Chicago Bulls are the biggest surprise in the NBA this season

Joakim Noah Derrick Rose

The Chicago Bulls have achieved great things up to now in the season and no one really knows how further they can get. Really, Chicago has managed to save the season after yet another season – ending injury from Derrick Rose. But on top of that, the Bulls, riding Joakim Noah’s incredible performances have managed to turn what seemed to be a lost season into a championship contending one. [Read more…]

NBA Free Agent Signings: McGrady, Dunleavy, Prince, Jerebko

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Our resident NBA nerd David Kay is on vacation this week; in a much warmer place. However, being out of the country hasn’t stopped him from being on top of the news. He’s got a lot to say on what’s been going on with the league this week.

Detroit Pistons re-sign SF Tayshaun Prince to 4-year, $27 million contract

I thought for sure Prince was going to move on in his career and not want to return to a Pistons team that seems to be in re-building mode.  Financially, this was probably the best deal Prince was going to get as other teams were reportedly offering him a shorter deal.  He must be happy in Detroit otherwise he wouldn’t have signed this deal and chose to take less money from a contender.

Detroit Pistons re-sign F Jonas Jerebko to 4-year, $16 million contract

Jerebko missed all of last season with injury but showed enough in his rookie season to warrant this type of contract extension.  He is an energy player who can do multiple things on the floor and is worth the investment for Detroit.

Atlanta Hawks sign G/F Tracy McGrady to 1-year deal worth league minimum

For a Hawks team that is massively over the cap and losing their sixth man, Jamal Crawford, this deal makes a lot of sense.  T-Mac had a rejuvenation of his career last season, showing he was healthy and still had some gas left in the tank.  He will ultimately replace Crawford as the team’s top reserve on the wing and comes at a cheap rate.

Los Angeles Lakers sign SG Jason Kapono to 1-year deal worth league minimum

The Lakers did just lose Shannon Brown to Phoenix so maybe Kapono can serve as a back-up to Kobe Bryant.  MAYBE.  I wouldn’t expect him to be a major contributor for the Lake Show this season.

Milwaukee Bucks sign SF Mike Dunleavy to 2-year, $7.5 million contract

In trading Corey Maggette and having Chris Douglas-Roberts and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute as free agents, the Bucks were searching for a veteran small forward.  Dunleavy is still a serviceable player at this point of his career but injuries are always a concern since he has only played more than 70 games once in the past five seasons.  He will likely serve as Carlos Delfino’s back-up until first round pick Tobias Harris is ready to be a contributor at the NBA level.

More NBA free agent signings

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

Indiana Pacers Playoff Primer: Round 1 vs. Chicago Bulls

The time has come.

The moment for which the Indiana Pacers and their fan base have been waiting five years arrives today at 1 p.m. with Game 1 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, the Eastern Conference’s top seed, at United Center.

While just making the playoffs, particularly with a season record of 37-45, is a fine accomplishment in itself, the Pacers have a tremendous opportunity in front of them. If Indiana is competitive each night — certainly within the realm of possibility — it can take significant steps forward in reviving the “passion” and “pride,” so to speak, in and around Indianapolis. We’re going to take a look at the matchups and how the Pacers can go about doing that.

By Drew Allen

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Welcome Back to the NBA Playoffs, Indiana Pacers

Fans in Area 55 weren’t going to be left out in the cold.

The rowdiest spectators in Conseco Fieldhouse remained in the Roy Hibbert-sponsored section well after the final buzzer of the Indiana Pacers’ 136-112 rout of the Washington Wizards to watch the final minutes of the Orlando Magic’s overtime victory against the Charlotte Bobcats on the arena’s jumbo screen.

And sure enough, those fans were the first to know their team had clinched its first berth in the NBA playoffs since the 2005-06 season.

By Drew Allen

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Indiana Pacers Are Four Wins Away from Playoffs

The Indiana Pacers finally seem to recognize the opportunity in front of them.

Now 35-42 after three straight wins with five games remaining in the regular season, the Pacers lead the Charlotte Bobcats by two games (and essentially three games with the season head-to-head tiebreak) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Four wins secures Indiana’s first trip to the postseason since Danny Granger’s rookie year in 2005-06.

By Drew Allen

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Are Indiana Pacers in Relapse?

Well, so much for the newfound optimism under Frank Vogel.

After starting 9-3 under the interim coach, the Indiana Pacers have lost seven of their last eight games, including five straight in which the team never realistically threatened for the win. Three of those defeats came by 17 or more points.

The most recent loss, a 101-75 thrashing Wednesday at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves (who at the time owned the worst record in the Western Conference), was arguably Indiana’s worst effort all season. Forward Danny Granger finished 2-of-19 with 10 points, and center Roy Hibbert didn’t score at all.

