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NCAA College Football Week 13 Recap- #16 NIU Stays Perfect

huskies

#16 NIU Huskies (11-0)- 35

Toledo Rockets (7-4)- 17

 

Line: NIU -2.0

Over/Under: 74

 

No. 16 Northern Illinois Huskies stays perfect as they defeated the Toledo Rockets on the road 35-17 to clinch the MAC West division and keep their BCS hopes alive.

 

The defining moment for the Huskies came when they were backed up against the end zone on third down, quarterback Jordan Lynch dropped back, waited for an opening and scrambled for a first down that ignited a 99-yard drive, clinching a victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night.

 

With the win, the Huskies (11-0, 7-0) extended their 24-game conference winning streak and also secured a fourth straight trip to the Mid-American Conference title game.

 

With the Huskies #16 ranking, they remain eligible for their second straight Bowl Championship Series appearance after playing in the Orange Bowl last season with only No. 15 Fresno State (also undefeated) standing in their way.

 

On the 99-yard drive, Lynch says, “That’s a momentum killer. It’s a real dagger to the defense.”

 

Jordan Lynch finished with 363 total yards and 3 touchdowns and ran for 62 yards on seven carries on the 99-yard march.

 

Toledo (7-4, 5-2 MAC) did a great job in the first half shutting down the NIU offense and taking a 10-7 halftime lead into the locker room.

 

But there was no panic for the Huskies who outscored the Rockets 28-7 in the second half to keep their perfect season in tact.

 

NIU coach Rod Carey said all he had to do was to remind his team to finish their drives.

 

That calmed the guys down,” Carey said.

 

Carey had complete faith in Jordan Lynch getting it done it second half.

 

He’s pretty decisive,” Carey said. “When he’s running and making plays, that’s just him.”

 

Lynch rushed for 161 yards on 28 attempts and it was his 31-yard touchdown run from up the middle on a fake handoff that put the Huskies up for good 21-17.

 

He’s always poised,” said NIU receiver Juwan Brescacin, who had eight catches for 121 yards. “That’s why we’re as good as we are.”

 

That they are… but is it enough to surpass the Fresno State Bulldogs for a automatic BCS bowl bid?

 

NIU was without their two leading receivers due to injuries on Wednesday night, Tommylee Lewis and Da’Ron Brown.

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

 

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NCAA Prediction College Football Week 13 Game Preview/ & Pick- #16 NIU vs. Toledo

free-football-picks

NCAA College football free pick

#16 Northern Illinois Huskies (10-0) @ Toledo Rockets (7-3) 11/20- 8:00PM EST

 

Line: NIU -2.5

Over/Under: 72.5

BetOnline Sports

With No. 16 Northern Illinois one step closer to a Mid-American Conference West Championship by defeating Ball State last week at home… this Wednesday they will now have to go on the road to defeat another conference foe… the Toledo Rockets.

 

NIU (10-0, 6-0) will be in search of their 24th straight conference victory, the opportunity to clinch the West crown and remain perfect with a chance to go to a major BCS bowl.

 

The Huskies are led by Jordan Lynch who’s numbers this season consist of 190 of 290 for 2216 yards and 21 touchdowns and most importantly rallied NIU back to victory over Ball State 48-27 to bring them one-step closer to a division title.

 

If Jordan isn’t in the conversation for the Heisman I don’t know what people are watching, they are asleep,” coach Rod Carey said. “In my estimation that trophy goes to the best player in the nation and with the performance he had tonight, he dang sure should be in the conversation.”

 

Lynch is the main reason why NIU , ranked 16th in the BCS, is averaging 44.6 points for the sixth-best mark in the country.

 

Toledo (7-3, 5-1) is averaging 35.0 points with 106 in it’s last two games and have won five straight.

 

Jordan Lynch, he’s a tremendous player,” Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens said. “I feel that, like the offensive side of the ball, we have to match their offense. But it all boils down to all four quarters, we gotta win the fourth quarter.”

 

With a victory Wednesday, the Rockets in-turn will have a chance to win the West if they can win their final game November 29 at Akron, but the task will be greater against NIU if their star running back David Fluellen is unable to suit up.

 

Fluellen (leg injury) is second in the MAC with 134.4 rushing yards per game and first in all-purpose yards with 159.0.

 

You cannot put him in if he’s not ready to rock and roll,” coach Matt Campbell said. “I think it’s a situation for him that we just need to try to continue to get him back to full strength so he can feel comfortable about playing in a football game.”

 

Toledo freshman Kareem Hunt has filled in nicely for Fluellen with 595 yards and six touchdowns in the last four games, including a season-high 186 rushing yards and one score in a 51-41 win over Buffalo last Tuesday.

 

The oddsmakers have given a slight nod to NIU on the road with a (minus) -2.5 over Toledo, but with both teams bringing a powerful running game (NIU is averaging 303.8 and Toledo 247.3), they have set the over/under line at 72.5 so be sure to check Wonder Punter often up until game time for the latest spread.

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Expect a closer then expected game as the Huskies have won the last three meetings, with close victories in the last two (63-60 in 2011 and 31-24 last year).

 

They’re a great team,” Northern Illinois tight end Luke Eakes said of Toledo. We’ve had problems with them in the past and they always come out to play well. They’re always fired up to play us and we’re fired up to play them. So I consider them our biggest rival.

 

Wednesday night’s game will be entertaining with these two teams, but will give NIU the edge.

 

It’s going to be a hostile environment,” Carey said. “It’s going to be Wednesday. It’s going to be a night game. It’s an 8:00 p.m. kickoff, so it’s going to be cold. I’m sure it’s going to be windy, and all of the elements will play a factor into the football game just like it should when you play outside in November.”

 

PICK: Northern Illinois

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

 

 

 

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Wonder Punter NBA Power Rankings- Week 3

NBA_PowerRankings

With just about 3 full weeks of NBA action in the books after the conclusion of Tuesday night’s games… let’s take a look the latest Power Rankings as some teams continue to surprise and others continue to fall. Indiana, the last of the unbeatens suffered their first loss at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.

 

San Antonio and Indiana are playing like the two best teams in the league while early top 10 Philadelphia is falling fast.

 

Teams 1-30 with records and last weeks rankings in parentheses are as followed:

 

1 Indiana Pacers (9-1 LW 1)- They lost to Bulls on the second of a back-to-back. Danny Granger expected back soon.

 

2 San Antonio Spurs (9-1 LW 2)- The Spurs have won 7 straight while Tim Duncan is averaging career-lows of 12 points and 39.4 percent shooting.

 

3 Miami Heat (7-3 LW 5)- LeBron James is averaging 34 points per game during the Heat’s three game win streak.

 

4 Los Angeles Clippers (7-3 LW 7)- The Clippers have won four straight while Blake Griffin is averaging a double-double with 22.9 points and 10.9 boards.

 

5 Golden State Warriors (7-3 LW 8)- Warriors have won three straight while suffering through injuries.

 

6 Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4 LW 4)- Kevin Love and Kevin Martin have formed the league’s highest scoring-duo in the season’s opening month.

 

7 Portland Trailblazers (8-2 LW 13)- One of the league’s early surprises…. the Blazers have won six straight.

 

8 Oklahoma City Thunder (6-3 LW 3)- Thunder will be looking for revenge against the Clippers on Thursday night.

 

9 Houston Rockets (7-4 LW 10)- Back up center Omer Asik wants out of Houston and has been benched the last two games since his request.

 

10 Chicago Bulls (5-3 LW 12)- Derrick Rose hits six 3’s in their big win against Indiana on Saturday night.

 

11 Dallas Mavericks (6-4 LW 11)- Mavs look to get back on track when Dwight Howard and the Rockets visit Wednesday night.

 

12 Phoenix Suns (5-4 LW 6)- Suns have dropped three straight by an average 2 points.

 

13 Atlanta Hawks (6-4 LW 17) Another early surprise team is getting it done with Al Horford, Ronnie Millsap and the return of Lou Williams.

 

14 Memphis Grizzles (5-5 LW 9)- They continue to struggle and have the Clippers and Warriors on the road coming up.

 

15 Charlotte Bobcats (5-5 LW 16)- Continue to surprise with Al Jefferson still nursing a bad ankle. Have five of their next six games at home.

 

16 Philadelphia 76ers (5-6 LW 14)- Back to losing but still in first place in a bad Atlantic Division.

 

17 Denver Nuggets (4-5 LW 28)- Have won of four but have OKC, Chicago and back-to-back against Dallas coming up.

 

18 New Orleans Pelicans (4-6 LW 15)- Ryan Anderson lit it up with six 3’s against the Sixers… can he continue?

 

19 Los Angeles Lakers (5-7 LW 19)- Steve Nash is still out… but good news is Kobe Bryant has begun practicing.

 

20 Cleveland Cavaliers (4-7 LW 20) As Kyrie Irving goes, so do the Cavs. Averaging 27.5 in wins and 17.7 in losses.

 

21 Orlando Magic (4-7, LW 25)- Will Aaron Afflalo be traded? He’s averaging 21.7 points per game and playing well.

 

22 Toronto Raptors (4-7 LW 24)- Have lost three of four and still only getting scoring from Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan.

 

23 Brooklyn Nets (3-6)- Too much talent to be struggling but dealing with various injuries.

 

24 New York Knicks (3-6 LW 23)- Disappointing start and Carmelo Anthony is unhappy.

 

25 Boston Celtics (4-7 LW 26)- Started 0-4, won four in a row now has lost three straight.

 

26 Washington Wizards (2-7 LW 22)- Turning into a major disappointment early on… not was expected.

 

27 Detroit Pistons (3-6 LW 18)- Josh Smith makes his return to Atlanta on Wednesday night.

 

28 Milwaukee Bucks (2-7 LW 27)- No Brandon Knight, no Caron Butler… now have lost five straight.

 

29 Sacramento Kings (2-7 LW 29)- Only one win in November and three of next four is on the road.

 

30 Utah Jazz (1-10 LW 30)- Avoided tying their worst start in franchise history by beating the Pelicans.

 

 

 

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

 

 

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Report: Big man Asik asks Rockets to trade him

Omer Asik says he isn't unhappy, but he doesn't seem happy either. (USATSI)
Omer Asik needs out. (USATSI)

Since Dwight Howard made his decision to head to Houston, it seemed like Omer Asik’s days had been numbered with the Rockets.

