Tag:Dallas Mavericks
Posted on: October 1, 2011 5:32 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 5:39 pm
 

Mark Cuban defends billionaires on Colbert Report

Posted by Ben Gollivermark-cuban

As the NBA lockout enters its fourth month, fan resentment towards millionaire players and billionaire owners unable to get a deal done continues to increase. Miami Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade set off a firestorm this week, for example, when he said that elite players would be worth far more than they are currently paid if there was no salary cap.

Lost in that fray was one voice who was ready, willing and able to stick up for the billionaire owners. That voice belonged to Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Cuban joined Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's Colbert Report to defend his fellow billionaires, noting that he is "proud" to call himself a billionaire.

"We're kind, we're caring," Cuban explained. "We're the type of person that you want your daughter or son to marry. We're just down to earth people. Look at me. I'm nice."

One problem with being so rich and so nice, apparently, is that it makes you a target for gold diggers. Cuban, who has a net worth of $2.3 billion according to Forbes.com, admitted that he regularly fends off requests for donations from politicians.

"All the time. I get phone calls, emails, letter, FedEx, UPS, everything ... They see those big stacks of money all the time. I haven't given to a political campaign or politician in years." 

But no amount of political begging or labor negotiating can mar the thrill of winning an NBA title for the first time.

"After 12 years now, we finally won, and it feels great," Cuban said, smiling widely. "They told me year after year, 'you're an idiot,' and here we are, champs."

Here's video of the interview via ColbertNation.com.

The Colbert Report



Posted on: September 24, 2011 2:36 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 2:36 pm
 

First up for each team in a post-lockout world

Posted by Royce Young



So the lockout could be ending soon, depending on who you're listening to. Maybe it extends into the season, but if it doesn't and a deal gets settled in the next few weeks, we're going to have one heck of a free agency period. Really, no matter when it's settled, we're going to have one wild free agency period.

(Unless we were to miss all of 2011-12 and you combined this class with next year's group. Now that would be something.)

If you thought the summer of 2010 was a frenzy, try cramming it all into a two-week period. Maybe I'm just thinking of how horrible it'll be for me. Regardless, you can be sure that all 30 teams have a pre-written itinerary on what they want to accomplish once the lockout is lifted. They have been planning, plotting and preparing to target the players they want or finish up a few final transactions on the roster.

But what's the first order of business for everybody? What's the priority, the thing that each team wants to get done right away? Here's a stab at each team's top job.

Atlanta Hawks: It really appears that the Hawks are ready and willing to let Jamal Crawford walk, but there's still a decision to made whether or not they want to compete for him in the free agent market. He was a key part of the team that made a somewhat surprising run to the Eastern Semifinals and re-signing him could be a priority. Problem is, they don't really have the funds for it.

Boston Celtics: What happens with Jeff Green? The Celtics have already tendered him a qualifying offer, but someone surely will extend him an offer sheet. The Celtics have issues at center still and Glen Davis is unrestricted, but figuring out Jeff Green's situation is probably weighing heaviest on Danny Ainge's mind.

Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats made a big splash in the draft, but if that's going to matter, they've got to get Bismack Biyombo on the team. His buyout could still be a major issue and though he says he'll be on the team when training camp starts, that's definitely up in the air.

Chicago Bulls: Wing scorer. Say it with me, wing scorer. Derrick Rose needs help (and an extension) in a big time way and it's up to Gar Foreman and company to find that help. Jamal Crawford maybe? Caron Butler? J.R. Smith if he wasn't in China? Someone has to give Rose a little offensive help and that's the top priority for the Bulls.

Cleveland Cavaliers: First thing? Putting Baron Davis on the scales to make sure he doesn't weigh 300 pounds. After that, there isn't a whole lot to be done in Cleveland. The club's rebuilding around their two lottery picks and you don't want to crowd the roster in a way that stunts their development.

Dallas Mavericks: The defending champs have a whole lot on their plate once the lockout ends. Caron Butler's contract is up. So is J.J. Barea's. So is DeShawn Stevenson's. So is Brian Cardinal's (just kidding -- well it is up, but you know what I mean). But the first order of business for Mark Cuban is to get Tyson Chandler re-signed. Not just that though, but to get him re-signed to a number that makes sense for the make-up of the roster.

