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Western Conference, defending champs tough as ever (The Associated Press)
24 Oct 2014 at 12:08pm
Calling it the Wild West just doesn't do it justice anymore.
National Basketball Association roundup (Reuters)
24 Oct 2014 at 10:50am
(The Sports Xchange) - The Philadelphia 76ers and point guard Michael Carter-Williams established Nov. 13 as the target date for Carter-Williams' return, ESPN.com reported Thursday. Carter-Williams, last season's Rookie of the Year, had shoulder surgery in May. - - The Orlando Magic signed center Nikola Vucevic to a contract extension, the team announced. The team did not provide details of the signing, but multiple media outlets reported earlier that it was a four-year extension. ...
BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Phoenix Suns (Ball Don't Lie)
24 Oct 2014 at 9:50am
The Arizona desert turned up a UFO crash in 1953, purple alien eggs just last year and Lord knows what else in the 60 years between. It?s only natural the Phoenix Suns add another wrinkle to their own weird science experiment, turning a two-headed snake into a three-headed monster in the backcourt. In a strange summer, general manager Ryan McDonough agreed to  a four-year, $27 million contract with Sacramento Kings dynamo Isaiah Thomas on the day the NBA?s moratorium lifted, seemingly signaling the end of fellow restricted free agent point guard Eric Bledsoe?s fun in the Arizona sun. But the NBA Executive of the Year runner-up doubled down, inking Mini LeBron to a five-year, $70 million deal some two months later. With All-NBA Third Team selection Goran Dragic also in the Phoenix mix, McDonough effectively created the league?s most dangerous polycephalous point guard. So, the Suns will roll the dice with a troika of All-Star-caliber guards, identified flying object Gerald Green and a mysterious frontcourt in an attempt to recreate last year?s bizarre 48-34 record, which tied the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors for the best season by a team that didn't make the playoffs since the NBA switched to the 16-team playoff format in 1984. Under NBA Coach of the Year runner-up (noticing a trend here) Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix played at a top-10 pace in his first season at the helm, and the Suns will run again, even faster if possible. Only, they?ll have to do so without Channing Frye, whose floor-stretching capacity from the power forward position translated into 8.3 additional points per 100 possessions in his 28.2 minutes a night on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com . Out of the Frye pan and into the fire will be Markieff Morris, whose own breakout 2013-14 season (2,153 minutes, 13.8 points, six rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, 56.4 True Shooting percentage, 18.4 Player Efficiency Rating) earned him a four-year, $52 million deal to split unevenly with his twin brother, Marcus Morris. Sharpshooting veteran free agent forward Anthony Tolliver (41.3 percent on a career-high 247 3-point tries for Charlotte last year) and young center projects Miles Plumlee and Alex Len round out a bigs mess. Add a pair of potential mid-first-round steals in T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, another Dragic named Zoran and a post- ?super extreme? DUI suspension P.J. Tucker, and it should be another supernatural season for the 2013-14 League Pass legends. Last year taught us this much about the Suns: They are here. 2013-14 season in 140 characters or less: What the Ish is this? The weirdest collection of awesome under the Suns. Did the summer help at all? The Suns let their most productive big walk , spent the money Frye got in Orlando on a third point guard , handed one contract to a pair of twins , signed their best player?s brother and drafted one half of Bojan and Bogdan Bogdanovic ? all as their starting small forward spent a no expenses paid three-day vacation in county jail . So ? just your typical NBA offseason? Seriously, that?s freaky, even by their standards. Go-to offseason acquisition: Had Thomas not stood just 69 inches tall, he would have commanded far more than $27 million over four years in free agency. After all, the Sactown sparkplug was one of six players to average 20 points and six assists while posting a PER above 20 this past season. The others: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Those dudes aren?t so bad. Thomas comes with another caveat, though, since Sacramento?s fast-paced offense and non-existent defense over the past decade has produced plenty of padded stats that haven?t translated elsewhere. In the past 10 years, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic combined for one 20-point-per-game season upon leaving the Kings. At the very least, Thomas allows Hornacek to keep some combo of Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas on the floor for the majority of the game, strumming that double-necked point-guard guitar all night long. The fact that Thomas? per-minute averages have remained steady as both a starter and reserve in his three-year career is an encouraging sign that the Suns will be able to keep making the same sweet music they did last season. Glaring weakness: The Suns don?t quite have a black hole in the middle, but it?s an awful dark mass in the space-time continuum. Plumlee and Len are expected to receive the bulk of those minutes, and that duo (mostly Plumlee, due to the multiple injuries that scuttled Len's rookie season) anchored the NBA?s fourth-worst efficiency differential at the position last