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Hinrich scores 26 points, Bulls beat Hornets (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:05:01 PDT)
CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls' closer is almost back at full speed.

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.

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.

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 be expecting team to handle their young superstars. Knockout, ready-to-contribute lottery performers are often given the run of the box score minutes because their talent and eventually their numbers dictate as much. These players are also almost always 19 or 20-years old, working on a terrible 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 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 its 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 deal for Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love, as he turned the cap space and presence of Al Jefferson (taken from the KG deal) and frittered it away, while infuriating Love with his insulting contract offer to the stud and 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 Cavalier 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/three-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 the projected future salary caps. 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.

Davis powers Pelicans to 117-98 win over Rockets (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 14 Oct 2014 21:04:19 PDT)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Anthony Davis had 26 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots as the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Houston Rockets 117-98 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.

Jones leads Rockets to 95-92 win over Suns (The Associated Press)
(Mon, 13 Oct 2014 19:47:30 PDT)
HOUSTON (AP) -- Terrence Jones scored 18 points and Isaiah Canaan put Houston ahead for good with a three-point play with 29 seconds left as the Rockets defeated the Phoenix Suns 95-92 on Monday night.

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

Nets edge Kings 97-95 in China (The Associated Press)
(Sun, 12 Oct 2014 08:02:32 PDT)
SHANGHAI (AP) -- Mirza Teletovic sank a 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining to lift the Brooklyn Nets to a 97-95 preseason win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday in the first of two NBA exhibition games to be played in China this year.

National Basketball Association roundup
(Sat, 11 Oct 2014 16:14:17 PDT)
(The Sports Xchange) - Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal underwent an MRI exam Saturday that revealed a non-displaced fracture of the scaphoid bone in his left wrist and the team announced the injury will require surgery. The injury occurred during the first quarter of Washington's preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets in Greenville, S.C., on Friday. Beal averaged 17.1 points per game last season, his second in the NBA. The team said a timeline for Beal's recovery will be announced following his surgery. ...

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.

Chris Bosh warns Kevin Love that playing with LeBron James can be frustrating for stars (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 09 Oct 2014 20:15:05 PDT)

Harden leads Rockets over Memphis as Howard sits (The Associated Press)
(Thu, 09 Oct 2014 19:52:19 PDT)
HOUSTON (AP) -- James Harden scored 21 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 113-93 preseason victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday night.

The 10-man rotation, starring the inimitable Jamal Crawford, 'America's sixth man' (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:21:50 PDT)

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.

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.

Parsons moving on, but sees Rockets in Mavs debut (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 07 Oct 2014 22:12:00 PDT)
DALLAS (AP) -- Chandler Parsons should have some new things to talk about with his old coach now that he has his first big contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

Rockets top Mavs 111-108 in preseason foul fest (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 07 Oct 2014 20:49:08 PDT)
DALLAS (AP) -- James Harden scored 17 points, Kostas Papanikolaou made three big free throws with 0.2 seconds left and the Houston Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks 111-108 in a foul-filled preseason opener for both teams Tuesday night.

