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NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry DeMar DeRozan Pacers Paul George Raptors PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka

Pacers Star Paul George Puts Himself In Play

Pacers star Paul George has been rumored to be wanting out of Indiana for some time now, but with no action forthcoming from general manager Kevin Pritchard, he decided to put himself in play. He made sure “The Reliable Source” for NBA rumors Adrian Wojnarowski knew he wanted out of town and couldn’t be talked into re-signing next summer.

Make no mistake, the “rumor” and timing was deliberate. By making it seem likely he’ll only be a rental until next season when he can bolt to L.A. as a free agent, teams won’t give away the farm to get him and rebuilding teams won’t even look at the possibility. Plus, less than a week ahead of the NBA draft, good teams with a chance to contend for the conference finals might be willing to part with a prospect and a late first round draft pick and under the circumstances, that’s more than generous.

Pritchard might be hoping the Lakers would ante up some of that young talent, but thanks to Wojnarowski, they’d look like idiots for giving away anything of value for a player they can sign for nothing in a year.

If anyone thinks Boston is going to give up the talent they fleeced the Nets for to take a risk on a rental, they should think again.

The Clippers should be interested in taking a run at acquiring George as it would help them re-sign their own free agents Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and remain relevant in the West. Not having a first or second round draft pick this year doesn’t help their chances though.

The Cavaliers may be temporarily in panic mode (that should pass), but the reality is, unless the Pacers are in love with Kevin Love, they’ll have trouble coming up with a package that Indiana would be interested in.

The Raptors should be the most motivated to take the risk and they do have some young prospects and a first round draft pick. President Masai Ujiri hates giving away any of his young talent, but for a chance at George, it should be possible to convince him to relinquish something Pritchard believes has value in a rebuild.

If Ujiri can re-sign his own free agents (and he believes he can), the Raptors could have a starting lineup of:

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, P.J. Tucker, and Serge Ibaka.

That just might be good enough to win Toronto first place in the East during the regular season and let the chips fall where they may in the playoffs.

At the very least George has significantly upped the potential for excitement at this year’s draft.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA L.A. Clippers Paul Pierce remembering the Boston Celtics

Paul Pierce’s Last Hurrah In Boston Goes According To Script

By Frank McLean

Paul Pierce’s last hurrah on the court in Boston couldn’t have gone any better. It was like it went according to script, a special moment in a special career.

“It was really cool,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said pregame in Toronto. “I don’t know what it meant to me, but that was as neat of a thing as I have been involved with that’s not playoffs. It was a fanbased, the way they received Paul was unbelievable.

“If you were a Boston fan yesterday you had one helluva day. The Celtics won, Paul Pierce makes the last shot and then New England wins (the Super Bowl). They had a good day yesterday.

“I look back on (the last play and) everyone got it. End of a game guys usually come down and jack shots, the game was over, but Austin (Rivers) came down, he knew to give it to Paul. Isaiah (Thomas) was guarding Paul, he knew to back up and give him a shot. It was like everyone kind of got it which is rare. Usually there’s that one guy with the ego that ruins the moment and it was funny, everyone got it. That was really nice.

“It was great to see what it’s like when you win something and do something in one city which I think more players should do more of. It’s really cool.

“I was a baseball White Socks fan and I stapled Dick Allen and George on the wall and they stayed there for years. They never left. Now you need Velcro.”

Excuse me a second if I sound like an old fart who thinks that things were better when he was younger than they are nowadays. I don’t think that way, but when it comes to professional sports in general I will make the argument it was better in the old days.

When I was a kid your sports heroes stayed with one team their whole career. If you were fan of a certain team like the Boston Celtics the Larry Bird’s the John Havlachek’s stayed with their team for their whole career. You just knew that when each season started your star guy was going to be in the lineup.

Paul Pierce who was drafted with the 10th pick overall in the 1998 draft never got to stay his whole career in Boston. He lasted 15-years with the green and white but then spent a year in Brooklyn and another year in Washington before playing the last two years with his old Celtics coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers where he is going to hang it up after a stellar 19-year career at the end of the season.

On Sunday Pierce played his last game at TD Bank Garden where along with Rivers as coach he won his only NBA championship in 2008.

His best days are behind him. He has only got into 13-games this year averaging just four points and one rebound a game, but that didn’t matter to the Garden faithful who brought him to tears chanting “we want Paul” and his nickname “the truth”.

Rivers made the class move of putting Pierce in the starting lineup playing the first five minutes of the game. But with the fans still chanting for Pierce, Rivers put him back out there for the last 20-seconds of the game where took a pass from Doc’s kid Austin and hit a 28-foot three-pointer for the only points he would score in a game which the Clippers lost 107-102.

It was kind of like another Boston great Ted Williams hitting a home run in his final at bat in Fenway Park, but the difference here is Pierce was playing for the opposition.

“It’s a tough situation. You’ve been sitting for like the last two hours and then I had to come in there and get a shot,” Pierce said afterward. “But I’m glad I ended it that way. It was a lot of emotion running through. My teammates kind of felt it too. I’m glad I was able to cap it off, my last game in the Garden. At least I can just say I put one last bucket in at the end of the game.”

“I never felt anything like this,” Pierce added. “I truly appreciate my time here. I truly appreciate tonight. Fans really showered me with a lot of love. It was just — you really don’t know what you meant to a team while you’re playing, and you really don’t get a chance to really reflect on it while you’re playing.”

When asked about putting Pierce back into the game Rivers said, “I’m no dummy.

“So once I thought the game was in hand to Boston, we put him back in. And him making that shot just, that’s just, I don’t know what the heck that is.  That’s that only happens like here, or, I don’t know what that is. I don’t know who can sit that long and walk in on the floor and make a shot.”

Monday night the Clippers make their only appearance in Toronto this year and Pierce will not be hearing any cheers. It’s more likely he’ll be booed by the Raptors faithful.

In the 2013-14 playoffs in Brooklyn and the 2014-15 postseason in Washington he was the main factor why the Raptors were upset in the first round. His buzzer beating shots and his trash talking made him public enemy number one in the 416.

But when I think of Paul Pierce I think of him as a Celtic, not a Net, not a Wizard and not a Clipper. Too bad he never got a chance to play his whole career in Boston, but he did get a proper send off by the fans that a future Celtic hall of famer is deserved.

You see sports was better when we were kids.

 

 

  

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Los Angeles Lakers D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle & Jordan Clarkson

Lakers, Knicks, Pelicans And Jazz Are Better Than Their Records

The top teams of last season remain the top teams through the first full month of this year, so after April maybe nothing changes, but last year’s Lottery Teams in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Utah and New York look a lot better and the early signs point to the Lakers, Pelicans, Jazz and Knicks being playoff teams this season.

As of the end of November NBA teams have played 16 to 20 games and the early rust or lack of chemistry has started to fade. The revamped Warriors and the consistent Cavaliers remain the best in the league with the Clippers, Spurs and Raptors not so far behind. These five sit atop their respective conferences and are the only teams in the Association with winning records against opponents with a .500 record or better.

Expanded NBA Standings 11-30-2016

This early in the season the NBA standings can be misleading as teams will not have all faced the same level of competition, so one way to level the playing field is to look at records against opposition that are .500 or better.

The big changes atop the conferences are the better than expected start from the Clippers who aren’t underperforming this year and the modest, but expected, decline by the Thunder sans Kevin Durant. However, the Thunder are just one of two teams with a .500 record against winning clubs, the other team being the surprising Lakers.

Only those wearing purple and gold colored glasses had pegged the Lakers as a playoff team prior to this season and their youth may yet betray them, but the 9th place Lakers (10-10) are 6-6 vs teams with a .500 record or better and the losses that have kept them below the playoff line were against the Mavericks (3-14), Timberwolves (5-13) and the improving Pelicans (7-12).

In contrast to the Lakers, the Grizzlies and the Trail Blazers are above the playoff line thanks to a very soft schedule and going 8-2 against sub .500 teams.

The oft injured Pelicans dug themselves a deep hole to start the season by going 0-8, but they’ve started digging themselves out by starting to win against .500 or better teams. They’ll need to stop losing to the sub .500 crowd (1-5) like the recent loss to the Mavericks, but this team should soon be a lot better than their 7-12 record.

