Syracuse Basketball: Where the Orange’s Rebuilding Process Currently Stands

Syracuse is in trouble.

That could have been the headline last season just after the No. 1 Orange, at 24-0, escaped Pittsburgh’s Oakland Zoo with a win on a Tyler Ennis three-point miracle.

At the time, Syracuse was riding high after an overtime win against Duke at the Carrier Dome. Three games later, Ennis’ three-point heave gave the Orange the win but showed that Syracuse might be a little more talk than chalk.

One game later, the Orange escaped North Carolina State on a C.J. Fair layup in the closing seconds at home, and the story was not indicative of the top-ranked team in the land.

“Syracuse Survives NC State, 56-55,” told the story to the rest of the country that on the right night, the Orange could be had. Additionally, without the Orange’s knowledge, a scoring drought was about to take place.

Against Duke, Syracuse scored 91 points in overtime. After that game, the Orange would score more than 62 points only one time in the 10 remaining games on the schedule.

On February 19, just four days after outlasting NC State, unranked Boston College came into the Carrier Dome and stopped the No. 1 Orange with a three-point win in overtime. Word was out that the team that had such stars as Fair, Ennis and Jerami Grant could not find a way to score.

Syracuse lost four of its last six scheduled games, with its efforts crumbling in a 55-53 loss to Dayton in the third round of the NCAA tournament to put the icing on the cake.

A great mystery unfolded. Syracuse forgot how to score.

The Orange’s defense remained tough throughout, but for the first time in a generation, Syracuse fans were left wondering where their scoring would come from.

Fast forward to this season, and not much has changed. Syracuse is still in trouble.

With Fair, Ennis and Grant gone, players such as Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas were left to carry the mantle of the once-potent Syracuse offense. Christmas, for his part, has established himself as the most improved player in the nation. He’s averaging nearly 17 points and 10 rebounds per game after spending the last two seasons being content with five and five.

Cooney, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to pull of the same trick.

Cooney spent the beginning of last season as one of the nation’s best three-point shooters, but after running himself ragged trying to create open shots for himself, the shots stopped falling, and he fell from being a 50 percent three-point shooter to just a pedestrian.

Cooney has been touted as a three-point marksman since his arrival at Syracuse three years ago. After a redshirt freshman year, he only averaged 11 minutes per game but showed promise from the outside regardless of his .267 shooting percentage.

Even after his struggles at the end of last season, Cooney had a respectable .375 shooting percentage from beyond the arc, giving a glimmer of hope that in his third year in an Orange uniform, he could still live up to expectations.

Eight games in, Cooney has connected on just 13 of his 46 three-point attempts. Almost every aspect of his game—scoring, steals, free-throw percentage, etc.—has declined from last season. It’s understandable that a player who lost Fair, Ennis and Grant as teammates would struggle a bit, but Cooney’s struggles seem to run deeper.

It goes far beyond Cooney, but Orange fans must understand the reality of this season. This is a rebuilding year.

“Rebuilding” tends to be a bad word in the world of sports, but for the Orange, it’s not as glum as it sounds. It means this team has watched a multitude of talent pass through its program, and it’s difficult to overcome early departures on a yearly basis. This team has great talent, but it is very young, and time and patience will be necessary to bring it along.

The hope for this team is to turn its fortunes around and hopefully get an NCAA tournament bid. The reality could be an NIT bid. That is the definition of rebuilding for Syracuse.

Syracuse fans are used to having a team near the top of the rankings and Final Four aspirations. They’re used to seeing a balance of youth mixed with veteran leadership. This season, the hopes of a top ranking have already been dashed, and while on paper the team seems to have a mix of youth and experience, that experience hasn’t translated to leadership—at least not on the court.

As far as scoring goes, Christmas is the de facto team leader. He’s taken coach Jim Boeheim‘s direction and goes to the basket on nearly every touch. He’s added a hook shot to his repertoire and has been a pleasure to watch. But Christmas has never been an on-court vocal leader. This is not a criticism of Christmas; it’s just not the type of player he is.

