Tag Archives: Chauncey Billups

Team USA Finalists Announced

Repeat?

Earlier today the 20 finalists for Team USA were announced. These players will compete for a chance to represent the United States at the Summer Olympics in London. Here is the list:

Guards:

Deron Williams

Chris Paul

Russell Westbrook

Chauncey Billups

Derrick Rose

Kobe Bryant

Eric Gordon

Dwyane Wade

Forwards:

LeBron James

Andre Iguodala

Rudy Gay

Kevin Durant

Carmelo Anthony

Kevin Love

Blake Griffin

Lamar Odom

LaMarcus Aldridge

Chris Bosh

Centers:

Tyson Chandler

Dwight Howard

The vast majority of these players have played for Team USA before. Only Griffin and Aldridge have not suited up in the red, white, and blue.  What will be interesting to see is how these players fare after a brutally compacted season. If anything, the final 12 players selected to play in the Olympics might come down to a matter of health above all else.

From this list of 20 there are clear shoe-ins, most of whom played on the Redeem Team in Beijing. Paul, Rose, Bryant, and Wade are the top guards in the group. Bryant expressed his interest in returning to play for Team USA long ago and Wade has stated that this will be his last run as member of the squad. However, Wade’s future with the national team is up in the air presently as he is out indefinitely with an ankle injury.

As for the forwards, where Team USA is loaded, James, Anthony, Durant, and potentially Love or Bosh will be the main candidates to make the final roster. Bosh is playing exceptionally well this season but his ability to be multidimensional will come into question if he is to make the cut. If head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s philosophy remains the same, Howard will be the only center who makes the final cut. Under Coach K, the national team has become a model of hybridization. 2010’s gold metal team at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey was a pure experiment and subsequently a benchmark for teams composed of hybrid, multi-positional players. That team started Odom at center over Chandler and it worked.

With that in mind, and assuming that none of the “shoe-in” players listed above have health setbacks, there are still three positions left to make the full 12-man roster. Williams, Iguodala, and Aldridge would be, in my opinion, the best choices to round out the squad. Aldridge, because of his size and shooting ability, would serve the team nicely as a power forward/center. Iguodala, who shined in Turkey, should be included for his defense which will lead to transition offense for the team. Williams is easily the most replaceable player that I have mentioned who has a chance at making the roster. It might be wise to go with another rangy, multi-positional forward instead like Gay or even Odom, who can play three positions on the team not including point forward.

Whatever the final makeup of the roster, health allowing, Team USA will be heavy favorites this summer in London. Hopefully, they have another catchy nickname and congeal as a team. I wonder if Bryant will be spotted in the stands at the beach volleyball tournament this time. Let’s hope so.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Team USA

NBA Christmas Wrap

Merry Christmas

With much fanfare and an obnoxious LMFAO ad that was played almost every commercial intermission, the NBA season kicked off in superb, albeit rusty, fashion. Yes, lockout legs could be seen throughout the five games that were aired but that is to be expected with abbreviated training camps. chemistry was also an issue as many teams have a number of new players to integrate into their rotations. Nonetheless, the NBA is back and fans and players are happy. A reaction:

Boston Celtics 104 – New York Knicks 106

Carmelo Anthony looked great in this game. His 17 points in the fourth quarter were the difference and why the Knicks thought it necessary to gut their team to acquire him. Throughout his time in the NBA, Anthony has proven he has a knack for performing in the clutch and he showed it on Sunday. However, the already shaky depth of the Knicks has grown even more unstable with a knee injury to rookie Iman Shumpert which will sideline him for at least a couple of weeks.

As for the Celtics, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass, who is finally free from the tyranny of Stan Van Gundy, were the offense with Paul Pierce missing the game. Rondo continually broke down New York’s defense and got to the rim. When Pierce comes back to the lineup the Celtics should be a more rounded offensive unit, until then this will be Rondo’s team.

Naughty: Kevin Garnett choking Bill Walker.

Nice: Carmelo Anthony’s clutch play.

Miami Heat 105 – Dallas Mavericks 94

The Mavericks raised their championship banner but that is all they had to celebrate on Sunday. Dallas came out looking flat and out of sync, in essence, they looked old. That should be no surprise because their entire core is over the age of 30. Rick Carlisle is integrating Vince Carter, Lamar Odom, Delonte West, who played well, and Brandan Wright into the rotation while dealing with key losses across the board. Jason Terry was the only Maverick who showed up to this one.

