Tag:Jeff Green
Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:05 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 5:06 pm
 

How important is team chemistry in winning?

Posted by Royce Young



Chemistry isn't just something that Walter White is good at. It's a basketball buzzword, that hidden ingredient that can supposedly take a good team straight to greatness.

Build a team with talent, add a good coach and make sure they all like each other and you've got a recipe for good things. Isiah Thomas had chemistry as a major part of "The Secret," which is the secret formula to winning. The right mix of stars, role players and quality chemistry means success.

Everyone embraces that idea. Everyone agrees that it's better to like your teammates than not. Everyone knows that if you've got two guys on the floor that hate each other's guts, it's going to affect their ability to win.

But the question is, how much does it matter? And moreover, why does it matter?

Dwyane Wade admitted this week that he feels the real reason the Mavericks topped his super-loaded Heat team is because they were mixed better. He said, "One thing that Dallas beat us at – they had more chemistry than us. They had a game plan and we were still figuring ours out in our first year together."

Chemistry can kind of be a cop-out though. When you're losing and things are working right, it's easy to just say, "It's our chemistry, man." The Heat certainly lacked a feel for each other at times. Between LeBron and Wade, it was a teeter-totter on who got the ball with Chris Bosh awkwardly hanging in the balance. It was really a basketball science fair project. The Heat were putting the limits of basketball chemistry to the test and I suppose they failed since they lost, but there's always time to improve.

Wade's referencing on-court chemistry though. What about just general locker room mood? The off-court chemistry. Is it equally as important? Here's the thing: I think with one, comes the other. If you get along off the court, you're likely to get along on it. I'm not totally sure it works the other way -- see: Kobe and Shaq -- but it's always better to like the guy next to you rather than not.

What made me really start thinking about it was the supposed rift between Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder -- a team known worldwide for their outstanding chemistry -- traded away Jeff Green, a player Kevin Durant, Westbrook and James Harden referred to as a "brother," for Perkins.

The Thunder really we the ideal model of "The Secret," except for one flaw: Jeff Green really isn't good, at least not where the Thunder were playing him. So general manager Sam Presti risked chemistry trading away brother Jeff to bring in a big, burly, scowly center.

With the Perkins/Westbrook supposed scuffle, the fact is, chemistry is important, but really mostly when you're losing. It's easy to stick together when you're winning. But when you lose, things get tested. That's really where it affected the Celtics most. Nothing was wrong with them except their heads were shaken after Perk was dealt. And when they started slipping, they had actual evidence for why they were sulking. See? We need Perk! Maybe with Perk in the locker room, the Celtics would've been able to stay together. Maybe because he was gone, the team went into a funk and stopped trusting each other. Who knows. Chemistry certainly matters, but mostly when times are bad. What happens to the Thunder if they start next season 5-11 or something? Will fingers get pointed? Will Perk and Westbrook clash more? Will Durant have to try and put his foot down? It's all rosy until it's not.

Here's how important Jeff Green was to the Thunder: Presti actually cried during the press conference announcing the deal. If you want to know about team chemistry, the Thunder with Jeff Green were the model. Every player loved each other the same. All that Westbrook vs. Durant stuff was yet to come and honestly, it might've never surfaced if Green had stayed on the roster. He was the most veteran of their young core, the steady, calming influence.

But Presti obviously was ready and willing to risk that chemistry for the sake of bringing in a player that actually strengthened the roster. Not that Perkins was some kind of bad guy that couldn't get along with teammates. In fact, his relationship with the Celtics was almost exactly the same thing as Green in OKC.

The Celtics were shaken when Perkins was traded. Ainge dared to mess with Boston's brotherhood and in the end, paid for it. Was it because the chemistry was shaken or just because the team was kind of a mess, considering Perkins was replaced by Nenad Krstic, a broken Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal. Ask a basketball chemist and it's because Ainge tinkered with the winning locker room formula. Maybe it's a case by case thing, but clearly the Thunder were able to move past it. In the end, it was more about matchups, ability and rosters, not some imaginary force where friendships when games.

It all matters to a degree when you're trying to win, but chemistry alone doesn't win, both on and off the court. Chemistry's just one of the ingredients in the larger recipe for winning.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:29 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 3:11 pm
 

7 lost stories from canceled NBA preseason

Posted by Ben Golliver

silver-stern-2

On Friday, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported the dreadful news that we've all been fearing: the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have failed to reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in time, meaning training camp and portions of the preseason schedule have been indefinitely postponed and/or canceled.

Preseason is always a fun time of the NBA calendar, guaranteed to be chockfull of "Player X added 15 pounds of muscle" and "Lottery team Y finally seems poised for a playoff push" stories. Of course, no preseason means no preseason stories. No hype, no hope. More Adam Silver, more David Stern. What a bummer. 

So here's a rundown of seven stories you would have been reading had the NBA and the NBPA gotten their collective act together in time to save the schedule. These stories are lost everywhere, except for here.

1. Security Detains Eddy Curry Outside AmericanAirlines Arena

MIAMI -- It appears that Eddy Curry will not be joining the Miami Heat after all.

Following nearly a year of reports indicating that Curry had lost an NBA-record 468 pounds since he was released by the Minnesota Timberwolves at least year's trade deadline, the free agent center was forcibly removed from AmericanAirlines Arena property by a cadre of four security guards on Tuesday. The use of force was deemed necessary after direct requests to leave from Heat president Pat Riley and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were not heeded. 

