Tag Archives: Michael Jordan

6 NBA Rookies to Watch in 2011-12

Leonard is one of a few promising rookies this year

Usually, this list consists of ten rookies to keep an eye on during the season. With the shortened season, however, this list is also smaller. Call it laziness on my part, call it whatever you want. It is what it is. Last year’s draft was something out of the Bizzaro universe. It was more notable for the peculiar name pronunciations than anything else. The popular rookies will get press elsewhere so there is no need to cover them in depth on this little blog. Plus, do you really need to read another article about the parallels between Jimmer Fredette and Tim Tebow? No, I didn’t think so.

The way in which the rookies were chosen to appear on this list is completely arbitrary and is a result of hope, sometimes terribly misguided, that these players will transform into household names in the future. Certainly, though, at least one is on here because of the sheer absurdity surrounding his journey to the NBA. (Can you guess which one?)

Norris ColePG, Miami Heat

Upon being drafted, Cole quickly discovered how he, as a player, is merely a commodity to teams. He was a member of three different teams on draft night, eventually landing with the Miami Heat. In college, Cole was the focal point of his team’s offense as he took 28.9 percent of his team’s field goal attempts. In Miami that will not be the case (understatement of the year, perhaps). What will set Cole apart will he his ability to pass the ball to the prominent scorers on the Heat as well as conform to the defensive system that Erik Spoelstra employs. His passing is already above average; however, he does have trouble passing out of a double team. Again, though, it will be unlikely that he sees many doubles while on the floor. It would not be surprising if Cole was inserted into the starting lineup at some point during the season so that Spoelstra can bring Mario Chalmers off the bench as an offensive kick for his second unit. Cole must continue to learn and play at a high level for that to happen.

Kawhi LeonardSF, San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are a damned crafty bunch when it comes to drafting players. For them to have traded a promising young talent in George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for the draft rights to Leonard caused heads to turn. He would have been a great addition to an already scrappy Pacers squad, but they were overloaded at his position. Leonard made his mark in college as a premier (or monster) wing defender, forcing a turnover on 23.8 percent of the possessions in which he was the isolated defender as well as holding opponents to 37.5 percent shooting when he was defending them. His seven feet two inch arm span certainly helped him in these respects. Not only is he a stout defender but he is also a good defensive rebounder. Essentially, Leonard is the ideal Spurs player. Where he needs improvement, which Greg Popovich will administer in his own special way, is with his offense, both his shot and offensive sets. The Spurs are notorious for successfully developing players, much to the ire of rival fans, so Leonard should be in good hands. Also, with San Antonio shopping Richard Jefferson over the summer it looks as though Leonard could quickly move up the depth chart.

Ricky RubioPG, Minnesota Timberwolves

Oh, Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. What a zany (channeling Mitt Romney for that one) path Rubio has taken to the NBA. He was drafted what seems like a decade ago only to hold out until the final year of his rookie contract before agreeing to leave his beloved Spain to play in the cold wintery confines of Minnesota. This was either incredibly shrewd or insanely selfish. Rubio is not a typical rookie. He has played at a high level in Spain and internationally with the Spanish national team which is made up of mostly NBA players. One of the major criticisms of Rubio has been his scoring ability, however, he, like other Spanish point guards (read: Jose Calderon) is a pass first, offense facilitator. In Rick Adelman’s up-tempo style of play, especially with a team full of mediocre talent, Kevin Love aside, but that is incredibly athletic, Rubio should learn to thrive in the open court. He must first distinguish himself as deserving the playing time over the 1,000 other point guards that David Kahn has signed, though. That task should not prove to be a problem.

Iman ShumpertPG/SG, New York Knicks

Shumpert was the buzz of New York after two preseason games. The hype was palpable. Shumpert was drafted for his defensive prowess but his offensive skills soon were apparent once the preseason began. Due to the Knicks’ lack of backcourt depth, he was slated to be a staple in the rotation. However, he suffered an injury in the first game of the season and will be out for several weeks. When he returns to the lineup, Shumpert needs to improve his shot selection, like most rookies, and his ability to finish at the rim. Against the Celtics he only made one of six shots at the rim. Boston maintains a physical defense, especially around the paint, but no NBA team is going to give up easy points around the rim if they can help it. With his usage percentage projected to remain high upon his return, Shumpert must finish the opportunities he is given.

