MIAMI (AP) — It was an hour or so after the Miami Heat punched their ticket back to the Eastern Conference finals, and a question was asked about the perceived demise of Dwyane Wade’s abilities.
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Who the heck are these Memphis Grizzlies, and can they actually win an NBA title?
Fans in Oklahoma City and the rest of America are learning Lionel Hollins’ defensive-minded group is much stronger than its No. 5 seeding would indicate.
For starters, their defensive core is built around three elite stoppers.
Marc Gasol won 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors, but he wasn’t even the top vote-getter in the coach’s All-Defensive team tally. He and point guard Mike Conley earned Second Team honors while scrappy swingman Tony Allen received well-deserved First Team recognition.
These physical, mentally-tough Grizzlies were down 0-2 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, and then dug in their heels. Gasol and Zach Randolph helped Memphis beat LA by double digits in four straight games, effectively turning Lob City into “Sob City” in a week’s time.
These days, they’re in the process of toppling the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant had a couple monster games to start the series, but as usual, Memphis made adjustments and has since slowed the superstar down and hindered the Thunder attack.
Allen garners plenty of defensive praise, but Tayshaun Prince has been critical in helping him slow down the Durantula. His length and craftiness are underrated.
At the point, Conley held his own against Chris Paul in Round 1, and is now picking apart Oklahoma City’s Westbrook-less backcourt. He’s posting 19.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.3 rebounds, and his eight three-pointers have helped the Griz stretch the floor when it matters most.
He’s helped on the perimeter by Jerryd Bayless, who’s dangerous as a shooter and a slasher, especially in the open floor.
Mix in some clutch scoring and stubborn defense from Randolph, a.k.a. Z-Bo, and you have the ingredients for something special.
ESPN NBA Insider Chris Palmer thinks Larry O’Brien trophy kind of special.
And I agree with him.
Let’s not forget that this playoff run wasn’t a guarantee after Memphis traded Rudy Gay January 30, as he was the highest-scoring player on the team at the team.
It turned out to be an addition-by-subtraction scenario, as the club was no longer hampered by his inefficient shooting and lack of facilitation.
Including the playoffs, the Grizzlies are 34-14 without Gay, and they’re currently on the cusp of advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
These Grizzlies are definitively better than the Memphis team — led by Gay in minutes, field-goal attempts and points per game — that lost in the first round a season ago. They execute more evenly (the Grizzlies have scored 105.5 points per 100 possessions in this year’s playoffs compared with 99.6 in the 2012 postseason), shoot more accurately (they’ve posted an playoff effective field-goal percentage of 47.3, up from 44.9 last year) and even defend more aggressively. But still, it would be unkind and inaccurate to say that the Grizzlies have improved because of Gay’s exodus, though the trade certainly served as a mechanism for Memphis’ evolution.
Memphis’ offensive identity lies in the paint, where they get Randolph and Gasol copious touches.
Hollins’ crew took a massive chunk of its shots from within eight feet in the regular season:
Similarly, a huge portion of the Grizzlies’ playoff attempts (44.5 percent) come from the interior:
Compare those with a team like Oklahoma City, who took just 34.2 percent of its shots from that range in the postseason:
That difference in priorities makes it easier to understand Memphis’ 3-1 series lead.
They simply do what it takes to win, and live by the adage, “defense wins championships.” Gasol defends the paint religiously, and is willing to do whatever it takes to stop opponents.
Even if it involves using props.
Memphis will be a tough club to top if it advances to the conference finals, especially the way it’s been playing at home lately.
The FedExForum turns into a raucous “Grind House” every postseason, and the Grizzlies have fared well there and taken care of business on their home floor.
Scott Brooks’ Thunder face a huge uphill battle if they want to come back in this series. They’re facing a Memphis group that knows how to control a series once it gets a grip on it.
Predictions For Rest of Playoffs
- Grizzlies easily advance past Thunder: OKC might squeak one out at home in Game 5, but they’ll certainly put their foot down in Game 6 on the strength of their home-court defense.
