Furman Player Comes Up Short on Open Dunk vs. Duke, Misses 2 Subsequent Shots

Furman’s Stephen Croone got a chance to play against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on national television on Wednesday. Instead of taking advantage of the big stage, he had a pretty embarrassing sequence of events in the second half.

With his team trailing 65-30, Croone had a wide-open dunk attempt in transition. The 6’0″ junior came up quite a bit short.

The nightmare didn’t end there for the Paladins guard. Croone was able to get two more shot attempts near the rim but missed badly on both. 

Don’t even watch this sequence on film, Stephen. Just move on and pretend it never happened.

[Vine]

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Jimmy Butler: ‘I’m Not a Star, I’m a Good Role Player’

We appreciate your humility, Jimmy Butler

The Chicago Bulls shooting guard has been off to a torrid start during the 2014-15 season, leaving no doubt he’s one of the future standouts at his particular position. Of course, he’s already been an exemplary contributor throughout the opening salvo of the campaign, lending credibility to anyone who would like to call him a star. 

Based on his numbers—21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game with a 22.6 player efficiency rating, per Basketball-Reference.com—I’d feel perfectly comfortable bestowing that classification upon him. Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau feels the same way, as he told ESPNChicago.com’s Nick Friedell

He’s been incredible. He’s a star, and he does it on both ends of the floor. He’s just an amazing player. We’ve had him play the point, we’ve had him play the 2, the 3, and tonight he played the 4. And he hasn’t had any opportunity to practice the 4. So he just got out there, he’s smart, he’s tough, he does whatever the team needs, and he found a way to help lead us into coming back and having a shot at the end.

But Butler, coming off a game in which he scored a career-high 32 points on only 13 shots from the field, won’t have any of it. 

“I’m not a star,” the 2-guard explained to Friedell. “I’m a good role player on a really, really good team. A really, really deep team. I like role players. ‘Star’ has never been next to Jimmy Butler’s name, it never will be. I’ll always be just an under-the-radar dog.” 

This is not the time for modesty, Jimmy.

It makes sense, given the incredible backstory that would force cockiness to the backburners for even the most hubristic of rising stars. Friedell details what’s driven him in a separate article—one from which the following quote is excerpted from—and it’s very much worth reading Butler’s story in its entirety:

The odds have always been against Butler. His path to the NBA is as unlikely as anyone who plays in the league given that his backstory (of being homeless at 13 before moving in with a friend’s family) reads like the basketball version of ‘The Blind Side.’ No matter how many ups and downs Butler endured in his journey to the precipice of NBA stardom, the 25-year-old never stopped believing in himself. The same drive that helped get him out of Tomball, Texas, and into Marquette University is the same fuel that’s pushed him to average over 20 points a game early this season. 

No matter how high Butler’s stardom grows it doesn’t appear that he will ever lose the gigantic chip that resides on his shoulder. Like many great athletes, Butler is driven, in large part, by the opportunity to prove people wrong. He likes when the odds are high because that’s the way it’s been for him all his life. He doesn’t know any differently.

Nevertheless, this is when he’s supposed to be beating his chest and tooting his own proverbial horn. He’s outplayed every shooting guard in the league, save James Harden and Klay Thompson, leaving no doubt that he’s a strong, strong All-Star candidate. He plays ferocious defense, and he’s made an unbelievable amount of progress on the offensive end of the court. 

But I suppose we can cave here. 

Sure, Butler can be a role player, as he desires so desperately. He definitely fills a role for the Bulls. That role just involves functioning as a star, even if the Marquette product insists on disavowing himself of that title. 

If nothing else, he’ll realize just how celestial his status has become when it’s time to sign a new contract with the Bulls during the 2015 offseason. 

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What NBA player is having the best season so far?

NBA reporters Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt discuss who’s off to the best start

      
 

 

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Lakers Reportedly Awarded $4.85 Million Disabled Player Exception for Steve Nash

The Los Angeles Lakers lost veteran Steve Nash for the season due to a back injury, but they are reportedly set to receive some compensation due to the disabled player exception.    

Brian Windhorst of ESPN initially passed along the news:

Nash has played in just 65 games over the last two seasons with the Lakers. The former Phoenix Suns star holds averages of 11.4 points and 6.4 assists per game during that span.

