Sam Amico

Clippers Express Interest In Paul George

The Clippers have expressed interest in Paul George, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. For Los Angeles to be a serious contender in the George sweepstakes, the Pacers would likely have to be willing to wait until July to finalize a trade.

As Deveney writes, the Clippers’ best chance to make a trade involving a highly-paid player like George would involve signing-and-trading one of their top free agents. While Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will be among those free agents, the Clips’ dream scenario would likely be using another UFA, J.J. Redick, in a sign-and-trade, then forming a Big Four with Paul, Griffin, George, and DeAndre Jordan.

That scenario is probably a long shot, since the Clippers don’t have first-round picks in 2017 or 2019, and acquiring Redick on an expensive new deal may not appeal to Indiana. But if any team besides the Lakers should feel confident in its ability to lock up George beyond 2018, the Clippers might might be that team, given their ability to get PG13 to his preferred city.

Here are several more George rumors or notes, in the wake of Sunday’s report that he plans on leaving the Pacers:

  • The Cavaliers and Pacers have been immersed in trade talks regarding George, league sources tell Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net. According to Amico, Cleveland’s interest in George has been described as “legit,” but pulling off a deal could be “very complicated.”
  • Two NBA sources who spoke to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link) expect the Lakers to get involved in George trade talks if it appears the Cavaliers are moving close to a deal. However, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links) is skeptical that the Lakers would move young players like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle for George, suggesting that Jordan Clarkson is a more likely trade candidate. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports that the Lakers currently appear unwilling to part with any of their young assets in a trade with the Pacers.
  • The Rockets are worth keeping an eye on in the George sweepstakes, according to Sean Deveney, who observes that Daryl Morey is generally willing to roll the dice on impact players without getting a long-term commitment.
  • The Heat like George, but – given their lack of tradeable first-round picks – probably don’t have the assets to acquire him, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 3/26/17

Check out Sunday’s D-League assignment and recalls:

  • The Pistons have recalled Henry Ellenson from their D-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive, Rod Beard of The Detroit News tweets. Beard notes that the rookie will be available for Detroit’s matchup with the Knicks on Monday.
  • The Cavaliers have assigned Larry Sanders to the Canton Charge, per Sam Amico of Amico Hoops (Twitter link). Sanders has only seen two minutes of action for Cleveland this season.
  • The Spurs have assigned Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes to the Austin Spurs, according to the team’s website. Bertans has appeared in three games for San Antonio’s D-League affiliate, while Forbes has seen action in 18 contests.
  • The Mavericks have recalled Manny Harris and Jarrod Uthoff from the Texas Legends, Earl K. Sneed of Fox Sports tweets. Both players will see their respective 10-day contracts with Dallas expire at the end of the day on Tuesday.
  • The Rockets have recalled Chinanu Onuaku, Isaiah Taylor and Troy Williams from their D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, per the team’s Twitter feed.
  • The Grizzlies have recall Wade Baldwin and Deyonta Davis from the Iowa Energy, according to the team’s website. Baldwin has played in 33 D-League games this season, while Davis has seen action in 11 contests.
  • The Pelicans recalled Cheick Diallo from Greensboro, the team announced through a press release. Diallo, who has averaged 22.3 points over his last three D-League games, will be available for tonight’s match-up with Denver.

International Notes: Bennett, Greene, Kelly

Anthony Bennett, who was recently waived by the Nets, may head overseas to pursue his next basketball opportunity, sources tell Sam Amico of Pro Basketball Digest. Amico adds that the former No.1 overall pick is also considering the D-League as an option with an eye on signing a few 10-day contracts with NBA clubs.

Bennett flashed promise at UNLV but struggled mightily during his three stops in the NBA. Amico notes that Bennett’s poor performance during his rookie season played a role in Cleveland’s decision to fire then-GM Chris Grant during the middle of the 2013/14 campaign.

