Today’s Best NBA Preseason Stories

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– 20 Lessons from the NBA Preseason (from Michael Pina,

I haven’t watched every preseason game, partly because the NBA doesn’t televise them all and partly because I value my time on this planet. The quality of play isn’t very good. That said, it’s also fun to get what technically qualifies as a first impression, be it for rookies, familiar faces now wearing a different jersey or well-established veterans assuming a new role. It’s also basketball, and filling the five-month void festering inside my NBA-watching soul feels good.

And so, without further ado, here are 20 preseason takeaways presented in no particular order, some of which will be of zero consequence come this time next month. But for the sake of everyone who reads on, hopefully some become a bit more than that. (Maybe even a needle’s worth.)

Read and view Michael’s 20 preseason take-a-ways here:

– Randy Wittman provides thorough dissenting opinion on NBA tinkering with game, season lengths (from Jorge Castillo, Washington Post):

” Last week, Washington Wizards Coach Randy Wittman was asked for his opinion on the NBA’s experimentation with a 44-minute preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics that took place Sunday. He was not hesitant to offer a dissenting opinion on the matter.

Asked about it again Tuesday — and about what he thought of the idea of shortening the 82-game regular season schedule — Wittman provided a five-minute response worth transcribing and publishing for everyone’s consumption. Once again, he did not approve.”

Read it here:

– Can Carmelo Anthony fit into Knicks’ triangle offense? (from Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today):

” The criticism and derision of the triangle offense rankles Phil Jackson. It bothers him when he hears critics say it requires a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant to win with it.

So by installing his preferred offense with the New York Knicks, who will be taught by first-year coach Derek Fisher, Jackson is not on a vanity project.

Jackson, starting his first full season as president of the Knicks, is on a mission to prove the offense works without a Jordan or Bryant.

And he is putting his faith and trust in All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, who is entering his 12th NBA season, with a career scoring average of 25.3 points. It also might be his most challenging season as Jackson and Fisher demand that Anthony play a style of basketball unfamiliar to him.”

Read it here:

– From Phil Jackson’s point of view (from Charley Rosen, ESPN):

” New Knicks president gives his preseason take on every player on his new roster”

Read it here:

– Let’s watch the Knicks big men make great Triangle passes! (from Seth Rosenthal,

Read and view it here:

-Joel Freeland’s unflashy consistency might give him leg up on Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard in Trail Blazers’ rotation fight (from Joe Freeman,

” You love the high-flying dunks and breathtaking blocks that Thomas Robinson produces.

You can’t help but be enamored by Meyers Leonard‘s athleticism and potential as a stretch four.

But Joel Freeland? His exmbrace-the-grunt-work style and understated production barely elicit a blip on your excitement meter.

One of the few compelling storylines of a Trail Blazers‘ preseason that has been all business and mostly mundane is the three-way battle for minutes at power forward/center between Freeland, Leonard and Robinson.

Well, wouldn’t it be funny if, when it’s all said and done, it’s Freeland — and not one of the two young tantalizing prospects — who ends up landing a spot at the back of the rotation as a backup to LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Chris Kaman?”

Read it here:

– It’s Time to Fear Brad Stevens (from Michael Pina, BBall Breakdown):

We’ve yet to see the 2014-15 Celtics take the floor in a meaningful game, and it’s unknown whether Boston’s drastically different approach to offense this preseason will spill over into sequences that matter months from today. However, if we assume at least a little bit that it does, now is the time to fear Stevens. Boston’s second year head coach has thus far approached exhibition basketball like a man who’s done his homework. The three ball is good. Attacking defenses before they have a chance to set up in the half-court is smart. There is passing, moving, cutting, screening, all of the good stuff so sorely lacking amongst the lethargy of last season.

Read and view it here:

– Preseason breakdown of Nuggets rookie Jusuf Nurkic (from sensemaking,

” During the preseason perhaps the player generating the most buzz has been rookie Jusuf Nurkic. While this has threatened to get out of all proportion with reality at times, it is seeded in the real potential he has demonstrated in the preseason. In this post I will cover the play of the big Bosnian center who has already shown that while he is raw he is a skilled player capable of sublime play.”