Back in October, the Lakers made the news of his injury official along with quotes from Nash and general manager Mitch Kupchak:

The Lakers have been ravaged by injuries this season, including the recent loss of Xavier Henry for the season due to a ruptured Achilles, per ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes, as well as the loss of promising rookie Julius Randle to a broken leg. Receiving the return on Nash should help lessen some of the blow from another down season.

Jeremy Lin (12.1 PPG, 4.9 APG) has stepped up in place of Nash, but the team is still 3-11 entering Tuesday night and well outside of the playoff chase. Getting value back for Nash’s injury allows the team a chance to help bolster the roster in the future.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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5 Individual NBA Player Rivalries We Want to See Blossom in 2014-15

The 2012 NBA Finals put the league’s most compelling new rivalry on full display, a five-game series pitting the game’s best all-around player against its best pure scorer.

The Miami Heat ultimately prevailed 4-1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the stage was set for what may become this generation’s most high-profile player rivalry. LeBron James now has four MVPs and two championships to his name. Kevin Durant—the reigning MVP—led the league in scoring for a fourth time last season with 32 points per contest.

These two may rekindle their rivalry in the not-too-distant future, but Durant first must recover from a foot fracture that’s sidelined him so far this season. Fortunately, there are some intriguing individual matchups on the horizon, rivalries to watch down the stretch of the 2014-15 season and beyond.

We ranked five pairs of rival stars and used an admittedly subjective criterion: Which battles will be most spectacular in the coming months and years? From dueling point guards to next-generation big men, these matchups are on the verge of blowing up.

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Most Indispensable Player on Each Top 10 College Basketball Team

All it takes is one injury to the wrong player to completely derail an otherwise promising season for the nation’s top college basketball teams.

Without Joel Embiid last year, Kansas went from a serious candidate to win the national championship to a team that almost no one expected to reach the Final Four.

Fifteen years ago, Cincinnati was in the same boat. The Bearcats spent the entire regular season ranked in the top four in the AP poll before Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament. They went from one of the favorites to win it all to a second-round loss to Tulsa.

When news broke this morning that Texas’ starting point guard Isaiah Taylor could be out for a few weeks with a non-shooting wrist injury, we were instantly left to wonder what this means for the rest of the season for the Longhorns.

Is Taylor the team’s most indispensable player? And what about the other teams ranked in the Top 10? Who is the one player that those teams cannot possible live without?

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Mirza Teletovic Turning into Player Brooklyn Nets Need and Hoped For

When Jarrett Jack was asked if he sees many guys as willing to shoot as Mirza Teletovic, the Brooklyn Nets‘ backup point guard responded in the most concise way he could:

“Nope.”

That was it.

Jack did eventually expand after laughing at the simplicity of his own response, but he didn’t need to do so. No one loves to chuck more than Teletovic, and this season, the third-year stretch 4 is becoming one of the Nets’ best offensive weapons.

Teletovic is averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game on the season. He’s hitting 40.8 percent of his 5.4 three-point attempts a night. And for the first time, he’s getting the freedom to do more than just stand around the perimeter and shoot whenever the ball comes his way.

All the numbers are up, career highs across the board. It’s still early, but even if you don’t want to put much stock in the stats, you can look other places to see the development in the Bosnian’s game.

It’s all about confidence, and man, is Teletovic self-assured. 

“Just from the beginning, coach Hollins [said] ‘You know what to do. You just do your job, and we all trust you,’” Teletovic said of what builds up his spirit. “All my teammates, everybody. They wouldn’t pass me the ball if it wasn’t like that.”

Still, absolutely no one believes in Mirza as much as Mirza believes in Mirza, and it’s not unwarranted cockiness. It’s earned arrogance, because in the end, Teletovic is, you know, actually making shots.

He ranks in the top 15 in three-point makes. He’s draining a career-high percentage of shots beyond the arc. He’s posting an elite 60.7 percent true shooting.

Teletovic has shot on a little more than 20 percent of his touches. Think about that. One in five times that a role player touches the ball, he’s throwing it at the rim.

J.R. Smith, whose autobiography will one day be named I Thought That Was Going In (you will definitely read this book), is shooting on just 16.6 percent of his touches. Kostas Papanikolaou, a forward in a role that more mirrors Teletovic‘s, puts up attempts on 13.6 percent of his touches for the Houston Rockets.

