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DeRozan scores 15, Raptors beat Knicks 83-80 (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 21:34:48 PDT)
The preseason is over for the Toronto Raptors, and they finished it in style. DeMar DeRozan scored 15 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 13, and Toronto beat the New York Knicks 83-80 on Friday night at the Bell Centre in the final preseason game for both teams. ''The intensity was up,'' said Lou Williams, who had 12 points for Toronto, including a crucial, go-ahead jump shot in the game's final minute. We really felt like this was a tune-up game going into Wednesday against Atlanta.'' The Raptors open the regular season Wednesday night against the Hawks at Air Canada Centre, where Toronto will play nine of its first 12 games.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Sacramento Kings (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:30:00 PDT)


Brief profiles of Eastern Conference teams
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:22:00 PDT)
(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference ahead of the 2014-15 season. ATLANTIC DIVISION BOSTON CELTICS Founded: 1946 NBA titles: 17 (2008, 1986, 1984, 1981, 1976, 1974, 1969, 1968, 1966, 1965, 1964, 1963, 1962, 1961, 1960, 1959, 1957) Head coach: Brad Stevens 2013-14 record: 25-57 (Proud Celtics finish 12th in conference after a run of six seasons in playoffs) Sorry Celtics fans, no playoff for Boston -- again. That's hard to accept for a franchise with 17 titles, but the talent is not there. ...

LeBron's Cavs help bring focus back to the hardwood
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:17:28 PDT)
By Frank Pingue (Reuters) - After a tumultuous offseason that forced the National Basketball Association to confront the delicate issue of race, the league will usher in a new season starting next week that could prove to be one of the best in years. The defining story of the offseason could have been LeBron James's return to his home state's Cleveland Cavaliers, where the game's most popular player hopes to ease the pain from his defection in 2010, but instead racism dominated headlines. ...

Western Conference, defending champs tough as ever (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:08:52 PDT)
Calling it the Wild West just doesn't do it justice anymore.

