Breaking down Veterans Classic

The kickoff event at the Naval Academy features two very different games.

      
 

 

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Fordham Basketball: Amid Roster Overhaul, Don’t Forget About the Veterans

In so many ways, college basketball is a young man’s game.

Top players leave for the NBA after one or two seasons. Schools are constantly welcoming new recruits—17- and 18-year-old kids—onto campus every fall. And even if a player stays for four years, he’s still going to be about 21 or 22 years old when his college career ends.

While Fordham isn’t on the same level of some of the nation’s top programs who take on a lot of one-and-done phenoms, nor is it its philosophy to do so, the school is experiencing what so many other programs go through on a year-to-year basis.

There are seven freshmen on this year’s roster, and all could have an impact. They are Eric Paschall, Nemanja Zarkovic, Christian Sengfelder, Dekeba Battee-Aston, Zaire Thompson, Antwoine Anderson and Manny Suarez. (Anderson and Suarez are redshirt freshmen.)

Right now, it’s not absurd to think that at least three, if not more, of those freshmen could start. That’s what the Rams were hoping for. After all, they’ve won 34 games over the last four years. A roster overhaul was in order.

On the one hand, all of the rookies have brought to the program unique talents and personalities that could help finally turn Fordham into a winner.

On the other hand, we only have the offseason workouts and the 4-0 trip to Canada to base our evaluations on, and certainly two games against Big Ten schools, a game against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden and a brutal Atlantic 10 schedule will pose huge challenges. But things look good so far.

Perhaps lost in all the hoopla surrounding the new additions is how important it is for the returning five to come back better than they were a year ago.

That means better production (points and rebounds) from junior Ryan Rhoomes, more consistency from junior Mandell Thomas, more scoring from senior Bryan Smith and a better shooting percentage and shot selection from sophomore Jon Severe. It also means that Ryan Canty, who is expected to be out until mid-December following back surgery, will have to play like he did down the stretch last season when he put up some of the best rebounding numbers in the country.

The early returns are good. The veterans have been leaders. They’ve elevated their games. They’ve become better players and teammates because of the competition that wasn’t there in the past.

Head coach Tom Pecora and his staff have been able to convince young men to come to Rose Hill, even after all the down years. But, just as importantly, they’ve also been able to keep, challenge and motivate the veteran players who have spent the past few months getting to know their new teammates.

The freshmen have been getting a lot of attention—and rightfully so. Just don’t forget about the guys who were already here. This is their team, too.

 

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. A full archive of his articles can be found hereTwitter: @CFCostello

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NBA Free Agents 2014: Ideal Situations for Top Remaining Veterans

NBA roster building knows no offseason. The quality of veteran free agents still out on the open market in mid-August of 2014 shows that most franchises can still make moves to improve their squads late in the summer, even after all the big free-agent movers and shakers have made their hotly anticipated decisions.

Picking up a key role player on a cheap, veteran contract can be hugely beneficial for teams looking to make strides toward the playoffs without entrusting the duties to an untested youngster.

Just like every team has its unique needs, the top veteran free agents have to be mindful of finding teams that can allow them to flourish and best utilize their skills.

For the purposes of this article, we will focus solely on unrestricted free agents. Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe are the top talents remaining, but their status as restricted free agents makes their ideal situations a bit harder to project and quite a bit more fanciful since their teams can likely match any significant offers that have yet to materialize.

Here are three veteran players and the teams that can best make use of their unique skill sets.

 

Ray Allen

Ray Allen can fill a backup shooting specialist role for a number of NBA teams. Floor spacing is key to running an effective offense, and Allen’s reputation and statistics mean teams often give him plenty of respect.

However, his numbers took a dip last season, as age is clearly catching up to the 18-year NBA veteran. Allen shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc last season, his lowest rate since the 2009-10 season. His 9.6 points per game in 2013-14 was the lowest mark of his career, and his 44.2 percent shooting from the field was his worst clip since the 2006-07 season.

