Knicks Injury Report:
Marcus Camby: left Thursday’s game (foot)
Raymond Felton: out (broken right pinky)
Iman Shumpert: out (knee)
Rasheed Wallace: out (stress reaction in foot)
Chicago goes for its third win in as many tries against the Knicks this season, as New York tries to avoid dropping both games of a back-to-back.
The Knicks lost to Indiana last night, without their star player. Carmelo Anthony was serving a one-game suspension for waiting outside the Celtics’ team bus for Kevin Garnett. New York, who averages 101.5 points per game, really struggled to score without their starting forward. They shot just 34.8 percent from the field and finished with only 76 points, by far their lowest total of the season (their next lowest scoring effort was 85, against the Bulls on December 8).
The Knicks starters scored just 35 points. Indiana’s bench, who employs the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahinmi and Gerald Green (in a non-Dunk Contest environment), scored 32 points. J.R. Smith scored 25 points off the bench for New York, but it took him 29 shots to do so. Tyson Chandler was the only Knick to shoot at least 50 percent. Chandler had a solid game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 15 boards, but the reigning Defensive Player of the Year was the only Knick starter to have fewer shots taken than points scored. Ronnie Brewer nearly had an 8-trillion, but he ruined it by having a single assist (miss you, Ronnie).
But the Pacers do this to pretty much everyone they play. Indy is second in opponent points per game (89.1) and first in defensive rating (98.5). The Pacers haven’t allowed more than 94 points since December.
The Bulls will be getting a somewhat tired Knicks team that is already pretty old. Jason Kidd played 31 minutes, Tyson Chandler played 38, J.R. Smith played 40 minutes, and Marcus Camby re-aggravated a foot injury in his 20 minutes. Keep in mind Amare Stoudemire is also returning from injury and was told by team doctors to limit his minutes. Anthony will obviously be well-rested, as he hasn’t played since Monday’s loss to the Celtics.
The Bulls held New York to 32.1 percent shooting in their first match-up, and 41.8 in their second go-around. The first game the Knicks didn’t have Carmelo, and they were missing Stoudemire in both. The Knicks will be without Raymond Felton for the first time in the series. Felton averaged 24.0 points per game, but shot 35.3 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from beyond the arc in the two games versus Chicago.
The Knicks are not playing their best basketball of the year right now. They started off smoking hot from the field, but they’ve dropped every month of the season thus far. In November New York shot 41.6 percent from three, in December it fell to 37.1. So far in January, they are shooting 34.9 percent from deep. They have also dropped in overall shooting, steals and points per game.
Those numbers translate to the Knicks being just 4-6 in their last ten games, coming back to earth from their great start and amazing shooting. New York is 4-3 on the second night of back-to-backs, averaging 104 points per game, but giving up 108.3.
The Bulls are having their best shooting month, at 46.4 percent, more than 2 percent better than the next highest month. They are also shooting 48 percent from three, nearly 17 percent better than they did in November. It’s only four games in, and knowing the Bulls’ offense things could change quickly, but these numbers are solid signs of improvement from a team whose offense needs to vastly improve.
The Knicks score a lot of points, and even though the Bulls are 5th in defensive rating, New York is going to get their points. Brandon Jennings torched the Bulls for 35 points and Milwaukee scored 104, when they average 96.5. The Bulls are going to have to bring a better defensive effort, especially Luol Deng on Anthony, if they want to start their own back-to-back with a win. At least this time it will be Deng on the opposing team’s best scorer, rather than Nate Robinson.
Bad blood: Last time the two teams met, there were four ejections. It started with Carmelo Anthony being ejected in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Honey Nut Cheerios, or any cereal, played a part in this ejection, although you can never be too sure. Knicks coach Mike Woodson followed and then Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler were later tossed. I nominate Nazr Mohammed to get thrown out this time.
