Nightly Grades 3.6.13: A wicked 14


Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to ttown club Independiente before he retires.The Argentine star left Independiente as a teenager in 2006 to join Atletico Madrid before making the switch to the Premier League five years later.”I always try [to get back to Argentina],” said Aguero, whoserrible clock management, the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad and the ugly from the night that was.

No heroball. No pull-up jumper. No contested shot. Just great execution of a play with multiple moving parts which created absolute havoc vs. a very good defense. Excellent stuff.No Tony Parker; no problem. Such a Spurs-like performance, just out-executing Chicago as the game wore on with solid defense and fundamental offense. The do what the Spurs do. Clockwork.Should have been able to put away, but let them hang around and their oEdvard Sandvik Tagseth has turned down a new contract offer from Liverpool.The 18 year-old Norwegian midfielder is now training with Rosenborg as he considers his next move.Tagseth told VG: “I haven’t got any contract offers yet, bu semi final against Monterrey.The Reds are set to take part in the FIFA competition as part of a gruelling December schedule that is testing their squad to its limits.They are in Qatar for the tournament, and Klopp spoke about the Club World Cup witht I know they wantffense left them gasping again. Sure could have used J.J. Redick late to hit a three and put the Celtics away. Oh, and by the way.

@ for your nightly grades can you address the fact that Hibbert had 12p 10-rebounds at halftime. He had 0p and 2 rebounds after.

— brian tabakin (@Tbaksays) It wasn’t a great win, but it was good enough for Miami. The survived an onslaught from , and despite not scoring for the final six minutes before LeBron’s game-winning layup, they did draw fouls to keep themselves in it and let the best player in basketball do his thing. For the , a terrific effort vs. a superior team. This team is where it should have been the whole year, full of promising young players learning how to play. Great stuff from Vucevic, the steal of the Dwight Howard trade, and , the steal of the J.J. Redick trade.It was a back to back on the road, and the could have very easily just packed it in. But they chose to fight back from 20-plus down for a huge comeback win that pulls them within 1.5 games of the eight. was his usual spectacular self and just kept coming at ’em. And finally had a great effort play when the team needed it. Here come the Lakers.Melted down under the burning glare of ‘s brilliance, surrendering an eight-point lead late to . Their playoff security has evaporated, and they’re in pure meltdown mode.

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Report: Utah begins talks with Jerry Sloan for return to Jazz


Jerry Sloan rs at the club as a 17-year-old playing in non-league for Darlington and he talked about what it did for his career.He said: “The people at Darlington were huge for me in terms of what they did for my career at the time.“The youth team manager, Cdefined Jazz basketball for two and a half decades. His departure in 2011 was a shock to Utah’s system. Since then, Sloan has gotten rid of his tractor and interviewed for a number of jobs without finding a good fit. Now the Deseret News in Salt Lake City reports that a return to Utah could be in the works for Sloan:

The Utah Jazz have had a preliminary discussion with Sloan about returning to the fold in an unspecified position.

Twenty-eight months after resigning from being the Jazz’she club close to being sold to the Friedkin Group.It’s been reported Roma are being sold for €780-790m.But Roma released the following statement: “Upon request from CONSOB, with reference to the reports that recently appeared in the press concern head coach, the Hall of Famer is open to considering taking a role with his old organization to help the rebuilding franchise and his successor, Tyrone Corbin.

“That’s up to (them). That’s a situation that’s strictly up to Ty or somebody in theressure he is constantly under.The 55-year-old admits that Barcelona played poorly in their 2-1 win against Leganes at the weekend, but he would rather play poorly and win than play well and either draw or lose.”The tide will always be there; we are Jazz organization,” Sloan told the Deseret News. “If they want me around, fine. If they don’t, (fine). They’d talked to me a little bit about it a little bit earlier.”

via .

Bringing Sloan back in any capacity would cast a pretty big shadow over Ty Corbin. The fans would certainly embrace the idea, but it creates an odd dynamic for the players and staff. 

But on the other hand, Sloan is absolutely the most qualified guy to help get the organization back where it needs to go. He had problems with the attitudes of the team in 2011, but most of those problems are going or gone. Maybe it’s time for Sloan to return to his basketball home. 


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Dwyane Wade honors Trayvon Martin with magazine cover


Of all NBA teams, the have easily been the most vocal in publicly honoring Trayvon Martin.

Both and wrote messages on their shoes in honor of Martin when the story first gathered attention in March of 2012, and the two also organized a , depicting 1serious about prising Andre Onana away from Ajax.The Mirror says United are shock contenders to sign Ajax’s £50million-rated keeper Onana – just two months after handing David De Gea a new £350,000-a-week contract.Ajax have slapped a huge asking 3 Heat players wearing black hoodies, much like the one Martin famously wore the night he was killed.

Wade, in particular, has been refreshingly outspacked by home fans.The whistles from a small section of the home fans at the Wanda Metropolitano when Koke was substituted during Tuesday’s visit from Bayer Leverkusen is still a talking point in the red and white half of the capital. The player himsoken on the polarizing issue, which is why it’s not surprising to see the three-time champion and his two sons, Zaire and Zion, on the cover of the September issue of magazine.

Wade is one of the magazine’s four featured cover photos for the upcoming issue. The others include Spike Lee and his son, actor Boris Kodjsus.A Bola says City are willing to sell Gabriel to make room for Benfica superkid Joao Felix.Gabriel has struggled for regular action under manager Pep Guardiola this season and City are inviting offers.Indeed, it’s suggested they will only firm up oe and his son, and finally one featuring Martin’s parents along with his brother. 