He needs a team that can provide him with plenty of alternate scoring options while on the floor. In this case, his rumored move to the Cleveland Cavaliers is indeed the ideal situation for this legendary sharpshooter.

According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, the Cavs are optimistic about signing Allen this offseason:

Of course, Allen has stated this offseason that he could be quite content with the way his career has panned out thus far, diminishing his chances of returning at all.

“I’m not in any rush [to make a decision],” Allen said in early August, via Dom Amore of The Hartford Courant. “I’ve played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I’m content with everything that I’ve done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes.”

Allen has two NBA championships to his name, so he will likely only come back to a team that offers him a clear shot at another legacy-bolstering title. With LeBron James angling to bring a title back to his home state, Allen would be wise to latch on with this loaded team in a diluted Eastern Conference that lacks serious title challengers.

 

Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley’s once promising career has been on a swift, steady downward trajectory over the past few seasons. After posting a career-high 19.2 points per game in the 2010-11 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Kansas State product has seen his scoring average and minutes decline with each passing season.

Beasley’s best fit is a team that can promise him the opportunity to play a bigger role on offense.

The Indiana Pacers need depth at forward in the wake of Paul George‘s devastating leg fracture, which makes this Midwestern team the best fit for Beasley. The Pacers will be desperate to find ways to replace George’s scoring and athleticism on the perimeter. 

Beasley could still be a solid scorer if given the opportunity. He hardly played on a loaded Miami Heat team last season, but he averaged 18.9 points per 36 minutes. However, his mid-range shooting does need work. Beasley shot just 37.5 percent on two-pointers beyond 16 feet last season.

The Los Angeles Lakers are also a strong possibility, but they have a wealth of forwards on their team and his presence would likely siphon valuable minutes from promising players like Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson.

The imbalance on the Lakers makes the Pacers a much better fit for Beasley, who should be eager to prove that he can still be a potent scorer on a top team.

 

 

Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche may have more talent than any player still looking for an NBA contract. The 6’11″ forward/center is just 27 years old and coming off a season where he averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per contest.

Blatche‘s character concerns have kept teams from jumping at the chance to sign him. His obvious skills and size would make him a strong fit on many teams, but he could truly flourish on the Houston Rockets if given the chance.

The Rockets need a backup center behind Dwight Howard after dealing Omer Asik this summer. They have little in the way of proven talent behind their All-Star big man. Clint Capela, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas are unlikely to become major contributors next season.

This gives the veteran Blatche the perfect opportunity to assert himself as a viable talent on a top contender.

It should be noted that it is easy to imagine Blatche fitting in elsewhere. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel gave his take on how Blatche might fit in on another team, the Miami Heat:

Look, the back-story issues with Blatche have been well-chronicled, or else the Wizards wouldn’t have let him walk in the first place and the Nets wouldn’t have been as lukewarm on a return. Just about every time I’ve seen him play, I’ve seen a player who can make an NBA contribution. But there also is the issue of the Heat only having the minimum left to pay. Plus if Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Chris Andersen are going to comprise the primary power rotation, there is the issue of minutes. Still, Blatche would make this current Heat roster better, no doubt.

At this point, Blatche may be waiting for a phone call well into the upcoming NBA season. Should he remain available that long, the Rockets might realize that their lack of depth at forward/center can be quickly alleviated by signing Blatche.

 

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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NBA Free Agents 2014: Over-the-Hill Veterans Who Will Be Overpaid

The Truth hurts.

At some point, an NBA player’s ability goes careening over the edge of a cliff, never to be seen again. Sometimes the peak (and subsequent nosedive) is difficult to see coming, but in most cases, the warning signs, like speed bumps under a car, are most definitely apparent.

Of course, this never stops a franchise from dishing out millions of dollars to veterans who have shown these signs. No, this is the NBA, where Gordon Haywards may wind up getting max deals and veterans assemble in superteams to go out in a blaze of glory.

