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HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Posted By Kyle Cape-Lindelin On April 28, 2013 @ 5:00 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Was Davis the Right Choice?
By Derek Page
The battle for Rookie of the Year for the 2012-13 NBA season has been virtually a two-man race all year long. Number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft Anthony Davis and sixth selection Damian Lillard have distinguished themselves as the cream of the crop of this past year’s draft class this season.
Lillard led all rookies in both points (19) and assists (6.5) per game this year for the Portland Trail Blazers. Meanwhile, Davis finished first in rebounds (8.2), steals (1.2) doubles-doubles (20) and blocks per game (1.8) to go along with being fourth in points per (13.5) among first year players.
Even though Lillard would’ve looked great in a New Orleans Hornets’ uniform this season, Davis – when healthy – has been one of the season’s most promising rookies. Tack on the fact that third-year point guard Greivis Vasquez has come into his own this season, finishing third in the NBA in assists per game at nine per contest, and Davis may be the better fit.
West Sees Conference Finals for Pacers
By Joel Brigham
Two years ago, the Indiana Pacers gave the Chicago Bulls all they could handle in a first-round series loss, then did the same thing last postseason in a hard-fought Eastern Conference Semifinals defeat at the hands of the Miami HEAT. Based on that progression, Indiana seems due for a trip to the Conference Finals.
According to Pacers forward David West, that’s exactly where his team is headed.
“We felt like we should make [the Conference Finals], but it’s one thing to have a feeling about something, and it’s something else entirely to go out there and do it,” West said. “Obviously, you’ve got to handle your business in order to get there, but we’re trying to be professional about where we are.”
One game into the series, that professionalism appears to be what is separating the Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks, and it could be the difference in the series. While the Hawks griped about no-calls, the Pacers hustled for every loose ball and played the kind of physical basketball necessary to win in the postseason. The fact that they know to do that is a huge advantage for Indiana in these playoffs.
How To Rebuild An NBA Franchise
By Bill Ingram
One of the hardest things to do in professional sports is rebuild a franchise, so much so that fans and teams alike dread the concept altogether. Still, there are 14 NBA teams currently grappling with the prospect of doing just that, to one degree or another. What’s the best approach? The best way to get a grasp on what it means to completely revamp an NBA franchise is to talk to someone who’s done it, someone like former Indiana Pacers general manager David Morway.
“First, before doing anything else, it’s important to do a thorough evaluation of the entire basketball operation including the status of the roster, the coaching staff, the scouting operation, the support staff, the team culture, the basketball operations infrastructure and the team’s cap situation and financial flexibility going forward,” said Morway, who worked with Larry Bird to help the Pacers bridge the Reggie Miller era and the current up-and-coming team. “In addition, I also think it’s important to spend some time understanding both the history of the franchise as well as how the franchise got to it’s current state. After all of that is done, then it’s important to develop a clear, concise game-plan for moving the franchise forward.”
The popular way for teams to talk about rebuilding now is in the mold of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who lost a ton of games, landed good draft picks, used them well and developed their talented young players into a championship-caliber team. Of course, they also had the benefit of a franchise move, which ensured rabid fan support during the tough losses, and they also happened to land Kevin Durant, who has turned into an all-world player. It’s fine to talk about doing it the OKC way, but that’s not necessarily something just any team can do.
Suns Bottom Out, But Have Options
By Lang Greene
In the Phoenix Suns’ first season without former league MVP Steve Nash, the franchise posted a 25-57 (.305) mark and finished the campaign with the fourth fewest wins in the league. The record was also the second worst in team history with only the 16 win 1968-69 edition keeping the club from setting a new all-time low. To be fair, most expected the 2013 season would be the start of a long rebuilding process for the Suns when it became known Nash was headed to Los Angeles.
But the winds of change haven’t stopped with Nash’s departure.
The club parted ways with head coach Alvin Gentry early in the season after a 13-28 start and his replacement on the bench, Lindsey Hunter, didn’t finish much better than his predecessor (12-29).
On Monday, the club announced general manager Lance Blanks was fired from his position of general manager, a role he held since 2010. He had just signed an extension with the team earlier this summer.
The Suns have missed the playoffs just six times in the past 25 seasons, so while the team may have bottomed out a bit in 2013 their cupboard is hardly bare heading into the offseason. The Suns will have options to change their fortune via the draft, free agency or trade market.
Clippers Are Deep But it’s About Chris Paul
By Eric Pincus
The Los Angeles Clippers are team built around their tremendous depth, but with the game on the line, it’s Chris Paul that makes them a contender.
Last year, it took seven games for the Clippers to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies on the road in the first round of playoffs. On Monday night, Los Angeles took a 2-0 series lead on a last-second lay up from Chris Paul.
“He has a knack and a will and a desire to step up in those moments,” said Coach Vinny Del Negro. “That’s what star players do. That’s the best part of the game.”
The Grizzlies rallied late, overcoming a 12-point deficit – culminating in a Marc Gasol dunk with 13.9 seconds left to tie the score at 91.
With a chance for the win, the Clippers wanted to get noted defender Tony Allen switched onto another player, but Paul couldn’t shake him. Instead, the All-Star guard went right at Allen, hitting a running bank shot for the victory.
Will Lakers Replace D’Antoni?
