Finland lost by almost 60, their fans were still happy

Incurable optimists.

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Sacramento Kings: Rajon Rondo Still A Possibility?

What’s Happening With Rondo And Boston? I’ve lost track of just when all these Rajon Rondo rumors began, but it was quite a while ago now. The Boston Celtics seem to have looked into the possibility of moving Rajon Rondo for the best part of a year now, but still he remains in Beantown. One […]
Sacramento Kings: Rajon Rondo Still A Possibility? – Hoops Habit – Hoops Habit – Analysis, Opinion and Stats All About The NBA

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Los Angeles Lakers’ Future Still Rests in Kobe Bryant’s Hands

Kobe Bryant‘s present with the Los Angeles Lakers is littered with question marks, and his future with the franchise might be better measured in months instead of years.

But his position within the organization is the same one he’s held the majority of his career. He is the Lakers’ most important player for today and tomorrow.

That fact is somehow equal parts entirely predictable and incredibly astounding.

On one hand, Bryant is a historically prolific player with a resume and competitive edge nearly unrivaled by his NBA brethren past and present. He is a 16-time All-Star, five-time champion and the fourth-highest scorer in league history (31,700 career points and counting).

He isn’t passing the baton to anyone. Someone will have to rip it away from him.

That isn’t news to those who have watched a second of his career, but it’s remarkable nonetheless. He turns 36 on Saturday and has dealt with both a torn Achilles and a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee since April 2013, but he’s unquestionably a franchise leader in a young man’s game.

As someone who once jumped straight from the high school ranks to the big leagues, his basketball clock is ticking even faster than his biological one.

Across his first 18 seasons in the league, he has logged 45,567 minutes across 1,245 games. Those totals don’t even account for the extensive playoff runs that put another 220 games and 8,641 minutes on his odometer.

There is no way to roll back the mileage. Anything taken by Father Time over the years—explosiveness, agility, quickness—is a casualty of the same war legends have been waging and losing for decades.

Bryant is evolving, doing what he can to offset his physical losses with mental and tactical gains. He isn’t the same player he once was, but he says it’s wrong to assume he’ll automatically be worse for the wear.

“When I hear pundits and people talk saying, ‘Well, he won’t be what he was.’ Know what? You’re right,” he told Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Ballard. ”I won’t be. But just because something evolves, it doesn’t make it any less better than it was before.”

Maybe those words are nothing more than arrogance. History has not been kind to players dealing with his type of setbacks, let alone ones attempting the feat so late in their careers.

Then again, if he’s able to prove his critics wrong, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

Forget about the disastrous 2012-13 campaign for a moment, when injuries kept him off the floor for all but six games and the Lakers posted their second-lowest winning percentage in franchise history (.329).

Just one season prior he was still cemented among the game’s current greats. In 2012-13, he put up 27.3 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting along with 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds. Do you know how many players averaged 27 points on 46 percent shooting, six dimes and five boards last season? One: four-time MVP LeBron James.

Can Bryant still be that type of player? Well, it depends who you ask.

Reggie Miller, who spent 18 seasons in the league, says no. He said Bryant has a chance to still be pretty good, but greatness might be out of the question, via Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak disagrees.

“My window overlooks the court, and he comes in to work out from time to time,” Kupchak said, via Lyle Spencer of Sports on Earth. “You would not know he’s in his mid-30s. You wouldn’t know he hurt his knee and had a torn Achilles. There’s no limp. He’s got a hop in his step.”

That’s the type of thing Lakers fans need to hear.

After firing blanks at top-shelf free-agent targets Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, the franchise invested its offseason funds in players who won’t tie up the books moving forward.

The Lakers found some talent this summer—rookie Julius Randle could be a steal, Ed Davis has plenty of upside and veterans Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer bring over some proven production—but that might not equate to much in the fully-loaded Western Conference.

As CBS Sports’ Zach Harper observed, the Lakers will enter next season fighting a steep uphill battle for a playoff spot:

How much would have to go their way, while finding worst-case scenarios for a handful of other teams, to get them into the playoffs in 2015? The Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Warriors, Blazers, Rockets, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Suns, and Nuggets are all undeniably better than this Lakers team at its best. The Pelicans are likely better than this Lakers team as well. The Wolves could be decently competitive for a good portion of the season and the Kings might actually have more in their favor than this Lakers team if not everything goes well for Los Angeles.

That might not seem like it matters much. After all, the Lakers are largely plotting their next championship run around their potential success in the 2015 or 2016 free-agent markets.