Cooney appears to want the mantle of the team’s vocal leader, especially after Chris McCullough was on the receiving end of a flagrant foul from St. John’s Rysheed Jordan. McCullough bounced up and got in the face of Jordan, and a minor scrum broke out. Cooney appeared to be in the ear of McCullough, directing him to look at the scoreboard and keep his head in the game.

Cooney’s demeanor in this situation is encouraging, but with him struggling to score, especially in moments where a timely three could be the difference in a game, the leadership title may escape him.

Perceived leadership issues aside, Syracuse’s struggles come from a few areas.

Freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph was handed down the keys to the offense from Ennis. It was hoped that Joseph could be the understudy to Ennis, but the NBA came calling, and Joseph was left to his own devices.

Joseph’s game is far different than Ennis’, as with most freshman point guards. Ennis was a phenom who took care of the ball, hit timely shots and had great court vision.

Joseph is too green to criticize for much of his play, as he’s been thrust into an impossible situation that only time will improve. He’s struggled with turnovers, taken too many bad three-point shots and has difficulty delivering the ball to his teammates in positions where they can score. Joseph can turn all of this around, but in the meantime, Coach Boeheim had Joseph sitting next to him on the bench for the majority of the second half against St. John’s.

Boeheim exasperated about Joseph after the game, telling the media, via Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com, “He’s gotta learn that he’s a point guard and not a three-point shooter.”

To Joseph’s credit, just eight games into the season, he seems to be the only member of the youth movement, save for McCullough, who deserves extended playing time. Ron Patterson, B.J. Johnson, Tyler Roberson, Chinonso Obokoh and company are the next generation for this team, but their progress is not as far along as Orange fans would like. Again, time and experience should fix this issue.

The starting lineup is also a work in progress. The usual lineup of Christmas, McCullough, Joseph, Cooney and Johnson was tweaked, with Michael Gbinije supplanting Johnson. Gbinije likely earned this roll after his solid performance against Michigan, where he was the most energetic and athletic player on the court. He played well against St. John’s, but a few turnovers marred his performance.

Gbinije’s insertion into the starting five is significant, as he played 37 minutes. This was fourth on the team behind Christmas, McCullough and Cooney, who each played the full 40 minutes. Patterson and Joseph split the point guard time, and Johnson played just seven minutes.

That’s it. No other players stepped foot on the court. This was fueled by the fact that the Orange stayed out of foul trouble, but as the season presses forward, Syracuse will have to find a way to get meaningful minutes for its youth or the rebuild could take longer than just this season.

Another change for the Orange is the aforementioned Cooney. Cooney, by default, is the best three-point shooter on this team. He is also the only three-point shooter on this team. Gbinije, Patterson and a few others might have their moments, but Cooney is on the top of the list in the outside shooting department.

Since the midpoint of last season, opponents have been keying in on Cooney as the key to defeating the Orange. He spent much of the season running around the court trying to create his own screen for just long enough to get an open look.

Cooney’s spent all of this season doing the same thing. Joseph and whoever happens to be on Cooney’s side of the court have to do a better job of setting him up. This could come in the form of screens or Joseph penetrating and kicking the ball out. Neither has happened much this season.

On the bright side are Christmas and McCullough. The bigs for Syracuse are an imposing force for the Orange. They combine for 31.3 points, 18.6 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game. If the Orange ever get DaJuan Coleman back, who is recovering from knee surgery, Syracuse could end up with an impenetrable frontcourt.

There’s also the 2-3 zone. Boeheim’s trademark defense seems to be in good hands, and players such as Cooney, who find themselves struggling on offense, can create ample opportunities for the team on the defensive end.

