Michigan Basketball: 5 Things Still on Wolverines’ Offseason to-Do List

The offseason for the Michigan basketball program has been one paved with many ups and downs, but we still have 48 days until the season opener on November 17 against Bucknell. Alas, there are still things that need to be resolved.

In a few weeks, official practice will be under way, and head coach John Beilein has some things to sort out before we head into another exciting year of basketball in Ann Arbor. With the football program mired in mediocrity, Wolverine fans will be clamoring for some good news from their basketball team soon enough.

That said, here are five things still on Beilein’s offseason to-do list.

 

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Watchability: Suns’ dual-point system still shines

The Suns stunned the NBA world last season but ended up the best team to miss the playoffs.

      
 

 

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LeBron: ‘I still have a lot to prove’

James says if they follow the process they can be a good team

      
 

 

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Watchability: Dirk still is working on his shot

The Mavericks will be back in the playoff hunt, but are they really set to be better now?

      
 

 

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Questions Still Remain for Derrick Rose

When the stars began to walk away, one after another, from Team USA… …their were few bonafide stars that remained. James Harden remained and so did other rising talents like Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving; but the true top echelon of NBA stars were all, but gone. LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, George, Durant, Dwight, LaMarcus Aldridge, […] The post Questions Still Remain for Derrick Rose appeared first on The Outside Analysis.

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Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo is still a raw, developing talent

The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup ended last Sunday with Team USA taking the gold medal. While many Bucks fans were cheering on their home country, they were also able to watch the only player from the Bucks in the tournament, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Greece had a strong showing at the FIBA tournament, winning their first 5 games before losing to Serbia in the round of 16. Going into the FIBA tournament, Greece was ranked fifth in the world. With the loss to Serbia, Greece finished in ninth place. This result also lowered the team’s FIBA ranking down to 10th place.
However, the main focus for Bucks fans was the play of Antetokounmpo. He showed off his incredible athleticism, doing a little bit of everything in each game. At the end of the day though, his statistics didn’t look too impressive.
Antetokounmpo averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while playing 15.7 minutes per game. Greek players such as Giannis Bourousis, Nick Calathes and Georgios Printezis scored 11.5, 11.3 and 11.7 points per game respecti

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NBA Teams Still Dropping Memes, Introduce ‘NBADramas’

Who’s ready for your weekly NBA meme roundup? 

That was weak, people. I need a roar. No? Alright, moving on.

NBA social media teams are sticking to the formula—that is, the one where they have criminal amounts of fun on Twitter with the help of Photoshop and fan creativity.

To date, the NBA offseason has offered up gems such as “Embiidrill,” “The Super Morris Bros” and other characters. Their latest target, however, may be their most expansive. 

Titled “NBA Dramas,” teams and fans are placing players in serious TV shows and apparently attempting to permanently ruin the “Breaking ______” trope. 

Let’s start with “House of Guards”—a theme touched on by multiple teams but perfected by the Orlando Magic.

“Penny Little Liars” will make you feel feelings you wish didn’t exist.

I’d like to take this moment to climb out of my parents’ basement and point out that SportsNation has mistaken “high fantasy” for “drama.” 

You will never look at Kemba Walker the same again. Ever.

A rogue hero who will do anything in order to get the job done? LeBron James is Jack Bauer with better acting chops. 

The “Ides of Marcin.” Presented without comment. 

It’s not your fault, John Wall.

And now for the Breaking Bad submissions, including Blake Griffin, Brandon Jennings and Thaddeus Young.

My father would watch “Wilsons of Anarchy” just to loop the conversation around to ask if I’ve watched Sons of Anarchy yet.

Of course, Jrue Holiday knows that any time with the Pelicans is spent in a flat circle.

Well done, NBA social media and fans. I eagerly await next week’s meme, which hopefully will include remixing players with the cast of The Wire.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

 

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Can Kobe Bryant Really Still Carry the Los Angeles Lakers?

Carrying the Los Angeles Lakers is a familiar task for Kobe Bryant.

Armed with unequaled self-confidence and an insatiable desire to prevail over opponents—both literal and figurative—on his own terms, ferrying Los Angeles’ hopes has become Bryant’s preferred way of life. He wouldn’t have the Lakers entrusting their fate to anyone else. He wouldn’t share the strain of expectations even if he could.

