Pacers head coach Frank Vogel was a guest on ESPN Radio in Indianapolis today and Scott Agness of Pacers.com transcribed much of the interview for us. Vogel hits on a number of topics, but specifically discussed the offseason developments at the top of the Eastern Conference, including those within his own team. Here are a few key points from Vogel:
- Vogel mentioned the Bulls and Nets as the two teams that have taken big steps forward this offseason; Chicago with the return of Derrick Rose and Brooklyn with their bevy of additions. Vogel lauded the bench additions of Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko in Brooklyn, and said he expects good things from Jason Kidd as an NBA coach.
- The Pacers' addition of Luis Scola will really help the team's bench, Vogel said, adding that Scola is one of smartest and most creative players in the league. Vogel said that Solomon Hill, drafted 23rd by Indiana in June, is "ready to contribute right away" and also mentioned C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland as useful additions to his squad.
- Of course, the piece most likely to elevate the Pacers to the next level is the return of Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last season with knee issues. On Granger, Vogel said, "It’s really exciting. Danny is on schedule, looks really good, he’s making progress each week and we’re hoping that we're going to be having a full-strength Danny Granger this year to add to this team that made a lot of noise last year."
- Roy Hibbert has concentrated on bulking up this summer, according to Vogel. Hibbert, who established himself as an elite physical presence in last season's playoffs, is adding bulk mainly in hopes of improving on the offensive end, Vogel said.
Kobe Bryant is celebrating his 35th birthday today, but the passage of time doesn't bode well for his chances to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the top spot on the all-time scoring list. He has 6,671 points to go, notes Marc Stein of ESPN.com, who adds that Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Robert Parish are the only players to score at least that many points after they turned 35 (Twitter link). Of course, breaking records involves outperforming history anyway, so the numbers seem as unlikely to deter the Black Mamba as most of the defenders he's faced over the years. Here's more from the Association:
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer outlines the Sixers' priorities for the rest of the offseason, which likely include a few more front office hires. He also says Jason Richardson will likely miss the entire season and Kwame Brown will probably be waived, but that appears to be speculation on both points.
- Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times thinks Steve Ballmer's announcement today that he's retiring as Microsoft CEO is a boost to Seattle's effort to land an NBA team. Dudley also wonders if Ballmer will follow Paul Allen, another tech magnate, as owner of the Blazers (hat tip to Golliver).
- USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo would have interest in making Roy Hibbert part of the program, but Hibbert's appearance with Jamaica during a game in 2010 likely precludes the Pacers center from ever joining Team USA. Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star provides further explanation.
- Ben Golliver of SI.com gives the Thunder a grade of D+ for their offseason moves, but he's high on first-round pick Steven Adams, doesn't think the departure of Kevin Martin will hurt too much, and believes the team could again win 60 games this season.
- Doc Rivers hasn't been with the Clippers for long, but the onus is on him to convert the team's potential into accomplishment, as Zach Harper of CBSSports.com examines.
The news of the night so far in the NBA is that Pacers' Roy Hibbert and Warriors' David Lee have each been suspended one game without pay for their roles in last night's skirmish (Twitter links from Yahoo's Marc Spears). In addition, Lance Stephenson, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were each fined $35,000 for "escalating the altercation." Hibbert already told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star that he will pay Stephenson's fine for being a good teammate, tweets Wells.
Lee will serve his suspension tonight, as the Warriors visit in the Knicks in one of 10 games on tonight's schedule. Mark Jackson, back in Madison Square Garden as head coach of the Warriors, has already expressed his displeasure with the league's decision, tweets Adam Zagoria of NBA.com. Here are some other odds and ends from around the league:
- Chad Ford of ESPN released his latest draft blog, available to insiders only and complete with an updated top 30. Ben McLemore of Kansas tops his big board but as Ford asserts, this year's top 10 promises to be as ever-changing as any in recent memory.
- Greg Oden will not decide on his next team until July, reports Sam Amico of Fox Sports. This agrees with last week's report from Marc Spears of Yahoo that Oden won't sign until the offseason, though it sounds like this came directly from Oden's agent, Mike Conley. Amico writes that Oden came close to signing with the Cavaliers earlier this month, but an agreement couldn't be reached. Conley believes that once Oden works his way into game shape, he will again have All Star potential.
- Free agent forward Donte Greene, now healthy after fracturing his ankle in August, will work out for teams at Eastern Michigan University on Sunday, tweets Marc Spears of Yahoo. Spears reported last week that the Nets, Pacers, Hornets, Spurs, Bulls, Knicks, Magic, Rockets, and Cavaliers have all checked in on Greene, who played the last four seasons in Sacramento. Citing a league source, Nets Daily has reported the Nets are not currently interested in filling their open roster spot by adding Greene.
- As was rumored yesterday, it appears that Kings minority owner John Kehriotis does in fact intend to submit a "back-up offer" to the Maloofs to buy the Kings, reports Tony Bizjak of the Sacramento Bee. Kehriotis apparently has the capital to match the offer from the Seattle group and believes he has the legal right to counter their attempt to buy the team, according to the report.
- Meanwhile, the Sacramento city council voted on Tuesday night to approve the request made by city officials to begin negotiations over the financing of a new arena, reports Bizjak. These negotiations are a crucial element to Sacramento's bid to keep the Kings.
Joel Brigham of HoopsWorld has a new column examining which teams have a chance to be title contenders five seasons from now, taking into account possible moves in free agency and the ages of the teams' core players.
