Rondo: “I bust Brad’s butt all the time”

Young fans who were selected from all across China finally got to take the court with Rajon Rondo on Thursday. Rondo took part in Anta’s “Control Camp”. The Celts’ point guard participated in drills, instruction and even some pick-up games. You can check out photos from the event, courtesy of Sina, in the gallery below. But first, check out “9 for 9“, from Li Shuangfu. Li solicited nine questions from Rondo’s fans, and had Rondo answer them during a break in camp. Rondo says he “busts” Brad Stevens’ butt in one-on-one “all the time” and that “the only people that matter are the people that are close to me and the people that know me” when it comes to media claims that he’s difficult to deal with. Unfortunately, it’s once again tough to hear the questions, but I transcribed them for you here:(in order)
1)As the best PG in the league, which qualities do you feel are most important for a PG?
2)What was the most enjoyable part of your trip to China & which story do you look fo

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Lakers Rumors: Team workout Michael Beasley for second time

Could a Michael Beasley signing be imminent?
According to Alex Kennedy from Basketball Insiders, Beasley had his second workout with the Lakers today. The 25-year-old also worked out for the purple and gold at the end of July.
I’m told that Michael Beasley had a second workout with the Los Angeles Lakers today. We’ll see if the Lakers sign him.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) August 27, 2014
Right now, the Lakers have 13 players on their roster and would only be able to offer Beasley a minimum salary deal due to their current salary cap situation.
Last season, while playing for the Miami Heat, Beasley averaged 7.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in just 15.1 minutes per game. He also shot nearly 39 percent from three-point range.
The Lakers have long had interest in Beasley, and such a signing would be a low risk, high reward kind of move.

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Shaq feels Dr. J is greatest player of all time

Recently, Brandon Jennings made a completely misinformed statement that Kobe Bryant is the greatest player in NBA history.Brandon Jennings says Kobe is the GOAT & had less “help” than MJ. Agree or disagree? http://t.co/rxa2swNq1e pic.twitter.com/7heExg9UK4— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) August 21, 2014Because there’s nothing going on in the NBA right now this became big news with the “Big Aristotle” weighing in.Shaq said he thinks Dr. J is the GOAT. No matter your opinion, no one can deny the brilliance of the cradle! https://t.co/3eKTCfFg0S— Legend’s Court (@legendscourt) August 22, 2014 According to Bleacher Report here’s Shaq’s full quote: “It’s a matter of opinion,” O’Neal said, via Schwadron. “To me, Dr. J was the greatest player ever. But I ask other people, they say Jordan, some say Kobe, some people say LeBron. It’s always going to be a matter of opinion.”Now, some people have hypothesized the reason Shaq said th…

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Los Angeles Lakers: Time for Steve Nash to step up

Steve Nash is one of the best point guards I’ve ever had the privilege of watching in his prime. On the court he was a conductor with the basketball, orchestrating the pace of the game, and elevating his teammate’s play. Injuries have cost him the last two seasons with the Lakers and, although he is clearly past his prime, the Lakers need more than someone playing out his contract ($9.7 million) year. Steve Nash needs to step up in his final season utilizing his experience and on-the-court leadership to give a lift off the bench to help turnaround a 27-55 season.
When the Lakers traded for Steve Nash during the 2012 offseason, the initial thought was that the Suns had lost out on their franchise cornerstone. Little did anyone know that an injury in his first season with the Lakers would reduce Nash’s ability to play with the explosive speed like the younger point guards that are creating havoc around the league (e.g. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry). Giving up 2013 and 2015 first round picks along with two 2

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Was Kevin Love’s Time with the Minnesota Timberwolves a Failure or a Success?

It seems insane now, but there was a time when Kevin Love wasn’t exactly a surefire franchise changer. From his lack of jaw-dropping hops and consistent defense, to concerns over offensive versatility, red flags—minor though they were—conspired to cast the UCLA star’s future into flux.

Six seasons later, Love’s star has officially turned supernova, with the All-NBA forward now mere days away from joining LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the suddenly title-taut Cleveland Cavaliers.

For the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love’s loss rings as an all too familiar refrain—the ballad of a basketball hero who, like Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett before him, couldn’t quite parlay personal accomplishment into playoff results.

Which brings us to a question sure to be bandied about by many a Wolves fan: Was Love’s Minnesota sojourn a success, something less or an out-and-out failure?