- Grizzlies over Spurs in Six: In the Western Conference Finals, the combination of Gasol and Z-Bo will counteract Tim Duncan, while Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless will keep San Antonio’s perimeter busy.
- Grizzlies take Heat to At Least Six: It’s tough to bet against LeBron James, but Memphis’ size will give Miami fits, and Conley will outplay the likes of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. Expect the Griz to win at least a couple games against the defending champs, if not the whole enchilada.
Bottom line: The San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat must take note.
Don’t sleep on the Grizzlies.
Follow Dan on Twitter for more NBA Playoff talk: @DanielO_BR
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If you’ve been watching the Oklahoma City Thunder since the meniscus in Russell Westbrook’s right knee ripped apart and put their championship hopes in danger, chances are you’ve watched at least one moment from his replacement, Reggie Jackson, that made you raise your eyebrows a bit.
How is it that a late first-round pick from the 2011 NBA draft has jumped into the starting lineup of the defending Western Conference champions without missing a beat?
Essentially he’s doing what Jimmy Butler has done for the Chicago Bulls this year, only instead of having half a season to work his way into the team’s rotation, Jackson was forced to double his minutes in the middle of the playoffs.
He’s been impressive, there’s no doubt. But how did he suddenly wrestle minutes away from Eric Maynor to emerge in the second half of the season as a formidable backup, and then jump out as a fine starter just a few months later?
Jackson’s journey to Oklahoma City began years ago. As the son of a military man, he was born in Italy and spent most of his youth moving around, including short stays in North Dakota, Florida, Georgia and finally Colorado.
As is the norm for a player as athletic as Jackson, he absolutely dominated in high school. Averaging nearly 30 points and eight rebounds as a senior at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, Jackson was named the 2007-08 Gatorade Colorado Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
He moved across the country to hop on board with Boston College.
Jackson’s college experience wasn’t nearly as majestic as his time with Oklahoma City has been, at least as far as team success goes.
The school made the NCAA tournament in his freshman year (2008-09), getting knocked out in the first round by a USC squad featuring Taj Gibson, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.
By the time Jackson became the full-fledged star of the team in 2010, they were severely deficient defensively, with the team more or less dependent on his production. Going into his junior season, he had extremely high hopes for his underrated Boston College squad, even seeing it as a potential dark-horse candidate to make its way into the Final Four.
An early-season loss to Yale in which Jackson scored 30 points was exemplary of what the season would turn into: flashes of brilliance ultimately leading to a disappointing result.
The team won 21 games, failed to make the NCAA tournament and lost in the second round of the NIT Tournament to Northwestern. Jackson scored just eight points in his final game with the Eagles.
Jackson declared for the draft soon thereafter, which is when things started to get strange.
The spry young point guard underwent knee surgery in mid-May, and even after recovering he ended up canceling workouts with teams picking in the lottery and in latter portion of the first round.
Everybody soon found out the reason; He was already tabbed by Oklahoma City, and that’s where he wanted to land (via SI.com’s Sam Amick).
Numerous executives are speculating that the Thunder (No. 24 pick) have given a promise to Boston College’s Reggie Jackson, whose camp has refused all workouts and made it known that the point guard already has an NBA home somewhere. The logic leading them there relates to Oklahoma City’s bigger picture. It’s believed that the Thunder are preparing for life without backup point guard Eric Maynor because of the finances in play.
And now, numerous reports indicate that Jackson’s representatives refused to share medical records with various teams. Not surprisingly, an executive from one team with interest in Jackson told SI.com that “a lot of people don’t believe he was ever injured” and that numerous teams were put off by the way his situation was handled.
Jackson was drafted at 24th, and Oklahoma City was his new home.
His first year with the Thunder was full of garbage minutes, a huge learning curve and people continually gushing about his wingspan (his 6’3″ frame sprouts arms that measure out to 7’1″ from fingertip to fingertip).