Three vets flirting with the cliff are sure to see their price driven up by the market this offseason. Fans of the teams who acquire one of the following three names cannot say they weren’t warned.

 

Paul Pierce

The Truth is that Paul Pierce is looking over the precipice with a smile—some foolish franchise is going to pay him starter cash and stash him for the postseason.

At 37 years old, there has been a ton of interest in Pierce since the market opened, as noted by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

This will undoubtedly raise his asking price on the open market, although his tumbling numbers suggest he has arrived at a point of no return:

For his part, Pierce says there is a bit left in the tank, as captured by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

But really, doling out cash to Pierce only to have him play limited minutes until the postseason, then tinker with a lineup that got the team to that point, does not make a load of sense. 

While a popular narrative is a reunion with Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, even Pierce has to understand there are younger, better options at the 3-spot on the market such as Trevor Ariza and Chandler Parsons. For now, he’s riding on name alone, and that may be enough to land himself a ridiculous contract.

 

Luol Deng

One of the better two-way players over the course of the last decade, Luol Deng continues to be a sound defender and can match up with an opposing team’s best wing player each night.

That has great value, even if Deng’s reputation has been marred by his brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. Per ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Duke product has received plenty of interest on the market:

While great for contenders that Deng is on the market, it appears he has made it clear he is on the hunt for a payday:

Of course he is. At 29 years of age, the cliff is rather visible for Deng, even if his numbers in recent years do not showcase a significant decline:

But his minutes with the Chicago Bulls under Tom Thibodeau (an average of 33.4 per game in nine of his 10 years with the team) suggest a strong warning that the drop in production is closer than most would expect.

Given the fact Deng surely wants a lengthy contract, a contender is going to scoop him up and turn sour when it realizes his play does not remain consistent for the life of the deal—again, especially with other talented names on the market to choose from at this juncture.

 

Boris Diaw

A key cog in the San Antonio Spurs’ title run last season after being discarded and an afterthought by most of the league, 32-year-old Boris Diaw is set to cash in on his recent performances.

Perhaps no big man sees the court better than Diaw and can set his teammates up in a position to succeed. This means a bevy of contenders would love to bring him on board in the hopes he can repeat his performance with the Spurs, but not every team can be the Spurs.

So while averages of 9.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists, paired with being the spark off the bench in the NBA Finals, make Diaw an attractive add for most teams, how he plays outside of the Spurs’ system and perhaps with an uptick in minutes (he averaged just 25 per game this past season) makes him a wild card.

Alas, if San Antonio does not bring Diaw back, the market can and will drive his price up. One could presume he will return to play with fellow French national team comrade Tony Parker, but who knows how the dollar signs on the market will impact his decision?

Diaw has shown in prior stints with the likes of Charlotte and Phoenix that his performance directly coincides with the talent level of those around him. That’s a major aspect to watch as the market likely overreacts to his availability.

 

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Can the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Veterans Help Push the Team over the Top?

The Oklahoma City Thunder may have star power, but their NBA Finals hopes could rest on the shoulders of their veterans.

A reasonable person can argue that the Thunder are a bit top heavy. Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook…and then what? Who is the Thunder’s fourth-best player?

Is it Reggie Jackson? Thabo Sefolosha? Caron Butler? Or is OKC‘s fourth-best more of a concept than an individual?

The Thunder rely so much on their veterans. That’s a mindset Scott Brooks has set up and hasn’t let go of in his time as Oklahoma City coach. 

He loves himself some Derek Fisher. He’ll support Kendrick Perkins forever. And maybe those are the types who have to step up for the Thunder to win their first championship since moving to Oklahoma. Maybe, for OKC to win it all, the Nick Collisons of the world just need to play effectively for 16 postseason wins.

 

Health

When part of your championship hopes rest on the shoulders of older guys, you better hope you can keep them healthy.