Primarily and most painfully, of course, is the lack of postseason appearances—not a single one over Love’s half-dozen years in the Land of Lakes. The best Minnesota could muster being last year’s 40-win, 10th-place finish in the Western Conference.

On the one hand, competing in one of the most loaded hoops hemispheres in history is bound to yield disappointing results.

On the other, the list of Love-caliber players to go that long without at least one march into May is, to put it politely, pretty uncommon.

So how much of Minnesota’s lack of a playoff payoff falls on its best player’s shoulders, and how much of it should be reserved for the Wolves’ much-maligned front office?

 

Bad Company

Kevin McHale’s tenure as Timberwolves general manager was, on the whole, mired in mediocrity: The team managed to escape the first round of the playoffs only once (in 2004), eventually dealing the team’s best player—the mercurial but wildly talented Garnett—to McHale’s old team, the Boston Celtics.

One of McHale’s last big moves, however, was to orchestrate an eight-player, draft-day trade that sent O. J. Mayo (taken with the No. 3 overall pick), Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner and Marko Jaric to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Brian Cardinal, Jason Collins, Mike Miller and a doughy, thin-bearded 6’10” forward out of UCLA by the name of Kevin Love.

That Minnesota scored the fleecing is, by now, virtually a truism. At points promising and middling, Mayo has yet to approach the hype that heralded him as a high-school hoops hero in West Virginia. Love, meanwhile, would emerge as arguably the game’s preeminent power forward.

Still, by the time David Kahn replaced McHale in May 2009, that eventual disparity was far from a foregone conclusion. Despite Love’s promising rookie season, Kahn understood that teaming his sophomore star with an equally upside-laden point guard was paramount to Minnesota being able to ditch the conference doldrums.

What happened next would go down in draft-day lore as one of the most head-scratching gambits in history.

One pick after selecting Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio at No. 5, Kahn—with plenty of ancillary talent still on the board—snagged another floor general, Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, at No. 6. Not long after, Kahn selected North Carolina standout Ty Lawson, only to deal him to the Denver Nuggets for Luke Babbitt later that night.

At first, the strategy made some semblance of sense: If Rubio was to stay playing in Spain, might as well have a backup plan already in place.

Years later, however, longtime Timberwolves assistant Dave Wohl confided in Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams the real motivation behind Kahn’s now infamous gambit:

“He said, ‘No, no. I want to play Jonny and Rubio’,” Wohl quipped. “They remind me of [Walt] Frazier and [Earl] Monroe.’”

That’s not a minor miscalculation; that’s a delusion of grandeur.

It would take a full two years before Rubio landed stateside, while Flynn—despite a somewhat promising rookie season—bowed out of the league entirely.

Kahn’s subsequent selections didn’t fair much better, with Wesley Johnson and Derrick Williams becoming the next two poster children of Kahn’s tumultuous tenure.

But for all his draft-day bungles and botches, Kahn’s biggest gaffe, by far, came in dealing with the one pick he didn’t make. From a 2013 post by SB Nation’s Tom Ziller:

The Kevin Love disaster is the single Kahntastrophe that could still screw Wolves fans into the future. In some way, Kahn lowballed Love in 2011, the offseason he was eligible for an early extension. It remains disputed exactly what happened, but essentially while Love was eligible for a five-year extension that would have kept the All-Star forward under contract through 2017, Kahn didn’t offer it. Kahn wanted to maintain flexibility.

One year later, Ziller’s ominous analysis has, for Wolves fans, become nightmarish reality.

Looking back over Minnesota’s recent managerial history, it’s not hard to see why Love—sore as his shoulders must’ve been from carrying such an ill-constructed team—would’ve finally hit wit’s end.

All the same, Love’s sheer basketball brilliance, though it lacked in postseason returns, was by no means authored in vain.

 

Love’s Labor’s Lost?

According to Basketball-Reference.com, Love’s 47 win shares since the 2008-09 season rank 16th in the entire NBA—this from a player who missed nearly an entire year recovering from injury, and with exactly zero playoff appearances to his name.

In fact, you have to go all the way down to the 119th-ranked Ramon Sessions (22 win shares) to find another player without a single postseason showing in that span.

Conventional wisdom has it that joining the Cavs means Love assuming second or possibly even third fiddle. LeBron being LeBron and Kyrie Irving being the one entrusted with setting the table as head coach David Blatt’s on-court proxy.

