Derrick Rose

Last week, I wrote who would get my vote to be fantasy basketball all-stars at the halfway point of the NBA season.

Now, let’s take a look at the players who have only let you down thus far with the midseason “all-bust” team.

Starters:

PG – Derrick Rose (CHI): We all heard about “the return.” Rose’s vertical increased, he developed a better jump shot and he was set to come back and be a top fantasy player. Unfortunately, the injury bug seems to be clinging to Rose as he suffered a torn medial meniscus in his right knee in late November. After missing all of last season, he is out yet another season. It couldn’t have gone worse for fantasy owners who more than likely picked him pretty high.

SG – J.R. Smith (NY): The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is struggling heavily this season. Not only is he getting in trouble with the NBA for untying people’s shoes or getting benched by his head coach, virtually every statistic he was good for last season has taken a turn into the wrong direction. Smith went from averaging 18.1 points per game last season to just 12 this season. His free throw percentage is down from 76.2 percent to 61.7 percent. He also is shooting a career-low 36.9 percent from the field. Last year, he shot 42.2 percent.

SF – Josh Smith (DET): One of the guys who normally performs at a high level in almost every statistical category is not doing so hot in Detroit. His points, assists, rebounds, three-point percentage and field goal percentage are all down significantly. What is going on with J-Smoove?

PF – Kevin Garnett (BKN): Let’s face it. The Nets entire team is a bust. However, KG is going through some struggles as father time may officially be hitting him. He is playing just 21 minutes a game this season, while only averaging 6.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He is also shooting only 41.9 percent, as opposed to his 49.6 percent last season.

C – JaVale McGee (DEN): Before he could make is usual appearance on “Shaqtin’ A Fool,” McGee fractured his left leg and has been out indefinitely. With George Karl gone and Brian Shaw in for the Nuggets, McGee was expected to log more minutes and have a bigger fantasy impact this season. That has not been the case – not to mention, in the five games he played this season, he was averaging just 7.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

 

Bench:

PF – Kenneth Faried (DEN): George Karl sure did love the Manimal, but Brian Shaw seems as if he is confused with how to play Faried – seeing as how he plays just under 24 minutes per game. His rebounding and scoring numbers are both down from last season and his numbers have been very inconsistent. It is hard to get a feel for Faried right now, but he certainly is not playing as expected coming into his third season in the NBA. Maybe Shaw will figure it out, but for now, he’s a bust.

SG – O.J. Mayo (MIL): At this point, Mayo is arguably not worth owning in some leagues. His minutes are down significantly from last season when he was in Dallas, but more importantly, he is shooting just 39.6 percent, scoring 12.2 points per game, and his assist numbers are down from 4.4 to 2.4 per game.

SF, PF – Gerald Wallace (BOS): Wallace wasn’t supposed to be a star or anything too special, but he was expected to produce. Now, he is probably a free agent in most leagues. Nothing more to say other than playing under 23 minutes, scoring 4.6 points and grabbing 3.3 rebounds per game. Wallace is most likely done as a fantasy player.

SF, PF – Ersan Ilyasova (MIL): Ilyasova is getting essentially the same amount of playing time as last season. However, his field goal percentage is down, his points are down, his rebounds are down and his three-point percentage is down. Ilyasova is very inconsistent for whatever reason this season, and all owners can do is be patient with him.

PG – Deron Williams (BKN): Williams is just another Nets player on the list. Their whole team has potential to be on this list. The numbers don’t lie, though, and Williams is averaging only 13.6 points and 7.0 assists per game, which are both the lowest they’ve been since his rookie year. His free throw percentage is down as well. Jason Kidd and Deron Williams may be having some issues.

PF, C – Larry Sanders (MIL): If this dude didn’t block so many shots, he would probably be dropped, although those numbers have dropped since last season. His points, rebounds, assists, free throw percentage and three-point percentage are all down too. Who knows if this has to do with his new contract, new coach, his misspelled tattoo from the offseason or all of the above, but this is a bust-season for Sanders.

PG Steve Nash (LAL): Fantasy owners knew he wouldn’t be the Nash of old, but we sure didn’t know he would be the old man, Nash. At 39, Nash has been injured almost all year with his back. Although he is set to return to the lineup soon, he is expected to play limited minutes. Nash, who used to be the assist king, is not worth owning in virtually any league.

