Deron Williams schools Jeremy Lin by dropping 38 on him

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Deron Williams made a statement with his game. He said “welcome to the big boy table Jeremy Lin, this is how we do it here.” Or maybe “I’m getting sick of hearing about Linsanity, let’s silence it.”

The New York Knicks lost for the second time in the Lin era falling to the rival New Jersey Nets 100-92. Williams scored a season high 38, with eight 3s and 6 assists, absolutely putting a clinic on the international media sensation. And you might have seen this coming, given how D. Will reacted to questions about Lin a few days ago:

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Deron Williams does Jerry Sloan Damage Control, Likely Leaving Next Year

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How did NBA coaching legend Jerry Sloan go from re-signing to resigning in a whopping five days? Conventional wisdom says that he was forced out, and that former Illini legend Deron Williams was the ring-leader in getting Sloan run out of town.

If true, it makes Deron look like a petulant pud to say the least. This was a PR catastrophe on all levels, whether it’s accurate or not. The World Wide Leader, the evil empire, the mothership of ESPN seems to be on Williams’ side, shifting the issue to other less salient points, and the blame elsewhere.

Still, you can’t un-ring this bell, and the dominant narrative still seems very likely to me. Despite what Williams is doing today to dispell that notion.

By Paul M. Banks

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Demetri McCamey’s NBA Draft Stock Rises with Illini Wins

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When Illini point guard Demetri McCamey was a freshman, he was a highly regarded recruit with a few explosive games but also terrible choice in shot selection. His sophomore year, the Illini needed a leader and a closer and McCamey developed into that go-to-scorer. He developed immensely on offense, but was still non-existent on defense.

Meechi’s junior season, he pretty much WAS Illini basketball. He made huge strides in his individual game despite his team’s considerable regression. McCamey became the team’s unquestioned leader, but wasn’t vocal enough in asserting his leadership. He finished second in the nation in assists, and broke a single game school record in that same statistic.

He tested the waters of the NBA draft, and learned what he needed to do when returned to Champaign.

By Paul M. Banks

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Is Derrick Rose the Next Deron Williams?

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With the signing of three former members of the Utah Jazz, the Chicago Bulls earned the nickname “Utah Midwest” this summer. Bulls fans hope they don’t become “Utah Jazz East,” as in the Jazz of the Eastern Conference postseason because Utah’s recent playoff experience is not worth emulating.

You’ve heard the expression “NBA Hell?” Well, that’s exactly where Utah is- a place where the ceiling has been reached and every May just repeats itself like the movie “Groundhog Day.”

One aspect of the Jazz certainly worth emulating is the play of their point guard. In recent years, we’ve seen University of Illinois product Deron Williams evolve into the greatest ex-Illini in the professional ranks, and later the greatest overall point guard.

Can Derrick Rose make a similar leap? A couple of Williams’ former teammates believe so.

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Jazz-Suns will be the BEST Playoff Series Ever!

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By Paul M. Banks

PHOENIX, AZ- Utah’s 116-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns Thursday night felt like a playoff precursor of exciting things to come. The high-scoring affair saw Utah race back from ten points down in the fourth quarter and it put the Jazz 1.5 games ahead of Phoenix in the Western Conference playoff race. If current standings hold, the Jazz would have home court advantage in a first round playoff match-up against these same Suns that would undoubtedly be the most exciting pairing of all.

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Illini Leading Scorer Demetri McCamey Exclusive

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By Paul M. Banks

When it comes to Illini junior point guard Demetri McCamey, perhaps his Coach Bruce Weber describes him best. “If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that’s where he’s got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. He needs to be more consistent if we’re going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can’t do,” Weber said this season.

Last season McCamey was the Illini’s leading scorer and became the man the team went to when a last second game winning shot was needed. As evidenced by his buzzer beater at Northwestern, he started to become a clutch player. The third-team All-Big Ten selection led the Illini in scoring and was second on the team and fourth in the conference in assists, He also led the Big Ten in assists during conference play, and finished second to Kalin Lucas in the league in assist/turnover ratio.dwilliams_feature01

But his game still needs polish which I discussed with both him and Coach Weber extensively during the season. His shot selection is sometimes suspect: “When my little brother says it than I know everybody notices, my little brother told me I was settling for too many threes, so I got to get back to attacking the paint like I used to,” McCamey said.