Naturally, not all of those shots are preferable.

“He’s done a good job of trying to learn our defensive schemes and trying to learn shot selection,” Lionel Hollins said of his 6’8″ power forward. “But with a guy like Mirza, you live with questionable shots, because he can make them.”

Teletovic isn’t going to find a look he doesn’t like. But even so, in theory—and in practice—he’s the ultimate catch-and-shoot power forward.

Hitting 41.5 percent of catch-and-shoot jumpers is nothing to sneeze at—especially considering his volume.

Only six other players are making such a percentage of catch-and-shoot long balls on as many opportunities as Teletovic: Kyle Korver, Shawne Williams, Klay Thompson, Channing Frye, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. That is a heck of a list to be on, and Teletovic is deservedly right there.

It’s all about the decisiveness. He knows he’s shooting even before he receives the ball. Actually, everyone knows the court is his personal game of Pop-a-Shot. That’s just Teletovic‘s personality.

“He’s very, very capable,” Jack explains. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who want to shoot that can’t shoot, which is backwards, but Mirza‘s a guy who can make very, very difficult shots…You give him an inch, that’s way too much room for him.”

Last year, Teletovic was all about the catch-and-shoot. But now, under Hollins, he is occasionally showing off expanded parts of his game.

We’re seeing him put the ball on the floor a little more often, though his offensive role has mainly remained the same. Still, he’ll head into the post every now and then. And most importantly, he’s carrying more offensive responsibility. 

Teletovic didn’t go to moves like this all too often last year:

Now, he’s executing them when he gets the one-on-one opportunities, and those chances are showing up far more often. Look at how far Teletovic backs down Aaron Gordon, who’s a strong defensive player even as a rookie. 

“I kind of always had it,” Teletovic said of his broadened repertoire. “But with coach Hollins, it’s really because he lets you do it. When you go to the post, he won’t say, ‘No, get back to three pointers.’ You can post up. I posted up in the preseason. I posted up in the regular season a couple of times now.”

The Nets rely on running plenty of sets out of the post, whether it’s exploiting Joe Johnson mismatches, letting Brook Lopez bang down low or pushing Deron Williams to back down his defender. The Nets wouldn’t want Teletovic on the block often, if only because he provides such a reliable shooting option on the outside, but having the choice always helps.

There’s a reason the Nets average 1.7 more points per 100 possessions when Teletovic is on the floor. It’s the same one that helped them average 1.9 more points per 100 a year ago, though the defense fell off a cliff with Mirza‘s presence. He gives space to an offense that needs it.

“Big guys, guys who are 4-men are in an unusual position to have to go out to the three-point line,” Jack theorizes. 

Forcing a power forward to stray from the paint on defense simply brings him out of his element. Because of that, Teletovic complements the interior-oriented Lopez and Mason Plumlee, allowing the Nets’ centers to man the paint and roll off ball-screens while he spaces the floor.

Defenders don’t want to help off someone so accurate from distance, and ones who aren’t used to guarding on the perimeter show a habit of making bad decisions when you bring them out to the three-point line. It’s a dynamic that makes everyone’s job easier, especially those who play down low.

The Nets offense has been unrealistically successful in the short time it has played Lopez at the 5 with Teletovic at the 4. If that continues, maybe Hollins will begin to move Teletovic into units with four other starters, though such lineups don’t have much of a chance to be successful defensively.

This is a Nets team with inconsistent distance shooting. We’ve seen it go off, like when it made 11 of 23 long-range attempts in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’ve also seen performances like Saturday’s, when Brooklyn went 1-of-19 from three against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nets need the stability of a shooter who has drained two or more long balls in six of his nine games.

If offense in today’s NBA is about space, Teletovic is the Nets’ planetarium. On a team that’s shown a propensity to steer away from efficient shots—especially in second halves—only to revert to isolation and mid-range basketball, he offers a valuable piece of the offense no other Net can replicate.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at WashingtonPost.com or on ESPNs TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

All quotes obtained firsthand. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Nov. 16 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com.