Tristan ThompsonPF, Cleveland Cavaliers

Thompson was drafted pretty high, fourth overall, for a player that possesses little ability to operate away from the rim. He does, however, possess the ability to work off the ball offensively away from the rim in space but this is to free him up on a dive or cut to the basket. He will need to improve his ball-in-hand offense, specifically in the post, in order to adapt his game to the NBA level. Another area of concern for Thompson is his poor defensive rebounding ability. This, for one, is striking due to Thompson’s size, even as a young man, and good post defense. Yet, he cleans the offensive glass rather well which should benefit a team destined to miss a lot of shots. Despite his immediate drawbacks, Thompson has plenty of raw potential and other than Kyrie Irving, represents the only potential the Cavaliers have.

Kemba WalkerPG, Charlotte Bobcats

Michael Jordan has a special place in history when it comes to the draft lottery. That place is specifically referred to as Kwame Brown. MJ, let us hope you done right this time. Walker comes into the league with a solid NCAA pedigree. He was a member, and respective leader, of the national champion UConn Huskies. Not too shabby, right? Walker works well as a primary scoring threat for a team in pick-and-roll and off the ball screens. What will be interesting to watch for this season is if his ball hogging tendencies, he shot the ball 63.8 percent of the time coming off of a ball screen while at UConn, will carry over to the NBA. It is apparent that Walker will split and share time with D.J. Augustin in Charlotte, where is off the ball offensive movement will be on display. However with the ball in his hand, how will he react? One game is not a benchmark for anything, but Walker totaled just three assists, each leading to a shot from 16-23 feet, in 21 minutes in his first NBA game. He is a score first point guard.

Tip of the hat to NBA Playbook for many of the statistics used above.


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David Stern issues Ultimatum to Union

Wednesday, bloody Wednesday

The latest round of mediation between the NBA, its owners, and the NBPA ended, after nearly eight and a half hours stretching into Sunday morning, the same way that every prior mediated session and talks have. There is still no deal. However, without directly referring to a proposed deal on the table as an ultimatum, NBA Commissioner David Stern did in fact issue one. A fact that was not lost on the union and its players.

Steve Novak of the San Antonio Spurs was one of  the first player to react using the term ultimatum on twitter, “U gotta love an ultimatum! How does basketball ever even get to this point?” He was not the only player to express his disbelief in the owners’ proposal, Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies also tweeted after the terms of the proposal were made public last night, “57 53 49 : wow.”

The proposal that is on the table for the players to accept by the close of business on Wednesday, which Stern set as the cut-off point when the deal would be removed and the owners would again revert to their previous stance that the players should receive 47 percent of basketball related income and that a flex cap (read: hard cap) be in place, inches slightly closer to what the players have been asking for but does so in a way in which the owners proposal of a 50/50 split of BRI is the more likely outcome. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the players received 57 percent of BRI. As Allen referenced in the above tweet, the union has come down from 57 percent to 53 percent, then 52.5 percent and now is faced with close to earning just 49 percent of BRI.

Under the current proposal, which is a band deal, the players could earn between 49 and 51 percent of BRI. However, union attorney Jeffery Kessler, who was representing the players at the talks with union president Billy Hunter under the weather, along with Derek Fisher scoffed at the proposal. Under it the players would receive 50 percent of BRI with the ability, if league revenue grows at a projected four percent annually or further “significant growth” Stern said, to earn 51 percent of basketball related income. If revenues were to remain stagnant or decrease the players would earn just 49 percent of BRI. The reason Kessler flatly rejected the proposal is because “the proposal that this is a robust deal at 51 is a fraud,” he stated. Under the deal the players could not expect to legitimately earn 51 percent and that it would take “the wildest, most unimaginable, favorable projections and we might squeeze out to 50.2.”

“They came in here with a prearranged plan to try to strong-arm the players,” Kessler added. “They knew today they were sticking to 50, essentially 50.2. They were going to make almost no movement on the system, and then they were going to say, ‘My way, or the 47 percent highway.”