"We didn't want to do it but we really had no choice," said Joseph Watkins, the guard assigned to carry Curry's left leg. "I was just following orders."

"What can I say? I got my hopes up," Curry explained. "I kept reading over and over that Miami was interested in me and I thought I could help LeBron [James] win a ring finally. I thought they would change their mind if I showed I was determined. I guess they wanted to go a different direction."

After the trimmed-down center had been dragged to an auxiliary parking lot, Riley briefly asked a reporter who Curry was before returning to the Heat's training session, which was closed to the media. When practice broke, Spoelstra indicated that the defending Eastern Conference champions were comfortable with their center rotation of Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Dexter Pittman, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, and Bill Wennington, and are not in the market for another big man.

"We like our guys," Spoelstra said.

Curry told the Associated Press that he isn't sure when or where his next basketball opportunity will come but did indicate that he would like to have the plastic handcuffs removed from his wrists, or at least loosened, as soon as possible.

2. Bloody Prank Signals Rift Between Thunder Stars?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- A severed head was discovered inside a backpack belonging to Kevin Durant on Friday.

The Thunder's All-Star forward pulled the ghoulish, plastic mask -- which bore an uncanny resemblance to coach Scottie Brooks and had been doused in ketchup to simulate the appearance of blood -- out of his signature carry-all following an evening workout. With a look of bewilderment, Durant tossed the mask into a nearby trash can before returning to the team's practice court to work on his free throw shooting.

"I'm just out here trying to get better," Durant said, shrugging off his unsettling discovery.

It's not yet known who placed the mask in Durant's backpack, although suspicion was immediately cast upon Russell Westbrook. The mercurial guard led the NBA in postseason technical fouls in 201, rarely passes the ball because he's so self-involved and sometimes has a "funny look" -- according to multiple teammates -- in his eyes. Center Kendrick Perkins apparently implicated Westbrook in the incident when he stormed out of the practice facility, repeatedly yelling the words, "I told y'all! I told y'all!" 

The incident raises anew the question of whether Oklahoma City's two All-Stars will be capable of coexisting as their careers and games develop.

"Halloween is Monday," Westbrook said, cryptically, before rushing a free-throw extended jump shot and completely hurdling teammate Eric Maynor to claim the offensive rebound.

Thunder president Sam Presti did not offer an alibi for himself, but what else is new?

3. Rivers: More Needed From Rondo For Green To Succeed

BOSTON -- Nine months after the most controversial trade in recent Boston Celtics history, coach Doc Rivers continued to defend forward Jeff Green from media criticism.

A lightly sprained ankle for starting center Jermaine O'Neal caused local sports talk radio hosts and callers to go into hysterics on Monday, rehashing the ill-fated swap that brought Green to Boston in exchange for starting center Kendrick Perkins, who was sent to Oklahoma City.

"Jeff is still getting acclimated, and [president] Danny [Ainge] and I still believe he will be a key piece for us," Rivers said.

During the portion of practice open to the media, Green dribbled the ball off of his foot, missed three three-pointers, was late on two defensive assignments and appeared to frustrate aging forward Kevin Garnett, who was seen shaking his head sadly rather than barking instructions like usual.

When pressed, Rivers said that the eventual solution to what he called Green's "learning curve issues" will have to come from All-Star starting point guard Rajon Rondo.

"Rondo gets him wide open jumpers, wide open lay-ups, makes 10 plays a game defensively, and he leads by example," Rivers said. "But I have eyes, you have eyes. You can see it. It's clearly not enough. We're looking for Rondo to keep leading and to do even more, to carry all of us. [But] especially Jeff."

Pausing for a moment, Rivers, to the surprise of the media present, chose to vividly underscore his previous point.

"I don't care if Rondo dislocates both of his elbows at the same time so his arms are hanging off of his body backwards, he will need to carry Jeff."

Asked to respond to Rivers' comments, Rondo stared ahead blankly, as always.

4. Greg Oden No-Shows At Day One Of Blazers Camp

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Once again, the gym is full of NBA players and hopefuls.  Once again, the biggest one among them is missing.

The Portland Trail Blazers opened training camp to the media for the first time on Monday, only to reveal that center Greg Oden, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, was nowhere to be found. Oden, who signed a 5-year, $70 million extension during the early-October free agency period, has played just 82 games in his 4-year NBA career and has rarely been available to the media since suffering his most recent in Nov. 2010.

Through a spokesperson, Blazers president Larry Miller refused to comment about Oden's status, leaving new GM Brandon Roy -- who was promoted to the position after Miller used the amnesty clause to rid the Blazers of the four years remaining on his contract -- to face the media scrutiny alone. Roy said the team would not rush its center back to the court, noting that Oden's recovery from microfracture knee surgery was still "on schedule," although he did not divulge further specifics.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan looked irritated by the questions. "I've got 18 guys here fighting hard to grab one of our roster spots, let's talk about them," McMillan said.

Mike Conley, Sr., Oden's agent, offered a possible explanation by email. "Rehabilitation has kept Greg off the court for almost a year. During that time, in addition to completing a multi-disciplinary strength and flexibility training program, Greg has worked hard on improving and honing his invisibility. I'm pleased to hear that his work has evidently paid off. How many 7-footers do you know that can literally disappear in the blink of an eye? We feel this will make him even more valuable in the years to come."

Oden's whereabouts are not currently known at this time. His status for Portland's season opener is also up in the air.