Overall, the rebuild will be time-consuming but not futile. Syracuse has been lucky over the past several years having players who developed quickly and contributed positively. This is still a talented, albeit youthful, team. If Cooney can get back on track, Gbinije continues his growth and Joseph cleans up his game, the tracks should be laid for the younger players to get minutes and develop on the court.

If none of those aspects improve, the rebuild could turn into a recession.

 

Follow Gene Siudut on Twitter.

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John Wall Rises for Monster Block vs. Denver, Stomps Bradley Beal in the Process

John Wall is a bad, bad man.

Late in the first quarter of Friday’s Washington Wizards-Denver Nuggets clash, Wizards center Marcin Gortat had his layup attempt rejected by Denver small forward Wilson Chandler. Chandler got the rebound and slowly took the ball the other way down the court before attempting a finger roll over Bradley Beal.

Big mistake.

John Wall, who had been jogging down the court and gearing up for the play, showed off his 40-inch vertical leap and spiked the ball out of bounds. 

A classic Wall stank-face ensued, but focus was quickly put on Wall’s right-hand man Beal, who took a foot to the jaw when his frontcourt mate landed.

Fortunately, it appears Beal is okay.

[NBA]

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Heat 0-4 in preseason, working through ‘process’ (Yahoo Sports)

MIAMI (AP) — Erik Spoelstra wanted Wednesday to be a full-contact practice day for the Miami Heat.

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NBA Draft 2014: Full First-Round Order and Preview of Selection Process

In the days remaining before Thursday night’s 2014 NBA draft, anyone attempting to forecast the proceedings is only preparing for inevitable disappointment.

If the results were uncertain, news of Joel Embiid‘s injured foot only adds to the unknown. Judging players based on their footwork, length, quickness, agility, shooting, teamwork and basketball IQ, among countless other skills, is hard enough; now teams picking near the top need to weigh a health risk as well.

This news springs the No. 1 pick back in the air, a selection that holds a ripple effect over the entire first round, the order of which is shown below. 

 

When: Thursday, June 26

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York)

TV/Live Stream: ESPN, WatchESPN

 

Draft Preview

Anyone who thinks they figured out the draft better think again.

Just when the early picks began to form in line, injury news surrounding top center Embiid has thrown everything firmly into chaos. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski broke news of the Kansas standout needing surgery to repair his fractured right foot.

His timetable to return is set for four to six months, which means he could be ready for the beginning of the 2014-15 season with a speedy recovery. Yet the Cleveland Cavaliers have to feel queasy about investing the future of their franchise in somebody who might be able to play next season, especially with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker available.

Worries about a back injury that forced him to sit out the NCAA tournament already raised some questions, but this added blow could vanquish him from top-pick consideration. In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman now has Embiid going No. 6 to the Boston Celtics. At that point, he’s a risk worth taking for a team looking to hit a home run to expedite the rebuilding process.

Director of player personnel Austin Ainge gave a vague answer when posed with that scenario by The Boston Globe‘s Baxter Holmes. 

Draft night typically spawns a few trades, and this year is likely to be no different. There’s, of course, the Kevin Love factor, which could motivate a team such as Boston to part with precious picks for the star forward, who will become a free agent next offseason. 

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers were highly active on draft night, trading Jru Holliday to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel’s draft rights. Wojnarowski noted that they are looking at point guards Dante Exum and Marcus Smart, which has people wondering what happens with Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.

There’s talk of the Los Angeles Lakers hotly pursuing the young point guard. ESPN’s Ryen Russillo plotted out a scenario that makes no sense for Philadelphia.

Why trade a 22-year-old who averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game last season? Especially when the 76ers already pick twice in the top 10? Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus denied the latest string of chatter.

Philadelphia’s energy would be better spent calling Cleveland to move up to the No. 1 pick, where it can then select the team’s top target, Andrew Wiggins. Now that Embiid is hurt, the Cavaliers may be more willing to part with the top selection. If they still want the 7-footer, picking him at No. 3 would draw less pressure than taking him first, and they can also milk the No. 10 selection out of the deal.

Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an entertaining night at Barclays Center. Even though the event will take place in their home arena for the first time, Brooklyn Nets fans may want to stay home since their team doesn’t have any draft picks.

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Bob Knight Makes Controversial Remark on NBA and College Basketball Process

The one-and-done era in college basketball has generated plenty of criticism from those within the sport, and legendary former Indiana University head coach Bob Knight is the latest to speak out against it. 

According to Chris Littman of Sporting News, Knight lamented the fact that college basketball players are allowed to enter the NBA after their freshman seasons in an interview segment on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike.”

Knight has never been known as the most tactful speaker, and that continued on Tuesday when he used the word “raped” to describe the relationship between the NBA and college basketball.

If I were involved with the NBA I wouldn’t want a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old kid, to bring into all the travel and all the problems that exist in the NBA. I would want a much more mature kid. I would want a kid that maybe I’ve been watching on another team and now he’s 21, 22 years old instead of 18 or 19, and I might trade for that kid. On top of it all, the NBA does a tremendous, gigantic disservice to college basketball. It’s as though they’ve raped college basketball in my opinion.

Not surprisingly, Knight received plenty of criticism for comparing the dynamic between college basketball and the NBA to such a heinous act. Zach Osterman of The Indianapolis Star was among those who chastised the Basketball Hall of Famer:

The bulk of college basketball’s top freshman opt to enter the NBA draft as soon as possible, and it seems likely that Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kentucky’s Julius Randle will enter the fray once this season concludes as well.

Changes in draft eligibility have essentially forced top prospects to play a year of college basketball rather than entering the draft right out of high school, so college basketball fans now have an opportunity to enjoy elite young players, even if it’s only for a year.

Had this system been in place previously, players like LeBron James and Dwight Howard almost certainly would have played major college basketball for one season.

Despite the NBA seemingly trying to aid college basketball on the surface, Knight doesn’t feel as though enough is being done. His preference is for the NBA to adopt the Major League Baseball model.

Major League Baseball has the best idea of all. Three years before they’ll take a kid out of college, then they have a minor league system that they put the kids in. I’m sure that if the NBA followed the same thing, there would be a lot of kids in a minor league system that still were not good enough to play in the major NBA.

Knight’s idea may seem like a great one to college basketball purists, but it’s a tough sell to top draft prospects when they routinely watch players enter the NBA after their freshman years and assimilate seamlessly.

Some players ultimately flounder after entering the draft too early, but it should be their decision to make.

Knight is entitled to his opinion, and there are many who seem to share it. As is often the case in sports, though, the old-school contingent is unwilling to accept inevitable change. Additionally, Knight didn’t do his cause any favors by using such cavalier language.

The relationship between college basketball and the NBA will continue to be a hot-button issue moving forward, and it is a fluid situation that could very well change in the coming years. With that in mind, this is probably far from the last that we’ve heard from Knight on the subject, but hopefully he’s more aware of what he says in the future.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Pistons blow another one and lose the franchise center in the process

The Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers hooked up for a third time this season on Saturday night at The Palace. The teams split the previous two match ups with the road team winning each time. The Pistons, with their playoff hopes on life support, would come out blazing.
Josh Smith threw an alley-oop to Andre Drummond for a dunk and Greg Monroe found Drummond for a layup to bring the Pistons within 10-9. Then Drummond conked heads with Pacers center Roy Hibbert and Drummond was woozy. He was on the ground for awhile and the stretcher came out, before he got up and walked off on his own power with the help of trainers Arnie Kander and Mike Abdenour.
Rodney Stuckey came off the bench to replace Drummond and helped the Pistons to an 8-2 run and a 17-12 lead. Smith had 11 points in the first quarter and Detroit led 29-20 after one.
In the second, the Pistons started knocking down the 3-ball. Brandon Jennings knocked down a pull-up 3, Kyle Singler hit a 3 out of the corner, Stuckey …

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Tom Thibodeau Is the Chicago Bulls’ Best Asset During Rebuilding Process

Even with Derrick Rose on the roster throughout the foreseeable future, it’s Tom Thibodeau who remains the Chicago Bulls‘ best asset during their inevitable rebuilding process.