It’s getting crazy, people. July 1 is a few short days away and teams are jockeying for poll position in the upcoming free agent bonanza. Here’s a roundup of news and rumors about the free agents that may or may not be a part of the Bulls’ near future.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard: “[The Knicks' GM Donnie ] Walsh and [coach Mike] D’Antoni also hope to meet with Amare Stoudemire while in Los Angeles. [Joe] Johnson and Stoudemire emerged as star players while playing for D’Antoni in Phoenix, which is a large part of the reason both players are considering New York so strongly. Johnson averaged double figures (16.7 ppg) for the first time in his career while playing for D’Antoni in the 2003-04 season. That same year, Stoudemire went from being a 13-point scorer to a 20-point scorer in D’Antoni’s wide-open system. While the Knicks’ main target is James, the duo of Johnson and Stoudemire would be a nice consolation prize if James goes elsewhere.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: “The Boston Celtics have targeted center Brad Miller to sign in free agency, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Miller and guard Ray Allen are expected to be the Celtics’ two top priorities in free agency following the retirement of Rasheed Wallace and a knee injury to Kendrick Perkins. … Several contenders are expected to pursue Miller, but sources say the chance to play for the defending Eastern Conference champions has significant appeal to him.”
Said Bosh: “Miami is in top contention. With the money they have, the cap space they have, the rights on Dwyane [Wade], him possibly staying. And just having a good organization; they are known as a first-class organization. Dwyane is going to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game when it’s said and done.”
But…he won’t be playing center if the Heat keep Michael Beasley and/or re-sign Udonis Haslem
Added Bosh: “The thing I said when I came into free agency is I’m going to be a forward. I’m going to play my natural position.”
Bosh also dismissed the rumor that he would sign with the Bulls if LeBron does. And he’s not the only one to dismiss that rumor.
According to Art Garcia of NBA.com: “Completely untrue,” Bosh’s agent Henry Thomas told NBA.com via email. “He hasn’t decided anything.”
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: “Amid indications Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh will seek to join another top free agent on a team with cap space, a person with knowledge of the Rockets’ thinking said Houston is confident it will be in the running and is considering seeking another enticement. The individual familiar with the Rockets’ thinking said Houston could attempt to give Bosh a chance to sign with an All-Star guard by making a run at Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson.”
According to Michael Wallace of the Miami Herald: “Before jetting away Sunday night for a vacation to set his professional agenda, Heat guard Dwyane Wade cleared the air on his free agency itinerary. Wade denied reports that he has agreed to visit the New York Knicks on a recruiting tour, but would not rule out meeting with other teams to gauge their interest in his services.”
Said Wade: “I haven’t set anything in stone. It’s funny when you hear these things come out, especially when they come out about you. You only heard this stuff after LeBron said he wasn’t going to some places. But none of us know what’s going to happen. Not LeBron. Not me. Not Chris. Not any of us, right now. … I love Miami and everyone knows that. We worked hard to put ourselves in this position. But as a free agent, you explore everything and see what happens.”
According to Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: ”A person familiar with the Hawks’ plans said they still hope to re-sign Johnson and are prepared to spend the money necessary to do so. The person said the Hawks fear Johnson might decide to leave for reasons other than money, including the criticism he received from fans and media after a poor showing in the playoffs last month. The person asked not be identified because the team has stipulated it would not publicly discuss the Johnson negotiations.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard: “When the clock strikes midnight ET in New York on July 1, Knicks team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D’Antoni will be in Los Angeles meeting with Johnson, who will hold all of his meetings with clubs on the West Coast. The Knicks’ brass will fly to northeast Ohio to woo James at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday. While the Hawks hope to keep Johnson in Atlanta, several sources said the Knicks have emerged as his first choice. If they must lose him, the Hawks’ preference is to work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks.”
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports: ”Don’t be surprised if his strong connection to Clippers GM Neil Olshey explains why Johnson is conveniently ensconced in L.A. for the purposes of signing a max deal with the Clips. As a trainer for Tellem when Johnson was entering the draft, Olshey worked with Johnson and has maintained a strong relationship with him. The Clippers situation is ideal because Johnson wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden as the franchise cornerstone, a title and responsibility that will fall on Blake Griffin. The Clippers, with enough cap space for one max player, will make their run at LeBron, but the answer is expected to be a swift and polite, ‘No, thanks.’ At which point you can expected them to move on to Johnson as their Plan B.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: “Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will pursue a sign-and-trade to lure Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson, league sources told Yahoo! Sports … Johnson, is more likely to embrace a sign-and-trade to the contending Mavs than sign a free-agent contract with New York or Chicago, sources said.”