During the mediation the NBPA issued a proposal of a 51/49 percent split of BRI in which one percent would go towards benefits for retired players helping them with heath care, insurance, and pensions. This proposal was never addressed by Stern and the owners.

Where the two sides could also not make headway was the issue of the luxury tax. The proposed deal on the table would fine each team over the tax limit on a one-for-one amount for every dollar over the tax a team spends. That is down from their previous offer of a $1.50 penalty for each dollar over the limit. The union wants to see a 50 cent tax on the first $10 million over the salary cap limit and then raise it to one dollar after that.

What the league is proposing would make it difficult, if not impossible, for championship caliber teams to retain certain players under their proposal. This would adversely effect teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks. In the case of Dallas, the reigning NBA champions, starting center Tyson Chandler spoke bluntly about this proposal earlier in the week as reported by the Dallas Morning News:

“With the collective bargaining agreement and some of the things that they’re trying to enforce, it would basically prohibit me from coming back,” Chandler told KESN-FM FM in Dallas. “It would take it out of my hands — and the organization’s — because it would almost be pretty much impossible for me to re-sign. I just think that can be the worst thing that can happen.”

“For years, the Lakers have been able to win championships and re-sign their players and keep them there so they can go out for another title,” Chandler said. “Now, to put that deal in place after we win ours, I don’t like it one bit.”

Mark Cuban, Jerry Buss, and James Dolan are probably none too thrilled with the potential ramifications of that scenario. But they are not the ones spearheading the move to limit the power of the players. However, teams just above the luxury limit will be given a reprieve under the owners’ proposal with their taxes cut in half.

Further, the two-sided disagreed on the length and money of the mid-level exception, which teams over the salary cap use to sign players. The players want an MLE that is worth $5 million for four years occurring every other year. The league’s proposal is $2.5 million for two years every other year.

Teams who are playing luxury taxes, the league insists, would also be exempt from any sign-and-trade deals like the one that sent LeBron James from Cleveland to Miami.

These hardline proposals from the league are the result of a few owners in small markets, which it was revealed this week are led by Michael Jordan. Hardline owners want to wrest the money-making power from the players and limit the ability of large market teams to willing spend beyond the cap to put together winning teams. The irony of Jordan leading the charge to clamp down on the players is that he is the man who embodied the move towards player control in the league. It was he that wanted more money as a player, it was he that the league bowed down to for a decade. During the 1990’s the NBA saw its highest ratings and ratings have almost come back full circle to those levels now. Yet, he is one of the owners strangling any potential growth the league could have seen this year. Strangling is a job for Latrell Sprewell, but he left the league long ago to feed his kids. Jordan’s position is understandable and his drive to constantly win and/or crush is opposition is well documented but a stricter set of regulations on the players and teams willing to spend is not in character with Jordan the player. He famously told Abe Pollin who owned the Washington Bullets and then the Wizards during the 1998 lockout, “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.” How the tables have turned.

Now, the players have until Wednesday to decide whether to accept the deal, replete with the demands of the hardliners, that the league has proposed. It is not the deal that they want. It is nowhere close to what they will accept. Kessler stated as much after the mediation process ended and Stern singled out Kessler as the one who rejected the league’s offer.

This morning, Novak chimed in again on Twitter, “I was really hoping I would wake up and the owners were gonna say jk!U guys have already given us 200M a year! But no,I guess they want more.” Novak, a trillionaire in his own right, expresses the sentiment of just about every NBA player. They want to play but they do not want to kowtow to the owners demands. Now there are rumblings that a move to decertify the union are more than underway.

Union decertification, a step the NFLPA took early on during their lockout, requires 30 percent of players, about 130, to sign off on the idea. From there it would be another 60 days before a vote would take place for or against decertification. Boston Celtics’ forward Paul Pierce has reportedly taken the lead to decertify the union with many other players, including Deron Williams who tweeted, “I’ve been ready to sign a decertification petition since July? Can’t believe we are just now going this route! SMH,” and agents supporting the move. If the union is disbanded, which would require a favorable vote from at least 50 percent of the players, the players could then file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. A move to decertify could also give the players more leverage in the negotiations with the owners but it is uncertain just how anything will play out at this point.