By Drew Allen

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Indiana Pacers Fire Jim O’Brien; More Change on the Way?

The Indiana Pacers fired coach Jim O’Brien on Sunday midway through the fourth year of O’Brien’s contract and named assistant Frank Vogel interim coach for the rest of 2010-11.

O’Brien went 121-169 as Pacers coach and began this season 17-27 before being relieved of his duties.

The first thing to take away from Sunday’s news is that the Pacers are doing the right thing in parting ways with O’Brien. He wasn’t getting it done at a point in his contract when Indiana should be a solid playoff contender in a weak Eastern Conference. I’ll have more on that later, but O’Brien’s dismissal presents an opportunity for the Pacers to start fresh.

The question is, is it just the first one?

By Drew Allen

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Grizzlies acquire Zach Randolph from Clippers

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By David Kay

“He has one of the worst contracts in the NBA, is a head-case, and is coming off a serious knee injury. So who in the world would want to mess up their salary cap situation and trade for such a volatile player like Zach Randolph? I bet Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace would.”

That must have been Clippers general manager/head coach Mike Dunleavy’s mindset when he was trying to unload Randolph’s remaining 2-year, $33.3 million contract. On the other hand, that’s giving Dunleavy an awful lot of credit. Maybe Wallace called him and had to convince Dunleavy to pull the trigger on the trade. However it went down, the Clips made a great deal by sending Randolph to Memphis for Quentin Richardson.


Why this makes sense for the Clippers:

It’s quite simple actually. L.A.’s “other” team unloads one of the plethora of post players it has since drafting Blake Griffin, and clears up some more playing time for the top pick. In the process, the Clips rid themselves of a toad on their team and maybe more importantly, save about $7 million this year and another $16-plus for next offseason.clippers

The red-headed stepchild of L.A. basketball will now be at least $16 million under the cap next summer and should be able to make a run at one of the marquee names hitting the market in 2010. For the year ahead, Q-Rich adds some perimeter depth to a team short on talent off the bench.

P.S. Bill Simmons may need to issue a formal apology to Dunleavy after this move.


Why this makes sense for Memphis:

Ummm… I mean… Well, if you think about… It just doesn’t. Why in the world would the Grizzlies, who entered the free agency period some $20 million under the cap, trade the expiring contract of Richardson to take on the massively overpaid Randolph, who has two years remaining on his deal?

If your answer is “because Chris Wallace is their GM,” award yourself a point. This trade might be more idiotic than giving Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a ball rack. Maybe Wallace was ordered to make another ridiculous trade to ensure the franchise wouldn’t be in Memphis past 2011. I could seriously go on in hyperbolic talk for another 13 pages if I had the time.

Yes, the Grizzlies needed an answer at power forward. But why bring in a player with Randolph’s issues instead of pursuing a younger, saner free agent like Paul Millsap, David Lee, or even Glen Davis who would cost less than Randolph and not risk the chemistry of your team? Is Randolph really going to be happy playing for a squad that might win 25 games this year? How long until he sucker punches Hasheem Thabeet or Marc Gasol? Seriously, did any of this go through Wallace’s head before he decided to go through with this trade? In the words of Will Hunting, “F***ing people baffle me.”

How Dominating Can Blake Griffin Become?

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By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

The word “domination” doesn’t do justice to the level of damage Blake Griffin inflicted upon opposing teams this past season.  The National Player of the Year averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds per game while shooting a ridiculous 65% from the field, most of those baskets coming on dunks, lay-ups, or putbacks since few defenders matched his combination of athleticism and strength underneath the basket.

Griffin is to double-doubles what Jay-z is to rhyming.  He recorded at least ten points and ten boards in 30 of his 35 games played, (and you can discount the game against Texas when Griffin suffered a concussion and only played 11 minutes).  His double doubles had authority too: Griffin grabbed 15 or more rebounds eighteen times and surpassed the twenty mark five times.  He was a double digit scorer in every contest, minus the aforementioned Texas game, and posted twenty or more points 21 times.

His unique physical attributes propelled his success at the collegiate level.  Griffin measured in at 6’10”, 248 pounds at the NBA Draft combine.  He’s built like a truck with shoulders wider than the gap between Paris Hilton’s ears, but he also possesses the athletic ability and explosiveness of the league’s top wing players.  Those attributes are why he often draws comparisons to Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire with a hint of Carlos Boozer mixed in.

I caught up to Griffin at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and when I asked Griffin who he models his game on, Amare was actually the first name to come up.  “I really like how Amare Stoudemire came into the league and I feel like we were in the same position. He really liked to use his athleticism and dunk all the time and slowly he developed his jump shot. So hopefully, I can be in that category,” the future #1 overall pick said. Later, he would mention that Shaq was one of his favorites to watch, but also said he doesn’t see himself emulating Shaquille’s game.