Here are a few more international updates on players with NBA ties:

  • Former Kings big man Donte Greene, a 2008 first-rounder who last played in 2012, has joined Puerto Rican team Capitanes de Arecibo, according to an announcement from the club (hat tip to Sportando). Greene, who turns 29 next month, said back in August that he continues to hope for one more shot from an NBA team.
  • Maccabi Kiryat Gat of Israel has released former Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor, according to international journalist David Pick (Twitter links). The team will use the roster spot to bring Josh Selby aboard. Selby, who was the No. 49 pick in the 2011 draft, previously played in Israel for Bnei Herzliya.
  • Sasha Djordjevic, the coach of Bayern Munich, is recruiting Nicolas Laprovittola to play for his team, Pick reports (Twitter link). Laprovittola was waived by the Spurs last month.
  • Ryan Kelly has garnered interest from Reggio Emilia, a team in Italy, but it’s unlikely he joins the club as he prefers to pursue NBA opportunities, according to Emilio Carchia of Sportando. The Hawks waived Kelly last week.

Luke Adams contributed to this post

Central Notes: Blake, Motiejunas, McRae

Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy downplayed the idea of a Brandon Jennings trade in the weeks leading up to the deadline, but Steve Blake nonetheless readied himself for more playing time in case a Jennings trade happened or a deal that sent Blake himself to another team took place, MLive’s David Mayo notes. Of course, the Pistons traded Jennings to the Magic and kept soon-to-be free agent Blake, who’s glad he’s stuck around.

“I easily could have ended up somewhere else,” Blake said, according to Mayo. “I was praying it wouldn’t happen but I knew it could happen. I knew it was a possibility.”

Reggie Jackson is a fan of his backup, acknowledging that he seeks advice from Blake, a 13th-year veteran, as Mayo also relays. See more on the Pistons amid news from the Central Division.

  • The Pistons aren’t worried about the implications of a grievance that the union is reportedly giving strong consideration to filing in the wake of the voided Donatas Motiejunas trade, Van Gundy said, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. The Pistons want to cultivate a reputation as a player-friendly organization, but they don’t think the flap over the failed deal, which prompted some harsh words from Motiejunas, will hurt the team.
  • Jordan McRae‘s potential to develop was one of the reasons the Cavaliers signed the 58th overall pick from 2014 to a two-year deal this week, GM David Griffin told Sam Amico of Amico Hoops. The sides decided against a second 10-day contract to strike a long-term deal after only a single 10-day stint. “He has fit in well, understands his role and embraces the opportunity he has to improve,” Griffin said. “Jordan has a unique combination of length and scoring ability, and we are intrigued by his versatility and upside.”
  • The Bulls have fallen flat this season, but injuries have played a major role in that, and the team would be unwise to execute a major overhaul in the summer, argues Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Jimmy Butler is a legitimate centerpiece and Derrick Rose is probably better than anyone they could trade him for, so the Bulls should concentrate on marginal changes instead, using their rookie contracts and Taj Gibson as trade bait, Berger contends.

