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BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Golden State Warriors (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 11:05:00 PDT)
The Golden State Warriors cannot be criticized for lacking ambition. Mark Jackson led the franchise to the playoffs in two consecutive seasons (out of his three total), a feat that made him their most successful head coach since the first Don Nelson era. His reward was a speedy dismissal. For whatever tensions existed between Jackson and his bosses — and there were many , to the point where a disaster may have loomed — it is fairly apparent that the people in charge of the Warriors expect to challenge for titles, not to lose out on homecourt advantage in the first round and take one playoff series every couple years. Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber want one of the league's preeminent franchises. The question isn't only if they have the roster to get them there, but whether they have hired the right man for the job. Former Phoenix Suns general manager, TNT commentator, and golfing buddy Steve Kerr has no coaching experience of any kind, just like Jackson when he was hired in 2011. Yet there's no guarantee that the Warriors will get lucky twice, even if Kerr has a sterling reputation and has said all the right things so far. The Warriors have taken a gamble, again, and Kerr may not connect with his players as well as Jackson did in his three seasons with the club. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] However, Kerr and his staff (which includes Alvin Gentry, his coach in Phoenix) can improve the team in other ways. It will take some work to match last season's third-ranked defense (by points allowed per possession), but there is a clear opportunity to best a No. 12 offense that belied Golden State's reputation as an especially potent group. While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson strengthened their status as the best outside-shooting duo in the NBA, the offense as a whole often became stagnant and went away from its strengths, especially when eschewing the pick-and-roll. With versatile players like Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Draymond Green, and Andrew Bogut in the lineup, there's no glaring reason why Golden State can't become a better offensive team. Failure to do so would be the clearest sign that Kerr did not have a particularly impressive first season in Oakland. Then again, it's not entirely clear how Kerr and the franchise will define success. Is it enough for him to set the team on a course toward achieving the results that Jackson didn't, or will he need to exceed them now? It's not necessarily prudent to set such rigid standards before the team even plays a regular-season game. Nevertheless, controversial coaching changes require fairly exacting analysis. The outcome of such gambles reflect upon the franchise well beyond win-loss record. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: A coach pit himself and his team against the world, winning a few battles and losing the war. Did the summer help at all? The answer to this question depends largely on your belief in Kerr and his abilities relative to those of Jackson. As previously noted, those opinions will vary and can't be discussed with any certainty for at least a few months. If we stick to the roster, then the Warriors should be a little better. For one thing, they lost only Jermaine O'Neal, a quality reserve big man who missed several months and may be of limited use at 36 years old. They added Shaun Livingston as a much-needed backup point guard who can defend bigger guards when teamed with Curry; Brandon Rush, who performed well with Golden State as a reserve wing in 2011-12; and Leandro Barbosa, unlikely to match his years in Phoenix but still a speedy guard with explosive tendencies. Plus, reserve center Festus Ezeli returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Go-to offseason acquisition: Livingston is still iffy for opening night , but when he's in the lineup he will give the Warriors options that they lacked last season. Though not the world's most adept floor leader, Livingston can contribute in many areas (8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes per game for the Brooklyn Nets in 2013-14) while freeing up other members of the team to excel. The Warriors lacked playmakers other than Curry and Iguodala, and they figure to be heavily dependent on those two for the same qualities this year. But Livingston provides some cover for a team that can use the help.

Hawks waive Eddie, Pittman, trim roster to 15 (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:49:17 PDT)
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks have trimmed their roster to 15 players by waiving forward Jarell Eddie and center Dexter Pittman.

Millsap, Hawks hold off Hornets, 117-114 in OT (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:41:09 PDT)
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Hawks looked ready for the regular season when building a big first-half lead.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Utah Jazz (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:15:00 PDT)


Drummond leads Pistons past Hawks, 104-100 (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 18 Oct 2014 19:41:24 PDT)
ATLANTA (AP) -- Andre Drummond had 19 points and 14 rebounds to help the Detroit Pistons beat the Atlanta Hawks 104-100 on Saturday night in an exhibition game.

