NBA PM: Boston Waiting To Rebuild?
There’s a reason Jared Sullinger was available for the Boston Celtics with the 21st pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. President Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers knew the issue before they chose the 6-8 power forward. They know it can’t be solved overnight and they’re willing to deal with it head on.
“There are some issues there,” said Ainge of Sullinger’s back injury on Thursday, as quoted by Gary Dzen of Boston.com. “Our medical staff thinks that short-term and long-term there may be some maintenance issues with the back. Doc Rivers played with a herniated disk for 13 years. It may need surgery at some point, it may not.”
But if Ainge didn’t seem overly concerned on Thursday, that might be because he’s not counting on Sullinger for a big contribution in 2012-2013. Even though everyone is waiting for it, Ainge and the Celtics might not begin their inevitable rebuilding process this summer or even next.
Ainge is still waiting on a decision from Kevin Garnett, who could retire or re-sign, and from there, the Celtics will be preparing for another championship run.
Yes, the Celtics added three rookies on Thursday (Syracuse’s Fab Melo and Kris Joseph being the other two), but Ainge is perfectly happy waiting for Garnett’s decision and staving off another youth movement for the time being.
“I’ve been talking with Kevin and his people and don’t really have any conclusions yet,” said Ainge. “That’s our No. 1 option. One reason is because he’s such a valuable player…
“For a team that is trying to win, it’s tough to count on three rookies coming in,” Ainge continued. “Maybe one will be ready to go, maybe two will contribute. But we plan to fill in with veterans from here on out.”
In all likelihood, Melo is probably capable of playing some minutes in the NBA right away. If the Celtics re-sign Greg Stiemsma, he and the 7-1 Melo could rotate in the middle, allowing Garnett to move back to power forward.
It’s unlikely that Ray Allen returns (Chicago, Phoenix and Miami will all make a run at him), but that doesn’t mean the Celtics are done competing for a title. The truth is, the youth movement is still on hold in Boston. Sullinger’s back may take awhile to heal properly and veterans like Paul Pierce aren’t quite done yet. The day will come when Boston rebuilds, but that day isn’t today.
Kostas Papanikolaou isn’t Frédéric Weis
The reaction from Knicks fans was predictable.
They didn’t know who Kostas Papanikolaou is. They haven’t heard of him and they sure as heck don’t think he can help the Knicks next season.
And they’re right.
“He’s got at least one more year on his contract,” Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald told the media of the Olympiakos forward on Thursday night, as quoted by Marc Berman of the New York Post. “We’ll evaluate him next year and decide when to bring him over. He’s also a good asset because he is an excellent player.”
So Papanikolaou—the 48th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and the only player the Knicks added on Thursday—will stay in Greece where he’ll remain a mystery to New Yorkers.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because Frédéric Weis is still rattling around in the brains of Knicks fans. The 15thoverall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft will never be forgiven for not being Ron Artest, James Posey, Andrei Kirilenko or Manu Ginobili, all of whom were selected after the Frenchman. Of course, Weis doesn’t get too much grief from Knicks fans because he never really met any of them. The 7-1 center stayed at CSP Limoges in France before moving on to the Greek and Spanish Leagues, but he never made it to the NBA.
In fact, the closest Weis ever got to the NBA was watching Vince Carter jump over him for a dunk at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
But Weis and Papanikolaou were taken for completely different reasons and shouldn’t be confused for each other.
First, as the 15th pick, there is a legitimate expectation that Weis should have made it to the NBA and contributed. Maybe he wouldn’t have been the best center in the league, but when you pick someone at No. 15, the belief is he’ll at least wear the uniform.
At No. 48, however, Papanikolaou is a low-risk, high-reward proposition. He was a hero of the 2012 Euroleague semifinals and finals as he hit all eight of his field goals for the eventual champions.
But, as ESPN analyst and former college coach Fran Fraschilla told me in an interview for The Wall Street Journal, Papanikolaou is less of a great shooter and more of a defense/energy guy, going as far as to describe him as a “Greek Bruce Bowen.”
“We think he’s a good player and think he’s going to get better,’’ Grunwald said. “It’s an investment in our future. He got better over the season, wound up being the MVP of the Euroleague Final Four. We ranked him pretty high. Given where we are with our team, it was unlikely we’d draft anyone at 48 to step in and contribute. We felt this player can grow overseas.
The 6-8 forward isn’t a bad offensive player. He’s just not going to make a living in the NBA on that end of the floor. Yes, he did make 60 percent of his 2-point field goals in 28 Greek League games this season, but he only shot the ball 5.3 times per game, which is why he averaged just 7.7 ppg.
However, unlike Bowen, Papanikolaou is actually an accomplished ball handler, who can create shots for himself and others. It’s not necessarily the prettiest form—no one is going to mistake him for Magic Johnson—but Knicks fans watched Anthony Mason’s aesthetically unappealing, yet remarkably effective ball handling for five years. They know it doesn’t have to look pretty to get the job done.
“He plays hard,’’ Grunwald said. “He’s a good athlete. He needs to improve his shooting. We’ve watched him over the course of the year and he’s improved dramatically over this year. We see him as a guy who’s going to work and improve.”
Papanikolaou actually might be a smart pick for the Knicks BECAUSE he won’t play in the NBA next season. If Grunwald didn’t think there were any contributors at that stage in the second round, he was smart to take someone he won’t have to pay in 2012-2013 because it will help him stave off the stiff luxury tax penalty and he won’t tie up a roster spot that could have been used on a veteran rotation player.
The Knicks see themselves as contenders next year and because they have limited cap space, they may need to fill their roster with veterans who are willing to take the minimum. In other words, they can’t waste their roster spots on someone who can’t contribute right now.
“Free agency is important to us this year,’’ Grunwald said. “We want to keep all four of them. We hope to make strides in that area. The 48th pick, the success rate isn’t that great.’’
Maybe the Knicks didn’t come away with a game changer on Thursday night, but the pick wasn’t the complete failure that some fans believed it was. Grunwald has roster space and the luxury tax to think about, and adding players who won’t play in 2012-2013 is an extravagance this team simply doesn’t have right now.
The Knicks didn’t balk at a chance to improve on Thursday. In all likelihood, they’re just being prudent.
Hurley Pumps Up Taylor to Nets Fans
Legendary St. Anthony (Jersey City) High School boys basketball coach Bobby Hurley saw another one of his former players enter the NBA on Thursday when the Nets acquired the rights to the 41st overall pick, Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor.
Taylor was a member of St. Anthony’s undefeated 2008 National Title-winning team, which is one reason Hurley told Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. that the Nets are getting a real winner.
“He’s used to winning,” Hurley told Zagoria. “He won in college, he won in high school. I think he’s going to be a better pro than anyone would’ve ever thought.”
“We liked him,” Nets general manager Billy King told the media on Thursday, as quoted by Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com. “We had him pretty high on our board. Avery [Johnson, the Nets' coach] and I have been talking about getting a young point guard that we can groom down the road with his pedigree in winning big games. Once we saw him starting to slide, we started maneuvering to get there.”
Taylor wasn’t a point guard until he arrived at Kansas, and is still learning the position. That’s why he had an assist-to-turnover ratio 1.35 as a senior.
But Taylor can score (19.9 ppg as a senior) and isn’t afraid to shoot from deep (38.2-percent 3-point accuracy as a senior).
The best-case scenario for Taylor would be for Deron Williams to re-sign with the Nets and for Jason Kidd to return to the team. That way the budding point guard could sit back for a season and learn from two of the best to ever play the position.
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