However, Jackson was stuck behind Westbrook, Maynor and eventually Derek Fisher once the playoffs came around. He racked up 501 minutes in his rookie season and never saw the floor in the playoffs.
This year has been a completely different monster.
By late December, Jackson had nearly made Maynor redundant in Oklahoma City’s rotation, completely switching roles with him altogether from 2012 to 2013.
Maynor was traded on February 21st, unofficially making Jackson the full-time backup to Westbrook.
Once Westbrook went down after the second game of the playoffs, Jackson had put in the minutes as a backup, but now it was time for him to be tested as a starter.
He has made plenty of mistakes in the playoffs thus far, there’s no doubt about that. However, to claim that he’s done anything other than an admirable job as Oklahoma City’s de facto point guard would be shortsighted.
A lot of Oklahoma City’s success throughout the rest of the playoffs depends on how well Jackson is able to cope, but a lot of its success so far is thanks to his ability to step in and play.
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As the return of Derrick Rose remains in a holding pattern, his critics are amping up. They don’t understand why he hasn’t come back. They prematurely jump on him, judging his competitiveness, state of mind and loyalty to his teammates. They are in dire need of a reality check.
Let’s begin with the essence of the criticism: Derrick Rose is healthy enough to play, but because he’s not “mentally ready,” he is sitting idly by, just watching while his teammates pour their heart and soul into courageous win after courageous win—many of them playing sick and/or hurt.
From there we get into a host of peripheral accusations against Rose: “Why won’t he admit he’s not coming back?” “Why won’t he just come back?” “He’s mentally weak.” “He refuses to compete.” That’s just a few of them, but it conveys the idea.
Then there are the charges against the Chicago Bulls: “Why did they ‘leak’ that he was cleared?” “Are they trying to pressure him to come back?” “Why aren’t they pressuring him to come back?”
The single-most important thing you need to understand here is that none of this is real. It’s all media-driven, nonsensical hype.
Let’s just step away from all the speculation for a moment and consider the highly realistic scenario that Derrick Rose actually is “almost there,” trapped in that nether region between “not going to be ready this season” and “not actually ready right now?” What would you actually expect to see?
You would see an organization, team and player that are in complete harmony in regard to when the player might return—even if that means the answer is, “I don’t know.” If you actually do not know a thing, the only honest answer is “I don’t know.”
What you would expect to see is exactly what we do see.
If you go back and look through pretty much everything anyone has ever said, the only position anyone has stated in regard to the return date for Derrick Rose is, “I don’t know.” There has never been a hard return date set or lifted by the team. Everything else has been speculation derived from spinning what this person or that person said.
The media has floated around multiple dates. They speculated after the All-Star break, early March, early April, and mid-April. They said he had to return with at least 10 games left. There’s the “will he or won’t he” update with every game in the postseason. But none of these are initiated by anyone with the team.
It’s all media-driven.
Reggie Rose, Derrick’s brother, made one statement that added fuel to the fire, suggesting Derrick would sit out because the Bulls did not make an appropriate trade, but he wasn’t speaking on behalf of Derrick or the team.
Because of all the baseless speculation, the false illusion of a moving date, and the incessant, endless, grueling cycle of asking, “When will he?” and “Why hasn’t he?” the burden is laid at the former MVP’s feet—as though he is to blame for the media’s irresponsibility.
Consider the possibility he hasn’t said when he’s coming back because he doesn’t know when he’s coming back. Isn’t it possible that he’s just telling the truth? Why is it that’s the only scenario some people deem unrealistic?
Then there are some who believe what is Rose is saying but are trying to ascertain why he won’t either just play or just say he won’t play. They want to press for a hard decision. Melissa Isaacson of ESPN Chicago frames it this way:
If he may play at any time, then that means he is very close. And if he is that close, then play already. Will he be in the sort of top playoff form that the Bulls would need to topple the defending NBA champion Miami Heat? Probably not. It’s why so many observers, including me, felt he should have begun his comeback during the regular season, when the transition presumably would have been easier.