The Knicks currently reside in 9th place in the East, right where some of us thought they’d end up, but they’ve had a tough schedule to start the season and going 6-8 versus teams that are .500 or better and 3-1 against sub .500 clubs suggests this is a playoff team if injuries don’t derail them.

The NBA is just starting to round the quarter pole of the season, so a lot of things can still happen to improve or decimate a team’s fortunes, but the early trends suggest that while the top of the league may be stagnant, there could be big changes to the rest of the playoff picture before this is over.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan

Ranking the NBA Western Conference 2016-17

By Danny Thompson, Full Court Press Radio

The Western Conference went through a season in 2015-2016 where they had one team break the all-time wins record with 73. Another team won 67 games and two more teams had over 50, but none of those teams brought home the Larry O’Brien trophy. So with the defending conference champion Golden State Warriors adding some guy named Kevin Durant. Can anyone in the West keep up with them?

1. Golden State Warriors

Key Additions- Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia and David West
Key Losses- Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa and Andrew Bogut

Outlook – Let’s be honest here, the Warriors could have re-signed everyone and still would have been in this spot. They won 73 games and finished one game short of winning their 2nd consecutive championship. So what do they do? They go out and add one of the top 5 players in the NBA in Kevin Durant to a team that has the 2 time MVP in Stephen Curry and All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The real question is, can they find the same type of chemistry on this roster that they had last year?

2. San Antonio Spurs

Key Addition: Pau Gasol
Key Losses: Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw

Outlook – Well it had to happen eventually, Tim Duncan retired this summer after a stellar career in San Antonio. I’m not going to take up this entire space by talking about his career, but even though he didn’t have his best season ever, you have to mention how big of a loss it will be. Not to mention they lost Boris Diaw’s versatility as well. So how does R.C Buford and the front office fix that problem? You go out and sign future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol to replace Timmy. Problem solved, now can Golden State stop the best frontline in the NBA in Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kwahi Leonard? One can only hope that we get this matchup in the Western Conference Finals.

3. Los Angeles Clippers

Key Addition- Brandon Bass
Key Loss- Jeff Green

Outlook – The Clippers get this spot by default. Oklahoma City lost Durant and no one else in the West behind them made a splash to pass them for this spot. They made some questionable contract choices (Austin Rivers), but they brought back Jamal Crawford and brought in guys like Bass, Raymond Felton and Marreese Speights for depth. The real question is with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul being potential free agents next summer, can they make a deal for one of them and still remain a top player in the West? Decisions, Decisions, Decisions in Los Angeles.

4. Portland Trail Blazers

Key Additions- Festus Ezeli and Evan Turner
Key Loss- Gerald Henderson

Outlook – Portland did a lot of re-signing of their main core guys like C.J.McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless to extensions over the last few weeks. Then they brought in swingman Evan Turner and big man Festus Ezeli to a team that has Damian Lillard leading the way. Portland surprised a lot of people last year (Including this writer right here) and made the 2nd round of the playoffs. They will not be surprising this year, but one can only wonder if can they be even better than they were last year? Head coach Terry Stotts will have this team at peak form come playoff time.

5. Utah Jazz

Key Additions- George Hill and Joe Johnson
Key Loss- Trevor Booker

Outlook – Yes, finally, the Jazz will make it back into the playoffs and this time they are dangerous. Joe Johnson provides a late game closer to go along with Gordon Hayward. Veteran point guard George Hill, allows Dante Exum to ease back into the NBA after missing last year with an ACL injury. The Jazz have so much young talent on this team and a top 7 Head Coach in Quinn Snyder, this is the year that all of the stars align in Utah. I didn’t even mention yet that they have Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors in the frontcourt.

6. Memphis Grizzlies

Key Addition- Chandler Parsons
Key Losses- Matt Barnes and Lance Stephenson

Outlook – The big story in Memphis was the re-signing of Conley to the richest contract in the league’s history. The number is still mind-blowing at this point, but now it’s time for him to earn it. Last season it seemed like every key player in Memphis was hurt as some point. They are finally healthy, All-Star Marc Gasol, Conley and newly added Chandler Parsons will help new Head Coach David Fizdale ease his transition to the main spot in Beale Street. Gone are the days of Grit and Grind in Memphis, but this team won’t be an easy out come playoff time.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions- Victor Oladipo and Ersan Illysova
Key Losses- Kevin Durant, Dion Waiters, Serge Ibaka and Randy Foye

Outlook – As much as I don’t want to put them here, the Thunder still have Russell Westbrook (For Now). As long as he’s still in Oklahoma, the Thunder are a playoff team. Westbrook should have an MVP season and if you think 18 triple doubles were something, wait until this year. Now they have some BIG questions: Can Steven Adams can continue the play from his playoff run last year? Can Victor Oladipo be the 2nd scoring option and be light years better than Dion Waiters? Most importantly, can Enes Kanter live up to the contract that he signed last season? If the Thunder can answer yes to all of these questions, then they will be back in the Playoffs. If they can’t, the Russell Westbrook trade rumors will be at the highest level possible.

8. Houston Rockets

Key Additions- Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nene
Key Losses- Dwight Howard and Terrance Jones

Outlook – Well this should be one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA. New Head coach Mike D’Antoni has the perfect superstar to be the focal point of his team in James Harden. This team is loaded with shooters and athletic guys. The reason why the Rockets can’t be a contender is because Harden isn’t the best and most willing defender in the NBA and that could be a serious problems on that side of the ball. But the Good News is that Clint Capella will be in the top 10 in rebounding this season and with Harden, Anderson, Gordon and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets will lead the NBA in 3 pointers made as a team.

9. Dallas Mavericks

Key Additions- Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut
Key Losses- Chandler Parsons, David Lee and Zaza Pachulia

Outlook – Mark Cuban strikes out again this summer on attracting a major free agent to pair with Dirk Nowitzki, but he took Harrison Barnes away from Golden State. If Barnes can live up to his potential, the Mavericks could be on to something special. But what should scare Mavericks fans is that Barnes did go missing for major stretches over the past 2 seasons. But now that he doesn’t have to be in most cases a 4th option on offense, this could be the year the “Black Falcon” can finally soar. This will be the team that gets in the playoffs if Oklahoma City decides to trade Westbrook or if Houston can’t outscore teams or any of the previous teams on the list has a major injury. It would be nice to have Dirk have one more deep playoff run.

10. Denver Nuggets

Key Additions- None
Key Losses- D.J. Augustin

Outlook- Denver really didn’t do anything this summer besides re-signing Darrell Arthur, Mike Miller and drafting combo Guard Jamal Murray in the NBA Draft. The Nuggets are one of those teams that when you look at the roster, you see a lot of solid NBA players, but there isn’t one of them currently that screams out superstar. That’s why the Nuggets can’t break into the playoff list as of now. Now if they send a few of those solid pieces (Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and one of the 3 big men they have) for a player like Russell Westbrook or Blake Griffin, then we can talk about meaningful games in April and May.

BTW- Will Barton is extremely fun to watch.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves

Key Addtions- Jordan Hill and Cole Aldrich
Key Losses- Tayshaun Prince

Outlook – This is the most exciting team in the NBA, point-blank. Not Golden State, not Houston and not even Cleveland. Minnesota is the place if you need to watch only one team all of next season. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are the franchise building blocks and rookie Kris Dunn could make the Wolves become the 1st team in the NBA’s history to have 3 consecutive Rookie Of The Year winners. No team has a better core under the age of 25 (Wiggins, Towns, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Dunn, Ricky Rubio and Georgi Dieng), than Minnesota. But that is also the reason why I can’t put them in the playoffs just yet. Even though Tom Thibodeau is the brand new head coach and he’s the best defensive coach in the league, it’s going to take one more year before these Pups become Wolves and cause serious damage in the NBA.