Wednesday means nothing. It is just an arbitrary day that Stern chose before the league reverts its position back to what it was. It is merely a talking point for the media. The players have already rejected it. The owners have not changed their stance. They have not moved beyond the 50/50 split to meet the players. All this is, as it has been all along is a public relations war of attrition. There can be no winner in this lockout, yet that is what each side is angling for. Not even a Pyrrhic victory is attainable at this point. At the very least the lockout will grow uglier as it drags on. Small pieces of false hope are continually leaked from the meetings between the two sides. It is unclear why people believe them still. There is no hope. This is not even a tug of war. This is two sides hunkered down in their trenches prepared for a protracted engagement. It would be nice to have an NBA season this year, but at this point it does not look likely. Both sides know that and neither is willing to move with the owners more than willing to wait until the players surrender to their demands and because of that everyone has already lost.

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The Shrug

The lockout is dragging on so why not get you feeling all nostalgic? Yes, perhaps it is cruel but it reminds us of a time when the NBA actually played games. Michael Jordan: The Shrug.

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NBA Lockout Day 17: We Miss Shawn Kemp

Oh, Reignman, why did you have to eat so many cheeseburgers during the last lockout? We don’t care about all the kids, we just wanted you to play a few more years. The dunks were awesome but this was super nice:

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Like a Fine Wine…

Michael Jordan played a total of 142 games for the Washington Wizards from age 38 to 40.  He set several records for his age as well as being the only Wizard to play all 82 games in 2002-03.

On December 29, 2001, the 38-year-old jordan scored 51 points against the Hornets.  He broke two records in the 38 minutes he was on the court; the oldest player to ever score 50 and for most points in one quarter against the Hornets with 24.  He shot 21/38 from the field and 9/10 from the free-throw line.

Days later, he scored 39 against the Nets who had Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin on the floor.

As he aged, Jordan was still able to prove his complete dominance.

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NBA Lockout Day 8: Deron Williams to Turkey, Kobe to Follow?

Deron Williams has agreed to play for Turkey’s Beşiktaş Cola Turka, and now they’ve set their eyes on an even bigger prize: Kobe Bryant.

From a basketball standpoint, the signing of Deron Williams is the biggest acquisition for a European team ever.  This is the same team that nabbed Allen Iverson last season when no one wanted him, but Williams serves to be more than just a big name.  He will make a difference in this team’s play, and if (God forbid) the entire NBA season is cancelled, he will play the entire season for Beşiktaş.

This has the possibility to change the entire landscape of the lockout, as previously, the owners never believed that European teams would have the means to sign quality players.  The players have been threatening, but it’s a whole different animal to pack up your family and move to a new continent.

Now, however, the Player’s Association has a key weapon to use, and if Beşiktaş can find the money to shell out for Kobe Bryant, they’ve taken the league’s main draw, and that’s a crushing blow.  I’ve never been one to compare Kobe and Michael Jordan, but he is basketball’s most successful player since Jordan.  Imagine how the ’98 lockout would have ended if Jordan had gone overseas instead of retiring.  Things would’ve been completely different.

Now, I don’t see Kobe leaving the USA anytime in the near future.  Williams’ salary is less than half of the league’s average, much less than what he could earn in the States, and if Kobe retired right now, he’d be set for life.  As in, Magic Johnson set for life.  While he’s going to lose some money by staying, he can utilize the time off to let his weary bones rest.

And a 6th ring doesn’t count if it’s a Euroleague ring.

The players won’t want to make minuscule salaries (when European teams have a nasty habit of not paying), so any player of note who opts to go to Europe is only there temporarily.  But during their time there they will risk injury and will be running up their basketball odometer, and that is what frightens owners.  If a player is injured overseas, their NBA team could nullify the rest of their contract; this is still a highly undesirable outcome for the team.

It is a substantial threat, though, that players won’t be as hurt by financial constraints as once thought.


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John Wall is not a Pitcher

John Wall is many things but I have a sneaking suspicion that he will not follow in the footsteps of Michael Jordan anytime soon. By that I mean that it is HIGHLY unlikely that he retires from the NBA to try his hand at baseball. Take a look at Wall tossing out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. Funny thing is, he might be able to make the Nationals staff as a middle reliever (zing!). Sorry, Nats, that was not fair of me. At least they aren’t the Cubs.

via Deadspin

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