At the same time, it’s not hard to see how teaming with players of James and Irving’s caliber could do wonders for Love’s game—if not in raw production, then certainly in terms of efficiency and defensive accountability.

It’s a luxury Love simply never had in Minnesota, where the supporting cast was slim and the playmaking so painstaking in its deliberateness, despite Rick Adelman’s best efforts to the contrary.

Dearth of firepower aside, the Wolves managed to crack the Top 10 in offensive efficiency during Love’s final season, and even finished with a higher overall point differential than both the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies.

To call Love the sole reason for Minnesota’s near-playoff coup would be to cheapen not only the contributions of Pekovic, Rubio and the rest of the Wolves; it completely misrepresents the interplay of the sport itself. At the same time, there have been few modern instances of a player this good—in metrics beyond the individual, even—having so little in the way of a consistent supporting cast.

Kevin Love didn’t compile a near-30-percent usage or take nearly 20 shots per game these past three seasons because he wanted to, or because that’s somehow his Platonic ideal as a basketball player; he did it because he had to.

The fact he’s done it as efficiently as he has, with every team in the league knowing the drop-off from Minnesota’s first and second options needed an elevator between them, casts into high, gleaming relief just how great he’s been.

Love’s eagerness to join James and Irving not only lends credence to his claims that he only wants to “end up in a great place where I can win” (via ESPN.com); it shows he’s willing give up his alpha-dog status in order to achieve that end. For all the talk of Love’s selfishness, the ends, if they don’t quite justify the means, certainly rationalize them.

That might not give Wolves fans much in the way of immediate consolation. To many, Love is just the next in a lineage of false saviors sent to save their franchise. Always, it seems, less by duty than sheer dint of circumstance.

Ironic, then, that the very transcendent talent Love brought to bear over six seasons in Minnesota—and that sowed the seeds of his disgruntled departure—might end up giving the Wolves their most bountiful basketball yield ever.

 

Silver Linings Playbook

From the start, the market for Love has been in Minnesota’s favor. From early front runners like the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls to the dark horse Denver Nuggets, plenty of teams were ready, willing and able to part with prospects aplenty if it meant reeling in—and eventually re-signing—the Wolves’ keystone.

So when, just weeks removed from drafting high-flying phenom Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers received word that James was taking his talents back up Interstate 75, the Love lottery suddenly had its winning ticket. Key to the equation was Love’s leaking he would, indeed, sign an extension with the Cavs at the end of the 2014-15 season (per ESPN’s Chris Broussard).

Cleveland’s offer: Wiggins and last year’s No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, for Love. However, due to the league’s summer moratorium period, the two teams wouldn’t be allowed to commence the deal until August 23.

Days later, the Philadelphia 76ers, operating according to a very different near-term calculus, swooped in to offer the Wolves forward Thaddeus Young in exchange for the younger, cheaper—and, perhaps most pertinent of all, worse—Bennett (according to the Philadelphia Daily News’ Mark Perner).

While Young exercising his 2015-16 player option is by no means a guarantee, the Wolves will, at this point, have a little bit of uncertainty, especially if it means more immediate flexibility. Meanwhile, Wiggins—and all the questions and speculation surrounding him—is as good a fetch as it gets.

Minnesota didn’t merely save face in landing Young and Wiggins; they might’ve just saved the franchise itself. Because unlike the aging David Lee, the gritted Kenneth Faried or even the precocious Klay Thompson, Wiggins gives the Wolves the kind of near-future distraction capable of commanding a crowd—a project of such tantalizing promise that, even in the worst of times, Wolves fans will rally around.

Especially after Wiggins, via his former coach at Kansas, Bill Self, openly relished the challenge of making Minnesota the staging ground for his ascent up the NBA ranks (via ESPN.com):

When all this trade stuff started, I talked to Andrew and Andrew told me, ‘I hope I get traded.’ And I’m like, ‘No you don’t.’ And he said, ‘Coach, I do. It’s better for me, knowing my personality and what I need to do, to go somewhere where I’m forced to be something as opposed to going in there where they’re going to be patient with me and I’m going to be a piece.’

From go, the worry for Wolves fans will doubtless be front and center: How long until Wiggins, wings spread and headlines garnered, goes the way of the Kevins?

That such a nightmarish refrain is still years away won’t be of much condolence, of course. For that, Minnesota might have to wait until Wiggins—waifish frame given way to the grace and power lying seething beneath the surface—truly takes off.