Cavs, Bulls the expected frontrunners in East (The Associated Press)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:34:06 PDT)
LeBron James is again surrounded by an All-Star caliber guard, a big man who can score and 3-point sharpshooters.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Phoenix Suns (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:50:00 PDT)
The Arizona desert turned up a UFO crash in 1953, purple alien eggs just last year and Lord knows what else in the 60 years between. It’s only natural the Phoenix Suns add another wrinkle to their own weird science experiment, turning a two-headed snake into a three-headed monster in the backcourt. In a strange summer, general manager Ryan McDonough agreed to  a four-year, $27 million contract with Sacramento Kings dynamo Isaiah Thomas on the day the NBA’s moratorium lifted, seemingly signaling the end of fellow restricted free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe’s fun in the Arizona sun. But the NBA Executive of the Year runner-up doubled down, inking Mini LeBron to a five-year, $70 million deal some two months later. With All-NBA Third Team selection Goran Dragic also in the Phoenix mix, McDonough effectively created the league’s most dangerous polycephalous point guard. So, the Suns will roll the dice with a troika of All-Star-caliber guards, identified flying object Gerald Green and a mysterious frontcourt in an attempt to recreate last year’s bizarre 48-34 record, which tied the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors for the best season by a team that didn't make the playoffs since the NBA switched to the 16-team playoff format in 1984. Under NBA Coach of the Year runner-up (noticing a trend here) Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix played at a top-10 pace in his first season at the helm, and the Suns will run again, even faster if possible. Only, they’ll have to do so without Channing Frye, whose floor-stretching capacity from the power forward position translated into 8.3 additional points per 100 possessions in his 28.2 minutes a night on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com . Out of the Frye pan and into the fire will be Markieff Morris, whose own breakout 2013-14 season (2,153 minutes, 13.8 points, six rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, 56.4 True Shooting percentage, 18.4 Player Efficiency Rating) earned him a four-year, $52 million deal to split unevenly with his twin brother, Marcus Morris. Sharpshooting veteran free agent forward Anthony Tolliver (41.3 percent on a career-high 247 3-point tries for Charlotte last year) and young center projects Miles Plumlee and Alex Len round out a bigs mess. Add a pair of potential mid-first-round steals in T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, another Dragic named Zoran and a post- “super extreme” DUI suspension P.J. Tucker, and it should be another supernatural season for the 2013-14 League Pass legends. Last year taught us this much about the Suns: They are here. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: What the Ish is this? The weirdest collection of awesome under the Suns. Did the summer help at all? The Suns let their most productive big walk , spent the money Frye got in Orlando on a third point guard , handed one contract to a pair of twins , signed their best player’s brother and drafted one half of Bojan and Bogdan Bogdanovic — all as their starting small forward spent a no expenses paid three-day vacation in county jail . So … just your typical NBA offseason? Seriously, that’s freaky, even by their standards. Go-to offseason acquisition: Had Thomas not stood just 69 inches tall, he would have commanded far more than $27 million over four years in free agency. After all, the Sactown sparkplug was one of six players to average 20 points and six assists while posting a PER above 20 this past season. The others: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Those dudes aren’t so bad. Thomas comes with another caveat, though, since Sacramento’s fast-paced offense and non-existent defense over the past decade has produced plenty of padded stats that haven’t translated elsewhere. In the past 10 years, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic combined for one 20-point-per-game season upon leaving the Kings. At the very least, Thomas allows Hornacek to keep some combo of Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas on the floor for the majority of the game, strumming that double-necked point-guard guitar all night long. The fact that Thomas’ per-minute averages have remained steady as both a starter and reserve in his three-year career is an encouraging sign that the Suns will be able to keep making the same sweet music they did last season. Glaring weakness: The Suns don’t quite have a black hole in the middle, but it’s an awful dark mass in the space-time continuum. Plumlee and Len are expected to receive the bulk of those minutes, and that duo (mostly Plumlee, due to the multiple injuries that scuttled Len's rookie season) anchored the NBA’s fourth-worst efficiency differential at the position last season, according to HoopsStats.com (minus-3.8). Plumlee’s minutes plunged throughout 2013-14 as Hornacek got more comfortable playing Markieff Morris and the since-departed Frye in smaller, more offensively potent lineups. As a result, though, Phoenix allowed 42.2 points in the paint per game , also the league’s fourth-worst group. Not even highly regarded defensive assistant coach Mike Longabardi could help the Suns rise above the middle of the pack in points allowed per possession. Plumlee is still their best bet to clog the middle on defense, even if he does the same on offense. Contributor with something to prove: Following his client’s second knee surgery in three years, Bledsoe's agent spent the offseason demanding a max contract for a player who has started all of 78 NBA games. McDonough, who reportedly offered four years and $48 million, entered a summer-long staring contest with Rich Paul, and the two sides met closer to Bledsoe's demands. To say the 24-year-old has something to prove is an understatement. For chunks of last season, Bledsoe replicated what so many projected for Chris Paul's former backup. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound brick of muscle averaged 17.7 points (57.8 TS%), 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds while generally tormenting opposing backcourts alongside Dragic in 43 games. That's encouraging for a fourth-year point guard on his rookie contract; now it's expected from an eight-figure-salaried franchise player. Potential breakout stud: Double ankle surgeries stunted Year 1 of The Alex Len Project, presenting a built-in excuse for the No. 5 overall pick’s PER (7.3), true shooting percentage (46.9) and statistical averages over 42 games (two points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in 8.6 minutes per game). Now, double finger fractures — on the same right pinkie, mind you — offer another easy excuse for the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian to start slow out of the gate. Yet Len made huge strides from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Maryland, and the 21-year-old has the potential to take a similar step forward after one year under Hornacek and Longabardi. He added the customary 15 pounds of muscle, and then collected six points, six boards and a pair of blocks before breaking his finger 25 minutes into Summer League. The re-broken finger is a setback for a player in desperate need of preseason practice, but he’ll still start the regular season healthy, and the minutes will be there for him to demonstrate his improvement, especially if he develops a mid-range jumper. Best-case scenario: It won’t be easy for Dragic to repeat his breakout All-NBA season, Green to shoot 3’s at a 40 percent clip again and Tolliver to replace Frye’s 2,312 minutes, but some combo of Bledsoe’s health, the addition of Thomas and the improvements of the Morris twins, Plumlee and/or Len should help the Suns recreate the magic that made them the NBA darlings of 2013-14. Even then, they’ll still be navigating a crowded Western Conference playoff picture that may also include Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans — all for the right to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Them’s the breaks for a franchise on the rise. If everything falls apart: Even if the science experiment takes a turn for the worse and the Suns just miss the postseason for a second straight year, McDonough will still have a pair of lottery picks at his disposal. Phoenix still owns a top-five protected pick from the Steve Nash trade, so barring a bit of Los Angeles Lakers luck, the worst-case scenario — a couple of mid-round picks — isn’t the worst consolation prize. Unless, of course, the team’s talented young core undergoes an abduction of sorts. Stranger things have happened in the Arizona desert. The Suns are on standing on the edge of an event horizon. Strap in for another weird, wild ride. Kelly Dwyer’s Best Guess at a Record: Phoenix will finish 47-35, eighth in the Western Conference. Read all of Ball Don't Lie's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards WESTERN CONFERENCE Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz - - - - - - - Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