If he is not close, then what exactly does he think is going to magically happen over the next week, week and a half, that will put him over the edge?
Again, let’s begin with the premise that there is nothing untoward going on here. Is there actually a fathomable scenario where he’s not ready, but “almost” ready?
There logically is. Derrick Rose keeps using language like “muscle memory” or being “mentally ready” to explain when he’ll feel right about coming back. It’s the kind of thing that some people may try to dismiss with snide, hipster, “I’m so cool because I’m negative”-type rhetoric, but that is short-sighted and even ignorant.
I don’t mean “ignorant” in an insulting sense, but according to the actual meaning of the word—the argument lacks proper understanding of what Rose’s real situation is.
Athletes have frequently returned too soon from injury. They seem fine at first, but they are using alternative muscles and muscle groupings to do the things they are used to performing a specific task with. That’s how we’ve seen countless pitchers go in for Tommy John surgery, and there’s a chance that it’s how Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the first place.
It’s called a compensation injury. And while he is most likely out of the woods as far as a compensation injury, the conscious or unconscious fear of one could have their consequences.
I asked Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) trainer Art Rondeau, (pronounced like Rajon Rondo) whether there was any chance of Rose suffering another injury because he’s not mentally ready to play. His answer was intriguing:
If Rose is worried about reinjury, or if Rose’s unconscious mind dealt with the trauma of the physical injury in certain ways, the chance of re-injury could be higher than if Rose is completely ready both mentally and physically.
In other words, not being “mentally ready” alone could present a very real danger, even if he is physically ready.
Rondeau said that if someone believes he will get injured, it’s a good idea to avoid playing until he either resolves whatever is causing the belief or changes the belief itself, citing Marcus Dupree, who believed he would get badly injured in the game that ended his career, as a possible example of just that.
To understand why this is relevant, we need to understand that Rose’s previous injury may have been at least in part a compensation injury. (Bear in mind this is all speculation, we’re just talking about possibilities here.)
As one muscle weakens, other muscles try to take up the slack, causing an imbalance between muscle groups. With a hamstring injury, like the one that Rose experienced last year, that can mean the quadriceps is working harder to alleviate the burden on the hamstring (known as a ham-quad imbalance).
This, in turn, can cause the contraction of the quadriceps to be too forceful, putting extra strain on the knee ligaments and resulting in knee injuries when the knee is extended (such as was happening when Rose went down).
When an athlete is fatigued, such as at the very end of the game, the ham-quad imbalance grows worse, with the stronger muscle taking up even more of the slack from the weaker muscle.
Exactly what happened with Rose is unknown. He may have suffered a compensation injury. He may not have, but consciously think he did. He may even just unconsciously think he did. Regardless of which it is, what matters here is not so much the actual reality, but Rose’s perception of what the reality is, conscious or unconscious.
Rondeau pointed out:
We learn from experience, and sometimes we only need to experience something once before we make a generalization about it. For example, if a person is almost hit by a red convertible, he can either learn to be careful around moving traffic or to be careful around red convertibles. If he learns the latter, he won’t be paying proper attention to a moving blue SUV and may get squashed. Making a generalization—be careful around moving traffic—works to protect him.
Last season Rose came back from an injury during the postseason to help his team and suffered an agonizing injury which stole a year of his career. That trauma may well be resonating within him, even if it’s not conscious as he contemplates returning now, at the same time. And he may have learned from the one-time experience that coming back before he’s ready can cause him to be injured again.
It’s not a binary decision—return or don’t return. He’s dealing with things on multiple levels. There’s the actual injury. There’s the “be careful around moving traffic” voice. Then there’s the “RED CONVERTIBLE!!!!” voice as well.
It has nothing to do with “mental weakness” or a lack of compassion for his teammates. It’s not a values-based decision. This is what I mean when I say that most of the judgments being made are ignorant. They literally lack the knowledge of what is going on in Rose right now, or what kind of impact those things are having.