Column: Karl’s Brash History Bodes Well For Kings

samamico

Sam Amico

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of AmicoHoops.net and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. If you missed last week’s installment, click here. Here’s this week’s edition:
It’s been somewhat of a circus of a summer for the Kings.
George Karl may have said something negative about his relationship with DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins may have tweeted something negative about Karl.
And Kings owner Vivek Ranadive may have been pondering Karl’s dismissal.
Yet here they all still remain — Karl and Cousins and Ranadive, with the start of training camp a mere two weeks away.
Those three aren’t exactly the holy trinity of hoops, but they are the heartbeat of the Kings. Well, at least Cousins is. And maybe Karl, if he can get along with Cousins. And maybe Ranadive, if he can stay out of the way.
In a lot of places with a lot of coaches, this type of drama would be reason for the concern. But Kings fans don’t need to fret. This is nothing new for Karl.
In fact, rocky beginnings go all the way back to his early years as a coach. Take the 1984/85 Cavaliers, for example.
Karl was the man in charge, World B. Free the team’s star. Free was bold, a little reckless, and never met shot he didn’t like. (A few didn’t seem to like him, however.)
Karl was bold, a little reckless, and never met a coaching job he didn’t like, or a situation he didn’t feel he could conquer.
It was basketball bravado at its worst — with Karl throwing sarcastic digs at Free in the press, and Free responding by acting annoyed and openly questioning his coach.
The result? Try a 2-19 start for the Cavs. Yes, they won just two of their first 21 games. Not many of the losses were close, either.
But alas, as soon as it appeared the Cavs were headed down the drain, Karl and Free came together. How or why, no one is sure. All that mattered is the two suddenly started to get along — and the Cavs won 34 of their final 61 games to make the playoffs.
They lost in the first round to the Larry Bird-led Celtics, but not before the overmatched Cavs put up an unexpected fight. The Celtics were the team to advance, but the final combined score of the series: Celtics 449, Cavs 449.
With Karl and Free, the Cavs finished the season by acting cocky, playing with some swagger, and finding ways to win when all seemed lost.
Later, Karl coached the SuperSonics and had some issues with star guard Gary Payton. But like the troubles with Free, the Karl-Payton spats eventually turned into a mutual respect. In 1995/96, the Sonics won 64 games and advanced to the Finals.
What does any of this have to do with today’s Kings?
Well, Karl and Cousins seem to have worked things out. At least for the time being — as Cousins posted a picture on his Instagram account of himself, Karl and new front office chief Vlade Divac back in August.
The three stood smiling, Karl and Cousins putting their arms around each other. It may not be love, but if it’s hate, Karl and Cousins may want to consider a career in acting.
Kings of hope?
On top of what appears to be a repaired relationship between Karl and Cousins, the Kings have several reasons to think the playoffs aren’t that far-fetched.
Lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein should immediately solve their less-than-dynamic run of power forwards.
Free agent signee Rajon Rondo owns a championship ring and knows a little something about directing an offense.
Returning small forward Rudy Gay remains a man who can break down defenders and get a basket when one is needed most.
And third-year shooting guard Ben McLemore could be primed for a breakout season.
Other key parts include point guard Darren Collison, who may actually start ahead of Rondo, and new additions such as big man Kosta Koufos, small forward Caron Butler, and sharpshooting veteran Marco Belinelli.
Of course, it all starts with Cousins, the most dangerous offensive center in the league — and yes, “offensive” is solely referring to his game. He can score at will and rebound at close to the same level, and for a guy who gets a bad rap as a me-first type, he’s a fairly deft passer.
Now, is this a lineup that should give the Kings championship dreams?
Well, no.
But Karl has sometimes done well with worse. And now that the circus has finally hit the road, the Kings — like some of Karl’s teams before them — may finally be on a surprising road of their own.

Column: Are Raptors Ready For Deep Playoff Run?

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Sam Amico

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of AmicoHoops.net and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. If you missed last week’s installment, click here. Here’s this week’s edition:

Last time the Raptors got out of the first round of the playoffs, Steph Curry‘s dad still played in the NBA.

In fact, Dell Curry actually played for the Raptors. That was 2001, and the last time the Raptors experienced the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Now? There is plenty of reason the Raptors can get there again.

They’ve won the Atlantic Division each of the past two seasons, finishing with records of 49-33 last season and 48-34 the year before that.

They boast a talented backcourt in Kyle Lowry and the dynamic DeMar DeRozan. They can beat you down low with more-than-capable center Jonas Valanciunas, and on the wing, with new combo forward DeMarre Carroll.

They have a coach in Dwane Casey who clearly knows his X’s and O’s and has his players’ attention. Casey’s team excelled on offense, as the Raptors averaged 108.1 points per 100 possessions during the regular season, good enough for third in the league, as NBA.com shows.

Then came the playoffs, and the Raptors were dumped in the first round, for the second straight year.

Two years ago, they owned home-court advantage and were bounced by the Nets. Last year, they owned home-court advantage against the Wizards, and things only got worse — as the Raptors were quickly swept aside.

If any team has shown that the playoffs are a different animal, it’s the Raptors. The playoffs are where defense is king, where a lack of ball movement can kill you, where weaknesses are exposed.

So far, the Raptors have come up short in too many of those areas.

