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HOOPSWORLD Week in Review
Posted By Kyle Cape-Lindelin On May 12, 2013 @ 5:00 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Will Chris Paul Stay With Clippers?
By Derek Page
The 2013 NBA season for the Los Angeles Clippers came to an abrupt end this past week after the team posted the best regular season in franchise history. Los Angeles won a franchise-best 56 games over the course of the year, culminating in the first division title in franchise history. The Clippers rode that momentum into the first round of the 2013 NBA postseason, winning the first two games against the Memphis Grizzlies in impressive fashion.
Then the wheels came off.
L.A. was blown out in four straight contests by an average of 14 points per game at the hands of the Grizzlies, bringing the Clippers’ season to a sudden and unexpected end.
Despite averaging 22.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting and dishing out 6.3 assists per game, Clippers’ point guard Chris Paul was ousted in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in five career postseason appearances. The Clippers’ most consistent player over the course of the team’s brief postseason, and a free agent to-be this summer, Paul was understandably frustrated after his team’s early exit.
“This right here was unacceptable,” Paul told ESPN LA’s Arash Markazi. “We lost in the first round to a good Memphis team but a team we were capable of beating. There are no moral victories … I have nothing to do. This is unreal. We only played two weeks long than everyone else that didn’t make the playoffs. That sucks. That stings.”
Which brings us to the Clippers’ most important question heading into the offseason: Will Paul stay in Los Angeles?
Durant’s Greatness Overshadowed
By Alex Kennedy
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. It’s no longer a debate, it’s a fact.
This week, James became just the fifth player in NBA history to win four MVP awards, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Statistic after statistic shows how he dominates the game on both ends of the court. When he entered the league, there was an unprecedented amount of hype surrounding him, but he has somehow exceeded all expectations. When all is said and done, he’ll go down as one of the greatest players to ever grace the hardwood.
James is a once-in-a-generation talent, which is why Kevin Durant and his greatness have been overshadowed. Much like every star that played when Michael Jordan reigned over the NBA, Durant’s achievements go overlooked and he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves.
“I’ve been second my whole life,” Durant recently told Sports Illustrated. “I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.”
This season, Durant shot 51 percent from the field, 42 percent from three-point range and 91 percent from the free throw line. Only five other players in NBA history have hit those percentages in a season – Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, Mark Price and Larry Bird – and the exclusive group has been dubbed the 50-40-90 club. Durant became the first member of the club to also average one steal and one block on the season, which is a testament to his all-around game.
The Stay In School Or Go Pro Debate
By Lang Greene
The NBA Draft early entrant list was locked in last week and while most players expected to be surefire lottery picks threw their names into the mix, one notable omission, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, decided to return to school and in the process helped stir up the perennial debate around this time of year.
Is it wise for players guaranteed to be lottery picks to return to school for an additional season in the college ranks? Recent history says projected lottery pick guys who decide to return to school will routinely see their respective draft stocks slip the following the season.
Boston Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger immediately comes to mind. After an outstanding freshman season at Ohio State, which landed Sullinger in most pre-draft top five lists, Sullinger returned to school but to most observers had a disappointing sophomore campaign. Sullinger entered the draft, tumbled down the first round and was subsequently selected by Boston with the No. 21 overall pick – losing millions of dollars in the process.
So is it unwise to return to school under all circumstances?
Celtics Should Wait Until 2014 to Reload
By Stephen Brotherston
It was too emotional for head coach Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to discuss the Boston Celtics’ future immediately after being eliminated from the playoffs in six games by the New York Knicks, but everyone wants to know what’s next for these three icons.
“[We are] obviously digesting the current [situation] and Doc came to me and Paul off to the side and all three of us agreed to speak later,” Garnett said after the Game 6 loss.
The ties between these three Celtics are strong and if one of them goes, it should not come as a surprise if none of them are at training camp. However, that would not be in the team’s best interests. For all the complaints about Pierce’s declining skills, he was still the team’s leading scorer this past season. Garnett has hinted about retirement, but if Pierce and Rivers are back, they should be able to talk the team’s defensive anchor into going one more round. Even if Rivers might sound like he would like some time off on occasion, he’s just 51 years old and has become one of the league’s best coaches. It is pretty hard to imagine Rivers not coaching next season.