Nothing has changed.

Almost two decades into his reign as Hollywood’s king, the Lakers are still very much Bryant’s team, the roster reflective of their dollars-dependent future and—most importantly—a patent pledge to continue building around No. 24 until the bitter end.

But where such conduct once engendered hope and teamwide tenacity befitting of Bryant’s own aplomb, time has turned the tables. 

Certainty has given way to confusion. Age and injuries have created doubt. Bryant’s burden-bearing, hope-hauling capabilities have come under siege.

Can he still carry his team? 

For the first time, the answer is less about Bryant’s bionic mystique and more about where the Lakers intend to go.

 

Charting Expectations

Talk of summer 2015 and all the promise it holds has been temporarily suspended.

New head coach Byron Scott refuses to accept that the mountain ahead is too steep to scale now. References to patience and process have come few and far between, their existence secondary to seemingly ungovernable optimism.

“I think it would be unfair for us to put any expectation on those guys, but the bottom line with me is winning. That’s the bottom line, so I’m not putting any limitations on our guys as well,” he said on Fox Sports Live, per NBA.com’s Joey Ramirez. ”I’m gonna go in there the first day of training camp and say, ‘Guys, we’ve gotta shoot for winning a championship.’”

Title talk can be interpreted as any number of things. 

Is Scott being serious? Using boundless bluster as a motivational tool? Selling something the Lakers don’t—and won’t—stock anytime soon?

This year’s Lakers will stumble into 2014-15 following a 27-win, injury-infested debacle. They’re barely recognizable from last year, though not in ways that guarantee they’ll win more games, play more defense or move forward at all.

Through it all, Scott constantly cites Bryant.

Sometimes he focuses on Bryant’s limitations and the balance between reality and stardom he must find. Other times he can be heard adding weight to Bryant’s two-ton crown.

“I’ve got a lot of guys that I don’t really know,” Scott admitted in August, via the Los Angeles Times‘s Eric Pincus. ”I’ve got to get to know these guys and see what makes them tick—but I’ve got one guy that I do know what makes him tick and that’s a great piece to have.”

Judging by those words, Scott is no different than any other Lakers coach, and this team no different from any other Lakers team. 

Winning—impractical or not—remains the standard, and it’s Bryant who must lug the bar to which they hold themselves.

 

Bryant’s New Reality

Current expectations would have seemed tame not two years ago. 

Neither time nor age had bested Bryant. Serious injuries weren’t holding him back. His game was his game, his production and reliability timeless.

Circumstances have since changed, even if Bryant’s career-long role hasn’t.

At 36, his basketball mortality obvious, Bryant must adapt. And though adjustment isn’t exact science, specific lines—those which Bryant, Scott and the Lakers are forbidden to cross—must be drawn. 

That may involve him settling for even more jumpers or playing point guard and ceding the most physically demanding responsibilities to Nick Young, Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Julius Randle.

It most certainly entails him playing less.

Scott has already stressed the importance of conservation, hinting at a minutes limit for his shooting guard, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Yet a potential minutes cap has done little to curb his enthusiasm.

“I see a guy who’s going to average 20 something points a game, will have a great year and have a lot of people eating crow,” he told Medina. “I’m glad people are saying [otherwise]. Keep adding it. It motivates him that much more. It makes my job easier.”

Averaging 20 points is a tall order by itself. Forget collective wishes, wins and losses and every other aspect of the game. Twenty points, on its own, is ambitious.

Players aged 36 or older have averaged 20 points per game only nine times since 1983. More complicated still, three players—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (three times), Michael Jordan (twice) and Karl Malone (four times)—make up all nine occurrences.

Not once did any of those players log fewer than 30 minutes per contest. Jordan and Malone—who make up the last six instances—each needed at least 34.9 minutes to complete the feat. 

Bryant, meanwhile, is supposed to eclipse similar numbers on a minutes cap. 

Only five qualified players in NBA history have ever averaged 20 points in under 30 minutes per game. It hasn’t been done since 1990-91 (Ricky Pierce), and the oldest player to do it was 32 (George Gervin).

