HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
First Time All-Star Candidates For 2013
By Lang Greene
Every season a new batch of players take their respective games to the next level and achieve their first All-Star selection. HOOPSWORLD takes a look at some of the players who have the opportunity to make the leap during the 2012-2013 campaign:
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
Last Season: 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 28 double-doubles
When Atlanta Hawks All-Star center Al Horford succumbed to injury early in the 2012 campaign it was the play of Smith not the team’s franchise player, Joe Johnson, which kept the Hawks relevant in the postseason race.
Smith has continued to develop into a leader both on and off the court for Atlanta, but the eighth year veteran is plagued by a mainstream perception which is no longer applicable. Smith’s All-Star snub last season left more than a few heads scratching, but there are two reasons why the forward may make the leap this season.
The first, Smith is in a contract year and will undoubtedly be one of the top five most coveted players next summer in free agency. The second, this will be more of Smith’s team than ever before with Johnson dealt to Brooklyn early this summer.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Last Season: 14.3 points, 6.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 34% 3PT FG
The good folks in Toronto are thinking playoffs for the first time in years and part of the reason for the optimism is the arrival of Lowry into town. Longtime Raptors starting point guard Jose Calderon is a high assist, low turnover floor general and remains a very respectable professional, but in Lowry head coach Dwane Casey finally has the point guard he desired to run his system.
The NBA’s Top-5 Playmakers
By Derek Page
It takes a special set of skills to be considered a playmaker in today’s NBA. Playmakers are players that can change the game at the drop of a hat with a spectacular pass that elicits a collective gasp from the arena crowd.
Assists are the main benchmark for a playmaker but being a dual threat as a scorer goes hand and hand with getting teammates open looks. These players use that to their advantage the best and help to make the game easier for everyone around them.
For all intents and purposes, these guys are the engine behind their team’s offensive success.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top-5 playmakers heading into the upcoming season:
1. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
For the majority of his career, especially since his relocation to Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, Nash has been the epitome of the prototypical, John Stockton-like facilitator. The combination of first rate handles to get to the basket at will, nifty finishing moves when he gets there, and deadly accuracy practically anywhere on the court allows his teammates to get open looks all game long. Tack on Nash’s court vision and ability to thread the needle in any given situation and you’re looking at the top playmaker in the game.
For the better part of the last decade, Nash has been near the top of the league in assists per game every season. In fact, Nash led the league in assists per game in two of the past three seasons (five of the last eight overall) and has finished no lower than third in the NBA in dimes since 2003.
This is a huge reason why the Lakers were so aggressive in their pursuit of the former two-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Nash’s ability to get everyone both involved and satisfied on this potent Lakers’ offense will pay dividends in helping LA to gel more quickly in the upcoming season.
Ready To Break Out Of The Basement
By Steve Kyler
Breaking Out Of The Basement: The top of the NBA has been pretty consistent over the past few years. The LA Lakers, The San Antonio Spurs, The Miami HEAT and Chicago Bulls are among the top tier, but just as the top has its usual faces, so too does the basement of the NBA. After repeated visits to the NBA draft lottery there are some teams from the NBA basement that might ready to break out and maybe sniff at the postseason.
Key Additions: Aaron Brooks and Thomas Robinson
If the Kings were in the Eastern Conference they might have enough talent to challenge for the 8th seed, but because the Kings are going face extremely tough Western Conference teams night in and night out, the road to the Playoffs may be too much for the Kings. The talent is there in Sacramento, but overcoming the better, deeper teams the West has to offer is going to require more than talent. It tends to take 46 wins or more, on average, to crack the postseason in the West. Sacramento hasn’t seen 46 wins in more than seven seasons and won just 33% of their games last season. There could be progress this season but cracking the postseason seems like a stretch unless someone in Kings uniform becomes an All-Star this season.
Was Michael Jordan Selfish?
By Bill Ingram
In the world of the NBA, as in so many other things, there is a narrative that goes along with special player and special teams which is created by the media. The hope is that the media, being in a position to know a great deal more about those situations than the observing public, will keep the narrative as close to reality as possible. That’s the hope, but it’s not always the case.
Take, for example, the idea that players often come into the NBA with one thing in mind, but then evolve and change as their careers advance. One such story says that players like Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, the best players of their era, were selfish at first, but learned to trust their teammates over time and transformed into champions as a result of that revelation.