And yes, rebuilding will be done to some extent, even if the 2013-14 squad is hanging tough in the competition for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. 

Rose, while still a fantastic point guard, has quite a few question marks surrounding him. 

Not only was he rather ineffective during his long-awaited return from a torn ACL, but he went down with yet another major knee injury. For a player whose game is predicated on athleticism and explosiveness, that’s problematic. Even if he recovers physically, the mental aspects are a different ball game. 

Thibodeau still has a few question marks—minute management being the primary one—but he’s emerged as a bigger asset to the team. So long as he’s on the sidelines, Chicago is going to remain competitive. 

It’s time NBA fans as a whole started to recognize this. 

 

Creator of an Incredible Defense

When the Bulls are looming on the schedule, you know a team is going to be in for a hard-fought defensive struggle. Points come at a premium, and each and every possession forces the opponent to maintain a grind-it-out mentality that wears everyone down. 

Chicago might not have an abundance of talent on the roster, but it has a clear identity. 

For a rebuilding team, that’s the first step. It’s harder to successfully restock and regain competitiveness when there’s an amorphous product on the court, one that isn’t sure what type of basketball it wants to play and what type of players it wants to recruit to the roster. 

And that’s not a problem for Chicago, so long as Thibodeau is pacing the sideline. 

Even during a year without Derrick Rose in the lineup. Even after trading away Luol Deng for absolutely nothing except cap space. Even after withstanding plenty of injuries throughout the early portion of the season. 

The Bulls have every excuse in the book available to them, but Thibodeau refuses to use any of them. He has this defense ramping up the intensity each and every night, and the result has been one of the most impressive units in the league. 

Going into their 50th game of the season, the Bulls have allowed only 101 points per 100 possessions, a mark that leaves them sitting pretty at No. 2 on the defensive rating leaderboard, according to Basketball-Reference. Only the Indiana Pacers, owners of a wealth of defensive talent and a historically excellent set of stats, beat them out. 

Despite the opportunity for excuses, Chicago is actually allowing 2.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did last year. Granted, the Eastern Conference is weaker, but it’s an impressive mark nonetheless.

Just as always seems to be the case, the Bulls’ defense is elite because it refuses to allow points in the paint. That’s the identity that goes beyond just trying on the defensive end, and it’s where Thibodeau comes into the equation in a big way.

According to TeamRankings.com, the Bulls are allowing only 37.1 points per game in the paint. It’s a mark that, just as was the case with defensive rating, leaves them trailing the Indiana Pacers and beating every other team in the Association.  

Why? 

Because of the Thibs system, one that advocates packing the paint as much as possible and almost daring referees to whistle three-second violations. If more men are in the paint, it cuts off driving lanes and makes the interior of the defense more crowded, thus forcing opponents into less-efficient shots. 

Last January, ESPN’s Beckley Mason broke down the outline of the scheme thusly

He is often credited with being the first coach to fully leverage the abolition of illegal defense by loading up the strong side box while having the weakside defenders zone the back side of the defense. In effect, Thibodeau‘s defenses force ball handlers — whether in isolation or in side pick-and-rolls — to the baseline and then send a second defender from the weakside over to the strong side block to cut off dribble penetration. 

That strategy, combined with having big men fall back against screens to keep more big bodies in the paint (as you can see below), allows Chicago both to depress opponents’ field-goal percentages and prevent second-chance points. The Bulls are always a premier rebounding team and not just because they have talented rebounders

Thibodeau‘s defensive genius—more so with Xs and Os than in-game adjustments—has spawned imitators, but no one has been able to mimic the nuances that he brings to the Windy City. No one is better at overcoming the many obstacles and remaining right near the top of the league’s best defensive teams. 