Denver Nuggets: Despite the lockout, the Nuggets have kind of been gutted. J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler are in China until at least March. Danilo Gallinari signed in Italy but has an NBA out. But all of that doesn't matter near as much as getting Nene re-signed. Without Nene, it doesn't matter. With Nene, there's still something worth building around.

Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are kind of trying to quietly usher out the old and bring in some new. Tayshaun Prince is a free agent, but I don't think they care. What'll be most interesting is how they handle Rodney Stuckey. The Pistons drafted Brandon Knight in June with Stuckey already their point guard. Do they want Knight to take over? Do they want to play them together? Share the role? Sorting out Stuckey's future is definitely what Joe Dumars has to do first.

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors could be players in free agency, but really, it's about deciding once and for all if Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry really are the backcourt tandem of the future for the team. If there's a time to move on, it's now when both of their values are still high. The Warriors flirted with dealing Ellis last season but it didn't happen. They're probably planning on revisiting that.

Houston Rockets: First order of business: Properly sending off Yao with a jersey retirement ceremony. After that, the Rockets are fairly settled, though you know Daryl Morey is just itching to pick up a phone and start transacting once the lockout's over.

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have a number of expiring deals and aren't likely looking to re-sign them (maybe Josh McRoberts, maybe Jeff Foster). Larry Bird has been hunting more pieces to add to his mediocre roster for a while and you can be sure the Pacers are going to target some of the bigger free agent names in this class.

Los Angeles Clippers: Eric Gordon is ready for an extension, but the Clippers better be ready to match any offer DeAndre Jordan gets. You might not think that's a big deal, but forget Chris Kaman. The future of the Clips frontcourt is Blake Griffin and Jordan. You seven-footer from Texas A&M finally started figuring himself out a little last season and he's not far off from becoming a major defensive impact player.

Los Angeles Lakers: Shannon Brown's unrestricted, but he's really not that much of an impact player to be that concerned with. The Lakers might have to focus on how to re-structure the roster to suit a new CBA that could greatly cut into their total salary. Will they have to move Lamar Odom? Metta World Peace? But first things first: Giving Kobe and Mike Brown a proper introduction and letting them figure out the direction of the offense.

Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol. That's it for Memphis. It'd be nice to get Shane Battier back, but it's all about Gasol.

Miami Heat: It's kind of been overlooked, but Pat Riley and the Heat have a busy couple weeks waiting on them. Mike Bibby, Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard, Erick Dampier and James Jones are all unrestricted and Mario Chalmers is restricted. It's decision time for the Heat. Do they start restocking with veteran talent or look to get younger and develop?

Milwaukee Bucks: That first practice in Milwaukee is something Scott Skiles has probably been thinking about for a while. "Brandon, this is Stephen. Stephen, this is Brandon." The Bucks have some new talent as Stephen Jackson joins Brandon Jennings, but how will they get along?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Here's what David Kahn's to-do list looks like: 1) Hug Ricky. 2) Hug Darko. 3) Overpay a questionable free agent at a position you already have three guys. What it should look like: 1) Convince Kevin Love somehow to sign an extension. 2) Get rid of Michael Beasley and let Derrick Williams have the starting small forward spot all to himself. 3) Tell Rick Adelman to do his thing.

New Jersey Nets: Kris Humphies is an important piece of business but his re-signing goes hand in hand with the larger thing: Proving to Deron Williams that this is a place he wants to re-sign. The Nets have to take advantage right away of showing Williams they're serious about winning. And you do that by getting him some immediate help.

New Orleans Hornets: It's all about David West for the Hornets. Yes, he suffered a major knee injury last season. But he chose to become an unrestricted free agent and a team like the Nets is likely to come calling quickly. Can the Hornets hang on to Chris Paul's buddy?