According to Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times: “The LeBron James sweepstakes will kick off in Ohio on his home turf Thursday as five teams — the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat, the Knicks, the Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers — travel there in an attempt to woo James away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, an executive of one of the teams in the hunt said Saturday. The executive, who did not want to be identified discussing a player who is not yet a free agent, said he had gathered from discussions with his fellow NBA executives that James was strongly leaning toward joining the Bulls in tandem with another free agent, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors.”
According to John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: “A source with knowledge of the situation said James is expected to be joined in the Ohio meetings by his agent, Leon Rose; his business manager, Maverick Carter; and confidant William Wesley, who works with Rose at super agency CAA Sports. The meetings are expected to be all about basketball because James doesn’t want to get caught up in different cities trying to outdo each other with glitzy presentations. That certainly works in the Bulls’ favor. Of all the teams, they have the most talent in place, plus significant salary-cap room.”
ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh thinks STAT would fit in with the Bulls…even he’s more Plan D, E or F material: “Who has a point guard who can man the fast break, an open slot for a scoring power forward and a long big man who can defend? That’s right, the Chicago Bulls. From an existing personnel standpoint, no team should appeal to Stoudemire more than the Bulls. With lightning-quick Derrick Rose at the point and high-energy Joakim Noah by his side, Stoudemire could slide seamlessly into the Bulls’ roster and finally give them a real scoring option on the block — perhaps the first since they traded Elton Brand almost a decade ago. But will Chicago’s new head coach and defensive wizard Tom Thibodeau tolerate Stoudemire’s listlessness on D? Long known as one of the hardest working coaches in the game, it’s hard to imagine Stoudemire responding positively to a man who expects nothing but the highest collective effort on both ends of the floor. But if anyone can design a defensive scheme more effective than the sum of its parts, it would have to be Thibodeau. That said, the Bulls could have their sights on someone else, and that would leave no room for Stoudemire.”
I’m not real big on the idea of the Bulls giving Stoudemire a max contract, and it doesn’t seem as though the Bulls are either. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “The Bulls have reservations over acquiring Stoudemire, who will seek a maximum contract at a time questions remain about his defensive play and recovery from microfracture surgery on his knee.”
I’m not going to lie: I have the same reservations and even though Amar’e would probably make the Bulls better in the short term, I’d rather see the front office sit on their extra cap space until next summer than overspend for Stoudemire this summer.
Remember back when Chris Bosh said he wants to play for a team where he’s The Man? In case you forgot, here’s what Bosh said: “I’m not an addition. I’m a centerpiece. I have to have that confidence in myself, and I want people to know that, because I’m not somebody that helps out. I’m the guy you get like, ‘Yo, we’re going to win a championship, you’re gonna take us there.’ I want to hold onto that because I think every kid when they dream about playing basketball, they don’t dream about being a role player. They dream about being the man. I have that position in Toronto and to give that up and go somewhere else to be an addition would kinda defeat the purpose of my dreams.”
So…is Bosh’s mindset the same now that his free agency is almost here? Apparently, it is.
According to Art Garcia of NBA.com: “Bosh hasn’t changed that stance, adding recently that he’s making his decision separate from LeBron James or anyone else. Bosh is frequently mentioned as the bronze medal in the Free Agency Olympics headlined by LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Bidders can do a lot worse than bronze. While the pairing of Bosh with one of his former Team USA teammates could form the foundation of a title contender, the 26-year-old power forward could just as easily strike out on his own. Bosh’s independent streak is a significant variable in a marketplace that so many assume will be dictated by LeBron. Bosh could be the first domino to fall if he decides to leave Toronto when free agency begins July 1, causing a ripple effect among the teams with significant cap space and those angling for a premier free agent through a sign-and-trade.”
For the record — not like I haven’t been saying this for months — I think Bosh would be a great addition to the Bulls. Short of landing LeBron, there probably isn’t another player who should be available that I’d want more than Bosh. And his whole “I want to be The Man” syndrome could work in Chicago’s favor. Even though Derrick Rose is clearly the team’s leader, he hasn’t yet ascended to superduperstardom like, say, LeBron and D-Wade. Coming to Chicago would put Bosh in a great situation talent-wise but also probably give him (in his own mind at least) a 1a or 1b status.
At any rate, it doesn’t appear as if Bosh is going to be waiting to see what LeBron or anybody else does come July 1st.
This is what Bosh recently said on SNY.tv: “Anytime you have the opportunity to play with certain guys, you have to take that into consideration. When it all goes down, [LeBron is] gonna be one of the all-time greats. At the same time, I can’t just sit around and wait. I have to be proactive with my choices and what’s gonna make me happy. I have to make sure I take my time and make the right decision.
“There are a lot of teams out there I’m considering including my home team, the Raptors. It’s gonna be crazy and confusing and I’m looking forward to it. I think each team has its own advantages over the other. New Jersey has a young core, so does New York. The coaching styles are a bit different. A lot of people are excited about the new (Nets) owner. It’s interesting. Everybody is pretty much excited about the makeup of the team and the direction the Nets are headed. It might work out; it might not. You always have to consider a lot.”
Notice he didn’t mention the Bulls? It may have had more to do with the questions he was asked than anything else, but it’s worth noting.
According to RealGM, Stephen A. Smith has some (very) minor insider info on what LeBron’s team is doing to prepare for the free agent bonanza: “From what my sources tell me, he still hasn’t made a final decision but he’s higher on New York now than he was a month ago. And the reality is that he is leaning more towards New York than he is towards returning to Cleveland … He and his people have been digging deeper and deeper … to inquire about Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni around the league. They have been asking questions over the last week, very in-depth questions, about the New York Knicks organization.”
I’d like to know what those “in-depth questions” were.
At any rate, that RealGM article had one Bulls-specific tidbit: “Smith suggests that the prospect of competing head to head with Michael Jordan’s legacy in Chicago is dampening James’ interest in the Bulls.”
That’s what I was afraid of. But who knows? Magic Johnson’s place as the Greatest Laker Ever seemed pretty secure until recently. Now that Kobe Bryant has won another title in L.A., some people — including ESPN’s Chris Broussard and even Shaq — are already annointing him the Greatest Laker Ever. So nobody’s place in history is unassailable. In theory. But Jordan’s is pretty close.
The only thing we don’t know is: Would that challenge motivate LeBron or scare him away?
On Friday night, CNN’s Larry King Live will show a taped interview with LeBron James in which The King is/was asked whether the city of Cleveland has “an edge going in” to free agent negotiations with His Highness.
LeBron’s response: “Absolutely. Because, you know, this city, these fans, I mean, have given me a lot in these seven years. And, you know, for me, it’s comfortable. So I’ve got a lot of memories here. And — and so it does have an edge.”
Yay for Cleveland, right?
Maybe not. Rob Parker of ESPNNewYork.com thinks that LeBron’s statement is a bunch of blather: “If someone can read into that quote and determine that James is staying in Cleveland, they’re just engaging in wishful thinking, at best. If anything — sorry, Cavaliers fans — it shows that James is searching for the best way to let everyone down easy when he finally decides to leave the comforts of the Midwest for the bright lights and a new challenge in the big city.”
Of course, Parker believes that James will end up in New York with either the Knicks or Nets. My take? It’s impossible to tell at this point. All we can do is watch, wait and hang on rumors.
Speaking of rumors, Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer writes that the supposed “free agent summit” between LeBron, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Dywane Wade, and Joe Johnson won’t be taking place after all.
According to Schmitt: “CNBC’s Darren Rovell spoke to agents for Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire, who put the kibosh on the most anticipated summit conference since Potsdam. Rovell reports that agent Henry Thomas, who represents Wade and Bosh, actually told that to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last week, but other news outlets have been slow to pick it up.”
Furthrmore, Thomas told Rovell: “Dwyane never made reference to a summit. He said that he’d have conversations with some of these guys, and that still will happen. But there’s no summit of any kind planned where they’ll all be in the same location. … The way it was first characterized and the way it continues to be characterized — as if the only thing left to determine is a date and a location — is not the reality.”
Could Stoudemire help the Bulls? Absolutely. The Bulls need a frontcourt scorer, and Amar’e would fill that need. Adding him to the roster would make the Bulls a better team…but almost certainly not as good as they could be.
Just look at Stoudemire’s performance against the Lakers in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. Sure, he scored 25.0 PPG on 52 percent shooting while earning almost 12 free throw attempts per game. That said, his efforts were rather one dimensional.