Grantland’s Zach Lowe is another to give Thibodeau credit for his innovation, even if the Chicago coach won’t do so himself: 

Thibodeau didn’t invent this system, and he’s loath to take any public credit for it, but coaches, scouts, and executives all over the league agree he was the first coach to stretch the limits of the NBA’s newish defensive three-second rule and flood the strong side with hybrid man/zone defenses. Other coaches have copied that style, and smart offenses over the last two seasons — and especially this season — have had to adapt. 

The NBA is a copycat league. 

As Thibdeau’s defense proved its merits, others copied him. Then offenses—like the Miami Heat‘s pick-and-roll heavy system that moves the ball with ridiculous frequency—adjusted. It’s a cyclical process, but there’s a distinct advantage to the position in which Thibs sits. 

He’s ahead of the curve. Defenses will eventually adjust to the new-wave offenses, and the gravelly voiced head coach gets to be one of those doing the reacting. 

 

Refuse to Lose

Tanking? TANKING!?!?!

So long as Thibodeau is pacing the sidelines of the United Center, that word will never be allowed to enter into the Chicago game plan. 

The Bulls probably should’ve tried to do everything possible to earn a better pick in the draft once Derrick Rose went down with his second major knee injury. Without the former MVP in the lineup, there was no hope for this team’s ability to compete with the Heat and Pacers in the race to advance out of the East. 

This was a team that was banking on Rose.

The rest of the roster was worse than the 2012-13 squad—one that experienced an early playoff exit—namely because Nate Robinson was gone. The diminutive point guard was one of the few players capable of creating his own shots, but he left for the Denver Nuggets during the offseason.

So when Rose went down, all hope was essentially lost. Just not in the mind of Thibodeau.

My job is to coach the team,” he told ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell shortly after D-Rose suffered yet another knee injury. “Whoever I have on the roster, that’s who I’m coaching. Whether Derrick’s here or not, that’s what they have to do. [The front office has] to always look at the players that are available. They have to study, which they do. And you go from there.”  

And so he coached the team. 

Two weeks later, he expanded on his anti-tanking views to Friedell

There’s all kinds of talk about that (tanking). And, to me, as a coach, you put everything you have into each and every day. And that’s what I love about our team. There’s no quit in our team. We’re going to play to win. I think once you start doing those other things, you’re headed down a slippery slope. 

I think you put forth your best effort each and every day. I think every game is winnable, and then you’re trying to build the right habits along the way. As we get guys back, I think we’re going to be fine. I have great belief in our team, and that’s the way you approach it. Some teams may not believe in it, but I also think [tanking] is risky. Everyone talks about the great player, but what happens to all the franchises that don’t get the great player? If you look at history, it’s not good.

Eventually, he was just doing too good a job, and the front office stepped in. General manager Gar Forman shipped off Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Thibs‘ job became even tougher.

This time it was Joakim Noah who voiced his opinion on the dishonor of tanking. But hmm…I wonder where he got that mentality from? The Florida product has always been a supremely passionate player, but it’s hard to imagine Thibodeau didn‘t have some influence there.

You can view this stubborn attachment to winning basketball in one of two ways. 

Some might see it as an unwillingness to maximize the prospects of the future. Tanking is supposed to be a beneficial endeavor, as it helps bring more talent to the team once the losing stops. 

However, I prefer to view it as an attractive quality when recruiting free agents, which also happens to help with the whole rebuilding process. 

Would you rather play for a coach that doesn’t stick to his principles or one who steadfastly refuses to give up, even when he’s faced with overwhelming odds and a significant talent deficit?

That’s what I thought. 