For those proposing this is the summer to rebuild, the Celtics would have some major hurdles to overcome. If the Celtics took advantage of the buyout in Pierce’s contract, they still would have $62.6 million in guaranteed player’s salaries and no room to play in the free agent market. Even if Garnett retired without insisting on a buyout – something that seems highly unlikely if Pierce was bought out – there still isn’t enough salary cap space to go after a big-name free agent. This does not preclude Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge from pursuing trade opportunities or attempting a tear down to grab lottery picks in 2014, however, next summer, Boston’s window to reload opens again.
Waiters Striving For Greatness
By Yannis Koutroupis
There were a lot of people who questioned the Cleveland Cavaliers decision to draft Dion Waiters fourth overall in last year’s draft. After all, Waiters didn’t even start at Syracuse and wasn’t ranked anywhere near that high at the beginning of the predraft process. However, with his rookie campaign in the books it’s more than clear that Waiters was deserving of such a high selection. He averaged 14 points, two rebounds and three assists a game, very respectable numbers for a rookie. That taste of success has left Waiters hungry for more.
While most NBA players are enjoying their time off and on vacation right now, Waiters has already been back in the gym for over a week. He spent most of last week at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, getting in the gym as early at 7:30 AM some days to work on his game.
“There’s always motivation, just finishing where I finished at and not making the playoffs,” Waiters said. “I’m just trying to get after it. I still feel like I have a lot to prove. At the end of the day I want to be great, so that’s what I’m trying to do.
Improbably, Knicks’ Role Players Step Up
By Tommy Beer
Carmelo Anthony is the NBA’s reigning scoring champion. J.R. Smith won the 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year Award. Tyson Chandler took home Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. And Jason Kidd is one of the most decorated and accomplished postseason performers in NBA playoff history.
Conventional wisdom dictated that the New York Knicks’ offensive success this postseason would be overly reliant on their two top scorers – Anthony and Smith. Similarly, Chandler would need to fiercely patrol the paint and control the boards if the Knicks had any hope of defending well enough to make significant noise this postseason.
Yet, the aforementioned stars have been only sporadically effective and often inefficient. However, a band of lesser-known Knicks have played crucial roles in helping carry New York into the second round for the first time this century, and evening their current Conference Semifinals series against the Indiana Pacers at one game apiece. Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert and Kenyon Martin have exceeded even optimistic Knicks fans’ extreme expectations. The feats of these role players over the past few weeks are even more incredible when you consider the journey they each have traveled over the previous 12 months.
Is the Pressure On San Antonio?
By Bill Ingram
For three and a half quarters of the first game of the Western Conference Semifinals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, the upstart Warriors looked like the superior team. As the Spurs lethargically made their way up and down the court, Steph Curry and the Warriors pushed the tempo and scored at will en route to a 16-point fourth quarter lead.
And then the Spurs did what they do.
A veteran team doesn’t allow the highs and lows of a game to impact their intensity, and there are few teams in the league who have seen as many runs and weathered as many storms as the grizzled Spurs. True to form, the Spurs kept working, and wound up tying the game before winning in double overtime. Rather than taking the stunning loss as a setback, the Warriors are doing what they’ve done all season, spinning it into a positive.
“We deserve to be here in this situation, regardless of age and experience,” Curry told Marcus Thompson of the Mercury News. “We feel very confident with where we’re at right now.”
Big Changes for Bulls?
By Joel Brigham
Here’s the cold hard truth: the Chicago Bulls team that is currently slugging it out with the Miami HEAT in the Eastern Conference Semifinals is not the same Chicago Bulls team that is going to take the court next season, and they’re even more different from the team that will hit the court in 2014-2015.
That seems like seriously forward thinking, but with some fans clamoring for Nate Robinson’s return, it’s absolutely something the Bulls themselves already are considering. It not only is going to affect the fate of Nate, but also will dictate the kind of money Chicago spends this offseason and what kinds of trades they’ll consider over the course of the next year. For starters, it’s important to note that Chicago paid the luxury tax this season for the first time in franchise history, and if given the option it’s not something the organization would do every single year, particularly not with the increasingly punitive effects of the new luxury tax.
So what does that mean for Nate Robinson? Robinson made $854,389 this season, which obviously was one of the best contracts in the NBA, but it was a one-year deal and certainly quite a bit less than he’s expected to get as a free agent this summer. Even if he gets only $2-3 million a year on a 2-3 year deal, Chicago will have Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, and Marquis Teague under contract for $22.765 million. Why would they tack on any extra money for a player that does the kinds of things Rose is expected to do already?
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