Last season saw a 35-year-old Bryant muster 13.8 points a night in 29.5 minutes. Six-game sample sizes don’t offer windows into Bryant’s basketball soul, but if he’s to score as much as Scott and the Lakers want, stringent playing restrictions are the enemy.

And even if he does that, even if he stays healthy and makes history while playing at a familiarly high level, there’s still the matter of having to carry everyone else.

The Lakers ranked 28th in defensive efficiency last season, according to NBA.com, and aren’t built to be much better this year. They ranked 21st in offensive efficiency, playing a fast-paced brand of basketball Bryant isn’t fit to exist within and Scott won’t run.

Single cures aren’t out there for what ails this Lakers team. Not even a statistically magnificent Bryant would be enough to revive Los Angeles’ winning ways. Not if he stands as the Lakers’ lone star.

 

Different Reality, Same Old Misconceptions

Mentions of the Lakers and “winning” and “playoffs” in the same breath casts a cloud over Bryant’s impending return.

These (mostly) self-delivered forecasts—borne out of design or blind belief—are, as Bleacher Report’s Jim Cavan implies, a double-edged sword:

On the other hand, the Lakers are coming off their worst season in almost 60 years, play in a perpetually loaded Western Conference and are poised to pay their best player—the 36-year-old Kobe Bryant—a whopping $48.5 million over the next two years, despite recent injuries to the aging star’s Achilles and knee.

Meanwhile, L.A.’s second-best player, Carlos Boozer, was grabbed off waivers after being released by the Chicago Bulls via the NBA’s amnesty provision.

If this doesn’t sound like the blueprint for a championship-caliber team, congratulations: You are firmly grounded in this dimension.

Multistar powerhouses make up the Western Conference. Kevin Durant isn’t on his own in Oklahoma City. Chris Paul has Blake Griffin. Damian Lillard has LaMarcus Aldridge. James Harden has Dwight Howard. Tony Parker has the rest of San Antonio‘s roster. 

Old and fragile as ever, Bryant is all alone, surrounded only by bit role players acquired to appease his unbending faith and protect Los Angeles’ books. 

Teams built on this whim—however well-intentioned—don’t make the playoffs out west, let alone contend for championships. Contenders aren’t founded upon one 36-year-old superstar who has appeared in just six games since April 2013. 

No NBA player of Bryant’s age has ever racked up more than 18.2 win shares. Under the most ideal circumstances—Bryant has never amassed more than 15.3 wins in a single season—if the Lakers actually wish to flirt with a playoff berth, where are the other 30-35 victories coming from? 

Some combination of Boozer, Lin, Young, Jordan Hill, Ed Davis and Steve Nash, who totaled 17.4 victories between them for their respective teams last year?

Hope of Bryant’s return resembling a miracle runs amiss here, where he’s being asked to carry the Lakers further than reason allows, acting as something more than an encouraging bridge between this era and the one in which lofty expectations belong.

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise cited.


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Can Chicago Bulls Still Rely on Derrick Rose as Their Franchise Building Block?

The Chicago Bulls are deep enough into their design that they can’t swap out the centerpiece now.

Their linchpin, Derrick Rose, remains their ultimate source of optimism, their key to joining the uber-exclusive fraternity of full-fledged NBA contenders.

As the former MVP goes, the Bulls will follow. That portion of the program hasn’t changed.

Yet Chicago’s foundation is frighteningly flimsy. As good as this house looks from the outside, its main support beam has already faltered twice. The Bulls can hope that Rose’s knee problems—first a torn ACL in his left one, then a torn meniscus in the right—are behind him.

They bet the farm on that fact before knowing this was a battle he would fight. And outside of crossed fingers, well-wishes and all the patience they can muster, they have nothing to help him wage that war.

It used to take something special from Rose—a killer crossover, a rapid-fire offensive outburst, a Tom Thibodeau-approved highlight hustle play—for the Windy City to erupt. Now he can spark mass hysteria simply by stepping inside the lines.

After watching him log just 50 games (regular season and playoffs) the past three years combined, hoop heads are just happy to see him in any type of action. They can look past the rust (5.4 points on 25 percent shooting through five games at the FIBA World Cup), sweat out his injury scares and buy every last bit of his hype still up for sale.

When Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski tells reporters how Rose has shown his teammates he’s “back at a level that’s elite,” fans can take his comments at face value and start counting down the days until Rose’s real return (Chicago’s season opener on October 29).