"We'll just have to see," said McMillan.

Or not.

5. Kings Guard Completes First Pass

SACRAMENTO -- Kings coach Paul Westphal couldn't help but beam. After all, he had just witnessed an important milestone for his young team.

"I've been preaching unselfishness and ball movement all week and it was great to finally see these guys take that message to heart and execute it," Westphal said, his shirt soaked with sweat.

After back-to-back-back two-a-day practices and a morning session that yielded no progress, Jimmer Fredette became the team's first guard to complete a pass during scrimmage play on Thursday night. Prior to the pass, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and free agent signing Jamal Crawford had each managed to take a shot, draw a foul or commit a turnover on all of their possessions. Meanwhile, rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas, arguably the team's best playmaker on paper, left the practice facility on Tuesday after being frozen out for 263 straight trips up the court and hasn't been heard from since. A team official assured CBSSports.com that the organization is "not alarmed."

Fredette's pass occurred when he inadvertently took the ball out of bounds following a made basket by Evans. Looking confused, and with no other option other than committing a five-second violation, Fredette reluctantly inbounded the ball to Thornton, who promptly dribbled coast-to-coast, only to have his running lay-up attempt swatted out of bounds by center DeMarcus Cousins. Westphal shouted encouragement -- "That's what I'm talking about!" -- and blew his whistle, briefly stopping practice to single out Fredette for praise.

"It was nothing, really," Fredette said, afterwards, looking a touch sheepish.

6. Adelman Closes Practices To Timberwolves Executives

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- Two hours after a minor shouting match erupted between Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and president David Kahn on Monday, the two men pledged publicly that they had put the matter behind them.

"Direct communication is integral to creating a winning atmosphere," Kahn told a group of reporters on Monday afternoon. "Rick and I exchanged ideas, as we often do, and we were able to come to a resolution that is amenable to both parties. We thank you for your interest but this matter has been resolved. We look forward to a successful year."

The dispute, two league sources said, began when Adelman chided Kahn for openly cheering for rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, while wearing a Rubio jersey, in front of the entire team. That exchange escalated when Adelman decided to play veteran Luke Ridnour with the starting unit, instead of Rubio, prompting Kahn to yell loudly, "Come on!" 

According to the sources, Adelman then threatened to quit on the spot, issuing a "you go or I go" ultimatum just weeks after formally accepting the position and signing a 4-year contract.

"This is my team and I make the coaching decisions," Adelman told reporters bluntly after practice. "That's it. Any other questions?"

The resolution, according to sources, will keep Kahn and other team executives off the practice court for the rest of training camp, although indications are that Kahn and Adelman have agreed to revisit the matter once the regular season begins.

Rubio, who competed for the Spanish national team at this summer's EuroBasket tournament, finished Monday's scrimmage with 0 points and two assists in 37 minutes.

7. Thibodeau Thanks Fans, Admits They Could Be Right

CHICAGO -- The Bulls held an intra-squad scrimmage at the United Center on Friday, allowing fans and season ticket holders the rare opportunity to watch the team go through its paces free of charge.

NBA MVP Derrick Rose drew the loudest cheers and the longest line of pre-game admirers, Luol Deng pledged $10,000 to charity at halftime, and new free agent signing J.R. Smith, who bought his own way out of a one-year contract he signed to play in China, autographed a diehard fan's neck with a tattoo gun. But the clear highlight of the festivities came when the NBA's reigning Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau, took a microphone at center court just before tipoff to thank Bulls fans for their loyal support during the team's run to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.

"You guys are the best fans in the league," Thibodeau said, to wild applause. "We hear you loud and clear every night. You give us a true home court advantage and we, all of us, from me to the players, appreciate it."

Seemingly overwhelmed by the extended standing ovation he received, Thibodeau shuffled quickly to the sideline before catching himself and returning to the microphone to offer a final thought.

"Just to let you know," the defensive mastermind continued, "We also hear you loud and clear about Carlos Boozer."

The simple mention of the power forward's name elicited instinctive and ravenous booing from the fans, who were in no mood to forgive Boozer's disappointing showing in the 2011 NBA Playoffs and the team's controversial decision not to use the Amnesty Clause to shed his massive contract during free agency.

"Yes, we've received thousands of letters, text messages, phone calls and emails. For the sanity of Illinois' hard-working postal workers, please stop sending them. We understand that you think he is soft, that he isn't good enough to be a No. 2 guy, and that he isn't clutch enough to put us over the top against Miami."

Here, the second-year head coach drew a breath and exhaled, the long, lonely nights in his office preparing schemes and reading the fan correspondence clearly weighing upon his heart.

"Look, you're probably right about all of it. But how the hell are we going to trade him?"

Boozer, who mysteriously broke his hand for the second consecutive offseason, was not medically cleared to play in the scrimmage and was not available to provide a statement. Nobody noticed or cared.

Posted on: August 27, 2011 6:25 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2011 7:17 pm
 

Next up: Melo League vs. Goodman-ish League

Posted by Royce Young

Everyone just assumed the battle for pro-am supremacy was settled when the Goodman League defeated the Drew League in Washington D.C. last week. Except there's another pretty quality league out there that's ready to throw down: the Melo League.

