Should the Los Angeles Clippers shop DeAndre Jordan?

With a record of 5-4 so far this season, it’s becoming increasingly clear with each game that the Los Angeles Clippers are further away from winning the Western Conference than initially thought. With Houston, Memphis, San Antonio, and Golden State all proving to be stronger teams than the Clippers to date, at some point Clips management is going to have to begin asking some tough questions in regards to the construction of the current player roster.
The Clippers are essentially one player away from winning a title. Frustratingly though, they don’t have the salary cap flexibility or have a juicy expiring contract that might entice another team into trading such a player onto the Clippers roster. Nevertheless, they do have one asset on their team which they could potentially move in order to acquire the few remaining pieces of the puzzle: DeAndre Jordan. Granted, even as I type these words, I just can’t see the Clippers trading away their star center. Jordan is an athletic freak, monster on the boards, a

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Florida Basketball: How Worried Should Florida Be After Upset Loss to Miami?

Let’s not press the panic button in Gainesville just yet. 

Yes, the Florida Gators did fall victim to Angel Rodriguez’s terrific second-half performance in the 69-67 loss to Miami. Billy Donovan’s team also lost at home for the first time in 33 games. Both may be seen as warning signs as to how the 2014-15 season will go for the Gators, but neither should be taken seriously. 

Instead of responding to the defeat with doom and gloom, Donovan should and will use this game as a teaching moment. The Gators lost a ton of key players, and they are still finding a rhythm on the court. 

In three of the four quarters it has played this season, Florida has looked like a solid team. Unfortunately, it came up against a superb individual effort Monday night from Rodriguez, a transfer from Kansas State. 

The other factor we have to remember about Monday’s loss is the absence of Dorian Finney-Smith. The junior forward starred in the opener against William and Mary with 15 points and five rebounds. During the game, he suffered a hairline fracture in his non-shooting hand. 

The good news for Gators fans is Finney-Smith tried to play Monday, but he didn’t feel 100 percent. Sitting out the in-state rivalry game with the Hurricanes was a smart move by Finney-Smith with bigger games ahead during nonconference play. 

With a trip to Allen Fieldhouse ahead on December 5, the Gators need Finney-Smith to be fully functional, which means he could sit out the next two games against Louisiana-Monroe and Georgetown. 

If the Gators get past Georgetown at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Finney-Smith’s presence will be needed on the court with Wisconsin most likely awaiting Florida in the semifinal round of the tournament. 

Having Finney-Smith sit out a few games does hurt the team a bit, but it will only make the team stronger. Facing adversity early in the season makes a team better when it comes down to the games that matter. 

Barring a few catastrophic scenarios, Jacob Kurtz will not feature in the starting five all season. However, it was valuable to get the walk-on 36 minutes on the court Monday. You never know when Kurtz will be called upon in a key situation early in the season. With a solid amount of minutes under his belt, he had a chance to get comfortable during game action with the rest of the team. 

Other potential contributors off the bench did see an extended amount of playing time, but Devin Robinson and Chris Chiozza combined for eight points in 35 minutes. 

As for the regulars, three of the five players in Donovan’s starting lineup scored over 13 points. Eli Carter turned in 21 points and was 8-of-9 shooting from the field. Fellow transfer Jon Horford did work in the paint by scoring 17 points and snagging seven rebounds. Michael Frazier also delivered 13 points by going 6-of-11 shooting from the field. 

The loss to Miami would be much more deflating had the trio been shut down for the entire 40 minutes. There is a bit of concern about Kasey Hill’s numbers, but in his defense, he did face a tough matchup against the Hurricanes. 

Hill should recover well in the buildup to the Kansas game with strong showings against Louisiana-Monroe and Georgetown. If he doesn’t do well over the next two weeks, then we can start sounding the alarm bells a tad. 

Even if Hill fails to get going on the offensive side of the ball, the Gators will have Finney-Smith and Chris Walker back in the lineup to make up for any drop in production from the point guard. 

You also have to factor in the coaching abilities of Donovan, as he will use the second half against Miami as a rallying point. He should be able to get his players to respond in a positive fashion to the loss, which means it could get ugly Friday night at the O’Connell Center against Louisiana-Monroe. 

It’s also worth pointing out that even if the Gators stumble to a few losses in nonconference play, they play conference games in the SEC. As we witnessed on opening night, it’s going to be a long year full of embarrassing results for teams not named Kentucky or Florida. 