According to the , the issue features an examination by the three prominent celebrities on how they “approach the topic of racism with their sons.” 

“As a mother of a young Black boy, the tragedy of Trayvon Martin affected my deeply,” the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Amy Barnett, said in a statement. “We simply cannot allow the conversations on this issue to come to a standstill.” 

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Lakers’ Nash says he’s not himself physically


had to play. There wasn’t another option. With done for the season, the have to have another guard who can create his own shot. Nash has been dealing with hip and leg issues related to this degenerative back condition. He missed the final eight games of the Lakers’ season. But he had to come back for Game 1 on Sunday against San Antonio. 

And he just wasn’t able to move. Nash told reporters after the game that he’s frustrated and struggling with his body.

From the LA Times: 

“I’m not myself,” Nash said. “I’m not moving that well. I’m struggling a little bit. I probably had a few shots in there that I probably normally make, but I still think it’s important to try and contribute. We don’t have enough points in our lineup every night.”

“There’s no mAndrea Barzagli has returned to Juventus.The retired defender has been named a technical assistant to coach Maurizio Sarri.His official titlevealed the interest of Roma.Roma want the former Manchester United starlet as a replacement for ACL victim Nicolo Zaniolo.Dirk de Vriese told “Yes, Roma are one of the clubs interested in Januzaj during the January transfer window.e is Technical Collaborator of the First Team and he will begin his duties as early as tomorrow.The pleasure is all ours! Good to have you back, @andreabarzagli2!— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 25, 2019iracle pill at this point. I can’t go home and say I’m not 75-80 percent so I’m not going to play,” said Nash, who had three assists in 29 minutes. “I’ve got to try to fight and figure out a way to just help.”

via  —

Nash was 6 for 15 for 16 points Sunday, an abysmal performance based on Nash’s usual efficiency (but pretty good numbers for the Sixth Man of the Year), and he had just the three assists. 

The Lakers needed more, and they lost Game 1. Nash is trying to get healthy, but there’s just no time. You have to wonder if the Lakers had the Suns’ training staff, which kept Nash’s back from falling apart for eight seasons, if this situation would be better. 

As it is, the Lakers can only hope Nash can heal quickly, because they’re going to need a lot more from him if they are going to win this series. The Spurs’ ability to dig down from the perimetr Maurizio Sarri should stay.Sarri is expected to leave the club this summer for Italian champions Juventus following the departure of Massimiliano Allegri.Wise tweeted on Monday: “Will be disappointed if Sarri goes. “Chelsea are back where they beloer to double the post on and because they don’t fear the Lakers’ 3-point shooting is giving the Lakers’ offense fits. 

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Heat pull away from Pacers in whirlwind second half


The Miami Heat are once again toying with the narrative. Punched in the mouth by an Indiana Pacers team that came to play Sunday in the first half, and without Chris Bosh because of an abdominal injury, the Heat had every reason to cave. LeBron James could have wilted again, setting keyboards aflame across the country: Miami, losing the day James received his MVP honor. The phrase “choke artist” would have been etched across the sky, basically. Instead, Miami 95, Indiana 86. James finished with 16 fourth-quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a pull-up dagger to finish the job inside the final minute. He was relentless, attacking the basket and forcing the issue. It was a performance worthy of James’ status as MVP. A 1-0 lead for the Heat. An opportunity lost for the Pacers. What does Game 1 tell us about the series? Indiana won’t be going down without a fight. But the big concern in the series was wheollowing their 6-1 thrashing of Aston Villa.But the Citizens boss said no more about the details of the night out, instead claiming the players were at a restaurant and that he likes it when they make plans outside of work.”I knew [about] it,” said mther the Pacers would have enough offensive starpower. We know the Heat do. In the second half, Dwyane Wade and James combined for 42 points, while the Pacers scored just 38. When you have two guys capable of outscoring the other team? That’s a bad sign. Wade demolished the Pacers with a different approach, going routinely into the post and overpowering Leandro Barbosa, forced into longer minutes due to foul trouble for George Hill. James on the other hand created space off the pick and roll and the Pacers were unable to effectively come or help on him. The Heat wil need to play better to win this series. The Aguero says it was one of the best decisions in his life to join Manchester City.The Argentine is in his eighth season with the Sky Blues.He said: “It was hard to imagine spending so long with one club when I first started off… but as time went by Pacers will have to play better to win this series. But when all else fails, it’s not bad to have an MVP to fall an emotional farewell to Tottenham.Perez was let go by Spurs on Monday, along with manager Mauricio Pochettino and the rest of his coaching staff.He wrote on Twitter: “#COYS. Thank you from our heart to our players , staff, and special thanks to you back on.

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eason in the league, and has not impressed in the


forward is battling for a spot in the rotation entering his second season in the league, and has not impressed in the preseason.

Jones came off the bench in Wednesday’s game against the Magic, and put together one of his better performances. He scored 10 points on 3 of 7 shooting, with two rebounds and a blockhas been urging former Manchester United teammate Alexis Sanchez to join him at Inter Milan.Lukaku left United for the San Siro in a £76.5million deal earlier this month.The Daily Mail says he has “been working on Sanchez every day” to link up wit in 18 minutes of action.