And having seen his starting job taken and his minutes reduce, he is finally asking for a method out.

In keeping with the Houston Chronicle, Asik has formally requested that the Rockets commerce him.

The Rockets don’t have any commerce involving Asik within the works, with one individual saying a deal is extra possible in months than in days.

Asik declined comment, referring questions to his agent, Andy Miller. Miller also would not touch upon any commerce request.

“I would say the state of affairs is very frustrating right now and we’re trying to work by means of it,” Miller stated. “For Omer, the target has at all times been to continue to develop and grow as a participant. That’s why we got here to Houston within the first place. If that objective cannot be met, if we can’t get the appropriate platform to grow and contribute as a player, it’s actually frustrating.”

Asik performed solely 4 minutes in opposition to the 76ers on Wednesday, an additional time loss. He began each recreation for them final season and was an integral half within the staff that pushed the Thunder to 6 video games within the opening round.

However with Howard’s presence and Kevin McHale’s desire to play small, there just hasn’t been a lot room for him on the ground.

When Howard signed with the Rockets this summer, there have been rumblings Asik would ask out, with a rumored deal involving him going to New Orleans for Ryan Anderson.

Asik is making $8.3 million this season and with the Rockets over the cap, they would want to either match salaries with another workforce, or commerce with someone below the cap to create a trade exception.

Asik, 27, is averaging simply 5.6 factors and 8.1 rebounds this season in 22.1 minutes.

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Report: Big man Asik asks Rockets to trade him

 

Omer Asik says he isn't unhappy, but he doesn't seem happy either. (USATSI) Omer Asik wants out. (USATSI)

 

Since Dwight Howard made his decision to move to Houston, it seemed like Omer Asik’s days were numbered with the Rockets.

And having seen his starting job taken and his minutes reduce, he is finally asking for a way out.

Based on the Houston Chronicle, Asik has formally requested that the Rockets commerce him.

The Rockets haven’t any trade involving Asik in the works, with one individual saying a deal is extra possible in months than in days.

Asik declined remark, referring questions to his agent, Andy Miller. Miller also wouldn’t comment on any commerce request.

“I might say the state of affairs could be very frustrating right now and we’re trying to work by it,” Miller said. “For Omer, the objective has at all times been to proceed to develop and grow as a participant. That’s why we came to Houston in the first place. If that objective cannot be met, if we won’t get the precise platform to develop and contribute as a player, it’s certainly irritating.”

Asik performed solely 4 minutes towards the 76ers on Wednesday, an extra time loss. He started each sport for them last season and was an integral half within the crew that pushed the Thunder to 6 video games in the opening round.

But with Howard’s presence and Kevin McHale’s desire to play small, there simply hasn’t been much room for him on the ground.

When Howard signed with the Rockets this summer time, there have been rumblings Asik would ask out, with a rumored deal involving him going to New Orleans for Ryan Anderson.

Asik is making $8.three million this season and with the Rockets over the cap, they would want to either match salaries with one other staff, or commerce with somebody underneath the cap to create a trade exception.

Asik, 27, is averaging just 5.6 points and 8.1 rebounds this season in 22.1 minutes.

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NBA Predictions Week 2 Games Preview/Picks

nba-picks

Predictions for week 2 NBA Games

With almost 2 weeks of NBA action in the books, we have a full action of games on Monday to place your bets on. I will give you my straight-up picks with the betting lines. Get you favorite bets in early to secure the best odds here at Wonder Punter.

 

Atlanta Hawks (3-3) @ Charlotte Bobcats (3-3) 11/11- 7:00PM EST

 

Line: ATL -1.5

Over/Under: 196

 

Even match-up but will give the slight edge to the Bobcats being at home.

 

PICK: Charlotte Bobcats

 

San Antonio Spurs (6-1) @ Philadelphia (4-3)- 11/11- 7:00PM EST

 

Line: SAS -7.0

Over /Under: 206.5

 

The 76ers are surprising everyone with play to start the season, but expect the Spurs to win.

 

PICK: San Antonio Spurs

 

Memphis Grizzles (3-3) @ Indiana Pacers (7-0) 11/11- 7:00PM EST

 

Line: IND -7.0

Over/Under: 183.5

 

Good game but, with the way the Pacers are playing, look for them to win.

 

PICK: Indianapolis Pacers

 

Orlando Magic (3-4) @ Boston Celtics (3-4) 11/11- 7:30PM EST

 

Line: BOS -2.0

Over/Under: 188.5

 

Look for the Celtics to ride their big win in Miami for a back-to-back win against the Magic.

 

PICK: Boston Celtics

 

Cleveland Cavaliers (3-4) @ Chicago Bulls (2-3) 11/11- 8:00PM EST

 

Line: CHI -9.5

Over/Under: 185.5

 

Derrick Rose and the Bulls struggling to start the season but look for them to win on Monday.

 

PICK: Chicago Bulls

 

Toronto Raptors (3-4) @ Houston Rockets (4-3) 11/11- 8:00PM EST

 

Line: HOU -9.5

Over/Under: 200.5

 

After back-to-back defeats to both L.A. teams, look for the Rockets to win big against the Raptors.

 

PICK: Houston Rockets

 

Denver Nuggets (1-4) @ Utah Jazz (0-7) 11/11- 9:00PM EST

 

Line: DEN -1.0

Over/Under: 198.5

 

Two bad teams, but the Jazz have been blown out in all their losses. I’ll take my chances with the Nuggets.

 

PICK: Denver Nuggets

 

Detroit Pistons (2-3) @ Portland Trailblazers (4-2) 11/11- 9:00PM EST

 

Line: POR -4.5

Over/Under: 202

 

Portland has won two in a row, while the Pistons have lost two straight.

 

PICK: Portland Trailblazers

 

Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2) @ Los Angeles Clippers (4-3) 11/11- 10:30PM EST

 

Line: LAC -7.5

Over/Under: 205.5

 

Minnesota will be playing in the second of a back-to-back. Clips coming off a big win at Houston.

 

PICK: Los Angeles Clippers

 

Good luck with your favorite teams and picks and be sure to bet early to secure the best odds right here at Wonder Punter.

 

 

By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter

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Rockets’ Howard wants to fight in the UFC for $10,000,000

 

Float like a butterfly, sting like a Rocket? (USATSI) Float like a butterfly, sting like a Rocket?. (USATSI)

 

Rockets heart Dwight Howard recently advised UFC head Dana White that he’d step into the cage for a fight for the very affordable value of $10 million. From For The Win:

Throughout a backstage go to at a UFC fight in Houston, the Rockets’ huge man informed UFC president Dana White recently that he’d be keen to go into the cage … for $10 million.

“I might get up there and battle. If I get knocked out, I get knocked out,” Howard stated. “I will get again up one day.”

White immediately interjected. “I need to do that pay-per-view while you’re prepared, man,” he stated.

through Dwight Howard would do a UFC combat for $10 million | For The Win.

You may see Howard’s full feedback here (warning: NSFW.

With gangly limbs, a wide physique, and a again injury, this seems like a great idea, even when Howard did it after his playing days had been over. Getting knee strikes on him would seem like an issue, though.

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NBA Power Rankings- Week 1

NBA power rankings

NBA Power Rankings for Week 1 of the games

 

With the conclusion of Tuesday nights NBA games, let’s take a look at the Power Rankings going into the Week 2 with the Philadelphia 76ers 3-1 start shocking everyone who were expected to contend for the worst record in NBA history.

 

1. Indiana Pacers (4-0)- Guard Paul George is healthy and ready to lead the charge.

 

2. Houston Rockets (4-1)- So far the Dwight Howard and James Harden duo is working.

 

3. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1)- A healthy Kevin Love (29.6 points 14.6 rebounds) can do wonders for a team.

 

4. Miami Heat (3-2)- LeBron James admits to maybe minor chemistry problems on the team… we shall see the effects.

 

5. Los Angeles Clippers (3-1)- Gave a beat down to the Rockets on Monday night.

 

6. San Antonio Spurs (3-1)- Welcome back Tim Duncan and a resurgent Manu Ginoboli.

 

7. Golden State Warriors (3-1)- It’s the Stephen Curry 3-point show on pace for 437 triples!

 

8. Dallas Mavericks (3-1)- Dirk Nowitski and Monte Ellis getting it done so far.

 

9. Oklahoma Thunder (2-1)- With PG Russell Westbrook back sooner then expected, expect them to start climbing up the rankings.

 

10. Philadelphia 76ers (3-1)- They were ranked last to start the season, but thanks to some quality wins, they deserve a Top 10 ranking for now.

 

11. Brooklyn Nets (2-2)- They need a Miami like performance every night if they want to contend for top billing in the East.

 

12. Chicago Bulls (1-2)- Derrick Rose will continue to improve but the Bulls need more scoring.

 

13. Memphis Grizzles (2-2)- Both road losses were on the road to San Antonio and Dallas.

 

14. Phoenix Suns (3-1)- Eric Bledsoe is shinning bright in the desert sun.

 

15. Portland Trailblazers (2-2)- Big home win against the Spurs with Tim Duncan back in the lineup, but spanked at home by the Rockets.

 

16. Detroit Pistons (2-2)- Brandon Jennings is back from his injury early and ready to lead.

 

17. Orlando Magic (2-2)- Young and ready to play with rookie Victor Oladipo.

 

18. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2)- Did we mention Andrew Bynum is playing this year?

 

19. Los Angeles Lakers (2-3)- Still young, still athletic, still Kobe-less. When Kobe, when? Xavier Henry looking great early.

 

20. Toronto Raptors (2-2)- It’s Rudy Gay’s team now.

 

21. Charlotte Bobcats (2-2)- Can Al Jefferson shake off his ankle problems?

 

22. Atlanta Hawks (2-2)- Safe to say the Hawks miss Josh Smith. PG Jeff Teague has been a bright spot.

 

23. New York Knicks (1-3)- The Knicks are hearing the boos already at home after Bobcats beat them.

 

24. Milwaukee Bucks (1-2)- Center Zaza Pachulia is averaging 13 points and 7.7 boards a game so far.

 

25. New Orleans Pelicans (1-3)- Second-year center Anthony Davis the lone bright spot with averages of 23.7 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks his first week.