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Why Tiago Splitter Is the Most Underrated Player on the Spurs’ Roster

Eight games into the San Antonio Spurs 2014-15 campaign, starting center Tiago Splitter remains sidelined with a calf injury that allowed him just 10 minutes of court time before rendering him a regular on the inactive list.

In his absence, the team has fared well. Despite a slow start, the defending champions have risen to title form and appear poised for another postseason run. 

Yet, the team’s winning record—they now sit at 5-3—without Splitter belies his true impact. In reality, his absence has only reinforced the notion that Spurs fans have long realized: That Splitter, whose inconsistency and offensive limitations became trademarks of his first few seasons as a Spur, has since become the team’s most unsung weapon and an under-the-radar key to their success.

 

A History of Splitter’s Value in the Public Eye

Before we can label someone as underrated—a word that’s tossed around by pundits as frequently as potential or raw—we first must dissect what his rating truly is.

At the beginning of his career, Splitter was anything but polished, and his poor play left a bad taste in the mouths of many Spurs fans. Though he continued to eat minutes, it became difficult to accept his trademarked inconsistency that left him near useless on certain nights.

It was frustrating, no doubt—as was the entire search for a post partner for Tim Duncan, the franchise’s aging cornerstone. Duncan—in the final stretch of his storied career—seemed to be the lone frontcourt stud in a San Antonio squad whose depth and star power was far more prevalent in the backcourt.

Nonetheless, the Spurs confidence in Splitter never swayed, and he quickly began to prove himself as a legitimate complement to Duncan in the interior. But even as his play began to pick up, there still existed a large population who remained unswayed.

Those on the fence, and those who were unfamiliar with Splitter’s play altogether, quickly found themselves on the anti-Splitter bandwagon after he flopped on the national stage when San Antonio faced Miami in the 2013 NBA Finals. The big men was less than a zero for the team—he was a liability whose terrible play triggered a sharp decline in playing time as San Antonio lost control of the series.

And of course, to guarantee that his poor play was not forgotten, he found himself on the wrong end of one of the season’s most replayed highlights.

Naturally, when Splitter received a four-year, $36 million deal in the offseason following his Finals flame-out, people jumped at the opportunity to spew their anti-Splitter sentiments, from small-blog writers to national presences like Bill Simmons, who threw the San Antonio big man on his list of the worst contracts in the league:

By the way, I always take it personally when San Antonio overpays someone. The Spurs are supposed to be the smartest team! Come on, R.C. Buford! You’re a role model!!! You gave $36 million to someone who couldn’t stay on the court in the 2013 Finals???? Not you, too! Why??????

That was where things hit rock bottom. Splitter slowly played his way up, but even as he continued to improve his value remained unrecognized by many.

The rapid rise of Boris Diaw from space-filler in Charlotte to one of the best backups in the entire league gave rise to a population—much of it focused in San Antonio’s own fanbase—who called for Diaw to push Splitter out of the starting lineup into the rotation’s third big man slot. Diaw’s incredible campaign in the 2014 Finals and Splitter’s decreasing role in the series only tipped the scale as people saw Diaw as the best option beside Duncan in the interior.

And that brings us to the present, where Splitter—for all his good play—remains unrecognized by many outside the walls of the Spurs organization.

Even with public perception of Splitter consistently lower than it should be, the Brazilian big man has not only continued to prove himself as a solid player to those willing to watch, but he’s fallen into a role that makes him the most important role player on the entire team.

 

What Splitter Truly Brings to the Table

Going into the 2013 series against Miami, Splitter was on the heels of a dynamic four-game outing against the Memphis Grizzlies. Of course, the Finals draw a significantly larger audience than the Western Conference Finals, and Splitter’s effort, particularly on the defensive end where he played a principal role in containing one of the league’s best frontcourts, was either ignored or forgotten.

People began to cast him in a negative light—despite a season-long trend in the right direction—after watching him play for the first time against the Heat. A large portion of that group likely never watched him in-depth ever again.

But Splitter, following a fantastic 2012-13 regular season, made another jump in 2013-14—one that went largely unnoticed by stat-scrutinizers and highlight-watchers.

On the offensive end, Splitter still has work to do, no doubt. But he’s made significant strides from his rookie and sophomore seasons. Characteristic of the stereotypical Spur, he has morphed into a fantastic passer for his position.

He has also refined his play in the post, where he has become a reliable source of scoring with a growing repertoire.

