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 : Sports on Earth . Michael Pina on the "minor miracle" of the Dallas Mavericks' offseason work, and how Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle and the staggeringly selfless Dirk Nowitzki might have another contender on their hands. PF : numberFire . One area where the Mavs still look a little shaky, though, is at the point — who should start there? SF : Silver Screen and Roll . OK, Kobe says he likes the moves , but seriously: could this year's model be the worst Los Angeles Lakers team we've ever seen? SG : Pounding the Rock . Jesus Gomez brings us up to speed on the roiling chaos within the Argentine Basketball Association, which could result in the veteran members of the team's legendary "Golden Generation," like Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Pablo Prigioni, not suiting up for this summer's FIBA World Cup. PG : Bright Side of the Sun . Amid rumors that the Phoenix Suns might be interested in making a run at Greg Monroe, Garrett Benson questions why Ryan McDonough, Jeff Hornacek and company would be considering a max or near-max deal for a restricted free agent big man who doesn't seem to line up with Phoenix's game plan. 6th : Gothic Ginobili . "… if NBA fans are going to boycott the NFL for their treatment of the [Ray] Rice case , they should probably start off by storming the NBA's league office in New York and demanding answers on the NBA's pitiful track record." 7th : FOX Sports Ohio . To hear LeBron James' closest longtime friends tell it, even they didn't know where he was going until the essay went live. Zac Jackson talked to LeBron's pals about what it was like spending the week before the announcement with James in Vegas. 8th : Hoop365 , TrueHoop , SB Nation and The Triangle . More ideas, coverage and consideration of the Oklahoma City Thunder's reported plan to make 2014 first-round draft pick Josh Huestis the first ever domestic "draft-and-stash" prospect: Mark Deeks thinks the player's allowing himself to get played: "Huestis stands to gain very little from this agreement, least of all money." Royce Young thinks it's more complicated than that, but that "it might be a win-win for both the Thunder and Huestis." Two pieces of supporting evidence on its complication: Huestis' agent, Mitchell Butler, tells Mike Prada that the idea for the unique and potentially troubling arrangement actually came from the player's side of the negotiating table rather than the team's, and Ron Klempner, the interim executive director of the players' union, sees this as "an example of the player flipping the script" in the contract negotiation process. 9th : The Triangle . Speaking of Deeks — the proprietor of the indispensable ShamSports.com and a wonderful follow on Twitter, by the way — here's n informative profile of the British team-building aficionado and salary cap savant by friend of the program Jason Concepcion. 10th : Wall Street Journal . Chris Herring considers the unreasonable prospect of the New York Knicks deeming guard Tim Hardaway Jr. "untouchable" in trade talks, and offers a reasonable analysis of why they shouldn't. - - - - - - - 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.
On Feb. 23, the Brooklyn Nets signed center Jason Collins to a 10-day contract. Collins was lucky to be in the league even the season before, but with the relatively wispy and aging Kevin Garnett forced into duty at center and Brook Lopez out for the season, Brooklyn badly needed a defensive stalwart up front. The transaction resulted in a large news conference in the Staples Center media area, as the Nets were playing the Los Angeles Lakers later that night. Collins would be the first openly gay player in NBA history, and he dutifully and intelligently discussed that significant moment in the face of media contingents from the two largest media markets in the NBA. It meant a lot to millions, and it will mean a lot to millions more who will badly need role models as they come to terms with being born a certain way. When I wrote my column discussing the transaction , I cried. When I watched a clip of Jason Collins entering that night’s game later that evening, I cried. And then, I forgot. And Jason Collins went back to being Jason Collins, the dude who moves his feet and defends the rim. And nobody even really noticed when the Nets and Collins ended what was a historic season in the second round of the playoffs down in Miami. That is to say, it wasn’t a distraction. Collins, partially into his turn with the Nets, told reporters that only one NBA player had used denigrating language regarding his sexuality on the court , a small percentage of the language that many of us have used during a single game, played in less-informed times during our adolescence, much less half a season spent with 400-some opponents. Now we have Tony Dungy, the