New York Knicks: The Knicks have a little bit coming off the books but really they need to try and resist the urge to do something drastic in this free agency period. Which they will because of the big names coming up in 2012. Still, they want to field a solid team for this season -- and Mike D'Antoni needs them too -- so adding a quality veteran to help on the inside would be good.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The young Thunder roster is pretty much entirely set up. But Sam Presti has something to do right away once the lockout ends -- get Russell Westbrook his extension. Presti brought Kevin Durant his at midnight last July to make sure there was no doubt about locking up his superstar. Presti better be stalking Westbrook's house on the whim he lockout ends so he can extend the same treatment to his other star.

Orlando Magic: First order of business for Otis Smith and the Magic? Resume begging Dwight Howard to stay. One way to show it would be to get him some help, but Smith sort of laid those cards on the table last year in the Gilbert Arenas/Hedo Turkoglu trade. So it's back to convincing Howard there's a plan for the future and that it'll get better.

Philadelphia 76ers: Someone is ready and willing to give Thaddeus Young a serious offer, so the Sixers better be ready to match anything and everything.

Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash's trade value will be highest at the beginning of the season, so it's up to Lance Blanks and Robert Sarver to figure out if they're ready to move on. Aaron Brooks is a restricted free agent so if the Suns lock him up by matching an offer sheet, that'll be an indication that the Suns are preparing for life without Nash.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers are in love with Nicolas Batum, so extending him could be the first order of business, but really, the Blazers need to find a new general manager first. And whoever that guy is needs to decide that if for the off chance someone gives Greg Oden an offer, if he's willing to match. Oden already has an $8.8 qualifying offer, which is huge, so once Oden signs that, he'll likely be signing with the Blazers for another year.

Sacramento Kings: The Jimmer-Tyreke backcourt is going to be an interesting experiment, but Marcus Thornton is quietly one of the more intriguing free agents out there. The Bulls are likely looking at him long and hard right now. He's restricted, so the Kings could keep him, but the question is, with Tyreke moving off the ball for good and Jimmer handling the point, is it worth paying Thornton to just have him come off the bench?

San Antonio Spurs: Um, I guess just resume the typical day-to-day of the Spurs. Gregg Popovich is the longest tenured coach with a team and R.C. Buford probably isn't looking to go do anything drastic in this market. The Spurs are definitely aging, but there's not a lot to be done about that right now.

Toronto Raptors: Assuming the Raptors actually have Jonas Valanciunas for next season, Dwane Casey and company have to figure out if he's ready to cover for Andrea Bargnani on the inside. Can those two really play together and handle enough rebounding and defensive duties? The Raptors are in a place where they have to wait and see with some young players and aren't likely targeting any big names in the open market.

Utah Jazz: Most likely, Andrei Kirilenko won't be re-signing with the Jazz. So Kevin O'Connor will have to make a choice when the lockout's over: Does he try and restock a roster that can maybe squeak out the eight-seed, or does he commit to rebuilding around Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and others and just let them play it out? The Jazz would love to get some wing scoring help, so O'Connor will probably at least look that direction, but we'll have to see how serious he is.

Washington Wizards: It's not an earth-shattering decision, but Nick Young is a restricted free agent. And with his scoring ability, someone is ready to pay him. Do the Wizards want to keep him? Do they want to look elsewhere and maybe target say, Marcus Thornton? Or do they just let Young walk and see what Jordan Crawford's got?
Posted on: September 20, 2011 12:57 pm
 

Mavericks' Rudy Fernandez signs in Spain

By Matt Moore

From the Associated Press: 

Dallas Mavericks forward Rudy Fernandez has signed with Real Madrid's basketball team during the NBA lockout.

Madrid says Fernandez has agreed to play in Spain during the labor negotiations. The deal includes an option for Fernandez to play with Madrid once his contract with the NBA champions ends. 

Fernandez has flirted with playing overseas for years, particularly at the start of last season after being unhappy with his role in Portland. This deal itself has been percolating the last few weeks. But since being traded to the champion Mavericks (who need a healthy wing with Caron Butler just now getting back on the court), Fernandez has been adamant that he intends to finish his contract in the NBA before even considering a return overseas. With the option to return, the most likely scenario is Fernandez plays one year with the Mavericks, then takes off to return to Real Madrid. ESPN Dallas notes that this might not be the worst case scenario for the Mavericks, who have two talented wings still developing.