season, according to HoopsStats.com (minus-3.8). Plumlee?s minutes plunged throughout 2013-14 as Hornacek got more comfortable playing Markieff Morris and the since-departed Frye in smaller, more offensively potent lineups. As a result, though, Phoenix allowed 42.2 points in the paint per game , also the league?s fourth-worst group. Not even highly regarded defensive assistant coach Mike Longabardi could help the Suns rise above the middle of the pack in points allowed per possession. Plumlee is still their best bet to clog the middle on defense, even if he does the same on offense. Contributor with something to prove: Following his client?s second knee surgery in three years, Bledsoe's agent spent the offseason demanding a max contract for a player who has started all of 78 NBA games. McDonough, who reportedly offered four years and $48 million, entered a summer-long staring contest with Rich Paul, and the two sides met closer to Bledsoe's demands. To say the 24-year-old has something to prove is an understatement. For chunks of last season, Bledsoe replicated what so many projected for Chris Paul's former backup. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound brick of muscle averaged 17.7 points (57.8 TS%), 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds while generally tormenting opposing backcourts alongside Dragic in 43 games. That's encouraging for a fourth-year point guard on his rookie contract; now it's expected from an eight-figure-salaried franchise player. Potential breakout stud: Double ankle surgeries stunted Year 1 of The Alex Len Project, presenting a built-in excuse for the No. 5 overall pick?s PER (7.3), true shooting percentage (46.9) and statistical averages over 42 games (two points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in 8.6 minutes per game). Now, double finger fractures ? on the same right pinkie, mind you ? offer another easy excuse for the 7-foot-1 Ukrainian to start slow out of the gate. Yet Len made huge strides from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Maryland, and the 21-year-old has the potential to take a similar step forward after one year under Hornacek and Longabardi. He added the customary 15 pounds of muscle, and then collected six points, six boards and a pair of blocks before breaking his finger 25 minutes into Summer League. The re-broken finger is a setback for a player in desperate need of preseason practice, but he?ll still start the regular season healthy, and the minutes will be there for him to demonstrate his improvement, especially if he develops a mid-range jumper. Best-case scenario: It won?t be easy for Dragic to repeat his breakout All-NBA season, Green to shoot 3?s at a 40 percent clip again and Tolliver to replace Frye?s 2,312 minutes, but some combo of Bledsoe?s health, the addition of Thomas and the improvements of the Morris twins, Plumlee and/or Len should help the Suns recreate the magic that made them the NBA darlings of 2013-14. Even then, they?ll still be navigating a crowded Western Conference playoff picture that may also include Anthony Davis? New Orleans Pelicans ? all for the right to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs in the first round. Them?s the breaks for a franchise on the rise. If everything falls apart: Even if the science experiment takes a turn for the worse and the Suns just miss the postseason for a second straight year, McDonough will still have a pair of lottery picks at his disposal. Phoenix still owns a top-five protected pick from the Steve Nash trade, so barring a bit of Los Angeles Lakers luck, the worst-case scenario ? a couple of mid-round picks ? isn?t the worst consolation prize. Unless, of course, the team?s talented young core undergoes an abduction of sorts. Stranger things have happened in the Arizona desert. The Suns are on standing on the edge of an event horizon. Strap in for another weird, wild ride. Kelly Dwyer?s Best Guess at a Record: Phoenix will finish 47-35, eighth in the Western Conference. Read all of Ball Don't Lie's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews (links added as they're published): EASTERN CONFERENCE Atlanta Hawks ? Boston Celtics ? Brooklyn Nets ? Charlotte Hornets ? Chicago Bulls ? Cleveland Cavaliers ? Detroit Pistons ? Indiana Pacers ? Miami Heat ? Milwaukee Bucks ? New York Knicks ? Orlando Magic ? Philadelphia 76ers ? Toronto Raptors ? Washington Wizards WESTERN CONFERENCE Dallas Mavericks ? Denver Nuggets ? Golden State Warriors ? Houston Rockets ? Los Angeles Clippers ? Los Angeles Lakers ? Memphis Grizzlies ? Minnesota Timberwolves ? New Orleans Pelicans ? Oklahoma City Thunder ? Phoenix Suns ? Portland Trail Blazers ? Sacramento Kings ? San Antonio Spurs ? Utah Jazz - - - - - - - Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
Lakers guard Nash to sit out NBA season (AFP)
23 Oct 2014 at 10:55pm
Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash may have played his last game in the NBA after being ruled out of the upcoming season because of a recurring back problem. The Lakers said Nash, 40, who has been strongly tipped to retire after the 2014-15 campaign, had been sidelined after meeting with team doctors who advised him to sit out the season. "As disappointed as we are for ourselves and our fans, we?re even more disappointed for Steve," said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Thursday. "We know how hard he?s worked the last two years to try to get his body right for the rigours of the NBA, and how badly he wants to play, but unfortunately he simply hasn?t been able to get there up to this point in time.
Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury (The Associated Press)
23 Oct 2014 at 9:46pm
Steve Nash hoped for one more chance to show off his playmaking skills after fighting injuries and time for two miserable years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Nash will miss the entire season because of a back injury, the Lakers announced Thursday, putting the two-time NBA MVP point guard's career in doubt. The Lakers and the 40-year-old Nash announced their joint decision less than a week before the start of the regular season.
Lakers' Nash out for season with back injury (Reuters)
23 Oct 2014 at 6:17pm
(Reuters) - Los Angeles Lakers' point guard Steve Nash will miss the entire 2014-15 season, the National Basketball Association team said on Thursday. Nash, 40, has battled a bad back and other injuries for years and the latest setback suggests the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player may have played his final game, though he has not announced his retirement. "Being on the court this season has been my top priority and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now," the Canadian said in a statement. ...
Lakers point guard Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury (The Asso...
23 Oct 2014 at 5:45pm
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Lakers point guard Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury .
Steve Nash to miss the entire 2014-15 season with nerve damage in his back (B...
23 Oct 2014 at 5:42pm
The Los Angeles Lakers? prospects were never going to be all that swell in 2014-15 . The team is thin, injury-prone, lacking defenders, and featuring a questionable mindset when it comes to attempting three-pointers. One saving grace that fans did have to look forward to was the potential, at last, for a pairing of a healthy Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Though the two would have been diminished by age and injury, the throwback backcourt would have been fun to take in. We?ve, again, been denied a chance at watching as much. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report was the first to drop word on Thursday evening that Nash will be ruled out for the entire 2014-15 season because of ongoing nerve damage in his back. The two-time MVP has said repeatedly that he has no interest in moving his family away from Los Angeles in order to join another team, so barring an unexpected contract offer from the Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers next season, Steve Nash will effectively retire after this diagnosis. It?s an incredibly unfortunate end to a career that, as recently as 24 months ago, seemed to be aging better than most other players in NBA history. Nash played All-Star level ball in his final year with the Phoenix Suns in 2011-12, leading the NBA in assist percentage and working in 62 of that season?s 66 games. The Lakers were all too giddy to send a pair of first-round draft picks Phoenix?s way for the right to sign Nash to a three-year, nearly $28 million contract during that offseason, teaming Nash with Bryant and eventually All-Star center Dwight Howard in the Laker lineup. Things fell apart almost immediately, as Nash fractured his left leg in Los Angeles? second game of the season, and his subsequent rush to return from that injury resulted in the back, neck and nerve pain that limited his 2012-13 run, and benched him for nearly all of the next season. With nearly a year and a half?s worth of rehab to his credit including the lost 2013-14 season, Nash seemed prime to give it one last go this year, and give his career a proper, if lottery-bound, send off. Nash started his team?s first two exhibition games, but had to ask out of the first quarter of the second contest against the Golden State Warriors. Days later, he reportedly re-injured his back while carrying luggage, which resulted in the future Hall of Famer missing practice. Now Nash has this diagnosis, and we have the grim knowledge that we?ve probably already watched Steve Nash play his last NBA game. What we should then do with that knowledge is thank our lucky stars that we ever got to see him at all. Some 14 years ago, around this time, Steve Nash was battling Howard Eisley for the role as the Dallas Mavericks? starting shooting guard. Following two injury-plagued and ineffective seasons with the Mavericks, the team smartly signed the well-regarded Eisley as starting insurance should Nash?s Achilles and back injuries continue to limit his play. Nash instead beat Eisley out and turned in a stellar season, as the Mavericks made the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Steve went on to make the All-Star team in his next year, the first of eight such appearances. There was a real chance that the Steve Nash that we grew to know and admire may never have come to fruition had his injury woes sustained. Nash could have limped out of this league a