Jones has played in four games, and is averaging 7.5 points per game. He has started twice, and is ad admits they need to break their trophy drought.The England international insists lifting silverware must be a priority for the club this season.”If we came out of this season and got top four, without a trotre-back has continued to be one of his side’s standout stars this season, picking up from where he left of last year, and the England international has been quick to highlight the impact Silva is having on his side. He told the club’s official websiphy, I wouldn’t leave this season happy,” veraging 24.8 minutes per game, more than Donatas Motiejunas, his likely main competition at power forward. 

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2 against the Spurs, but he might not be there for


Lakers guard was in the starting lineup yet again Wednesday for Game 2 against the Spurs, but he might not be there for Game 3. Blake suffered a right hamstring strain late in the game, and he was unable to return to the game. He received treatmerto Mancini says Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both reached the pinnacle of the game in different ways.Speaking with Corriere della Sera, Mancini was asked who was the superior player – Barcelona captain Messi or Juventus striker Ronaldo.Howevernt on the bench, and the extent of the injury is not yet known, though the team announced after the game that he will undergo an ultrasound Thursday to determine the extent of the injury. The Lakers were already he reflects on another giantkilling. Another famous Champions League night for Atletico Madrid. Do you think Diego Simeone is wasting his time worrying about Jurgen Klopp’s definition of “proper football”?Or what about the claims of Klopp’s captain starting Blake at shooting guard due to two other injuries. Blake mon to take Craig Bellamy with him to Anderlecht.Kompany shocked many when he declared his departure from Manchester City at the end of last season. The veteran central defender took up a player-manager role with the Belgian giants.Now Kompany has conatched the team-high with 16 points on the game, on 6 of 15 shooting in 36 minutes. The Lakers lost the game, 102-91.

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Baseline Awards 11.12.12: Out of the D’Antoni Blue


(Getty Images)

The Baseline Awards hand out rewards for exceptional and not so exceptional events and players of the past week. Award rankings are at the end and please watch your step as you exit the ride.

“Phil Jackson will save the Lakers.” ? Jackson apparently asked for too much to return and take the reins. What’s funny is it was never a perfect fit. The reinstallation of the Triangle would have given Steve Nash some room for pick and rolls, would have found a way to integrate him, but in large part still wouldn’t have featured him the way Mike D’Antoni’s will. And for a Lakers team whose biggest problem has been age and focus, a coach who doesn’t motivate particularly strongly and whose last year in L.A. was marked by a deferelationship has reached a point of no return and that the bridges between them have been burned with no possibility of rebuilding.”The relationship is broken, the communication is almost non-existent,” El Partidazo on Spanish radio station Cope reponsive downturn may not have saved the day. We’ll never know. 

“Mike D’Antoni doesn’t coach defense.” We’ll get into this a lot more this week but the Knick under D’Antoni last season were a top-10 defense. He needs a defensive assistant to provide the emphasis, but it’s not a given that a D’Antoni team will not defend. Not anymore. (Also having Dwight Howard helps.)”DeMarcus Cousins is a troublemaker.” This one is true and not true. , or as I like to call him “The Scourge of League Pass” is an embarrassment for Cousins and the Kings. But it’s honestly not a tremendous deal. Cousins overreacted to Elliot’s prototypical hyperbole, and there were words exchanged. Big whoop. Cousins’ problems have more to do with how his attitude affects his coaches and teammates than it does rival announcers. He’s still brash, still emotional, and still prone to immaturity. But this incident shouldn’t be what he’s judged for. It’s nothing. 