“I disagree with that,” Olajuwon tells HOOPSWORLD. “The media or spectator put it in an article looking at it from this point of view. Then, you can’t change the mindset of people after that. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say a superstar, for example. A selfish player is not going to play intelligent basketball. He’s always going to get the ball and shoot it. When I see a superstar, true superstar, his role is to leverage all the positions to his advantage to win the game. That means he’s the one controlling, finishing the job. In the backcourt or inside, if two guys come, move the ball, find the open guy. So, if he shoots over two or three guys because he just has to shoot, those are the shots that make you say bad shot. If they’re forced or crowed, those are bad shots. That means the franchise guy is not reliable. So, but they said something about Jordan in his career that he’s selfish. A guy like Jordan passing or making the right decision is instinctive, you don’t think about it. You just want to win. You’re just playing. You don’t think. The selfish player purposely holds the ball. There’s a huge difference.”
Ollie Ready To Take Over At UConn?
Late Wednesday word started to circulate that college basketball was losing a great head coach as Jim Calhoun, who has battled a series of health issues over the last few years, decided to retire before his 41st season as head coach of the Connecticut Huskies.
Calhoun walks away with 873 wins and three national championships, the most recent coming in 2011. The reports were followed by a long string of his former players, like Rudy Gay of the Memphis Grizzlies and Charlie Villanueva of the Detroit Pistons, praising him and voicing their shock over this mildly-surprising announcement.
Due to the timing of Calhoun’s retirement, the focus quickly shifted to who would replace him. While Calhoun, a 2005 inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and his career accomplishments deserve to be looked back on, there will be plenty of time for that in the future. In the meantime, the Huskies men’s basketball program needs a new head coach.
Former NBA veteran and third-year assistant coach at UConn Kevin Ollie has widely been reported as Calhoun’s successor. However, Ollie’s agent, Bill Neff, cautioned HOOPSWORLD late Wednesday night that nothing was agreed to or in writing and that the way things were being written by other outlets were not how they were actually occurring.
An Unlikely Contender In The West?
By Bill Ingram
“This is Dallas. We compete for championships here.”
Those words were spoken by Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle earlier this week as he sat alongside the majority of his new players for the 2012-13 NBA season. On his right were Dahntay Jones, Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand, all lined up at a table with microphones in front of each.
Admittedly, it’s a hard sell at first. After all, this new group of Mavericks is made up largely of cast-offs who don’t have a championship ring among them. It’s a far cry from the familiar faces who defined the Mavericks for much of the last five seasons and won a championship just over a year ago.
Then again, the more we talked with this new crop of Mavericks the harder it was to simply dismiss them out of hand.
To start with, the front court is going to be pretty impressive. Chris Kaman and Elton Brand played together as members of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Kaman has played with Dirk Nowitzki on the German national team, as well.
“Playing with a player as talented as Dirk Nowitzki, Chris and myself are used to having the best defenders guarding us and that’s no longer going to happen,” said Brand. “Dirk is one of the greatest, so we’re looking forward to exploiting match-ups, taking advantage in the low post or wherever Coach has us. We expect to be able to exploit those match-ups with Dirk out there with us at different times. … Chris and I played for five or six years together and some of the sets we had, he would pass me the ball and I would score (laughing). I’d like to continue that tradition here.”
Some Coaches Need To Win Now
By Steve Kyler
Better Win Now: There is an expression in the coaching world that all coaches accept and embrace – “Coaches are hired to be fired.”
Anyone who accepts a head coaching job in the NBA knows that the clock starts the moment they hold their press conference and that the easiest change a team can make is at head coach.
As the 2012-13 NBA season gets underway in roughly two weeks, there are few coaches that have to get things going or they could very easily be out before the season ends.
Here are some of the names to watch:
Avery Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
No one expected Avery Johnson to win games in New Jersey. The roster was not constructed to win games and Avery, for the most part, got a free pass as the team prepared for this past off-season. All of that changes when the Nets open their inaugural season in Brooklyn in two weeks. Not only do the Nets expect to compete. They expect to win a lot of games and if Avery cannot deliver a winner in Brooklyn he could very easily be out. The saving grace for Avery is that owner Mikhail Prokhorov likes him a great deal. However with so much of the Nets future riding on them being good from day one, the expectations on Avery have more than doubled and if he does not deliver, someone else could be running things in year two in Brooklyn.