Miami looked like they were just rolled off of a German assembly line. They were well oiled and fine tuned. What they did to the Mavericks was scary. Say what you will about all the exhibition games this summer but they seem to have kept LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in game shape, that and their complete desire to destroy everything in their path. This was a blowout, like a brand new Mercedes-Benz S-Class versus a Trabant. Not only were the Heat good but they will get better. Rookie Norris Cole turned some heads with his play in 24 minutes of action. If he continues to improve he could supplant Mario Chalmers as the starting point guard.

Naughty: The Mavs’ 37.8 percent field goal shooting.

Nice: LeBron James‘ box score: 37 points, 10 rebounds, six assists.

Chicago Bulls 88 – Los Angeles Lakers 87

Forget Showtime, these are the Slowtime Lakers. That is not a knock on them, however, not in the least bit. This Lakers squad proved to be as scrappy and gritty as any I have seen. Perhaps this is what Mike Brown brings to the team, perhaps this is what a bunch of blue-collar white guys bring to a team, or perhaps this is just what happens when you lose Odom and Andrew Bynum serving his suspension. Nonetheless, I like the Slowtime Lakers. Where they do need to improve is offensive player rotation. Too many times they reverted to Hawks-esque isolation with three players around the perimeter and one near the post.

Chicago played well throughout, with the exception being the third quarter. With the game close, Luol Deng stepped up and made the big plays. It was his defense against Kobe Bryant and his steal late in the game that allowed the Bulls to go on a 7-0 run, capped by Derrick Rose‘s floater in the lane, to win the game. Rip Hamilton started for the Bulls but did not contribute much due to foul trouble therefore his time was split with Ronnie Brewer. Brewer is a solid defender with good court vision and should see more minutes this season.

Naughty: Kobe’s last shot attempt.

Nice: Rose’s floater to win the game.

Orlando Magic 89 – Oklahoma City Thunder 97

Much like the Heat Mavericks game, the final score does not do justice to the thrashing that actually occurred. Like Miami, the Thunder look ready for the season. Very ready.  Oklahoma City pounced on Orlando early and never relented. Their team is largely the same as it was last year so their learning curve is near zero when it comes to knowing each other and how to execute plays…when they are not freewheeling. Speed and athleticism are the monikers of this team and they will serve them well out of the gate. If only they could improve their shot selections *cough* Westbrook *cough*.

Where the Thunder took plenty of questionable shots when they had built their sizable lead, the Magic took even more haphazard shots throughout the entire game. I have said it many times: the Magic’s offense is terrible. There is nothing more that can be said. It looked like they thought that there was a pit of lava inside the three-point line. Get Dwight Howard the ball in the post and let him work.

Naughty: Hedo Turkoglu clearly indulged his gluttonous side during the lockout. Dude is chunky.

Nice: Kevin Durant. Need I say more?

Los Angeles Clippers 105 – Golden State Warriors 86

If ESPN had their way, this would have been a documentary about Mark Jackson and the greatness of his coaching style. Nevermind the fact Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were on the court, this broadcast was about Mark Jackson, hands down (man down). They showed a clip of him quoting Shakespeare before the game. He was the only coach shown in the huddle, mostly saying cliché motivational shit like “execution” and “focus.” That is all fine and good, but he does have a decent team that the broadcast could have talked about. I think Jackson will be a good coach but that much attention is unwarranted, especially on a nationally televised game. His first coaching milestone was the hack-a-Jordan technique he used on DeAndre Jordan.

The final score is not indicative of how the Warriors remained close for much of the game. Clearly, the Wizards of Lob are the better team but last night they showed chinks in their armor. The aforementioned hack-a-Jordan technique stymied the Clippers offense and brought it to a halt. Luckily, the Clippers have Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Griffin. All played well as they were able to outlast the Warrior. The new look Clippers are a work in progress to say the least and last night they showed it.

Naughty: ESPN’s love affair with Mark “Momma, there goes that man” Jackson.

Nice: Caron Butler‘s circus shot.

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA at Large

The Face and Fate of the Clippers

Captain on deck

Chris Paul is now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers were, when the hubbub surrounding Paul’s insistence to be moved, the most unlikely of bedfellows because, well, they are the Clippers. Since moving to Los Angeles, some old sages may tell you that the team was once in San Diego, Donald Sterling’s bastard child has only made the playoffs four times and only once have they advanced beyond the first round. However, now they have Paul. He is a master on the court, finding teammates and creating for himself when the opportunity arises to carry his team. Teamed with Blake Griffin, a player who excites by carving out his domain above and literally through the rim, the Clippers, at least for now, are exciting again. Dare say, they are once again relevant.

What will come of the two years that Paul has signed on in Clipperland? Surely, the team’s fanbase will expand beyond Billy Crystal and Frankie Muniz. Bill Simmons gave up on the NBA during the lockout so he will no longer be a mainstay at their home games in the Staples Center. The spotlight will be on the Clippers to perform, fair-weather fans demand it.

Aside from Paul, the team added Caron Butler, the able swingman, who spent much of last season with the champion Dallas Mavericks on the bench due to injury. They matched Golden State’s offer sheet for DeAndre Jordan, who they are likely overpaying but he does have an upside. Plus, he is good friends with Griffin so that chemistry should translate to the potency of the frontcourt. Then there is Chauncey Billups. The Clippers picked him up off waivers after the New York Knicks used their amnesty clause to release him.

To get Paul, one of the best players in the league, they were forced to trade away assets that they were counting on for their future like Eric Gordon (if a team owned by Sterling ever has a future). No matter what side of the trade one may fall on, what is done, is done. Now the Clippers have two years to make it work and the Hornets have forever to rebuild.

The Clippers were Blake’s team. He was the only player that mattered to casual observers. With Paul in town, whose team is it now? Will there be an identity crisis or can the two coexist much like the players that have joined together in New York and Miami. Those relationships, however, are far from equally divided. Not one of these players needs to be the face of the franchise. Both can fill that role for the fans. Yet, on the floor one must take the lead. The likely choice is for it to be Paul as he facilitates the offense. Griffin is the highlight reel who will be on the receiving end of Paul’s decisions. In the fastbreak, which should happen frequently this season, this will be more than apparent. What Vinny Del Negro does in the halfcourt will determine the fate of the Clippers, and likely his job. 

Del Negro will likely give Paul free rein in halfcourt sets, allowing him to masterfully probe the defense, zipping through and around screens and picks, all the while Griffin lurks in  the post, or the charity stripe waiting to strike as his defender focuses on Paul for a moment too long. If Paul penetrates and the defense collapses, he has scorers in Butler and Billups to pass to. If he shoots in the lane and misses, Griffin and Jordan will be there to clean it up. In this scenario, the offense is Paul and because of this the Clippers’ offense will be dramatically improved.

As Rob Mahoney points out, the addition of Paul should be extremely beneficial to Jordan. Much of his scoring comes by means of assists or put backs because he does not have the ability to create scoring opportunities for himself. The Clippers signed Jordan to a new contract worth $43 million over four years. It is a hefty price for a player who has yet to come into his own but Paul should help that. 

Paul’s facilitation will make all of his teammates better by default. This returns to the question: Who is the face of the Clippers? It has to be Paul. He is already a well entrenched figure in households across the country. The argument can be made that Griffin, too, has attained such status. However, his meteoric leap (pun intended) to fame was more about the sheer thrill of his athleticism rather than his tactical vision. Griffin did not make the players around him better. Yes, he has a knack for being able to distribute the ball, a talent many big men do not have, but what makes him special is the ferocity in which he plays the game. Paul is calculating, he has the ability to create angles on the floor with his passes and movements that defenses have no method of anticipating. That is what makes him a great player and what makes players around him better and his leadership will be vital to the development of the entire team, not just the players.  

For the two years that Paul is under contract with the Clippers, he will be the face of a once faceless organization. Griffin will take his place beside Paul due to his ascendancy last season but this is Paul’s team. It will not be a time-share.

It is a rare occurrence that the Clippers have so much buzz going into the season. They will be a better team. Perhaps better than they have ever been. However, that is looking too far ahead. With Paul on board the team is set to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Yet, something feels off. Paul is great. Griffin is astounding. It is the notion that the two are the heralded saviors of a perpetually inept organization with a questionable owner. The Clippers are on the precipice of something good, something wonderful. Only they can screw it up. Let us hope, for the sake of all invested in this team for the coming season, Sterling aside, history does not record yet another blunder for Los Angeles’ second team.  

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA at Large, Players

NBA Lockout Day 14: USA, Colangelo Gearing Up for London 2012

Colangelo would like to see the U.S. win a third consecutive gold

There are currently 34 players listed on the United States Men’s National Team roster. That is 22 more than will make the trip, reserves excluded, to London next summer to compete in the Olympics. With the NBA lockout now two weeks old, Jerry Colangelo must start considering who will make the final cut as training camp will begin early next July. Final roster selections have to be submitted by June 18, 2012.

One year is not a lot of time to assemble a national team especially with a lockout going on. Since Team USA won the gold at the FIBA World Championships last summer in Turkey they received an automatic bid for the Olympics. That means that they will not have to compete in the FIBA Americas Championship which begins August 30 and runs through September 11. However, it also means that Colangelo will not have an opportunity to see the players compete as a cohesive unit this summer and with a protracted lockout it may be some time before he can see them in game situations.