 

26. Washington Wizards (0-3)- And to think everybody was talking a playoff team before the season. It’s early but win one first.

 

27. Sacramento Kings (1-3)- DeMarcus Cousins needs help and G Isaiah Thomas may be the answer averaging 19 points and 4.7 assists.

 

28.Denver Nuggets (0-3)- Not what we expected from a team that made the playoffs last year.

 

29. Utah Jazz (0-4)- Desperately need a point guard.

 

30. Boston Celtics (0-4)- Due to play the winless Jazz Wednesday night. 

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Cuban: Howard wrong for going to Rockets

DALLAS – Mavericks owner Mark Cuban lost the recruiting battle for Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets, but Cuban believes that is because the massive man made a bad resolution.

“Clearly, he made a mistake in judgment,” Cuban said Thursday, a bit of more than 24 hours before the Mavericks play Howard’s Rockets in Houston. “Do I blame him? No, that is what younger youngsters do. They make mistakes in judgment.”

The Mavs and Rockets had been two of the five teams that made pitches to Howard and his brokers in Los Angeles this summer season. Cuban thinks Howard, 27, had already made up his mind to sign with the Rockets and staff up with 24-yr-old rising famous person shooting guard James Harden.

Cuban Clearly, he made a mistake in judgment. Do I blame him? No, that’s what young kids do. They make errors in judgment.

- Mavs owner Mark Cuban,
on Dwight Howard’s decision
to signal with the Rockets

Mavs famous person Dirk Nowitzki is 35, but Cuban considers it foolish to decide in free agency primarily based totally on the age of potential co-stars.

“You select teams. You do not select players,” Cuban mentioned. “If he made a selection off of a person participant, yeah, he made a mistake. You choose groups. You choose organizations. You select coaches. And it’s simply not relative to Houston. That is simply the way I look at it, because if he is that good, then the right organization …

“Put apart Dwight. Any young superstar trying to make a transfer, in case you’re that good, then the suitable organization gets all the best pieces round you. So it’s not about you’d relatively play with this man. In the event you’re that good and you’ve got [wage-cap] flexibility, the precise organization will put the suitable pieces round you and get you there.”

The Dallas front workplace’s observe report of success was a big a part of the Mavs’ pitch to Howard. Dallas had a streak of 11 50-win seasons, which included two journeys to the NBA Finals and a championship in 2011, snapped within the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign after Cuban opted to let Tyson Chandler and others leave in free company as a result of he wanted the wage-cap area to chase a celebrity in free company. The Mavs’ streak of 12 playoff seasons ended last season, as Nowitzki handled injuries whereas being surrounded by a supporting forged consisting primarily of one-12 months rental players.

The Rockets, who pulled off a surprising blockbuster trade to land Harden earlier than final season, have received one playoff series in the past 17 seasons.

Nowitzki, nevertheless, would not blame Howard for deciding that Houston was the best vacation spot for him.

“Houston clearly is an up-and-coming team,” Nowitzki instructed ESPNDallas.com. “[Chandler] Parsons to me is a phenomenal participant, an up-and-coming player, and Harden is one of the best within the league at getting to the basket and scoring. They are going to be a handful.”

Dwight HowardDwight Howard tied a profession excessive with 26 rebounds in his Rockets debut on Wednesday evening.

Cuban stated he thought the Mavs have been an extended shot going into their assembly with Howard and his representatives because of his feeling that Howard was leaning heavily to Houston. Nonetheless, Cuban left the assembly believing that the Mavs had a legit chance, as did Nowitzki.

“I really thought it went great, however the issue with those meetings is they don’t really let on how it went or what they preferred,” Nowitzki mentioned. “They went out of the room, came back in, had a few extra questions for us. We answered these. I assumed Cuban was improbable in his presentation, even offered among the advertising stuff we could have completed right here. So I believed we were really prepared.

“I believed it went properly. But if you ask the other four teams – or Houston acquired him, but the other three that didn’t get him – they’d in all probability say the same. It’s a little deceptive in those meetings. However we gave it our greatest shot. It did not work out our way, and we moved on as a franchise.”

The Mavs moved on by signing several free agents, a crop headlined by guards Jose Calderon (4 years, $29 million) and Monta Ellis (three years, $25 million). The Mavs, who acknowledged that they have been making an attempt to promote Howard on a two-yr rebuilding plan, wouldn’t have been capable of afford both player if they’d signed Howard to a max contract except they made different major roster moves.

Pleased with Plan B – and it’s truly Plan D contemplating the Mavs’ hopes to land Deron Williams or Chris Paul when the original choice was made to strip down the title roster – Cuban insists he’ll have no wonders about what could have been whereas watching Howard play towards the Mavs.

“None. Not even somewhat bit, because I believe we got here out fairly good,” Cuban stated. “If we were caught, then perhaps. However like I say about each different staff, I hope they suck.

“I say that every year. It is nothing private. I nonetheless like Dwight as a person. However I still want the Rockets, like every other staff, to have a horrible season. It is nothing personal. I just need them to suck.”
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New GM Rosas steps down from Mavericks

The temporary tenure of Gersson Rosas in the Dallas Mavericks’ front office is over.

The Mavericks and Rosas parted firm Tuesday, On the eve of Dallas’ season opener in opposition to the Atlanta Hawks and barely greater than three months after Rosas was hired away from the Houston Rockets’ front office to serve as Dallas’ new general supervisor.

Sources briefed on the state of affairs told ESPN.com that the abrupt parting was triggered by the fact that Rosas – employed by the Mavericks to work in assist of longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson – needed a greater share of management over Dallas’ basketball operations. Issues about how Rosas would fit into the Mavericks’ front-workplace construction and accept a supplementary function to Nelson, sources stated, surfaced nearly instantly after Rosas’ arrival in late July.

“I made the personal decision to resign as general supervisor of the Dallas Mavericks after determining that the place was not one of the best fit for me at this point in my career,” Rosas mentioned in an announcement released by the staff after ESPN.com reported his exit.

“The choice was made solely by me,” Rosas continued, “as I firmly believe this transformation is in my greatest interest.

“Mark Cuban asked me to reconsider my determination, but graciously accepted my choice and we part as buddies. I would like to thank Mark and the Dallas Mavericks for the opportunity.”

The intent when the Mavericks hired Rosas late in free agency was to inject a brand new voice and contemporary ideas in terms of scouting, analytics and recruitment to a entrance-workplace group spearheaded by Nelson and longtime government Keith Grant, whose association with the franchise dates to Dallas’ inaugural NBA season in 1980-81.

The reality in Dallas is that closing say on all matters has at all times belonged to Cuban, one of the league’s extra active homeowners. But Cuban has grown very close to Nelson after effectively over a decade collectively and spelled out clearly in numerous interviews after hiring Rosas that Nelson would remain his top advisor and proper-hand man.

Rosas, 35, labored his manner from an intern to government vice chairman of basketball operations in Houston and was certainly one of three members of the Rockets’ entrance workplace to be poached by different teams through the offseason, following the departures of Sam Hinkie to Philadelphia and Arturas Karnisovas to Denver.

A local of Colombia, Rosas was initially targeted by the Mavericks to bolster their pro and faculty scouting efforts after working extensively with the Rockets’ profitable D-League franchise.
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Rockets’ Harden leaves with knee contusion

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Houston Rockets guard James Harden was listed as everyday after leaving Friday evening’s preseason recreation against the Memphis Grizzlies with a proper knee bruise.

James HardenThe Rockets will re-evaluate James Harden (knee) on Saturday, coach Kevin McHale mentioned.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale stated after Houston’s 92-73 victory that his star guard bumped knees with Memphis’ Quincy Pondexter in the first quarter. Harden did not return after the injury.

“He iced it, and stuff, and we’ll see how he feels (Saturday),” McHale said, indicating that he didn’t assume the harm was critical.

Harden, who entered the game as the workforce’s main scorer in the preseason with a 20.eight average, linked on a 3-pointer from the correct wing with 4:35 left within the first quarter and went all the way down to the court in entrance of the Rockets bench when he was fouled by Pondexter.

Harden ultimately obtained up, made the following free throw and went straight to the locker room on the subsequent stoppage of play.

Harden completed with six factors and four rebounds in his 7-plus minutes before the harm.

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Mainly NBA Notes: Wall So Tough

johnwall

John Wall is able to ball (USAT)

I’ve at all times been a fan of John Wall, however he’s typically been a bit overrated in fantasy phrases, thanks primarily to his lack of three-point capturing capacity. Actually, despite averaging 16.4 ppg, eight.2 apg, 1.6 spg and zero.7 bpg over his first two seasons in the league, he ranked a centesimal and 87th in fantasy annually, respectively (high turnovers have been additionally an issue). After taking pictures a paltry 29.6 percent from downtown in his rookie marketing campaign, he completed an virtually unfathomable 2-for-forty two from behind the arc throughout his sophomore season. Last yr on the surface doesn’t look significantly better from downtown (12-for-45), but it’s no less than worth noting he made eleven of these over the final 22 video games. The surface shot is regularly the very last thing to develop, especially relating to tremendous athletic level guards like Wall. Remember, Derrick Rose went from making just 16 triples in every of his first two years to 128 throughout his third season. In fact, it could be foolish to expect that form of soar from Wall, but he’s trending in the suitable direction and continued to work on his shot over the summer (he even tried six three-pointers during a recent exhibition sport).

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Wall revealed the form of upside he possesses the additional he was faraway from his knee harm last season. Over the final 21 games, he averaged 24.three factors, 5.1 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.5 steals. Wall could simply lead all point guards in both free throw makes an attempt and blocks, which is a reasonably rare combination, and let’s not neglect he’s younger than Damian Lillard. Let’s hope final year’s traits of fewer turnovers and more three-pointers continue moving ahead, because the rest of Wall’s potential is frightening good.

Right here’s Tim Duncan realizing he has arms.

Right here’s “Jeopardy” taking a shot at Dwight Howard.

Imply Tweets – NBA Edition.