decade ago, never thrilling us with his work with Dallas? fabulous offensive outfit or Phoenix?s legendary Seven Seconds or Less revue. (On a personal note, Nash?s ascension meant quite a bit to the guy currently writing this. He was one of two bench afterthoughts, Darrell Armstrong being the other, that I hopped on as role players that could eventually take a star turn in this league ? especially after watching Nash dominate the late goings of these two games in the first month of his rookie year. He seemed like a quicker Mark Price, or Kevin Johnson with deeper range, and to a game tape-hoarding teenager that wanted to eventually make a living covering the NBA, having Nash eventually take off meant a whole hell of a lot for my confidence in my choice of career.) Nash has yet to comment, to officially retire, and we don?t blame the guy. Having the ability to play a game that you mastered at for so long taken away from you is quite the shock, even if Nash?s nerve issues have been in place for nearly two years now. It?s just as cruel a blow to NBA fandom, with less than a week to go before the season?s tipoff, to learn that one of the greatest point guards of all time is being taken away from us. We got him for a while, though. A great while. Never forget that. - - - - - - - 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
BDL's 2014-15 NBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Lakers (Ball Don't Lie)
23 Oct 2014 at 12:10pm
Jeanie Buss: 'Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is...
23 Oct 2014 at 10:15am
Let?s pretend, for a moment, that Kobe Bryant is some wonderful, cheerful, galoot of a man. That he is super swell to work with, and that his on-record tough guy musings spat out in an expletive-laden style that reminds of a 11-year-old who just realized he could use blue words is just a show for the media. Let?s pretend that, behind the scenes, Kobe Bryant is the ideal teammate, and that he?s promised many things to prospective Los Angeles Lakers teammates through the years. Promised that the storied franchise will be theirs, all theirs, once Bryant retires and the salary cap shoots way up upon his retirement. Assured that he?d willingly give up shots and the ball in order to develop a more harmonious partnership with a free agent partner. Or partners. Pointed out that there are still grapes to be eaten in California, and that he?d sacrifice whatever it takes to win, even if that means abandoning the spotlight and ceding the reins of the offense. Let?s just try to live in that world, for a moment. It may take a Brando-like sense of method acting to put yourself in that spot, but give it a try. Now ask yourself, in the face of a kinder and gentler Kobe Bean, does this make Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Pau Gasol, or even LeBron James ?losers? for wanting to play elsewhere? Laker president Jeanie Buss sure seems to think so. From an appearance on ESPN on Thursday : "Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I'm glad they wouldn't come to the team," Buss said during a "SportsCenter" interview Thursday. All of this noise comes on the heels of a much-ballyhooed and much - derided feature from ESPN?s Henry Abbott , who used a retinue of anonymous sources to pin the blame on Kobe Bryant for the Lakers? demise since the championship season of 2010, and the likely nasty two seasons to come in the final two years of Bryant?s ridiculous $48.5 million contract. Buss, like most of us, has made her way through the tome : "I read the story," Buss said Thursday. "I don't agree with any of it. If there is somebody that's on our payroll who is saying things like that, I'll soon get to the bottom of it, and they won't be working for us anymore." As with all things Kobe, and as what should have been the case with the initial ESPN piece, there needs to be a bit of nuance here. Rebuilding through free agency in the modern era, even with one star or near-All-Star (as a diminished Bryant is, post Achilles surgery) already on hand is no way to build a champion. A team needs younger assets, pieces delivered via trade, and role players that are already in-house. Had Bryant put his ego aside and signed for a contract along the lines of what Dirk Nowitzki recently re-signed for (three-years, $25 million for a player that is better than Bryant right now), and if we?re still working under the assumption that free agents would love to play with a Kuddly Kobe, that?s still a massively long shot that the Lakers would be able to cull together a contending roster full of free agents during the last offseason. On top of that, teams just aren?t dumping overpaid-yet-productive players on other teams with cap space via trade these days. The salaries have evened out, and not even the Brooklyn Nets are dealing Deron Williams just for a trade exception. General manager Mitch Kupchak understands this, and while he was well aware that he