By Alex Kennedy
As soon as the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Mike Brown to return as their head coach, many people around the NBA were discussing how the hire would impact another team: the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers would have owed Brown about $11 million over the next two seasons, but an offset clause in his contract means L.A. doesn’t have to pay him the full amount now that he’s signing a five-year deal worth $25 million with Cleveland. Whatever the Cavaliers are paying Brown is deducted from what the Lakers owe him. What does that mean for the Lakers? It means Mike D’Antoni likely becomes much easier to fire at the end of the season if the organization is unhappy with his performance.
Throughout the season, multiple league sources felt D’Antoni’s job was safe because they doubted that the Lakers would be willing to pay three coaches (Brown, D’Antoni and their next hire). However, with most of Brown’s deal off the books (depending on how his contract with Cleveland is structured), the Lakers may be able to afford to fire D’Antoni and pay his replacement if they so choose.
Spurs Making Early Statement
By Yannis Koutroupis
It’s hard not to look ahead in the 2013 NBA Playoffs and think that the Miami HEAT and Oklahoma City Thunder are on a collision course for a rematch in the NBA Finals. Both teams are the top seeds in their respective conferences and currently hold 2-0 advantages in their first round series.
However, if there is one team that could prevent that rematch from occurring it is the San Antonio Spurs, who have regained their early-season form in their first round match up against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Spurs backed into the postseason, losing their last three games while Boris Diaw, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili dealt with various injuries. They also had a rare case of inner turmoil as they were forced to part ways with veteran swingman Stephen Jackson, who was not content with his role and made the mistake of bumping heads with head coach Gregg Popovich.. Diaw is still out and Parker has only looked like himself for about two quarters so far, but a rested and rejuvenated Ginobili has provided a major boost as the Spurs have made a statement through two games that they are still contenders.
The Return Of Mike Brown
By Steve Kyler
Word out of Cleveland is that Mike Brown has agreed to take the Cavaliers coaching job and that the team and Brown are simply working through the details of a contract that could be as long as five years.
If you recall when Brown was let go, it was more about trying to keep LeBron James in Cleveland than anything Brown was doing. There was a sense from owner Dan Gilbert that Brown had to go in order to keep LeBron. Byron Scott was tapped specifically for that purpose.
With LeBron clearly out of the picture, and let’s not kid anyone about 2014, as long as Miami is winning and winning big, LeBron is staying right where he is. So the idea that re-hiring Brown is somehow related to getting LeBron in 2014 is ignoring the fact that Brown was fired because of LeBron.
Brown’s return has more to do with the Cavs finding themselves with a roster full of amazingly talented players who can’t defend anyone. Bringing back Brown makes a world of sense both for Brown, who has a great set of tools to work with, but also for the Cavs that are trying to ignite excitement about a franchise that is floundering.
Can Leiweke Build Lakers North In Toronto?
By Stephen Brotherston
Tim Leiweke has been associated with champion sports franchises in Los Angeles for a long time, so when he unexpectedly became available after Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) founder Philip Anschutz decided not to sell his sports empire this spring, it didn’t take long for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) to make a play for his services.
“Tim Leiweke is one of the top sports executives in the world, renowned for his ability to build championship teams, premier entertainment events, and innovative brand and marketing opportunities,” MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum said in a press release. “Tim is a leader who understands what fans want and what it takes to build winners. With his deep leadership experience and unparalleled success at the highest levels of professional sports, Tim’s the right CEO at the right time to lead the transformation of MLSE.”
Like MLSE, AEG owns or has stakes in NHL, NBA and MLS franchises and owns or operates numerous other sports and entertainment properties. As the long-time former president and CEO of AEG, Leiweke was ideally suited to take over the post in Toronto and it was the challenge of turning the floundering professional franchises in Toronto around and re-creating the winning culture he was a part of in Los Angeles that attracted him to the job. Where the Toronto Maple Leafs have started making their turnaround already, Leiweke plans on focusing most of his immediate efforts on the Toronto Raptors.
The Knicks Most Important Win in a Decade
By Tommy Beer
Prior to the start of Game 2 on Tuesday night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers was asked about his team’s chances evening the series at 1-1 by stealing a game inside MSG. Rivers cracked a smiled as he reflected back on the championship pride the Celtics had exhibited on the road in years past. “It was almost like they WANTED to play on the road…” Rivers told reporters. He described how those great Celtic teams cherished those opportunities and, more often than not, rose to the challenge in those situations.
Coming into Friday night, the New York Knickerbockers hadn’t won a single road playoff game since April 29th, 2001. Yes, the last time New York won a postseason game away from Madison Square Garden, Bill Clinton was still in office.
In the first two years following Melo’s arrival, the Knicks had taken baby steps, advancing to the postseason two years in row but losing eight of the nine games they played. This year’s edition is clearly the best team the Knicks have fielded in long time, as evidenced by their capturing of the Atlantic Division crown (for the first time since 1994) and securing the number two over seed in the East; and further proven by their relatively easy wins in the first two games of their first round series against the Celtics.
However, the Knicks faced the stiffest challenge of their season on Friday night, when they headed up to Boston to take on the Celtics in front of nearly 19,000 fired up fans in an emotionally-charged TD Garden.
New York’s response was a resounding success, as their played one of their more complete, well-rounded games of the season – crushing the Celtics 90-76. Considering the environment in which the game was played, and lack of important postseason contests this team has been involved in of late, this victory was arguably the franchise’s most impressive and important win in well over a decade.
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