Should Fernandez return to Spain after the season, the Mavs should be ready to replace him with either of their two young players for the 2012-13 season. And if Beaubois and Jones don't pan out -- which would be disappointing -- Fernandez will go down as nothing more than a low-cost gamble that should be sufficiently replaceable in next summer's free-agent market.

Who knows, a year from now the Mavs might not even want him back.
via If Rudy Fernandez is one-and-done, so be it - Dallas Mavericks Blog - ESPN Dallas.

So the defending NBA champs traded for a versatile, athletic wing with range for cheap who won't complicate matters if he doesn't work out and have the depth behind him to compensate. Man, it's good to be Dallas right now. You know, if we have a season and all.  
Posted on: September 17, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 5:45 pm
 

Mark Cuban gave Muggsy Bogues $3.6 million gift

Posted by Ben Gollivermuggsy-bogues

Three or four hundred million dollars will buy you an NBA franchise these days but that price tag only gets you the keys to the car, it doesn't include a good reputation. The fact is, most NBA owners are nameless and faceless to the players, known mostly as the guy who cuts the checks. In many cases, both the owners and players prefer it that way.

Not Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban though. Cuban, a constant presence on the sideline and a man who even goes so far as to shooter jumpers on the court before games, embarked on a mission at the beginning of his ownership tenure to remake his franchise's reputation and to increase its desireability as a destination for players.

SlamOnline.com reports that one year into his ownership tenure Cuban made an extremely generous gift to former player Muggsy Bogues, a man who is best known for being the shortest player in NBA history at 5-foot-3.
“I’ve never met Mr. Mark Cuban, but I tell people that I thank him more than life itself,” Bogues, 46, said recently over the phone from his home in Charlotte. “I had three years left on my contract when my mom passed away, and I decided it was time to move on [from basketball]. I walked away from the game with three years left on my contract. He (Cuban) could have easily just have bought me out of my contract, but he went on and honored it and paid the three years out and never looked back.”

Acquired by the Dallas Mavericks via a three-way trade in the summer of 2001, Bogues—bereaved over his mother’s passing—never suited up in a single game for the Mavericks. Still, Cuban agreed to pay the 5-3 guard the complete balance of his contract. That amount came out to $3, 617, 400 over the course of the three years years remaining.
This story is even more touching when contrasted with the ongoing labor negotiations, in which owners are seeking to reduce the size and length of guaranteed contracts so they can avoid getting stuck playing extra salary after players pass their prime or are limited by injuries.

Whether Cuban decided to pay this money purely out of the goodness of his heart or because he was seeking to define who he would be as a player-friendly owner, the move was indisputably unconventional. And that's always been Cuban's genius. Doing things differently -- often better -- to carve a niche for himself and his franchise.

Of course, this move also looks a lot better now that Cuban won his franchise's first NBA title in 2011. What might have been perceived as an emotional decision or a dangerous precedent simply looks like an incredibly rare and benevolent act that helped vault Dallas, a perennial also-ran until Cuban arrived, into the conversation of best places to play. 

Hat tip: Ball Don't Lie 
Posted on: September 5, 2011 1:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 1:44 pm
 

Mark Cuban thinks the Big 12 should stay together

Posted by Royce Young



Conference realignment is all the rage. So much so that Mark Cuban has decided to toss in his two cents to the conversation. And when Cuban talks, it's always worth listening. He's an idea man and typically knows what he speaks of.

Here's his take: Keep the Big 12 together. I'll let him explain.
They should stay.

Why? The first reason is that the Super Conferences that are forming or being considered will turn into a huge mistake. No if ands or buts about it. While the concept of a Super Conference sounds incredibly cool , the reality is that the larger than 12 school conferences will only invoke the law of intended consequences and will create the following problems:

1. More schools will NOT mean more TV money.

The big college TV networks, Fox, ESPN, CBS pay for quality, not quantity.  They need marquee matchups that are “Must Tweet TV”.  The number of schools in a conference actually reduce the parity and quality of match-ups in a conference. The networks will not pay up for that.  Adding Texas A&M to the SEC is not going to add a single dollar’s worth of value to the owner of the SEC TV contract , regardless of sport.  Maybe the SEC has an escalator in their contract that increases the total value of the TV contract, but I’m guessing that it still will result in a reduction in the dollars paid to each school when compared to the amount paid had an additional school not joined the conference.