That’s part of why the San Antonio Spurs are so brilliant. It’s not just about their roster composition; it’s how they manage their players.

Gregg Popovich will sit Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan when they’re healthy. He doesn’t care about doing it for nationally televised games, just whenever works best for his team. And the Spurs are almost always healthy heading into the postseason.

That can’t be a coincidence. It has to be more than chance that the best coach in the NBA implements a strategy to avoid injuries, and it works seemingly every year. That’s just knowing how to manage health.

Now, though, the Thunder aren’t fully healthy, and the injuries extend beyond the realm of Russell Westbrook.

Perkins hasn’t played since Feb. 20 because of a groin injury, and there’s a chance he doesn’t return for the rest of the regular season. Thabo Sefolosha, who has been out with a calf injury, hasn’t stepped on a court since Feb. 28.

Those may seem like menial players, but they’re integral in their own ways. They’re the veterans, the glue guys, the ones who Brooks insists on playing even if they don’t always help as much as he thinks.

There’s a reason the Thunder have allowed 1.3 more points per 100 possessions since the Sefolosha injury. He makes a difference on the wing, a bigger one than Jeremy Lamb and an off-the-ball Jackson if only because of his rotations and consistency. 

The Thunder, who are 9-7 over their past 16 games, may just be in a slump. It could just be an end-of-season lag, considering there hasn’t been a difference in the defense schematically. But the absence of Sefolosha is hurting them, and they should be anxiously awaiting his return.

 

Defense

Defense is so much about familiarity.

That’s one of the reasons the Memphis Grizzlies are consistently one of the toughest defensive teams in the NBA. They communicate, they have the personnel, but they also have the chemistry.

If you can have a couple of bigs who know how to defend with a key wing or guard, everything just seems a little bit easier, slightly more intuitive. And when those guys have played together for years, there’s an almost telepathic sense of where to be on the court.

Memphis has Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the big men who always know exactly where each other are at all times. It has Mike Conley, Tony Allen and the rest of the Grit n’ Grind crew. And it feels like all those guys have been together since Tennessee was boasting the popularity of Andrew Jackson and not “Ga-ZBo.”

The Thunder actually aren’t all that different. One of the reasons the OKC defense has gotten so much better over the past few years is familiarity alone.

Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Collison, Fisher, Perkins and Sefolosha all know each other so well at this point. The rotations make sense. They look better than they have in any other season.

Sure, Durant has improved with age. Ibaka has stepped up his game to such a point this year, that you could argue he’s one of the most improved defensive players in the NBA. That is, amongst those who believe it’s harder to go from good to great than from average to good.

Once the Thunder get Perkins and Sefolosha back, the familiarity starts to return a bit. That’s a way to find some sort of tangible value in a veteran vs. a rookie. Familiarity can be its own form of leadership, and the Thunder, amongst other teams, are helping prove that.

 

Spacing the Floor

The corner three isn’t just a good shot because it’s 1’9″ shorter than one from above the break. It also signifies something more.

A corner three is a catch-and-shoot attempt. It’s almost always an assisted shot, one that teams get either in transition, on a drive-and-kick or on a swing around the perimeter.

It signifies proper scheme and execution with the ability to space the floor. And if you take and make a bunch of corner threes, you probably have an above-average offense.

The Thunder are actually an exception to all of this.

Oklahoma City doesn’t take a bunch of corner threes, and it doesn’t make many, either.

In the past, Sefolosha has been the camped-out-in-the-corner shooter. But he hasn’t been as effective in that role this year, though he was massively improving before he got hurt.

That’s part of why OKC had to bring in Caron Butler, who has sunk 42 percent of his threes from the corners over the past two seasons. It’s a spacing issue, one that has to be remedied before the end of the postseason. 

So many teams employ these aggressive, heavy-trapping schemes on defense, and one of the ways to beat that sort of strategy is by getting the ball to the corners for the 22′ three.

