Sacramento days case enough for Webber to be in HOF

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On Dec. 21, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will celebrate the birthday of basketball by announcing its list of eligible candidates for the class of 2016. Due to recent modifications to its enshrinement process, players will now become eligible after four full seasons of retirement as opposed to five in years past.

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So, who will be a lock for the class of 2016? Many consider former Philadelphia 76ers Jerseys guard Allen Iverson a shoo-in for the Hall, but due to the new rules Iverson won’t be the only Answer to that question. Four-Time NBA champion and MVP winner Shaquille O’Neal and eight-time All-Star Yao Ming are the most notable beneficiaries of the recent change.

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This news will almost guarantee a star-studded class for 2016, easing the decision making process for voters. However, there’s a chance it will enhance the wait for carryovers such as ex-Sacramento Kings legend Chris Webber.

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Webber was selected by the Orlando Magic Jerseys with the first pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. The five-time All-Star went on to play for five NBA franchises — the Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards Jerseys, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers Jerseys and Detroit Pistons Jerseys–but remains synonymous with one, the Kings.

Prior to joining Sacramento, the Kings made two playoff appearances and secured one victory in the 13 seasons immediately following their move from Kansas City, Mo. In those 13 years the Kings never produced a winning season and posted a combined record of 386-680 (.362). Needless to say, “C-Webb” put this city and team on the proverbial NBA map. But that doesn’t guarantee a player a seat in the Hall of Fame. Although there’s no clear-cut criteria for enshrinement, many will agree that if an era of basketball cannot be discussed without mentioning a particular player, then he deserves consideration.

Which brings us back to the Kings of the 2000s. From 1998-2005, the Kings made six consecutive playoff appearances, finished with six winning seasons, and peaked during the 2001-02 season with a NBA-best (and franchise-best) 61 wins. During Webber’s tenure in Sacramento, the team won more than 65 percent of its games posting a combined 335-179 record. Unfortunately for Webber and the Kings,they failed to overcome a dominant Los Angeles Lakers squad, with their best chance coming in the 2002 Western Conference Finals (Lakers defeated Kings 4-3).

While player narratives are important so are their numbers. In 377 games with the Kings, Webber averaged 23.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals. Those stats speak volumes for a power forward that ushered in the modern era of power forward plays (as did contemporaries Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki). While some of these players excelled at scoring, rebounding or defense, Webber was doing it all for a fairly young Kings core. During Webber’s six full seasons in Sacramento, he carried the organization on his broad shoulders, emerging as the team’s annual leader in three or more statistical categories.

Categories Chris Webber led team (Sacramento Kings)

Season Categories

1998-99 PPG, RPG*, BPG, Minutes

1999-2000 PPG, RPG, BPG, Minutes, Steals

2000-01 PPG, RPG, BPG, Minutes

2001-02 PPG, RPG, BPG, Minutes

2002-03 PPG, RPG, BPG, Minutes, Assists

2003-04 Missed 49 Games (2nd in PPG, 2nd in RPG) * = Led NBA in Rebounding

Webber’s career is not limited to his production with the Kings. In 1993, he earned Rookie of the Year honors as a member of the Golden State Warriors. In 1997, he represented the Washington Bullets as a first-time All-Star. Throughout his time in the NBA, he was arguably the game’s most versatile power forward.

Webber recorded 21 triple-doubles, the same amount as Kobe Bryant, and more than Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan combined. Overall, Webber played a total of 15 seasons with averages of 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 steals. As a result, Webber joins Hall-of-Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor cheap college basketball jerseys and Billy Cunningham as the only players to average at least 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists for their entire career.

Yet, the most impressive aspect of Webber’s game might have been his passing. His 4.2 assists per game were impressive considering his workload, assisting on 20.2 percent of his teams’ baskets. According to Basketball-Reference.com, there are only three frontcourt players listed at 6-foot-9 or taller that assisted on a larger percentage of field goals than Webber: Larry Bird, Toni Kukoc and Alvan Adams.

NBA Assist Percentage (Frontcourt Players 6’9 or taller)

Rank Player Assist percentage

1. Larry Bird * 24.7

2. Toni Kukoc 23.6

3. Alvan Adams 21.4

4. Chris cheap college basketball jerseys Webber 20.2 * = Hall of Fame

It’s evident that Webber’s NBA career was filled with everything except the elusive NBA title. However, potential hall of famers aren’t judged solely by their professional resume. Which brings us to the maize and blue-sized elephant in the room.