Chandler Parsons likes his new home in Dallas better than Houston because 'it's cleaner here' (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:55:44 PDT)
Well, if we want the athletes that we watch to be open and honest with the media and not dodge questions, we got what we asked for. The city of Houston might not be happy with what it received, though. Kirk Henderson at Mavs Moneyball recently relayed a media day interview with new Dallas Mavericks swingman Chandler Parsons, who was the subject of a frenzied bidding war between the Mavs and his former Houston Rockets team – even though the Rockets didn’t technically “bid” in the end. In it, Parsons reveals the differences between Houston and his newest adopted hometown: I mean … you can’t chide the guy for ducking a question or refusing to share his opinion. He was already going to be roundly booed during the two Mavericks games played in Houston (not counting the playoffs, which we really hope ends up happening) this season, so why not go all in and tell all of YouTube that you think Dallas is cleaner than Houston? This comes on the heels of a lovely back and forth between one of the more provocative and vocal owners in sports, Dallas’ Mark Cuban, and one of the more provocative and vocal general managers in sports in Houston’s Daryl Morey . For four offseasons since the mini-breakup of his championship Mavericks team, Cuban has been attempting to surround Dirk Nowitzki with another full-blown superstar. Through bad luck and unfortunate timing, his front office failed in that regard in ways that weren’t the front office’s fault, but the Mavericks have put together a solid roster behind sub-All-Star types like Parsons, Monta Ellis, and the re-acquired Tyson Chandler. For even longer, Morey has been attempting to strike rich in the superstar market, and because of good luck and timing (to say nothing of sound research and smart moves), he was able to acquire James Harden in 2012 and Dwight Howard the summer after. With flexibility and a playoff team already in place, Morey once again seemed the favorite to land Chris Bosh after LeBron James left Miami as a free agent, and a long shot to potentially sign Carmelo Anthony or even James. That plan fell through, and in an understandable but unfortunate misstep from Houston, the team declined to pick up the final unguaranteed year of Parsons’ former ridiculously tiny contract – he was set to make less than $1 million this season, with a just-as-tiny cap hold barely getting in the way of Houston adding yet another superstar. Enter Cuban, who tossed three years and more than $46 million at Parsons, numbers that seem ridiculous to even those of us that admire Chandler’s game, understand his age and potential, and are aware that the third year of this deal (which is a player option) could take place in an NBA with a salary cap that vaults over $90 million. In yet another media-driven back and forth between Houston and Dallas, Parsons, Cuban and Morey recently spoke with ESPN’s Marc Stein , to more or less sign off on what we guessed went down last July: Sources say Parsons’ camp tried to convince the Rockets to agree to a four-year, $48 million deal before it even got that far. But Houston, hoping to give itself every chance of making a splashy July signing and then matching on Parsons to form its very own Fab Four of sorts, stunned many league observers by consenting in June to decline Parsons’ $964,750 option for the 2014-15 season and make him a restricted free agent. “Daryl told me this process is going to be frustrating and you’re going to read a lot of stuff you’re not going to like, but at the end of the day, you’ve worked hard for this and you’ve earned this,” Parsons said. “He warned me it could get ugly at times once the media gets involved and that you’re gonna see people say you’re not worth this or you’re not worth that. [Morey] just sat me down and said, ‘Go out and sign the best contract you can. Just know in the back of your head that we’re gonna match the contract.’ “Dan [Fegan, Parsons’ agent] was trying to negotiate something with them early, and, to be perfectly honest, I would have accepted a lot less money early in the process to stay in Houston. But they told me they wanted to wait for the whole LeBron and Melo situation [to play out], which I understood. I just listened to them. I signed the best deal I could for my own career.” Cuban signed Parsons to an offer sheet two days before James announced he would moving back to Ohio, and the Mavs owner credits Morey’s courteous quick acknowledgement that his Rockets wouldn’t be matching the terms to Daryl's insistence on not being “a jerk.” Houston could have let it drag on before matching, allowing for the Mavs to lose out on other free agents during the NBA’s busy season, but they decided to let go. The dream of adding Bosh and matching any offer for Parsons was scuttled, and Morey is quick to rightfully defend his attempted moonshot : "For me, going after Bosh -- even though it didn't work -- was absolutely the right scenario. A good analogy is if you have 11 in blackjack and the right play is to double down. If you happen to get a two and lose, it doesn't make doubling down the wrong decision. It just means it didn't work out that time." He’s completely right, just as Cuban was right to work along those same lines over the last few years in his attempts to build one last championship contender around one of the greatest players this league will ever know. Parsons’ deal also includes various trade kickers and opt-out options that made matching the contract tough for Houston, and even if you think Dallas overpaid, that doesn’t mean Cuban didn’t do the absolute best he could for the best that was available for his team at the time. Same for Morey, even before he nearly made up for Parsons’ departure by signing the solid Trevor Ariza to a yearly rate around half of what Parsons will make during his average contract terms. This still leaves the Rockets very much in the hunt for 2016 superstar free agents (though those ranks have increased), as Daryl Morey continues to search for that one last star. Both teams did just fine, in this instance. That doesn’t mean Houston fans aren’t pissed, though … $15M buys a lot of new loyalties. RT @jasonmcmeekin : @clutchfans pic.twitter.com/3DWUxDaO9R — ClutchFans (@clutchfans) October 6, 2014 - - - - - - - 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: 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.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Dallas Mavericks (Ball Don't Lie)
(Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:00:00 PDT)