Yet, his impact on that end is hardly what makes him so great—after all, basic stats—even if they don’t show the nuances: pick up on offensive production.

Rather, Splitter has become a defensive linchpin—something that he proved last year when he consistently drew the most difficult interior matchup despite the presence of Duncan, who has historically been an anchor himself.

And now, in his absence, Splitter’s impact on that end has manifested itself completely—and his value to the team has never been more clear.

Going into the summer, I was convinced that San Antonio was going to target another center. Duncan’s health needed to be preserved—plenty of rest games were to be expected—and Aron Baynes, though improving, had not yet proved that he can be a nightly rotation player.

That left Splitter as the only player who could play big minutes every single night defending the league’s top centers—guys like Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins and Al Jefferson.

Yet, the team brought back its roster from last season, despite an expected decline in Duncan’s visibility during the regular season.

In doing so, Splitter’s importance was boosted twofold, perhaps even threefold.

And his absence this year, which has left Duncan and Baynes as the only players above 6’11”, has only made that increasingly clearer.

Duncan is still Duncan, even with a slow start. When he’s on the court, there’s little reason to worry. But the fact of the matter is, his playing time is setting itself up to be extremely limited this season.

We saw coach Gregg Popovich sit him against the Houston Rockets in the second half of a doubleheader and it would hardly come as a shock if he sits him against the Sacramento Kings (Nov. 15) or the Philadelphia 76ers (Nov. 17) with the team currently in the midst of a four-in-six-nights stretch that doesn’t bode well for aging veterans.

And as seen in the game against Houston, where Baynes was the only center available to match up with Dwight Howard, the results without Splitter or Duncan on the court are disastrous. Howard went for 32 points and 16 rebounds as Houston marched by San Antonio with ease.

Looking at what happened that night, and forecasting plenty of other instances throughout the season in which Duncan is given the night off, it’s easy to see why Splitter’s importance to the team this season is unrivaled by any other player not seen as part of the core. 

Not only has he proven himself as a legitimate talent, but he fills a role that nobody else on the roster consistently can.

When it comes to scoring, the Spurs have a host of talents capable of leaving their mark. There’s no shortage of distributors either, and even perimeter defenders come with an increased frequency with Cory Joseph playing big minutes on a nightly basis.

But when it comes to anchoring the team in the post—on both ends—the crop ends at Duncan and Splitter. With Duncan’s health of prime importance, it’s integral that he can receive proper rest and not be pitted against the opposition’s best post player every minute that he’s in. The Spurs need to rely on someone else to do the dirty work.

In a manner that nobody else—and I mean, nobody else—can, Splitter has the means to fill that capacity. He has shown that he is capable of making an impact, and with his role boosting his importance, Splitter—for all the obstacles that has faced—will return from injury as a savior of sorts with tools rivaled by few on the roster, and a role that will make him a key to the Spurs’ 2014-15 success as they look to defend the title.

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Ex-NBA Player Robert Swift Charged After Police Seize Grenade Launcher

Former Seattle Sonics and Oklahoma City Thunder player Robert Swift has been charged with a gun crime after police seized a grenade launcher and drugs during a raid of the Kirkland, Wash., home where he was living, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
Police reportedly found a military-style grenade launcher and sawed-off shotgun, among other weapons, in Swift’s bedroom during a drug raid on Oct. 4. Swift, who prosecutors described as a “heavily armed heroin addict,” admitted he was helping his roommate, 54-year-old Trygve Bjorkstam, collect a drug debt.
Bjorkstam is an alleged heroin dealer currently facing federal drug and gun charges, according to the Post-Intelligencer. He told police Swift was not helping him sell drugs, describing the 28-year-old former NBA player as “a good guy.”
“People have been ripping me off,” Bjorkstam told police, according to charging papers. “Rob and I are trying to put a stop to that.”
Bjorkstam’s home is located 100 yards from an elementary school, the

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Ex-NBA player is heroin addict, busted with grenade launcher

Former NBA first-round pick Robert Swift was charged Thursday with illegal possession of a shotgun, less than a month after he was found living in a home that was raided by police as part of a drug bust. Swift, who was the No. 12 pick by the Seattle SuperSonics in 2004, was living in a…Read More

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