His work ethic needs improvement and his defense can often be non-existent. However, he’s also the Illini player with the most athleticism and star potential. On a team that will be ranked in everyone’s top 25 next season, that’s quite a compliment. “He’s got to learn the game: how to use screens, how to play without the ball, and if he could do that he could be the guy. He passes well, shoots the three, he’s got a big body and can pull-up,” Weber said.

McCamey is often criticized, by Coach Weber and Big Ten announcers alike, for his work ethic, but Demetri says he’s dedicated to edifying and bettering himself…

“A student of the game, that’s the only way you’ll get better. It’s all about making the right decision and every possession is worth something. Coach McClain and I watch film, I like to come in and watch film. If I’m at home, my roommate Alex {Legion} and I- that’s all we do is watch college and NBA basketball.”

watch the video below to get to know him better. He mentions former Illini Deron Williams as his favorite player to look up to.


And for excelling in the role of true point guard/go-to guy-“It’s not just scoring for me, especially on the defensive end and becoming a leader, being more vocal- don’t yell at guys, pick your spots and be a true leader.” Demetri is often candid about how he has to improve his defense, but I asked him what else he needs to improve?

“Standing up a lot and watching instead of attacking, sometimes I rely on my teammates too much when I can just push the ball and make plays happen instead of just trying to wait for them to happen. It’s being aggressive all the time and take every play like it’s your last and make the right decision,” he responded.

Current Bull and NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is a friend of McCamey’s and someone that he’s talked about modeling his game on.

“He’s a wonderful player. I played against him all the way since 7th grade, he knows me, I know him and I know I’ll be in the same boat and playing with passion if I just listen to everybody, because they’re only trying to help…No matter how young you are, you can be a real good player. We used to be enemies on the court, now I’m a fan, maybe one day I’ll get to where he’s at.”

If Demetri matures into a consistent player, the Illini could make a deep tournament run in March and Derrick Rose could possibly see another Windy City friend in the NBA in 2011.

More Illini exclusives, click name for video interviews:

Mike Davis

Mike Tisdale

D.J. Richardson

Brandon Paul

Alex Legion and Dominique Keller

Western Conference Power Rankings

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By Paul M. Banks

1.  Los Angeles Lakers (6-1)

If you missed the battle of Los Angeles opening night broadcast on TNT, consider yourself lucky. The announcers were fawning all over this team and penciling them in at 40-1 already. Easy guys, the ’96 Bulls aren’t leaving the record books anytime soon.

2.  San Antonio Spurs (3-3)

I like the deal for Richard Jefferson a lot. They’re a quicker, younger team, and certainly not your older brother’s Spurs that were slow and plodding. They could be a Finals contender, but must improve their defensive rebounding and guarding the paint.

3. Phoenix Suns (7-1)

Maybe there won’t be a re-building phase after all. And they should be fun to watch in getting those wins too, conquering a foe with scores of 150-145 every so often. It’s like a NBA version of college football’s WAC conference.

4.  Denver Nuggets (5-2)

Don’t expect a let-down from last year’s breakthrough season. They have too much talent, and balance. They also have a certain Gestalt- the whole is more than the sum of the parts. And I’m not talking about the players’ body art. Denver unofficially leads the NBA in tattooed space.markcuban

5.  Dallas Mavericks (4-2)

Is there anything uglier than Shawn Marion’s shot release? Well, actress Julia Styles is no picnic to look at. We must be overdue for a Mark Cuban publicity stunt/fining/fake public outrage/ridiculous boastful public comment. There hasn’t been a news cycle surrounding the attention whore in quite a while. Oh wait, what’s this about him wanting to buy the Dodgers?

6.  Portland Blazers (4-3)

So any day now Greg Oden is going to start playing up to his pre-draft hype, right? Well maybe not. The rebounds and blocks are there, but the scoring? About as lackluster as an Ohio State performance in a national championship game.

7.  Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3)

Kevin Durant and company will make a big step forward this season. You should take the Thunder seriously this year. As long you can get past the fact that their logo and name sounds like either an Arena football or indoor women’s soccer franchise.