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Washington Wizards (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 06 Oct 2014 11:58:24 PDT)

Anderson Varejao tries alley-oop pass, splashes J instead in Cavs' win over Maccabi Tel Aviv (Video) (Ball Don't Lie)
(Mon, 06 Oct 2014 09:31:43 PDT)

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Miami Heat (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 03 Oct 2014 12:20:00 PDT)
There is no way to console a team that just lost LeBron James. The best player of his generation served the Miami Heat in countless ways, contributing in various areas of need while simultaneously serving as the focal point of everything the team did at both ends. He could score, pass, rebound, defend inside or outside, and delay questions about the continued viability of the Big Three for as long as his performances spurred his team to victory. James didn't do enough to defeat the San Antonio Spurs last June, but falling to a squad with so many options highlighted just how reliant Miami had become on his greatness. As the Cleveland Cavaliers learned in 2010, living without LeBron can be a difficult experience. So it's something of a minor miracle that the Heat appear to be in relatively decent shape heading into 2014-15. Two members of the Big Three have returned, with Dwyane Wade making a lower rate of $31 million over two years and Chris Bosh back on  a five-year, $118 million mega-deal . Neither deal looks like particularly sound business in a vacuum — Wade looked over the hill in the postseason despite purposefully sitting out games throughout the season and Bosh will be paid a massive salary when he's 35. For at least one year, though, they give the Heat hope of retaining its relevance. Wade is not close to the player he once was, but he isn't a total disaster and could regain some form now that he is back to being the unquestioned face of the franchise. Meanwhile, Bosh can return to his pre-Miami status as a franchise's top producer, a role he should be able to fill effectively. He averaged at least 22 points and 10 rebounds three times in his final four seasons in Toronto, and he's arguably added more facets to his game in his four years in Miami. Bringing back Wade and Bosh (or really just the latter) also afforded the Heat enough cachet on the market to woo Luol Deng as a replacement for James on the wing, where he figures to defend many top scorers and contribute reasonable production on offense. There's some question as to what Deng has left after years of being overworked by Tom Thibodeau and mismanaged by the Chicago Bulls' medical staff , but he's still an asset on a veteran team with two clearly superior scorers. The best way of praising the post-LeBron Heat is fairly backhanded — more than anything, they appear to be a functional basketball team. Wade and Bosh are well-respected multiple-time All-Stars who know how to play together, Deng is a very good secondary player, role players such as Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen, and rookie point guard Shabazz Napier seem to know what they're supposed to contribute, etc. Plus, head coach Erik Spoelstra has transitioned from a wunderkind handed the most immediately impressive free-agent haul in NBA history to a two-time champion with a deserved reputation for putting his team in a good position to succeed. The Heat are no longer championship contenders. However, their likely appearance in the postseason ensures that the franchise will not fall into obscurity any time soon, which is its own sort of success in today's NBA. The team is obviously worse, but the brand will survive. It remains to be seen how long it will be until they can leverage that image into another title. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: Yes one, yes two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven ... Did the summer help at all? Well, no, obviously not, but Pat Riley did save face. Bringing back Wade at the non-max and Bosh at all allowed the Heat to present themselves as something not entirely terrible, which in turn led to the addition of Deng, the retention of the Birdman, and a decent feeling surrounding the franchise that definitely didn't exist for the Cavs when they faced their own King-less future. Also, while trading up to draft Napier as a way of pleasing James now looks very silly, the Heat did get a promising young guard with a history of coming up big in crunch time. Again, it's not like the Heat reloaded and return as world-beaters, but they succeeded in maintaining a base level of confidence that will allow them to make moves of relevance in future seasons. That's meaningful in itself.

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Charlotte Hornets (Ball Don't Lie)
(Fri, 03 Oct 2014 11:41:08 PDT)