New-era Los Angeles Clippers seek next playoff step
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:10:38 PDT)
Expectations are high for the new-era Los Angeles Clippers, freed from the shadow that former owner Donald Sterling's racist remarks cast over last season's NBA playoff run. With Sterling expelled from the league and the NBA pressing him to sell, former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer swept to the rescue with a breathtaking $2 billion purchase of the club. Blake Griffin, the Clippers' exhilarating power forward, described Sterling -- whose rambling attempts at defending his actions featured large as the story unfolded -- as a "weird uncle" while Ballmer is "like a cool dad who gives you candy." Sterling might not be expected to get far with his remaining anti-trust lawsuit against the league, but in the wake of the scandal a whiff of racism has already affected another team, with Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson moving to sell his controlling interest in the team after racially charged remarks he made in an e-mail two years ago came to light.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Lakers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:10:00 PDT)


Eric Bledsoe's crossover makes Clippers' Jared Cunningham jog off the court, toward the stands (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 23 Oct 2014 07:36:38 PDT)
While the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe found themselves embroiled in a negotiating standoff this summer, the offseason drama had more to do with the vagaries of restricted free agency than any lack of interest on Phoenix's part in keeping the 24-year-old guard in Arizona. As their eventual five-year, $70 million offer made clear, the Suns have an awful lot of respect for the damage that the Kentucky product can do with his explosive athleticism ... and now, so does Jared Cunningham. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] Cunningham, 23, was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers and promptly shipped to the Dallas Mavericks in a five-player deal . The 6-foot-4 guard has had cups of coffee with the Mavs, Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings, but has spent the bulk of the last two seasons in the D-League, and caught on with the Clips for training cap looking to grab a roster spot in L.A. or, failing that, other teams' attention and consideration for gigs down the line. Well, Jared, you've got our attention now: That comes to us from the third quarter of the Suns' Wednesday matchup with the Clippers, and it is pretty remarkable. Crossovers happen all the time; dudes get dropped to the floor a bunch of times every season in the NBA. They don't, however, tend to just jog off the court. Maybe they should — it'd undoubtedly be funnier if they did — but they don't. (Still: You've got to hit that jumper, Eric!) Our man @cjzero took the opportunity to commemorate the occasion by cueing up some Sarah McLachlan: Cunningham's plight caught the eye of Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson, who could only shake his head and sympathize: Points guards got it rough http://t.co/Z9lf7goVyN — Taj Gibson (@TajGibson22) October 23, 2014 That they do, Taj ... including, it must be said, Bledsoe, who got crossed up and shaken by Chris Paul during the second quarter of Wednesday's preseason contest: Bledsoe showed out in the Suns' second-to-last preseason tune-up, turning in a team-high 27 points on 6-for-12 shooting with two assists and two steals in 34 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back. But his former teammate and "big brother" had the last laugh, pouring in 34 points (12 for 18 from the floor, 6 for 6 from the foul line) to go with nine assists, five rebounds and four steals in 37 minutes as the Clippers held on for a 108-105 win that new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer sure seemed to appreciate: I know, man. I'm pretty excited about basketball, too. Vine via Cork Gaines . Hat-tip to SB Nation's Seth Rosenthal . More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - 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.

Teague helps Hawks beat Spurs 117-107 (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:12:22 PDT)
Jeff Teague scored 21 points and the Atlanta Hawks closed their preseason schedule with a resounding 117-107 victory over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. Mike Scott added 19 points while Kyle Korver had 18 for Atlanta (4-3), which shot 52 percent from the field. Tony Parker had 17 points and seven assists, Cory Joseph added 14 points and Boris Diaw had 12 points for San Antonio (2-4).