Andre Miller and Chris Paul shine early in NBA playoffs

The NBA playoffs opened up on Saturday afternoon, and they got off to a decently anti-climactic start. Derrick Rose still hasn’t returned, Kobe Bryant is still hurt, and Jeff Van Gundy still seems uncontrollably bitter. The Chicago Bulls were the first road team to win a game, and that event didn’t happen until Monday night.  

It’s no secret the NBA often plays host to very lopsided playoff matches, and often times the first round doesn’t provide the sparks most fans want to see. That Golden State Warriors-Dallas Mavericks series seems like long ago at this point, but the opening weekend of the 2013 NBA Playoffs had its share of exciting moments.  
 
The Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets are matched up in what might be one of the most exciting series of the entire playoffs, and they didn’t disappoint in their first game in Denver. With seconds remaining Stephen Curry hit a corner three to tie the game at 95, and the recurring play Andre Miller took the ball strong to the basket for a go ahead lay-up with one second remaining to seal a Denver win.  
 
In similar fashion, Chris Paul dribbled out the winding seconds of the Clippers and Grizzlies game Monday night before attacking the paint for an off-balanced, banked shot at the buzzer to win the game. It might not be as good as Van Persie’s hat trick, but the NBA playoffs have given us some moments to be content with thus far.  
 
The saying in the league is that the series hasn’t started until the home team has lost. I guess if that’s sill the idea, then only one of our series has actually started. But this is usually what is to be expected with NBA Playoff Basketball, at least since the early 2000’s. The first round of the playoffs often isn’t the most exciting portion of the playoffs, but for an opening weekend there was not too much to be disappointed about. 
 
It was predictable that mostly home teams would win. It was rather predictable that Derrick Rose wouldn’t suit up. But what wasn’t predictable is that Chris Paul and Andre Miller would come up clutch for their teams when it mattered most. I wouldn’t have predicted it would take the Clippers four quarters to dunk the basketball in game one of their series, and the continuing emergence of Carmelo Anthony might lean a little more towards the predictable side, but it’s still satisfying to see.  
 
I’ve slowly realized this isn’t the same NBA I grew up watching. Dirk, Kobe, Vince Carter, and the cast of characters who owned the 2000’s are slowly being filtered out completely. It’s a strange thing to see as a fan that fell in love with the sport in that era, but the opening round of the playoffs was a friendly reminder that the league is in a great place.  

The Derrick Rose school of teasing: Why the Bulls PG needs to come back... now

Just days ago another image of Derrick Rose practicing emerged. Again.

It’s been the same story for months, or lack thereof you could say. The return of Rose to the basketball court has long been overdue, and at this point the spectacle is getting rather frustrating to see.

Rose was injured during game one of a 2012 playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers after landing awkwardly on his left knee. He had ACL surgery in May, and now, eleven months later, we are still waiting for hi.

It wouldn’t be so frustrating as a fan to not see Rose if we weren’t teased daily by the media, and by sound bites of Rose himself making a return appear imminent.

Mock videos and commercials have gone viral of Rose’s return, and a spoof of the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises even popped up.

But Derrick, superheroes don’t stay down this long.

I understand the hesitation, and I understand the concern in bringing your franchise player back too soon after a severe injury, but it isn’t just the fans in Chicago that are growing restless with Rose’s indecision on a return. And the NBA playoffs are only a few weeks away.

And just for context’s sake, it’s been over a month since Rose was cleared to play.

Rose was listed as day-to-day on March 5, and a month ago Rose was cleared to return to action on March 8.

And yet, the only Rose we’ve seen are practice images, training images and your occasional promotional making a return seem imminent. The irony in this story, however, is no one really knows when he’ll be back.

At this point it’s been made pretty clear that Rose’s return rests solely on his shoulders, and that decision is not going to come until he feels prepared mentally to come back. But with the Bulls playing solid basketball, firmly locked in the playoffs and an opportunity to throw off the Eastern Conference with a return, we still see no sign of Rose.

At this point I’m honestly not certain what decision Rose will actually make. It would be logical to assume that Rose isn’t going to play this season. Actually nothing about this story particularly points to Rose coming back this season. But that’s the thing that doesn’t make any sense. Why all the media hoopla and false hope if you aren’t going to come back? Does Rose not realize the potential loss of credibility and weariness he may be creating with his fan base?