Before you start reading too much into the loss to Miami, remember things will get better in Gainesville. They might even improve in time for the Kansas game. If Florida fails to win in Lawrence, the rest of schedule looks favorable for the continuously jelling group. 

Donovan will have this team ready for March, but we may not see it until they start racking up the wins in SEC play. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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Why We Should All Relish the Kobe Bryant Show

Basketball is entertainment, and Kobe Bryant is the best show in town. That has to be the starting point, or we’ll get nowhere.

If you keep those ideas in mind, it’s harder to get bogged down in the weird outrage surrounding Bryant’s crazy shot totals and the broader truth that his presence does more harm than good to the Lakers‘ long-term health.

Kobe’s desire to dominate on his terms is phenomenally interesting on a number of levels—especially if you like digging for universal truths and real-life lessons in something as inherently silly as a game played by adults for money.

It’s also nice if you’re paid to think about basketball, an unserious thing, in a serious way. Bryant is nothing if not endlessly analyzable.

But when you get caught up arguing about Bryant’s play, his impact on his team and whether what he’s doing is right or wrong, you’re really just trying to say something you think is important.

And it’s ridiculous to use basketball for that purpose.

There are two extremes to this. Some laud his loyalty, while others chide his selfishness. Everybody has an opinion, and everybody seems to use Bryant as a tool to explain something bigger.

Forget all that. Toss out the lessons you’re trying to learn (or teach) from what Bryant’s doing. Dispense with the high-minded criticism, the stubborn devotion and whatever other rationales are in play. Unburden yourself.

And consider just one truth in place of all that stuff: This. Is. Fun.

Fun!

We’ll never see a single-minded basketball monster like Kobe get away with something like this again. It’s fascinating—surreal, even—and we should be drinking it in, bathing in the wild absurdity of a player turning a team game into a one-man show.

Bryant leads the league in scoring despite posting career lows in efficiency. He’s taken more shots than anyone else in the NBA, connecting at a 38.8 percent clip—for a terrible team with no hope of those shots actually meaning anything.

Rapidly approaching his basketball expiration date, Kobe is screaming into the void. And it is incredible to watch. Just ask his teammates, who have deferred to him out of fear, or maybe reverence. It doesn’t really matter which.

“I think there was a timeout last game where I pointed at Kobe and I said, ‘I know how great this guy is, but you guys have got to play basketball,’” head coach Byron Scott said, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. “‘You can’t look at him every single time and try to give him the ball. You’ve got to take shots that are there. You can’t pass up shots.’”

If you can get past the tragedy of it all, of a formerly great franchise listing drunkenly, fixed to Bryant’s anchor of a two-year contract with no place to go, the Lakers are the most compelling watch in the NBA. Because we will never see anything like this again.

Analytics won’t let it happen; coaches and front offices all know iso-ball doesn’t work, especially not in the staggering volume with which Bryant is employing it.

And, of course, we’ll never have another Kobe, another player with the combination of elite talent, hard-earned fan worship and singular disregard for the team concept.

This is a “step back and think about what’s actually happening” moment in NBA history. It’s just not the kind we typically celebrate.

Per Albert Burneko of Deadspin:

Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan because he could not be anybody else; Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant because he could not be Michael Jordan, but never stopped trying. That might seem like a putdown, and if it works as one, Kobe probably deserves it, but I’d be a liar if I denied finding something to admire in that 13,421 number. We should all be silly and liberated enough to fire up 13,421 bricks.

Yes!

If everyone operated like Bryant on a basketball court, we’d have mass chaos. Each of us would have an unshakable belief in our own primacy, our own alpha dog-ness. It’d never work in the real world.

But Bryant, in many ways, doesn’t operate in reality.

“He still believes he can be the best player in the league every time he steps on the court,” Carlos Boozer told Arash Markazi of ESPN.com.

That Bryant is not the game’s best player hardly matters. What matters is what he’s doing with that semi-delusional confidence.

Kobe is playing for nothing. He has zero to prove. But he spends his time on the court acting as though everything hangs in the balance and, more critically, that he’s the only one capable of doing anything.