Amar’e is the biggest, strongest, most athletic member of the Suns, but he averaged only 6.0 RPG versus L.A. In the Suns’ four losses, he grabbed 3, 6, 4, and 4 rebounds. In Game 6, during which the Suns were eliminated, Stoudemire finished with 2 defensive rebounds. Mind you, this was the biggest game in the biggest series of his life.
These things concern me.
What’s more, Amar’e dished out only 3 assists (versus 16 turnovers) in the series, including zero assists over the final four games. The only thing he had eyes for was the rim. To a certain extent, that’s understandable. After all, scoring is his primary duty. But Stoudemire faced or dribbled into a lot of double and triple coverage over those six games. When that happened, he was thinking “shoot” and not “hey, maybe one of my teammates is open now.”
Again, these things concern me.
Of course, it may not matter for the Bulls.
After the Suns were eliminated on Saturday night, Stoudemire told Fanhouse: “I didn’t know how to feel. As I was walking out, I was thinking it could be my last time walking through this tunnel with the Suns uniform on. I’ve been here my whole career, so I definitely had that feeling. But there’s a good possibility that I may be back.”
Stoudemire added that staying in Phoenix is “the ultimate plan, that’s the goal. But if it doesn’t happen that way, then on to Plan B.”
What’s Plan B? Well, check out these facts: Amar’e is from Florida, has a house in Miami and says he’s friends with Dywane Wade. And we all know the Heat have even more money to play with than the Bulls do. I’m just sayin’.
Of course, Stoudemire isn’t the only free agent with ties to South Florida…
Furthermore, Boozer told the South Florida Sun-Sentinal: “Me and D-Wade are really close. One of our good friends is [Heat coach] Erik Spoelstra. He comes to talk to our camps.”
So not one but two big name free agent big men seem to have eyes for Miami. Which also effects Wade, who will likely stay in Miami if Heat GM Pat Riley can land another All-Star to play alongside him. Of course, Wade has been pretty lukewarm about the idea of returning to Chicago and recently took some shots at the organization’s loyalty, so he seems to be both crossing the Windy City off his potential destination checklist and undermining the Bulls’ desirability to the other free agents.
However, Boozer — and just about everybody else — realizes that nothing will be settled until Free Agent Number One makes his decision: “The summer is going to get kicked off in free agency wherever LeBron goes. Once he decides what he’s going to do for the rest of his career, it will be easy for the rest of us to figure out what we’re going to do.”
Mike Colias and David Sterrett of Crains Chicago Business explain the type of impact James could have in Chicago: “Broadcast execs are giddy over the prospect of ratings and ad sales leaping back to Michael Jordan-era levels. Apparel shops, ticket brokers and bar and restaurant owners say the 25-year-old megastar would spark a frenzy of spending by local high-rollers and out-of-town professionals. Tourism officials gush over the exposure Chicago would get from near-constant national telecasts. The LeBron effect could add up to as much as $2.7 billion if he plays here for six years, estimates University of Illinois at Chicago economist John Skorburg. The catch: He’d have to take the Bulls on deep, annual playoff runs, sprinkling in at least a few NBA championships along the way.”
I’m not sure that we needed business experts to tell us LeBron would mean fat cash for Chicago, but at least we can assign a number to our speculation now. I doubt that information will have any impact on LeBron’s decision though.
One thing that might effect LeBron’s decision — according to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald — is Chicago’s coaching vacancy: “A new rumor, though, has [William] Wesley pushing Lakers assistant Brian Shaw for the Bulls under the idea that James is intrigued by the triangle offense. Shaw is in his fifth season working under Phil Jackson. The Bulls are going to wait until the end of the Finals before moving forward on their coaching search. Right now, Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau and ex-Blazers and Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks are the leaders, but Shaw has time to join the race.”
After watching what happened when rookie head coach Kurt Rambis — another former Lakers assistant — tried to institute the triangle offense in Minnesota last season, I’m not sure I like the idea of Shaw starting it up in Chicago. Of course, Rambis didn’t have LeBron…
After the game, Stoudemire said: “You can never question my determination, my focus, my dedication. That’s one of the reasons I’ve persevered through injuries and continue to try to improve every summer. My dedication to the game is at an all-time high.”