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Atlanta Hawks (Ball Don't Lie)
(Thu, 02 Oct 2014 12:18:16 PDT)
Things could have gone worse. Things could not have gone that much worse, but nobody’s on crutches, at least. The Atlanta Hawks have been shaken to their figurative core, though. The team is up for sale, the squad’s ostensible (and failed) leader is on indefinite leave , and the franchise has done little to enhance its roster in spite of a momentum shifting playoff turn, heaps of cap room, and decades-long presence in the jewel of the American south. Its prized free agent played a total of five seconds in his last team’s final game of its playoff run. Its second-year coach now has to run both the front office and work the sidelines. Its general manager only makes news these days when some NBA legend or would-be Hawk goes on record to call him not racist. Not “racist,” but “not racist.” Such a wonderful distinction! That GM, NBA lifer Danny Ferry, did well to partially blow up the staid operation that was the Atlanta Hawks after taking over in 2012. He dumped Joe Johnson’s millstone of a contract , earned draft picks, refused to fall in love with what Josh Smith could do, and he appears to have done a sound job in his latest attempt at raiding Gregg Popovich’s staff – plucking Mike Budenholzer out of San Antonio to run his team. The Hawks faltered down the stretch in 2013-14, losing 23 out of 36 games to end the season, but it still earned a playoff spot ( that it may not have wanted ) and dutifully took a reeling Indiana Pacers squad to seven games in the opening round before falling. The defense improved under Budenholzer, the outfit forced quite a few turnovers on both ends of the court (burn), and in all it played as expected – a group that was learning on the fly under a new coach, anxiously awaiting the reinforcements that summer would eventually provide. Instead, the 2014 offseason brought embarrassment and shame to the Hawk franchise – though you couldn’t tell by the front office’s lingering reaction to terribly screwing things up . Danny Ferry remains the ultimate corporate “anyone’s fault but my own”-creature as he ducks away from press, fans, and culpability after creating a culture that made it OK to deem “a little bit of African in him” a knowledgeable and appropriate statement. Much less something that could work as blight on one’s character, as if being of African descent is something to be ashamed of. Ferry remains, to Atlanta and the NBA’s great shame, and the scads of “I’m sure he’s not a racist”-re-castings doesn’t take anything away from the back-slapping atmosphere he created in the Atlanta front office. Ferry, and the remaining Hawk ownership (to say nothing of the NBA) appear to see no problem with this. It’s an astonishing, ongoing situation. To the discredit of many. In less important, basketball terms – the Hawks messed up their offseason. They remain around $13 million under the salary cap, which would work to their advantage on the trade market only in a different era, and they’ve whiffed on supplanting a core that was just a few games above .500 even with Al Horford in the lineup last season. The Knicks are in flux, Brooklyn has diminished, Indiana has been taken out of the picture, Washington and Charlotte are just one injury away, the middle of the East is eminently ripe for the taking – and yet Atlanta isn’t scaring anyone. Save for prospective free agents.