LeBron James laments his failed recruitment efforts in his previous run in Cleveland (Ball Don't Lie)
(Sat, 18 Oct 2014 10:15:49 PDT)
The summer of 2005 was LeBron James’ first big chance at calling the shots, and better yet it was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first big chance at building a winner around their budding star. James had toiled for two individually impressive years on a lacking roster featuring Paul Silas and then Brendan Malone as head coaches, one that lost double-double machine Carlos Boozer to free agency in 2004. Young prospects like DaJuan Wagner and Darius Miles were working their way out of the league, as LeBron missed the playoffs in his first two campaigns. New ownership allowed for a new general manager – Danny Ferry, heading over from the champion San Antonio Spurs – a new coach, and plenty of cap space to work with. Prominent free agents that summer included restricted guys like Joe Johnson and Tyson Chandler, and unrestricted free agents Ray Allen, Larry Hughes, and Michael Redd. And LeBron James wanted to play with some combination of them, alongside a re-signed Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Things didn’t exactly work out as hoped, despite LeBron’s efforts. From Dave McMenamin at ESPN , via Pro Basketball Talk : "I recruited [before] I left here, but I just didn't win nothing so nobody wanted to play with me," James said, pointing out that previously, the lone marquee free agent to come to Cleveland based on his influence was Larry Hughes in 2005. "I recruited. I recruited Michael Redd, I recruited Joe Johnson, I recruited Chris Bosh. I recruited a lot of guys. I just didn't win, and they didn't want to come to Cleveland. So, I guess me winning two championships, it helped out a lot." Bosh was a free agent in 2006, the same year LeBron signed his curiously-sized three-year deal (including a player option for a fourth year) with the Cavaliers. Bosh also signed to the same terms that same summer. Hmm. Joe Johnson, you’ll recall, took advantage of a weird Atlanta Hawks obsession with him, negotiating a sign-and-trade deal for a maximum contract (more than the Cavs could have offered him without the same sign-and-trade machinations), netting the Phoenix Suns draft picks that turned into Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez. The Suns would have never matched Atlanta’s offer sheet for Johnson, the Hawks were played, and the Cavs were a victim of Atlanta’s excitability. Redd, on the other hand, would re-sign with a Milwaukee Bucks team that looked to be on the rise – taking in top overall pick Andrew Bogut a month earlier and welcoming back the injured T.J. Ford to the mix. Redd could make more money with the Bucks, who would make the playoffs the next season. Cleveland “settled” on Hughes and Donyell Marshall, and while this may feel like a bummer of a summer in retrospect, these new Cavaliers absolutely seemed like the right idea at the time. Hughes, in 2004-05, played like a mini-LeBron. He could handle, penetrate, find the open man and play sticky defense. He genuinely seemed like the perfect, almost Dwyane Wade-ish, all-around counterpart for James to grow alongside. Nothing in his past suggested that he would fall off as precipitously as he did. The same goes for Marshall, who was already 32 but boasting a game that figured to age well. The stretch power forward was ahead of his time, camping out in the corner with the lowly Toronto Raptors the year before and shooting 41 percent from long range. Absolutely nobody could (or, frankly, should) have predicted that that number would drop to 32 percent the next season. Their salaries, Ilguaskas’ re-signing, and James’ 2006 extension would prevent the Cavs from adding any significant talent around the budding MVP candidate. The Cavs could only hope to send them off for other disappointments making around the same salary, and that’s exactly what they did in 2008 – dealing Hughes and Marshall for, in essence, Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak. The Cavaliers would go on to make a second round playoff appearance following the signings in 2006 and the NBA Finals (with perhaps the worst Finals supporting cast in league history around James) the next season, so it wasn’t as if the payoff was a sad one, but things could have been better. And, while we’re kicking people while they’re down, one has to wonder what role former Cavalier coach Mike Brown (hired by Ferry in the summer of 2005) may have had in Hughes and Marshall’s unexpected offensive decline. Actually, things could have been worse. Prior to signing Ferry late in June, it was rumored that the Cavaliers were after Larry Brown as both coach and director of player personnel. Brown would instead go on to leave an NBA Finalist in Detroit to become New York Knicks head coach, and his attempted coup at winning Isiah Thomas’ gig as personnel boss eventually failed. Brown’s ascension to the throne in Cleveland would have been disastrous, and James’ career (though he’s yet to win a ring in Ohio) would have been worse off for it. Danny Ferry is much-maligned as a GM for various reasons , but during his first crack at running a team, hiring a coach, and working with cap space he seemed to make all the obvious and correct moves. He hired a Gregg Popovich disciple, re-signed a beloved All-Star center, brought in a shooter that could also rebound, and signed an all-around swingman that could fill in all the gaps. None of these moves worked out, but we shouldn’t let hindsight cloud what were applauded as A+ moves back then. As for LeBron’s recruitment? Faced with either playing with the game’s eventual best player, or making as much money as they could, free agents chose the latter. It’s hard to fault them for that. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Portland Trail Blazers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:20:00 PDT)
Last season went about as well as the Portland Trail Blazers organization and fans could have hoped. The team immediately outperformed preseason expectations with a 17-3 (and then 31-9) start to put itself in excellent position to grab a postseason berth. A rough March kept them from nabbing homecourt advantage in the first round, but a thrilling six-game victory over the Houston Rockets — capped by Damian Lillard's series-ending buzzer-beater — ensured that the Blazers could look at 2013-14 as a massive success. Over the course of a few months, a team thought to be in rebuilding mode became able to entertain challenging for a conference title. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] This is absolutely a good position for the franchise, but it also presents new challenges as head coach Terry Stotts and his players attempt to build on the gains of last season. The Blazers added several players who should improve a previously thin bench, but they remain heavily dependent on their starting five. Plenty of teams find themselves in the same situation, but few contenders take it to the same extreme as the Blazers. They will go as far as Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez take them. Those players are very good, to be fair. Lillard is coming into his own as a star, Matthews is one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league, Batum is effectively the same thing as a small forward, Aldridge was the best player on either team in the Rockets series, and Lopez defends well enough to allow his frontcourt mate to focus on his scoring. In fact, they were one of the best five-man lineups in the league (especially when adjusted for total minutes played). Even if the Blazers are especially dependent on this group, they at least know where to turn when needed. Stotts doesn't have to think especially hard in crunch time. It remains to be seen if that reliance on a handful of players gets Portland in trouble due to injury or any other prolonged absence. Though I'm sure they'll take their chances after finding such fine form a year ago. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: Ahead of schedule, then a reality check, then ahead of schedule again. Did the summer help at all? Yes, because the Blazers added several veterans who should bring some stability to what was one of the league's worst benches. Steve Blake should serve as a capable backup for Lillard and even team with him in some cases, while center Chris Kaman can provide an offensive threat that Lopez mostly lacks. Portland could have used a pick in June's draft to add some wild cards into the mix, but the summer could lead to gains for shooting guard Will Barton (one of the team's few bright spots in the Spurs series) and C.J. McCollum, whose rookie season was derailed by injury. Go-to offseason acquisition: Kaman did not prove to be an especially good replacement for Dwight Howard with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, playing in just 39 games with an average of just 18.9 minutes per contest. He was quite effective when he did play, though averaging 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Those are numbers that the Blazers would welcome, particularly given their reliance on Aldridge for post scoring. If Kaman can stay healthy — a tall order, given that he hasn't played 70 games since 2009-10 — he could reshape Portland's scoring options. Glaring weakness: If for some reason you just jumped to this section, here's some news for you — Portland had a really bad bench in 2013-14. It should be a little better this season due to the additions of Blake and Kaman and the presumed improvement of Barton and others, but the Blazers are at considerable risk of an injury to one of their starters turning the season into a trying one.