However, L.A.’s future strides may well be tied to the present. The whiffs of this past offseason suggest that the Lakers may no longer have the same pull with the league’s top talent.

They failed to get Carmelo Anthony or James, proving the Lakers are no longer the free-agent destination they used to be,” wrote Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

The Lakers haven’t lost their built-in market advantages, and L.A.’s climate is as inviting as ever. Those championship banners inside the Staples Center haven’t come down, and the team can still sell players on the opportunity to be the next star for such a proud organization.

But it’s hard to say how much things like market size, weather and history still matter to NBA players when LeBron James can turn the Cleveland Cavaliers into a destination franchise.

Today’s premier players, by and large, need to see some chance at success. And that’s why Bryant, despite having only two years left on his contract, will play such a massive role in the Lakers’ future.

With only $36 million in guaranteed money committed to the 2015-16 payroll, via ShamSports.com, the Lakers have the means to pursue some of the stars of the 2015 free-agent class.

However, they’ll need a healthy, productive Bryant to really bolster their recruiting pitch. His attitude might not always blend well with others (see: Dwight Howard), but championship-caliber numbers are hard to ignore.

If he can be the Bryant of old—as opposed to an old Bryant—he might convince a top player (whether that’s someone like Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge next summer or even a Kevin Durant the following year) he can still play a significant role on a title team.

But if Bryant’s body breaks down and the team’s performance nosedives with it, the Lakers could be stuck with stacks of cash and no impactful way to spend it.

He seems to think his best days aren’t completely behind him, and maybe he’ll be proved right. It’s a gamble the Lakers have no choice but to take, and one that offers either a road back to relevance or a stumble that could set this franchise back for years.

This team is overloaded with questions, and Bryant, once again, is the only man capable of providing any answers.

 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Why the New York Knicks Still Have Work to Do to Become a Contender

Phil Jackson is in the early stages of molding the New York Knicks into a contender. Jackson re-signed Carmelo Anthony and established new head coach Derek Fisher. However, the roster will need more pieces to complement Anthony and a new outlook on playing style to compete in the Eastern Conference next season. 

The Knicks’ roster has been subjected to significant changes. New York lost two starters, Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler, to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and Samuel Dalembert.

Ellington and Jeremy Tyler were subsequently traded to the Sacramento Kings for Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw. One can argue if these trades push New York closer or further away from an NBA title but Jackson is looking at the bigger picturea picture that’s still blurry at this point.

Looking through the rosters across the league, it’s clear the Knicks won’t contend for a championship in the 2014-15 season. The nuances in their coaching strategy, implementing the triangle offense, building team chemistry and weeding out parts that don’t fit will take at least a full season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards—all currently considered top-tier teams in the Eastern Conference—added key players to their rosters. The Wizards acquired a proven veteran in Paul Pierce, and the Bulls signed Pau Gasol as they anticipate the return of Derrick Rose.

The addition of Kevin Love and LeBron James catapult the Cavaliers into competition to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. These major offseason moves place all three teams in contention to win now, while the turnover on the Knicks roster signals a rebuilding period.

The growth process will be painful but necessary. Players must alter their mindset to operate efficiently within Jackson’s game plan. The triangle offense places emphasis on making good shot selections, court vision, movement without the ball and court spacing.

Here’s a basic summary of how the triangle offense works.

Here’s the relative fluidity Fisher and Jackson hope to see from their players in the near future:

Fisher’s top priority heading into the new season is the lack of ball movement displayed last season. The Knicks ranked 28th in the league in assists, averaging 20 assists per game. Much of this was due to frequent isolation play. Many practices will be spent on getting the ball to the right player at the right time in specific situations.

Jackson made note of the lack of chemistry in an interview with Ian Begley of ESPN.com with this statement: “Watching them play I saw guys that looked at each other like, ‘You didn’t back me up, you weren’t here when I needed help.’ There just wasn’t the right combination or feel (where) it felt like everybody was in synch all the time.”

Another question mark when fitting the pieces of the roster into the triangle is developing Andrea Bargnani’s court vision from the post position.

Luc Longley, Shaquille O’Neal and Gasol were all able to raise their assist averages playing within the offense on championship teams. None of these centers became prolific passers, but they succeeded in drawing the defense in and kicking the ball out to perimeter shooters, or making an accurate pass to the player cutting to the basket.

Bargnani doesn’t garner enough attention in the paint to collapse a defense. Throughout his career he has been highlighted as a good shooter at his sizeto elevate his game play he’ll have to become a proficient passer.