Yes, they won the division — but finished 23rd in the NBA in points per 100 possessions allowed (104.8), 22nd in assists (20.7 APG) and a miserable 26th in rebounding (41.5 RPG). Those are key areas, especially come the postseason.

On the bright side, they feel like they’ve addressed many of those areas through the draft, and especially, free agency.

Getting some help

Along with Carroll, a solid all-around and athletic defender on the wing, the Raptors signed free agents Cory Joseph, Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo. Joseph takes pride in his defense, Scola flourishes in banging near the basket and Biyombo, at the very least, can protect the basket.

None are perennial All-Stars, but that’s not necessarily what the Raptors needed. They merely required some new pieces and parts to complement the likes of Lowry, DeRozan, Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and underrated power forward Patrick Patterson.

“The guys we added are system-type guys,” Casey said in an extensive Q&A with John Schuhmann of NBA.com. “Lou [Williams, who signed with the Lakers] is one of the top iso players in the league. I wouldn’t be very smart if I didn’t utilize that, and we did. We got criticized for it and sometimes that style of play doesn’t translate in the playoffs.

“But I think you got to have a balance, because some systems get bogged down in the playoffs also. That’s what we’re shooting for this year, to get a balance between having a guy that can break down a defense and get his own shot, as well as ball movement and body movement, which is what all coaches are striving for.”

Rookies Delon Wright and Norman Powell will also add depth to the backcourt, and based on their stellar play in summer league, may be more ready to contribute than perhaps even the Raptors expected.

So can this be the year? Can the Raptors finally get out of the first round? And if so, can they go beyond that?

Casey seems to think so.

“We’re still growing,” he told Schuhmann. “But I thought what we went through last year, even though it was painful, was what we needed. It was a dose of reality for us as a staff, for our players, and for everybody involved.”

If that dose of reality and the recent playoff lessons are implemented and carried out on the court, the Raptors may just have enough to be more than a strong team in the regular season — and shed that bit of trivia related to the father of last season’s league MVP.

The Raptors have the players. They have the coach. Now all they have to do is put it all together when it means the most.

Column: Hawks Stay Course Despite Doubts

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of AmicoHoops.net and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. If you missed last week’s edition, click here. Here’s this week’s edition:
When the Hawks cruised to the best record in the Eastern Conference at the NBA All-Star break, few outside the organization believed.
When the Hawks finished 60-22 to earn the top seed in the East, no one really seemed to care.
And when the Hawks had to fight their way to playoff wins over the Nets and Wizards, the doubters stood proud.
Sure enough, the Hawks were swept by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the conference finals.
Now? Well, the Hawks are down a valuable starter — as forward DeMarre Carroll bolted for the Raptors in free agency. They landed center Tiago Splitter in a trade with the Spurs, and fended off the Magic’s free agent offer for power forward Paul Millsap.
They also officially promoted head coach Mike Budenholzer to head of basketball operations after agreeing to buyout with former general manager Danny Ferry.
Other than that, everything is primarily the same.
Budenholzer actually held down his current dual role all of last season — Ferry having been gone on an “indefinite leave of absence” for repeating a controversial scouting report on free agent target Luol Deng, now with the Heat. That makes Budenholzer sort of the Gregg Popovich of the Hawks, and the Hawks sort of the Spurs of the East.
After all, the Hawks play a very Spurs-like brand of basketball, moving the ball, making the extra pass and confusing opponents who occasionally just wait for someone, anyone, to take a bad shot. Like the Spurs, the Hawks rarely do.
As Hawks swingman and three-point shooter extraordinaire Kyle Korver told Grantland’s Zach Lowe back in June, the Hawks are a system team. And sometimes, that can really take you places.
“I’ve been on teams where it’s all about one guy,” Korver told Lowe. “This is way more fun. I believe in this vision, and I think we’re eventually gonna get it done.”
Back to the Spurs comparison.
Unlike the five-time champions and their winning contingent of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, the Hawks have just two players with Finals experience. One is Splitter, who is expected to back up Al Horford in the pivot, and the other is swingman Thabo Sefolosha — who missed the last season’s playoff run after breaking his leg in a late-night incident.
So it’s safe to say regardless of how well the Hawks play in the regular season, the doubts will remain.
Star-less and soaring on
A lot of organizations would kill for the type of year the Hawks put together in 2014/15. It was a season full of accomplishment and fun, and for one of the few times in team history, a season that had the city buzzing about pro basketball.
Now, the Hawks are a little harder to peg.
No one seemed to believe they could win a title without — to use Korver’s words — that “one guy.” Everyone seemed to point out that the NBA is a superstar-driven league — and it was James and the Cavs (and not the Hawks) who possessed that shining star.
Well, guess what? The Hawks enter the season without a star. Granted, they have some really good ones in Horford, Millsap, Korver and perhaps best of all, point guard Jeff Teague.
But a LeBron or Kobe Bryant? Forget it.
And guess what else? To the Hawks, that still doesn’t really matter. It’s rare for teams to go from the No. 8 playoff seed (as the Hawks were in 2013/14) one year to winning a title the next. Often, you have to take your lumps in the postseason before getting all the way to the top.
And sometimes, it can be done without a top-five player. Especially if you have a top-five game plan.
“Everybody would like a superstar,” Budenholzer told Lowe, “but I definitely think you can win the way we are doing it.”
The Hawks have proven they can indeed win the way they are doing it through the grueling 82-game regular season. They proved they can do it through two rounds of the playoffs.
But is it enough to actually go all the way? Is it enough to continue the good thing they had going?
One thing’s for certain, the Hawks are determined to find out, and they’re determined to find out by doing it their own way.