- Brigham believes the Thunder still have the brightest future, given that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka will all be under 30 in five seasons.
- LeBron James' free agency will play a major role in determining the next title contender, Brigham writes. The health and effectiveness of Dwyane Wade will determine whether James stays with the Heat, but the Cavaliers and Lakers are also possible destinations.
- On that note, Brigham writes that, although Kyrie Irving is blossoming into a superstar, the Cavs will not be a contender unless James signs in Cleveland.
- The Bulls will still be contenders if Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah stay healthy, Brigham writes. He also notes that Nikola Mirotic will have come over to the NBA by then.
- The trade for Thomas Robinson added another young piece to the James Harden/Jeremy Lin core the Rockets have built, Brigham writes. Additionally, the team is still well under the cap and can add another high-level player via free agency.
- Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge give the Blazers a solid core to build around, writes Brigham.
- Brigham writes that there will be uncertainty every year for the next five as to whether Chris Paul will still be with the Clippers.
- Even if Stephen Curry's ankles don't hold up, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes give the Warriors a good young core, Brigham says.
- Brigham writes that the Pacers have excellent cornerstone players in Roy Hibbert and Paul George.
The latest news and notes from around the NBA on Thursday evening:
The Pistons reportedly have plenty of interest in DeMarcus Cousins, but Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News believes GM Joe Dumars has cooled on Cousins as Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have developed (Twitter link). In another tweet, Goodwill asserts that Detroit won't be dealing any picks and thinks that the Celtics could offer Rajon Rondo in what would be the most attractive trade package for Sacramento. With that aside, here are a few more links we've gathered up out of the Eastern Conference tonight:
- Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun believes the Raptors would have to bite if the Kings offered Cousins for Andrea Bargnani, but he's not optimistic Cousins can overcome his volatile personality (Twitter links).
- Tim Bontemps of the New York Post dissects Mikhail Prokhorov's remarks to reporters on Friday, concluding that the Nets owner is sold on Phil Jackson and would entertain keeping P.J. Carlesimo for the rest of the season if he can't get the Zen Master of Jeff Van Gundy immediately.
- Roy Hibbert got off to a disconcerting start this season after signing a four-year deal for the maximum in the offseason, but his play has picked up of late, as HoopsWorld's Joel Brigham chronicles.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel believes the Magic, at 12-16, have little chance of landing a high lottery pick, and writes that the team should set its sights on making the playoffs instead. Schmitz also speculates that Stan Van Gundy's next coaching job will be on the West Coast, and doesn't foresee Phil Jackson taking the Nets job.
- In a Q&A with The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer, Cavaliers guard Shaun Livingston discusses the career-altering injury he suffered six years ago, being cut by the Rockets, and playing alongside Kyrie Irving.
The latest rumblings from the Central Division on Wednesday evening:
- Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star writes that despite his struggles on offense, Roy Hibbert is living up to his contract with the Pacers for his defensive impact.
- Cavin also writes that Paul George has impressed Pacers coach Frank Vogel with his defensive impact.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Luc Mbah a Moute is set to play for the Bucks for the first time this season on Monday.
HoopsWorld.com has a new roundtable feature in which several of the site's writers weigh in on who they believe is the biggest disappointment thus far in the 2012/13 season. Here are the highlights:
- Lang Greene pinpoints Roy Hibbert, signed to a four-year, $58MM contract this summer, as a major reason why the Pacers are underperforming early in the season.
- Alex Kennedy believes that the Raptors' strategy of targeting Landry Fields to make it harder for the Knicks to land Steve Nash backfired. He points to Fields' disappointing start to the season as a reason why the signing is a failure for Toronto.
- Stephen Brotherston writes that Ersan Ilyasova has regressed following what appeared to be a breakout season last year with the Bucks.
- Bill Ingram is frustrated by the continued inconsistent play of JaVale McGee following his re-signing with the Nuggets this summer.
- Derek Page points out that Pau Gasol's offensive efficiency has dropped this season, even more so than expected following the Lakers' addition of Dwight Howard.
- While there is still time for him to mature, Joel Brigham writes that Jeremy Lin has been a disappointment since signing with the Rockets.
Jabari Davis of Sheridan Hoops noted
a few highlights from a roundtable discussion between longtime personal friend of Phil Jackson
/NBA author Roland Lazenby and the hosts of a blog talk radio show called TheOpinioNationNetwork. Most notably, Lazenby feels that Jackson's return to the Lakers
is a foregone conclusion and went on to briefly talk about how Jackson would be able to handle the team's schedule, Nash's fit within the triangle offense, and where he currently stands with Jerry Buss.
While the head coaching situation in Los Angeles currently appears to be the most polarizing topic of the basketball world, we'll keep track of tonight's other rumblings from around the Association here:
HoopsWorld's Bill Ingram has a new column that touches on several topics from around the league, including the rivalry in Los Angeles and the Warriors' expectations.
- Ingram talks to Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, who says he is taking his time getting healthy after tearing his left Achilles' tendon last season.
- Billups also praises the Clippers' depth, citing the additions of Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford as moves that will improve the team.
- Warriors coach Mark Jackson is optimistic Andrew Bogut, acquired last season at the trade deadline, will be ready on opening night. He also thinks the team's three rookies, including lottery pick Harrison Barnes, will be valuable contributors this season.
- Despite coming close to signing with the Trail Blazers in July, Pacers center Roy Hibbert says he never wanted to leave Indiana and that money was not a factor in his decision. Hibbert signed a four-year, $58MM deal with the Pacers this summer.