LeBron JamesOnly thing holding Carmelo Anthony back here is a 44 percent field goal mark over the past four games. And that’s still really good, and exceptional when you consider his scoring load, the Knicks’ success and his individual and team defense. But LeBron. Again.James averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists this week and that was only a fraction of the way he controlled games. It was another prototypical week for James, who also shot 57 percent from the field. He made plays at both ends and had those long stretches where it seemed like he was the only player on the floor who mattered, especially against Brooklyn and Atlanta. Kyrie Irving New York KnicksYup. Still them. The Knicks have only played 4 games, but they couldn’t have loooked any more impressive to start the season. Even in a game where their offense wasn’t prolific against the Mavericks, their defense showed up. Even without Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, that’s impressive given how the Mavs have been playing. These are great times to be a Knicks fan. O.J. MayoKobe Bryant’s a pretty strong candidate here, at 23-7-6 at 47-39-90. But I have a feeling he wouldn’t want it given the team’s performances and we’ll be talking plenty about Kobe and his old friend from Italy this week, I’m pretty sure. Meanwhile.. OJAM!(I call him OJAM because his name is actually Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo. And when I informed my wife of this, she said, “Wait, so his name isn’t actually O.J., it’s O.J’A.M…. OJAM!” It’s stupid, I like it.)O.J. Mayo averaged 25 points per game this week on 52 percnt from the field and 59 percent from three. This is wholly unsustainable but Mayo has been electric with the newfound freedom of Rick Carlisle’s system. He’s playing in rhythm and has gotten back to what he showed his rookie season. Lionel Hollins has been a fantastic coach for Memphis and made nearly every player there much better. Mayo was an exception. It was never a good fit. The early returns in Dallas are striking. Oklahoma City ThunderWell, it turns out they’re not actually terrible. How about that. The Thunder have outscored their opponents this week by 16 points per 100 possessions and played crushing defense. The competition has been softer but they’re still playing at a very high level. After faceplanting coming out of the gate, the Thunder are starting to round back into shape. Oh, and Kevin Martin is averaging 50-40-90. That helps. The Lakers had the opportunity to bring back the winningest coach in the NBA since Red Auerbach, the legend who brought them five titles, whose system is tried and true and who instantly commands the respect of every player he comes across. And they didn’t get it done. Whether it was Jim Buss’ arrogance over not wanting to give up control or some other power play, it’s a shocker that the Lakers, who so often have always managed to find their way to whatever was the best possible outcome now go with plan B. It’s also a shocker that Dwight Howard will go from being coached by one mustache in Stan Van Gundy to another in Mike D’Antoni. And that D’Antoni gets run out of New York by Carmelo Anthony and now lands in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Doug CollinsA Sixers team still without Andrew Bynum and missing Jason Richardson goes 3-1 including a win over Boston (who is struggling right now but still). Collins’ ability to cobble together pieces and make them work is incredibly impressive. His frontcourt rotation right now consists of Thaddeus Young, LaVoy Allen, and Spencer Hawes right now. Vinny Del NegroIf I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’. VDN has the Clippers averaging 106.5 points per 100 possessions and giving up just 93.4. That’s good for fifth best in the league over the last week and after two random losses including a fluke loss to Cleveland behind Dion Waiters’ offensive explosion, have responded with strong wins. Memphis GrizzliesMemphis took out the Warriors in a tough game they tend to lose on the West Coast. Then they dismantled the Heat at home on Sunday, blowing them out. Memphis at the present time has mixed its tough, hard-nosed defense, (a stellar 92.8 defensive rating in the past four games) with a surprisingly electric offense sparked by their bench unit and new shooter reclamationh to take.Tielemans has been a substitute for four of the club’s last eight Premier League matches, including their most recent two outings, against Norwich and Aston Villa.“It is true that, personally, I have played less,” Tielemans told Sport/Foo project Wayne Ellington. They are a dangerous team right now, and you should hope your squad doesn’t have them on the schedule in the near future. Orlando MagicWell, that dream died about as quickly as it began. They are who we thought they were. Everything seems almost too easy for him right now. Leaving no doubt that he’s ready to make the leap finally in his career. Through four games. How many points can he score with Mike D’Antoni’s offense? Paul’s ability to come into the game late and just completely take it over is unrivaled outside of LeBron. He just dominates in the clutch. Welcome back to the list, KD. There’s a lot of concern about what happens when teams start to scheme him, but he’s been too electric to start to hold back any longer. The missed games hurt, but I’d expect him back on top by next week, especially given how he crashed the glass on Friday in his return. Made contested jumpers for everyone! MKG got where he wanted against the Mavericks and had his breakout performance for his second career win. You can see the good places his career is headed. There’s just nothing to dislike about the kid’s game. He has handle and can hit from range on top of being such a sparkplug. Tough defense, crisp ball movement, Woodson has stunned everyone out of the gate. Gritt Grind now with a little bit of firepower, Hollins has gotten new players to buy in. Ho-hum, the usual. There isn’t a mentally tougher team in the league, and the Bulls are a reflection of Thibodeau. Can’t wait to see what this guy can do with a full roster when Dirk gets back. Rick Adelman, Vinny Del Negro Martin has been quietly spectacular. That’s how you get a 6MOY award. Shoot this well from the perimeter and score this much against the Heat and you’re going to make a big jump. Has fit in beautifully on both ends. Landry is keeping the Warriors afloat with Bogut out. Redick unleashed! Crawford has been splashtacular early on. Junkyard dog gotta eat. Big man is big. Starting to get it together and the results are showing it. (/Jaw remains dropped.)rom Manchester United youngster Brandon Williams.The fullback has come in to the first team this season and not looked out of place.Williams is right footed, but has mostly appeared at left back for the Red Devils.Neville is more upbeat about United The Nuggets are winning games where the offense doesn’t show up. Iguodala’s defense this week on James Harden, Gordon Hayward, and Golden State’s guards was the textbook.

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, and for good reason. As a rookie, Drummond was a


center seems to be everyone’s favorite breakout candidate this season, and for good reason. As a rookie, Drummond was a per-minute terror, and coach Maurice Cheeks has already confirmed he plans to play Drummond more than the 20.7 minutes per game he averaged as a rookie.

I was a big fan of Drummond as a rookie, and remain enamored by his potential moving forward. I think Ier City star Raheem Sterling has admitted that he suffered serious lows afterussa Dembele.Both Manchester United and Chelsea have been linked with a move for Dembele this month, with the Premier League rivals both in need of striking reinforcements having lost their respective top scorers to injuries. But Lampard, who also wa joining the club.Sterling was signed in a big money deal from Liverpool in 2015.However, he made a slow start to life at the Etihad club, finding himself going through a ba am a bit lower on his potential this season, at least in the immediate future. I think Cheeks is going to find it a bit more difficult to get Drummond 25-plus minutes per game than it might appear right now.

For starters, the Pistons do have a bit of a glut in the frontcourt, with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe around. Smith is making big money as a free agent signing, and Monroe is a free-agent-to-be that the team has to make a big decision on this season. That alone creates an obvious hierarchy wherein Drummond likely falls third in the frontcourt.

The bigger hurdle is, of course, Drummond’s absolutely atrocious free-throw shooting. Drummond was as bad as advertised at the line as a rookie, shooting just 37.1 percent on his free throws. For someone who flies towards the rim and plays with a ton of physicality, that could end up being a road block to his development.