Isn’t it funny how a player’s “dedication to the game” always seems to hit an all-time high during a contract year? I’m just sayin’…
Said Broussard: “Of all the clubs with max cap space, the Bulls have the most talent to put around James. He’s never had a teammate the caliber of Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah is an amped-up, more skilled version of Anderson Varejao (not to mention one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the game). The positions are a bit different, but could that trio become reminiscent of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman? The Bulls also have other solid players who might be able to fetch another star-caliber talent in a sign-and-trade. The city of Chicago isn’t New York, but it’s not Cleveland either. The Chi would give LeBron a nice mix of big city excitement and suburban peace.”
Of course, Broussard also points out that signing with the Bulls could cost LeBron $30 million and would force him to play in Michael Jordan’s shadow. To that’s the downside.
By the way, LeBron’s agent, Maverick Carter, has put the kibosh on all those rumors about the King wanting (or demanding) to hand-pick his next coach. Said Carter: “All these rumors out there are absolutely untrue. LeBron just wants to win. He doesn’t want to handpick his next coach.”
Despite all the LeBron buzz, NBA GMs are also talking a lot about Bosh.
According to ESPN’s Chad Ford: “The NBA GMs I spoke with are convinced that Bosh is the most likely top free agent to leave for another destination. They also believe the Raptors will be willing to do a sign-and-trade, potentially putting all 29 other teams in play for his services. That idea wasn’t disputed by two sources close to situation. They told me Thursday that Bosh’s agent has informed the Raptors that he has whittled his potential list down to five teams and has given the list to the Raptors. (See this Bosh news story, published earlier on Friday.) Bosh’s wish list, according to sources, includes the Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and New York Knicks, in no particular order.”
Despite the “in no particular order part, Ford went on to say: “One of the sources told ESPN.com that Bosh’s ultimate decision will likely be heavily influenced where LeBron decides to play: ‘If LeBron decides to go to either New York or Chicago, I think that’s where you’ll see Chris land. If LeBron stays in Cleveland, I think the process is more wide open.’”
Ford also said that Bosh would likely prefer a sign-and-trade scenario so he could get an extra year on his contract and larger year-to-year raises. The Bulls would probably be more than happy to do a sign-and-trade with Luol Deng and/or Kirk Hinrich — due mostly to their bloated contracts — but the Raptors would probably want a big man in return, say, Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah. Well, there’s no way they’re getting Noah. Deng and Gibson, perhaps?
I’ve made my feelings about Joe Cool pretty clear, but allow me to repeat myself: Don’t want him on the Bulls, no way, no how. Well, Brett LaGree of Hoopinion paints an ugly picture that has hardened my anti-Joe stance to “unbreakable.”
LaGree provides plenty of hard data to suggest that Johnson is — in essence — a player without great athleticism who relies primarily on difficult jump shots, rarely gets to the free throw line, and plays questionable defense. And despite being The Man in Atlanta, his production (though very good) has basically flatlined.
Said LaGree: “Johnson turns 29 this summer. He’s played 25,974 minutes in the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks have enjoyed the prime of his career. That prime may last another couple of years but Joe Johnson isn’t going to sign a two or three-year contract this summer. Some team is going to be on the hook for the next five or six years of Johnson’s career at the cost of at least $15 million per season. I think it’s unlikely Johnson gets any better* but how confident can one be that he’ll remain this good. … However one feels about the validity of Johnson’s current reputation, it’s difficult to see how he will maintain his established level of production into his mid-30s. Buyer beware.”
Even though the Suns are saying they will pay a hefty sum to re-sign him, ESPN’s Chad Ford quoted a source close to Stoudemire who says Amar’es days in Phoenix may be over: “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” a source close to Stoudemire told ESPN. “Amare feels like the organization disrespected him. Amare loves his teammates and has really enjoyed playing for the team these last few months, but he’s reluctant to commit to Phoenix long-term.”
As noted, Stoudemire is right below Joe Johnson on my “Buyer Beware” anti-wish list.
After the Phoenix Suns got blown out in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, free-agent-to-be “big man” Amar’e Stoudemire called Lamar Odom’s 19-point, 19-rebound game “lucky” and added that Odom had “snuck in” for all those rebounds. Wow. Is Lamar a ninja? Does he have real ultimate power? Amar’e seems to think so.
Meanwhile, Stoudemire finished with three boards…so apparently he needed to do a little more sneaking around.