The Thunder have attempted just the 15th-most corner threes (subscription required) in the NBA. And they’re making only 34 percent of them, third-to-last in the league.

If Butler, along with a healthy Sefolosha, can provide some help with spacing in the corners, that’s only going to assist the Thunder in spreading the floor during the playoffs. And on a night when Durant may not be hitting all his shots and Westbrook can’t play every minute (considering he may still have playing-time restrictions in the playoffs), OKC could use that extra way to get offense.

 

Too Many Minutes?

It’s the question that so many Thunder fans have wondered over the past few years: Does Scott Brooks commit to his veterans too much?

No one’s saying that about Sefolosha or Collison. And Butler hasn’t been a member of the Thunder nearly long enough to invoke any sort of playing-time narrative. Nope, in the end, it all comes down to Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins.

That’s “in the end” of the argument and in the end of games, as well. There’s so much Perkins and Fisher. Too much Perkins and Fisher.

Brooks has always shown a great propensity to overplay his vets, even after benching Perk for a short period in a game against the Miami Heat earlier this season.

It’s not just about playing time. It’s about crunch-time minutes. And Brooks is feeding Fisher fourth-quarter burn like no other.

Fisher is playing 7.6 minutes per fourth quarter on the season and has played in the final period in all but six of his games played. That’s more playing time than he averages in any other quarter. He’s a legitimate closer. 

So if Brooks is going to let Fisher (and Perkins, on occasion) close games and help to decide the outcomes of Thunder playoff matchups, then there’s a problem there.

Reggie Jackson gives OKC a better chance. Nick Collison or Steven Adams do, as well. It’s about movement, athleticism, defense, decision making. Pretty much everything.

We think of Fisher as the veteran leader, but how often does he chuck up a three that makes us cringe? We label Perkins as the same, but his inability to move laterally makes it generally impossible for him to defend any play that isn’t directly around the paint.

Those guys have skills, which make them deserving of some burn, but at some point, they become overexposed. And that’s the issue with the Thunder’s vets. They can play a role, but sometimes, that role is too prominent.

Can Fisher heavily contribute to a playoff team for the amount of minutes Brooks expects? Can Perkins? And it’s not like the Thunder coach is much of an adjuster in the postseason.

If the Thunder’s elite players take over, clearly this team is good enough to win a championship. But if Brooks runs Fisher and Perkins even more in the postseason, then OKC may get in its own way too much to win the whole thing.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com or on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

*All statistics current as of March 27 and from basketball-reference.com and NBA.com, unless otherwise noted. 

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Veterans steady backcourt for No. 8 Wisconsin (Yahoo Sports)

Seven-footer Frank Kaminsky owns the school single-game scoring record. Forward Sam Dekker creates matchup problems with his inside-out game. But someone needs to get the big guys the ball for No. 8 Wisconsin, and coach Bo Ryan’s team has three players who are filling that role and then some. At 8-0, the Badgers are a virtual offensive juggernaut scoring 76.8 points per game.

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What Can Philadelphia 76ers Get for Their Veterans on the Trade Market?

The Philadelphia 76ers are 5-5, fifth in the Eastern Conference with wins over the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets. Needless to state the obvious, but they’re playing way above their preseason expectations.

Normally that’s a good thing, but first year Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie constructed this roster to be inferior on purpose, with the hope that a high draft pick would fall into his lap this summer.

That’s the “bad” news. The good news is that Philadelphia has several talented players, and all of them have tradable contracts.

Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner are the three highest paid players on Philadelphia’s roster. They’re also the only healthy guys (aside from rookie standout Michael Carter-Williams) who possess skills that hold definite value on the NBA’s trade market.

All three are helping Philadelphia win basketball games when Philadelphia is not supposed to win basketball games, and it’s in Hinkie’s best interest to move one, two or all three as soon as he can.