Maybe that feels particularly selfish—even for Bryant. But B/R’s Kevin Ding suggests it’s merely part of Kobe’s deeply embedded code:

And we’re being reminded now that what is more important to Bryant than winning championships is staying true to the mindset that wins championships. That is what he can hang on to, no matter who is or isn’t on this Lakers team, and that is what he can take pride in even if he never gets to play another playoff game.

For Bryant, the winning is in the trying. The success is the struggle.

This is fiction we’re watching: a hero with a code fighting against unbeatable foes (time and age) and unconquerable odds (the Western Conference). If every NBA team were a movie, wouldn’t you watch the one starring Bryant and the Lakers? The one with the classic narrative, the grizzled protagonist going out with guns blazing?

This fiction is real. It’s happening right now.

And that’s really what sports are supposed to be anyway—a diversion from the real world.

Bryant, in his own way, is giving us exactly what we want and more than we could have possibly expected all at once.

So let’s all step back and think about this differently. From now on, let’s recognize what’s happening for what it is. Without agendas or self-serious analysis. The next time Bryant tosses up 35 shots in a loss, or catches fire for an entire quarter, relish it. Don’t think about the numbers or the analytics or anything else. Just think about how entertained you are.

We can be as earnest and pensive as we want when talking about the other 400-something players and 29 teams in the league. When it comes to Kobe and the Lakers, why don’t we just sit back and enjoy the show?

After all, something this improbable, this oddly inspiring, can’t last forever.

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5 NBA Teams That Should Already Be Looking to Make a Trade

In the NBA, complacency is only a good thing when your team is just rolling along, allowing the “Why mess with a good thing?” inquiry to come into play. 

But for teams that are struggling to meet expectations—or just struggling in general—during the early portion of the 2014-15 season, complacency can’t be a positive. It’s never too soon to begin tinkering with a lineup or a roster, making adjustments that potentially lead to better results. 

For five squads throughout the Association, it’s already time to start working the phones and looking into some possible trades. 

Of course, it’s worth noting that not all of these teams have to make trades in order to turn their seasons around. A number of them are talented enough that they can expect natural progression and improvement even if a deal would be advantageous and speed along the process. 

Looking around at the market never hurt anyone, right? 

 

Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com and are current as of Nov. 10.

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Mark Cuban suggests Thunder should tank this season

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both nursing serious injuries. The Oklahoma City Thunder stars are not expected to return for at least another month, and the team is struggling in their absence. Mark Cuban wonders if it’s time for the Thunder to pack it in. “The question I don’t think anybody has asked is,…Read More

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Cleveland Cavaliers Should Already Be Making These Adjustments

Although the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 2014-15 NBA season is still in its infancy, there’s nothing wrong with already making a few tweaks.

Beginning the season just 2-3, the Cavs have struggled with moving the ball, pace, chemistry and overall defense, among other areas.

Coach David Blatt has already made his first lineup change, sending shooting guard Dion Waiters to the bench in favor of veteran Shawn Marion.

After taking to the road for four of their first five games, the Cavaliers now get to play at the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena nine times over their next 11 contests.

While the home crowd should give them a boost, the Cavs have some on-court work to do as well to get them back on track.

 

Interior Defense

Heading into the year, many assumed the Cavaliers’ interior defense would struggle without a true shot-blocker.

They appear to be right.

We knew rim protection would be an issue. After five games, Cleveland is 28th with just 3.2 rejections per game. Shawn Marion, he of 6’7″, leads the team with one swat a night.

Going beyond just raw shot-blocking numbers is the success teams are having against the Cavaliers’ big men inside.

Opponents are shooting 63.4 percent within five feet of the basket, the second-worst mark in the league, per NBA.com/Stats. The Cavs‘ only saving grace when it comes to paint protection is actually limiting the amount of times the opposing team makes their way inside.

The Cavaliers allow 26.8 shots per game from within five feet, the eighth-fewest total in the NBA. Quality wing defenders like LeBron James and Marion have played a nice part in this.

Cleveland’s best post defender by a landslide has been Anderson Varejao. Although he’s averaging a pedestrian 0.8 blocks per game, opponents are making just 46.7 percent of their shots at the rim when guarded by Varejao.

Compare this success rate to those of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and Varejao might as well be Bill Russell inside.

Thompson is allowing 59.1 percent of inside shots to connect, and Love is even worse at 66.7 percent.