8.  Utah Jazz (3-4)

This is Deron Williams’ team, not D. Will & Carlos Boozer’s team. Williams, BY FAR the best player in the league never to have been an All-Star, gets ornery when he loses, so they must get much better on the road, and stop the 4th quarter collapses, if he is to stay in good moods. The defense in the final stanza MUST improve.deronwilliams

9. New Orleans Hornets (2-5)

Every time I’ve asked a college point guard who they look up to in the NBA, they say either Deron Williams or Chris Paul. Those two are the gold standard, and will be inextricably linked like Magic and Bird throughout their careers. I guess it’s fitting that their teams are right at the same level too.

10 Houston Rockets (4-2)

You may ask how they ended up this low, with a record as good as they have. Well, injuries will catch up to them soon enough, and the W-L will soon be under .500.

11.  Los Angeles Clippers (3-4)

If they can tread water long enough till Blake Griffin gets here, they just might be able to squeeze into the playoffs.

12.  Golden State Warriors (1-4)

Stephen Curry’s career is off to a quick start, as he establishes himself near the top of this year’s rookie class. They can succeed if they follow the Phoenix method of winning basketball games- outscore them!

13. Sacramento Kings (3-4)

Everyone makes the Clippers their NBA punchline, but don’t forget about Sac-town. With the exception of a couple years at the beginning of the decade, (and their one fluky deep playoff run) they’ve been tremendous slouches themselves. Don’t let the quick start fool you, they’ll find the basement soon enough.

14.  Minnesota Timberwolves (1-6)

Someone email me some rationale stating that David Kahn truly knows what he is doing. I’d like to think that a person who gets a job as a NBA GM actually has a clue when it comes to basketball decisions, but I just don’t see it.

15.  Memphis Grizzlies (1-6)

That goes double for Memphis’ General Manager Chris Wallace. Seriously, the Zach Randolph trade, the fact that they can’t sell any tickets even though their home court is located right on one of the nation’s biggest parkways of partying (Beale St.), the fact they’ll be a fixture in the lottery for years to come…I’ll stop there.

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Is Derrick Rose Ready to Lead the Bulls?

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By Paul M. Banks

The Chicago Bulls announced Monday that the team picked up the 2010-11 season options for both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. By exercising the respective player options, both will be under contract for 2010-11. This transaction occurred on the same day Rose practiced for the first time in….a long while. Aside from the opener, Rose missed every game this preseason, and concerns in Chicago arose. There were concerns about Rose being ready for the opener vs San Antonio Thursday night. Perhaps those fears have subsided a bit now that he’s working out again, but there are some new questions lingering as the season commences.

How effective will Rose be in the early weeks and how much of his development was stunted by the time he missed? This is a franchise that hasn’t had an All-Star since what seems like forever, and they’ve also gone without a true star/franchise player since Michael Jordan. In the words of Bulls team Captain Kirk Hinrich, “We don’t have an All-Star or anything like that, we have to do it as a group and it takes a specific type of effort to do that.” However, Rose is the only player on the roster with the potential to be that missing All-Star/franchise player- and possibly soon.

Rose, appeared in 81 games (80 starts) last year en route to being selected last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year.  On the season, he averaged 16.8 ppg, a team-high 6.3 apg and 3.9 rpg in 37.0 mpg. The Chicago native shot .475 from the field and .788 from the free throw line.deron_williams

I spoke with Rose at the Berto Center about what he’s working on to bring his game, and his team, to the next level. “My mental part of the game, my approach to it, my offensive game, and approach to it. Defensively- watching players more, their strengths and weaknesses,” he responded. Rose finished the 2008-09 campaign in the top three in several categories all-time among Bulls rookies, including total points (third with 1,361), scoring average (third) and assists (third with 512).  Rose was the first overall selection in the 08 NBA Draft.

This being the golden age of NBA point guards, Rose doesn’t have to look very far to find inspirational role models for achieving that eliteness. I asked him who he looks at specifically.

“Deron Williams a lot, he’s a bigger guard, so I watch him, and watched him all through Illinois, so we have that kind of a connection,” the Chicago native said about one of the biggest stars in University of Illinois history. D. Will has become a huge star for the Utah Jazz, and (due to his Fighting Illini heroics in 2004-05) is extremely popular in Chicago. D. Rose has rightfully set his sites high. And realistically high.

Will the Bulls Draft a Backup Point Guard?