It is evident there is not a singular thought going on in him. Whenever he addresses the media it’s interesting that there are dual voices. Paraphrasing most of his statements, “I may come back tomorrow; it might be next season” or “I’m working as hard as I can to get on the court, but I have to do what’s smart.”
Rose reveals an internal conflict. He does want to come back and play. He also wants to wait until he’s ready, even if he doesn’t really know what “ready” means.
That second voice in his head, which Rose seems to be interpreting as proof that his muscle memory isn’t where it needs to be, might even be elusively defining “ready” because it’s trying to, in Rondeau’s word, “protect” Rose.
On the one hand there is the real desire Rose has to play. On the other hand there’s at least the possibility of a belief that returning could result in another injury.
Serious trauma, such as the type that Rose had, can cause such an internal conflict that it creates what Rondeau calls “parts.” We hear people say “part of me wanted to go but part of me wanted to stay,” or similar language, and, according to Rondeau, that can indicate two parts of the brain trying to do what’s best for the person—a common strategy, but with conflicting tactics:
It’s like taking a step forward and an immediate step backward with no progress being made. It’s a normal response and easy to fix. Without fixing it, the “step forward, step backward” behavior can freeze a player long enough for him to get caught, and injured, in a situation that he’d never be in if the parts were working in harmony.
Rondeau didn’t want to try to diagnose Rose, but whether it’s flow-blown parts or not, it is within the realm of possibility—even likely—that this basic inner turmoil is residing in Rose.
Amplifying this, ironically, could be Rose’s competitive fire. Rose seems to not want to return until he is back in his MVP form, even though it will probably take returning to regain that form. But this paradox allows for that second voice in him to set an unreasonable bar which is unattainable, yet excusable to that part of him which wants to come back.
It’s a way for Rose to keep both sides happy.
Again, this is not all some conscious thing that he has worked out to deceive the Bulls franchise, his teammates and the entire city of Chicago, as some have tried to paint it. It’s just a 24-year-old man trying to deal with a trauma in his life. This is not you going to work with the sniffles. Nor is it you calling in “sick” to work to watch the NCAA tournament.
Not being mentally ready is actually a real thing. The danger for returning before he is mentally ready is also actually a real thing. However, if there is an internal conflict, Rose getting on the court this season, even if it’s for just a few minutes, could go a long way toward silencing that, “RED CONVERTIBLE!!!” voice; so it still has value.
In sum, there are valid reasons for the Bulls and Rose to hold the position they are holding.
When people ask, “Why has Iman Shumpert returned, and he was injured on the same day?” they miss a few very critical factors. First, Shumpert’s injury was out of nowhere. There was no history leading up to it, so the psychology of returning is very different.
Second, Shumpert was never the MVP, never the leader of the team, and never a player who was carrying the hopes of a city. The demands on Rose are higher. The expectations are higher. Again the psychology is different.
This isn’t comparing knee injury to knee injury. This is comparing expectations of a second-year role-player to a former league MVP. Both the physiological and psychological comparisons are false equivalents.
People who are asking why he doesn’t “just come back and play,” probably need to heed the advice of Joakim Noah who said:
Derrick is a brother. To see him go through his injury is tough. At the end of the day, it’s really funny how quick people are to judge. People do not know what it’s like to lead a team, especially after your tear your ACL.
Everybody who hasn’t been in that situation before should really shut up. It’s unfair to him and his team. We’re fighting. It’s crazy to me. He’s tough as nails. He doesn’t let anything affect him.
It’s easy to sit in the background and make snap judgments without any real qualification. We need to bear in mind that this is the same Rose who played through the 2011 postseason with a grade-2 ankle sprain and came back early last season to help his team in the playoffs. It’s evident there is something more going on here.
Some of the same people making the judgments against Rose were ready to make similar judgments in regard to Luol Deng when it seemed he was going to miss a playoff game with the flu. Then, when it turned out that there was more to his illness, they backed off their early accusations with the justification, “well we didn’t know all the facts.”