30-Deep Draft Breakdown (Rotoworld)
(Fri, 17 Oct 2014 07:32:00 PDT)
Matt Stroup talks Holiday, Durant, Kobe and much more as he breaks down the results of a 30-team draft this week.

Jimmy Butler hit a preseason game-winner, so a Bulls announcer compared him to Michael Jordan (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 17 Oct 2014 06:53:21 PDT)
With 1.5 seconds remaining and the Chicago Bulls trailing by two, Jimmy Butler lost his defender, and Stacey King lost his mind. It's entirely acceptable to be amped up after watching Butler shed Atlanta Hawks guard John Jenkins (thanks, in part, to a Joakim Noah screen) before catching the inbounds pass, rising, firing and burying a game-winning 3-pointer to seal an 85-84 Chicago victory . For one thing, buzzer-beating daggers are always fun, even if they don't count; for another, the left-wing triple capped a heck of a night for the 25-year-old swingman, who scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter to bring the Bulls back from a 21-point deficit. That's pretty rad! [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] The "Jimmy G. Buckets" thing, the "Gimme the hot sauce" thing, "Drive home safely — beep beep!" thing ... these are all generally accepted parts of King's regular rotation, the kinds of things that end up on soundboards hosted on team websites . But this? They should call him "Jimmy Jordan," because he looked like Michael Jordan tonight! And saying it again ? And he walks off like he knew it was good ... Jimmy Jordan, because he played like Michael tonight! No bueno , Stacey. I'm far from a Bulls-loving MJ enthusiast , and even I  feel a little sick about this. You can't just be out here throwing that around; I mean, not only are you calling games for the team Jordan elevated to the top of the NBA food chain, but you played with him . If anyone should be keeping that particular comparison under lock and key, it should be you! King's momentary misplacement of sanity aside, Butler's game-winner was pretty great, and it looked even cooler from the stands: Butler's game-winner came on a catch-and-shoot 26-footer, but he did most of his damage on Thursday on the inside, making seven of his nine field-goal attempts in the paint and going 12-for-16 from the charity stripe, including 9-for-11 in the fourth, to spark the comeback. The big outing continues a strong training camp for Butler, who's averaging 18.6 points on 60 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and three combined blocks and steals in his 28.9 minutes per game through five preseason contests. While head coach Tom Thibodeau and center Joakim Noah don't sound particularly pleased with the play that got Chicago into the 21-point hole in the first place, there's an awful lot to like about the offensive confidence Butler has shown this preseason, as Mark Strotman of Comcast SportsNet Chicago writes : "My confidence is high, and that’s the way you have to play this game," Butler said after the game. "All summer, I worked on my game. The biggest thing is just confidence, just taking shots I know I can make. I’m very happy the way I’m going right now." [...] "Jimmy, he’s just a good player, that’s what he is," Thibodeau said. "He’s going to score in transition, he can score in the post, he can score moving without the ball, cutting, he gets to the free throw line, he can make shots. He’s an all-around scorer; he’ll find different ways to put the ball in the basket." With every confident take and make, the All-Defensive Second Team wing — who's set to become a restricted free agent after this season if he and the Bulls don't reach an agreement on an extension by the Oct. 31 deadline — could be cranking up his price tag. If he can carry this shot-making swagger into the season, he could offer a big boost as "another threat" for a Bulls team with designs on competing for an NBA title . That'd be great to see, of course ... but maybe we shouldn't start designing the statue just yet. Hat-tip to SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell on the Instagram video. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Butler leads Bulls past Hawks, 85-84 (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:21:01 PDT)
CHICAGO (AP) -- Jimmy Butler hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap a 20-point fourth quarter and the Chicago Bulls rallied from a 21-point deficit with 11 minutes to play to beat the Atlanta Hawks 85-84 on Thursday night in an exhibition game.