Anthony’s weight loss is great for self-preservation but it takes the Knicks a step back as contenders. According to Melo’s trainer Idan Ravin, via Marc Berman of the New York Post, the star forward’s weight loss was inspired by wanting to set an example and lead the locker room vocally.

But was the weight loss necessary to achieve the role as an absolute leader? Psychology lessons on how to motivate his teammates would have been more suitable than burning calories at the gym for Anthony’s vocal leadership deficiencies.

On the court Melo has been exceptional.

Over the past three seasons with the Knicks he’s developed into a clutch player and led the team into the playoffs in two of his three full seasons with the team.

A confidant of Anthony was quoted in the New York Post per Berman as saying, “He wants to be as athletic as he was when he was a rookie. Plus he wants to be a facilitator in the triangle and speed will help that.’’

The major caveat to Anthony’s commitment to becoming a better facilitator at the 3 is the fact he flourished as a high-scoring power forward.

In his last two seasons playing at the 4, he has vastly increased his points per game average and three-point shooting percentage. This past season, Anthony’s three-point shooting reached 40 percent. In the 2012-13 season Melo won the scoring title averaging 28.7 points per game.

It’s also worth noting he worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon prior to that season to improve his offensive attack in the post. The hard work paid off.

Anthony’s ability to back down a defender in the post to reach a certain spot on the floor will be challenged with a heightened difficulty as players will attempt to box out his thinner frame.

The Knicks’ scoring consistency takes a significant fall following Melo’s 27.4 points per game. Streaky shooter J.R Smith averaged 14.5 points per game as the second-leading scorer on the roster last season. Anthony won’t have much support as a facilitator on a team previously ranked 20th in the league in scoring, at 98.6 points per game.

The reason behind Melo’s weight loss is logical, but it comes a bit prematurely as the roster lacks enough scoring which would allow him to focus on other parts of his game.

The offseason trade sending Chandler back to the Mavericks is a major detriment to the Knicks’ interior defense. Dalembert will pose a threat inside, but he lacks the ability to play extensive minutes to help the Knicks sustain a solid front at the basket. Last season, he averaged 20.2 minutes per game in 68 starts with the Mavericks.

Chandler averaged 9.6 rebounds per game with the Knicks ranking 26th in rebounding. Without Chandler, expect players averaging double-doubles like Love, Joakim Noah and Al Jefferson to dominate the paint.

Anthony grabbed a career-high 8.1 rebounds per game as the second-leading rebounder. As a nimble small forward in the upcoming season he will contest for fewer rebounds when the Knicks need it most. Every other player on the roster averages fewer than seven rebounds per game.

The Knicks will depend on a mix of Amar’e Stoudemire, Bargnani and Dalembert for the bulk of their rebounding—all of whom have struggled in the category or will play limited minutes in the upcoming season.

Expect New York to struggle with making stops on the defensive end and creating second-chance opportunities on offense.

Improvements to reach a level of contention will require shrewd roster moves, progression from key players on the bench and exploring trade scenarios.

The starting lineup should feature Dalembert, Bargnani, Anthony, Smith and Calderon. Dalembert must be on the court to compete on the boards.

At center, Bargnani struggled last season in rebounding, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game. The Knicks should look to bring in another defender in exchange for Bargnani before his contract expires at the end of the season. The core of the defense needs improvement.

Another defender is insurance for Iman Shumpert if he continues to struggle. On offense, he struggled as a jump-shooter; 330 of his 484 shot attempts were jump shots on 37.8 percent field-goal shooting, via nba.com. Fortunately, the third-year guard is capable of using his athleticism to attack the basket, taking advantage of the spacing within the triangle.

As a defender he’s still worth a spot in a starting lineup; it’s also the reason he remains on the trade block. Begley reports that Shump could be on the move, with an excess of guards on the roster. Shumpert’s upside is a valuable trade tool, and for the right deal he’s expendable for an established player.

It’s about winning championships. Established productive players trump potential productive players. The Cavaliers’ front office would agree, as they traded away promising rookie Andrew Wiggins for Love.

The Knicks are well-known for trading budding players too soon, but Shumpert’s trade value is worthy of landing a game-changer alongside Anthony.

Smith was openly shopped around to other teams after his shoelace antics, but still he remains, and he will expect to be a starter in the upcoming season.

If Smith’s request isn’t granted by Fisher, it will be difficult to put trust in his temperament. He still has two years on his contract, and it won’t be easy moving a publicly disgruntled player.

Placing Melo back at the 3 creates competition between Shumpert and Smith as the starting shooting guard; Smith played at the 3 while Melo played at the 4 last season.