Read and view it here:

Forgotten Villanueva hopes to stick  (from Jeff Caplan,

Read it here:

– Spurs look to keep older players in shape with medical services hirings (from david Ebner,

” After the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA title in June, demolishing the Miami Heat, the team’s bosses left the roster almost completely intact in the off-season.

The team did make significant changes in the ranks of assistant coaches, but the biggest overhaul for the Spurs came in a rebuilding of their medical services department. In an effort to keep their aging stars healthy through another long basketball season, the ever-innovative Spurs searched worldwide for inspiration…”

Read it here:

– Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson gets a look at small forward (from Darrell Williams,

” Ryan Anderson had gotten a look-see at small forward two weeks ago in practice, as Pelicans coach Monty Williams looked for answers to a lack of scoring at that position.

The possibilities seemed very positive, with Anderson, a 6-foot-10 power forward, having some advantages over smaller players at the 3 position. He had led the team in scoring at 19.8 points per game last season before he had a season-ending neck injury.

There were positive developments in Monday’s win against the Washington Wizards in Baltimore, the Pelicans’ sixth, or second-to-last, preseason game. One of them was Anderson’s play at small forward.

It’s not the answer at that position, and Williams said it’s too early to determine if he liked what he saw. However, no doubt, Anderson playing there looks like it can help the Pelicans.

“I liked the way they talked on defense and the rebounding,” Williams said. “Ryan has been a good rebounder, especially before he came here. And you could see him (Monday) night rebounding a lot better from that position. So that probably was a good sign.”

Read it here:

– How Rudy Gobert Can Become the NBA’s Next Feared Interior Force (from Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher report):

” You can already start to feel it. The vibes surrounding Rudy Gobert have been pumping with positivity since summer league back in July.

They would soon carry over into the 2014 Basketball World Cup, where he posed as a difference-maker down the stretch in France’s awesome upset over Spain.

And now we’re seeing Gobert kick some butt in NBA preseason. He’s averaging 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on 57.1 percent shooting in only 20.6 minutes.”

Read and view it here:

– James Harden has a defense for his criticized defense (from Sam Amick, USA Today):

” “It’s not a matter of whether I can or can’t play defense,” Harden says in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. “It’s just a matter of me focusing for 48 minutes throughout a game and making sure that I’m always alert on both ends of the floor … It’s up to me to go out there and show my leadership, to show that I can play both ends of the floor at a high level and just do it. If I have that approach, we’re going to go a long ways.””

Read it here:

– The NBA’s Best 8 Bench Mobs Heading into the 2014-15 Season ( from Zach Buckley, Bleacher Report):

“The importance of NBA bench production is easy to overlook but hard to overstate.

The best reserve units complement their team’s starters, either by maintaining a certain standard of play when the big guns get a breather, sparking something on their own or blending their abilities to those of the starters in lineups featuring players from both.

The San Antonio Spurs helped put second-teamers under the spotlight during their run to the 2014 NBA championship. There are a number of reasons San Antonio took the title, not the least of which were the league-high 44.3 points a night provided by the reserves, per

Not all starting fives need that kind of help, and not every coach would allow his reserves enough floor time to put up those kind of numbers. But every team needs a certain amount of depth, particularly with the omnipresent threat of the injury bug.

Remember, depth can come in different forms. It might be an abundance of competent contributors or it could be a couple front-line reserves. Quality always trumps quantity, but the best bench mobs have a little of both.

With a look at statistics, systematic fits and the projected impact on team success, we’ll uncover the best reserve units heading into the 2014-15 seaso”

View the slide show here:

– Kidd Still Has a Lot to Prove (from Howard Megdal,

” (W)e’re still in the infancy stages of finding out precisely what kind of coach Jason Kidd can be.

One thing he seems unequivocal on is that what worked for him in Brooklyn last year, that smaller ball and faster pace, is what he intends to use with the Bucks.