Ricky Rubio is another younger level guard whose capturing capability is the only factor preventing fantasy stardom. Like Wall, Rubio impressed the further he was removed from his knee injury final season, as he led the NBA in assists and steals after the All-Star break. He also added 5.2 rpg and shot 81.7 percent from the line over that span, and while still not nice, he made 0.eight 3pt in comparison with simply 0.1 earlier than the ASB. Rubio just turned 23 years outdated Monday and might be operating an offense that might be sneaky good ought to they stay healthy for as soon as. Man, the league really is loaded with young, exciting point guards right now.

Here’s one-handed Zach Hodskins balling (he lately dedicated to Florida).

Right here’s Kyrie Irving displaying some above common ball-dealing with abilities.

Nikola Vucevic acquired off to a little bit of a sluggish begin throughout his first month after taking up as Orlando’s beginning center with Dwight Howard’s departure, but the younger big man was incredible the rest of the way in which. Over the ultimate month of 2012/13, Vucevic averaged 18.5 factors, 15.three rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks while shooting 50.eight percent from the floor. He additionally shot seventy three.7 percent from the road over that span, which is hardly a problem for a center. We in all probability shouldn’t expect related manufacturing this season that he put up over that remaining month, when he ranked as fantasy’s 15th most worthy participant, but it’s additionally secure to say the 23-yr-old is already an elite fantasy middle. Among those that performed in more than 25 games final season, solely Howard averaged extra rebounds (12.5) than Vucevic (eleven.9), and that came throughout the first time he was given vital motion within the league. There’s still loads of room for growth. Vucevic enters 2012/thirteen as a top-25 fantasy option.

Await the shock ending to this cat video.

Gordon Hayward ranked because the 89th most precious fantasy participant final year, however there are many reasons to expect him to complete a lot greater this season. Hayward noticed a modest 29:eleven mpg in 2012/thirteen, beginning simply 27 games, and his Usage Fee was a lowly 94th in the NBA. But Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams are all gone, and that trio averaged 38.6 pictures per sport final season, and while Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, who’re additionally each terrific fantasy targets, will shoulder extra of the load, it’s clear Hayward goes to be a much greater a part of Utah’s offense. Hayward shot 44.zero p.c from behind the arc after the All-Star break last yr and looks primed to make a true leap in 2013/14. He seems to be like a steal where he’s usually being drafted (94.1 ADP).

Headlines of the Week: Exploding Bathroom Leaves Brooklyn Man With Shrapnel Wounds, Afraid to Flush…You’re Nonetheless Legally Dead, Decide Tells Fostoria Man…Tuscaloosa Man Scores 28-inch Curly Fry at Arby’s…Lost 72-Yr-Previous Survived 18 Days in Woods by Eating Squirrels, Snakes…Fast-Meals Buyer Irate Over Ranch Dip Charge.

Returning to the courtroom for the first time in additional than a year, Jeff Inexperienced managed to play in 81 video games last season. His fantasy production was modest, however throughout Green’s 17 begins on the finish of the season, he received 20.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, zero.9 spg, 1.1 bpg and 1.6 3pt while taking pictures 52.3 % from the sector. Not solely will he be a fixture in Boston’s starting 5 in 2013/14, he’ll be the workforce’s No. 1 scoring possibility by far on such a depleted roster with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce now in Brooklyn. Curiously, Inexperienced shot far better (forty eight%) with Rajon Rondo off the courtroom than with him on it (38%) – h/t Matt Buser, so Inexperienced’s fantasy house owners shouldn’t necessarily be rooting for the purpose guard’s fast return. Inexperienced is going to be given every opportunity to shed any bust label the former No. 5 general pick has previously been tagged with, and it’d be shocking if he doesn’t reply with profession-highs throughout the board.

Track of the Week: Arcade Fireplace – “Afterlife.”

Evan Turner has failed to live up to expectations as a former No. 2 total pick and may still be traded by Philadelphia this yr, but he enters 2013/14 with legitimate fantasy upside. The 76ers might wrestle to win double digit video games as they are clearly more involved about getting a high draft decide subsequent yr than anything, which will benefit Turner, who’s out of the blue the workforce’s offensive centerpiece (well, him and Thad Young). Turner might see extra time at taking pictures guard this season, the place he averaged 7.6 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.1 spg and 0.5 bpg last 12 months, albeit over only a 12-game sample. Turner has never been much of a fantasy asset, but he’s improved his scoring, rebounding and assists each year he’s been in the league and may easily set a career-high in Usage Price in 2013/14. At the least the opportunity might be there and hopefully he can take advantage of it.

Headlines of the Week Part Two: Hollywood-Type Sting Nabs Alleged Pirate Kingpin…18-Foot-Long Sea Creature Discovered Off California Coast…Man Survives Botched Hanging; Iran Vows To Try Once more…33-Yr-Old Man Spends Nearly $100,000 for Plastic Surgical procedure to Look Like Justin Beiber…Gunman in Clown Swimsuit Kills Senior Mexican Drug Cartel Member.

Kawhi Leonard was the 23rd most valuable fantasy player final 12 months despite seeing solely 31:eleven mpg and having just the fifth-highest Usage Price on his personal workforce. Leonard helps across the board whereas hurting you nowhere, and it’s remarkable just how much the 22-12 months-old has improved his capturing. Throughout the NBA Finals, Gregg Popovich thrust Leonard right into a much bigger function, resulting in 14.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg and a couple of.zero spg to go together with his usual share goodness and few turnovers. In truth, Leonard usually appeared like the second best player on the court docket throughout the Finals, and he’s solely going to get higher from here on out. Not solely will his game continue to evolve, that may even coincide with San Antonio giving him much more accountability, because the group’s corps gamers are among the many oldest within the league (and so they have only a few options at small ahead). Obviously, Leonard is hardly a fantasy secret, however there’s an argument for him to be taken as a prime-20 decide.

Police Blotter: Psychic Discovered Guilty of Stealing $138,000 From Purchasers…Drunk Driver Led Cops on Chase so he Would Have Enough Time to Finish His Big Mac…Man Referred to as 911 Over One Cent Beer Overcharge…Substitute Instructor Confesses to Heroin Use After Passing Out in Class…Man Was “Playing Round” When he Shot Neighbor Via Her Residence Ceiling…NYPD Cops Confused Jolly Rancher Candies for Crystal Meth…This is horrible. Right here’s a teen being punished for being a chosen driver.

Jimmy Butler averaged 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals, zero.6 bpg and 1.1 3pt while taking pictures forty five.7 p.c from the ground and committing just 1.5 tpg during his 20 starts final season. Most got here on the finish of the year, when he ranked as fantasy hoops’ twenty ninth most dear player over the final month. Butler is locked in a starting role at capturing guard this season, and while there can be loads of mouths to feed with Derrick Rose back, Butler is clearly one of many greater breakout candidates of 2013/14. It will be pretty superior to see what Chicago could do if their starting five by some means stayed wholesome this season.

Longread of the Week: “Good Cop, Bad Cop, An Oral History of “The Shield.”

Fast Hits: I’m hardly the only one expecting massive issues from Anthony Davis, but I say he goes totally nuts and finishes as a prime-five fantasy participant this 12 months…After finishing with the best TEMPO within the NBA last season, it’s going to be very fascinating to see how the Rockets offense operates after including Dwight Howard. Additionally, free Omer Asik!…Listed here are some sleepers sometimes available later in drafts: Kris Humphries (it wouldn’t be shocking if he went back to averaging a double/double with a new opportunity in Boston), Shaun Livingston (he’s looking good this preseason and is a Deron Williams injury away from fantasy relevance. At minimum, DWill house owners should stash him), Samuel Dalembert (he’s going to be given all of the run he can deal with as Dallas’ starting heart), DeAndre Jordan (seemingly thriving in Doc Rivers’ system, he’s somebody to target late for those who want blocks), Mike Miller (he’ll likely get hurt but when you want threes, he’ll be an extremely low-cost source of them when he’s taking part in now back in Memphis), Markieff Morris (averaged 1.four spg and 1.5 bpg in April and is the favorite to begin at PF this 12 months with Luis Scola gone) and Caron Butler (boring previous veteran nobody will want, however he’s going to have a much elevated function now starting in Milwaukee)…Michael Carter-Williams is going to contribute throughout the board, but he’s going to kill your field objective percentage whereas doing so (I’ll put the over/under at 36.5%). Victor Oladipo will win Rookie of the Yr and will easily be essentially the most worthwhile fantasy first year player as well.

 
For more NCAA NBA MLB NFL, Scores, Reviews, Previews, and Picks & Predictions,  feel free to check out our sections from the tabs on top of the page where I will be updating on a daily basis

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By Mario Martinez – WonderPunter

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Rockets’ Lin hopes lower profile will aid him

HOUSTON – Jeremy Lin mentioned he failed in handling the huge expectations that have been positioned on him following his breakout season with the New York Knicks and hopes a lower profile in his second season with the now star-studded Houston Rockets will assist him.

[+] EnlargeDwight Howard and Jeremy LinAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillJeremy Lin stated it takes time to discover ways to handle expectations.

A yr in the past, Lin was the focus when the Rockets opened the season after they signed him away from the Knicks. However he struggled in his first full season as a starting point guard, and the Rockets have traded for James Harden and signed Dwight Howard since Lin’s signing. That has made the crew a contender and taken among the burden off Lin.

“Learning to manage and take care of expectations and which voices to tune out takes time,” Lin said at Rockets media day Friday. “It’s a must to fail at it to get to where you need to get to.”

Lin was incessantly vital of his efficiency last season, when he started all eighty two games and averaged thirteen.4 factors and 6.1 assists a sport. He was constantly chasing his 5-week run in 2012 in New York and the famed “Linsanity.”

With Howard and Harden, Lin is now extra targeted on being the function player he ended up changing into when the Rockets made the playoffs last season.

“From a personal standpoint, there’s a lot less strain this season,” Lin said. “I’ve had such a wide spectrum of literally no expectations to having each expectation. Now it is form of going back all the way down to some lower expectations.”

Lin isn’t the only Rocket who has a different view a year into his tenure. Heart Omer Asik, who like Lin was a major free-agent addition in 2012, was not pleased when the Rockets signed Howard. He requested to be traded, a wish the Rockets have to this point declined as they plan to experiment with taking part in Howard and Asik together.