12. Sacramento Kings

Key Additions- Aaron Afflalo and Matt Barnes
Key Losses- Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli and Quincy Acy

Outlook – The good news is that the Kings have one of the Top 6 players in the entire league in DeMarcus Cousins and he looks slimmer and in great shape playing for Team USA. After that, there isn’t much good news. The bad news is that there isn’t much around Cousins in Sacramento. Rumors are that Rudy Gay wants out and the only solid player they have returning is Darren Collison. They didn’t help themselves in the Draft and Kings fans are still waiting on Willie Cauley-Stein and Ben McLemore to finally live up to their potential. Adding Afflalo and Barnes will provide veteran help and fill the shooting guard and small forward spots, but without a direction for this roster, new coach Dave Joerger will be in for a long year.

13. Phoenix Suns

Key Additions- Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley
Key Losses- Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic

Outlook – Phoenix has a bunch of players at the same positions and it’s going to be interesting to watch Head coach Earl Watson try to put it all together. They ended up with two top 8 picks in the NBA Draft, but they drafted two guys that play the same position in Dragon Bender and Marquese Chriss. Then they drafted Tyler Ulis making the Suns the only team in the NBA with five or more backcourt players from the same college (Kentucky). They have breakout superstar candidates in Devin Booker and Alex Len as the building blocks of a very good team. Now if they could move either Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight to get that wing player they need, could they jump back into the playoffs? Knight and T.J Warren for Rudy Gay sounds really nice doesn’t it?

14. New Orleans Pelicans

Key Additions- Langston Galloway, Solomon Hill and E’Twan Moore
Key Losses- Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and James Ennis

Outlook- Normally I would say that a team has an idea and an identity of how they are going be shaped and I don’t really know what the Pelicans are doing? They lost sharpshooters Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon to Houston and replaced them with Hill, Galloway and Moore for about the same amount of money. I’m not sure if that is considered an upgrade or even a swap of similar talent. From the looks of things, unless Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday and rookie Buddy Hield can put up All-Star numbers, whatever superstar Anthony Davis does will be for nothing. This could be the worst team in the Western Conference, but Davis alone puts them one spot up from the bottom.

15. Los Angeles Lakers

Key Additions- Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov
Key Losses- Kobe Bryant, Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert

Outlook – The Lakers are going to be better than last year which is a good thing. D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson form a solid 1-2 punch in the backcourt and Julius Randle was a double-double machine last year. They drafted Brandon Ingram with the 2nd overall pick in the NBA Draft and he has all the makings of a franchise player in the next season or two. Now they went out and overspent on Mozgov in hopes that he will return to the 2015 playoff form that he had with the Cavaliers. They are adding pieces and at least they aren’t Brooklyn Nets bad. The good news is the young talent will have a great teacher in new Head coach Luke Walton. Now if they can just not give away all their pieces for Russell Westbrook, then the future will be bright in the City of Angels, but it’s going to take some time.

 

 

Danny Thompson Full Court Press Radio hostDanny Thompson is the Creator and Host of NBA Full Court Press Radio and Lead Columnist for FULL COURT PRESS RADIO.

Check out more from Danny here.
Reprinted with permission.

Featured image courtesy of Vernon Chang @MoVernie

 

 

 


 

NBA Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson

NBA Western Conference’s Best Starting Lineups 2016-17

By Danny Thompson, Full Court Press Radio

In the Western Conference this year we all know what the Golden State Warriors have done with their signing of Kevin Durant to the already dangerous team they had in place. But the real question is who is after them in the best starting 5’s list? Well here are my opinions

1. Golden State Warriors – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia

Reason – Is there a real reason why they wouldn’t be number 1? I’m going to give one reason why, 4 of the top 20 players in the entire league are in this starting 5.

2. San Antonio Spurs – Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol

Reason – They lost a lot of defense at the center spot with Tim Duncan retiring, but insert one of the most skilled big men in the league’s history in Gasol. Add him to Aldridge, arguably one of the best two way players in Leonard, the sharp-shooting Green plus the always dangerous Tony Parker and the Spurs are right back in business.

3. Los Angeles Clippers – Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Wesley Johnson, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan

Reason – The number 2 spot was all theirs until the Spurs signed Gasol. Jordan established himself as one of the best in the league last season (1st team All-NBA selection) and his ceiling continues to grow. Paul and Griffin are in contract years, so you already know what kind of years their going to have. Redick has always been so consistent. Now if this team can add a replacement for Johnson, then they could be a serious challenger to be the best unit in the entire NBA.

4. Memphis Grizzlies – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol

Reason – Parsons brings a very athletic wing to go along with the same 4 guys that have been in Memphis for it seems like forever. He brings a lot of what Rudy Gay would have provided when he was in Memphis. The real question is, can he stay healthy? Two major injuries in the last 2 seasons puts up a serious red flag. Otherwise Memphis hit a home run in the offseason. This unit is really dangerous.

5. Utah Jazz – George Hill, Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert

Reason – Utah is my pick to be the biggest sleeper in the entire league. Johnson adds another solid shooter and closer to this group. Hill will provide a steady and solid starting point guard until Dante Exum is ready to take the job over and Hayward just fills stats sheets. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert have the potential to be the best power forward-center combination not named Blake and DeAndre in the Western Conference.

6. Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee

Reason – Portland adds Evan Turner’s all-around skill which should allow Lillard and McCollum to have more freedom to play off the ball. Aminu quietly had a solid season and if Plumlee can continue his play that he showed in the playoffs (7.0 ppg 11.8 reb and 4.8 ast) then this ranking might be a bit too low.

7. Houston Rockets – Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela

Reason – This is a typical Mike D’Antoni lineup. Harden, Ariza and Anderson will let it fly from arc, Capela will grab all of the rebounds and Beverley will just be solid but not spectacular. Mind you this isn’t D’Antoni’s Phoenix style 7 seconds or less, but they could score just as many points as them. Look for Harden and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook to fight for the scoring title.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder – Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Kyle Singler, Ersan Illyasova and Steven Adams

Reason – If it was my choice Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter would be in the starting lineup, but with not having enough quality talent on the bench, you have to spread the wealth. Westbrook with this lineup could still surpass the 18 triple-doubles that he had last season. Adams is turning into a very good center and Roberson has shown signs of improvement each season he’s been in the league. Illyasova and Singler both bring solid outside shooting to this group.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns

Reason – We all know how special Towns and Wiggins are in the present and in the future. They are going to be dynamic and spectacular. As far as the other 3 guys in the lineup, that remains to be decided. Ricky Rubio has outstanding court vision but he can’t hit a jumpshot. Zach LaVine is talented, but can he play shooting guard? Dieng is a solid interior defender and matches well with Towns, but can he develop an offensive game to match? But we can all agree that this is the team everyone will be watching on NBA League Pass this year.

10. Dallas Mavericks – Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut

Reason – In the game of Father Time vs. All-Time great, Dirk is starting to lose the battle. This could be his last year being a franchise player. Now the real question is can Wesley Matthews regain his 2014-2015 season form in time to help out Dirk. Deron Williams days as being a top level Point Guard are over with and Andrew Bogut has to stay healthy. The big signing of Harrison Barnes leaves one to hope that he lives up to the contract.

11. Denver Nuggets – Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Nikola Jokic

Reason – Solid group of 5. Nothing spectacular and each of them knows their roles and play them very well. Mudiay has the chance to really standout especially if he cuts down on the turnovers. This could be the year in which Gallinari breaks the 20 point per game club.

12. Sacramento Kings – Darren Collison, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein and DeMarcus Cousins

Reason – Cousins is so talented but hopefully that new coach Dave Jorger will get the best out of him and the rest of this group. McLemore needs to find the tools that made him at lottery pick a short time ago. Collison is very underrated at the point guard spot.

13. Phoenix Suns – Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, Alex Len and Tyson Chandler

Reason – So many guys not playing should be the real story. Honestly, this lineup might not make it out of November because Devin Booker is ready to breakout and be a star. With Knight and Bledsoe on the roster it’s going to be a real problem getting him minutes right away. Both rookies (Dragon Bender and Marquese Chriss) aren’t ready to be starters, so Alex Len has to play out of position for the time being.

14. New Orleans Pelicans – Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Solomon Hill, Anthony Davis and Omer Asik

Reason – The only reason why this unit isn’t last is because Anthony Davis is one of the top 5 players in the entire league. Ideally, Buddy Hield will join this group and move Evans and Hill into the frontcourt with Davis at Center. New Orleans better find a center quick because Asik is the worst starting center in the entire league.

15. Los Angeles Lakers – D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng, Julius Randle and Timofey Mozgov

Reason – Well, it was a hard decision between spots 12-15 but someone had to be in this place. Russell, Clarkson and Randle will be solid players in this league but Deng is a bit older and is the perfect placeholder until Brandon Ingram explodes on the scene in L.A. But Mozgov better return to form to bring this unit out of last place.

 

 

Danny Thompson is the Creator and Host of NBA Full Court Press Radio and Lead Columnist of FULL COURT PRESS RADIO.

Check out more from Danny here.
Reprinted with permission.

 

 

 



 

NBA Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin

Clippers Blake Griffin To Miss The Rest Of The Playoffs

Blake Griffin will miss the remainder of the postseason after aggravating the left quad injury that kept him out for half of the regular season. Griffin felt a tweak in the same quad while getting fouled in the third quarter Monday night by Mason Plumlee.

An MRI on Tuesday morning revealed no further structural damage, and Griffin will be ready for the start of training camp next season, but his 2015-16 playoffs are done.

 

For the rest of the story see the Clippers Press Release

 

 


NBA Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul

It’s Wait Until Next Year Again For The Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers have been a very good regular season team for the past five years, winning over 60 percent of their games and finishing first or second in the Pacific Division each season. However, they haven’t been able to get past the Western Conference Semis and after a Game Four disaster in Portland, it’s wait again until next year for the Clippers.

Things were looking up for the Clippers until last night. They had Blake Griffin back from injury just in time for the playoffs and they had reasonable expectations that Griffin would be playing in All-Star form by the second round.

Facing the upstart Trail Blazers who are in the midst of a major rebuilding program, the fourth place Clippers were heavy favorites to win their first round series in five or six games and the first place Golden State Warriors had just lost MVP Stephen Curry to an MCL strain that will cause him to miss at least a couple of weeks and possibly more.

You don’t want to wish injury on anther team, but without Curry raining threes for the Warriors, the Clippers had a fighting chance of advancing to the Conference Final. Then everything got thrown up in the air and the Clippers might not even be the favorite versus Portland anymore as reported by Robert Morales of Inside The Clippers.

The Clippers lost Chris Paul – probably for the series and maybe for the season – when Paul sustained a fracture of the third metacarpal in his right hand during the third quarter.

“Well, I didn’t see the play, I just know he fractured his hand,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said, glumly. “He’s going to get it evaluated tomorrow, but it obviously doesn’t look very good for him.”

That’s not all. Blake Griffin’s partially torn quad tendon is acting up again, and he wasn’t able to play down the stretch.

“It doesn’t look great for him, either,” Rivers said. “We’ll see about it tomorrow.”

The Clippers had played well without Griffin for most of the regular season and should be able to deal with Portland if he was their only concern, however, even this setback would likely have been too big to handle in a second round match against the Warriors. Now missing Paul, the Clippers are a shell of themselves.

A perennial All-Star and All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive Team selection, Paul runs the offense and guards the opposition’s best player. He is irreplaceable. A broken hand means see you in training camp. Rivers has lost his horse.

Even without a solution, the Clippers won’t give up as reported by J.A. Adande of ESPN,

“Obviously, people are going to write us off,” Jamal Crawford said. “But what are you going to do? Are you going to fight or run?”

“There’s nobody, probably, in the league that’s going to replace Chris Paul,” Rivers said. “So there’s nobody clearly on our team that’s going to do it.”

While nothing is for sure in the playoffs, the odds in this first round match have just turned in Portland’s favor and even if the Clippers somehow survive the young Trail Blazers onslaught without Paul, no one is going to give them a ghost of a chance against the Warriors, with or without Curry.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry

Making Sense of the Warriors Stephen Curry’s Knee Injury

By Ethan Stern, FULL COURT PRESS RADIO

Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP and leader of the defending champion record-breaking Golden State Warriors, was diagnosed with a Grade 1 Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Sprain, throwing Warriors fans into a panic. The diagnosis follows a fall that Curry suffered on a wet spot on the court at Houston’s Toyota Center.

The MCL, which is responsible for twisting movement, is paramount to the kind of game Curry plays, but the diagnosis of a Grade 1 sprain means that the collagen of the ligament was not disrupted too far from what would be considered normal. Curry will most likely be wearing a hinged brace on his leg for the next couple of weeks, as the MCL is not load-bearing and should not restrict Curry’s ability to walk normally. Curry was given a period of two weeks to heal and rehabilitate, after which he will be rehabilitated. Assuming Curry makes a full recovery in the two weeks and passes his evaluation, Curry will miss the first three games of the Western Conference Semifinals.

If all series favorites win, the Warriors will play the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The Clippers, who won 53 games this season, would still technically be an underdog against the 73-win Warriors, as Curry was worth an estimated 18 wins, which would bring their season total down to 55.

Unfortunately for Warriors fans, that’s not how these things work. The Clippers were 6th in both offense and defense efficiency this season, meaning they are a borderline title contender in their own right. With Curry, the Warriors led the league in offensive efficiency and were fourth in defense, but without him, granted the small sample size, they drop to fourth in offense and last in defense.

The Warriors net rating without Curry in the playoffs, however, is a solid 4.2, actually having a better offensive rating than the Clippers. The Clippers have had a much better defense though, holding Portland to almost 10 points fewer per 100 possessions than the Warriors have held the Rockets.

The Warriors swept the season series against the Clippers, winning all four games. Curry played in all four games they were matched up against each other.

Update: The Clippers Chris Paul broke his hand in the Game Four loss to the Trail Blazers leaving that series tied at two games apiece. Add to that Blake Griffin old quad injury acting up again and the Clippers could find themselves on the wrong of a long first round series with Portland.

Conclusion, the Warriors just got a lot of breathing room while they wait on Curry’s return.

 

Ethan Stern writes for FULL COURT PRESS RADIO.

Check out more from Ethan here.
Reprinted with permission.

 

 


NBA Houston Rockets Dwight Howard

NBA Trade Deadline Teams Motivated By Money

With about 30 games left in the NBA’s regular season, teams know who they are and their realistic chances of making noise in the postseason, bearing a major trade deadline addition. For teams that are underachieving, deals motivated by money become a very real possibility.

The luxury tax provisions of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement are enough to give any general manager reason to pause. It has to be worth it to pay the tax. It really has to be worth it if your team is about to be hit with the Repeater Tax which comes into effect if your team has been a tax payer in three of the past four seasons.

Per Basketball Insiders, currently there are eight teams that will be subject to the luxury tax if they don’t do anything about it: Bulls, Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Heat, Thunder, and Spurs.

  1. Bulls over $4.3 million, potential tax $6.5 million
  2. Cavs over $24.5 million, potential tax $62 million
  3. Warriors $10.7 million, potential tax $18 million
  4. Rockets $3.5 million, potential tax $5.3 million
  5. Clippers $10.8 million, potential tax $18.3 million
  6. Heat $5.5 million, potential tax $8.4 million
  7. Thunder $12.4 million, potential tax $22.3 million
  8. Spurs $1.7 million, potential tax $2.5 million

(Shamsports.com provides a complete history of luxury tax payments)

It’s likely safe to assume the Cavs, Warriors, Thunder and Spurs are reasonably happy paying the tax. They’re in it to win it and if they make a trade, it will either be a fringe player to save a little tax or a genuine basketball move. Money will not be a major factor for any these teams at the trade deadline.

However, the Bulls, Rockets, Clippers and Heat are all in the thick of the rumor mill and as potential tax payers, it makes sense. Significantly underachieving, these teams are motivated by money.

The Bulls season has been hit hard by injuries, but somehow it seems like injuries have been just a contributing factor. Chicago paid the tax in 2013, but that’s it, a one-time only deal and paying the tax for the hope of clinging to a playoff spot is hard to imagine. The Bulls will be motivated to cut their luxury tax exposure by the trade deadline.

A bad start, a coaching change and sitting in 9th place at the All-Star break isn’t where the Rockets imagined they’d be. Inconsistent and just barely a tax team, those Dwight Howard is available rumors make a lot of sense – both team and money-wise.