The 10-man rotation, starring point guard style (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:35:07 PDT)
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : Nylon Calculus . Seth Partnow goes deep on point guard style, trying to come up with a workable system for distinguishing between your pass-first, shoot-first, drive-and-kick and every other kind of lead guard you can think of, and what differentiates them from one another. Interesting stuff. PF : TrueHoop . Kevin Arnovitz — excuse me, the great Kevin Arnovitz — on the Los Angeles Clippers' slow and steady assault on the Los Angeles Lakers' domestic market share. SF : Silver Screen and Roll . Ben Rosales crosses his fingers and hopes Byron Scott decides to give the likes of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Ed Davis an awful lot of minutes this season: "To surpass expectations you need players who will play above their perceived ceiling and that is only really going to come from the team's youngsters." SG : D.C. Sports Bog . As promotional giveaways go, I'm going to rank "Marcin Gortat action figure" below "replica championship ring," but neck-and-neck with "Z-Bow-Ties. " PG : Bleacher Report . Howard Beck on Steve Kerr preaching the gospel of ball movement in his first training camp as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. 6th : NetsDaily . Taking stock of the multiple young new faces — no, seriously! — with a chance of contributing in to the famously vet-heavy Brooklyn Nets this season. 7th : Eye on Basketball . Matt Moore on the factors that complicate the Atlanta Hawks' reported attempts to trade Al Horford, and the factors that complicate the reality of keeping him. 8th : Wall Street Journal . Chris Herring argues that Iman Shumpert, not Carmelo Anthony, is the New York Knicks' most important player this season. (And here's where I remind you that Shumpert was my "contributor with something to prove" in our Knicks season preview , because ruthless plugs are the best plugs.) 9th : The Triangle . Jared Dubin wonders whether the Toronto Raptors' seeming abundance of legitimate wing options might constitute too much depth. 10th : South Florida Sun-Sentinel . Well, Chris "Birdman" Andersen seems to be in midseason form, quote-wise. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Oklahoma City Thunder (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:15:00 PDT)
I hope you appreciated Kevin Durant's brilliance last season, because we're going to get about 25 percent less of it this year, and that leaves the Oklahoma City Thunder with a lot of questions. When the Most Valuable Player will return from his right foot fracture remains unclear. He underwent surgery Thursday to repair the "Jones fracture" — a break in the fifth metatarsal, which runs from the pinkie toe toward the heel — and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. While there's no guarantee that surgery will prevent recurrences of problems with the foot in the future, the surgery will reportedly improve his outlook moving forward ... after, of course, six to eight weeks of recuperation. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] Either way, for about 20 games, the Thunder must replace Durant's league-leading scoring and his playmaking. And his long-armed, quick-footed defensive presence. And the openings he creates for teammates when terrified defenses tilt toward him. Spoiler alert: They won't. Oklahoma City will be worse than we expected, and the difference is enough to decrease its odds of winning a championship . In a conference thick with contenders, a couple of extra Ls can mean dropping a couple of spots in the standings; running the Western gauntlet without home-court advantage seems unlikely, even with a recovered Durant. But while Durant's injury depresses, his absence intrigues. What will a team so reliant on his brilliance rely on now? “One of the ways to improve your team and make up for loss offensively is to play even better defensively and reduce the net rating between the offense and the defense,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti told reporters, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman . “[...] in Kevin’s absence, continuing to build a defensive identity is going to be really important in making sure that we are as balanced as ever offensively.” But doubling down on defense evokes visions of opponents ignoring Kendrick Perkins, gladly leaving Perry Jones III and Andre Roberson alone, and putting everything they have between Russell Westbrook and the rim. Scott Brooks needs new answers; he must get creative, drawing inspiration from the reality that, for now, his team will only go as far as his chaos-agent point guard takes it. What will that look like? Will Brooks give the Thunder's intriguing but incomplete youth the opportunity to hold down the fort? Or will he hunker down while the storm passes and just hope the roof doesn't collapse? Whichever approach Oklahoma City takes, can it avoid falling so far off the West's pace that even Durant's return can't keep its championship hopes from being dashed once again? 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: Russ gone . Russ back ! Gone . Back ! KD's now terrifying , even if he doesn't want to be. MVP season; even better speech . Injuries , again, suck . Did the summer help at all? It definitely helped those eager to discuss Durant  leaving Oklahoma City in free agency in 2016. Not sure it helped the Thunder on the court, though. OKC lost three rotation members — longtime starter Thabo Sefolosha, who joined the Atlanta Hawks; Derek Fisher, who became the head coach of the New York Knicks; and Caron Butler, a February  addition who  signed with the Detroit Pistons. Then again, considering Sefolosha was nearly unplayable in the playoffs, and that Fisher and Butler were arguably worse — Oklahoma City played 7.2 points per 100 possessions better with Fisher off the floor, and 6.5 points-per-100 without Butler, according to NBA.com — that could be addition by subtraction ... if the guys filling those minutes have improved.