And they're ready to play the Goodman boys. Via HoopsWorld, on August 30, in Baltimore at St. Frances Academy, a group from the Melo featuring Carmelo Anthony (duh), LeBron James, Chris Paul, Josh Selby, Gary Neal and Donte Greene. (Interesting twist: Selby, Neal and Greene all played for the Goodman in the Drew League showdown.) Although Goodman commissioner Miles Rawles says it's not officially a Goodman team, for his group it's Kevin Durant, former Thunder buddy Jeff Green, Brandon Jennings (who played for the Drew last week) and DeMarcus Cousins. John Wall was also rumored but it's unlikely he'll play, according to the Washington Post.

The Melo is located in Baltimore (where Carmelo is of course from) and has featured a number of top notch All-Stars. The game was supposed to be Sunday but that Hurricane Irene thing sort of got in the way.

Unlike the Goodman-Drew game, it won't be streamed online anywhere, but tickets are still available. Doors are opening at 6 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at the event. Reportedly there will be a camera crew to tape a highlight reel from the game though.

This game hasn't created near the buzz of the other, but there's no doubt it's got equal star power, probably more. Durant versus LeBron? Jennings versus Paul? Melo and Jeff Green? That's some quality hoops right there.

The Melo League's got to be the favorite here. LeBron, Melo and CP3 make a pretty incredible trio. Durant and Green will have chemistry and Jennings can take over a streetball game, but that's major firepower for the Melo group. Unless of course KD decides to go all Rucker Park on everyone. Then it doesn't matter who the Melo League's got.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 10:59 am
Edited on: August 24, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Jeff Green admits it was hard joining Celtics

By Matt Moore

Jeff Green hasn't had the easiest road in the NBA. He was expected to be the Pippen to Kevin Durant's Jordan. The problem is that he's a power forward that doesn't rebound (6.0 rebounds per game is his career high, which was two seasons ago), or a small forward who doesn't pass (2.0 assists is his career high, three seasons ago). He's a three-point specialist who's a 34 percent career shooter from the arc. The rebounding is what really gets him in trouble. He's got good athleticism and shows flashes of defensive skill, but has never fit a role. When he was brought to the Celtics, though, that was a no-win situation. Replacing a fan and locker room favorite in Kendrick Perkins, Green was confusing for those who didn't know him and infuriating for those that did. 

But even worse than the struggles with his game is what Green had to do in terms of fitting in with the Celtics, who were a championship core that had been together for four seasons and felt like family. In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Green talked about the reality of how difficult it was walking into that locker room:
“They’ve been together for a number of years,” Green said of the Celtics. “They’ve already won a championship, they’ve already have a system, they already have their chemistry and that bond on that team.

“It was tough to go into that situation.”
via Green eyes future with Celtics - NBA - Yahoo! Sports.

The tone of the interview is definitely not one of "I'm excited to be here and feel we can win a championship." It's more "Look, I got sent here, I didn't ask to come here." Green pretty much stops short of saying "They hated me." He talks about how hard it was to grasp all the defensive concepts in half a season. Green's a professional and has never been a locker room problem. He's a restricted free agent, and if the Celtics match or offer Green the best money, he'll play as well as he can. But sometimes it's just not a fit. Maybe when the current core has moved to retirement Green will have a chance to stretch his wings and become a more complete player. 

For now, he's in a dfficult position of having to be something he's not, and being judged by that standard.  What's funny is he could lose five points off his per game average if he picked up five rebounds. That's all anyone cares about these days. Defense and rebounding. The offense will apparently take care of itself.

(HT: SLAM)
Posted on: June 27, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 5:52 pm
 

The Top 40 Players in NBA Free Agency

Posted by EOB Staff

When free agency starts there's a relatively lackluster class to choose from. Nevertheless, here are the top 40 players available in unrestricted or restricted free agency now that they tentatively have this sorted out.

Rankings are based on overall value, factoring in production, age, potential, star power, interest and market value. For the full list of free agents this offseason, check out our tracker

1. Nene, C: You're looking at a cornerstone piece in Nene, which means someone's got to pay cornerstone money. He's just now hitting his prime at 29 years old and as the second half of last season proved, he's top guy material. The Nuggets are definitely looking to put pretty much all of their eggs in Nene's basket, but there could be another big spender that tries to swoop in and grab him. He's a prize and someone that can be a building piece for the next four or five years. 

2. Marc Gasol, C:
The perfect combination of factors lead Gasol to our No. 2 spot. Talent, capitalizing on a stellar playoff run, centersmarc-gasol being at such a premium in the league and Gasol's age of 26. There are bigger names on this list, but no one is as valuable as Gasol. His restricted free agency status only drives his value farther, as a front-loaded contract is the only thing that might push the Grizzlies off matching an offer.

3. David West, F: Were West not coming off of a significant injury at 31 years old, he'd likely be in the top spot on this list. A former All-Star with excellent mid-range skills and a heap of attitude, West opted out and enter free agency, presumably to attempt to get a front-loaded contract before any CBA restrictions drive down his long-term value. He'll have bidders if the Hornets don't quickly recapture him once free agency begins.

4. Tyson Chandler, C: Hitting free agency just after being the starting center and a key factor for a championship team -- talk about great timing. Chandler is a lock to return to Dallas as there's no way Cuban lets the guy who validated all that work escape. But Chandler's going to have whatever offer he wants. Which is stunning for a guy who can't contribute much offensively outside of the lob. But that's the difference a ring makes.