Column: How Far Will Blazers Fall — If At All?

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of AmicoHoops.net and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. If you missed last week’s edition, click here.

A lot of people think the Trail Blazers are headed straight down the Western Conference tubes.

That kind of makes sense. After all, star forward LaMarcus Aldridge split for San Antonio and the Blazers received nothing in return.

On top of that, Nicolas Batum was traded to Charlotte, Wesley Matthews signed with Dallas and Robin Lopez bolted for New York.

So scratch four starters off last season’s 51-31 team. That record was good enough for the West’s No. 4 playoff spot — and many considered the Blazers to be a younger, up-and-coming bunch that only needed a few more years to do something special.

Now, only Damian Lillard remains as a real hope.

Of course, Lillard is a pretty good place to start. The 6’3″ point guard is still only 25 years old, and coming off a season in which he averaged 21.0 points and 6.2 assists. He is a brilliant point guard, a winner, a guy who knows how to take over a game and keep his teammates happy.

This year, Lillard may get an idea of what Kyrie Irving must have felt like in Cleveland prior to LeBron James‘ return.

Lillard will have to direct an entirely new unit — a unit that looks significantly less talented than the one that gave the Blazers so many reasons to believe.

Free agent signees Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu, and offseason trade acquisition Mason Plumlee, will likely form the starting frontcourt. Gerald Henderson, obtained in the Batum deal, is likely Lillard’s running mate in the backcourt.

Meanwhile, the bench is a mish-mash of youth, new faces and untapped potential – with the likes of everyone from big men Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh, to swingmen Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless, to guards C.J. McCollum and Phil Pressey, playing fairly large roles.

None are bad players. None are Aldridge or Batum or even Matthews or Lopez. At least not yet.

On the bright side, Terry Stotts is entering his fourth full season as Blazers coach, and he has proven he knows how to get the players’ attention. That can count for a lot when you’re looked at as fairly undermanned.

Also, Lillard hasn’t hung his head publicly over all the departures. Far from it.

“I’m looking forward to having a bigger role, to being the leader of the team, and I think it’s going to be fun,” he said in a press conference after signing a contract extension in July, as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian relayed. “I’m going to continue to be the same person. I’m going to continue to attack things with confidence like I always have. And, hopefully, it’ll all work out like I plan for it to work out.”

Of course, this is the West we’re talking about — a loaded conference with the Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and NBA champion Warriors all expected to finish near the top.

Memphis is another rugged playoff returnee, as is New Orleans. And Oklahoma City is expected back with the return of a healthy Kevin Durant.

So even with the old group, the Blazers would have had to really fight to hold their ground. Now? It may take a basketball miracle.