In today's NBA, 3's are most definitely wild (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:47:57 PDT)
MIAMI (AP) -- The offensive concept of pace-and-space was nearly an unbeatable combination for the Miami Heat, the plan of surrounding LeBron James with multiple shooters good enough to net two straight NBA titles.

Sources: Chris Webber joins group interested in buying Hawks (Yahoo Sports)
(Wed, 15 Oct 2014 20:17:14 PDT)
Chris Webber would have a limited financial investment in the potential ownership group.

National Basketball Association roundup
(Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:17:11 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki heard about the NBA experimenting with shorter games in the preseason, but he has another idea. He would like to see a shorter season, as in fewer games, rather than games with 11-minute quarters instead of 12. A workable number of games, in his view, would be somewhere in the mid-60s, a significant reduction from the current 82-game schedule. More problematic from Nowitzki's perspective is the number of back-to-back games on consecutive days. At the same time, Nowitzki is a realist and recognizes the schedule is revenue driven. ...

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Minnesota Timberwolves (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:16:56 PDT)
Questions are rightfully being reviewed as to how, exactly, we should expect this team to handle its young superstars. Knockout, ready-to-contribute lottery performers are often given the run of the box-score minutes because their talents, and eventually their numbers, dictate as much. These players are also almost always 19 or 20 years old, working on a terrible squad with little help, and forced into big responsibilities right away. We’re not saying that humping in the high 30s minutes-wise is the reason Derrick Rose suffered two freak knee injuries or that Kevin Durant is on the pine with a scary stress fracture, but it’s worth wondering about. We doubt very much that Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders cares about this as he enters his second stint running the team from the sidelines. He came to Minnesota to attempt to push a young team over the top over two years ago, just as he attempted to do in Washington a few years before, dealing and signing win-now talent in the hopes of keeping Kevin Love. The moves failed and Love forced a trade out of Minnesota, though, and the team was sent the last two No. 1 NBA draft picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett as collateral. Rookie Zach LaVine is around, as is raw but promising (the former more than the latter, sadly) Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad. The Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since their championship hopes fell due to injury in the spring of 2004, and this is the second time in recent memory that they had to unload a superstar – possibly too late in both instances. Both turnabouts were also hamstrung by the work of David Kahn in between the deals for Kevins Garnett and Love, as he turned the cap space and presence of Al Jefferson (taken from the KG deal) and frittered them away, while infuriating Love with his insulting contract offer to the stud, plus the terrible draft picks and deals, as the losses piled up. Kahn has been gone for two years now, but we’ve little idea as to whether or not Saunders and ostensible general manager Milt Newton will be a massive improvement. They lucked out in acquiring Wiggins and Bennett for Love, but only because a previously terrible Cavaliers organization lucked into drafting them – and that team may have blown the Bennett selection. After a coaching search that seemed dubious from the start, Saunders hired himself to run the team from the bench , a choice that was followed by a collective groan from NBA followers used to this sort of move failing badly. Beyond the clash of coaching/front office interests is the worry that Saunders’ offense is a bit outmoded in the paint/free throws/3-pointers-era of efficient NBA ball. The man likes his 19-footers, and he doesn’t exactly have the personnel to shoot them. This roster is a bit of a mess, but if Saunders and Newton are adept at dealing, this can be cleared up. The final four years and nearly $48 million left on Nikola Pekovic’s contract may not look as bad next summer, even if his defense puts a team in peril. Each of the team’s cornerstones are on (albeit large, for the former Cavs) rookie contracts, and even an eight-figure yearly deal potentially tossed Ricky Rubio’s way in the next two weeks doesn’t sound all that bad once you figure in projected future bumps to the salary cap. Holdovers signed by a giddy Saunders two years ago will complicate the cap picture next summer, though. Back to Wiggins. He’s raw, but he’ll get his reps. He’ll get his chance to shine, and he’ll get his chance to go 1-for-11 and worry all of us. With a hopefully happy Rubio running the show, the Timberwolves will be perfect League Pass fodder for all of us hoop nerds. They’ll also have the worst record in their conference.

