A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out. C : Upside and Motor . Bidding farewell to Anthony Randolph, a collection of athleticism and skills enticed the early positional revolutionaries and whose inability to put it all together consistently on the grand stage confounded the Internet and NBA lifers alike. He belongs to Russia now. Vaya con dios , Anthony. PF : Regressing . Missed this late last week, but a good strength-of-schedule analysis based on a variety of rest-related factors turned in by the great Ed Kupfer . SF : The Podium Game . A neat, easily accessible, video-based infographic scouting report on Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe's offensive game by Tom Westerholm. SG : Salt City Hoops . Speaking of scouting reports, here's Dakota Schmidt with a video-heavy look at how Trey Burke stacked on both ends of the floor during his rookie season for the Utah Jazz and what the 2013 first-rounder needs to work on as he enters Year 2, which could see him pressed for time at the point by 2014 lottery selection Dante Exum. PG : The Sporting News . Sean Deveney talks with former NBA guard Derek Anderson about his difficult journey, which saw him abandoned by his parents before he even hit high school, his efforts to try to find and help them later in life, and his decision to write about it all. 6th : Sportsnet . Dave Zarum and Matt Bonner talk about comedy — Andy Kaufman , improve , Internet videos , you name it — and why having a sense of humor is a really important part of being a member o the San Antonio Spurs. 7th : Eye on Basketball . Matt Moore goes in-depth on how the Phoenix Suns were able to completely surpass expectations last year and turn in a top-10 offense despite entering the season without a singular dominant scoring option and relatively few reliable expected contributors. 8th : Raptors Republic . Alex Wong and Blake Murphy chat about pressing issues facing the 2014-15 Toronto Raptors, like potential punchlines Drake might use to reference his KD tampering fine and the fallout from it ("“KD loves Toronto, he needs no reminding / I talked to Silver, I’m all about the linings.") 9th : HoopsHabit . Breaking down the Boston Celtics' options with Rajon Rondo, the prospective motivations behind their future course of action, and the likelihood that noted wheeler/dealer/ negotiating nutcracker Danny Ainge just lets his All-Star point guard stay put. 10th : Hardwood Paroxysm . Steve McPherson wonders whether next season's Cleveland Cavaliers team will look more like the 2010-11 Miami Heat that struggled to find rhythm and ultimately fell to the Dallas Mavericks than the versions of Miami that hoisted the O'Brien the next two seasons. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
The idea of an obvious NBA leader is a tricky thing. Point guards are typically asked to act as a team’s leader because they tend to walk the ball up court and call the plays, but oftentimes the best NBA offenses don’t – or shouldn’t – rely on a point man dominating the ball. The top overall pick in a draft is usually added to a team to become its franchise player, but working as a high lottery selection usually means you’re paired with players on a terribly poor team. They could include aging and disinterested vets, youngsters that haven’t gotten their act right, or limited players that no amount of sound leadership can help remake or remodel. Acting as the most talented player on the team usually means being burdened with the status/privilege of acting as a leader, but an ability to break down defenses or swat away heaps of shots doesn’t always lend itself to being able to act a right Knute Rockne in the locker room. These are the fascinating elements that have long been in place in a star-driven league that still relies on strong team play to win. Nobody knows this more that Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who was drafted first overall in 2011 before watching his Cavaliers take two more top overall selections in the years since, while never coming close to sniffing the playoffs in his three NBA seasons. Now paired with LeBron James and tasked with acting as the lead guard on a championship contender after years of watching his team’s championship contention end sometime around Christmas, Irving copped to failings as a “leader” in an interview with RealGM’s Shams Charania recently : “I haven’t been a leader – not at all,” Irving told RealGM. […] “I’m more than excited with our new veterans. I’m really excited just from the standpoint of how the locker room is going to go and how to really be a professional. I’m not saying that the veterans that we had weren’t professionals themselves, but we didn’t have enough. Given the right and wrong things to do in the league, I’ve had to learn on my own and that’s what some of us been doing. “Now, we have guys who’ve been in the league for years, guys who’ve won championships and have had to give a piece of their game for the greater good of the team. It’s something I admire and something I’m going to learn from.” Irving truly does have it made with James in the room, a star who has dealt with more criticism than any player in NBA history not so much because of his early failings, but because of an ever-growing amount of media saturation on several different platforms. Whether James deserved it or not is beyond the point. What matters now, entering 