 

Love Not In Vain

Sports—the franchises and stars, champions and records—are, by their very nature, fluid. In a realm where careers seldom span a distance greater than kindergarten to college graduation, it’s imperative, fight it as we might, to not get too attached.

There are surely some Wolves fans for whom Love’s departure digs at a deeply-seated wound, goading them, perhaps, into abandoning the good ship Shirsey once and for all. Still, others, by now numb to what they know is beyond their control, can only shrug or shake their head.

Was Kevin Love’s tenure a failure? If your only metric is playoff appearances, it sure feels that way. Even if the one currency agreed upon by so many as sports’ gold standard—championships—would relegate a vast majority of athletes to the laundry heap of losers.

A more nuanced take—one that includes front-office missteps, conference disparity and, above all, Love’s increasingly superlative seasons—can’t help but render a kinder judgment. For six years, Minnesota bore witness to one of the game’s greatest players. So great, in fact, that the talent he drew in return might, in mere weeks or even months, make fans forget he ever left.

The Minnesota Timberwolves lost a superstar, and no amount of money or market growth will ever bring him back. For that, the Wolves faithful have a right to feel jaded. Cheated, even.

But like stargazers with eyes trained to a midnight sky, we understand the stars in front of us never burn forever. Wolves fans know this as well as anyone and have watched them ignite and brighten and burn and hide, only to wait far too long for the next in line.

This time, though, the one now fading will be followed immediately by one that might—with the right breaks—burn even brighter.

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Now Is the Time for Dwight Howard to Cement Legacy

Back in 2011, Dwight Howard told Esquire‘s Scott Raab that he’d always wanted “To be an icon. To be somebody.”

At the moment, the well-traveled big man certainly qualifies as a “somebody.” 

But his status as a legitimate icon is pending.

Much will depend on what the Houston Rockets accomplish over the coming seasons, and Howard’s contributions will be essential to any best-case scenario—all the more essential with the rotation losing Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in a summer than didn’t exactly go as planned.

Howard has exuded ample confidence in the wake of Parsons’ departure for the Dallas Mavericks.

It won’t affect us at all,” Howard said, according to the AP’s Jonathan Landrum Jr. “We have myself and James [Harden]. We have the best center and the best two guard in the game on the same team. It’s on us.”

Harden sounded a similar tune, according to The Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigen, saying, “Dwight and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets. The rest of the guys are role players or pieces that complete our team. We’ve lost some pieces and added some pieces. I think we’ll be fine next season.”

Cornerstone? Best center in the game?

If there wasn’t already significant pressure on Howard to live up the hype, there certainly is now.

Howard has never been short on confidence, but his results have been mixed. Now he’s facing renewed expectations, especially with his Rockets seemingly on the brink of title contention.

The 28-year-old’s optimism is admirable, but it should also be measured. CBSSports.com’s James Herbert offers a level-headed assessment:

Speaking from his father’s basketball camp, Howard went on to praise newcomer Trevor Ariza, calling him a ‘soldier.’ That’s fine, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be confident about Houston’s chances. It’s just that this is a bit much. Parsons is very, very good. Losing him, a 6-foot-9 forward who can shoot, create and finish, will obviously affect the Rockets. So will the other cap-clearing moves that didn’t bring back any assets. It’s going to be tough to win as many games as last year.

And all the tougher unless Howard asserts himself in ways he hasn’t since his eight-year tenure with the Orlando Magic

Though the eight-time All-Star’s efficiency has remained on par with his finest seasons in Orlando, his production and playing time have diminished during his last two campaigns with the Los Angeles Lakers and Rockets.

Howard averaged a career-high 22.9 points in 2010-11, as he remained the focal point of Orlando’s offense and defense alike. He also attempted 13.4 field goals per game that year, a figure that plummeted to 10.7 shots per game in 2012-13 with the Lakers.

Despite a slight uptick in touches last season, Howard remained a fundamentally complementary piece on the offensive end and tallied 18.3 points per game.

Without Parsons around, that may have to change.

Put simply, the Rockets need Howard to be larger than life. They need him to be a leader on and off the floor, a dominant presence on both the offensive and defensive ends.

Houston made strides last season, but it also showed signs of vulnerability in its first-round, six-game defeat at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. If this team can’t best another one of the Western Conference’s up-and-comers, what chance does it have against more established contenders like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder?

The answer lies with Howard. The Rockets are only going as far as he takes them.

