antoni might have made this decision out of necessity, but it is the best one for the team going forward.
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NEW YORK (AP) — Confused about all the conference realignment? Not sure which school will be in which league as the season approaches?
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For NBA players with “hardcore recreational drug problems,” the substance of choice appears to be crack cocaine.
TMZ has another scoop on Lamar Odom‘s reported drug issues, saying now that the struggles that are threatening Odom’s career and marriage are attributable to crack cocaine.
TMZ says Odom was on crack a year ago and cleaned up in time for the NBA season, but he has struggled with the habit again this summer.
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