That’s precisely the point, though.
Don’t judge someone without all the facts, especially if they have a history that contradicts the judgment, like Deng and Rose do. There is clearly more to the decision to return than a simple act of will. Rose’s critics would do well to keep that in mind.
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He’s been displaying a potent combination of hoops IQ and athleticism.
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Iman Shumpert was soaring. Carmelo Anthony was scoring. Heck, even Quentin Richardson was bumping his skull after three-pointers. For one night, all seemed to go well for the New York Knicks, as an unbelievable scoring outburst, combined with supreme defense, turned a nail-biter into a laugher as the Knicks captured Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers.
For Knicks fans, it was a sigh of relief, a necessary victory after Sunday’s disappointment. But Indiana achieved its goal and took back home-court advantage in the series. This means the Knicks will have to go into Indiana and steal a game, while protecting their home court should they hope to advance.
That task is much easier said than done. The Pacers were 30-11 this season on their home court, third-best in the Eastern Conference and tied for ninth-best with the Utah Jazz in the NBA. This postseason, they’re 3-0 on their home court, all blowouts, winning by an average of 18.3 PPG.
The Knicks are a tough road team, with their 23-18 road record good enough for second-best in the Eastern Conference this season, and tied for fifth-best in the NBA. On top of that, they captured two victories in the first round in Boston, a tough place to play in its own right.
But for the Knicks to steal a game in Indiana, they’re going to need Amar’e Stoudemire. The puzzling thing about Knicks fans is they seem to believe that when Stoudemire plays, he must play major minutes. That’s not the case whatsoever. If Amar’e were to play 12-15 minutes off the bench, he would remove a huge burden from J.R. Smith, who has struggled mightily since his ejection in Game 3 of the Boston series.
Without an interior presence to work with, and Jason Kidd’s scoring slump reaching six games, Smith has chucked up brick after brick, putting too much pressure on himself to provide the offense. Playing with Stoudemire would help free up Smith and Kidd and give the Knicks an inside force.
Through two games, the Knicks are minus-12 on the boards. Tyson Chandler has scored 12 points and grabbed seven boards in two games, a virtual non-factor on offense. Kenyon Martin is the only big man Mike Woodson feels comfortable using off the bench at this juncture, and should either Chandler or Martin get into foul trouble, the Knicks would be at a serious disadvantage.
Roy Hibbert is averaging 10 PPG, 10 RBG and 4.5 BPG in the series thus far, with frontcourt teammate David West averaging 16.5 PPG, 5 RBG and 3 APG. Simply, the Knicks are having issues with the physicality of Hibbert and West, and the addition of Stoudemire to the lineup can help mitigate this.
It’s unfair to expect Amar’e to return to his All-Star self. It’s incredibly risky to bring a player back for the playoffs after not playing for two months, but with the injuries to Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas, the general rustiness of Marcus Camby and inexperience of Earl Barron, do the Knicks have any better options?
In two games against the Pacers this season, Stoudemire averaged 8 PPG and 7.5 RBG in just over 21 MPG. Are they otherworldly numbers? Of course not. But his presence on the court gives perimeter guys like Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony more freedom, as it draws Hibbert—an excellent shot-blocker—down to the post.
Knicks fans expecting Amar’e to go for 20 points next game are sorely mistaken, but not as much as those who believe the Knicks are primed for a big run without their All-Star power forward.