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By Paul M. Banks

If there’s one position the Chicago Bulls don’t have a pressing need at, it’s point guard. The incumbent starter, Derrick Rose is the only player on the roster even remotely close to developing into a franchise player, and (SAT scandals and gang sign gestures aside) is the guy to build the team around. But the Bulls might see backup Kirk Hinrich move on soon and in today’s NBA, the “Golden Age of Point Guards” that we currently live in, it’s good to have two reliable point guards.

As former UCLA point guard and current draft prospect Darren Collison said at the NBA Draft Combine: “This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that.”

For teams currently needing a point guard, this crop of prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly all-time. It could produce a couple players with the same impact as current young NBA floor generals Rose, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

On Tuesday, the Bulls looked at (among others) Maynor, Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, Greece’s Nick Calathes, St. Joseph’s Tasheed Carr, the 5’6” David Holston from Chicago State and Bryan Mullins from Southern Illinois via Downers Grove High School.

UCLA’s second, and more hyped point guard prospect, Jrue Holiday has also met with the team and expressed a strong interest to join the team at combine media day. However, he should be long picked by the time the Bulls are on the board.

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Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, one of the hottest point guard prospects around, figures to likely be gone by the time the Bulls pick at #16 on June 25th, and long gone when the Bulls pick again at #26. However, he worked out for the Bulls, met with the front office and was extremely vocal about his desire to play for the Bulls at the NBA Draft Combine. Flynn told the media how much he enjoys the Bulls up-tempo system and their young nucleus. He also described his game:

“I think I have some characteristics of Chris Paul. His tenacity, he’s hard as nails, fiery, fires his teammates up, he really knows how to get his teammates in position to where they can score, where they don’t have to do much to score. Look at David West and Tyson Chandler; where would they be without Chris Paul?”

As much as the Bulls need a scoring big, as much as point guard is the team’s strongest position, they have needs at guard- especially someone to be a backup running the point and/or provide scoring at the off guard position given the (increasingly likely) case that Ben Gordon departs.

UCLA Pair Part of Point Guard Heavy Draft

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By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

In recent years, we have seen how drafting a point guard can help change the face of an NBA franchise.  Think of the impact Chris Paul has had on the Hornets, Deron Williams in Utah, Rajon Rando with the Celtics, or just this past year, what Derrick Rose brought to the Bulls.  If you are a team in need of a point guard this year, the crop of point guard prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly of all time, and could produce a couple players who may have the impact of the aforementioned young NBA floor leaders.  Two prospects who play “the one” Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison played their college ball at perhaps the most storied of all programs, UCLA.

Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn, and Stephen Curry join Holiday in a group of players that could be picked in the lottery to run the point at the next level.  That list doesn’t include Tyreke Evans who ran the point at Memphis, but figures to be a two guard in the NBA.  Add in the likes of Eric Maynor, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Nick Calathes, and Patrick Mills, and I have ten point guards being taken in the first round in my latest mock draft.  It’s possible that number could grow to as high as 12 if Holiday’s teammate Collison or Florida State’s Toney Douglas sneaks into the first round.
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Jrue Holiday

Despite grossly underachieving in his freshman year at UCLA, Holiday is catching the eye of many NBA teams.  Holiday was highly recruited coming out of high school, but played out of position with the Bruins, spending more time at the off-guard than the point since Darren Collison was already the squad’s established leader.  He struggled in Ben Howland’s offense which is more a grind-it-out style rather than an up-tempo system which would better fit Holiday’s game.  Still, based on his potential and athleticism, Holiday decided to declare for the draft and could possibly go as high as #4 to Sacramento. Playing at possibly the most high profile program of all may give Holiday an advantage over other rookies in adjusting to the bright lights of the NBA. “At UCLA you’re definitely an icon at school, around campus and pretty much everywhere you go because of the stature that UCLA has built, and it definitely prepares you for NBA life,” Holiday told me at the NBA Draft Combine.


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As for Collison, he would have been better off declaring for the draft after his sophomore or junior season when he was considered a possible lottery pick.  Returning to UCLA and putting together a less than stellar senior season really hurt his stock as he will most likely be taken early in the second round.  There is a chance that due to his experience, quickness, and shooting ability, he could end up being selected in the latter part of the first round. “I’m an unselfish teammate, I’ve never been on a team where it’s ‘I’ and we have to work around an individual. A team that takes me will get a great point guard because I’ve been in school for four years so I know what it takes to win at the second highest level and I’ve been to the final four three out of the four years,” Collison said at the NBA Draft combine.