We knew Love wasn’t a strong defender following his trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and many in Cleveland had made peace with that.

Actually, when Love sticks to his natural position of power forward, he hasn’t been too bad. The times Blatt prefers to play small ball with Love at center is typically when the defense goes to pot.

Unfortunately for the Cavs, this has been quite often.

Love has spent 75 percent of his time on the court at center this season, compared to just 25 percent at power forward. When he covers opposing 4s, Love is holding them to a reasonable 15.2 player efficiency rating this season, via 82games.com. When tasked with defending 5s, this number inflates to a PER of 21.4.

The solution?

Keep Love far, far away from the center position.

Keep Varejao on the court with him. Or Thompson. Or Brendan Haywood. Grab the nearest towel boy if he’s got some size to him.

Anything to keep Love at power forward would be a nice upgrade for the Cavaliers defense.

 

Offensive Spacing/Style of Play

The Cavaliers offense was supposed to become legendary this season thanks to the combination of James, Love and Kyrie Irving.

After five games, it’s ranked just 17th in the league.

The Cavs‘ Big Three are all averaging between 18 and 23.4 points per game, so why just a so-so team total?

It all comes down to spacing and sharing the ball.

The Cavaliers are 30th in the NBA with just 17.8 assists per game. In back-to-back losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz, Cleveland totaled just 24 assists, including a franchise-low six against Utah.

Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group pointed out just how rare it is for a James-led team to hold the ball so much:

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Cavaliers finished with the lowest assist percentage (20%) by a James team in his career. It’s also the third-lowest assist percentage by any team since he came into the league and the lowest since the Hornets in 2010.

When Cleveland has actually run Blatt‘s shooter-friendly offense, the results have been remarkable.

During the first quarter against the Trail Blazers, the Cavs moved the ball, spaced the floor and racked up 34 points behind seven assists.

For whatever reason, Cleveland abandoned this effective style in favor of isolations and general laziness. The Cavaliers scored just 48 points over the next three quarters, aided by 11 total assists.

Here’s a breakdown of a typical play that’s gotten them in trouble not just during the Portland game, but also against Utah and during various other stretches.

Irving begins the play by bringing the ball up the court. Right now the spacing is good, with Love and Dion Waiters spread out in the corners. Each has to be respected as a three-point shooter.

Irving, hardly in any hurry, initiates a high give-and-go with Varejao. Eight seconds have already elapsed and the ball has barely left Irving’s hands.

Next, Irving attempts a drive to the basket but is quickly cut off by Steve Blake. Blazers center Robin Lopez abandons Varejao and slides down to protect the rim.

Instead of kicking the ball back to a wide-open Varejao, Irving continues to foolishly drive, even with two defenders in front of him. While being guarded by Blake, he loses the ball and is lucky that Damian Lillard didn’t collect a steal in the process.

Undeterred by his near turnover, Irving continues to ignore teammates and tries to get to the basket. After winding the shot clock down to just eight seconds, he realizes his attempt is futile and lobs a pass out to James at the top of the arc.

Now, James is put in a tough situation. Love and Waiters have grown tired of just standing in the corners for the past 10 seconds and have begun to gravitate toward James. Irving tries to occupy Love’s spot in the corner, but is blocked from James’ view by Varejao and Lopez.

Whatever spacing the Cavs once had has been killed by Irving.

James is faced with trying to drive on Nicolas Batum or shoot over him now that his passing options have disappeared. James chooses the latter, only to fall victim to the same trap Irving fell into.

The defense collapses and the shot clock is running out. James loses the ball, tries to recover and get a shot up but is called for traveling. Waiters and Love, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer a season ago, never touch the ball.

An ugly, selfish possession all around and one that we’ve see far too often thus far.

The good news?

This is an easy fix.

When the Cavaliers stick with Blatt‘s plays, they’ve looked brilliant. Sure it takes some extra effort, but one can’t argue with the results.

In a 110-101 win over the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 7, the Cavaliers registered 25 assists in their highest scoring regular-season game of the year. The ball moved, spacing looked good and Cleveland came away with 110 points as a result.

For players like Irving and James, they have to make sure to keep the offense flowing and avoid plays like the one detailed above.

 

Pick Up the Pace

Along the same lines, a more aggressive offense leads to a quicker pace, something the Cavaliers definitely need to strive for.