Then again, sometimes being counted out can really motivate a team. It happened in Denver not long after they traded Carmelo Anthony to New York in 2011 — when the Nuggets banded together without a true star and surprised their way to the postseason.

These Blazers will have to try to do something similar, and if they have anything going for them, it’s the fact no one expects them to do much. Most expect them to be forgotten.

That could indeed be the case. But at least the team’s clear-cut leader is promising to try to do his part.

“We’re a young team,” Lillard told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports last month. “There are going to be ups and downs. But I’m not giving up on anything. I don’t doubt that we can still compete. We got a lot of young athletes. I don’t feel like it’s going to be [solely] me up there. I feel like we got guys capable of stepping up and doing more than they’ve done in the past.”

If he’s right, maybe the Blazers can pull together. Maybe they can find some resolve, maybe they can overachieve. And maybe, their travel down the chutes won’t be as dramatic as some are predicting.

Column: Do Bucks Stop Here? Doesn’t Seem Like It

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of AmicoHoops.net and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. If you missed last week’s edition, click here.
When the Milwaukee Bucks take the floor this season, they’ll be a different team. Yes, Jason Kidd returns as coach.
Yes, the roster largely remains the same.
And yes, the Bucks will still be a mostly young group that is trying to find its way.
But the vibe will be different.
Kidd is entering his second season with the team, his third as a coach. The main players have gotten a taste of the playoffs — and anyone in any NBA capacity will tell you that alone counts for a lot. And the Bucks are no longer just athletic. Experience has made them smarter.
Last season, the Bucks were the surprise of the league. They jumped from 15 wins in 2013/14 to finish a respectable 41-41. They moved the ball on offense, bent their knees and shuffled their feet on defense, and much to the highlight shows’ delight, occasionally glided through the air with the greatest of ease.
Now, they get Jabari Parker back.
The second-year forward and No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft averaged 12.3 points on 49% shooting in just 25 games — before tearing his ACL and being stuck on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
Now, they’ve added Greg Monroe — and the free-agent signee from Detroit is likely to start and bring sturdiness to the center position right away.
The Bucks will also have starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams from the beginning. That’s something they couldn’t say last season — as Carter-Williams wasn’t part of the team until a deadline-day trade at the end of February.
Along with Carter-Williams, Monroe and Parker, the Bucks boast the forever-energetic Giannis Antetokounmpo and forever-underrated Khris Middleton on the wings.
It’s true that this is a lineup devoid of true-blue superstars, or the type of players that will make the media circus long to set up camp in Milwaukee.
But suddenly, this is a team worthy of everyone’s attention.
“They’re not a secret anymore,” Kidd said of his team.
Of course, he said that following a disaster of a 120-66 defeat to the Chicago Bulls — a game that eliminated the Bucks from the first round of the playoffs and sent them into the offseason with a whimper.
But that, of course, followed the Bucks winning two straight and staying alive after a 3-0 series hole.
Basically, the Bucks behaved like the young, talented and fairly inconsistent team they were.
Still, as mentioned previously, merely tasting the postseason tends to make guys feel better, and more confident, when training camp gets going.
“We got better,” Kidd said. “The whole experience of being in the playoffs, you can’t take that away from those guys, no matter if you lose by 40 or you lose by one.”
Off the bench come the likes of big men John Henson, Johnny O’Bryant and Miles Plumlee, along with veteran guards O.J. Mayo and Greivis Vasquez (obtained in a June trade with the Raptors), as well as free agent signee Chris Copeland at forward.
The Bucks are also excited about the potential of first-round pick Rashad Vaughn — a fairly athletic shooting guard and former McDonald’s All-American who spent one season at UNLV.
Do the Bucks having the makings of a champion? Not yet. Not in this league, where veteran teams with playoff savvy are always the ones playing at the end.
But these Bucks are climbing, they’re exciting, and they will enter the season with a better idea of how to get to where they need to go.
They will be different, for sure. But that’s OK. It will most likely be in a good way.
More Bucks stuff
1. ESPN began its summer forecast and projected the Bucks to win 44 games and finish seventh in the Eastern Conference. That’s three more victories than last season, but one less spot – as the Bucks were the East’s No. 6 seed this past spring.
2. With new owners promising a new arena, as long as public funding is finalized, it appears the Bucks are in Milwaukee for the long haul. That said, here’s an interesting story from Michael Powell in The New York Times that uses Milwaukee as an example of “all that is wrong with our arena-shakedown age.”
3. Finally, the Bucks signed hometown guy Marcus Landry, a 29-year old forward. Landry has spent most of his career overseas or in the D-League. He played his high school ball in Milwaukee and his college ball at the University of Wisconsin. He is also the brother of NBA forward Carl Landry, a member of the Sixers who has spent eight years in the league. It would seem Marcus will have a difficult time sticking on a roster that’s deep and basically set. But if there’s one thing this team could use, it’s an older guy.