was basically signing away two years of his life by giving Bryant a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension, that?s what you do when you want to keep a job. That?s what you do when you?re mindful of the fact that each potential Bryant partner had plenty of reasons to say ?no? to Los Angeles. All Mitch had to do is look at the list. There are actual people on it, with real names. Dwight Howard? Even with his back worries, he?ll eventually make all the money he can handle, and he left a limping Bryant (who had just torn his Achilles two and a half months prior) to work for a team in Houston with a far younger and healthier shooting guard in James Harden, one that won just as many games as the Bryant-led Lakers the year before. Paul George? He may be from Los Angeles, but the Pacers could offer him far more money than El Lay to stay in Indiana and play for what was then a championship contender. He would have had to wait out his rookie contract, play for less money on a qualifying offer, and explore unrestricted free agency all while hoping that he didn?t suffer a career-altering injury while working his way toward El Segundo. Sadly, George would suffer that sort of injury just a month after he would have purportedly signed with the Lakers. Signed for, again, far less than he?ll make in Indianapolis ? an area he actually likes. Chris Bosh? If anything, he should have taken less money to go to the Houston Rockets, and work in a killer lineup with Howard, Harden and an ostensibly re-signed Chandler Parsons. Instead, he understandably chose to take as much money as possible to stay in Miami, a place his family is just-as understandably comfortable with. He won?t win another championship there, but he wasn?t winning one alongside Kobe either. Pau Gasol? The guy seeks challenges, and we dig that. The idea of he and Joakim Noah flinging the ball around the Chicago frontcourt, working in a multi-cultural city, appealed to him. He took less money and moved to a climate that involves tortuous winters, and this is where our doubling down on the idea of Kobe Bryant as a model teammate is starting to crack. LeBron James? Why does he need to play alongside an aging Kobe Bryant (and lord knows who else in L.A.) at this point in his career? Especially when he can go back home to play alongside one of the league?s best point guards, knowing that that Kevin Love deal was already just about signed off on even before James announced his free agent decision. Play at home, make a ton of money, and create perhaps the league?s best roster in a week ? or go play with Kobe? Carmelo Anthony? The Knicks won?t be winning a championship either, but he and his family like New York, and they like making as much money as possible. Anthony, as it has been since his AAU days, also likes being the face of a franchise ? something he was never going to be in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant (the guy that didn?t bother to stay in Los Angeles during the opening of free agent negotiations), of all people, should understand this. Losers, all? If you want to peel back on the idea of Kobe as a model teammate, fine. Carlos Boozer didn?t even choose to play for the Lakers this year, and he lives in Los Angeles. Jeremy Lin was traded there, Jordan Hill had to be overpaid to stay there, and prized free agent signee Ed Davis strangely wasn?t receiving any offers elsewhere. This summer was as big as free agency whiffs come. The Buss family was wrong to offer Kobe Bryant that much money, but the Buss family (that makes their money off of the Los Angeles Lakers, with no other outside revenue streams) was also right not to alienate a fan base that has already bought tickets, and suites, by entering into an unsettling relationship with their appointed Mr. Laker. Kobe Bryant was wrong to take all that money, especially when he bleats on about wanting to win more than anything else while gumming up the team?s cap picture, but he was completely correct in taking as much as he possibly could from a family that has made so much off of him. Mitch Kupchak was wrong to ignore his better basketball instincts in signing off on the deal, but he also likely knew that each free agent turn involves individuals with different agendas, and sometimes the timing isn?t right. Sometimes the timing is right, and for whatever reason you?re allowed to pull in Shaquille O?Neal and Bryant in the same summer, or grab Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the same summer, or deal for a Hall of Famer like Pau Gasol weeks before the trade deadline. Sometimes, a series of individuals all decline ? not en masse, just at various points ? to come to Los Angeles to play with Kobe Bryant. For whatever reasons. And, as always, a bit of nuance needs to be tossed out there. - - - - - - - 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

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