Cleveland is just 28th in the league at 93.28 possessions per 48 minutes, a surprisingly low pace considering the athletes on the roster.

As Christopher Reina of RealGM.com pointed out before the Nuggets game, the Cavs aren’t utilizing what could be a major strength:

With LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving anchoring the team, the Cavaliers were widely expected to have one of the best offenses in the NBA and playing at a slower pace mitigates that advantage.

The Cavaliers rank 14th in offense at 105.7 points per 100 possessions (despite ranking 30th in AST%), but rank 27th in defense at 111.2 points per 100 possessions allowed.

Despite being one of the most productive offensive players in the NBA throughout his career due to his high efficiency scoring and passing ability, James has never played in an offense that is in the top-10 in pace.

What?

James has never played in a high-octane offense before? Surely, something must be done.

When ran correctly, there’s nothing slow about Blatt‘s offense. It may require a few extra passes to find the open man, but it still operates quicker than the typical isolation play.

James is tailor-made to operate in an offense that can get out and run. After all, who’s going to step in front and stop him in the fast break?

Not Carmelo Anthony, that’s for sure.

Add in Love’s outlet pass ability, and Cleveland should be able to get quite a few easy (and quick) buckets this season, provided they choose to do so.

Again, avoiding the “hero ball” type of play is critical. The Cavs are too talented to sit around and watch one player attempt to take his man one-on-one.

Given their personnel, cranking up the pace would be wise for the Cavaliers this season.

 

Greg Swartz has covered the Cleveland Cavaliers for Bleacher Report since 2010. Connect with him on Twitter for more basketball news and conversation.

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Should Celtics Fans Buy or Sell Rajon Rondo’s Hot Start?

The Boston Celtics have gotten a fast start out of Rajon Rondo, as speculation regarding his future in Beantown still dominates the headlines in New England.

What should fans make of the Celtics’ early-season progress?

Brian Robb joins Stephen Nelson to play a game of Buy or Sell for the rebuilding C’s in the video above.

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OKC Thunder: The Dynasty That Should Have Been

The date is June 21, 2012. We’re in Miami, Florida for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The Oklahoma City Thunder are seconds away from losing the Finals 4-1 as LeBron James finally sits on his throne as NBA Champion. The future is bright for OKC following their first of many NBA finals appearance with a core of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka all under the age of 24. They’ve just surpassed the Spurs in the Western conference finals and are set to dominate the West for the next decade. Fast forward four months later and the NBA climate experiences a shock as James Harden is traded from Oklahoma City to the Houston Rockets for rookie Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and draft picks. Thunder GM Sam Presti gives the typical answers that sports owners and general managers give about wanting to have flexibility to give themselves a better future when dealing a superstar. James Harden wanted $15 million per year for 4 to 5 years from the Thunder. Time has shown us that dea…

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6 Teams That Should Monitor Greg Monroe’s 2014-15 Season Very Carefully

Isn’t the 2014-15 season just an audition for Greg Monroe? 

After taking a non-conventional route this past offseason and agreeing to a qualifying offer with the Detroit Pistons, Monroe gets to play out the year and then hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent. It’s a luxury he wouldn’t have enjoyed had he either inked an offer sheet or re-signed with the Pistons during the summer.

Now the past is almost irrelevant, and he’s playing to prove himself to a list of suitors next summera list that might not actually be as large as some might thing. 

Monroe is an intriguing player in the current NBA simply because he doesn’t fit into every organization’s plans. With the league trending toward athletic centers, small ball and non-traditional sets, there aren’t an abundance of opportunities for an old-school big man who would prefer to play with his back to the basket and thrive on his fundamental excellence. 

Nevertheless, there are still some franchises that will be closely monitoring his play throughout the year, attempting to figure out whether he can fit into their future plans. 

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Kobe vs. Michael: Who’s the Better Scorer and Who Should Take Final Shot?

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that a teenage Kobe Bryant assumed the role as the “Next Michael.” But 19 seasons later, the once phenom is within striking distance of Jordan on the all-time scoring list.

Kobe and Michael, despite relatively little overlap, are inextricably linked. There are always the questions of titles won, ability to score, shooting prowess and more.

Given that Kobe will likely pass Michael in scoring, B/R’s Ric Bucher gives his take on which of the two NBA legends was the better scorer and who he’d want with the last shot.

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