That free-throw shooting could also be enough to keep Drummond off the court in the short term, given the Pistons’ depth. If he plays 25 minutes per game or more while shooting below 40 percent from the free-throw line, Drummond would history to do so, and the first since 2000-01 Ben Wallace. There just aren’t many players who have survived and thrived in big roles with that specific flaw. 

Even at 25 minutes per game, Drummond is going to be a double-double threat with the potential for two blocks. He can be a Fantasy monster,eague football has worked in their favour this season.The Clarets are seventh in the Premier League table after an impressive start to the campaign. “We’ve progressed but I think last year was a bit different,” the midfielder said.“I know it was for sure, and there is no denying that. I’m just wary of him as a sure-fire No. 1 center, worth an investment in the first six rounds. There are safer options.

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Report: Contract holding up Rivers deal, NBA expected to sign off


Updated 11:42 p.m. ET

The NBA isn’t expected to block Doc Rivers’ move to the . But things aaling with a swollen toe, which could keep him out for their midweek clash against Norwich City.It is a must win game for the Saints if they want to climb out of the relegation battle.Speaking about Boufal, manager Ralph Hasenhuttl told reporters: “Iren’t quite to that part yet. 

, the league was said to be allowing the and Clippers agreed deal that sends Rivers to Los Angeles in exchange for a 2015 first-round pick. Except contract negotiations . 

, like Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, Rivers is set to be taking over basketball operations with the Clippers.

Rivers will reportedlyis fellow academy graduates this season.Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James and Fikayo Tomori all started the Blues’ 2-1 Champions League group stage win over Lille on Wednesday. “Me, Fikayo, Mason and Reece were talking before the game about last seas sign a three-year, $21 million contract with the Clippers. 

League rules prohibit attaching players to any deal involving a coach, which means any subsequent trade involving the Clippers and Celtics will likely be vetoedchester City’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United at Etihad Stadium in December.During the game, a supporter was filmed allegedly aiming monkey chants and gestures towards Manchester United players.An official statement released by the Greater Manchester and viewed in violation of the rules. 

that the league is watching the situation very closely and has no intention to allow a trade involving Rivers and   to go through.

“The teams are aware that the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t authorize trades involving coaches’ contracts,” Stern said. “If you think those, at this point — having been all over the media for the last week —  are separate transactions … I have a bridge that I would very much enjoy selling to you.”

Therefore, talks between the two teams fell apart before being revived Sunday, which led to a deal getting done. 

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EOB presents the NBA Elite 100: No. 19 through No. 11


and took the Celtics to the East finals, earning them top 20 status in our Elite 100. (Getty Images)

Last year  in the National Basketball Association. Our crew of three, which watches every on a regular basis throughout the season, evaluated the players using all the criteria we could — past performance, recent production, injuries, projected improvement, character isssues, decision-making, basketball IQ, advanced metrics, team fit — everything. 

The rankings are prepared by the three bloggers for Eye on Basketball: Royce Young, Ben Golliver and Matt Moore. The rankings are averaged and listed here in random order. Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.

Earlier this week, we unveiled  and then ,  and . Check out the guys who fell out of the top 100 between 2011 and 2012 . The following is No. 19 thrhe end of defeat at Everton.With Ferguson taking charge for the first time since Marco Silva’s sacking on Thursday, the Blues romped to a 3-1 win over Chelsea at Goodison Park.Lampard revealed, “I just wished him all the best. He is obviously a man wough No. 10. 

The 2012 Rookie of the Year is the highest-ranked newcomer on this year’s list. His entry into the top-20 of his sport after just one season at Duke and a sensational rookie season reflects his transformational power. The Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t ask for a better franchise player to lead their post-LeBron James turnaround. Irving is an intelligent, well-spoken, media-savvy leader whose broad skill-set has him on track to be a perennial All-Star. What sets him apart from other gifted, young point guards is the range on his jumper. As a teenager in the on a team that needed him to score, Irving shot nearly 40 percent from deep. That’s remarkable. 

Irving’s contemporaries hail his maturity and feel for the game. At USA Basketball training camp this summer, and said that Irving was the Select Team’s standout player; Irving would seem to be the most logical successor to Paul as starting point guard on the National Team whenever the All-Star gets sick of stacking up gold medals. Had he not flukily broke a bone in his hand, he would have stolen the headlines at Las Vegas Summer League.

Cleveland finished in the Central Division basement last season, in part because Irving missed a long stretch after suffering a concussion. The Cavaliers continue with a carefully thought out youth movement rebuild so team expectations aren’t all that high. But Irving is the type of player who could put this group on his back and have Cleveland in contention for a playoff spot. 

The circus ends and the real basketball begins for Deron Williams after he inked a five-year, $100 million extension with the Brooklyn Nets (on an iPad!) this summer. No more trades, no more trade rumors, no more journeys to Turkey during the lockout and no more draft lottery appearances. In other words, no more excuses and, hopefully, no more pouting. His unique mix of size, strength, quickness, vision and ball-handling makes him worth every penny of the nine-figure investment, but the franchise player contract brings with it responsibiltiies and increased expectations.

Tha midfielder Alex Kral.The Czech Republic international is a hot property, after he has put in some commanding displays for the Russian club in the past year.The 6ft 1in midfielder is only 21, and he has a five year contract with Spartak.The club willnks to some psuedo-insane spending by ownership, Williams has the horses around him to make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference. Regarded as one of the league’s elite point guards for years now, Williams will be judged this season on his ability to be the straw that stirs the drink. He should enter the season on a nice high, thanks to a gold medal in London and the Nets’ splashy move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. After the initial excitement wears off, Williams will bear responsibility for finding the right balance between initiating his own offense and ensuring gets sufficient touches. He will be key in getting back on track after a injury-plagued season and he’ll be the leading voice in a locker room full of new faces that will need to gel on the fly. With a new city, new contract and new teammates, Williams is finally settled. Now it’s time to deliver.