Unfortunately, that could be a problem.

During the 2013 playoffs—before Howard left the Lakers for Houston—Grantland’s Bill Simmons ripped into what can only be described as a stalled offensive game:

Did he fail out of Hakeem’s summer camp and we never got the memo? Every Dwight jump hook looks like he’s hurling a rock through a window. His footwork gives you that same ‘I’m just trying to get through this sequence alive’ feeling you get when you’re watching D-list celebs on Dancing With the Stars. He can’t make even a 10-foot jumper, and his free throw shooting is more ghastly than ever (49 percent). He’s a lousy passer from the low post who has never averaged even TWO assists per game. And he rarely out-hustles other bigs down the floor for layups or dunks anymore, something Tim Duncan gleefully exposed during the humiliating Spurs beatdown.

A year later, little has changed.

Simmons went on to suggest that the Howard we see is the Howard we’d get from here on out, his logic being that players rarely undergo radical transformations this late into their careers. Though there are plenty of reasons to doubt Howard’s potential to redefine himself as a more versatile scorer, there are few alternatives currently at Houston’s disposal.

Unless general manager Daryl Morey can trade some of the organization’s assets for another high-impact player, Houston’s improvement will have to come from within.

Some of that growth could come from young role players like Terrence Jones or Patrick Beverley, but Howard’s the one with All-Star pedigree. He remains a physical specimen capable of imposing his will in the paint, and he’s Houston’s most accomplished pick-and-roll weapon.

And yet, there’s little doubt Howard could be better.

Early into Howard’s first season with the Rockets, mentor Hakeem Olajuwon broke down what he saw, per NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury: “When I watch him, what I see are opportunities that he is missing. When he gets the ball, he seems to be taking his time to decide what move to make, where he should go.”

Olajuwon added, “There should not be a delay for Dwight. He must be able to make a faster recognition of the situations and react immediately with a go-to move. You must move right away before the defense has a chance to set up.”

So perhaps Howard could be more decisive. Perhaps he’ll have a mandate to do so without guys like Parsons and Lin around to support the offense.

It goes without saying anything resembling a mid-range game would do wonders for Houston’s attack. That might be asking for too much, but the worst thing Howard could do at this stage is settle.

This isn’t a problem Olajuwon can solve on his own. Nor will head coach Kevin McHale suddenly discover a magical anecdote to all that ails Howard. Whether his impediments are mechanical or psychological in nature, the commitment to evolve will have to come from Howard himself.

And it can’t come a moment too soon.

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Minnesota Timberwolves Fans Have a Hard Time Burning Kevin Love’s Jersey

If Kevin Love does indeed get traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers later this month, don’t expect Minnesota Timberwolves fans to burn his jersey.

On Thursday, Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Timberwolves and Cavaliers have an agreement that will send Love to Cleveland when Andrew Wiggins is eligible to be traded.

As much as Minnesota fans may want Love to stay, some understand the star’s situation. That sentiment led to this awesome video. 

[YouTube]

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Crunch time upcoming for Cavs and Kyrie Irving

The Cleveland Cavaliers have already knocked down a crucial offseason peg with the selection of Andrew Wiggins, but they have the most important aspect of their offseason upcoming.
As the calendar flips over to the month of July the Cavaliers are heading right into a crucially important time for the franchise. Not only does a potentially massive free agency summer open on July 1, but the Cavs can also offer All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving a max contract extension.
You can only do so much with a couple of picks in the draft. The Cavs have seemingly endless options ranging from something radical as signing Lebron James, to simply trying to keep their roster intact as it is.
GM David Griffin and his front-office have some major options and decisions on their desks. There’s no question that the future of the Cavaliers organization rests largely on what happens in this upcoming month.
The franchise has been hopelessly digging out of the hole left by the departure of the world’s best ba…

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NBA: Time for Cleveland to move on

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has crowned a new champion, and is now preparing for another wild offseason, spearheaded by yet another LeBron James decision. This time, it does not appear that he has the type of options available to him as he had in the summer of 2010.

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Miami Heat Fans Have a Tough Time Naming Former Players

There’s a stereotype surrounding Miami Heat fans that they jumped on the bandwagon after LeBron James came to town, and this video helped confirm that at least some did.

ESPN’s First Take host Cari Champion asked Heat fans to name former players, including Glen Rice, Eddie Jones and Tim Hardaway. The results were not pretty.

[Black Sports Online]

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