Shumpert needs to regain his confidence on the court. Fisher can benefit from utilizing his energy as a spark off the bench. The gradual reintegration of Shump’s talents as a sixth man also helps avoid another headache from Smith.

Significant skill development from the bench will be essential in propelling the Knicks to the next level. The management of Stoudemire’s minutes should benefit Cole Aldrich. The 6’11″ center played sparingly in his first season in New York, but he displayed a glimpse of his potential, averaging 14.8 points per 100 possessions via Basketball-Reference.com.

Second-year guard Tim Hardaway Jr.’s rookie season was so impressive that he’s already coveted by the organization. According to another Begley report, the front office isn’t looking to move Hardaway—and rightfully so. He averaged 10.2 points per game as a 36 percent three-point shooter, showing early signs of stardom as a rookie.

The Knicks will reap the benefits from the budding sharpshooter off the bench in crucial moments.

It’s too early to place value on first-round draft pick Cleanthony Early’s NBA projection. However, his physical attributes are valuable to the triangle offense.

Early has similar physical advantages to Melo—he can play a backup role at the 3, or stretch the floor as a 4. The ability to score in the paint and drive the lane creates more scoring opportunities within the triangle.

Rebounding isn’t his strong suit, but if he learns to use his body frame to crash the boards, he will quickly find himself in the rotation.

The Knicks have undeveloped talent with a system that needs to be tailored to their roster strengths. The fit between Jackson’s triangle offense and the players is inconclusive, and as a result it’s fair to say that the Knicks won’t contend this year.

Instead, Coach Fisher will experiment with starting lineups, rotations and play-calling, in an effort to get the most out of a season of learning.

More changes are inevitable as the anticipation for a talented free agent pool follows in the 2015 offseason. At that point, the Knicks will make significant moves to complement their franchise player and push the younger talent.

Until then, championship contention is a distant goal—an objective Knicks’ president Jackson views as achievable with patience.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Paul George still hopeful of returning this season

Pacers’ Paul George remains hopeful of return to court next season after ‘freak accident’

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Paul George still hopeful of returning this season

Pacers’ Paul George remains hopeful of return to court next season after ‘freak accident’

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Paul George still hopeful of returning this season (Yahoo Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28: Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers celebrates after hitting a shot against the Miami Heat during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Paul George beat the odds to become an NBA star. Two weeks after a gruesome compound fracture of his right leg, George said Friday he remains hopeful that he can make it back onto the court late next season even though it’s a longshot. George called the injury a ”freak accident.” ”All I can do at this point is sleep, watch TV and lay down, so it’s tough for me. I’m used to being active, lifting weights, being in the gym,” George said as his mother and father watched his news conference from a few feet away.


View full post on Yahoo Sports – NBA News

George still hopeful of returning this season (Yahoo Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28: Paul George #24 of the Indiana Pacers celebrates after hitting a shot against the Miami Heat during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Paul George hopes to make it back on the court next season despite the ”freak accident” that caused a compound fracture in his right leg. Coach Frank Vogel and Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird said Tuesday that George has not been ruled out for the season though they didn’t expect to have him.


View full post on Yahoo Sports – NBA News

George still hopeful of returning this season

Pacers’ George remains hopeful he’ll return from “freak accident” next season

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Potential Impact Players Still Available in 2014 NBA Free Agency

We’ve officially hit the slow period of the NBA offseason, as most rosters are close to being filled and the big fireworks have already gone off.

Even with that being the case, there is still a very strong pool of free-agent talent available, including a few players who could make a major impact next season.

Before we get to five of the best candidates, let’s explain why a few big names didn’t make the cut.

Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe has informed the Detroit Pistons he plans to sign his qualifying offer, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports. That would take him off the market.

We’ll also leave out free agent center Andrew Bynum, who may take this year off based on what his agent David Lee told Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The 7-foot Bynum may not be reuniting with Phil Jackson’s Knicks or any other team next season because he is seriously contemplating sitting out 2014-15 to undergo the Germany-based knee therapy called “The Regenokine Program’’ that would require an extra long rehab, according to his agent David Lee. But he could be in play for the following season.

“He would be looking at in a longer-term situation,’’ Lee said. “He’s still a baby. If he went to college, he’d be coming off his rookie contract at age 26.’’

Veterans like Elton Brand and Ray Allen barely missed the cut, along with riskier additions like Michael Beasley and Dante Cunningham. Each might make an impact but probably not on the same level as the following five free agents could.

Begin Slideshow

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Next Page »