 

Spencer Hawes

Spencer Hawes is 7’1″, can shoot threes and is an extremely good passer for his size. Heading into November 15th’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, his shooting split was a mind blowing 52.3/50.0/71.4.

He was attempting 3.8 threes per game, too, which makes that 50.0 percent average all the more impressive. When he’s off the court, Philadelphia averages 88.4 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/Stats. When he plays, that number skyrockets to 105.7. So, the Sixers offense goes from making this season’s Utah Jazz look like the 1997 Chicago Bulls, to being more efficient than the Golden State Warriors.

One possible trade that makes sense for both sides would send Hawes to the Houston Rockets for disgruntled Defensive Player of the Year candidate Omer Asik. Why would Houston do this? For starters, Hawes would compliment Dwight Howard in the front court, thriving as a big who can spread the floor and allow various Rockets—such as James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons—to take advantage of open driving and passing lanes. 

If for whatever reason things don’t work out, Hawes’ contract expires after the season, so Houston would then be free to go in another direction.

The Sixers would receive a 27-year-old monster capable of anchoring their defense for the foreseeable future. Would this make them better this season, endangering their “goal” of having the NBA’s worst record? Possibly.

But it also gives the Sixers a stable building block who fills a crucial role. In the end, this trade would accelerate their rebuild, which is ultimately a good thing.

 

Evan Turner

One of the more disappointing No. 2 overall draft picks in recent memory, Evan Turner appears to have finally found his NBA niche. What is it, you ask?

Getting to the basket.

According to SportVU, of all players who’re driving to the basket at least 6.9 times per game, only Tony Parker has a higher field goal percentage than Turner.

He’s averaging 10 more points per game (and twice as many free-throw attempts) than last year, turning the ball over less with a considerably higher usage percentage, and shooting 55.1 percent on two-pointers, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

On top of it, he’s still his normal beastly self on the glass. Turner can’t shoot threes, but that’s fine as long as he’s comfortable doing something well. Other teams interested in his service risk losing him this summer, when he becomes a restricted free agent. 

But if said team is gung-ho about making the playoffs right now, and needs productive talent to do so, acquiring Turner wouldn’t be a bad move. 

One possible partner would be the Cleveland Cavaliers, who could exchange Alonzo Gee, Sergey Karasev and a 2015 top-five protected first round pick from Memphis.

All three pieces coming back from Cleveland would help Philadelphia in the short and long-term. Gee is awful, and improves the team’s likelihood of losing games.

Karasev is a 20-year-old prospect with great size and the potential to become a knockdown shooter from the outside. And a first round pick is a first round pick, exactly what Hinkie covets more than anything else in his search for superstar level talent. 

For Cleveland, the hope here is that Turner continues to play well besides Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. That team has a black hole at small forward, and Turner’s efficient 23 points per game scoring average would help. 

 

Thaddeus Young

In the right context, Thaddeus Young may be worth a first round pick, making him the most valuable asset Hinkie has to work with. He’s the best all-around player on Philadelphia’s current roster (even if his numbers don’t show it right now), and in a more positive situation could thrive as a matchup nightmare on the wing, playing power forward in small-ball lineups.

One team that could use an infusion of pure overall talent right now is the Memphis Grizzlies. A deal sending Young to Memphis for Tayshaun Prince and a top-three protected first round pick in 2014 wouldn’t be shabby for either side. 

The Sixers get their first round pick, along with a hard-working veteran who’s already entered the final stage of his career. There’s nothing attractive about Prince’s contract, but it’s a year shorter in guaranteed money than Young’s. 

A similar partner would be the Dallas Mavericks in a deal that would send Shawn Marion and a 2016 first-round pick to Philadelphia. Through the season’s first few games, Young and Marion are putting up comparable numbers, but this move helps both parties out in the long-term.

For Dallas, they acquire a player who’s a full decade younger to pair beside Dirk Nowitzki. Young is also under their control on a manageable contract, and could be brandished as trade bait down the line.