Over the past two months, as many as 10 Rockets gamers acquired together for workouts in Los Angeles and Aspen, Colo., but Asik was not amongst them. He spent the summer enjoying for the Turkish national workforce. Friday was the primary day he had been with his teammates because the Howard signing.

“I’ve no touch upon [the commerce demand]. I am simply here to do my job, that is all I can say,” Asik said. “I feel [Howard] is the very best middle in the league and he’s a fantastic addition for the Houston Rockets, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m a basketball participant, and I am going to do regardless of the coaches say.”

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Adrian Peterson thinks that Browns fans still upset team drafted Joe Thomas over him

(USA Right now Sports Images)

The traditional draft argument isn’t Sam Bowie vs. Michael Jordan in 1984. There’s only one answer to that. The talk is Hakeem Olajuwon over Jordan.

Olajuwon went with the primary choose of that draft. Jordan was third. Olajuwon is likely one of the best gamers ever, a 12-time All-NBA first-, second- or third-crew decide, and a two-time champion. It was a great pick, and Houston can’t exactly regret the choice, right? Any group would sign up for a Corridor of Famer and two titles with any pick. However, the Rockets did move on the best player ever, so perhaps there may be some remorse.

Joe Thomas isn’t Olajuwon and Adrian Peterson isn’t Jordan, but Vikings working again Peterson brought up an interesting argument. Thomas was the third decide of the 2007 draft, Peterson was seventh (and JaMarcus Russell was first, but that is beside the point). Thomas has played six seasons as the vital left deal with position, and been to six Professional Bowls. He has three first-workforce All-Professional selections, and two second-group selections. He has represented the Browns franchise well on and off the field (similar to Peterson has with the Vikings). He is well on his way to the Corridor of Fame.

But he’s not Peterson, one of the best running backs ever, the reigning MVP and a participant you’d pay to observe each week.

The debate of exciting vs. utilitarian is pretty unique to soccer. Thomas is a superb player, and really enjoyable to look at when you enjoy line play, though virtually no fan does. That no person remembers one spotlight from Thomas’ career doesn’t suggest his dominance at left sort out isn’t a tremendous asset. If offensive tackles weren’t necessary, they would not have gone with three of the first four picks in this yr’s draft. No operating again went in the first spherical. And please don’t bring up that Thomas hasn’t been to the playoffs; that’s hardly his fault. He is the last of Cleveland’s issues. Peterson couldn’t have fixed all of them either.

But Peterson would clearly have been more entertaining to watch. No matter how technically sound Thomas is as he eliminates some proper defensive finish from the play, it won’t be as thrilling as seeing Peterson break off a long run. The Browns definitely would have bought more jerseys by choosing Peterson.

So do Browns followers wish the workforce had picked Peterson over Thomas? Ought to the staff remorse taking a man who has an actual shot at happening as the most effective tackles ever, just because of who they passed on?

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Jim Buss says Dwight Howard was ‘never really a Laker,’ which is factually inaccurate

Jim and Jeanie Buss introduce non-Laker Dwight Howard to Lakers followers and reporters (Kevork Djansezian/ Getty).

New Houston Rockets heart Dwight Howard’s one season with the Los Angeles Lakers did not go very well. Confronted with massive expectations, the 2012-13 Lakers never appeared to find an id, with Howard struggling by way of injuries, complaining about what he perceived to be Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, and customarily wanting uncomfortable with the strain of enjoying for a demanding fan base. While the Lakers cannot have been blissful to lose an All-Star in free company, the pain was likely alleviated by the truth that they wouldn’t must deal with the issues of an uneasy partnership.

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Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that their commerce for Howard in August 2012 was initially seen as a coup, the sort of transfer that would immediately return the Lakers to title rivalry and create a easy transition into the interval after Kobe Bryant’s retirement. It was an occasion in step with one perspective on Lakers historical past, in which their image and success creates a optimistic feedback loop and issues are inclined to go their method as a rule.

So it might be flawed to act as if Howard never fit with the franchise’s values or picture. But that is exactly what Lakers owner and executive vice chairman of participant personnel Jim Buss says in a new, huge-ranging piece by Ric Bucher for The Hollywood Reporter:

Jim insists he is simply following his father’s blueprint, but the Howard situation suggests he missed a web page. As a substitute of Jim spending time with Howard, the crew launched a broadly derided media campaign that implored “Keep” on billboards. After Howard bolted, Jim turned on his former star, saying he wasn’t shocked or dismayed. “He was never actually a Laker,” says Jim. “He was simply passing by.”

Those close to Howard say the Lakers could have persuaded him to stay. Even [Jim’s sister and co-owner] Jeanie believes that if her father had not been sick, he would have sealed the deal like so many earlier than it. “It is disappointing that Dwight isn’t here,” she says. “I really feel like we failed him.”

As Bucher suggests and Jeanie Buss says, it might be incorrect to behave as if the Lakers did not need Howard round. From the moment they acquired him, the group’s executives and players spoke about Howard as if he would be round for a lot of seasons, constructing a private legacy and adding to the rich history of the NBA’s most constantly successful organization. It’s true that Howard didn’t obtain those goals, but the Lakers certainly imagined Howard in their colors right up until the second he determined to go to the Rockets. It appears as if Jim Buss is utilizing the unhappy conclusion to Howard’s season with the franchise to rewrite the terms of their relationship.

His comments wouldn’t be much of a narrative in the event that they did not connect with an increasingly common tendency of Lakers partisans. During Howard’s free agent recruitment period, it was often stated that he would select the Lakers if he wished to workforce up with a franchise of proven winners. But that argument never appeared totally related to realities during which the Rockets had a young core of improving players (in addition to a transparent organizational philosophy) and the Lakers spent an entire season with an uncertain sense of their on-courtroom structure. It was as if the Lakers believed their rich history conferred upon them magical powers, not admitting that their success (whereas definitely aided by luck) arose from pursuing new opportunities and by no means resting on the power of their image.

Claiming that Howard was “never actually a Laker” appears to purchase into that mystique without taking up-the-floor realities significantly. It is considerably reminiscent of New York Yankees’ fans insistence within the mid-2000s that the staff’s failure to win a World Sequence after a interval of dominance was a sign that common manager Brian Cashman wasn’t buying “True Yankees,” gamers like Paul O’Neill who apparently understood the mythic forces that animated the franchise’s success. Issues bought so ridiculous that one-time SI.com columnist Jay Mohr presented non-Yankees and future journeymen Chris Capuano and David DeJesus as lurking True Yankees who may hand the crew titles, if solely they were given the chance. In fact, it was way more accurate to say that big-title signings like Jason Giambi struggled with age, like many players, or that Main League Baseball’s brief-sequence playoff format caused some very good teams to get eliminated early.

The Lakers are not yet at this level of delusion, but it’d be finest to get off the trail as soon as doable. Howard played for the Lakers and was as soon as thought-about to be a franchise cornerstone. These info constitute proof that he was “really a Laker.” Saying otherwise presents a perception that a franchise might be immune from disappointment and the travails of building a winner in the fashionable NBA. Some teams have advantages, but all of them play by the same primary rules.

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10 other intriguing, noteworthy games worth watching on the 2013-14 NBA schedule

Sacramento Kings followers will have many reasons to cheer once they tip off this season. (Rocky Widner/Getty)

When the NBA launched the full 2013-14 regular-season schedule on Tuesday evening, intrepid Yahoo! Sports activities NBA columnist Marc J. Spears immediately made his picks for the ten must-see matchups of the forthcoming season, giving hoop fans the dates he believes most merit circling on the brand new NBA calendar. While we would by no means presume to contradict our colleague, in a slate this huge, there’s bound to be a slew of different video games value keeping track of, so why not dig a bit deeper?

Eric Freeman has discovered 10 he liked in each of the past two seasons, and this 12 months, he is invited Dan Devine along to pick a number of he is keen to look at. Here’s what they came up with:

***

Denver Nuggets at Sacramento Kings: Oct. 30. When the Kings final played in mid-April, their future was unsure, with the NBA’s Board of Governors but to weigh in on their potential sale to the Seattle-based ownership group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer. Might’s decision and subsequent sale to the local group headed by Vivek Ranadivé has saved the group in Sacramento, as well as given your complete franchise new hope after several years of subpar management from Joe and Gavin Maloof. It is a new day for the team and its fans.

The last few years have seen passionate assist from devoted Kings followers on game nights when it appeared as if the franchise was close to relocation. This season’s residence opener can be a different, an event outlined not a lot by desperation as the pride and optimism that comes with a fresh begin. It will likely be a starting, not the potential finish of a protracted journey. — Eric Freeman

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder: Nov. 1. As I wrote earlier this offseason, I am not totally sure that bringing in/again Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer and first-spherical choose Shabazz Muhammad (especially while subtracting Andrei Kirilenko) will make the Wolves a demonstrably better basketball team this season. I do, nonetheless, assume those acquisitions will assist make Minnesota a greater offensive workforce, especially when mixed with a completely healthy (fingers crossed) Kevin Love, a version of Ricky Rubio who’s had a full NBA offseason with out rehabbing from a catastrophic knee injury and (provided this glacial contract course of ultimately culminates in a re-signing) a healthy, rested and paid Nikola Pekovic.

I think that Minnesota team will be, if not glorious, then not less than immensely watchable on a night-to-evening foundation because of improved outdoors capturing, punishing inside-out play from Love and Pekovic, the always-appointment-viewing passing of Rubio and a new slew of active wings capable of activating offense in Rick Adelman’s nook scheme. I’m additionally willing to consider the chance that they will be better than I anticipate defensively, as they were in 2011-12 earlier than Rubio’s torn ACL despatched the team careening off the trail. At worst, they’re going to be fun; at greatest, they could be a risk. So let’s line them up against perhaps one of the best team within the Western Conference — a group led by Love’s Team USA buddy, Kevin Durant, and whose second-in-command, Russell Westbrook, is on observe to be back from the knee injury he suffered through the playoffs — and see which path these Wolves are on.