When the “lucky” comment were brought up to Odom, Lamar dismissed Stoudemire’s words as something said in the heat of post-game irritation at the loss itself and with nagging reporters who were bragging up an opponent. TNT analyst Charles Barkley agreed.
However, yesterday morning, Stoudemire was given the chance to retract his earlier statement…but refused. Because you never want to back away from a silly statement. You’ve got to own it, even if owning it is kind of stupid.
Said Amar’e: “Nah, I’m gonna always be myself. That’s just my character. It’s just what I was feeling. … He had a solid game. I’m looking forward to keeping him off the boards and containing him as much as possible. He had a great game so we have to focus in on him a little bit more.”
Odom didn’t go for 19/19 again, but he did finish with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a blocked shot while shooting 7-for-10 from the field. Meanwhile, Stoudemire scored 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting to go along with 6 boards, an assist and a co-game-high 5 turnovers.
So much for focusing on Odom and keeping him off the boards. And did I mention that Amar’e had the same number of defensive rebounds (3) as Steve Nash? And this isn’t a new thing: In 12 postseason games this year, Stoudemire has nabbed 5 or more defensive boards only three times. In the Suns’ first round series against the Portland Trail Blazers — which went six games — Amar’e had 14 defensive rebounds. Odom had 12 of them in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Can you tell this bugs me?
What’s worse, the Lakers’ big men were able to slip past Stoudemire — and easily — throughout the game, which ended in a 124-112 loss for the Suns and an 0-2 deficit in their best-of-seven series. Check out this pick and roll defense (courtesy of AnacondaHL of Basketbawful):
Fortunately, I’m reasonably sure that Stoudemire is no better than a Plan E or F for the Bulls, and also that the Suns will probably do all they can to re-sign him.
Update! Here’s video of the play Ryan referred to in the comments section…where Amar’e gets his shot blocked by Kobe Bryant and then misses a follow-up dunk.
The only “news” we currently have about where LeBron will end up in July is all rumor and speculation. But according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, the Bulls are leading the Race for the King: “I keep hearing that the Bulls are atop his list at the moment. That could change, but that’s the word around the league at the moment. [Top three are:] 1. Bulls. 2. Knicks 3. Heat … I think the darkhorse is Dallas who’ll try to acquire him via sign-and-trade. As for the Cavs, it doesn’t look very good at the moment, but things can change. I think owner Dan Gilbert would essentially have to give him the GM job as well to keep him there.”
In unrelated news, I’m currently “in the lead” for Bionic Superhero of the Future, along with Lou Ferrigno, Homer Simpson and the Easter Bunny.
Okay. Sarcasm aside, the New Jersey Nets were also in the running for LeBron. Until last night, anyway. As Ford noted: “If they can land [John] Wall, they suddenly become much more competitive in the LeBron James sweepstakes. if they don’t land Wall, I think we can scratch them off the list. That’s some pretty big stakes.”
They were big. Unfortunately for the 17 remaining Nets fans — and 17 might be too high a guess — the Washington Wizards won the number one pick in the draft lottery and will almost certainly take Wall. The Nets, who were one of the worst team’s in league history last season, ended up with the third pick. Even if the Wizards go crazy and pass up Wall, there’s no way he will get past the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the second pick.
Said Hunter: “I laugh at a situation like that simply because you have two guys who very easily could average over 20 points apiece. When you can walk into an arena and have that in your pocket, you’re winning. That’s an easy choice. That’s not even something to think about.”
Said the Doc: “I’m not even going to answer that one. It’s funny, I told someone today that’s the first time I’ve heard about it. I said ‘I’m either going to be in Boston or home.’ And one guy said, ‘Well, home is Chicago or wherever else.’ I said, ‘That’s just stupid talk.’ I think that’s just ridiculous.”
The Phoenix Suns got blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Lamar Odom — who finished with 19 points and 19 rebounds — was a huge catalyst. Meanwhile, Stoudemire had only three rebounds in 35 minutes.
What’s worse, here’s what Amar’e had to say about Odom’s big day: “I’m not giving him no hype right now; he had a lucky game in Game 1. We just got to make sure we box him out. I think I focused so much on [Pau] Gasol and [Andrew] Bynum to where he snuck in there and got 19 boards, so now we just got to make sure there’s three guys out there that can rebound well [when] adding Odom. So, we got to do a better job on them.”