2014-15, is that LeBron James has been through the storm. From here, we have to move onto the question of whether or not Irving deserves criticism. The Cleveland Cavaliers foolishly thought they could contend after James left the team in 2010, the franchise’s owner said as much in a public letter, and refused to rebuild until a miserable 2010-11 campaign was past its midpoint. The squad then lottery-lucked its way into receiving the top overall pick in selecting Kyrie, who was tossed into a world of dysfunction. Irving had played just 11 games at Duke the season before and missed a proper NBA training camp and rookie orientation program due to the league’s locking out of its players. He also missed 38 games due to injury over the course of his first two seasons, as coach Byron Scott seemed to stand helplessly by on the sidelines. The re-hiring of Mike Brown in Irving’s third year didn’t seem to help, nor did the arrival of top overall pick Anthony Bennett. Tristan Thompson’s growth has come on the slowest of curves, and lottery pick Dion Waiters has both clashed with Irving and shown a miserable sense of shot selection and station at times. This has not been an ideal upbringing. Could Irving have done much about it? Possibly, but certainly not enough to create massive change in the Cavalier ranks. None of these teams should have come close to the postseason. One has to work through the paces, because not every certain star can come into the league and play for a ready-made winner, as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were gifted. It took Isiah Thomas years and two or three different variations of his Detroit Pistons. Same with Michael Jordan, including four coaches along the way. And if Irving wants to model himself after anyone, LeBron James wouldn’t be a bad place to start. James deferred in his first season in the presence of knuckleheads like Darius Miles and Ricky Davis. He did the absolute best he could after free agent signings like Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes – rightfully lauded at the time – failed to pan out. He took a miserable supporting cast to the 2007 NBA Finals, he handled the terrible and embarrassing mistake that was The Decision as best he could, and properly responded to the disappointment of losing the 2011 NBA Finals to a (better) Dallas Mavericks club with professionalism and a re-shaping of his offensive game. Along the way, he’s watched as his Q rating, respect amongst peers and reputation amount journalists and fans have come to match his already-sterling production on the basketball court. Irving hasn’t been through a scintilla of what James has, and while he is still going to be counted on to wreak havoc on NBA defenses (while improving his own work on that side of the ball), he can also be counted on as the NBA’s luckiest man. Cleveland Cavaliers front office and ownership group excluded, of course. This is where Irving can step up. LeBron James has played deep into June for four consecutive years, and he wants to do the same for four more, but he’ll need another voice as his enters his 30s (in this unprecedented career) and wearies. James didn’t mention Andrew Wiggins in his Cavalier announcement . Kevin Love isn’t yet part of this team and the enjoyment of once again playing alongside Anderson Varejao only counts for so much. LeBron James returned to Cleveland to come back to northern Ohio, but in strict basketball terms he returned to play alongside Kyrie Irving. Kyrie Irving can use this as all the cachet he needs in order to keep things moving correctly on the court, and in the locker room. He’s been blessed with something pretty special, and the good news is that he’s apparently more than aware of it. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
Team USA stands to face several strong sides at the FIBA World Cup of Basketball later this month and in September. One of those teams is France, surprise winners of last summer's EuroBasket tournament. While the French do not feature longtime star and leader Tony Parker and therefore figure not to match their EuroBasket performance, a team with players like Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw, and Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi would figure to pose some difficulties for many opponents. If one moment from a Sunday exhibition between France and the Philippines is any evidence, though, then there's a pretty simple way to defend Mahinmi — send him to the free-throw line. In the third quarter of the game in Antibes on the Mediterranean Sea, Mahinmi went to the charity stripe for two shots. Neither went very well. There's not really an effective way to put a silver lining around consecutively airballed free throws, but Mahinmi can take some solace in knowing that it was probably an isolated incident. In six NBA seasons, Mahinmi has shot 65.1 percent from the line with no season mark ever dipping under 60 percent. Those aren't good stats, but they're certainly not embarrassing for a 6-11 big man not known for his on-ball skills. It remains to be seen if Mahinmi will turn around his free-throw shooting in FIBA play, although France went on to win 75-68 with a game-closing 20-8 run and several missed free throws from the Philippines in the final minutes. As far as I know, those misses have not become viral sensations. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric