– Why the Hawks’ success is no fluke (from Neil Greenberg, Washington Post):
” The Atlanta Hawks are the best team in the Eastern Conference, a distinction they have not held at this point in the season in quite some time.
The ascension coincides with the hiring of Mike Budenholzer, who spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich and is in his second year with Atlanta. And while they aren’t exactly the Spurs of the East, there are plenty of reasons why we should all take the Hawks seriously as NBA title contenders.”
Read it here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2015/01/06/why-the-hawks-success-is-no-fluke/
– Atlanta Hawks Coach Mike Budenholzer On His Offense (Video from Coach Nick, Baball Breakdown):
” Coach Nick caught up with Coach Budz to discuss the evolution of their offense, its triangle offense origins, and the importance of getting the ball to the post.”
View it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ig-t0KLIbc&feature=youtube_gdata
– Nikola Mirotic’s Growth Helps to Solve Chicago Bulls’ Depth Problem (from Sean Highkin, Bleacher Report):
” If Mirotic truly is a viable wing option for the Bulls, it helps to solve not one but two problems with their depth. For one, playing Mirotic at small forward takes him out of the race for minutes with Gasol, Noah and Gibson, which would be a losing battle for him. Thibodeau loves veterans, and all three of those players have much longer and more impressive track records than Mirotic.
The other issue solved by Mirotic’s newfound versatility is Chicago’s lack of perimeter depth.
For as deep and talented as this Bulls team is, the shooting guard and small forward positions aren’t exactly loaded with reliable rotation players. Beyond surefire All-Star Jimmy Butler and the quietly dependable Dunleavy, there are a lot of question marks.”
Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2317810-nikola-mirotics-growth-helps-to-solve-chicago-bulls-depth-problem
– Bulls having fun with their new ‘versatility‘ (from Nick Friedell, ESPN):
Read it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/bulls/post/_/id/21207/bulls-having-fun-with-their-new-versatility
– Nuggets defense thrives with Jusuf Nurkic (from sensemaking, denverstiffs.com):
Read and view it here: http://www.denverstiffs.com/2015/1/6/7492657/nuggets-defense-thrives-with-jusuf-nurkic
– Toronto’s Master Plan (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):
” Toronto officials know this wasn’t necessarily the plan. They can admit the team’s surge toward the top of the East, perhaps the league’s sweetest story this season, is partly a happy accident. Flipping Rudy Gay to Sacramento a year ago was Step 1 of a potential tank job. Dangling Kyle Lowry in front of the Knicks, Warriors, and other teams was Step 2. Those teams waffled at paying Toronto’s price, and amid the waffling, the leftover Raptors became a team.
“We made the Rudy trade to see where we would be,” says Masai Ujiri, the team’s GM. “Are we gonna break it all down? That’s where luck comes in. We all walk around thinking we’re geniuses, but in this business, you need that Lady Luck.”
Ujiri never imagined then that the Raptors would be battling for the East’s no. 1 seed midway through this season. “I don’t think anybody saw it coming.”
Lowry agrees. “Not in my wildest dreams,” he says.”
Read it here: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-east-for-the-taking-torontos-master-plan/
– Raptors’ road trip reveals team’s defence is broken (from Eric Koreen, National Post):
Read it here: http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/01/05/toronto-raptors-road-trip-reveals-teams-defence-is-broken/
– Trail Blazers’ conservative defense chokes opponents (from Jason Hortsch, ripcityproject.com):
” It appears to be a trend that elite defenses do not need to force turnovers in order to be successful, and the Blazers are following this mold. Rather than gamble on risky attempts at steals or jumps into passing lanes, the Blazers are moving as a unit, keeping bodies between opponents and the hoop, and rotating for weak side help. If even just one player gambles on a steal or tries to intercept a pass, it leaves everyone else in a sub-optimal position to contest the eventual shot should the gambit fail.
If this conservative approach doesn’t lead to turnovers, then how is it successful? Quite simply, the Blazers are not letting their opponents make shots. Blazer opponents are currently shooting the worst in the league on threes, the third worst in the league on twos, and third worst overall. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise with the Blazers ranked third in defense, but it is still a pretty sight to see the Blazers topping such a crucial category as opponent three-point percentage.
Read it here: http://ripcityproject.com/2015/01/06/trail-blazers-conservative-defense-chokes-opponents/
– Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic are up to their old tricks (from Paul Coro, azcentral.com):
” More than five months of Suns off-season hope was based on what Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic looked like together last season.