Cuban also lists the impact it would have on geographic rivalries, cupcake games will become obsolete and of course, there's more pie to split up among teams.

I live in Oklahoma. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma. So all this confernece realignment stuff is near and dear to me. That said, I'm an NBA blogger, so I'll leave all the smart opinions on this to our outstanding team of college football writers.

That said, Cuban's point missing the mark because he's too focused on one thing: money. Understandable, because Cuban's a businessman and that's what he operates on. But if the Big 12 is a nine-team league, it's to the point of being watered down where it's borderline irrelevant. I mean, the Big 12 would be a glorified Big East. And if you're adding teams -- BYU, Houston, Air Force, TCU -- does anyone really replace what was lost? TCU is a nice program, but that's not Nebraska. BYU has a great alumni base, but it's not Texas A&M. Heck, Houston's not Colorado, and that's not saying a whole lot.

And a 16-team conference won't affect the OU-Texas rivalry one bit. Here's something most people don't realize: The Red River game spent about 90 as a non-conference game for the schools. And it had plenty of cache regionally and nationally. Putting OU and Texas together in a Pac-16 East division just means the same thing that rivalry has had in the Big 12 South -- the winner's got the upper-hand in the division.

I appreciate Cuban's take on it because he's a smart guy. But remaining in a baby conference where OU and Texas play the role of the Red Sox and Yankees just isn't quite as interesting as a super Pac-16. It's not always about the money. Not that Cuban should or would ever get that.
Posted on: September 5, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Realigning the NBA

Posted by Royce Young



Conference realignment has sort of taken over the world the past few weeks. Texas A&M pretty much put the nail in the coffin for the Big 12 by bolting for the SEC and because of it, a whole new chain of events have tipped over. The landscape of college football could look a whole lot different in a few months. Or in a few weeks. Or even tomorrow.

But you know what else could use a little realigning? The NBA's divisions. They're kind of a mess. It's not going to be as a result of some $300 million network, recruiting ties or competitive advantages. Nope. For the NBA, it's more just about common sense. Geographically, the divisions are kind of a mess. In 2011 that's not as huge a deal as it was in 1981 because travel is much easier. You can go from Portland to Oklahoma City in just a few hours.

However, chartered travel is experience. Fuel is very pricey. And with the NBA and teams supposedly losing so much money, why not exhaust every option to cut costs and realign the divisions so they make a lot more sense? Why not group teams together that are hundreds, not thousands, of miles apart?

Plus, it just makes a lot more sense to have structured regions. Grouping teams together based on geography does more to forge rivalries, gives fans a chance to commute between games if the want to and gives the players less travel and more days of rest. All good, right?

So if you're going to spend all this time restructuring a new collective bargaining agreement, why not fix the divisions too? Here's how they should look:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

SOUTHWEST
Dallas
San Antonio
Houston
Phoenix
Oklahoma City

The NBA's new Southwest division is the American League East, the SEC West, of the league. It's a group of five teams that are all pretty good. Things change though and in 15 years, this could be the weakest division in the league. But for now, it'd be pretty good.

And it just makes sense. Dallas and Oklahoma City are about three hours via car away from each other. San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are in the same state. And OKC and the Texas teams and Phoenix just have one state separating them, which is a whole lot better than five.

MIDWEST
Memphis
Minnesota
Denver
Utah
Milwaukee

Clearly the division that needed the biggest overhaul is the Northwest, mainly because of the Sonics transformation into the Oklahoma City Thunder. When the team was in Seattle, the division made a lot more sense. Now it doesn't. That's why a midwestern division with makes a lot more sense.

That creates somewhat of a problem in the Northwest though. There's not a great fit. So for the sake of the argument, the Northwest has to make the Big 12 and peace out. No more Northwest, but instead the new Midwest.