Column: Sixers Still Not Showing Strides

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of AmicoHoops.net and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. If you missed last week’s edition, click here.

At least the Philadelphia 76ers have a plan. But is it a plan that’s good for their fans and the NBA in general?

“Anybody can say they’re going to be good in five years,” one NBA coach told me. “How about winning some games?”

Sixers GM Sam Hinkie isn’t opposed to winning. He just seems OK with not winning, too.

Hinkie clearly believes you win later, and win bigger later, by losing now. It’s a theory that places success on things such as lottery picks, trade exceptions, and young players who may or may not be confused by management’s acceptance of failure.

“It’s tough enough to build a winning culture when you’re trying to win,” the opposing coach said. “So imagine what it’s like to build a winning culture when you’re OK with losing all the time.”

There was a time, and not long ago, when the Sixers were considered among the NBA’s traditional powers, right up there with the Celtics and Lakers.

“When I was a kid, they were the only three teams on television,” the coach said. “I basically thought the NBA consisted of three teams, and there were times the Sixers looked like the biggest and baddest.”

Back in the league’s golden era of the 1980s, the Sixers boasted names such as Julius Erving, Andrew Toney, Charles Barkley and Moses Malone. After some so-so years in the 1990s, they returned to the Finals behind Allen Iverson, coach Larry Brown, and a bunch of basketball scrap metal in 2001.

So it was only more recently that the Sixers became a laughingstock.

It was only recently they seemed to lose much of their fan base with promises of a process that, so far, has done nothing but gone kaput.

Since Hinkie took the reigns as GM in 2013, the Sixers have been nauseating. They lose, they look awful, they play the lottery, they compile draft picks, they make coach Brett Brown’s hair turn gray.

The idea is for the Sixers to eventually land the next LeBron James or Tim Duncan in the draft. The more likely scenario seems to be them turning into the Eastern Conference version of the Timberwolves or Kings — two teams that can’t win for losing. Or in the case of the Sixers, it’s more like can’t lose for winning.

Now, the Sixers have some nice starting points in second-year center/power forward Nerlens Noel, and perhaps rookie center/power forward Jahlil Okafor.

Noel is already among the league’s premier rim-protectors, and Okafor, the No. 3 overall draft pick, has displayed a penchant for playing with his back to the basket.

Who will actually throw these guys the ball on the block is anyone’s guess — unless the names of guards Pierre Jackson, Nik Stauskas, Isaiah Canaan or Scottie Wilbekin excite you.

You could also say the Sixers’ third-best player might be forward Carl Landry, and he’s a journeyman who may not even be around when training camp starts.

As for the other notable returnees? Well, second-year center Joel Embiid is out again with a foot injury. Early signs point to him becoming The Next Greg Oden.

That leaves the Sixers with the likes of Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, Hollis Thompson and perhaps Henry Sims, an unrestricted free agent center who may be brought back after the latest news on Embiid.

All are nice young players, but we’re not talking Dr. J, Mo Cheeks and Barkley here. Far from it. Far from anything that resembles even average basketball, in fact.

“What really is the plan?” the opposing coach asked. “Maybe it’s to keep just convincing ownership to hang on a little longer while the process plays out. But that’s not really a plan. That’s an excuse.”

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