For the second straight season, Pau Gasol left observers thinking he should have been doing more to prevent the Los Angeles Lakers exiting the playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals. In 2012, as in 2011, he simply wasn’t the consistent offensive threat he had been during L.A.’s earlier title runs. He floated a bit, looked indecisive with the ball, and was passed over a bit in the pecking order thanks to the emergence of . The concern, given Gasol’s age, is that his best days might be behind him.

In his defense, the Lakers lacked flow last season, in part because of issues at the point guard position and in part because they were in their first season under coach Mike Brown. The bigger story: both of L.A.’s big summer additions figure to aid Gasol immensely. In , Gasol gets a veteran point guard with an elite feel for setting up big men in their go-scoring locations. In , Gasol gets an improved version of Andrew Bynum, at least on paper: more agile, more likely to command double teams that free Gasol, and a better post defender. Howard also should relieve much of the pressure and scrutiny that Gasol has faced in recent years.

There will be some growing pains as this group figures out its chemistry isses but the influx of talent should free Gasol to be a devastating weapon, who finds himself open a lot because he’s now the fourth option, rather than the whipping boy who seemed doomed to be a letdown because external expectations exceeded his ability to influence wins and losses.

It’s unusual for a player at Kevin Garnett’s age to enjoy a significant bounce up in these rankings. Then again, it’s unusual for a player to be as productive, important and successful as Garnett remains. Even with rumors circling that he might retire this summer, Garnett was as critical as always for the Boston Celtics, who came within one game of the 2012 NBA Finals. 

His raw numbers haven’t changed much over the past four years and neither have the keys to his game: aggressive defense, mental toughness, a smooth jumper and a willingness to do whatever it takes to win. If there’s been a difference as he’s progressed through his 30s, it’s that his night-to-night consistency isn’t always there. But to harp on the nights that he doesn’t have sufficient juice would be an injustice. This is a player who scored at least 20 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds in nine of Boston’s 20 playoff games this year. He had 28 and 14 in the closeout game over the Atlanta Hawks. He had 18 and 13 in a Game 7 win over the . In a must-win in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, he put up 24 and 11 and then added 26 and 11 in Game 5 to give the Celtics a 3-2 series lead. All that was missing was one more vintage performance to close out the Heat and, alas, Garnett couldn’t muster it up. Regardless, he made the right call in putting off the retirement talk and agreeing to a 3-year contract for $34 million. He’s got plenty of basketball left and a revamped roster around him that should help carry some of the load. 

LaMarcus Aldridge had almost identical years statistically in 2010-11 and 2011-12, but the two seasons couldn’t have been more different. In 2010-11, Aldridge emerged as one of the NBA’s breakout stars, finding his way to the All-NBA third team after being snubbed for the All-Star Game. In 2011-12, everything fell apart around him, as his Portland Trail Blazers fired the only coach he had known in the NBA, Nate McMillan, and traded off veterans to begin a youth movement. A quiet, lead by example type, Aldridge has developed into a reliable force both on the block and from his favorite mid-range jump-shooting location. His soft hands and length make him an ideal target for lobs, too. His ability to get points easily made him a steady piece in the middle of Portland’s cyclone and earned him his first trip to an All-Star Game, but they weren’t enough to keep the Blazers’ locker-room house in order when things started to go south. By the end, he was a bystander, sitting out the final few weeks of the season before undergoing a minor hip surgery.

His leadership skills are still a work in progress and they are needed now more than ever. As he enters his prime, Aldridge, who is expected to be 100 percent healthy by the time camp opens, faces the prospect of a 25-30 win season with a new, much younger cast of teammates and a new coach, Terry Stotts, who arrives from the Dallas Mavericks with promises of utilizing Aldridge in Dirk Nowitzki-like ways. While Aldridge is under contract with the Blazers through 2014-15, he likely will find himself in the midst of trade rumors at some point over the next few years, especially if Portland’s rebuild is slow-moving. Why? He’s an elite talent in a small market, he’s yet to win a playoff series during his career, Portland lacks a second All-Star following the departure of Brandon Roy. Portland also has struggled to land top-shelf talent in free agency in recent years. Like Chris Bosh and Deron Williams before him, Aldridge finds himself in a situation where he has a lot more to offer the Blazers than vice versa. To this point, Aldridge has made no public indication of unhappiness but his future — along with the development of promising rookie point guard — will be the top points of discussion in Rip City.

Inevitably, some of the luster came off of Blake Griffin last season. His rookie campaign — complete with highlight dunk after highlight dunk, topped off by his car-jumping Slam Dunk Contest title — was so jaw-dropping and remarkable that it set an impossible standard. Griffin, like any phenomenon, took some time to process for fans. Last season, the dunks (and monster stat lines) continued unabated. Indeed, Griffin appeared in every game for the Clippers for the second straight season, even fighting through a knee injury to stay on the court during the playoffs. But the nitpicking began, too. Griffin was seen by many as an incessant complainer to officials, an unscrupulous flopper and a shameless preener. His awful free throw shooting — 52.1 percent — became a big deal, too, seeing as he went to the line more than seven times a game. His nonexistent jumper and lack of post moves drew some heat, too.   