Hawks' Mike Scott explains his emoji tattoos: 'Sometimes they say what you can't say' (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:01:38 PDT)


Horford returns as Hawks beat winless Heat (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 14 Oct 2014 21:03:15 PDT)
MIAMI (AP) -- Paul Millsap scored 23 points and Al Horford made his return to the court to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 109-103 victory over the Miami Heat in a preseason game on Tuesday night.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Denver Nuggets (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 14 Oct 2014 11:10:00 PDT)
Last season was always going to be a transitional one for the Denver Nuggets, but its eventual form was something more like a delay. First-year head coach Brian Shaw was brought in to improve the Nuggets' defense and make the already excellent offense more formidable in the halfcourt. He never really got a chance to do any of those things to their full capabilities, though, because so many key players missed time — Ty Lawson (62 games played), Wilson Chandler (62), JaVale McGee (five), and Danilo Gallinari (a big fat zero, although that was mostly planned) missed enough time to make the Nuggets' 36-46 record somewhat understandable. With all players back and ready to contribute, it's not nuts to imagine the Nuggets doing enough to earn a respectable playoff seed in 2014-15. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] However, claiming that the Nuggets were simply felled by bad fortune obscures some real issues for the club, many of which relate to Shaw. While well-regarded assistants often succeed immediately, it's not especially clear that he's the guy to usher the Nuggets into a fresh era. For one thing, Denver didn't actually play at a substantially slower pace under Shaw (third-fastest in the NBA) than in George Karl's last season (send) — actually their games featured about three possessions more on average. Nevertheless, the team's rankings fell considerably, from fifth in points per possession to 16th and 11th in points allowed per possession to 21st. The losses of the aforementioned injured players and 2013 free agent Andre Iguodala explain many of those dips, but it's difficult to explain them away via growing pains when the team's approach didn't really change all that much. It's possible that the Nuggets just weren't very good. Their ability to get better will depend on a few factors. Lawson, the unquestioned engine of the offense, must stay healthy. Gallinari must return from his ACL tear relatively intact and able to play 30-plus minutes regularly. McGee must move on from "possible future All-Star" to "good player." Shaw must figure out a way to organize the defense in a functional way. Players must step up. Etc. If it's not clear, there are a lot of issues yet to be determined. This team could be really good or really bad. Its place on that spectrum could decide Shaw's future and determine if the Nuggets will prepare for another transitional period before the current one even gets started. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: A bunch of guys got injured and very little was solved. Did the summer help at all? Yes, if only because Gallinari and McGee are ready to start the season. Otherwise, the return of one-time Nugget Arron Afflalo at shooting guard should be a big help, because they lacked a capable scorer and defender at shooting guard following the loss of Iguodala. It's unlikely that Afflalo will match the 18.2 points per game he put up on a limited Orlando Magic team last year, but he has proven that he can carry responsibility. Elsewhere, 16th overall pick Jusuf Nurkic could contribute as a defensive and rebounding presence inside, but at 20 years old, it's likely he needs some seasoning and adjustment to the American game before he can be a big factor. Go-to offseason acquisition: Afflalo earned a reasonable amount of All-Star consideration last season, but it's a fair bet that won't happen again this February. Nevertheless, he will be very important to the Nuggets as a scorer and especially defender. This team really missed Iguodala's defensive versatility and ability, to the point where a poor man's version of the same would be a meaningful upgrade. Afflalo can be that at the very least. His improvement as a scorer is not to be discounted on a team that has thrived with a balanced attack. Glaring weakness: Health, in 2013-14, but with a little bit more luck this year, it won't be such a big deal. Instead, it seems fair to wonder if the Nuggets lack the defensive talent necessary to succeed at a level that justifies the expectations both put on and created by Shaw. Lawson is quick but only 5-foot-11, Afflalo may not be as good as his reputation at this point (he also blocked a mere three shots in 2013-14 , which suggests diminished athleticism), McGee is coming off a lost season and needs to prove a lot to win the faith of the staff, and no other players on the roster seem to stand out as potential lockdown guys. Shaw may yet prove to be a master tactician, but as of right now we don't know if he can do it.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: San Antonio Spurs (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 13 Oct 2014 09:00:00 PDT)


Conley's 23 points lead Grizzlies past Hawks 93-88 (The Associated Press)
(Sat, 11 Oct 2014 21:02:04 PDT)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Marc Gasol had 21 points and 13 rebounds, Mike Conley added 23 points and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Atlanta Hawks 93-88 on Saturday night in their preseason home opener.

The 10-man rotation, starring Carmelo Anthony's neverending no-win battle (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 10 Oct 2014 15:21:19 PDT)


Spurs' Boris Diaw can make an extra $500,000 by not gaining weight during the season (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:34:41 PDT)


BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: New Orleans Pelicans (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 10 Oct 2014 08:09:51 PDT)
Down in New Orleans, a young superstar’s waiting in the wings, and we’re not talking Trombone Shorty . Actually, Anthony Davis is more wings in waiting, a 21-year-old specimen with a 7-foot-6 wingspan who belongs on the short list of legitimate NBA MVP candidates and means everything to Big Easy basketball. A walking double-double with the league’s most prolific shot-blocking prowess, Davis alone makes the Pelicans appointment television, but it’s his supporting cast — acquired this summer both by trade and from the infirmary — that will ultimately determine whether we’re still watching come late April. Davis averaged 20.8 points (58.2 TS%), 10.0 rebounds and 4.4 combined blocks/steals last season — submitting a 26.5 PER that ranked behind only Kevins Durant and Love and LeBron James — and yet New Orleans finished 34-48 in part because of season-ending injuries to Ryan Anderson (neck), Jrue Holiday (tibia) and Eric Gordon (knee). Even Davis missed 16 games with hand and back problems. All appear healthy, save for Tyreke Evans, whose hamstring injury is an ominous start to 2014-15 for another shallow pod of Pelicans, even if he’s scheduled to return around the start of the regular season. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] Still in charge of basketball operations after sending Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez — two 20-somethings who contributed to a pair of playoff runs in 2013-14 — for the right to sign Evans to a four-year, $44 million deal, Dell Demps finally replaced the self-described and under-appreciated “Screech Powers of the NBA .” The Pelicans sent their 2015 first-round pick to Houston in exchange for 7-footer Omer Asik, whose rim-protecting ability ranked only slightly behind that of Lopez last season. Of course, Demps has also now filled holes left by both Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu, who signed a two-year minimum contract with the Mavericks this summer, with a 34-year-old John Salmons and Jimmer Fredette, the sharpshooting former top-10 pick who couldn’t crack the Kings rotation. After leading the then Hornets to the playoffs in his first season at the helm, New Orleans coach Monty Williams has won roughly a third of his games since the departure of Chris Paul and David West. In addition to ranking among the worst defenses in the league each of the past two seasons, the Pelicans have played at an awfully slow pace, and that should be cause for concern, since Monty’s best player thrived in transition on Team USA this summer and headlines a roster among the NBA’s youngest. Once again, the playoff potential falls on the considerable shoulders of Davis and the health of his fellow top-six rotation players. In other words, little has changed. The Pelicans are still waiting in the wings.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Memphis Grizzlies (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 09 Oct 2014 12:00:39 PDT)
The Memphis Grizzlies are respected, one can be sure of that. They are feared in many outlets and they are also treated like the defensive behemoths that they are most nights out by the opposition. Teams, coaches, players and the media all respect the tone and timbre of the Memphis Grizzlies. Whether or not they are dangerous is still up for debate, though. The Grizzlies have entered the last few years as a team working under a ceiling far shorter than the one they used to play at in the Memphis’ iconic Pyramid Arena . Sturdy types like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are expected to once again lead Memphis to the playoffs where, health and matchup-willing, they will win perhaps one or even two series’. To call this squad a championship contender is a bit much, the unending result of the former owner and current general manager (we think) running a bit wild with the cash in days past. As it stands, the Grizzlies will be well situated under the salary cap next summer even with Zach Randolph’s new contract extension taking up space. Tayshaun Prince, who may barely play this year as he eases into a role of a player-coach of sorts, has an expiring contract that the team’s front office will find tough to move. Said front office can then start tooling around in attempts to surround an in-prime Marc Gasol with a deeper bench and better shooting. For this season, though, it’s back to grit and grind. The team wouldn’t have it any other way, even if returning to the postseason will be a struggle in the killer Western Conference. Prince, who struggled with myriad ailments and conditioning issues last season, will thankfully see his minutes taken by newcomer Vince Carter, who still provides a sound all-around package even though he’ll turn 38 midway through the 2014-15 season. That’s two years younger than his coach Dave Joerger, who will lean heavily on Carter to aid in ramping up Memphis’ league-worst number of three-point makes. That’s the extent of the roster turnover, though, with a front office in flux and still hamstrung by the league’s luxury tax – something the small market team has paid twice and flirted with in the intervening years since. The real addition to Joerger’s roster will, hopefully, be a healthy 82-game season from Gasol. The Grizzlies were the league’s best defensive team with Gasol in the lineup last season, and his 23-game absence had the toothless squad reeling early in 2013-14. Mike Conley’s advancements and Randolph’s steadied contributions were not enough to stem that particular slide, but with Gasol on board the team roared back into the postseason bracket and gave Oklahoma City all they could handle in a seven-game playoff loss. A meltdown of sorts within the team’s front office followed, but with basketball lifer Chris Wallace making the phone calls and former ESPN and Sports Illustrated scribe John Hollinger purportedly calling the scouting shots, the Grizzlies should have enough from the holdovers plus Carter to make one of those runs again. If a matchup works, or they’re able to take a Game 2 on the road, a second or even third round could be in the offing. Expecting this, or expecting anything beyond that, is a bit much.

Horford joins 5-on-5 drills, likes Hawks' depth (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 08 Oct 2014 15:00:50 PDT)
ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta Hawks management had to spend too much of the offseason saying ''We're sorry.''