sainted ex-NFL head coach, in the crosshairs as he talked up the supposed distraction St. Louis Rams draftee Michael Sam would be as he attempts to make an NFL roster as the league’s first openly gay player. Dungy has poorly backtracked on his initial comments, passing the buck onto his reaction to Sam’s since-canceled reality show that would document his bid to make the Rams, a show that was canceled two days after its announcement and months before Dungy gave his interview . In a recent interview with TakePart Live , Jason Collins more or less called out Dungy’s competitive nature and coaching skills in hypothetically choosing to pass on drafting Michael Sam despite acknowledging that he has a place in the NFL: Michael Sam may not be an NFL-caliber player. There are scads of NCAA award-winners (Sam was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013) who failed to create a lasting career or even make the NFL. The same is somewhat true for college basketball, because though its various player of the year trophies often go to the best player on the best, team, rare is the celebrated four-year starter or NCAA basketball scoring leader who extends similar production to the NBA. If Michael Sam is cut later this year, it will be for football reasons. Tony Dungy is not about football reasons anymore, which is a shame. Sam came out to his Missouri Tigers teammates prior to the team’s 2013 season, and the squad went on to a 12-2 campaign, a top-five ranking, and to the encouragement of this writer nearly crying again (this time in public, and in front of his wife and kids and our server at Bruno’s ) while eating knockwurst and drinking too many small glasses of Irish spirits while watching Missouri lose the SEC title game against Auburn because I went to Mizzou and I dug that team. That is to say, Michael Sam wasn’t a distraction to those Tigers. Amongst teammates from the 18-to-22 set, far different and less worldly than Jason Collins’ relatively ancient Brooklyn Nets co-workers. Rams coach Jeff Fisher recently relayed there were just a couple more reporters on hand at the team’s current training camp than usual, possibly following Sam alone. Even national sports media, starved for content in the dog days of summer, has just about forgotten Sam in the wake of him kissing the man he loves after being drafted by St. Louis, a completely unprecedented event that has never been replicated by a heterosexual man in the decades of sports draft history . It’s over, and people like Tony Dungy are over. This is why, like ex-vice presidential candidates of recent past, they choose a life of punditry over actual work. Jason Collins’ Brooklyn Nets – those middling, mostly ignored Brooklyn Nets – are example enough. Clown time is over. Grow up or move aside. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - 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
Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shot to national prominence some fifty years ago as a standout center at Power Memorial high school, before moving on to be a championship-earning legend at UCLA, with the Milwaukee Bucks, and most famously with the Los Angeles Lakers. He still stands as the NBA’s leading scorer, but he also retired nearly a quarter-century ago, and no NBA team has seen fit to sit him on the sidelines as an assistant coach for more than a year at a time. With the game moving farther and farther away from the pivot, valuing perimeter play and shots directly at the goal as opposed to low post play, it might be debatable as to what role Kareem could play in teaching what he knows best to a current player that needs it the most. Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert, however, truly needs it the most. He is the last of the NBA’s true giants, an old school center that mixes fits of domination with instances of acting as the worst player on the court, a man out of time in a league that has already dashed past half-court. This is why Hibbert is studying with Abdul-Jabbar this summer, in a last chance diner’s attempt at serving up some semblance of an offensive game befitting of Hibbert’s 7-4 frame and (seriously) soft hands. Kareem shared as much on Tuesday: @Hoya2aPacer great dinner tonight w/you & #LarryBird . Looking forward to kicking it up a notch at practice tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/xMfm3n3Xb6 — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) July 23, 2014 Hibbert’s regular season production declined for a second straight season, and for the second year in a row, the issues were centered on confidence issues (though Hibbert did work through a bad wrist to start 2012-13). The difference between those two dwindling seasons is that Roy’s game perked up to a ferocious degree in the playoffs during Indiana’s near-Finals run in 2013, but in 2014 a frustrated Hibbert paired the occasional