Looking at the Clippers who have been tax payers the past two seasons and suddenly those Blake Griffin trade rumors don’t seem so far fetched, especially when one considers this team has been a lot better playing small ball (like almost everyone else) than bully ball with two big men on the court. The Clippers are a distant fourth best in the West and have to be thinking about how they can rise up the ranks. Saving some luxury tax dollars in the process would be sweet.

Is there any team that gets more hype than the Heat for such average results? Paying the tax for an NBA Finals team is easy, but forking over an extra $8 million in tax for a middling playoff team doesn’t fit with this organization’s history. Miami is in the thick of the rumors and they should be. It’s either get a lot better or cut salary. Standing pat at the trade deadline makes no sense.

Money isn’t the only factor in trade deadline deals, but it would be foolish to assume that it isn’t a factor and luxury taxes aren’t the only motivating factor when it comes to money either. Creating salary cap space for next summer matters too. However, since the new CBA came into effect, those expiring contracts that can create salary cap space haven’t been worth much.

Almost to the point in the cycle where changes to the CBA are inevitable and general managers still seem to be working through the impact of all the changes from last time. However, money remains a constant and paying extra without results has never been popular.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA LA Clippers Doc Rivers

Something Just Isn’t Right With The LA Clippers

By Frank McLean

Sunday night the Los Angeles Clippers made their annual appearance in Toronto to face the Raptors, but watching this team, something just does not seem right.

Coming into the game both these teams held identical won-loss records of 28-15. The Raptors were on a seven game win streak sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference just two games back of first place Cleveland. The Clippers had only recently come off a 10 game winning streak and were fourth in the Western Conference 12 games back of the first place Golden State Warriors.

Since the Raptors beat the Clippers in Los Angeles on November 22, the Clippers have been on a 22-8 roll and they were 11-2 while missing the services of their big forward Blake Griffin.

That’s the weird stat, 11-2 without the guy that’s supposed to stir the drink.

There is no word yet when they will get Griffin back. Reports last week had him possibly coming back in time for the Raptors game.

Of course if you listen on line to sports radio from Los Angeles you hear Clipper fans calling in saying “let’s trade Griffin we don’t need him!”

You can understand their frustrations as many people the last couple of seasons have had this Clippers team as an NBA Championship contender only to see them make an early exit from the playoffs.

The Clippers lost in Toronto 112-94 to drop their record to 28-16 and 1-2 on their current 5 game road trip.

The Clippers starting five were not the problem. The Clippers actually had a 13 point lead 10 minutes into the first quarter, but their bench was not good as the Raptors bench outscored the Clippers reserves 51-29 and that’s why they were behind the eight ball the rest of the game.

After the game Clippers coach and GM Doc Rivers, who will always give you and honest answer about his team, did not sugar coat the Clippers performance from their bench.

“They were awful, I think that’s it. It is rare you lose by 18 points and your starters all have a plus. That doesn’t happen very often. Our bench has been good but tonight they were awful. We subbed out and it went back to -20. It was one of those nights.”

The starters were supporting their bench teammates as guard J.J. Redick stated.

“It’s a team sport. There are nights where our bench unit has been great and extended leads, and times where we’ve gone into the fourth up single digits and not had to play the fourth quarter, so they’ve done a great job for us lately and there’s going to be night’s like this. It just felt like one of those nights where none of them could really find that rhythm or fight to get that unit going.”

Watching the game I was thinking maybe the Raptors were exposing the Clippers weaknesses. Clippers guard Chris Paul may have hit the nail on the head with his post- game comments.

“I think they’ve just got a lot of guards that just break us down off the dribble. But we’ve got to figure it out because hopefully we meet them (in the playoffs) at some point. They are a tough team.”

The Clippers are fourth in the NBA in scoring averaging 105 points a night and since Christmas they have averaged 110.2 a night and that’s without their best player in Griffin.

Getting Griffin back will help as the guards will have someone they can get the ball to when they get held up on the dribble, but that’s just one player.

Coach Doc Rivers needs to have a heart to heart talk with Doc Rivers the GM about getting him some help that can make it easier to get the ball into the hands of Griffin, Paul Pearce and DeAndre Jordan who is better shooter from the field than at the free throw line.

The Clippers also need some help on the defensive front, another defender would help because if they get out of the first round they will probably have to beat San Antonio before they get a shot at Golden State and San Antonio is the only team in the West that really has a shot at knocking off the defending champions.

Some of these moves should have been done in the off season, but it may be a moot point because the Clippers just don’t look ready to play for a championship.

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

Editors note:

Something must really not be right with the Clippers as Blake Griffin got into an altercation with a team staffer at a Toronto restaurant and broke his hand. One has to wonder what the GM Rivers will have to say about that?

 

 

 

NBA Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin

Clippers Blake Griffin Hits Staffer Breaks Hand

ESPN reports that during the Los Angeles Clippers recent road trip to Toronto five-time All-Star Blake Griffin hit a team employee and broke his hand. Griffin is expected to miss several weeks.

According to the sources, Griffin and the equipment staffer got into an argument in a restaurant during the team’s trip to Toronto. Griffin hit the man.

Griffin suffered a suspected fracture in his hand in the incident.

The equipment staffer’s face was injured.

Both Griffin and the equipment staffer were sent home after the incident.

Detroit Pistons Media Day

Who Wants The Pistons Josh Smith?

The Detroit Pistons have requested waivers on forward Josh Smith and will eat the balance of his $54 million contract rather than give away draft picks and take back players they would rather not have. It is commendable of Head Coach, President and chief bottle-washer Stan Van Gundy to admit that a very expensive player simply isn’t working out with his team and risk paying a very athletic forward to help out some other team. So who wants Smith?

Sacramento Kings 12-15

The obvious first choice is the Sacramento Kings who may have been the only team that Van Gundy was able to generate any trade interest in his rather expensive forward.

The Kings have looked like a potential playoff team in the West when DeMarcus Cousins has been in the lineup and adding a talented player like Smith would seem to be the type of move that could tip the scales in their favor. From the outside looking in, the only fly in that ointment could be Rudy Gay. How many tweener forwards that like to drive and aren’t known as effective floor spreaders can a team put on the court at the same time without clogging up the paint?

The Kings don’t need Smith’s rebounding and definitely can’t afford his three-point shooting, but they could use his help defense to boost their weak steal and block numbers.

The Kings probably don’t make the playoffs this year in a very competitive Western Conference without a significant addition, so they should be willing to give Smith a chance to be the guy that gets them over the hump.

With the Pistons paying out the balance of his contract, Smith should be willing to take the NBA veteran’s minimum over the next couple of years, but if he wants more cash, there are teams out there that can offer more. The Hawks, Bucks, Magic, 76ers, Suns and Jazz all have salary cap space available according to Basketball Insiders. The Celtics, Rockets, Thunder, Spurs and Raptors have their Bi-Annual Exception available and at least a dozen teams still have some usable portion of their Mid-Level Exception left. However, Smith will be in the favored position every NBA veteran seems to love – the ability to join a true contender without having to worry about getting paid.

The bigger question every contender will be asking is, will Smith be willing to accept the role his new head coach assigns him? There should be no doubt Smith could help a lot of teams, but it could be by coming off the bench or playing significantly reduced minutes from what he has been used to.

Smith has been to the playoffs six times and if that’s enough, he has lots of viable options and he can likely have a lot bigger say in how he is used, but if he wants to join a conference contender, his options suddenly get a lot tighter and the Kings really shouldn’t be on that list.

Houston Rockets 19-7

The Rockets could use help at small forward, but Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones have been great at power forward, so Houston doesn’t need help with their bigs. There may be mutual interest, but Smith probably doesn’t make them better and past history says playing Smith at small forward is inviting disaster.

Dallas Mavericks 20-8

After trading for Rajon Rondo, the Mavericks suddenly have an obvious depth issue at power forward and a win-it-all-now mentality. If Smith wants his shot at an NBA title, he’ll be hard pressed to find a better situation than backing up Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas on the NBA’s highest scoring team. Add in Dallas having about $2.5 million in salary cap space and this looks like an easy deal for both sides.