A report reveals that NBA basketball officials have discussed eliminating extra free throws to save time (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:45:08 PDT)
I wasn’t aware that the NBA was in danger of losing fans because the product wasn’t moving along quickly enough, but perhaps I’ve been watching games incorrectly. In comparison to the NFL’s mindless and brain-altering slugfests and Major League Baseball’s endless Great Day Out, the NBA seems rather wonderfully-paced. It may fall short of the NHL when it comes to nonstop end to end action, but then again this (fantastic, we love the NHL) sport features low scoring contests and 36 minutes’ worth of intermissions. ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz recently revealed that some within the NBA’s ranks have suggested eliminating the decades-old standard of awarding two free throws for either a shooting foul, or a personal foul committed by a team that is over the quarter’s penalty limit. The change would shorten game lengths, purportedly giving fans a faster product with shorter standing-around breaks while relieving the overall time of game of a few extra minutes. From Arnovitz’s piece : Around last season’s All-Star break, preliminary chatter began among the league’s basketball operations folks and rule geeks about the prospect of reducing all trips to the free-throw line to a single foul shot. D-League president Dan Reed and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey were the closest thing to co-sponsors of a bill. Nobody was proposing anything to be fast-tracked, but an imperative to figure out ways to shorten pro basketball games gave the idea some life as something to consider implementing in the D-League. The concept was this: A player fouled in the act of shooting or in a penalty situation would attempt only a single free throw. If that player was shooting a 2-point shot or in a penalty situation at the time of the foul, the free throw attempt would be worth two points. If that player was fouled in the act of launching a 3-point shot, he’d go to the line for a single shot worth three points. By Kevin’s estimation , overall free throws would be relieved by nearly half, and the game time would be cut by five minutes. A radical, game-changing ploy created to merely cut five minutes off of the total package. OK, “radical” may not be the best choice of words. By any sensible account, free throw percentages would stay nearly the same, as would points per contest and overall efficiency. Arnovitz went on to note that free throw shooters generally perform better on their second free throw attempt, so while free throw percentages would dip slightly, it wouldn’t cause a huge shift in the long run. That “second free throw” anecdote is important, though. It’s true that effectively taking a practice free throw on the first attempt helps settle your stroke and help you find that muscle memory on your way toward better percentages, but the another strong benefit is the fact that time spent at the line also allows for a bit of rest after competing on both ends of the ball. There’s a reason NBA players try to grab the rebound after a made or missed first free throw and hold onto the ball, and there’s a reason NBA free throw shooters back off of the line after the initial shot and take part in needless fist bumps or low fives. It’s to delay the game. And the reason they’re delaying the game is because the game is tiring, and they need some rest. Arnovitz doesn’t shy away from this realization in his very good feature , but it boggles as to why the executives he mentioned and even quoted on record aren’t running away as fast as they can from changes like this, more than aware of the fact that they players they employ and/or oversee are expected to run as fast as they can while dragging Lanier and Walton up and down the court for 48 minutes a night. If those worries were expressed, they weren’t quoted, but the mere consideration by these current and former basketball executives (two men with basketball minds we respect greatly) is enough to allow us to wonder about why they’d want to do away with the current free throw format. The NBA already dropped the ball in declining to extend the calendar length of a season, forcing more and more back-to-back nights in exchange for a proper All-Star “break,” and rest is always at a premium. Whether it’s on a plane, in a hotel mid-afternoon, or while catching your breath during an in-game whistle stop. Free throw breaks in action also allow for coaches to call plays, teammates to confer on defensive assignments, and extended (and needed) calm communication between players and referees about a disputed call from a few possessions before. I promise that I’m not some crotchety old man (even though I am) ranting in attempts to defend the orthodoxy (even though I am). This stuff counts. At times, the NBA game does drag, but there are ways around this. The league has to stop putting pressure on its referees to treat each reviewed call as if the eventual decision can’t be sussed out in a manner of seconds. Refs don’t need to spend minutes looking at every conceivable angle in order to give the appearance of making a tough call, so as to avoid scorn from their supervisors after the game. This isn’t a Senate hearing, Senator Sam Ervin isn’t presiding as chair of the committee, and sometimes these calls are completely obvious within a matter of seconds. The league’s new centralized review location will help in this regard. The league needs to not only award a free throw and the ball to teams that are fouled intentionally while on a fast break (as they already do), the NBA needs to also issue a delay of game penalty – this would result in two foul shots (the horror!) and the ball. This would hopefully, finally, dissuade coaches from instructing their players to foul in this instance, and finally convince players that their best chance at keeping the breakaway damage minimal is to actually run back and contest a shot – you know, a fun play in transition that is entertaining to watch . Beyond that, the NBA has made a series of needed and intelligent rule changes over the last few years, messing with timeouts, timeout length, substitution rules, the delay of game penalty, and other end-of-game machinations in order to create a more entertaining watch. Just 15 years ago this league was full of Charles Barkley backdowns, illegal defense calls, hand-checking and endless delays. Today, the league is delivering a streamlined product that, despite some lingering flaws, remains fun to watch. You do remember last spring, don’t you? And, honestly, who is complaining about the extra half-minute or more break in action that a second free throw demands? Get off that guy’s lawn, I’m guessing. I’m not an NFL-styled NBA shill, I get plenty of angry emails from the league office, and I spent hours this season begging the league to make a much needed change in its approach to resting its players . Not because I’m worried about my good buddy LeBron James cramping, but because I’m worried that I may have to watch another close NBA Finals game that features a cramping LeBron James sitting on the bench. I’m a fan, and I want a good product. Rest aides that product, and these people. Breaks in the action deliver rest in ways that don’t force a timeout that leads to me having to sit through commercials about car insurance. Leave the free throw setup as it is, NBA. - - - - - - - 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: Milwaukee Bucks (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:02:03 PDT)

BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Indiana Pacers (Ball Don't Lie)
(Wed, 01 Oct 2014 11:29:07 PDT)

Kenny Smith, family to appear on TBS reality show (The Associated Press)
(Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:54:00 PDT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Former NBA star Kenny Smith and his family will appear on a reality show on TBS in the spring.

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