Also, I bear in mind this happening:

… and, seeing the prospect of early-season well being for all involved, I am very amped. — Dan Devine

Detroit Pistons vs. Washington Wizards: Oct. 30 (Opening Night), Dec. 28, Dec. 30, Jan. 18. At first look, this is the kind of mid-profile sport that pops up on the NBA schedule each night time, a nondescript contest between two playoff hopefuls with comparatively small margins of error (and injury). But, from one other vantage, it is a matchup that makes League Go the most effective bargains in your cable company’s order form.

This offseason, the Pistons dedicated themselves to watchability after several seasons within the aesthetic doldrums, acquiring level guard Brandon Jennings and mercurial ahead Josh Smith to affix man-youngster Andre Drummond and the skilled Greg Monroe. The Wizards, alternatively, have probably the most promising younger trios within the league in max-level point guard John Wall, capturing guard Bradley Beal, and rookie ahead Otto Porter. Their 4 matchups this season could not qualify as main games between contenders, however they provide startling potential for the random leisure that makes the NBA so watchable on a nightly basis. — EF

Andrew Bynum’s return to Philly must be fascinating. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Photographs) Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. A home-and-residence, back-to-back, Friday-and-Saturday pair that includes the staff that simply signed growth/bust lottery ticket Andrew Bynum and the group whose new CEO just needed to apologize for the previous regime buying and selling for him feels like a pretty closely emotional and compelling set. Plus, the double-dip takes place early sufficient in the season that Philadelphia can neither be mathematically eliminated from anything yet or do too much harm to their tanking strategy by winning, so they may find some compelling incentive to attempt to win. Sincere(ish) competition!

If Bynum is, as planned, able to go for training camp and capable of stay upright/cellular by way of the beginning of the season — hey, it’s nonetheless the offseason, let’s stay optimistic — this might represent the first opportunity for Sixers fans to really see the 7-foot center play stay skilled basketball, which the Wells Fargo Heart devoted will likely reward with either polite applause or hurled hunks of jagged, flaming particles. It is unlikely that eventual centerpiece/2013 lottery choose Nerlens Noel can have returned from rehabbing his torn ACL in time to do something more than watch this one from the sidelines, however even when that is all he does, as we discovered last year, there’s fun available simply watching an apparently coiffed big man trip the pine for Philly.

Also, in on-courtroom terms, it ought to be fun to see which weapons All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving brings out to combat Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams, whose 6-foot-6 body and quickness suggest an intriguing defensive prospect. My guess? Whichever weapons Kyrie desires, early, typically and repeatedly, persevering with a brutal starting to the Syracuse product’s NBA career that will see him face the Miami Heat, then need to examine Irving twice, John Wall twice, Derrick Rose (hopefully), Stephen Curry and Tony Parker inside his first two weeks as a professional. Welcome to the NBA, younger fella. — DD

Houston Rockets at Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder: Dec. 29. The James Harden trade is certain to define any matchup between these teams for the following a number of seasons, or a minimum of so long as it represents the moment at which the Thunder inadvertently turned a rival right into a contender while concurrently hurting their very own possibilities at a title. Despite no matter occasions received them up to now, though, these two groups figure to be two of the West’s top groups for the foreseeable future, longer than the aging (if also ageless) San Antonio Spurs, the Chris Paul-dependent Los Angeles Clippers, and the more tenuously successful Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies. Each rosters function young-ish stars with room to develop (or, in the case of Dwight Howard, return to prominence), and their general managers appear to have sufficient flexibility to improve their groups when vital.

The Harden trade, then, is nearly a distraction from the instant pleasure of watching two exciting, superb groups play each other several instances per season. The season’s first matchup ought to remind us that each one our chatter about storylines exists to organize us for what really issues: the video games. — EF

Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors: Dec. thirteen. Two seasons in the past, these teams finished in the draft lottery. Final season, they climbed up into the Western Convention’s top eight behind the electrical guard play of James Harden and Stephen Curry, with Houston giving the (shorthanded) Thunder a rough go of it in Spherical 1 and the Dubs turning into postseason individuals’s champs by knocking off the Denver Nuggets and scaring the daylights out of the San Antonio Spurs. This season, they’ve made arguably the 2 largest pickups of the offseason, particularly on the defensive finish, with the Rockets landing All-Star heart Dwight Howard to anchor the interior and the Warriors executing a 3-group sign-and-trade to import Andre Iguodala to lock down the perimeter. (And lest we overlook, the Warriors had been one of many few teams granted a free-agent audience with Howard, who reportedly came away very impressed with Golden State’s workers and group.)

Both ranked in the prime five in possessions per game last season, so they like to rise up and down the ground. Both ranked within the prime 11 in points per possession, too, in order that they know what to do with the ball as soon as they cross half-courtroom. They both seem to have improved across the board, supplementing their major acquisitions with smart lower-key add-ons that seem to have bolstered their benches and neatly fleshed out their rotations. And their 4 conferences last season were bookended by Houston hanging 140 on the Warriors earlier than Mark Jackson ordered intentional fouls to keep the Rockets from setting an NBA record for made three-pointers, and Curry going off for 29 points and eleven dimes as Golden State blew Houston out by 30. Draymond Green says he doesn’t like the Rockets; the sensation, we’re certain, is mutual, and I’m betting Howard hasn’t forgotten that stray elbow from Golden State energy forward David Lee while Dwight was carrying purple and gold.

Add up the scoring, the speed, the sparks that have flown between the two groups and the inimitable spirit of the Oracle followers, and I am betting that Friday night matchup’s going to be value staying house to catch. — DD

Expect Andrew Wiggins to be a significant matter of dialog in 2014. (Sam Forencich/Getty)

Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic: March 2. Although much is subject to alter over the subsequent 10 months, the 2014 NBA draft seems to be the strongest on the prime since Greg Oden and Kevin Durant entered the league in 2007. It figures, then, that the league’s worst teams will interact in a similar rush to the underside to increase their lottery odds, all in the hopes of nabbing a future famous person in June.

The Sixers and Magic aren’t certain to end up as the NBA’s backside two squads in 2013-14, however they’re likely to challenge for the league’s dunce cap. As such, their closing matchup in March may have a big impact on the lottery, and by extension the next decade of basketball. (Or, you understand, possibly the team with the second decide will find yourself with the far better participant.) — EF

New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Path Blazers: Dec. 21. If not for the Pistons, the Pelicans might need entered the season as the league’s most intriguing group. A lottery squad in each of the final two seasons after Chris Paul’s departure, the Pelicans elected to make a push for respectability next 12 months by trading its prime picks in 2013 (which wound up being Kentucky middle Noel) and 2014 (a high-5 protected choice) to the 76ers for All-Star level guard Jrue Holiday. They then engineered a 3-team deal to import former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, with visions of versatile wing lineups featuring some mixture of these two, reportedly-now-healthy maxed-out shooting guard Eric Gordon and 2012 first-rounder Austin Rivers making issues occur on the perimeter, opening up opportunities for emerging beast Anthony Davis and flooring-stretching marksman Ryan Anderson.. offered, in fact, all of it comes collectively.

Quiet as it’s saved, though, the Blazers (who’ve also missed the playoffs in each of the final two seasons) have made an identical push toward relevance, drafting exciting small-faculty combo guard C.J. McCollum to both pair with and again up reigning Rookie of the Yr Damian Lillard, and making a number of shrewd strikes (signing swingman Dorell Wright, snaring 2011 lottery choose Thomas Robinson for a pair of second-round picks, landing middle Robin Lopez within the three-teamer that despatched Evans to New Orleans) that seem to have fortified what was arguably the league’s worst bench final season.. supplied, in fact, it all comes collectively.

By the time these teams meet at the Rose Backyard, Portland will have performed 27 games and New Orleans could have performed 24. They will have had nearly three months because the begin of coaching camp to have labored out rotations, began to develop chemistry amongst all the brand new and current items, and have had the opportunity to figure out whether their respective pushes towards capital-m Mattering in the NBA playoff conversation seem ready to take off or have stalled, which is interesting sufficient in a macro sense. And from an instantaneous run-of-play perspective, the sheer array of interesting combine-and-match talents on the ground — Davis’ awkward-yet-easy apositional frontcourt box-checking, LaMarcus Aldridge’s considerably Boshian 4/5 bristling, extra ball-dealing with guards who can play the nominal one or two than you would shake a stick at, outsized threes/small-ball fours Nicolas Batum and Al-Farouq Aminu, and so forth. — to make this a enjoyable watch in and of itself that might wind up telling us one thing more about the Western playoff picture.

And if all that does not tickle your fancy, I’ve acquired 4 words for you: Robin Lopez Revenge Sport. — DD

Atlanta Hawks at Milwaukee Bucks: April 16. The final evening of the 2012-13 season featured an excessive amount of excitement, with Stephen Curry setting a brand new file for 3-pointers in a season, the Los Angeles Lakers avoiding embarrassment and clinching a playoff berth, and Sacramento Kings fans doubtlessly watching their workforce for the final time. Solely time will tell what 2013-14’s finale brings, but we can bet it’s going to be magical.

One thing we do know, not less than as of this writing, is that a national TELEVISION viewers will get to benefit from the season-closing tilt between the Hawks and Bucks on ESPN. It appears as though the Worldwide Chief has banked on these squads battling for a playoff spot, and it sure looks like a doozy. Will Jeff Teague rating 20 points and switch the tide in a number of fantasy leagues? Will Ersan Ilyasova take a nap in the course of the third quarter? Will Al Horford and Paul Millsap even have to play? Keep tuned for “SportsCenter!” — EF

When Rudy returns to Memphis, neither he nor Z-Bo figure to be smiling. (Joe Murphy/NBA/Getty Photographs) Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies: Nov. thirteen. The Raptors and Grizzlies faced off once last season after the trade that despatched Rudy Gay north of the border, but the meeting took place at the Air Canada Centre — Homosexual scored 13 points on 15 pictures, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph scored 17 apiece and the Grizzlies earned a six-level highway win. It will symbolize Homosexual’s first journey to FedEx Forum as a visitor after 6 half of seasons and more than 8,500 factors scored in a Grizzlies uniform.. and yet, you surprise if Memphians really miss his iso-heavy, accuracy-light, volume-taking pictures wing sport as much as his prior level of productivity would seem to dictate.