NBA owners fail to pass lottery reform (The Associated Press)
(Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:58:17 PDT)
One of the biggest issues on the agenda when the NBA's owners arrived in New York for the board of governors meetings was thwarting the tanking strategy employed most brazenly by the Philadelphia 76ers. ''I think, in essence, the owners were concerned about unintended consequences,'' NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Clippers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:25:46 PDT)
So, now it’s on the players. Currently, Clipper fans don’t have to hate themselves, as they probably did at times, for paying to see a team owned by Donald Sterling. NBA fans, as we often did, don’t have to hate ourselves anymore while enjoying those late night, must-watch Clipper broadcasts on League Pass. The players don’t have to cringe anymore when Sterling goes meandering around the locker room. Doc Rivers won’t have to question his own ethics anymore. It’s over. (Shelly Sterling needs to go, to be sure, but it’s over.) What we have left, finally, is ball. Ball run by the league’s best point guard, one of its best coaches, and one of the NBA’s best players. Plays run by a supporting cast that is to be envied. Work run in the toughest conference in NBA history, one the Los Angeles Clippers have as good a chance as any at getting out of this spring, possibly representing the Western Conference in the 2015 NBA Finals. Such an idea was an uneasy prospect for the NBA and its fans for decades, because even though presenting a Conference championship trophy is a relatively new phenomenon, it would still include one Donald T. Sterling at the other end of the handoff. At the next stage, the thought of Sterling at center court, accepting a Lawrence O’Brien trophy alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Doc Rivers was even more nauseating, but this is what the NBA (and the media that covered it, myself included) allowed. Somehow, Sterling was removed from the league and from the Clippers’ media guide with relative alacrity, a credit to both the league’s new commissioner, and common sense. New owner Steve Ballmer works with an open checkbook, and while that won’t do much for the 15 on the roster (Sterling actually did compete and pay fair salaries over the last decade or so), it will do wonders for the coaches, employees, scouts, and various other personnel that had to fight for every penny. Fears will be lifted, and the team will be better prepared. Which means, again, that this will be on the players. Contributors like J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes can’t help that they were injured last year, and Rivers couldn’t help his team’s failure to fill that final rotation spot last season, but excuses have to be out the window. Chris Paul’s game figures to age well, but he turns 30 in May. Redick, Jamal Crawford, and Barnes are even older. DeAndre Jordan is in a contract year in anticipation of a summer that will feature scads of teams with maximum cap space. Blake Griffin is very, very good. It has to happen now. The Clippers worked their way into the league’s best offense last season even with again types like Hedo Turkoglu, Antawn Jamison, Stephen Jackson, Sasha Vujacic, and Danny Granger taking up space on the wing. The defense surprisingly held nearly as steady despite the coaching upgrade and influence of Doc Rivers, and Jordan will once again have to turn in a mindful campaign on that end. Griffin needs to continue to surprise offensively, thinking on the fly and not relying on pet moves, and for the second straight season Chris Paul will have to deign to give up the damn ball. Not every score has to come off of one of his assists, or one of his gorgeous floaters or mid-range shots. The trick is that we’re dealing with the Western conference. The Clippers could roar to the top seed, and it wouldn’t (and certainly shouldn’t) be termed an upset if the squad was upended by any number of Western opponents in the second or even first round. The conference is that good, and the quality of play is that high. The only disappointment in last year’s second round ouster at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder was in how the Clippers looked – clearly, they were ready for the season, and the Sterling saga, to end. It understandably drained them. That was also a second round matchup against a higher seed working with the league’s MVP on its side. Such is life in this conference. A conference that the Clippers could make their own, in 2014-15.

National Basketball Association roundup
(Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:49:43 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - Kevin Durant says he will not rush back from surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot. Durant could miss two months with the Oklahoma City Thunder, projecting his return close to Christmas from what the reigning MVP said is his first real injury. - - Veteran guard John Lucas III signed a one-year deal with the Washington Wizards. Lucas, undrafted in 2005 from Oklahoma State, spent his first six seasons with Houston, Chicago, Toronto and Utah. Lucas, 31, went to training camp with the Boston Celtics. ...

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.

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.

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