Even with the personality annoyances and limitations to his game, Griffin remains a revelation, one of the NBA’s most athletic and fearless players. He was rewarded with a five-year, $95 million contract extension this summer, locking him in as a franchise centerpiece. His new partnership with Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul promises to bring postseason success, as it did in 2011-12 with a first-round series win over the Memphis Grizzlies, and Clippers management seems confident that the future is now, loading up on veterans to surround its All-Star duo this offseason. Griffin underwent arthroscopic surgery after tearing his meniscus in his left knee, the second time that knee had been operated on. Long-term, the big concern is that the knee injuries catch up to him before he’s able to polish his all-around game. Short-term, he’s expected to be ready to play for the Clippers’ season opener and you can bet someone will get dunked on.

Tony Parker seized two titles this year. First, he’s now the most valuable member of the San Antonio Spurs. Second, he’s now the member of the Spurs that doesn’t get nearly enough credit on the national stage. There’s been a transition of power from brewing in recent years, but 2011-12 saw the Spurs succeed in Parker’s image, the reason he jumped up 15 spots from last year’s ranking.

A ball-moving, shot-making, tempo-controlling offensive juggernaut, the Spurs put up the NBA’s best record thanks to what was probably Parker’s best season as a pro. His career-high 7.7 assists per game made life easier for San Antonio’s new crop of role players and his ability to break down defenders off the dribble and score when needed made the Spurs darn near impossible to defend for long stretches of the season. Seriously, pick an offensive category, and San Antonio was right near the top. The Spurs ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency, No. 2 in true shooting percentage, No. 1 in effective field goal percentage and No. 2 in assist rate. Parker got a little love as a possible MVP dark horse and wound up finishing on the All-NBA second team. He was also named to his fourth All-Star Game after missing out the two previous seasons. Like Duncan for the last decade, he seems to have no problem quietly going about his business of achieving excellence. As Parker is under contract through 2014-15, we can expect at least three more years of the same.

Much like Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo rises up the rankings in a big way this year by virtue of his transition from key piece to team MVP. The quirkiest and cheekiest big-time player in the league, Rondo achieved maestro status in 2011-12, averaging a career-high (and league-leading) 11.7 assists, even as teams repeatedly dared him to shoot.  

If there had been any doubt, Rondo solidified his reputation among the game’s greats with the performance of his life in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals overtime loss to the Miami Heat: a stunning 44-point, 10-assist, 8-rebound, 3-steal effort that saw him play all 53 minutes because of various injuries to his teammates. For that game, and a few other stretches of the series, Rondo was the best player on the court, better even than 2012 MVP LeBron James. No one else during the 2012 playoffs can make that claim as convincingly.

The holes in Rondo’s game remain. He has no consistent range on his jump shot, he probably gambles a bit too much on defense, he’s prone to moments of hot-headedness when it comes to the officials and his personality takes some acclimation, as he reportedly rubbed Ray Allen the wrong way last season. But his strengths outweigh those weaknesses more than ever. The Celtics still have him on that bargain contract, too, paying the All-NBA third team member just $11 million next season, what amounts to probably a 20 percent discount off of his market value. The challenge this season will be one of integration. New Celtics , , and (returning from a year away) will need to find comfort and a niche. Other than their counterparts in San Antonio, there isn’t a better coach/point guard tanipe at former Arsenal manager Unai Emery.
The Germany international’s form has improved since Mikel Arteta replaced Emery in the dugout.Emery was criticised for his poor English during his time at the Emirates.In a post on Twitter, Mustafi posted adem than Doc Rivers and Rondo to make that process a success.

We know this about polarizing players in the NBA: drastic improvement isn’t enough to silence the critics. That’s exactly where Andrew Bynum found himself last season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He had, inarguably, a career year, posting career-highs in points and rebounds and asserting himself on offense, including late in games, more regularly than ever before. What’s more, he made it through the season without a major health scare. He even found himself as a quasi-legitimate candidate in the “Who is the best center in the NBA?” debate for the first time in his life. In total, 2011-12 should have been a crowning achievement for a player finally scratching the potential that made him a lottery pick straight out of high school.

But no, that’s not how it played out. Instead, Bynum kept getting in his own way. He didn’t pay attention during coach Mike Brown’s huddles, he launched a 3-pointer that got him benched, he continued to make life difficult for the California Highway Patrol, and he made some ill-advised comments during the playoffs, none worse than when he stated that “closeout games are easy.” Once the Oklahoma City Thunder had eliminated the Lakers from the playoffs, following a game in which Bynum scored just 10 points and had just four rebounds, he appeared indifferent to his future with the Lakers. 

It all amounted to serious writing on the wall that it was time for a change of scenery. Bynum got that when the Lakers shipped him to the Philadelphia 76ers in a four-team blockbuster trade. In Philly, Bynum becomes The Man for the first time in his career. His game is ready for it and he seems to be embracing the opportunity. The 76ers’ season, though, hangs on whether Bynum is really, truly ready to lead. (And on his contuining good health, too. He’s slated to undergo treatment on his surgically repaired knee in Germay before the season begins.) Should Bynum rise to the occasion, or at least seem headed down the right path, a max contract will be his likely reward next summer.

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David Lee and Roy Hibbert suspended one game for altercation


Golden State’s and Indiana’s have been suspended one game without pay for “instigating” an altercation that occurred Tuesday night between the and , the announced Wednesday.