As I’ve written prior to now, Memphis improved on each ends of the floor after the three-workforce deal that despatched Homosexual to the Raptors, redistributing the possessions beforehand utilized by the athletic swingman to more environment friendly gamers like Conley, Randolph and (most notably) Marc Gasol whereas persevering with to lock down on the defensive end en route to a visit to the Western Convention finals — a level of success they by no means reached with Homosexual playing a pivotal role. However would that method — ditch shot-jacking, unfold responsibility around, emphasize elevated participant and ball motion, operate extra via the 2 huge guys and rating just enough to let your clamp-down D take you residence — be lauded fairly as a lot as it has been if Memphis is not successful?

What if the Grizzlies — who look robust again after re-upping perimeter defending ace Tony Allen, snaring amnestied shooter Mike Miller and trading for regular backup huge man Kosta Koufos — get off to a slow begin in opposition to a troublesome slate that includes the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, revamped Pistons, reloaded Warriors and Jap Conference doppelganger Indiana Pacers? What if Gay — his jumper instantly scorching after long-overdue offseason vision correction surgery — gets off to a sizzling begin and has Toronto wanting like they may compete for one of many East’s lower-tier playoff spots? Might those few lingering voices that take a look at Memphis and say, “It would be good to have someone who may reliably create his personal shot,” find some extra pals? Or has the Grindhouse come far enough to rest on what it is aware of about its group’s id, salute Rudy for his service and return concerning the business of not bluffing?

I suspect I do know the reply to that question, however like every part else we’re talking about right now, we won’t actually know for positive until the season gets getting in earnest; then, all of the questions we pore over during the summer time will likely be changed by entire new units of quandaries that we’ll spend the subsequent eight months attempting to solve. It’s going to be great. — DD

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Free-agent roundup: Nets fill out the bench, Bucks bring back Delfino, Garcia stays in Houston, etc.

Bojan Bogdanovic (dunking) and Shaun Livingston are Brooklyn-bound. (NBAE/Getty Images)

There’s been plenty of free-agent activity since Dwight Howard made his decision late Friday to join the Houston Rockets, with point guard Jose Calderon heading south to Dallas, Chris Kaman leaving Texas in favor of sunny SoCal and a slew of other agreements that Our Fearless Leader broke down earlier Monday.

(“Agreements,” it should be noted, but not signings. No deal can be made official until after the July 10 end of the league’s annual moratorium on trades and signings.)

Let’s take a look at some of the other roster-building work teams have done over the past few days, starting in my hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.

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• The Brooklyn Nets agreed to a three-year deal with 2011 second-round draft pick Bojan Bogdanovic and a one-year contract with veteran point guard Shaun Livingston, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski.

Tim Bontemps of the New York Post reports that Bogdanovic, 24, will receive about $2.5 million of the Nets’ taxpayer midlevel exception, which starts at just under $3.2 million this season. Livingston’s deal is for the veteran’s minimum of just under $1.3 million, although he’ll only count on the cap for a shade under $900,000, thanks to the same wrinkle that chops down the Nets’ cap charge for Andray Blatche. (I explained that here.)

The Nets turned their attention to bringing Bogdanovic over from Turkey, where he’s spent the last two seasons playing for Euroleague side Fenerbahçe Ülker, once it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to secure the services of Kyle Korver, who wound up receiving nearly twice the mini-MLE to stay with the Atlanta Hawks. He might not be on the order of Korver (few are) but according to the crew at Euroleague Adventures, the 6-foot-7 Bogdanovic profiles as a legitimate long-range bomber who hit 40.5 percent of his 3-pointers in Euroleague play and 38 percent in Turkish League games for Fenerbahçe this season, and who’s got enough creativity off the bounce to be able to make opponents pay for reckless closeouts.

Now, Nets fans might find themselves feeling a little bit of déjà vu at that description after hearing similar praise of the floor-spacing marksmanship of Mirza Teletovic last summer. As you might remember, the Bosnian forward/Euroleague scorer couldn’t crack the rotations of Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo, averaging less than 10 minutes a game in just 54 total appearances. But whereas Teletovic had Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries and (in small-ball lineups) Gerald Wallace ahead of him for minutes at the four, Bogdanovic looks to have a prime opportunity to earn burn behind starters Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson for a Nets team that looks thin on the wing if he can impress new head coach Jason Kidd. If he struggles in both knocking down perimeter looks and adjusting to playing defense stateside, though, he might wind up spending lots of time giving pounds to the Nets’ coaches on the bench.

Seemingly decades removed from the days when he was considered the next big thing at the point, Livingston comes along for the ride, basically, to provide enough veteran insurance behind Deron Williams to ensure that Kidd and company only have to rely on second-year triggerman Tyshawn Taylor in case of emergency.

The Nets will be the seventh stop in the last six years for the 27-year-old Livingston, who had his promising future as the leader of the Los Angeles Clippers scuttled by one of the more vicious knee injuries you’ll ever see, but has come back to forge a nice career as a steady lead guard (averaging about 2.2 assists for every turnover over the last half-dozen seasons) who uses his 6-foot-7 frame, long arms and active hands to help out on the glass and in disrupting things on the defensive end (four rebounds and about two combined steals/blocks per 36 minutes last season). He was also a net positive working off the ball as a two-guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, which could offer Kidd some flexibility to use mix-and-match Livingston alongside Williams or Taylor in breather-ensuring lineups in which he could share ball-handling responsibility with a playmaking wing like Pierce or Johnson.

Livingston’s a downgrade at the position from C.J. Watson, who’ll leave Brooklyn come Wednesday to sign with the Indiana Pacers, and you don’t want to rely on playing Shaun off the ball much — he’s never been able to shoot a lick from outside. Still, though, finding an experienced backup who can fill a couple of gaps for the minimum represents a nice roster-completing pickup for a team that did its heavy lifting on draft night.

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• Carlos Delfino will return to the Milwaukee Bucks on a two-year deal worth $6.5 million, according to Wojnarowski, with a team option for Year 3 that would reportedly increase the total value of the Argentinian shooter’s deal to as much as $10 million.

Carlos Delfino rises and fires. He does that a lot. (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE/Getty Images) This one kind of stings for the Rockets, who waived Delfino just before the start of free agency to help create enough cap space to offer Dwight Howard a max-level contract but really liked what the 30-year-old veteran offered last season — which, mostly, was shooting. Daryl Morey paid Delfino to jack it up from beyond the arc, and that’s exactly what he did, averaging a whopping nine 3-point attempts per 36 minutes of floor time and hitting at a 37.5 percent clip.

The 6-foot-6 swingman isn’t a very good defender, but he’s a feisty and at-times opportunistic one who’s averaged about a steal and a half per-36 over the course of his eight-year NBA career. He’s capable of helping on the boards off the wing, isn’t an especially gifted playmaker and doesn’t offer a ton offensively beyond 3-point shooting, but reliable perimeter shotmaking remains quite valuable in today’s NBA and isn’t too bad a way to spend a little bit more than the mini-midlevel exception.

That said, it seems weird that the Bucks are the ones paying him. Yes, they needed shooting and wing production after letting Mike Dunleavy head south to the Chicago Bulls, and yes, Delfino’s got history with the Bucks organization after spending three years there before heading to Houston. But for a team like Milwaukee that seems to lack a coherent plan or clear direction, paying Delfino to hoist triples on unlikely-to-be-competitive teams until he’s 34 doesn’t feel like it makes a ton of sense. Then again, a veteran shooter on a short-money deal could be a flippable asset at the trade deadline this season or next, and it seems like it’ll be fun to watch Delfino and Zaza Pachulia argue over whose head is biggest. That’s a win, I suppose.

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• The Houston Rockets will re-sign swingman Francisco Garcia to a two-year contract worth $2.6 million, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. You’ve got to like Garcia returning to Houston, if only for the value of the deal.

Retaining Garcia on the cheap is a win for the Rockets. (Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images) Yes, he’ll turn 32 in December, but he’s a versatile wing who can shoot — just a touch above 36 percent from 3-point range for his career, but he’s shot league-average or better from deep in five of his eight NBA seasons and is a career 39.4 percent shooter from the corners — and defend some, as he showed during the Rockets’ postseason matchup against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he’ll actually be taking about a $5 million pay-cut from the $6.4 million he’d have made had Houston picked up its team option on the final year of his contract.

They didn’t, because they had to squeeze every ounce of available cap space they could to make the Howard offer. But Garcia digs the team, the organization and the recent acquisition enough to stick around despite getting stuck. I’m not real high at all on Houston picking up Omri Casspi — if, as Woj reported, the Rockets like Casspi’s shooting, they’re looking at a different guy than one who’s put up the 42/35/66 career shooting splits we’ve seen. But bringing back Garcia at such a friendly number ought to help cushion the blow of losing Delfino’s floor-spacing on the wing.

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• The Denver Nuggets and free-agent forward/center J.J. Hickson agreed to terms on a three-year contract worth $15 million, according to Wojnarowski. I don’t really get this one, to be honest.

On its face, $5 million per year doesn’t seem like a ton for a 24-year-old guy who made 80 starts in the middle for the Blazers and averaged a double-double last season while posting top-10 finishes in field-goal percentage, effective field-goal percentage (which accounts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2-pointers), as well as all three varieties (offensive, defensive and total) of rebounding percentage, which measures how big a share of available misses you grab. In fact, it kind of seems like a steal.. until you remember that while Hickson’s rebounding numbers were impressive, Portland’s as a team actually went down while he was on the floor, suggesting that rather than increasing the number of caroms the Blazers hoovered, he was actually taking a lot away from his teammates.

J.J. Hickson might be an odd fit in Denver. (Cameron Browne/NBAE/Getty Images) And that Portland scored more points per 100 possessions and allowed fewer points-per-100 when he sat than when he played last year, according to NBA.com’s stat tool. And that Portland gave up more points in the paint per game than any other team last season, that Neil Olshey and company have been actively seeking an upgrade at the five for a while. And that despite an absence of gaudy numbers, recently imported Robin Lopez is widely considered to actually be such an upgrade because, when you get right down to it, J.J. Hickson is really a power forward who’s been miscast as a center for the past few seasons.