Truly, this is the NBA’s Golden Age of point guards. Older veterans like Steve Nash, Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups are still in their prime or just slightly dropping off it. They’ll be remembered among the games’ all-time greats because they played in a era where young star floor generals like Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose also emerged. The Association’s talent level at the point will only increase with the ’09 draft class.

“This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that,” Collison said.

Alley-OOP & the SCOOP on what’s going on Around the NBA Hoop:


2009 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Special Edition

By: Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson

1 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs. 8 Utah Jazz (48-34):
Didn’t we just see them play earlier this week?  Yeah we did. The Lakers’ manhandled them like they stole their snack money before school with a 125-112 win on Tuesday.  This Lakers team has been built to win and the time is now. Andrew Bynum is back and healed from his knee injury, Lamar Odom is playing well, not to mention Pau Gasol is consistent every year.

Oh yeah, almost forgot the Lower Merion stud, Kobe Bryant. Bryant is averaging 26.8 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game and a gratuitous 4.9 assists per game. Bryant is simply balling and has a supporting cast to help as well.

Although the Jazz are a great team, it will be difficult to stop a Lakers squad that is focused and determined. The keys for the Jazz to win are point guard Deron Williams, and company to win their games at home at Energy Solutions Arena, where they play extremely well and for Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer to play efficient in the paint. Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap will also need to play stellar complementary roles in the pick and roll offense. A lot of ball screens and outside shooting will help the Jazz spread out their offense. Not sure that will be enough.
Prediction: Lakers in 6
2 Denver Nuggets (54-28) vs. 7 New Orleans Hornets (49-33):
On one hand, you want the Hornets to do well, just because Chris Paul has been dominating all year. On the other hand, you want the Nuggets do well because Chauncey Billups is playing like Chauncey Billups: A beast. Billups is averaging 17.7 points per game and 6.4 assists per game. But it’s not just Billups that is impressive. It’s his play that is making everyone around him better. Carmelo Anthony, has been playing well since the summer Olympics, and hasn’t stopped, averaging 22.8 points per game and a little under 6 rebounds per game. Kenyon Martin has also had a resurgent year of sorts averaging 11.7 points per game and 6 rebounds per game. He hasn’t been this consistent since his days catching lobs with former New Jersey Nets teammate Jason Kidd.
The Hornets have been the complete opposite. Injuries have killed this team. Tyson Chandler has been hurt and so have the spirits of this team. This team does not resemble the same team that went toe to toe with the San Antonio Spurs last year. In order for the Hornets to have similar success like last year, David West needs to play well in the middle. He has lamented this season about having to play the center position. He needs to do whatever needs to be done to make things happen for this team. The Nuggets can be beat but it is up to the Hornets to be mentally touch and execute.  What the Hornets have, however, is not enough to defeat the Denver Nuggets.

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3 San Antonio Spurs (54-28) vs. 6 Dallas Mavericks (50-32):

The Spurs are hurting. Manu Ginobili is out for the year, and Roger Mason Jr. will be counted on to be the 3rd wheel to compliment Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and it will be done. The Dallas Mavericks, led by the veteran leadership of Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, exceeded expectations under first year Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. The team still lacks in one area and that is interior toughness. Although Tim Duncan is not at 100% he can still bang down low with Erik Dampier. The Spurs also have Drew Gooden.
DO NOT SLEEP ON GOODEN DURING THE PLAYOFFS!
The Spurs always find a way to win and they will do that against this Mavericks team.

Prediction: Spurs in 6

Footlocker.com

4 Portland Trail Blazers (54-28) vs. 5. Houston Rockets (53-29):

I’m impressed with this Portland Trailblazer team. They have played as a cohesive unit and possess a bond on and off the court very similar to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge are a great combo. Owner, Paul Allen has constructed a great group of guys that have proved a lot of people wrong this year.
However, winners and will-to-win don’t necessarily equate winning a series. This Rockets team, on paper has a Roster full of overachievers and they have not lived up to their potential for years. Ron Artest is hungry and Yao Ming is playing extremely well, without Tracy McGrady mind you. Luis Scola has been playing well since he played in the summer team in the Olympics with his Argentine team. The Rockets have the advantage in skill and experience.
Prediction: Rockets in 5
There you have it: The Scoop! Catch you on the rebound for Round 2!

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