Also punished: , and all have been fined $35,000 each for escalating the altercation.

The incident happened in the fourth quarter of Indiana’s 108-97 win over the Warriors when Hibbert and Lee got into a shoving match that carried over to the first row of the crowd.

: Lee is appealing his suspension. However, that won’t itracking Hearts starlet Hickey with a view to a £1.5million January swoop.The full-back, 17, came to the attention of Pep Guardiola, in May’s Scottish Cup Final defeat to Celtic.Hickey was just 16 at th would love to play for England.The 24-year-old centre-half has turned out to be a brilliant piece of recruitment by Graham Potter over the summer. He told The Argus: “One day I would love to play for England.“For me right now, I am just focusinge time and had made his first-team debut for thmpact him sitting Wednesday’s game against the . Hibbert will serve hist season.The winger is interesting Arsenal.But Fraser said: “I’ve got a year left. There’s a very good chance I’ll be here next season.“If that’s that then I’m going to try my best as I always do and I’ll enjoy it.“I love the group here and the f suspension Thursday against the .

A one-game suspension for Lee will cost him almost $116,000 while for Hibbert, it will set him back a little under $125,000.

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OUTLOOK: Thaddeus Young


With Jrue Holiday out of town nolkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell from Leeds United for £2.5m.The Northern Ireland international has come in as a replacement for outgoing keeper Tom Heaton, who joined Premier League rivals Aston Villa on Thursday for £8m.The 22-year-old, who has sigw, Philadelphia’s best players aren’t vrtain his new Southampton fans.Djenepo, 20, joined the St Mary’s side for £14 million on a four-year deal from Belgian outfit Standard Liege.When questioned what can be expected from him, Djenepo responded: “I have a good mentality – I never givery flashy heading into the 2013-14 season. Evan Turner and constitute the team’s best and Young may have the honor of becoming the No. 1 option in the scoring game. Young made 76 starts last year, the first time he started consistently since 2009-10, and led the team in rebounds and steals with 7.5 and 1.8 per game, respectively. Young also averaged 14.8 points per game anmain, Qatar Sports Investments, are close to owning a side in English football.QSI is reportedly looking at Leeds United in the Championship for a potential takeover.The news comes from ESPN FC.It appears discussions have taken place between the groud will need to be closer to his career-high of 15.3 he accomplished back in 2008-09. Young is entering his seventh season with the and it is finally his time to shine. He posted 21 double-doubles last year and that total will have to rise if Philadelphia hopes to be competitive at all. Fantasy owners should look for him to have a very solid year and should begin grabbing him in the middle rounds on Draft Day. 

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Kelly Olynyk signs with Celts, dazzles in summer league debut


The have , the versatile 7-footer out of Gonzaga.

Olynyk immediately showed what he can do by scoring 25 points Sunday in Boston’s 95-88 summer league loss to Houston.

Celts general manager Danny Ainge traded up to get Olynyk, shipping the No. 16 pick and two future second-rounders to Dallas for the 13th pick.

Olynyk, who averaged 17.8 points and 7des retains hope of keeping Rodrigo Moreno after victory over Barcelona.Los Che beat the Catalans 2-0 on Saturday at Mestalla but the Camp Nou side are considering a move for the forward this January due to Luis Suarez’s long-term injury.”I can’t ass.3 rebounds for the Zags, hit 9 of 12 shots against the Rockets, including 2 oeason review for the Westfield W-League’s 2019/20 regular season. At the mid-way point in the regular season (with three clubs having played six games and the others having completed 5 games), three of the top fen is preparing for his move to Real Madrid.The Times says Eriksen’s family have been spotted house-hunting in Madrid.The Dane is seen at Real as an alternative to Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.Real are likely to have to offer up to £100miour did not make the playoffs last seasf 4 from deep. He added seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

“He has to not foul so much, and he has to shoot when he’s open,” Celts assistant Jay Larranaga, who’s coaching the summer league team, told “He had some shots that he turned down, and he’s such an unselfish player that we need to just encourage him to shoot when he’s open.”

Olynyk will as a rookie, according to the salary scale.

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Hornets sign second-round pick Darius Miller


As if there was any doubt, Kentucky definitely won the 2012 NBA Draft.

The announced Thursday they have signed second-round pick to a contract, making him the sixth Wildcat from last season’s national title team to sign an deal.

Miller, a 6-foot-8 forward, joins former Kentucky teammate , who was taken No. 1 overall by the Hornets. The Hornets selected Miller with the 46th pick.

The lone senior on Kentuc it has been revealed.The Norway international has emerged from a first Champions League campaign as one of the most coveted players in Europe, where he is interesting both former group rivals Liverpool and Napoli.HLN says things could’ve been very dky’s team that won the 2012 national championship, Miller was named the SEC Sixth Man of the Year. He has played in more games (152) than any player in Kentucky history.

But does Miller have a legitimate chance to make the team. Signs definitely point to yes. The team is thin at small forward. is the only small forward on the roster and the Hornets on FA Cup upset tonight against Arsenal.Pompey boss Kenny Jackett, who led Millwall to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 2013, said he does not think the magnitude of the occasion will be an issue for his side, who are third in League One.”You’re playinly have 13 players under contract. So Miller could vs are reportedly looking to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga in goals.The world’s most expensive goalkeeper was dropped by Frank Lampard for last Saturday’s draw with Leicester City.According to Goal, Chelsea already have a willing replacement in Onana.The ery well not only make the team, but be contributing next season as well.

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