standout performance with embarrassing displays on both ends. Roy Hibbert has a throwback game, and for two summers prior to this one he’s worked with the NBA’s principle throwback avatar , one Tim Duncan, to refine his all-around game. Duncan’s spindly 6-11 frame may have lost a step, but unlike Hibbert he can still pivot his way around defenders and keep up with smaller opponents bent on throwing him off his offensive game. The Pacers center has had no such luck at this, and this failing was more than apparent against Miami during last season’s playoffs, when Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh and even Chris Andersen routinely beat Hibbert to his spot. It’s true that entry passing was an embarrassing problem for the Pacers in the postseason, but even when Hibbert got the ball offensively the quicker defender would be able to anticipate and beat him to wherever his shoulder wanted to go, resulting in ugly, awkward (though sometimes effective) three-quarter hook shots sometimes tossed across Hibbert’s own body. With the more orthodox jump hook option taken away, possibly for good at this point in his career, it’s time for Hibbert to develop more moves at age 27. It’s not a given that Hibbert will attempt to approximate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s famed sky hook, but if anyone were to give it a consistent try, it should be Roy Hibbert. All players would do well to learn the move – could you imagine someone like Anthony Davis busting a sky hook out next season? – but Hibbert would seem to need it the most. Other smaller and quicker centers have options to fall back on. As the rest of the league gets smaller and quicker, Hibbert has no such plan in reserve. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s work with Michael Olowokandi at the outset of the former top overall pick’s career was met with notorious indifference . It’s worth noting that, following his stint as a big men coach with the Lakers (KAJ was not on the staff or on the bench, but attended most games and practices), Andrew Bynum’s career has fallen off significantly in the years following his impressive stint while under Abdul-Jabbar’s tutelage. Now, we have no way of knowing if injuries and/or ennui were the primary factors behind Bynum’s career going sour, and it’s quite possible Bynum would have been fantastic as it was even without Kareem around, but we should remember that with Abdul-Jabbar in house, Bynum’s low post game flourished. It’s also important to remember that we’re just about seven months removed from Roy Hibbert acting as far and away the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, with his sterling first half work for a Pacer team that was running with the best record in the NBA at the time. Hibbert would go on to lose that award, as the Pacers’ season got away from them , but this man is also just 27 and about to enter his prime. He has two years and over $30 million left on his contract, and Indiana is either shaking off trade offers, or not receiving any. If the former is the case, it’s a smart move. Indiana was always going to be terrible offensively in 2014-15, even if Lance Stephenson had stuck around. The key for this roster is to regaining that stout form on defense, and this means being able to keep Roy Hibbert on the floor for long stretches of time. If Hibbert can even get back to basic low post competency in 2014-15, while possibly adding a few Kareem-guided wrinkles along the way, this will act as a massive boon to Indiana on both sides of the ball. The Heat lost LeBron. The Cavs look great on paper, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll mesh right away, and nobody knows what Minnesota general manager Flip Saunders is thinking in regards to Kevin Love. Chicago also looks great on paper, but health and rust are huge concerns. Washington and Atlanta still seem a step below. Brooklyn’s bones are made of dust. The East is still there for the taking, even if the Pacers look terribly uncomfortable offensively next season. If Hibbert can right his situation, whether Kareem is the impetus or not, Indiana would rightfully return to contending status in 2014-15. - - - - - - - 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
|Adrian Wojnarowski||Los Angelesin 7||The 2-3-2 format is such an advantage to the home team. Just don't see a way Kobe doesn't close out in a Game 6 or 7 at Staples. Chance for epic series between these two teams full of great players and great winners.|
|Marc J. Spears||Los Angelesin 7||The Lakers have no one to slow down Rajon Rondo, but Kobe Bryant is playing on a higher level offensively than anyone in the postseason.|
|Johnny Ludden||Los Angelesin 7||For all the injuries he's dealt with, Kobe looks remarkably fresh. He'll need to trust his teammates more than he did in '08, but they'll also give him more of a reason to do so.|