Between the offseason firing of assistant Ron Adams against Thibodeau’s wishes to the recent trade of Thibs’ favorite player, Luol Deng, you have to wonder when the head coach is going to say he has had enough,” writes Rick Morrissey for the Chicago Sun-Times

There have also been rumblings about the end of Thibodeau‘s tenure in the Windy City, with reasons ranging from his horrid management of players’ minutes—Jimmy Butler literally spent an hour on the court during a single game—to his insistence on winning games rather than tanking. 

But the problems must be patched up.

This system that Thibodeau has created and nearly perfected is too important. So too is his reputation among players and ability to inspire greatness from everyone he coaches. 

Rose might be the one with the most jerseys sold and the MVP to his name, but it’s the head coach who is Chicago’s No. 1 asset during the rebuilding process. 

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Sixers’ good start doesn’t mask rebuilding process

Sixers might be rebuilding, but they’ve gotten off to a good start to the NBA season

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Terrell Owens Thinks He Could Play in the NBA, Disses Luke Walton in the Process

Terrell Owens is at it again.

No, not doing sit-ups in his driveway, dancing like I imagine David Stern would at a nightclub or apologizing for Windows Vista. This time he’s making absurd statements at the expense of Luke Walton.

Per the official Twitter account for SportsNation, Owens believes that he can play in the NBA and that he is better than Walton.

I’d now like to take this time to apologize for Owens. I’m sorry he doesn’t realize that he’s 39, the NBA isn’t the NFL and helmets aren’t allowed. And I’m sorry he doesn’t recognize the greatness of the unemployed Walton.

That’s right—unemployed. Owens compared himself to a jobless NBA player, who has spent his entire career somewhere between serviceable and “who the hell is that guy?”

Jokes are cracked at Walton daily, yet when Owens joins in, it seems mean. Like a bully stealing lunch money. Or someone forcing you to sit through a movie starring Dane Cook. 

He speaks of his inter-sport ability like he’s LeBron James. People have long thought LeBron would be a good tight end, which makes sense. The King is quick and explosive, presumably has great hands and, unlike Owens, isn’t on the brink of collecting Social Security.

Where the 28-year-old LeBron could probably make it in the NFL, Owens seems better suited as a dance-team choreographer at the Association level.

Still, I can’t say I’m surprised at what he said. Not merely because he’s always been cocky, but this isn’t his first NBA rodeo.

In the summer of 2012, he apparently begged the Los Angeles Clippers to sign him. They didn’t obviously, because not even Donald Sterling is that stupid.

I would love to see footage of him begging. Something tells me he would do it wrong. Offering to sign autographs or sculpt Sterling’s six pack wouldn’t be considered begging.

Which isn’t to say one or more NBA teams shouldn’t be interested in acquiring his services. Those looking to tank for Andrew Wiggins make for ideal destinations. Think Philadelphia 76ers or Utah Jazz.

Then again, if I’m a general manager who’s trying to buy losses, I’m spending my money on Walton. He’s less of a head case, has way better hair and most likely doesn’t stand in front of a mirror kissing his biceps as much.

 

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5 Boston Celtics Players Who Shouldn’t Be Part of Rebuilding Process

The Boston Celtics roster may feel incomplete now that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are Brooklyn Nets, but the reality is that Boston already has a full 15 players slated to play in the 2013-14 season, and that number rises to 16 if the team picks up Shavlik Randolph’s player option.

However, this rebuilding Celts squad needs more than just bodies if it wants to establish a healthy culture and make moves to regain its status as one of the Eastern Conference’s elite squads. Though Boston boasts a number of young players like Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green who could be potential building blocks going forward, they also have a number of players who do not fit with the team’s new direction.

The Celtics’ decision to hire Brad Stevens indicated that they were not thinking about immediately vaulting back into title contention, meaning that keeping many of the expensive veterans they currently have under contract does not make much sense.

The 2013-14 campaign figures to be one of major change for Boston, and with that in mind, let’s take a look at five players who should not be a part of the C’s’ current rebuilding process.

Advanced statistics courtesy of Synergy Sports unless otherwise noted.

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