Interesting that he mentioned his jump shot as his weakness because if there is any flaw to Griffin’s game, it’s shooting.  Due to his dominance in the paint at Oklahoma, Griffin rarely had to step out and show off his limited jumper.  Building consistency with his mid-range game will be an area the former Sooner must improve upon to become an All-Star caliber player at the next level.  “A lot of people think all I do is dunk, all I do is make lay-ups, so hopefully I can show them that I’m more versatile than that, that I can score a little from outside that I can dribble a little bit and that I’m not a one-dimensional player,” the future Clipper said.clippers

Like Magic center Dwight Howard, Griffin also struggles at the free throw line which is a concern since he is so physical and draws a lot of fouls.  He shot just 59% from the charity stripe during his two years in Norman and will have to put extra time in so that he can capitalize on the numerous free throw line trips he’ll inevitably make during his career.

After the interview sessions I saw both Griffin and Los Angeles Clippers General Manager/Head Coach Mike Dunleavy hanging out in the bar/restaurant downstairs. So what does Griffin think about Dunleavy saying he’s definitely going to draft Griffin first overall? “As possibly one of my next coaches, I believe him, but anything can happen, and that’s how I’m looking at it,” Griffin said.

NBA Draft Combine Brings out the Stars

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By Paul M. Banks

When the NBA Draft Combine comes to Chicago, the Second City resembles Beverly Hills for a couple days. Strolling through the Westin Hotel on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, where the Draft Combine’s media activities are held, I encountered basketball’s heaviest hitters. The entire Chicago Bulls front office, Pistons GM Joe Dumars, NBA coaches Mike D’Antoni, Mike Dunleavy, legendary talk show host Larry King (twice) and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda; and that was just the first hour.

During the actual interview sessions, a draft combine reporter gets up close and personal with every former college basketball star soon to be drafted in a couple weeks. Each player gets his own table in the conference room and journalists rotate like speed-daters to obtain quality face time with everyone. Conversation is much more in-depth than post-game press conferences. It’s about the big picture here- no time to waste on the boringly banal queries from newspaper beat writers.jerel

On top of the media grilling, NBA prospects face tougher inquisitions from the teams themselves. Arizona’s Chase Budinger (projected 23rd) said he faced a psychological aptitude type test from the Bulls. He had to arrange blocks to match a picture they presented. NBA teams want to know if players are single, married, have kids. Multiple players had to reveal if they had a “friend with benefits.” It’s like Torquemada and your Prom date’s father rolled into one. 

The NBA amalgamates feedback from the league’s scouts and personnel, deciding which 50-60 prospects are gauging the most interest. The most elite prospects are then invited to run drills, 3 man weaves and workout (this part is closed to the media). They also take more measurements than a Playboy playmate; each player’s wingspan, vertical reach, height and weight (with and without shoes) become public knowledge. This male version of a beauty pageant can be stressful, but also fun.

Former Marquette guard Jerel McNeal projected 42nd overall in NBA Mock Draft,  “It’s been real intense, it’s been like a circus since I got down here, but it’s also been real fun so far. To be around such a great group of players and unbelievable talent, to be fortunate enough to be in this situation, you can’t help but feel excited and glad about what’s coming in the future,” said McNeal.

Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, projected 10th in this year’s draft spoke about how the combine brings together former AAU, McDonald’s All-American and Summer league teammates. “It’s cool, it’s like a big family reunion everybody reminiscing on the stories we had from summer camps, at the USA team and things like that. We’re all in competition on the court, but off the court it’s a family feeling, we just kick back, chill and talk about the good old days,” Flynn said.

There’s only one thing certain about this draft: Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin is going to the L.A. Clippers at #1. The brightest lights and greatest amount of cameras were naturally on him. And the future franchise player seems ready to become the next media darling. “I don’t mind the media…I hope I’m ready for it. I think I’m ready for it” Griffin said before answering a question about how he’ll soon see his personal privacy disappear. bgriffin2

“You just got to know that people are watching you and you got to be a positive role model and not put yourself in bad situations,” Griffin stated.

I asked Griffin what his favorite aspect of this process has been so far. “Some of the restaurants have been pretty good. That’s a big part of my life. But getting to meet people, different players and taking perspective and getting advice from them has been great,” he responded.

The Second City is famous for its food. The next day I saw him in the restaurant downstairs and asked him about his overall favorite restaurant here. He said he’s a big fan of Ditka’s, prompting another reporter nearby to endorse the joint’s steaks. Griffin then said he’s not eating much red meat right now, so I mentioned their Salmon and Tuna steaks. The future Clipper approved Ditka’s seafood. So this is life in transition to the next level, where everything’s meatier and portions of everything are much bigger. So is the number of people watching you.