Portland Trail Blazers 22-6

Another top Western Conference team with depth issues at power forward is Portland. The light-hitting Thomas Robinson is backing up LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers could really use a backup to reduce their star player’s minutes and provide some security in case Aldridge misses a few games here and there. Sitting at second place in the West, it shouldn’t take much to convince Smith that Portland is for real.

Los Angeles Clippers 19-8

If any team in the West could use a jolt to the system it is the disappointing Clippers. A team loaded with talent that has underperformed expectations and backup power forward is the obvious weak link in the chain. The Clippers would have to cut someone – say goodbye to Hedo Turkoglu or Glen Davis ( or Jared Cunningham’s salary isn’t guaranteed) – and add to their luxury tax bill, but they need Smith – maybe more than he needs them.

Toronto Raptors 22-6

The Toronto Raptors find themselves unexpectedly in first place and leading the Eastern Conference by two games over Atlanta and Washington. The only knock on the East’s highest scoring team has been in their decidedly average ability to grab rebounds and protect the rim – something Smith excels at.

The Raptors are a collection of players where team chemistry has made the total significantly better than the expected sum of their parts and any tinkering might upset the balance, so President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri won’t face any criticism if he passes on Smith. However, if Smith were to buy into the concept of putting winning ahead of personal playing time and stats, he could be the missing piece the Raptors need to come out of the East this season.

If Smith wants a bigger payday and/or lots of playing time, he should check out the Lakers, Knicks, HEAT, or any number of other teams he could likely talk his way onto without too much difficulty. A player like Smith on a cheap contract will be too hard for most general managers to pass up.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Griffin and Chandler

Ranking The Top Five 2014-15 NBA Western Conference Teams

Really this should be titled, “Is It Time To Bet Against The Spurs?” Has a team that won 75 percent of their games in two of the past three seasons going to finally hit the tipping point due to age that everyone has been trying to forecast for years now?

Ranking the top five NBA Western Conference teams hasn’t gotten any easier this season. The difference between fourth and ninth is almost splitting hairs. The final positions of every team in the Western Conference playoff picture – including the Mighty Spurs – will come down to health, the unforeseen progress of young players and a significant helping of blind luck.

The Top Five

1. Los Angeles Clippers – Projected 59-23, last season 57-25

The Clippers ran into a wall of controversy last season that has been effectively resolved and they solved the biggest hole in their lineup with the acquisition of Spencer Hawes. Head Coach Doc Rivers now has an effective offensive weapon to bring off the bench when teams try to disrupt their momentum with a hack-a-Jordan to put the Clippers 42 percent free throw shooter on the line.

It seems like everyone has forgotten about Doc Rivers and his two young dominate big men that have evolved into young veterans. The Clippers still feature one of the best point guards of his era in Chris Paul and have a roster loaded with savvy veterans. It would be nice to see one more tweak to shore up the depth at guard or wing, but this is the Clippers year to shine.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder – Projected 58-24, last season 59-23

The Thunder are contenders to reach the Western Conference Finals again, however, it isn’t getting any easier.

Oklahoma City remains deep, talented and young. They also face the same issues at center with the effectiveness of Kendrick Perkins and the youth of Steve Adams when they face the best in the West. Sympathy levels around the league remain low for a team Kevin Durant, however.

3. San Antonio Spurs – Projected 56-26, last season 62-20

The Southwest Division is not going to take the Spurs down a peg, however, the improving Clippers and a healthy Thunder are not going to play second fiddle again this time.

Tim Duncan (38), Manu Ginobili (37), Tony Parker (32) and Boris Diaw (32) are all back and extremely important to the success of Head Coach Gregg Popovich’s Spurs. Anyone who believes Pop was careful with his aging roster before – well – this season, expect him to take it up a notch.

The Spurs are tough, resilient and arguably the best coached team in the NBA. It really won’t matter what position they end up in, no one wants to meet them in the first round of the playoffs. The only reason to project fewer wins than last season is the Spurs stars continue to get older. Father-time catches up to everyone eventually doesn’t it?

4. Golden State Warriors – Projected 53-29, last season 51-31

The risk in Golden State is injuries. The Warriors improved defensively last season and still won 51 times despite games missed by Andre Iguodala (19), Andrew Bogut (15) and David Lee (13). The Splash Brothers make the Warriors an offensive machine with amazing comeback ability and if the team can stay reasonably healthy, upping last season’s win total should be a breeze.

The additions of Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa give the Warriors some much needed veteran depth at guard. Look for a Team USA Gold Medal bump from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson early on.

5. Dallas Mavericks – Projected 52-30, last season 49-33

The bottom half of the Western Conference playoff standings is going to look even more crowded than last season, mostly because the teams fighting to get into the playoff picture will be better.

Dallas wisely upped their playoff chances over the summer by improving defensively with Tyson Chandler and giving Dirk Nowitzki more room to operate by spreading the floor with Chandler Parsons. The Mavericks head into this season as a veteran team that will be even harder to guard on the perimeter and a little tougher to score on inside and that should be just enough to give them an edge over the next five best teams in the West.

Risks and Obstacles

No one in the West should feel too secure about their playoff position come April, there are teams not expected to make the playoffs who will make significant strides this season. However, barring disaster, pushing the Clippers, Thunder and Spurs out of the way is probably too big a hill to climb. Everyone else had better buckle up.

Who do you think will put forth the effort it takes to be first in the NBA Western Conference? Which one of these teams do you think gives up home court in the first round of the playoffs? Can any other team crack the top five in the West? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Ranking The Top Five 2014-15 NBA Eastern Conference Teams

There is change coming to the anticipated top five teams in the NBA Eastern Conference for 2014-15. Teams that stepped up unexpectedly last season are looking for more, player movement during the summer will have a huge impact and risks abound all around the Conference.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

Los Angeles Clippers Sale To Steve Ballmer Is Done

NBA Communications Group reported on Tuesday, August 12th:

The transaction in which Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers closed today following the entry of an order by a California court confirming the authority of Shelly Sterling, on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust, to sell the team.

The NBA Board of Governors previously approved the sale and Ballmer is now the Clippers Governor.

This deal is done.  Sterling has lost his bid to appeal the decision.

 

 

 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

Judge Confirms Shelly Sterling Can Sell The Clippers

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver should be happy, a Judge hearing the case to determine if Shelly Sterling had the right to sell the Los Angeles Clippers pursuant to a family trust arrangement has ruled in her favor and subject to possible appeals and other ongoing litigation, this messy situation may be nearing a conclusion as far as the NBA is concerned. The sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion seems likely to get done over the objections of Donald Sterling’s lawyers.

Billy Witz of The New York Times reports,

Judge Michael Levanas of California Superior Court said that Rochelle (Shelly) Sterling had properly followed the directions of the family trust in removing Donald Sterling, her estranged husband, as co-trustee and that the sale of the team could be completed without waiting for what would be a lengthy appeal.

The essence of Shelly Sterlings’ right to sell the team hangs on the medical evidence that Donald is mentally incapacitated due to dementia or Alzheimer’s and from a layman’s point of view, the events that directly led to the actions taken by the NBA and what has occurred in court only seem to further support that assertion.

Yahoo Sports reported a Neurologist believes Donald Sterling’s has been suffering this medical condition for at least three years.

Neurologist Dr. Meril Platzer testified that she came to that conclusion after having the disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner undergo a battery of tests, including a CT (computerized tomography) scan and a PET (positron emission tomography) scan.

Asked how long Donald Sterling had been suffering from “dementia or Alzheimer’s” disease, Platzer said, “at least for three years, most likely for five years.”

The Alzheimer Society describes the symptoms of the condition as:

Memory loss affecting day-to-day abilities – forgetting things often or struggling to retain new information.

Difficulty performing familiar tasks – forgetting how to do something you’ve been doing your whole life, such as preparing a meal or getting dressed.

Problems with language – forgetting words or substituting words that don’t fit the context.

Disorientation in time and space – not knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place.

Impaired judgment – not recognizing a medical problem that needs attention or wearing light clothing on a cold day.

Problems with abstract thinking – not understanding what numbers signify on a calculator, for example, or how they’re used.