“We’re a long team,” Kidd said, as reporters surrounded him in the corridor of Madison Square Garden by the visitors’ locker room. The crush of reporters visibly bewildered the Milwaukee staff, which probably didn’t face as many people intent upon interviewing, say, Larry Drew last year. “So we can play small, we can play extremely long. But the offense that we ran in Brooklyn is the same one that we’ll run here. Share the ball, make a play for a teammate, be unselfish, take the shot when it presents itself. And they’ve been doing it since day one in training camp.”

Read it here:

– How does Bruno Caboclo develop from here? (from Blake Murphy,

Read it here:

– Raptors aim to keep Amir Johnson healthy for stretch run (from Josh Lewenberg,

“Amir’s notoriously our glue guy,” said Dwane Casey, a far more appropriate label for a player that has anchored Toronto’s defence and produced efficient offence for years. “We know who he is.”

More than ever before, the Raptors need him on the court, as close to 100 per cent as possible during the stretch run and into the post-season if they’re to top last year’s accomplishments.

The question is, how do you slow down a player who has been so effective operating at one speed?

“Amir, if he doesn’t play with energy or if he tries to pace himself, that doesn’t help him and it doesn’t help us,” Casey said. “He’s an old pro and he knows how to play. I’m not really concerned about him wearing down. He’s just got to stay healthy.”

The onus, at least to some degree, will be on Casey and the coaching staff to monitor Johnson’s usage and perhaps scale back his minutes, not excessively but sporadically throughout the year, something they implemented last March as the forward battled a series of late-season aches and pains.”

Read it here:

– The Bulls Might be the Stuff Dreams are made of (from Ian Levy,

Read it here:

(BI note: The above story about the Bulls is from July)

– NBA Preseason Allows Coaches to Show off a Few New Moves of Their Own (from Jared Zwerling, Bleacher Report):

” One of the biggest storylines in every NBA training camp is what players did during the summer to prepare for the upcoming season.

But what about those other guys on the bench—you know, the coaches? Think their offseason mostly entails light morning work and long golf afternoons, waiting for a majority of their players to return to the practice facility after Labor Day to get started? That couldn’t be further from the truth.

From May to September, a coach’s schedule is much more calculated than many think, consisting of studying opponents, staff projects and retreats, NBA draft analysis, summer league, global camps and seminars, meetings with coaches in their sport and others, and self-improvement and reading for inspiration.”

Read it here:

– Can teams around the league replicate the Spurs’ system? (from J.R. Wilcom/Michael Erler,

” Kings coach Mike Malone has stated that the Spurs are the model for what he wants to build in Sacramento, but can San Antonio’s system be replicated across the NBA?

Long story short: The Spurs played the Kings in preseason. San Antonio’s bench played much of the fourth and came away with the victory against Sacramento. Michael Erler made some comments at the end of his game recap that rubbed some Kings fans the wrong way. So I reached out to Akis Yerocostas, the blog manager of Sactown Royalty, the SBNation blog that covers the Kings, to see if he’d be up for a conversation with Erler on the subject. He was, and they did. Enjoy”

Read it here:

– Erik Spoelstra poised for change (from Ira Winderman, Orlando Sun-Sentinel):

“You sit in this seat, very quickly you realize that you’re going to have coach a lot of different teams, a lot of different personalities, in one year to the next, even if you bring back the same guys,” coach Erik Spoelstra said before the Heat closed out their home preseason schedule in the nationally televised game. “It has a completely different feel. This is the nature of this business. And the way it is, even now, teams are changing much quicker than they were 10, 15 years ago.”

“So the pro coaching profession is a little bit more like college and high school,” Spoelstra said of retooling and reworking. “It turns over and it changes, and your philosophy and how you have to adjust becomes much quicker. That’s the life we chose. So we dove into this challenge pretty quickly.”

Read it here:
– Pacers still need time to mesh as season nears (from Candace Buckner,
” After Tuesday’s night loss,  (CJ) Miles expressed his thoughts about how players are trying to
mesh while learning to trust and cramming for knowledge of the offense.

“(It’s) frustrating because you’re trying to do the right thing, not frustrating with each other,” Miles said. “Frustrating because everybody’s trying to do the right thing. It gets tough when you’re trying to do the right thing and (nothing) happens. It’s just about not overthinking the game and just playing hard; that’s what we’re getting over now.