The new Midwest is still a bit spread out, but all the teams are at least located somewhat centrally in the country. A trip from Utah to Milwaukee won't be quick, but the Jazz, Nuggets and Timerwolves have been oddballs in the Northwest. It's not an ideal division with teams right next door to each other, but it makes a lot more sense than the current setup.

PACIFIC
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
Sacramento
Golden State
Portland

Moving Phoenix away from the Lakers is a bummer, because those two teams are historical rivals that have always competed in the same division. But if A&M and Texas can separate, I think we can live with the Suns and Lakers moving apart.

The Pacific now features five teams that are actually next to the Pacific Ocean, which seems like it should count for something. Plus having the Blazers and Lakers together makes up for separating the Suns and Lakers.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL
Chicago
Detroit
Indiana
Cleveland
Toronto

Really, the new Central was the inspiration for this. Why aren't the Raptors in this division? Look at how close those teams are to each other. I think you could almost ride your bike between arenas. The old Central was really good too -- maybe better -- but the Bucks have to move. So it's the Raptors who replace them and the solid geographic setup remains.

ATLANTIC
Boston
New York
Philadelphia
Washington
New Jersey

Nothing too radical here. Five cities that you can transport between using a train. Old rivalries are preserved and the Wizards are added, which frankly, makes a lot of sense.

SOUTHEAST
Miami
Orlando
Atlanta
Charlotte
New Orleans

Two teams would swap conferences with the Bucks moving back to the West and the Hornets heading to the East. Not that this would upset the competitive balance of the league or anything, but it just makes a lot more sense for the Hornets to be placed in a division with Orlando, Charlotte, Atlanta and Miami.

And let me add this: If college football has no issue tossing tradition and historical rivalries out the window, why not just eliminate conferences all together? It would be a radical move, but what's the point of the East and West, other than just that's the structure of the playoffs? If it were one unified "super" conference, that would finally solve the issues of a 50-win Western team missing the postseason while a 37-win Eastern team slips into the eight-seed.

You could even just build the league into three 10-team divisions. Combine the Southwest and the Pacific, the Midwest and the Central, and the Atlantic and the Southeast. There are your super-divisions. Now you can keep teams playing more in their division than anything else and cut down on long road trips. It would make a West coast road trip for the Mavericks a whole heck of a lot more interesting.

Basically, we'd be looking at a league with three sub-conferences and once the playoffs started, seeding would just be based from that. Almost like the NCAA tournament, you could set two regions and seed from there. Head-to-head tiebreakers, division records and all that stuff would separate any identical records. Just an idea while we're brainstorming, you know?

(Note: I don't really love that idea, quite honestly. But I was just throwing it out there. One of those things that probably makes sense, but wouldn't ever happen. Much like Bill Simmons' terrific "Entertaining As Hell Tournament." Really, a unified conference makes it easier to implicate the tournament too.)

Let's face it: The West has kind of sort of dominated the past decade. Sports operate in cycles, but if there's a way to prevent that, should we? The West compiled a record of 2,257-1,643 against the East from 1999-2008 and over the last 13 seasons has represented 10 champions. That's pretty dominant. That'll change eventually, but what really is the point of the conferences, other than the standard, "that's just the way it's always been done" answer? 

All that is after the fact though: Divisional realignment is the start. Fixing the structure of the postseason would be the ideal next step. It's kind of like a plus-one for college football. Maybe a pipe dream, but something that's really in the best interest of the game. But if anything's to be done, it's to realign the divisions so they at least make a little more sense. Preserve rivalires, start new ones, save money, cut down on travel and hopefully, help the league grow a little bit more.

Picture via Jockpost
Posted on: September 1, 2011 10:21 pm
 

The top NBA defensive systems



By Matt Moore



Stop me if you've heard this one before. Defense wins championships. That's not actually true, as some of the best defenses never win titles because their offense can't muster enough points to outscore a college team. But it's certainly vital. You'll never find a modern NBA team win with terrible defense. But who have the best systems? We know who the great defenders are, but how much are they a product of the system, and how much is the system a product of them? We sought to answer those questions with our own form of the defensive system power rankings. 