Luck, huh? See, to me, rebounding is more about hard work and determination than luck. Do you know who leads the Suns in defensive rebounding during the 2010 NBA playoffs? It’s 37-year-old Grant Hill with 59 defensive boards. Meanwhile, Stoudemire has only 41 defensive rebounds despite playing 75 more minutes than Hill. What’s more, Stoudemire barely ranks ahead of Steve Nash in Defensive Rebounding Rate in the playoffs (12.5 to 10.3). Hill leads the team in DRR at 22.2.
There are several things that bother me about Stoudemire as a big man…and rebounding is one of them. I watch the Suns play a lot, and it seems lik Amar’e isn’t a big fan of going after contested defensive rebounds. And at times, he doesn’t do a great job of boxing out. Again, Lamar Odom outrebounded him 19-3 a couple days ago.
Over the long haul, rebounding wins basketball games, an I’m wary of big men who rebound below expectations. It probably won’t matter, because by all indications the Suns are going to break the piggy bank to re-sign Stoudemire. But it’s worth thinking about, because I’m sure he’s one of the outer blips on the Bulls’ free agent radar.
For months, I’ve been saying that LeBron James probably won’t come to Chicago because he wouldn’t want to play in Michael Jordan’s shadow. After all, LeBron wants to be the best ever, and he would have to win at least six or seven titles here to reach or surpass the summit of Mount Jordan.
“It has been said that LeBron won’t go to Chicago because either he couldn’t or wouldn’t want to chase Jordan’s legacy. Actually, I think it is the complete opposite. When Shaquille O’Neal signed with the Lakers did anyone say, ‘Why would you want to go there and play in the shadow of Kareem and Magic?’ Did anyone say that Kevin Garnett was crazy to force a trade to the Celtics because of Bill Russell’s legacy? If anything, these players wanted to be part of great franchises with rich traditions. I believe that LeBron thinks about having his No. 6 hang in the rafters alongside of Jordan’s No. 23 at the United Center. Does that mean he’s going to Chicago? No. But I think the legacy of Jordan actually helps the Bulls in this case.”
While Isola could be right about LeBron’s attitude — nobody really knows except LeBron — I think he chose too bad examples. After all, Shaq had other reasons for going to the Lakers…namely that he wanted to be in L.A. so he could work on his acting and music careers. (And thank goodness he did, because it gave us wonders of nature such as Kazaam and You Can’t Stop the Reign.) As for KG, he was near the end of his career and desperate to win, something that was never, ever going to happen in Minnesota.
At any rate, form Bull Charles Oakley has something to add on the matter. Apparently, Oakley — who also happens to be BFFs with MJ — has become something of a friend/mentor to LeBron over the past couple years. And here’s what Oak has to say about LeBron’s free agent destination: “Chicago or Miami. Not New York. He’s leaving [Cleveland]. He wants to go someplace where he can win. He’s been in the league, what, seven or eight years? It’s time for him to get over the hump.”
I have no idea whether Oakley has actual insider information on this subject or he’s just guessing like everybody else. But those two locations make sense: The Bulls have the best existing core (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich) while the Heat have more money to spend and the best individual player (Dwyane Wade).
But, of course, all we can do is continue waiting and wondering.
As far as Amar’e Stoudemire goes, his Phoenix Suns have been The Surprise of the 2010 NBA playoffs (or maybe The Second Surprise after Cleveland’s second round elimination). Why would he want to leave the place where sets the table and serves his dinner so well? And why would the Suns ever let him go?
And if you listen to what Steve Kerr has to say, it sounds like Phoenix is ready to bust open the piggy bank to make sure STAT sticks around. This is what Kerr said on the Dan Patrick Show. “We can afford it. We’ve had one of the top five, six payrolls in the NBA for four years running. We’ll spend money, that’s not the question. We have to make sure we spend it the right way. Hopefully we can get something done with Amar’e. That’s the plan.”
Of course, it may come down to more than money for Stoudemire. Nash is, after all, 36 years old. As good as Captain Canada is, you have to figure he can’t keep playing at this level forever. Nor can Grant Hill. And past Nash, Hill and Stoudemire, the Suns are pretty thin talent-wise. They have a lot of solid complementary players and that’s about it.