“Guys trying to figure out that balance of understanding what we do but also playing basketball, not turning into a robot,” Miles continued. “You see guys when they should’ve made a play but they didn’t because they’re trying to stay within of what we’re doing and times when they try to make a play but they run into somebody because the other person is trying to do (the same). It’s just about learning each other and learning each other’s spots.”

Read it here:

– Winning Moves, Part I: Greater Ball Movement (from Oleh,

” Before the start of the regular season, five specific areas will be discussed in depth that I believe will be key in getting the Pelicans to the postseason. They will be as follows:

  1. Greater Ball Movement
  2. Utilizing More Catch and Shoot Situations
  3. Increasing Anthony Davis’ Front Court Touches
  4. Correctly Maximizing Rotations
  5. Establishing an Identity on Defense”

Read Part I here:

– The NBA’s Scariest On-Ball Defenders (from Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report):

” It’s hard to strike fear into the heart of an NBA player, but there are a handful of terrifying defenders who manage to do it.

These are the intimidators, the on-ball menaces who blend technique and effort with just a touch of feral unpredictability. They might just make you turn two or three times bringing the ball up the court, but they might also try to eat you.

They’re scary, and they want that ball you’ve got.

Tony Allen, the Memphis Grizzlies’ heralded stopper on the wing, routinely flips the normal offense-defense dynamic, putting the guy trying to score on his heels. And Patrick Beverley often unleashes 94 feet of hell on opposing point guards.

Ranking on-ball defenders in order of scariness takes misleading statistics like steals and blocks out of the equation. And while we could incorporate useful but imperfect measures like opponents’ PER into the discussion, even advanced metrics like those don’t encapsulate the visceral feeling of facing down a rabid defender.

So, the parameters here are pretty simple: We simply ask which player you’d least like to see staring back at you when you’ve got the rock.”

View the slideshow here:

(BI Note: Bleacher Report is the early favorite for our “Most Improved Player” award.  Before its sale to Turner, the best advice was: “Friends don’t let friends read Bleacher Report.”  It may have been the worst site ever on the Web – not just among basketball sites, but among anything that ever was on the web.  Its total lack of quality control was astonishing in its magnitude.  It appeared that anyone could post anything they wanted and claim authoritativeness.  So we saw slideshows that professed to be about the “Top 25” something or other where no criteria were applied other than the “author” pulling things out of the air or somewhere worse.  After the sale, BR hired a stable of quality NBA journalists and also started applying a reasonable degree of quality control to its slideshows.  The results are impressive.  BR now has frequent excellent stories by Howard Beck, Jared Zwerling and others.  And BR’s slideshow presentations are now often worth checking out.  Congratulations on the upgrades.)

– Undrafted NBA Rookies Who Can Make an Impact During 2014-15 Season (from Daniel
O’Brien, Bleacher report):

” They went undrafted in June, but these tenacious rookies are aiming to crack the NBA and make an impact in 2014-15.

Don’t be fooled by their underwhelming athleticism or lack of dynamic skills. They have the tools and the work ethic to contribute in the Association, often by doing one thing really well or simply outhustling everyone in their path.

Our quintet of standout undrafted rookies includes a couple of New Mexico alums, a mid-major big man and players from high-pedigree programs.”

View the slideshow here:

– Numbers to Know: 49.46% (from Seth Partnow,

” Many people have had a little fun with Byron Scott’s claims that three pointers don’t win championships1, and that the Lakers are going to attempt only 10-15 per game in order to better, in his words, “attack the basket.”

In preseason the Lakers have certainly taken his words to heart, shooting only 8.4 threes per game.

So how well does this strategy work in the real world? Can a team really attack the basket more simply by limiting threes?  Signs point to no.”

Read it here:

Additional player updates:

– Jordan Hill:

– Ronnie Price:

– C.J. Miles:

– K.J.McDaniels:

– Terrence Ross:

– Jared Cunningham:

– Jeremy Lin:

– Festus Ezeli:

– Kent Bazemore:

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