The transition from April to October was not seamless. Change was unavoidable, with mindsets and personnel, even as the Suns reassembled their star backcourt.
The addition of point guard Isaiah Thomas and the loss of point guard-friendly Channing Frye were major adjustments for the team, but particularly for Bledsoe and Dragic. But even before they have spent the full equivalent of a season starting together (68 games over two seasons), Bledsoe and Dragic have rediscovered the electric connection that can look like a lightning strike.”
Read it here: http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2015/01/05/phoenix-suns-goran-dragic-eric-bledsoe-nba/21304281/
– Fixing the Washington Wizards’ Offensive Problems (from Osman Baig, wizofawes.com):
” The Washington Wizards, upon most difficult road trip of the season, have hit a bump in the road.
After losing their third straight game at San Antonio on Saturday night, the Wizards are still positioned well in 4th place in the Eastern Conference and are off to one of their best starts in franchise history.
However, two of the losses in particular (to San Antonio and OKC) came in eerily similar fashion as the Wizards were poised to steal a victory before the offense went AWOL late in both games; and that’s where the problems have been, the offense.
The Washington Wizards’ calling card is their defense.
They rank 6th in the NBA in opponents points per game and are tied for 5th in defensive efficiency. While that’s good, the Wizards’ offense is not, ranking 18thin the NBA in PPG and tied for 14th in offensive efficiency.
The offense gets even worse in the 4thQuarter where the Wizards have been outscored in each of their last eight games while averaging a meager 21.25 ppg over that same stretch.
Four straight opponents have scored over 100 points, but pointing to the defense as the problem would be a mistake. Elite teams that are good offensively will score, regardless of how well the Wizards play defensively.”
Read it here: http://wizofawes.com/2015/01/06/fixing-washington-wizards-offensive-problems/
– The Pacers’ Injury Riddled Season:
– From Jared Wade, 8points9seconds.com: http://8points9seconds.com/2015/01/06/indiana-pacers-injury-breakdown-update
– From Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: http://www.nba.com/2015/news/features/steve_aschburner/01/05/indiana-pacers-try-to-plug-along-in-injury-riddled-season
– Examining the Larry Sanders rumors (from Steve Van Horn, brewhoop.com):
Read it here: http://www.brewhoop.com/2015/1/6/7497903/larry-sanders-rumors-absence-return-bucks
– So What’s In An NBA Playoff Seed, Anyway?: In the NBA’s crazy Western Conference, maybe not that much (from Kevin McElroy, The Cauldron):
” (A)s long as you’re truly good enough to play with the big boys, it’s much more important to make sure you get into the playoffs healthy and well-rested than it is to scratch and claw to get a rung or two higher on the playoff ladder. It just doesn’t seem to matter enough to be worth potentially sacrificing anything real.”
Read it here: https://medium.com/the-cauldron/so-whats-in-an-nba-playoff-seed-anyway-65a62a1fab38
– Aging in the NBA: Elton Brand puts ego aside to keep contributing for Hawks (from Cory McCartney, FoxSports.com):
“You have to take the ego out of it,” said the forward, who is averaging 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.9 minutes a game with Atlanta, all of which are career lows. “You still have pride and you still can help the team win, but you to take the ego out, like ‘Oh, I should be starting’ or ‘Oh, I should be playing this many minutes.’ You won’t make it.
“You see a lot of former All-Stars or guys that felt that they were good players in the league not want to take a role and then they’re upset because they’re not in the league and they want to get back. But it’s too late and you’ve already burned your bridges.”
Back when he was coaching the Rockets, Jeff Van Gundy had a collection of 30-somethings in Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming,Derek Anderson, Jon Barry and David Wesley. They were mired in a scoring slump and when asked about dueling with Father Time, Van Gundy quoted the legendary Bill Walsh.
“Coaching the aging star in decline is the most difficult coaching there is,” Van Gundy said. “Coaching older players in general is difficult. That’s why guys can’t play forever.”
Unless they are willing to adapt.”
Read it here: http://www.foxsports.com/south/story/elton-brand-atlanta-hawks-010215
– Nick Van Exel Still Retains Coaching Lessons from Popovich (from Michael De Leon, projectspurs.com):
” (T)he D-League isn’t just serving players looking for bigger opportunities. It also now a development arm for NBA coaches. Former Austin Toros coach Quin Snyder is now the head coach of the Utah Jazz. His predecessor in Austin, Brad Jones, is now his assistant. Former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer also named Taylor Jenkins his assistant in Atlanta.
If you look to the sidelines, you’ll see some of the NBA’s former players, and perhaps, future coaches.
One such coach is former Spurs guard Nick Van Exel. Van Exel joined the Spurs for the 2005-06 season, which was his last before he retired from the NBA.”
Read it here: http://projectspurs.com/2014-articles/former-spur-van-exel-still-retains-coaching-lessons-from-popovich.html
And now, coverage of The Trade: It seems like almost everyone has weighed in with their opinion. Check out the following takes and make up your own mind:
– Cavaliers Ditch Dion Waiters for Depth, Defense and Flexibility (from Ethan Skolnick, Bleacher Report):
” While he initially seemed part of the Cavaliers’ long-term core, his trade, which nets Knicks guards Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and, most importantly, a protected first-round pick from Oklahoma City, shouldn’t have surprised. Waiters was drafted in a different time, for a different team. ”
Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2320372-cleveland-cavaliers-ditch-dion-waiters-for-depth-defense-and-flexibility
– Thunder acquire Dion Waiters: Five big questions (from Royce Young, dailythunder.com):
Read it here: http://dailythunder.com/2015/01/thunder-acquire-dion-waiters-five-big-questions/
– The easy part is done — but now Phil Jackson’s true test begins (from Mike Vaccarro, NYPost):
” (C)redit Phil Jackson for finding a team to take J.R. Smith off his hands. Iman Shumpert, once a player the Knicks thought would be a permanent part of their foundation, goes with him to Cleveland. Samuel Dalembert goes to the waiver wire, and there is little reason to believe Amar’e Stoudemire will still be here after the trading deadline.
Go one, go all. And that will be how we remember Jackson’s first year on the job: Clearing the decks, clearing as much cap space as possible, and losing (if they’re lucky) 67 or 68 games. That part of the plan was missing from Jackson’s opening remarks last March, but that’s beside the point. This had to be done. This was necessary. And this really, truly, was the easy part.
Now, officially, comes the tricky stuff.
Now Jackson will actually have to find a use for all of that cap room. It always sounds like a better plan in theory than in practice…”
Read it here: http://nypost.com/2015/01/06/the-easy-part-is-done-but-now-phil-jacksons-true-test-begins/
– Grading the J.R. Smith-Dion Waiters-Iman Shumpert trade (from Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated):
Read it here: http://www.si.com/nba/2015/01/06/dion-waiters-jr-smith-iman-shumpert-cavaliers-knicks-thunder-trade-grades
– Breaking Down a Surprisingly Sensible Three-Way Trade (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):
Read it here: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/nba-trade-cleveland-cavalier-new-york-knicks-oklahoma-city-thunder/
– What if they did a trade and nobody was better off for it? (from Doug Smith, Toronto Star):
Read it here: http://www.thestar.com/sports/doug_smiths_sports_blog/2015/01/what_if_they_did_a_trade_and_nobody_was_better_off_for_it_.html
– How Monday’s Trade Worked Financially (from Chuck Myron, hoopsrumors.com):
Read it here: http://www.hoopsrumors.com/2015/01/mondays-worked-financially.html
Additional Player Updates:
– Nerlens Noel/Hollis Thompson: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20150106_Sixers__Noel_learning_by_sitting.html
– Damian Lillard: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2320752-in-win-over-lakers-damian-lillard-spreads-belief-in-new-brand-of-hero-ball
– Markieff Morris: http://www.foxsports.com/arizona/story/moving-forward-suns-need-more-power-from-markieff-morris-010515
– Jarnell Stokes: http://www.commercialappeal.com/sports/grizzlies/grizzlies-morning-after-stokes-living-a-dream
– Khem Birch: http://allucanheat.com/2015/01/06/rumors-teams-interested-d-league-prospect-khem-birch/
– Caron Butler: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2015/01/05/pistons-butler-will-take-soreness-win-streak/21314749/
– James Young: http://www.celticshub.com/2015/01/06/last-night-james-young-crushing/
– Clint Capela/Spencer Dinwiddie: http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2015/1/6/7496875/weekend-assignments-clint-capela-shows-glimpses-of-future-stardom
– Anthony Bennett: http://www.1500espn.com/sportswire/Anthony_Bennett_is_taking_and_missing_a_lot_of_deep_2pointers010615
– Jae Crowder: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/01/06/robb-jae-crowder-calls-out-celtics-teammates-after-latest-loss/
– Dante Cunningham: http://www.nba.com/pelicans/news/dante-cunningham-providing-hustle-defense-timely-scoring-bench-new-orleans