5. Jason Richardson, SG: Richardson's age is kind of a concern here; he'll be 31 next season. But he's the best overall offensive weapon and has a few more years of contribution left in him and is the kind of veteran that teams look for. Orlando may be looking to make room for a bigger trade, so Richardson could fetch offers on the market. But if teams have learned anything from the Joe Johnson valuation, they'll keep it within reason.

6. Thaddeus Young, PF: It's really hard to imagine Philadelphia letting one of its very best young options get away, but Young has become one of the most lethal bench weapons in the game. He can realistically play three positions and is one of the game's most versatile players. He became a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate and as he matures -- he's still just 23 -- he could become one of the 76ers prized future pieces, making him a valuable asset.

7. J.R. Smith, SG: Unstable? Probably. Unreliable? Possibly injured? He may be all of these things. But Smith's a scorer whose not on the downslide of his career. A sixth-man scorer with guts. Think Ben Gordon a few years ago with a worse attitude.

8. Glen Davis, PF: "Big Baby" has a championship ring and has shown he can contribute to a winner. The only thing keeping him lower on this list is a disappointing playoff run after a tremendous season; 14 points and 7 rebounds per 36 with great defense and the ability to take charges will get him the rest of the way.

9. DeAndre Jordan, C: In a normal year, Jordan's the top of the B rankings. This year, he's the seventh-best available player considering value. Jordan had a tremendous year for the Clippers and is nearly a lock to be re-signed by the Clippers. Then again, it's the Clippers. Jordan averaged 10 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 36 last season but more importantly started to show understanding of defensive rotations, which makes it much tougher to turn away from him.

10. Grant Hill, SF: Anyone else think Hill's career is going in reverse? If Hill doesn't want to return to Phoenix, there will be contenders left and right vying for his services.

11. Tayshaun Prince, SF: Part of the worst locker-room environment in the league last year, Prince should have a higher value, even at 31. He's still capable of excellent defense and averaged 14 points on 47-percent shooting last season. Seeing him in another jersey would be bizarre, but after last season's hijinx, it's a coin flip.

12. Wilson Chandler, SF: Chandler's a young and versatile player. Denver is unlikely to re-sign him considering their need to get Nene back in house and they have Galinari and drafted Jordan Hamilton. Chandler has been rumored to be interested in a return to the Knicks, if they've got the scratch to pay him.

13. Jeff Green, SF/PF: This one is mostly on account of his market value. Green is not a good rebounder. He can't really take over offensively, and he's not a great defender. But Danny Ainge thinks he's the bee's knees and will overpay to keep him, plus he could theoretically develop any of the aforementioned skills. This one caused some debate among our crew in developing these rankings.

14. Jamal Crawford, SG: Crawford made it public knowledge that he wanted a big extension last year, but the Hawks declined to oblige him. Crawford is 31, and his numbers took a dive last season (42 percent FG percentage, 14 points per game down from 18). But he's likely to still pull offers based on star power. The question will be whether it comes close to matching what Crawford thinks he's worth. His playoff heroics should help matters on that front.

15. J.J. Barea, SG: Barea's stock could not be higher coming off the Mavs' championship win. He answered every question about himself and showed the ability to compete at the highest level. He won't dictate a huge asking price due to his diminutive size, but for a role player, he'll collect a tremendous amount of interest, though like Chandler, it's certain Cuban will re-sign him.

16. Caron Butler, SF: So many Mavericks, such a poor free-agency class to drive up their value. Butler's over 30, coming back from injury, and has been on the slide for quite a while. Still, veteran defender who can shoot (or at least can have a few hot shooting nights) is going to get offers. Cuban will likely re-sign Butler in a wave of goodwill on his championship high.

17. Aaron Brooks, PG: The best point guard in the free agent class. How depressing is that? Brooks is a high-usage, low-assist-rate pointaaron-brooks-suns guard who's undersized. And yet because of his work in Houston before getting shuffled off to make room for Kyle Lowry, Brooks is rumored to be on the radar for Sacramento among others, but as a restricted free agent, the offer will have to be significant for Phoenix not to match.

18. Marcus Thornton, SG: Guys who can drop 40 in a night are rare in this league. "Buckets" has that ability coming off his rookie contract. Yes, his shot selection needs work, and he's undersized for a two-guard, but he's scrappy, hustles and can hit big shots. Thornton should be high on every team's list if the Kings elect to let him slide after adding Salmons and Jimmer.

19. Arron Afflalo, SG: A 26-year-old guard with great athleticism who shot 50 percent from the field last season coming off his rookie contract? Afflalo could be a steal if the Nuggets decide not to match for some reason. Odds are that he's headed back to Denver, though.

20. Samuel Dalembert, C: Dalembert played surprisingly well last season for Sacramento. But he's an aging center with injury questions who has never contributed much offensively. So why is he top-20? Seriously. NBA centers. Not good right now.

21. Carl Landry, PF: A below-average rebounder who learned to work well with Chris Paul (who doesn't) late last season. Landry didn't gather a huge contract last time he was in free agency and will probably not draw much this time. Still, he's a reliable power forward who's great defensively even if his defensive rebounding is a significant letdown.

22. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG: A combo guard's combo guard, Stuckey may have outstayed his welcome in Detroit, even in restricted free agency. Teams looking for quality guard play could definitely look to Stuckey who may have some improvement left in him at 25.

23. Kris Humphries, PF: The Incredible Hump is looking to cash in after averaging a double-double, finding himself in the Most Improved Player discussion and locking down a Kardashian last season. The Nets have expressed interest in David West but will be very motivated to retain Humphries if that chase doesn’t work out.