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Houston Rockets (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 08 Oct 2014 07:30:00 PDT)
Daryl Morey does not plan to improve steadily. When the Houston Rockets entered this offseason, fresh off 54 wins and a very tight but ultimately disappointing first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, they planned to build a conference favorite in one fell swoop. They had cap room to sign Chris Bosh to a max-level contract, a willingness to pay well into the luxury tax to re-up with Chandler Parsons long-term, and the brashness to stick with that approach even if it seemed unlikely to succeed. For a few hours, right after LeBron James jumped to the Cleveland Cavaliers, it even seemed like it would work exactly as Morey had mapped it out. Instead, it all blew up right in Morey's face. Bosh chose the money and security of Miami, the Rockets neglected to match Parsons' massive three-year offer sheet from the rival Dallas Mavericks, and Morey plugged the holes with respectable role players who don't figure to help the team improve drastically. The high-profile general manager was also dragged into an ongoing feud with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that didn't always paint Morey in the most flattering light. After being the big winners of the 2013 offseason, the Rockets come out of this summer looking like they had the biggest whiff of anyone. The outcome is that one of the league's winningest teams has a curious image problem. By all sober metrics, the Rockets are in a very good situation with two superstars, a roster that can easily repeat its 50-win form, and front-office longevity that is very hard to duplicate. Unfortunately for them, many of those strengths don't look so wonderful in practice. Dwight Howard is still the most complete center in the league and a much better player than he was in Los Angeles, but he carries much of the stink of the years-long process that led to his arrival in Houston. In the backcourt, James Harden's defense has made him more of a punchline than any All-NBA First Team selection in recent memory. Plus, while head coach Kevin McHale appears very well liked in basketball circles, it's not clear that he's the man to lead the team to title contention. Terrible miscommunication in big moments doesn't do a lot for one's reputation. Morey's solution to the team's problems appears to be setting the team up for a big move before every deadline or during every offseason. After this summer, though, he may want to rethink his strategy. Good teams can't afford to stagnate like the mediocre ones Morey assembled to allow him to move for players like Harden. The Rockets may have to learn to engage in just the sort of incremental improvement they seem to consider the last resort. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: Going out on a series-ending buzzer-beater is statistically unlikely and 100-percent sucky. Did the summer help at all? Not really. Getting unlucky with Bosh makes it seem worse than it was, but the Rockets were only in a position to have that happen because they traded away Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and an always coveted draft pick. Losing Parsons to a rival in the wake of unloading the team's best trade chips made for a tough week . Morey bounced back by adding former Rocket and career-long journeyman Trevor Ariza at $32 million over four years, several of which should see him serve as an adequate starter (and others of which are likely not to occur in Houston). Otherwise, the most notable addition is Jason Terry, who had virtually nothing to give to the Brooklyn Nets last season, and 24-year-old Greek star Kostas Papanikolaou, a very good player for Barcelona who will need to adjust to the American game. Morey likely won't be as concerned with 2014's particular misses as the fact that he now can do very little in 2015 and beyond. The Rockets can't trade a first-round draft pick to be used before 2017 and have very few trade assets worth a darn, unless forwards like Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas break out against expectations. Chances are that the Rockets will put a lot of stock in adding a superstar during the summer of 2016, but there's really no way of knowing if they'll be in a good position to do so until that day comes. Two seasons can be an eternity in this league.

The Hawks listed Kent Bazemore's reason for missing a preseason game as 'DND-Kent Bazemore' (Photo) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 07 Oct 2014 15:21:24 PDT)


BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Orlando Magic (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:42:28 PDT)
This is what happens when a rebuilding process is forced on you, and you fail to recognize as much. The Orlando Magic walked away from the Dwight Howard trade as the clear winners, but that’s not saying a whole heck of a lot. Worse, because the Magic’s previous front office convinced itself (and, for a time, Dwight Howard) that the center would be staying past the end of his contract, the team missed out on early chances to blow it all up in more progressive ways. It’s true that the squad would have probably been saddled with Andrew Bynum just as the NBA washout began dogging it, but that only would have made this attempt at reshaping go much faster. As a result the Magic played a very bad year in 2012-13 with no rookie lottery pick to give minutes to. They played a very bad season in 2013-14 while handing minutes to a very raw rookie pick taken near the top of the weakest draft in decades. They’ll play a very bad year this season with a mish-mosh of a roster, this time handing minutes to two lottery-bred rookies that may have been a reach at their selection point. They’ll also, sooner rather than later, have to give up some of their earned salary cap flexibility in order to extend the deals of two players – Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris – that it smartly acquired prior to and then during its first post-Dwight season. There are no fast tracks, here, and we’re still waiting for a star to emerge. This was the hand and very bad timing forced on new’ish Magic general manager Rob Hennigan in the wake of the end of the fitful Otis Smith regime. He can stress patience and a slow culture-creating all he wants, but the raw truth is that the Magic are likely ready to hit the lottery once again after 2014-15, turning in three terrible seasons and no guarantee that a future All-Star will emerge from its cadre of draft selections and acquisitions. Of course, this pessimism is hitting its stride before rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton even have a chance to suit up, with second-year guard Victor Oladipo potentially about to love life while placed alongside a floor-spacer in Channing Frye. Young big men Kyle O’Quinn and Andrew Nicholson may not be stars (and Nicholson, in particular, struggled last season), but they could use 2014-15 to confirm their clear rotation-level talent. Oladipo and Frye will be starting the campaign on the pine with an MCL sprain, scary injuries that could have turned out far worse, but injuries that can still linger throughout a season and hinder a player’s training camp attempts to get into game shape. Payton and veteran pickup Luke Ridnour will have to take on a significant early-season burden. The Magic hired a young coach, they haven’t splurged on any high end free agents, and they’ve embraced the long rebuild that they were forced into. Even amongst all the losses, though, the team has to show some signs in 2014-15. It has to.

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