And then you remember that the Nuggets already had JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, recently acquired Darrell Arthur and Anthony Randolph in the frontcourt.. and that they just lost Andre Iguodala, could soon lose Corey Brewer and could be without a rehabilitating Danilo Gallinari for a chunk of next season.. and that Denver seems to be relying a lot on sophomore-to-be Evan Fournier and new Nugget Randy Foye at the two.. and you kind of wonder whether a backup four/five who doesn’t make you better defensively is the best way that Tim Connelly and company could have spent $5 million a year, even if that seems like a fair rate for Hickson’s box-score production.

Maybe new head coach Brian Shaw can find ways to mask Hickson’s defensive deficiencies and maximize his effectiveness in the screen game and as a finisher/board-crasher, but this feels like something of a miss in an offseason full of them for Denver.

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• The Charlotte Bobcats agreed to terms on a two-year, $6 million deal with free-agent forward Josh McRoberts, according to Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears.

Josh McRoberts looks to facilitate from up top for the ‘Cats. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images) When McRoberts joined the Bobcats in a sleepy 2012-13 trade deadline deal that sent Hakim Warrick to the Orlando Magic, the expectation was that the swap would amount to nothing much at all beyond Orlando waiving Warrick (which happened in short order) and McRoberts continuing to underwhelm except for an occasional alley-oop finish. The noted Charlie Day-lookalike showed flashes in Charlotte, though, sopping up the somebody’s-got-to-play-them minutes for the circling-the-drain ‘Cats (just under 31 minutes per game in 26 appearances, including 19 starts) and making a little something out of them, averaging about nine points, seven boards and three assists per contest.

He’s not Chris Webber or Brad Miller or anything, but the 6-foot-10 forward’s got good vision and a willingness to facilitate when operating out of the high post, which would figure to pair well with recent signee Al Jefferson, who’ll be living on Charlotte’s left block for the next two to three seasons. Ditto for incumbent big man Bismack Biyombo, who needs to stay pretty close to the basket to be able to do much of anything other than screen-setting, or rookie Cody Zeller, who will probably benefit from a bit of cleverness in helping him find looks in the half-court. Mini-midlevel-ish money for the possibility of average reserve production and keep-things-moving passing seems like a win for a Bobcats team that just overpaid massively in the Jefferson deal.

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• The New Orleans Pelicans will bring back small forward Al-Farouq Aminu on a one-year, $3.7 million contract, according to Wojnarowski. Aminu, for his part, sounds stoked.

Al-Farouq Aminu has very long arms. (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE/Getty Images) Three years into an NBA career that began as a lottery pick of the Los Angeles Clippers, Aminu might just be what he is — a long (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3-1/4-inch wingspan) defensive-minded small forward who’s an elite rebounder for his position, really only generates offense as a finisher in transition or by attacking the glass, and can’t shoot from outside (27.2 percent beyond 10 feet last season) to save his life. Even if that’s all he is, there’s definitely value to that — players who can defend multiple positions and make contributions without needing the ball matter, especially for a Pelicans team that figures to feature a lot of multi-guard lineups including ball-dominating guards Eric Gordon, draft-night acquisition Jrue Holiday and restricted free-agent target Tyreke Evans.

How much the Pelicans improve this season will depend much more on what kind of leap Anthony Davis makes from Year 1 to Year 2 and on the health/productivity of that reconfigured backcourt than on anything Aminu provides. But considering the paucity of small-forward types on the Pelicans’ roster — and the fact that New Orleans was 7.7 points per 100 possessions better with Aminu on the floor last season than when he was off it, according to NBA.com’s stat tool — paying less than $4 million to see if the still-only-22-year-old Wake Forest product still has some room to grow makes sense.

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• The Atlanta Hawks and free-agent forward DeMarre Carroll agreed to terms, according to Woj and Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports. Carroll will sign a two-year deal worth $5 million, according to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger.

To a certain extent, Carroll and Aminu work the same side of the street, as wing players whose primary contributions come in the form of attentive and aggressive (if not always fruitful) perimeter defense and rebounding, who derive most of their offensive value as board-crashers and transition lane-fillers, and who can’t reliably handle or shoot the ball or create their own offense. While Aminu intrigues with his combination of youth, length and athleticism, though, Carroll’s a grit-grind-hustle type who would’ve made perfect cultural sense had he stayed with the Memphis Grizzlies beyond the early stages of his sophomore season.

DeMarre Carroll and Atlanta will be happy with each other. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) He’s bounced around a bit, however, shipping off to Houston with Hasheem Thabeet to bring back Shane Battier before being waived, briefly catching on with the Denver Nuggets and ultimately finding a home with the Jazz as a fill-in-the-blanks guy whose value rarely comes through in the box score. Well, that’s not 100 percent true — Salt City Hoops’ Andy Larsen cites how infrequently Carroll turns the ball over, especially in comparison with how often he causes or aids in the creation of turnovers, as well as his “eye-popping” offensive rebounding, as proof that the 26-year-old Missouri product understands the value of both extending his team’s offensive possessions and curtailing the opponents’.

That also shines through in Carroll’s on/off-court numbers, available via NBA.com’s stat tool. The Jazz outscored opponents by 5.4 points per 100 possessions when Carroll played last season, and were outscored by 3.1-per-100 when he sat. That’s an 8 1/2-point-per-100 swing, equivalent to the difference between an elite team (say, the Miami Heat) and a just-above-average one (the Brooklyn Nets) or between an average one (the Chicago Bulls) and the least-efficient teams in the league (somewhere between the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats).

Now, that doesn’t mean Carroll’s going to be the difference between the Hawks being a lower-tier Eastern playoff possibility and a fierce contender to be feared. But it suggests there’s demonstrable value in the hard-working, hustling, mistake-limiting game Carroll plays, and for $2.5 million a year through age 28, he figures to be a very nice addition to new head coach Mike Budenholzer’s team as a backup small forward. And if Danny Ferry finds a deal he’d like that could benefit from the inclusion of Carroll as ballast, there aren’t likely to be too many rival executives unhappy with the idea of importing a solid, inexpensive citizen known for working his tail off, either.

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• The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to terms with former Indiana Pacers forward Jeff Pendergraph, per Wojnarowski. The deal’s believed to be worth $4 million over two seasons, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.

To the extent non-Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Arizona State Sun Devils fans remember Pendergraph, it might be because he was the dude who got into a weird scuffle with Heat guard Norris Cole at the very end of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals that resulted in Flo Rida’s manager getting ejected from AmericanAirlines Arena. Pretty great claim to fame, huh?

Over the course of the past couple of seasons, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward has profiled as a solid per-minute rebounder (especially on the defensive glass) and he showcased a somewhat improved jumper last season (40 percent from outside 10 feet). But he turned the ball on 14.5 percent of his touches (league-average for forwards last year was 11.2 percent, per Hoopdata) and it’s worth remembering there’s a reason that Frank Vogel basically never went to the end of the bench Pendergraph occupied. Pendergraph will likely grab the minutes that belonged to DeJuan Blair last season, offering a bit more on the defensive end and a bit less on the offensive end, and make a little more money that he might be worth to do so.

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• The Portland Trail Blazers and free-agent point guard Earl Watson agreed to terms on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, according to Woj.

Watson’s a respected veteran who’s been around the league a long time; his presence should benefit the young guard tandem of Damian Lillard and rookie C.J. McCollum, around whom the Blazers will be building their teams for years to come. That said, Watson was very bad for the Jazz last season, shooting just under 31 percent from the floor and not even cracking 18 percent from 3-point range. (On the bright side, he almost never shoots, taking just 5.2 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes of playing time.) He’s still a capable facilitator, managing four dimes a game in a tick over 17 minutes per contest for Utah, but the 12-year vet’s also become looser with the ball as he’s grown older, coughing it up on more than a third of the possessions he used last season.

Getting a pass-first type for the bargain-basement minimum isn’t the worst thing in the world. Considering Watson’s glaring limitations on both ends of the floor, though, him playing more than spot or mop-up minutes might not be far off for the Blazers.

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Shaquille O’Neal rips Dwight Howard for signing with ‘a little town’ like Houston

Dwight Howard lines up with Shaquille O’Neal in 2010 (Getty Images)

Shaquille O’Neal played in the NBA from 1992 until 2011, he played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004, and he’s been acting like a petulant brat when asked about players he doesn’t like from 1992 until ???.

Really, it starts with David Robinson and Alonzo Mourning, it continued with Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh, it’s kept up with Dwight Howard and will no doubt go on for the next player O’Neal feels uneasy being compared to.

O’Neal commented on Howard’s free-agent departure to the Houston Rockets on Saturday while making an appearance at the Daytona International Speedway. From the Associated Press:

”It was expected,” Shaq said. ”We’ve all been in LA, and not a whole lot of people can handle being under the bright lights. Everybody wants to do it, but when you get there, there are certain pressures. I think it was a safe move for him to go to a little town like Houston. That’s right, little town. I said it.”

It should be noted that O’Neal was at the event to promote the movie “Grown Ups 2,” and apparently the concept of irony.

We should mention that Houston remains the fourth-largest city in the United States, with some five times the population of the city of Miami, a town Shaquille O’Neal forced a trade to in 2004.

It’s true that Howard did not respond well to the pressure in his first year in Los Angeles, he battled a back injury and shared plenty of cross glares in public at Bryant, Steve Nash and the coaching staff. We should also remind that it took Shaquille O’Neal four seasons to win his first ring in Los Angeles upon leaving Orlando in 1996, as Shaq clashed with twice as many teammates and two sets of coaching staffs.

It’s also true that this is the “safe move” for Howard, moving away from an aging, injured, and ill-fitting Laker lineup and a coach that clearly did not know what to do with two potential high- and low-post demons in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. The Rockets nearly matched Los Angeles’ win total last year without Howard and they’re a much younger team that isn’t finished exchanging assets and building around Dwight. Yeah, safe and smart move, Dwight Howard. The right move.

Dwight Howard handled the overwhelming bulk of this Orlando-to-Los-Angeles-to Houston run terribly. He has much to learn from and a lot of growing to do, and this well-researched and thought-out (and communicated, unlike LeBron James’ last free-agent dalliance) decision is a step in the right direction.

He’ll never be as great as Shaq at one thing, though. Acting like a brat in public.