With the breadth of talent that Colangelo has to draw from it should not be a major concern when whittling down the roster. Most of the players already on the national team’s roster already have a well established pedigree of competing internationally and are household names in the NBA. Due to this, Colangelo has stated that there are really closer to 18 players who are under consideration to compete in London. He will begin contacting players in a month or so to gauge their interest in being a member of the national team.

Currently, each member of the Redeem Team that won gold in Beijing in 2008 is committed to returning to the program in 2012. This includes Kobe Bryant who stated his interest in returning to the Olympics last year. Other members of the Redeem Team including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, and Tayshaun Prince have yet to make a public statement of interest in returning to the team. Wad has said that he is on the fence about whether he should return but Chris Paul has stated that he will play.

Two players from the 2008 gold metal team, Jason Kidd and Michael Redd, are no longer with USA basketball which leaves at least two roster spots open but Colangelo has said that “three or four of those spots are vulnerable.” These spots will likely be filled by members of the 2010 FIBA World Championship team. That team was led by Kevin Durant and also featured Chauncey Billups, Tyson Chandler, Stephen Curry, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook. A name that has also been mentioned as a possible candidate, though he is currently not on Team USA’s standing roster, is Blake Griffin.

These two pools of players present Colangelo with a combination of skilled veterans, players in their prime, and explosive young talent. What will play into the final roster decision is how Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski want to shape the team. Both the Beijing and Turkey teams are very different. In Turkey, Krzyzewski chose to stray away from the traditional five-man lineups that have been a cornerstone in basketball since its inception which was more indicative of how the Redeem Team played. Instead he went with players who were versatile and could play multiple positions on the floor. These players also used their length and quickness to their advantage which played into the stifling defense that the team showed during the World Championships. The team also went small. Chandler was the only true center on the roster and Odom started at the position during the tournament.

Based on the success that the smaller, speedier lineup had it would not be surprising if Team USA maintained this model for the Olympics in 2012. The team has a bevy of speedy guards to choose from who can either create for themselves, like Rose and Westbrook, or distribute, like Paul. However, position versatility will likely remain the most important factor when selecting players to fill the roster.

This is beneficial for players like James, Durant, Love, and Amar’e Stoudemire who can alternate around the wing and in the frontcourt. Though any incarnation of the 2012 team will likely feature Howard as the anchor in the middle, depending on his entry into free agency next summer, he would likely be one of only a couple of players on the team that played a fixed position. Paul would be another such player.

As Colangelo begins to contact players he must also weigh the present state of the NBA and what may or may not happen between now and next July. How will the lockout, and potentially newly structured collective bargaining agreement, play into the player’s decisions? If players continue to sign overseas, how will those contracts be structured in terms of eligibility to play on a national team? If the NBA season is canceled should he hold a minicamp for tryouts? How will Bryant’s knee hold up for another year? How will free agency play into the minds of Howard, Paul, and Williams? How much will each player require in terms of insurance if they get injured while playing for Team USA? If the lockout is protracted, what shape will the players be in? Phew! And those are only some of the questions that Colangelo must consider. At least the lockout does not prevent Colangelo from speaking with the players.

No matter the make-up of the future roster, the United States will be heavy favorites to repeat as gold medalists. Tough all of the players from 2008 opted out of playing in 2010, the Olympics are too big of a stage to ignore. Colangelo knows this as it creates even more “value to them in terms of their own brands.” These days, for many players, it is all about marketing themselves and what better place to do it than in front of the eyes of the world? James, for one, could certainly use some good press and another Olympic gold would go a long way. It looks to be a long year with many uncertainties for the players and Colangelo but the outlook is optimistic. “The one thing I do know,” Colangelo said. “We have an outstanding pool of players. Whoever the 12 turn out to be, they will represent our country very well.”

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA Lockout, Team USA

Chauncey Billups returning to Knicks

More money, more shooting problems

The New York Knicks have answered one question pertaining to the future of the organization. According to a report by Chris Sheridan, the Kinckerbockers will pick up the option on Chauncey Billups’ contract for the 2011-12 season. New York will pay Billups $14.2 million dollars over the final year of his contract.

The Knicks had until Friday to decide whether the team wanted to spend the money on the 13-year veteran point guard or buyout his contract. The buyout would have only cost the team $3.7 million.