Well Rose, as of now six games remain between the regular season and the playoffs, and hopefully after that time period a decision will be made.

NBA playoff dark horses

As the NBA season approaches the All-Star break, the undefined half-way marker, we take a look at two teams in each conference that have been playing extremely well since the beginning of the season and could make some noise in the play-offs if all of the correct piece fall into place.

With Derrick Rose sidelined late last year with an ACL injury, the Chicago Bulls were all but counted out of the elite teams in the Eastern conference. Analysts buzzed about the defending champions Miami Heat, the Brooklyn Nets, their cross-city counter-parts New York Knicks, the aged Boston Celtics, and, to a lesser degree, the Indiana Pacers. No Rose, no hope. But boy were they wrong. The Bulls are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat and New York Knicks, beating out three teams projected to do better than them this season. They have won seven of their last ten games, have the best road record in the NBA at 12-6, and have rallied behind the principle of team unity the entire season. Joakim Noah, who is averaging 12.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists to go along with 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per contest, has been the heart and soul that anchors a team of gritty, tireless players that hustle every minute of the game and never give up. Luol Deng has stepped up offensively to provide the primary scoring threat for the team. Carlos Boozer has played resurgently as of late, showing shades of his old self with a string of monster games earlier this month. Coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled a terrific mentality in this group of players who have really rallied together to play hard night-in and night-out. If the Bulls continue to play with the tenacity they’ve shown thus far when Derrick Rose returns to the line-up after the All-Star break they would look similar to the scary #1 seeded Bulls team of two years ago and could spell trouble for first and possibly second-round opponents.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut. That’s the line-up that Golden State Warriors’ fans envisioned would carry them to the play-offs this year, and it is a scary one to imagine for opposing teams. But after playing just four games in the season, Bogut went down with an ankle injury, causing him to miss the next 38 games. The Warriors did not let Bogut’s injury hamper their whole season, though. Currently sitting at the No. 5 seed in the West, they are young, athletic, and fun-to-watch. Not only that – they get the job done. They boast an impressive 14-6 home record, and despite going 5-5 in their past ten games played, they have played well throughout the season. Curry is having an all-star caliber year (21 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game) and proves to be the glue that holds the team together. Last year fans got a glimpse of what Klay Thompson could be after the shooting guard spot opened up in the post-Monta Ellis era. He averaged over 20 points a game on 45% shooting last year after Ellis was dealt to the Bucks. Thompson started the year slowly shooting below 40% and not performing, but has since come into form and is shooting the ball well. Harrison Barnes also started the season rocky, and although his numbers aren’t spectacular, the Warriors are better as a unit when he is on the court. He is a terrific defender and does a lot of the dirty work and intangibles that do not go on the stat sheet. Supplement these young shooters with big men like David Lee and Andrew Bogut who are not afraid to get physical and bruise their way to rebounds and inside paint points and there is a legitimate inside-outside threat that teams will have to deal with. Head coach Mark Jackson has given these young players immense confidence to play the game their style and it has been working thus far (27-17). It may take a while for the chemistry to settle in with Bogut back in the line-up, but if they continue to play well the Warriors can hover around the 4th-6th seed in the West – and don’t be surprised if they pull off an upset or two in the playoffs.
 

NBA Eastern Conference Preview

There is a remarkable disparity in the quality of teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. That disparity though is quite simple to understand-the Miami Heat and the rest of the field. The Miami Heat have separated themselves from any other playoff contender in the East, ever more strikingly with the absence of Derrick Rose. However, nothing is a guarantee in the NBA. So, let’s get down to business.

The Miami Heat are the unquestioned number one in the Eastern Conference power rankings. Lebron James was a near perfect player last few years. He could guard all five positions at an elite level, had the versatility to play 1-4 on offense, and the physical athleticism to annihilate any opposing athlete. The only tool missing was his mental toughness. Now that Lebron James has proved to the world that he can perform in the most critical moments of a basketball game, he does not really have too much internal pressure constantly weighing down on him. Expect a surreal Lebron James, a revived Dwayne Wade, and a scrappy Chris Bosh to fit well with their new shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and ultimately challenge the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls 72-win record.

The Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics remain the two biggest threats to the reigning NBA Champions. Both teams boast a largely intact starting lineup that can match the chemistry of any other team. Talent is no shortage with these two teams. Rajan Rondo is arguably the best pass-first point guard in the league and will maximize the remaining productivity of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and new addition Jason Terry along with young guns Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. For the Celtics to have any chance of beating the Heat in the playoffs though, they will need Rajan Rondo to perform at his maximum, delivering triple doubles on a nightly basis. The Indiana Pacers on the other hand are largely dependent on the performance of their front court. With Roy Hibbert, David West, and Danny Granger starting at the front court positions, the Pacers have the talent to match up against the Heat. However, they really have not added much over the offseason and are relying on Paul George, second year shooting guard, to lift the Pacers into a new stratosphere.

Teams in New York are talented. The New York Knicks and New York Nets have rosters that when put together hold sufficient talent to make an all-star team. However, chemistry issues will stall the productivity and talent of these two teams. The Knicks will rely on Jason Kidd to somehow rid them of their dysfunctional use of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony simultaneously. The Nets on the other hand need to figure out how to fit new face Joe Johnson along with returning Brooklyn Lopez and adjust to their rising expectations.

The Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, and Atlanta Hawks should fill up those last few playoff spots. All these teams have a critical flaw that prevents them from performing much better. The Bulls don’t have Derrick Rose. However, Tom Thibodeau, a defensive mastermind, will muster enough defense and scoring from his relatively productive unit last year. The 76ers have the potential to be an amazing team if Andrew Bynum grows into a reliable franchise player. But, who thinks that’s really going to happen? Last, the Hawks made a great move by getting rid of Joe Johnson’s burdensome contract and making Josh Smith the new focal point. However, they did get rid of arguably their best player.

Finally, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, and Toronto Raptors are just undergoing too many fluctuations to make a viable push for the playoffs. There are definitely some quality players and rising starts on these teams-Kyrie Irving, Monte Ellis, and Brandon Jennings. But, the majority of these teams are a couple of solid first round picks away from making a solid impact on the playoff standings.

Howard now open to playing in Chicago

Dwight Howard looks on as his Magic lose to the Indiana Pacers. Howard may be moving out of Orlando after this season. The Magic are 12-8 this year.
Dwight Howard looks on as his Magic lose to the Indiana Pacers. Howard may be moving out of Orlando after this season. The Magic are 12-8 this year.

Dwight Howard has added a new city to his trade wish list, the “Windy City,” Chicago.

In the past Howard’s list of the teams in which he would sign a long-term deal if traded to included only: Dallas, the L.A. Lakers, and the New Jersey Nets.

The list has been speculated upon since November, and teams have been on and off the list more often than the Republicans have had debates this winter.

Now, the new team on his wish list is the Bulls, where Howard would get to play with his buddy Derek Rose.

"If I could play with Derrick right now and God wanted that to happen, it will happen," Howard told the Chicago Tribune. "It has nothing to do with me not wanting to play with Derrick Rose. I love him. That's my brother."

In the past there were rumors that Rose and Howard’s shoe sponsor Adadis did not want the two to play together, because it would limit the pairs influence too a smaller market space. Howard quickly dismissed that idea.

"It has nothing to do with Adidas," Howard said, according to the Tribune. "In fact, Adidas would love that because me and Derrick have the same guy."

If Howard were traded to the Bulls, the combination of Howard and Rose would be lethal. It would be the first true high-low combination between a center and a guard since Shaq and Kobe.

In fact, it could be even more deadly. Rose is a much more willing passer than Kobe ever was, and Howard is a more effective defender than O’Neal in his prime.

The trade would also work for both squads, as the Bull’s have the young pieces to send back to Orlando, to make the trade worthwhile.

The Bulls would be able to put together a package of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson or Omer Asik and draft picks to send to the Magic in return for Howard and absorbing Hedo Turkoglu contract. A package of young talented pieces is something no other team on Howard’s list can afford to offer, in terms of value.

As of now there is no indication that the Bulls are actively perusing Howard, but at this point it looks like Howard will have to be traded and the Bulls would seem to be an excellent fit.

After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts. Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.  

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going
to happen.”After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed
Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts.

Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as: Compact schedule could be to blame for playoff injuries