24. Shane Battier, SF: After taking part in a miracle run past the San Antonio Spurs, it would be heartbreaking to watch Battier and the Memphis Grizzlies part ways. At the same time, Battier has reached the “latch on with a contender as a very valuable role player” stage of his career. Would be a huge get for a team looking for an experienced, gritty wing defender.

25. Mario Chalmers, PG: Chalmers got buried behind Mike Bibby for no apparent reason by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra but, nevertheless, made a solid name for himself by being the most capable and consistent member of the Big 3 support staff. He enters free agency as a young talent with upside if given more minutes, but the Heat, without another point-guard option, will likely do what it takes to keep him.

26. Nick Young, SG: When given the opportunity after Gilbert Arenas was dealt, Young became quite the scorer, finishing up at better than 17 points per game. He was a bit trigger happy however and one has to wonder how he'd fit in a more traditional offense. He's not a go-to scorer but will make a nice bench option or even second or third starting scorer for someone. But that's the thing: He has to realize that.

27. Luc Mbah a Moute, SF: It shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg for the Bucks to retain him. Even though the Stephen Jackson trade muddles up the available minutes on Milwaukee’s wings, a low-cost, quality defender is worth keeping around.

28. Jeff Foster, C: Life isn’t very complicated for Foster. He’s a lunch-pail worker who does the dirty work and not much else. He’s getting up there in years but always seems to find a niche. Indiana’s frontcourt is fairly shallow aside from Roy Hibbert, so if the Pacers strike out in their attempts to get bigger fish in free agency, Foster could be a good fallback option.

29. Jonas Jerebko, SF: A tough-minded wing who has been lost because of injury and the coach-killing mess left by his higher-profile teammates. President Joe Dumars is preaching a fresh start after Thursday’s draft, and it makes sense that Jerebko, a fresh-faced worker, would be a part of that.

30. Andrei Kirilenko, SF: The Utah Jazz are finally freed from one of the ugliest contracts in recent memory. Where will AK land and at what price? Very difficult to say. He’s a quirky guy who brings loads of versatility and should have some miles left. If a contender throws its mid-level at him, that could get real interesting.

31. Marco Belinelli, SG: The Hornets have concerns than Belinelli. Namely, David West. Belinelli's future is uncertain, although his shooting is a clear role player asset that should draw interest, if not big dollars.

32. Kwame Brown, C: The only other big man Charlotte has on its roster is DeSagana Diop, so if Brown leaves in free agency, there will be a gaping hole in the middle. That will be a sure sign that the Bobcats are truly committed to a full-scale rebuild. Once a punchline, Brown has emerged as a serviceable defender.

33. Greg Oden, C: One less knee surgery and Oden's probably a top 15 free agent on this list. Two less and he'd be top five. Butgreg-oden then, that's another universe, and the reality is that Oden is too much of an injury risk to devote money to. For all the promise born in his frame, there's a desperately terrible injury to go with it. At some point there's only so much damage you can do before you're relegated to lemon status until you prove you can stay on the floor.

34. Marquis Daniels, G/F: Daniels wasn't a terrific player but a pretty good one. But he's coming back from a gruesome injury, and that's going to raise red flags.

35. DeShawn Stevenson, G/F: The only Maverick free agent not in the top 20. Stevenson did a fantastic job in the Finals, but the "Ariza effect" is something to be wary of. A strong playoff run does not make up for an overall career of questionable production. Still, Stevenson could be a value pick up for another team... or they could overspend dramatically, blinded by the shine of his championship ring.

36. Earl Clark, F: This one caused some consternation within the committee for where to put Clark. Athletic, low production, warned off in the draft, cast off by Phoenix, produced marginally for Orlando with some intriguing potential. But Clark is young, healthy and can be had for cheap. This is a value slot.

37. Tracy McGrady, F: McGrady actually wasn't bad last year for the Pistons. I mean, the Pistons were bad last year for the Pistons, but still. McGrady isn't going to be a difference-maker, but he can contribute some points, assists and rebounds every now and then to finish out his career. Provided he stays healthy. You can file that under "Famous last words."

38. Josh McRoberts, PF: McBob was surprisingly productive for the Pacers last season, and in a league where big men are overvalued, he'll find a spot.

39. Kenyon Martin, PF: There are dozens of reasons not to sign Martin. But if you need someone with experience to bring a metric ton of attitude to your team, Martin's as good a pickup as any. Remember when this guy was part of a Finals squad?

40. Yi Jianlian, PF: An unrealized offensive talent, Yi still seems like he should be every bit the player of an Andrea Bargnani. Yi's not a strong defender or rebounder, but at seven feet with touch to the 3-point line and just 23 years old, he's going to be worth a contract to see if he can sniff a little of that lottery potential.



Posted on: May 12, 2011 6:27 pm
 

Ainge with some interesting thoughts on Celtics

Posted by Royce Young

Less than 24 hours removed from a disappointing Game 5 and series loss to the Heat, the Celtics are in a mode of reflection. And potentially in a mode of transition.

Doc Rivers has indicated he wants to return next year but with the team aging and the roster a bit in question, some are curious as to where the Celtics are headed from here. The man at the front of that ship is general manager Danny Ainge who spoke to WEEI in an interview Thursday. He had a lot to say, most of it pretty intriguing.