Misplacing things – putting things in strange places, like an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

Changes in mood and behaviour – exhibiting severe mood swings from being easy-going to quick-tempered.

Changes in personality – behaving out of character such as feeling paranoid or threatened.

Loss of initiative – losing interest in friends, family and favourite activities.

With those symptoms, it would not be possible to make rational billion dollar decisions, but it also brings up another question. What does the NBA do about Donald Sterling now? Shelly Sterling believes that one day her husband’s lifetime ban from the NBA will be lifted and her belief has merit.

Set aside Donald Sterling’s history as the Clippers owner, his trouble with housing discrimination and former NBA players, Sterling was banned for the racist comments he recently made and if his wife, a Judge and a Neurologist are to be believed, they were made while he had a medical condition that likely affected his memory, behavior and judgment.

We do not usually hold people with reduced mental capacity accountable for their actions and punish them. Once the court cases are over and Donald Sterling is out of the hands of his lawyers and under the care of the medical community, it would be appropriate to revisit the NBA’s lifetime ban. Putting Donald Sterling front and center in a courtside seat is probably going too far, he had a history before the incident that got him banned that will always be hard for many people to ignore, but not letting an old man who probably doesn’t accurately remember what he’s done or why attend a basketball game is questionable.

With an aging population, many people have family members suffering from some form of dementia. What someone with dementia does isn’t a crime, it isn’t anyone’s fault and no one should be punished because it has afflicted them.

The sale of the Clippers to new ownership is in the best interests of everyone, but the circumstances surrounding this is an issue worthy of further discussion. The NBA might want to take a step back and revisit this situation once the smoke clears. A lot of their owners are not getting any younger and dementia doesn’t spare people just because they are rich.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

LAC Paul and Jordan

Steve Ballmer To Buy Clippers For $2 Billion?

Apparently there was some truth to earlier reports that Donald Sterling had instructed his (ex-)wife Shelly Sterling to find a buyer for the Los Angeles Clippers. According to Los Angeles Times reporter James Rainey, Steve Ballmer has won a bidding war for the team with a $2 billion offer.

 

 

Donald Sterling appears to have kept every option open in his battle to retain his NBA franchise or resolve the situation on his own terms. From hoping the other owners wouldn’t vote him out, to threatening protracted litigation, to looking for a buyer ahead of the coming storm. With a $2 billion offer on the table, everybody could come out a winner from this messy situation.

By any measure, this is a massive offer, but this situation isn’t over until every step in the process is complete. Donald Sterling could reject the bid, the NBA could reject the buyer, or unforeseen terms and conditions from Ballmer or the NBA could put the kibosh on the deal.

However, at least for the moment, there is a glimmer of hope the NBA and Donald Sterling have found a way to part company amicably.

 

NBA Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin

Clippers Teach Raptors Some Hard Lessons

In a game that started out very reminiscent of the 126-118 Raptors loss to the Clippers in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, this young developing team got another lesson in physical play, but this time it was in Los Angeles.  Unlike in Toronto where both Patrick Patterson and DeMar DeRozan were injured, only the Raptors pride was bruised this time as they lost 118-105.

It was the Blake Griffin show in the opening quarter as the All-Star put up 19 points on 8-11 shooting overwhelming both Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas and the only thing keeping the Raptors in this game was the play of their own All-Star DeMar DeRozan who scored 12 points on 6-8 from the field.  Both teams shot 55 percent or better and the Clippers opened with a 29-22 lead in a game that favored their style of play.

The Clippers upped the ante in the second quarter as they increased the pace and the Raptors simply couldn’t keep up.  Lob City scored 12 fast break points in the quarter to just 2 for Toronto on their way to 38 points and a 16 point first half lead.  Just like in Toronto, it was Jamaal Crawford who became the unstoppable force when Griffin wasn’t scoring as the league’s most productive sixth man (and occasional starter) scored 14 points.  The Raptors did score 29 points of their own, but in many ways, that was fool’s gold.

Toronto shot 51.4 percent from the field in the first half, but they were out rebounded by 9 and had no answer for Griffin or DeAndre Jordan in the paint at either end of the court.  Terrence Ross, who scored 51 points in Toronto, threw down a highlight reel dunk off an athletic drive to the hoop, but otherwise had a quiet game.

“It was a fast paced game and that’s not our style,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said.  “But, they kind of get you in that game.  If we’re scoring, that’s one thing, but we weren’t making buckets, so we were kind of at their will running at us.”

Almost immediately down 20 points to start the second half, Casey decided to break the Clippers momentum with the unpopular hack-a-Jordan strategy and it worked to perfection.  The game ground to a halt as Jordan was sent to the free throw line 16 times.  He made 8 of them, but Clippers shot just 25 percent for the quarter and only scored 25 points while the Raptors went on a tear behind the efforts of Kyle Lowry to score 32 points and out rebound the Clippers 14-11.  Unfortunately for Toronto, their hot shooting of the first half was cooling off and they only hit on 43.5 percent of their attempts.

“We were trying to break the tide,” Casey said.  We broke their rhythm and cut it to a 9 point game.  We had to do something.  Physically they were just man-handling us in the paint.  I thought that changed the game a little bit and put ourselves in a position.  We missed a lot of chippies, a lot of bunnies.  The free throws were huge and normally we are better than 26 percent from three.”

In many ways, the Raptors dominated the Clippers with an ugly second half and if they could have hit their shots in the fourth quarter, this game was very winnable.  Toronto continued to out rebound the Clippers in the final quarter by a 15-10 margin and held them to just 14 shots, but the Raptors went ice-cold from the field, shooting 5-25 for just 22 points, DeRozan scoring half of them on his way to a 36 point, 5 rebound and 8 assist game.

Jonas Valanciunas had an 11 point 13 rebound double-double, but he shot just 4-7 from the field a 3-9 from the free throw line and struggled throughout most of this game with the Clippers physicality.  Terrence Ross had a very quiet 9 points on 3-10 shooting.  Lowry finished with 19 points and 6 boards.

This was another game that got away, but Casey reminded everyone that the Raptors are a team that is still under development and learning how to play.

“We want to compete every time we walk out, but the main thing is we are building,” Casey said.  “We are getting better in small areas and in some areas we are not.  The physicality department, that is going to take a little more time for guys to figure that out.

“My thing is competing.  You go out – compete and fight physically – and then you let the chips fall where they may.  Only time and maturity is going to help certain situations.

“Everyone is talking about success and we are still a growing team, a developing team.  Again, we got to keep that in mind.  We get upset when we get a chance to put ourselves in a position to win, but we are still a young team, a team that is still learning, learning how to play a physical style of basketball.”

Griffin finished with 36 points and 8 rebounds.  Jordan had 18 points and 13 rebounds and was 10-22 from the free throw line.  Crawford added 21 points.

After the game, the message conveyed to the Raptors players was the All-Star break isn’t until next weekend and they still have business to attend to at home.

“I just told the guys, we got to go back and take care of home,” Casey said.

Toronto returns home to face the Pelicans on Monday and the Hawks on Wednesday before they break for All-Star Weekend.

The Clippers play the 76ers on Sunday and the Trail Blazers on Wednesday.

Check out our Game Info page and Pregame Report.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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Raptors Coach Casey Wins With All-Star Selections
This season started with speculation that Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey wasn’t new President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri’s guy and therefore, his tenure in Toronto would be short-lived.  Nothing changed over the summer and Ujiri moved out Andrea Bargnani and brought in a bunch of look-see players on short term deals that left everyone wondering what the future held.  Now with 3 Raptors players selected to represent Toronto in headline events on each day of All-Star Weekend, perhaps it’s time to stop wondering about Coach Casey’s future.

Los Angeles Clippers Media Day

How The Raptors Can Beat The Clippers

Two weeks ago the Los Angeles Clippers came to Toronto in the midst of a highly successful 7 game Eastern Conference road trip and pulled the Raptors into a defense avoiding shootout that ended in a 126-118 victory for the visitors.  Toronto scored 37 points in the first quarter and could never get back to their defensive principles as almost everyone was just having too much fun.