1. Chicago Bulls:
There's a reason Tom Thibodeau is considered a defensive genius. Look no further than the fact that the Bulls were the defensive icon of the league despite considerable injuries last season and the fact that Carlos Boozer was a heavy-minutes starter. The key to Thibodeau's system is help and precision attack. There's no anticipation of meeting the player at the point of field goal attempt, the initial penetration is deterred by a series of help defenders cutting off multiple options. It's a system that masks individual defensive weaknesses. That's why players like Omer Asik, Boozer, and C.J Watson suddenly become strengthpoints.

An interesting component is that the Bulls are so focused on preventing scores, they manage to avoid fouling. They had the 22nd lowest free throw rate in the league. Compare that with Boston's 10th rating, and you find a much cleaner defense. That's partially attributable to the different personnel but it's also indicative of the Bulls' approach. They attack the dribble, cut off the lane, and contain, contain, contain.

Their cohesion is nearly perfect, their communication is nearly perfect, their approach is nearly perfect. Guarding LeBron James nailing long-range threes? You've got be perfect to beat that.

2. Boston Celtics: The ugly older brother of the Bulls' defense. The Celtics use the same help mechanisms to deter penetration and attack the rim, but are far more willing to commit to a club to the head to make their point. Intelligent design matched with brute force. Another key difference is their reliance on their individual personnel. Kevin Garnett is of course the field general, and its his willingness to commit to any assignment or range that fuels the system. But Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo are all equally essential along with the rest of the team. The problem is that the central reliance on personnel gives way to vulnerability. Eventually age catches up with the Celtics.

What bolsters them, though, is a philosophical dedication. The Celtics are willing to do the hard job, no matter how tough. It's not just a matter of professional dedication, its a prideful philosophy, an extension of the family unity they've tried to instill in the team. That's really what separates the Celtics, their almost militaristic dedication to the defensive discipline they try and execute for 48 minutes.

The Celtics' defense is only going to continue to slide as the players' abilities downgrade with age. But until then, they're still stocked with the most experience, ability, and knowledge of their system of any team in the league.

...

Again, with the LeBron thing.

3. Miami Heat: If the Celtics and Bulls both rely on system built on systemic fundamentals and philosophy, then the Heat's concept is a bit different, if nearly as effective. Their strengths begin with their talent. Having three of the most athletic players in the league gives you a basis. LeBron James' ability to play on the perimeter, on the wing, in the post, and battle for rebounds gives them versatility. Chris Bosh is never going to win anyone's heart over with toughness, but guarding those stretch fours in a league where they can torch you is important, and Bosh does it well. Dwyane Wade still gambles more than he should, but he also makes plays more often than you want if you're facing him.

This isn't to say the rest of the Heat are schlubs. Udonis Haslem is a big, tough, difficult defender who has the savvy to arm wrestle a weapon to the proverbial ground. The Heat have veteran players who don't lack for experience, and it helps tremendously.

The most interesting wrinkle in their defensive system, though, is one of their anticipation. Consider that the Bulls and Celtics both react to where the ball goes. They're always playing a game of stop what's in front of them. It's a very Eastern-philosophy, "stay in the moment" kind of mindset. But the Heat look to anticipate. They run to the corner shooter before the ball arrives. They play on a string, but not just in terms of shutting down one option and then reacting, but getting ahead of the offense to prevent the quick open look opportunity. The result is a load of shot clock violations.

The problem is personnel. They have neither the wing stopper they can commit at the cost of offense, nor the body in the paint at center to defend the rim. There's a reason why Shane Battier and Eddy Curry reportedly top the Heat's list of targets in free agency. A few better options defensively in terms of personnel might have won them two more games in the Finals, which was all that stood in their way of vindicating all that premature boasting.

4. Orlando Magic: It's good to have the best. Dwight Howard makes more of an impact defensively than any other player in the league, the reason he's the defending Defensive Player of the Year (again), and why he was an MVP candidate last season. If you don't believe me, watch just the Orlando Magic defensively some time. A team with Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu in prominent roles was a top five team defensively last season, and that impact begins and ends with Dwight Howard. Howard reacts to the baseline, swats the weak side, covers both the ball handler and roll man on the pick and roll, and is big and tall and super-athletic. He's a freak of nature, and one that's learned to be smarter on defense every year.

