From Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel: Amid all this Miami Heat chatter, why exactly isn’t anyone talking about the Los Angeles Lakers flirting with history? Phil Jackson’s team, after all, plays in the Western Conference. And he already has coached one 72-win team. No, this is not a bandwagon of choice, at least not this offseason, what with LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in South Florida. But the West simply isn’t what it used to be. And now the Denver Nuggets appear to be in fire-sale mode with Carmelo Anthony, which also could mean a selloff of Chauncey Billups. Each could be headed East.
From Chris Tomasson, NBA Fanhouse: Team USA gets its first real test Monday. But it might not be as much of one as originally thought. A week after losing NBA big man Nene for the World Championship due to a leg injury, Brazil officials don’t know yet whether they will have another NBA big man available in Anderson Varejao, who suffered a sprained ankle in an Aug. 18 exhibition game. He has missed the first two games of the Worlds. “I don’t know if I’m going to play,” Varejao told FanHouse on Sunday. “But I am feeling better, though.” The Cleveland big man could be pivotal to Brazil’s chances of pulling an upset in the game that almost certainly will decide Group B. The teams are tied for first at 2-0. “It is very important,” Brazil center Tiago Splitter, who recently signed with San Antonio, said of having Varejao in an attempt to defeat the Americans. “I think Anderson is a guy who knows them very well. He is extra energy on the court, and we hope he’s OK and he can play.”
From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: The FIBA World Championships started on Saturday, and one of the major themes from the first day of games was the importance of post position for offensive players. There were two performances that illustrated this point very well. They were Ante Tomic’s game against the United States and Yi’s game against Greece. Good Position Before The Catch Getting good position in the post before the catch makes everything easier for the player posting his man up. Getting closer to the basket before even getting the ball, limits the amount of moves a post player needs to make. Also, it allows for an easier attempt because the post player is closer to the basket.
From Dime Magazine: Derek Fisher was the fill-in host on Jim Rome’s ESPN talk show yesterday. (This is why guys want to play in places like L.A. and New York. Sure, the network could’ve flown in a personality like Mo Williams or Aaron Brooks, but Fisher is right down the street.) Among the studio guests for 1-on-1 interviews with Fish were Brandon Jennings and Kobe Bryant. While Jennings used the spot as ad space for his new Under Armour kicks, Kobe talked about championships and legacies … Kind of funny to see Fisher all suited and booted while Kobe was rocking shorts and a track jacket. Kobe said Doc Rivers‘ recent comment that Boston’s starting five hadn’t yet lost a series to L.A.’s starting five was “wrong” and “not accurate” because in the ‘08 Finals, L.A. didn’t have Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza. Kobe said he’s happy for LeBron because LeBron seems happy with his decision.
From Basketbawful: For the last year or so, I’ve been promising to make a list of the worst (read that: least deserving) NBA champions. That list begins today, and it starts with the 2000s. Which leads us to Mr. Glen Rice. Rice was a three-time All-Star who made two All-NBA Teams (the Second Team in 1996-97 and the Third Team in 1997-98) and actually finished fifth in MVP voting in 1997 (behind Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Grant Hill and Tim Hardaway). And the dude could flat out shoot. During his 15-year career, Rice hit 40 percent of his threes (which ranks 27th in league history) and he led the league in three-point percentage in 1996-97 (47 percent). It’s no wonder Jerry West thought Rice was the final piece of the championship puzzle for his Los Angeles Lakers, who already featured the best big man in the game (Shaq) and the best up-and-coming two guard (Kobe Bryant). West figured that Rice’s outside shooting would be the perfect compliment to Shaq’s inside play and Bryant’s cutting/slashing/attack-the-basket game.
From Greg Steele, Wages of Wins: Last year the Houston Rockets went 42-40, finishing in the unenviable position of being the final team to pick in the lottery section of the draft (and playing well enough to be the best team not to make the playoffs). Their absence from the playoffs was primarily due to the loss of Yao Ming to injury, which prevented him from playing a single minute during the season. The Ming story, though, was not the only interesting story-line in Houston. The Rockets also made a splash by completing a three-team trade with Sacramento and New York, dumping the expiring contract of oft-injured shooting guard Tracy McGrady. In what follows, I will offer what I hope to be a conservative estimate of how the Rockets should perform next season, based mostly on their performance last season and their recent injury history. This review will examine each position on the team, listing not only the players I think the team will employ, but also the number of wins each position can be expected to produce.
From Pete Thamel, NY Times: Mike Krzyzewski joked on Sunday that as a younger coach he might have thrown a chair in the locker room at halftime of the United States’ game against Slovenia. The Americans bumbled through nearly seven minutes of the second quarter without a field goal, giving the heavily pro-Slovenia crowd — like a chanting, green version of the one at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium — a dollop of hope. In the end, the United States pulled away and won its second game of pool play easily, 99-77, behind 22 points by Kevin Durant. There were no chairs thrown at the Abdi Ipekçi Arena, but Krzyzewski asked a Turkish reporter, “Do you know my reputation?”