The Bulls don’t have that luxury. They are far too invested in both his present and future to hear that he’s back and immediately subscribe to that theory.

Fans and analysts alike want to stretch out the small strides he’s made into something bigger than they are. The Bulls just hope that each baby step can be followed by another.

“We just want to keep building, just daily improvement,” Thibodeau told reporters last month. “That’s what he’s concentrating on.”

Rose might not have a choice since he’s peppered with questions about his health on a daily basis. 

As he should be. It’s not as if his play on the international stage has really answered any on its own.

Some nights, he has looked like that athletic superhero NBA fans remember:

On others, he has seemed to be locked in a battle with his body:

With rust to shake off and fuel tanks to fill, these inconsistencies will likely persist. And so will his media-administered medical checkups.

“I know the questions are going to come and they’re going to be there the whole year,” Rose said, via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. “So I can’t get tired of it.”

The Bulls can, though.

Every inquiry made is a reminder of their franchise face’s fragility. It’s also a suggestion that the Rose coming back to Chicago may not be the two-way force who had the entire basketball world in his palm just a few years back.

Realistically, when a 25-year-old player whose game depends on explosiveness undergoes two knee surgeries in 19 months, perhaps the best isn’t yet to come,” wrote David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.

There is no way to know for sure whether his best days are behind him. That answer will come with time.

The Bulls have hinged their hopes on a full recovery. Despite parting with Thibodeau-favorite Luol Deng last season, they stopped short of holding an all-out fire sale. They entered this offseason fully embracing the buyer’s market, trading up on draft night for Doug McDermott, inking free agent Pau Gasol to a three-year deal and importing draft-and-stash prospect Nikola Mirotic.

Combine that with the key returning pieces—All-Star center Joakim Noah, perimeter stopper Jimmy Butler, super-sub Taj Gibson, rising swingman Tony Snell—and this looks like the recipe for a contender.

It should be one if Rose is healthy enough to lead the way. As ESPNChicago.com’s Mike Wilbon noted, it’s hard finding certainty with this type of recovery:

His second injury makes you reconsider everything … such as, maybe D-Rose simply can’t play the game the way he wants to play it, maybe he can’t explode and cut with the ferocity he has until now. Maybe it isn’t advisable he come back firing fastballs, but instead rely for the first time on changing speeds and sleight of hand.

Can Rose still be as effective as he was if he changes his style of play? Can a career 31.2 percent three-point shooter afford to stop attacking? Does he even have off-speed stuff in his arsenal?

These are the questions the Bulls need answered. There is no reliability in their world or in his. Two seasons (essentially) lost to injury can have that effect.

But at this point, what else can the franchise do other than hope its brightest star can realign himself? The Bulls’ base is unnervingly wobbly, but attempting to remove it will only bring their foundation crashing down.

There is no way to recast his role. There are maybe a handful of players who can match his talent, and perhaps none are better suited for this supporting cast. Even if a better fit for this roster existed, he wouldn’t be available on the trade market.

And while Rose hasn’t played consistently well on the international circuit, he has said he’s pleased with the stuff that doesn’t make the stat sheet:

Considering Rose’s age, his obvious ability and what this team can potentially accomplish if he’s right, the Bulls have no option but to proceed with him as their primary building block.

Their road ahead is lined with uncertainty, but it’s the only one available that might lead to a world title. As long as that remains true, there is no other choice worth considering.

 

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Los Angeles Lakers: 4 reasons why Kobe is still the greatest player of our generation

Kobe and Duncan have both won multiple titles in the 21st century, making the argument for best player of the 2000s complex.
With Spurs forward Tim Duncan recently capturing his 5th NBA title, a lot of debate has ensued on whether or not he has taken the title of Greatest Player of the 2000′s away from Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. Don’t get me wrong; Duncan is more than qualified to be in this discussion with 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs and not one losing season. But here are 4 reasons why he still comes in second to Kobe:

Adversity. A great man once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” If there’s anything that Duncan’s career lacks, it’s challenge and controversy. Having been in the same system with the same Hall of Fame coach with mostly the same supporting cast his entire career has been smooth sailing for Duncan. Meanwhile, Kobe has thrived with far le

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