But to say that it's all Howard does a disservice to Stan Van Gundy's work. Van Gundy, after all, is the coach that has brought Dwight Howard to the defensive level he's at, making it a priority for the young big man since 2007. And it's Van Gundy who manages to pull this kind of defensive effort out of a team with that roster. That Van Gundy is able to generate cohesive defensive efforts with Brandon Bass, Jameer Nelson, and Jason Richardson in key roles along with the others speaks volumes of what SVG is capable of.

His biggest weakness is that personnel, which has gotten worse each season since 2009. Howard's hit his ceiling defensively. Unless SVG gets better supporting talent, there's only so many rabbits he can pull out of his hat.

5. Los Angeles Lakers: It's good to be tall.

The Lakers' defensive system is a question mark as Mike Brown takes over. But if we look at what the Lakers have done well in the past, it's pretty simple. Be tall, be active, apply pressure. The Lakers will talk about experience and veteran savvy, but their biggest asset is the fact that Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum combine to create a redwood forrest down low through which passes cannot flow. The result is a lot of perimter passing just to get the ball to the other side, or wild looping cross-court volleys. Combine that with Derek Fisher's ability to counter his slowness with pestering opposing point guards into personal fouls, and Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest's proficiency in perimeter defense, and you have quite the set.

Honestly, this roster probably has a lot of upside in defense, still. Jackson was too busy handing out novels and waxing poetic on what other player or coach he was degrading that week to really focus defensively other than to talk about, well, focus. The Lakers with Brown could be the best defensive unit in the NBA next season. Whenever that is.

Also considered:

Milwaukee Bucks: Skiles continues to struggle with offense, but his teams always attack the ball and stay disciplined. It's sloppy at times, but Skiles' grinding approach is a proven tactic.

Dallas Mavericks: Rick Carlisle talked in the Finals about "defending with five guys" and that's the best part of the Mavericks. They use any and all weapons at their disposal. Their defense isn't why they won the NBA championship, but it was why they won the Finals. Versatility combined with determination and good chemistry with sound principles made them formidable enough to compromise teams enough for their offense to do the rest.

Memphis Grizzlies: Unconventional is the word, here, as the Grizzlies run counter to every defensive tradition in the NBA. They don't play position, they attack the ball. They don't focus on misses, they swarm for steals. They don't deny layups, they pester and pressure until the offense collapses. Out of nowhere, Lionel Hollins turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best. Tony Allen's influence helps, so does Shane Battier's, but it's Memphis' adoption of the blue collar ethic of the town that helped them make their playoff run.

Posted on: August 15, 2011 3:29 pm
 

Report: Rudy Fernandez signs with Real Madrid

Posted by Royce Young

Rudy Fernandez's on again, off again relationship with Real Madrid appears to be on again. Very on again.

According to Eurobasket.com, Fernandez has agreed to a four-year contract with the Spanish professional team. Like a previous report mentioned, Fernandez will return to Dallas after the lockout but then re-return to Spain to play with the club next season and then through 2014-15. If you're wondering, Fernandez's contract with the Mavericks -- a rookie deal -- expires after the 2011-12 season.

However, before we finally check Fernandez off the list, HoopsHype is pumping the brakes. Citing a source, the deal is "not done yet" and Fernandez hasn't agreed. So we're off again, huh? Good grief.

Then again, HoopsHype said a deal "will likely be announced later this week" meaning that something could be in place and it just needs to be finalized. On again.

This isn't just a lockout contingency plan for Fernandez. He wants to sign with Madrid and make it a long-term deal. Currently Fernandez has one year left on his deal with a qualifying offer available for another.

The original offer he received from Real Madrid was a six-year deal and equated to about $4.4 million per year. So that would be around $26 million over six years, which is a pretty massive offer from a Spanish team. Right now, Fernandez is making about $2 million for this year on his rookie deal with next year's qualifying offer being for $3.2 million.

Fernandez's potential deal would include an NBA opt-out, but that's just to get through his current contract. Which is what he said he wanted to do. After that, all bets are off. So he might play a little in Spain, come back, and then go to Spain again for the long term. You know, on again, off again.
 
 
 
 
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