Hot shooting was the order of the evening as the Raptors Terrence Ross tied Vince Carter’s franchise single game scoring mark of 51 points on 16-29 from the field.  Blake Griffin poured in 30 points for the visitors and Jamaal Crawford scored 37 points and dished 11 dimes in an impressive offensive display.  However, the Raptors lost more than just the game as both DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Patterson were injured.

“For the fans it was a great exhibition of basketball,” Casey said afterwards. “The young man Terrence (Ross) picked it up – we lose DeMar when he hurts his ankle – (Ross) put on a heck of a display. He not only had 51 points. He had 9 rebounds which was huge too.”

“Patrick, his nose is broken.  Griffin came through with a forearm and got him – and (Patterson) got the foul – probably will have to wear a mask to play.”

DeRozan was injured when former Raptor Hedo Turkoglu stuck his foot under him on a jump shot.  Griffin aggressively ducked and then lifted his head and forearm into Patterson’s face on a drive to the basket.  Both DeRozan and Patterson have since returned from their injuries.

The game was close and Toronto had a 1 point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but in a game dependent upon firepower for success they missed DeRozan and Patterson down the stretch.  For all of his scoring, Ross didn’t make another field goal over the final 8 minutes.

With DeRozan healthy, the Raptors might have a shot at winning a shootout with the Clippers, but that hasn’t been the formula for success in Toronto this season.  When the Raptors win, it is most often the result of shutting down the other team’s offense and in Los Angeles that can be a tall order.  The Clippers are the second highest scoring team in the NBA at 106.2 points per game.  They like to run, lob, and play a fun brand of basketball.  In the process the Clippers give up over 100 points per game and it will be up to Toronto to avoid getting sucked into the Clippers style of play.  A quick look at the Clippers record shows they have just 4 wins and 11 losses when the fail to score 100 or more points.

The Raptors are catching the Clippers in a bit of a funk.  After going 5-2 on their long road trip, they have won just once in their past 4 games, losing to the Warriors, Nuggets and HEAT.  All-Star point guard Chris Paul has been out with a separated shoulder since January 4th.  This is the last game in Toronto’s Western Conference road trip and they have split the games 2-2, winning when they have held their opponents under 100 points and losing otherwise.  How the Raptors can win in Los Angeles shouldn’t be that much of a mystery to anyone.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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TOR_Ross_Terrence

Raptors Terrence Ross Breaks Out To Score 51 In Loss

Toronto Raptors sophomore wing Terrence Ross broke out the NBA ready skill that Head Coach Dwane Casey has said was there since the team drafted him and exploded for a franchise tying 51 points in a shootout loss to the Clippers 126-118 at the Air Canada Centre.

On February 27, 2000, Vince Carter scored 51 points and collected 9 rebounds for the Raptors in a 103-102 win over the Suns at the Air Canada Centre and Ross came within a missed free throw with 4 seconds left of surpassing this long held scoring mark.

It was a career night for Ross across numerous statistical categories:

Category            Old Career High           This Game
Minutes                      39                                44
Points                         26                                 51 franchise high
FGM                            10                                16
FGA                             17                                 29
3FGM                            7                                 10
3FGA                           11                                 17
FTM                              4                                    9
FTA                               6                                  10
Rebounds                     9                                   9

This was Ross’ night right from the start. He hit 2 three-pointers in the first 3 minutes and was 5-6 from deep in the first quarter. The assault from the land beyond kept going from there as Ross also set a new franchise high with 7 three-pointers for a half. He had 23 points at the break.

“For the fans it was a great exhibition of basketball,” Casey said. “The young man Terrence (Ross) picked it up – we lose DeMar when he hurts his ankle – (Ross) put on a heck of a display. He not only had 51 points. He had 9 rebounds which was huge too.”

The Raptors didn’t have any idea just how badly they were going to need Ross’ scoring in this game. At the 7:52 mark of the second quarter, Hedo Turkoglu slide under DeMar DeRozan on a jump shot and DeRozan landed on Turkoglu’s foot. After a full timeout, DeRozan took his free throws and stayed in the game, but after x-rays during half-time and trying to give it a go in the third quarter, DeRozan left the game for good and is scheduled for further tests.

“The x-rays were negative,” Casey said. “But, it is a little bit swollen, so hopefully he can go (play Brooklyn on Monday), but we will have to wait and see tomorrow.”

To make matters worse for Toronto, in the third quarter Blake Griffin broke Patrick Patterson’s nose he dived towards Patterson bringing his head, arms and ball up into Patterson’s face.

“Patrick, his nose is broken,” Casey confirmed. “Griffin came through with a forearm and got him – and (Patterson) got the foul. He can go (on Monday) – probably will have to wear a mask to play.”

The Raptors were tied with the Clippers after three-quarters at 93 points when Ross hit the very long distance heave as time expired.

In recent games, it has been DeRozan who has taken over the fourth quarter scoring for the Raptors and they could have used the extra firepower in this game. The Clippers outscored Toronto 33-25 in the fourth to win.

“It was an incredible offensive display on their part,” Casey said. It wasn’t like our guys weren’t giving effort at the defensive end. They made some tough shots.”

Jamaal Crawford had an amazing night, matching Ross’ scoring in the first half with 26 points of his own and finishing the game with a 37 point 11 assist double-double. The Raptors simply couldn’t find anyone that could effectively guard him.

Griffin dominated as well with 30 points and J.J. Redick, who was in and out of the game with back issues, scored 18 points.

The Raptors other sophomore Jonas Valanciunas had a 17 point 12 rebound double-double and Kyle Lowry had 11 points and 12 assists.

The Atlantic Division leading Raptors head to Brooklyn to play the Division’s second place Nets in a very important game on Monday.

The Clippers finished their 7-game Eastern Conference road trip in Milwaukee on Monday.

Check out our Raptors Game Info page and Pregame Report.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

NBA LA Clippers Doc Rivers

Raptors To Be Tested By Clippers Offense

The Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors return home after beating the 76ers on Friday night 104-95 to face the high scoring Pacific Division leading Clippers on Saturday and their defense will be tested.  The Clippers defeated the defense-oriented Bulls 112-95 on Friday night in Chicago.

The Raptors hang their hats on an NBA third best defense that holds their opponents to just 96.2 points per game and a modest offense led TOR_DeRozan_DeMarby DeMar DeRozan who is fourth in Eastern Conference scoring this season.  Starting point guard Kyle Lowry is having a career year in Toronto as he prepares for free agency this summer and both DeRozan and Lowry would be worthy All-Star reserves in the East.

Toronto’s defense got better this season after the Raptors acquired 4 players from the Sacramento Kings in the Rudy Gay trade.  Veterans SAC_Salmons_JohnJohn Salmons and Chuck Hayes have become game changers at the defensive end of the court for Head Coach Dwane Casey off the bench and the other former Kings, Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, have also made their mark.  The Raptors turned around a 6-12 start to the season to go 16-8 post trade and have taken unexpected wins away from Dallas twice, the Timberwolves and the Thunder.  The Raptors have proven themselves against the West.

At 30-15, the Clippers are a very good team and even with Chris Paul sidelined by a separated shoulder, there hasn’t been any drop off.  This team can win with backup Darren Collision leading the charge.

As expected, power forward Blake Griffin, averaging 22.7 points and 10 Los Angeles Clippers Media Dayrebounds, has been voted onto the Western Conference All-Star team for his third appearance in three years, but Griffin isn’t this team’s only offensive threat.  One of the NBA’s best sixth men, Jamaal Crawford is averaging over 17 points per game and J.J. Redick returned from injury 2 weeks ago to resume his long range assault on the basket.  Even without Paul, the Clippers have no lack of firepower.

However, all of their recent losses have been against tough defensive-oriented teams.  The Spurs, Pacers and Bobcats held the Clippers to 92 points or less to get the win.

The Clippers are nearing the end of a 7 game Eastern Conference road trip during which they have won every other game.  With a Clippers win last night in Chicago, the Raptors are undoubtedly hoping it’s their turn to take a game away from this very good team today.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

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“It is about Terrence Ross, growing him, getting him better. DeMar DeRozan is still a work-in-progress. Jonas Valanciunas is still a work-in-progress. We are still building – still in the improvement process of getting these guys better until further notice”