Billups only played in one of New York’s playoff games and just 21 regular season games with the team. Apparently, that was all the Knicks need to see. He averaged 17.5 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.9 rebounds as a Knick in those 21 games. However, those numbers do not tell the whole story.

After joining the Knicks, Billups’ shot selection became abysmal. With New York, he was taking almost two more shots per game than he was with Denver. This did not translate into increased production, though. His shooting percentage dropped from 43.8 percent with the Nuggets to 40.3 percent with the Knicks.

Worst of all was his tendency to take low percentage three-point shots while with the Knicks. With Denver, Billups averaged 4.7 three point attempts during a game and connected on 2.1 of them for an average of 44.1 percent. As a member of the Knicks, he upped his shot attempts from behind the arc to six per game while only making two. His averaged tumbled to 32.8 percent. That is almost a 12 point drop. Mr. Big Shot needs to find a new nickname.

Nonetheless, Billups, who will turn 35 in September, will remain in New York for one more season. One question answered, many to go.

Now the Knicks can focus on whether to pick up the option on General Manager Donnie Walsh’s contract. Rumors have been floating around that the two sides are close to a two-year extension.

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA at Large, Players

Knicks face questions about the future after being swept by the Celtics

Sorry, Spike

Remember all of those late season struggles that the Boston Celtics experienced? Of course you do not, you fickle minded fool! That was then and then was the regular season. Boston has had the same M.O. for the past couple of seasons and that is to coast all the way to the post season where the games actually matter. That is exactly what they did again.

Boston won game four against the New York Knicks after the Knicks almost completely wiped away a 23 point deficit to trail by four with roughly seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Knicks, the Celtics are not the Dallas Mavericks.

Now, Boston will advance to meet the winner of the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers series. As the Heat are up 3-1 in the series it is likely that they will be the ones to advance because no team in NBA history has ever come back from and 0-3 deficit to win a series.

The lingering question for the Cetics right know is the condition of Shaquille O’Neal and whether he will return to action soon. However, after the way Boston handled the frontcourt in New York, Miami’s should not prove to be that difficult as they rarely see the ball come their way on offense.

As for the Knicks? They are going fishing. This offseason promises to be one laden with questions about the future of the organization. New York has the option to pick up the final year on Chauncey Billups‘ contract which is worth approximately $14 million. Whether or not they want to spend that money on an aging veteran who provided little for them this season has yet to be seen. Billups is just the marquee name on the list of players that may find new homes next season. Anthony Carter, Roger Mason Jr., Kelenna Azubuike, Shawne Williams, Derrick Brown, Ronny Turiaf, Jared Jeffries, and Shelden Williams are all free agents this summer. That leaves a very sparse lineup in New York.

Another big question that is looming is whether General Manager Donnie Walsh will remain with the team. There have been rumors that if Walsh were to leave the organization Bryan Colangelo might step in to fill his vacancy as he is likely on his way out as general manager  in Toronto. Also, who really knows if Mike D’Antoni’s job is safe after speculation that Anthony does not fit well into his system and after the Celtics manhandled the Knicks, who did not show much effort on the defensive end of the floor,  in the playoff.

One thing is certain, if the Knicks are smart, they will build around Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire for the long term. If they do not pick up the option on Billups their top priority should be a point guard. They had a good one in Raymond Felton before he became one of the many pieces in the deal to bring Anthony to New York.

Oh, and we all know that somehow Isiah Thomas is going to be brought up more than once this summer. Consider yourselves warned, Knicks fans. It is going to happen.

Image via Swag Diaries

1 Comment

Filed under NBA at Large, Playoffs

Melo-mania

Masterful performance that fell short.

Outside of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Chauncey Billpus the New York Knicks do not have the most dynamic roster. In fact, Mike D’Antoni would probably only play those three if given the opportunity (He has never been too keen on deep rotations). However, for their second game in Boston against the Celtics Billups was out. One down. During the game Stoudemire went down with back spasms and did not return. Two down. Now there was only one.

Carmelo Anthony came to the Knicks seeing the spotlight of the largest sports market in the world. The attention he received was not always favorable but on one of the biggest stages in all sports, he shown brighter than any paparazzi flash bulb.

Anthony went off for 42 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and two blocks which kept New York in the game with their other stars sidelined. Eventually, Boston brought the double-team to stem the flow of points poured in by number seven which forced him to give up the ball to his surrounding cast, many of whom D’Antoni had not played in quite sometime.

While Anthony’s performance was brilliant, the Knicks came up short in their efforts to go back to New York with the series tied at one game apiece. Nonetheless, this performance will go down as one of the greatest in Knicks postseason history.

Leave a comment

Filed under Players, Playoffs