On maybe changing the starting lineup:

"Maybe there’s a change of roles. Maybe Paul [Pierce] comes off the bench, cuts down on his minutes. Maybe we find a way to get Jeff [Green] more minutes. His role will expand if he’s back here next year. There’s no question about that ... "

"It wouldn’t totally shock me if there’s a change in the starting lineup, but that’s just way too tough to tell."

That's right, Ainge said the idea of bringing Paul Pierce off the bench is on the table. The indication there with Green is that maybe he becomes the starter. Of course that means Green returns to the team next season, which is in question as he's a restricted free agent this summer.

On that Ainge said the team would put up Green's qualifying offer, but the market will ultimately determine if the Celtics bring back Green.

On the possibility of trading one of the Big Three:

"I would have to look into that if a good trade came about." Ainge has said that before, reportedly flirting with trading Ray Allen a year ago. He wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on dealing Kendrick Perkins and Ainge is always looking long-term. He knows the window is starting to close on the Celtics and that Allen, Pierce and Kevin Garnett won't be there forever.

On the possibility of trading Rondo:

"Probably not. I can’t ever say never, but that’s not our plan right now, probably not." By the sounds of it, Ainge is committed to building around Rondo for the future. Maybe a Rondo, Jeff Green core? Who knows.

Ainge's biggest regret of the season:

Surprisingly, it's not the Perkins trade that was so widely criticized. Instead, it was letting a player walk in free agency.

"I would have fought harder to bring Tony Allen back," Ainge said. "We tried to sign Tony, we tried to come within our rules of staying in our two-year program. I think that Tony would have helped us.

"We offered Tony a two-year deal out of the gate, but then when Memphis showed him some love and he started thinking about the idea of more playing time ... Then, he wanted a change of scenery."

Ainge was also asked about Rivers' future with the organization and Ainge said he thinks Rivers would like a "Jerry Sloan type coach" meaning he stayed with one organization for a long time. That seems to contrast most of what we've all heard with Rivers, but with him saying "I'm a Celtic" last night after the game, it seems like he doesn't see himself patrolling another bench for a while.

This Celtics season is going to be one that's talked about for a long time. The big blockbuster trade at the deadline that tested the team's chemistry and togetherness. The injuries to key players. The battle against age and an upcoming supertrio. Most want to put a bow on the Celtics as we know them and while it sounds like Ainge is ready and willing to move parts, I'd think this core has at least one more run left in them.

Posted on: May 12, 2011 1:50 am
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:42 am
 

Series Grades: Heat defeat Celtics 4-1

Grades for the Heat and Celtics after the Heat's 4-1 series win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore




The biggest series of the playoffs is over, and the juggernaut created by "The Decision" in free agency 2010 downed the UBUNTU machine. Grades seem like they don't do this series justice, but we've got to get some perspective. 


Miami Heat:

LeBron James: If the 2007 series against the Detroit Pistons was when LeBron James truly announced to the world that he had arrived, the 2011 series against the Celtics may have been the one where he showed how much he's learned. It wasn't the mos impressive series from a statistical standpoint, but the way James closed, especially Game 5, makes it feel like it. James didn't hog the ball, didn't go ISO too much, hit big shots, worked with his teammates, and became the emotional leader the Heat needed him to be. He had a rough Game 3, but responded to close out the Celtis. And, oh, yeah, this time no one will say he quit in a Game 5. 

Grade: A- 


Dwyane Wade: Wade struggled in the playoffs last year, and especially this regular season versus the Celtics. They were a plague on the game of his house. But in this series, Wade wiped it all away. Never scoring fewer than 23 points, Wade was a beast. He dominated Game 1 and Game 5. His Game 5 was particularly brilliant. For three quarters, LeBron James couldn't get his scoring on track. Wade kept the Heat in it with timely play and amazing score after amazing score. He blocked Kevin Garnett. He made a wild reverse over his head for the and-one. He did everything you need your franchise player to do and eventually contained Ray Allen. LeBron James may have won the game for the Heat, but Dwyane Wade put him in a position to do so. 

Grade: A+


Chris Bosh: Is this the series where Chris Bosh starts to make himself into a known player? Before the series, I was dangerously close to writing a post called Shark Bait: Chris Bosh and detailing all the ways Kevin Garnett would destroy him. After a surprisingly strong Game 4, Garnett came out swinging in Game 5. Bosh looked overrun, again. Bosh finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, one point less than Garnett and tied in boards. He made huge plays, kept the ball alive, and hit a few open looks. It wasn't a great series from Bosh, but he definitively wasn't the weakpoint. He was good enough to get the Heat a win.

Grade: B-


Heat supporting cast: This series proved that you really can beat the Celtics with three guys. Mario Chalmers didn't play consistently enough to get time, Mike Bibby continued his disappointing play, Mike Miller still couldn't hit a barn door with a shotgun, Joel Anthony had a few nice moments but also dropped passes and failed to capitalize on opportunities, James Jones had a hot start but then faded back into the background (though his 3-pointer in Game 5 was huge). There's a million ways we could call into question if the Heat can win with getting such little support from the rest of their players... but they just beat the Celtics.


Grade: C (passing only in that they did not prevent the Heat from winning)


Heat defeat Celtics 4-1
Erik Spoelstra: Spoelstra's insistence on giving minutes to Bibby over Chalmers, and Ilgauskas over Anthony continues to perplex. It's one thing for the starters, but post-half, the Heat kept getting out in sluggish starts and having to overcome them. Spoelstra does get credit for keeping the Heat's focus and getting them to stay together and play to the end, but with how much the Triad run things, it's hard to see him getting the majority of the credit. But beyond the offense, Spoelstra does get credit for the Heat's defense, and that's what was the backbone of the series win.

Grade: B-


Miami fans: In the name of all that chants "D-Fence," are you going to show up at any point, South Beach? You're embarrassing us as sports fans at this point. Go to the game, already!

Grade: F-


Boston Celtics


Rajon Rondo: Rondo played through the dislocated arm. Rondo wasn't playing terrific prior to that. Rondo made huge plays with that busted wing. Rondo was also such a defensive liability that he had to be benched at the end of games due to the injury. Rondo's no-show in the first two games helped put Boston in an inescapable hole. Rondo's effort in Games 3, 4, and 5 was good enough that if healthy, you could have seen the Celtics taking the series lead, let alone avoiding a gentleman's sweep. We'll never know what Rondo would have been like if he hadn't been injured. But based on what we saw, we got all sides of Rondo, the good and the bad. 

Grade: B


Kevin Garnett: Garnett was owned in three and a half games of this series. He had a brilliant Game 3, but never really established himself against Bosh as he should have. He came out gangbusters in Game 5, determined to make his mark. Then he completely vanished after the first quarter. Garnett had to take over in order to keep his legacy as an impact player alive. He didn't. And now he's headed home, with people struggling to understand how Chris Bosh outplayed the great Kevin Garnett. He probably yelled a lot, too.

Grade: D


Paul Pierce: If any player showed his age in this series, it was Pierce. Pierce continually tried to put the team on his back, and continually found himself being outdueled by James. He put the effort in, but the ability just wasn't there. Turnovers were a huge problem. He scored under 20 points three times in the series. The Celtics needed a hero. They got the Half-Truth. 

Grade: B-


Ray Allen: Allen clearly had significant problems with communicating with Rondo in the second half of this season, and the problems only increased in this series.  Allen would go long stretches getting no shots, then heat up, then disappear. Allen finally warmed up in Game 5. He was the one Celtic to really go down swinging, but Dwyane Wade's defense was just too much for him.

Grade: B+


Glen Davis: Glen Davis was a sixth man of the year candidate for much of the season. He was an outright disaster versus the Heat. He rarely drew charges, bobbled passes, too often settled for his jumper, failed to commit defensively, and didn't finish at the rim. All the Celtics lost on this series. Bug given Davis' free agency status, he may have lost more.

Grade: D-


Jeff Green: Hey, nine points and three rebounds in 23 minutes! That's pretty good! ... Okay, yeah, Green had two huge turnovers at the end of the game and was a huge reason the Celtics fell apart down the stretch. Green is destined to be ruined by the scrutiny of the Kendrick Perkins trade. Which is a shame, because he shouldn't have been asked to take on the responsibility of being the next great Celtics this early, at midseason. But them's the breaks. And it broke bad for Jeff Green. 

Grade: D-


Celtics supporting cast: The Celtics' supporting cast wasn't terrible. It really wasn't. It played fine. But no one stepped up enough to make an impact except Delonte West, who inevitably tried to to do too much eventually. 

Grade: C


Doc Rivers: You can't coach your players younger. Rivers made smart adjustments, tried different players, different rotations, the works. Rivers did his job. There just wasn't any way to coach this team up to where it needed to be. 

Grade: B


Danny Ainge: Sorry, Danny. Trading Perkins may have been right for the future financials of the Celtics. Green's future may be bright. But you traded Perkins, the heart and soul of the Celtics, and though he may not have helped at all versus the Heat, we'll never know. That's how history is judged, unfortunately. 

Grade: D-
Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:43 am
 

LeBron James apologizes for "The Decision"

LeBron James apologizes for the way "The Decision" went down.

Posted by Matt Moore




In his post-game comments following the Heat's 97-87 win over the Celtics to win their series 4-1, LeBron James apologized for the way "The Decision" want down.  James told reporters that he was sorry for how the one-hour special occurred, but felt that teaming up with Bosh and Wade in Miami was necessary to get past the Celtics. As CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports, James told reporters:
"I knew I had to go through Boston at some point. I went through a lot signing to be here and the way it panned out. I apologize for the way it happened, but I knew that this opportunity was once in a lifetime."
James will continue to receive condemnation over the event, for his attitude, approach, and behavior. But after the game, he spoke candidly to TNT's Craig Sager about how much of a demon the Celtics represented to him:
"First of all thanks to the Boston Celtics, coach Rivers, that coaching staff, those player, they make you fight for everything. You can never take a second off. "
James was tortured by the Celtics, who swooped in after his 2007 Finals run and took over the Eastern Conference. Their own version of the Big 3 raised the bar for rosters, leaving James frustrated with how his Cavaliers team compared. Right or wrong, James felt compelled to raise the talent around to him to a higher level. He did so, and on Tuesday night, that decision, "The Decision" proved to be the right one for his career agenda. 


How he did it was wrong. It was always wrong, and somewhere inside him, James knew that, despite refusing to apologize for it in Cleveland earlier this year. It may seem easy to apologize now that he's made the Conference Finals and gotten past the Celtics, but for someone who has made so many P.R. gaffes over the last year, it's a step in the right direction, this humilty. This is the LeBron James Reclamation Project now. It started with beating the Celitcs in Miami.  It will only truly end with a championship ring.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com