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Derrick Rose has not yet officially ruled out his return in the 2013 postseason, but Chicago Bulls fans have grown incredibly impatient. The team has done well in his absence, earning a respectable seed in the playoffs and knocking off the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. The Bulls also defeated the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their series on Monday night. But there are few who believe Chicago can win a title without Rose on the floor, which has led to radio stations encouraging fans to send angry messages to the star point guard. Joakim Noah wants that nonsense to stop. “Derrick’s a brother,” Noah said after his double-double against the Heat, via ESPNChicago.com. “And to see him go through this is tough, but at the end of the day it’s really funny how quick people are to judge. But people don’t know what it’s like to lead a team, especially after you tore your ACL. “If you tore your ACL and you have to be the starting point guard and have the expectations that Derrick has, then maybe…
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This may or may not come as a shock to some NBA fans, but the Boston Celtics are absolutely finished as we’ve come to know them over the last five seasons!Oh sure… we’ve all seen the signs coming the last couple of seasons. The trade of Kendrick Perkins was the first blow to a Celtics team forged in togetherness. The departure of Ray Allen in free agency was the most recent blow to Boston’s former Big Three era ballclub, but now, the end of Boston’s stature as an elite Eastern Conference title contender is finished as well. Clearly, this is a team that is going to be in need of a ‘quick fix’ this summer if they want to get back into title contention next season. Only time will tell whether or not the Celtics can upgrade their roster to complete this task, but here are six moves I think the C’s need to make in order to improve on the mediocre campaign they unveiled during the 2012-13 NBA season. 1. Trade Rajon RondoThere’s a couple of reasons the Celtics have tried to move …
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By all accounts, Andrew Wiggins looks to be college basketball’s lightning-rod prospect.
Standing at 6’8” with a wingspan that reaches seven feet, Wiggins brings a dynamic combination of length, explosion and athleticism seldom seen from the 3 spot. 24/7Sports ranks Wiggins as 2014’s top prospect and in many circles, the surefire No. 1 selection in the NBA draft.
The Canadian star has a decision to make, though, and it will tilt the 2014 national title picture significantly.
Which teams would be most affected by Wiggins’ potential commitment? Take a look.
4. Kentucky Wildcats
Of course, John Calipari and Co. would welcome Wiggins with arms wide open, but regardless, they will be still be bringing in their patented top recruiting class.
With Julius Randle and the Harrison twins in tow, that’s the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 prospect on 24/7Sports rankings coming to Lexington next season.
Factor in Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer coming back another year, and Big Blue will likely be No. 1 in the preseason polls.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels will sniff the ACC top tier either way, but Wiggins’ commitment would push them into the conference elite.
UNC finished this season on a high note with James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston finding their way with a small-ball lineup. 24/7Sports’ No. 12 prospect Isaiah Hicks and Wiggins together would be a fantastic athletic infusion that would make Roy Williams install more of an up-tempo offense.
In comparison to these next two teams, though, North Carolina has more potential to still be a threat in March.
2. Kansas Jayhawks
Bill Self brings in a talented crop of players once again, but Wiggins would vault his team’s ceiling into the Big 12’s best.
Otherwise, they won’t sport any of 24/7Sports’ Top 20 players in their newest recruiting class, and meanwhile, Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson all have already said their goodbyes.
Without Wiggins, it may be a humbling experience at Allen Fieldhouse this season.
1. Florida State Seminoles
The ‘Noles certainly have the most to gain from a Wiggins commitment, as they are the only traditional “football school” on the list. Wiggins would put FSU basketball on the map and make the Seminoles instant contenders in the ACC.
Don’t underestimate the No. 1 recruit’s ties to the Seminole program, either: Both of his parents went to college in Tallahassee.
In addition, Wiggins has been profiled as a humble kid who doesn’t seek attention. Perhaps a year in Tallahassee far away from rabid college basketball towns is just what he wants.
Even Wiggins’ high school coach has shown concern over Wiggins getting turned off by a passionate fan base (per a fantastic profile by SI’s Pete Thamel):
We played in North Carolina, we had seven or eight people in Carolina shirts. We’re in Kentucky and we’ve sold out three 6,000 seat gyms. They’re crazy. They’re crazy in a good way. They show how much they want you. It’s overwhelming. He just hates attention.
The attention factor may be enough to turn FSU basketball on its ear. Stay tuned.
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Howard learned about his childhood ido Wilt Chamberlain from a robot he had as a boy
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