The Sixers shed future salary, (Marion’s deal is expiring), and grab another draft pick they could either use or package in a deal at some point in the future. 

The Sixers may very well play terrible basketball the rest of the season with the group they already have. But with Turner and Hawes playing in the final years of their respective contracts, it’s likely they’re out of Philadelphia at the end of the season regardless. 

Hinkie would be wise to squeeze as many assets as he can from two guys who are as good as gone. Young’s contract is different, but his ability to efficiently score without drawing high usage makes him attractive to any team out there that’s serious about getting better. 

Philadelphia won’t be shy as the trade deadline approaches, and these three players should be prepared to move on from a situation unworthy of their skill. 

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Spurs’ Gregg Popovich says veterans not honored properly

Analysis: Veterans Day is coming up and Popovich is an Air Foce Academy graduate

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BYU Basketball: 3 Veterans Who Impressed at Cougar Tipoff

BYU held the Cougar Tipoff on Wednesday—its annual opening scrimmage in which the team plays against itself. In the first half, the teams were basically evenly split, with both the blue and white squads having a mixture of starters, key backups and bench players who will see little playing time during the season. 

In the second half, the teams were switched up, with the white squad comprising all the starters and main backups, while the blue team became a chance for mainly the redshirts and practice squad players to show their stuff.

Throughout the evening, there were a few players who stood out. Let’s take a look at three returning BYU players who were impressive at the Cougar Tipoff. A similar list of three newcomers to the team who had big nights can be found here

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NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Veterans Vying for Roster Spot

With the NBA season a month away from tipping off, teams are putting the finishing touches on their rosters. And these two experienced players are fighting fervently to become a part of those plans.

Josh Howard and Jason Collins—both of whom have more than a decade of NBA service under their belts—are still searching for a team, with the hopes of snatching a title during the twilight of their careers. 

They both appear washed up at this juncture, but they could fill out a roster for a team looking to add some tenacity and veteran savvy to the bench. Will that merit either of them a contract?

Here are the latest updates on each player’s quest to stay relevant in the pros for one more season.

Josh Howard Looks for a Landing Spot After Texas Tryout

Howard played with the Dallas Mavericks for seven seasons during the prime of his career, but he didn’t stick around long enough to see them finally win a championship.

The 33-year-old is now looking to return to Texas with one of the state’s other squads. Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears reported that Howard worked out with the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.

Howard, who scored 19.9 points per game in the 2007-08 season, is a shell of himself after age and injuries took a toll on his body. He averaged 6.7 points per game in 11 games last season for the Minnesota Timberwolves—his third new team in as many years.

Before that Howard accrued field-goal percentages below .400 in two-straight campaigns.

Howard hasn’t had a healthy season in five years. And undergoing ACL surgery in the offseason won’t help buck that trend; He’ll really need to dazzle teams to earn a contract.

For all the warning flags, Howard brings tough defense and scoring to the table when he’s healthy. If he can prove he is, he could land a minimum contract somewhere.

Jason Collins Waits for Call

After playing for four different teams in seven seasons, Collins is looking for his next landing spot. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the center doesn’t expect to ink a new deal before the season begins.

The 7’0″, 255-pound big man played 38 games last season for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards, averaging a robust 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per contest. Over his 12-year career, he has posted 6.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per 36 minutes.

Before he was toiling around from bench to bench as a spare bruiser, Collins started the first seven years of his career with the former New Jersey Nets. He played alongside Jason Kidd for an organization that made two straight NBA Finals, but never won it all.

No team may see much need for him now, but that could change when rosters get decimated by injuries and centers grow fatigued. Collins won’t post much stats wise, but he can fill in off the bench and provide serviceable defense up the middle.

A team looking to toughen up inside the paint might give Collins that call later in the season. Teams like the New York Knicks can often ride small ball to a playoff bid, only to run into a bigger, fiercer opponent that forces them to adapt.

 

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