In 1991, Webber arrived on the campus of the University of Michigan as a McDonald’s All-American poised to change the college game. He, along with four other highly recruited freshmen standouts, introduced us to baggy shorts, black Nikes, trash talk and a unique on-court swagger. This collection of talent — best known as the “Fab Five”– became one of the most polarizing NCAA basketball teams ever.

Webber was at the center of it all, averaging 17.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, while shooting 58.9 percent in 70 career games. He was a two-time College All-American and named to the 1993 AP All-American First Team. But despite winning 80 percent of his games at Michigan, and making two straight Final Four appearances, many discredit his play due to an off-the-court controversy. His role in those troubles resulted in Michigan serving a 10-year postseason ban that was lifted as of 2013.

Open Court: Steve Smith Jerseys on Chris Webber

Steve Smith Jerseys recalls going to see a young Chris Webber while he was in eighth grade.

Simply put, Webber had an amazing career. He is one of 12 NBA players with at least 16,500 points and 7,500 rebounds who maintained an assist percentage of 15 or better for their entire career. Seven of those other 12 are Hall of Famers (Bird, Baylor, Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Oscar Robertson, Karl Malone and John Havlicek). Four are virtual locks for the Hall (Duncan, Garnett, Jason Kidd and Pau Gasol). His stats are obviously Hall-of-Fame worthy and his career is full of memorable moments. The list of Webber’s accomplishments can go on and on supporting his claim as one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.

On Monday, when the list of eligible candidates for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is released, some may highlight the likes of O’Neal and Iverson. Rightfully so. Numbers aside Shaq, A.I. and C-Webb did what many former No. 1 Draft picks struggle to do: live up to their top billing. All three led their respective franchises to new heights, making them perennial title contenders. All three produced at a high level for over a decade. All three will forever be remembered as pillars of the post-Michael Jordan era. Making all three worthy of the highest honor. Will all three be named to the Hall of Fame Class of 2016? Like Webber, we’ll all have to wait for the answer. Trending

Report: Bosh resumes taking blood thinners

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MIAMI (AP) — Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat Jerseys has resumed taking blood thinners to treat a blood clot in his leg, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

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Bosh began the new medication regimen with hopes that he can resume playing this season, the person told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither the team nor Bosh has revealed anything publicly.

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Typically athletes in contact sports are discouraged from playing while taking blood-thinning medication. It’s unclear when Bosh started taking the medication.

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“I hate it for him,” said NASCAR driver Brian Vickers, who like Bosh is an endorser of the blood-thinning medication Xarelto. “I would tell him the same thing again, just don’t give up. Just keep fighting. Find a solution and keep going.”

Bosh missed the final 30 games of last season because a blood clot was found on one of his lungs. Given that Bosh is considering playing again this season, or at least trying to find a way to get back on the floor, strongly suggests that this situation is not as serious as what he faced last year – when returning was not even a slim option.

Bosh is Miami’s leading scorer at 19.1 points per game this season. He said over the weekend in Toronto that he was optimistic about cheap nba jerseys for sale playing again this season.

Bosh pulled out of the All-Star Game and the 3-point contest over the weekend because of what he and the Heat described as a calf strain. He was shut down at the All-Star break last season because a blood clot had found its way to one of his lungs, and that issue is something that Bosh believes started as a calf problem.

“I couldn’t walk anywhere,” Bosh said in September, describing how the clot affected him. “I was in too much pain.”

He went to Toronto expecting to participate in All-Star weekend, then was examined there – presumably because of the calf pain – and the NBA subsequently announced on Friday afternoon that Bosh was withdrawing from the game and the 3-point event. Bosh remained in Toronto to cheer on his Eastern Conference teammates, then returned to Miami and met with team medical personnel Monday.

Bosh has taken precautions over the last year to try and prevent the recurrence of a clot, including partnering with Janssen Pharmaceuticals – Xarelto’s maker – to educate people about the risks. After the clot last season cheap nba jerseys for sale was found, Bosh started taking that blood thinner for several months as part of his recovery. Trending

Kentucky’s Murray early season wake up call does trick

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NASHVILLE — Jim Engle has led his NJIT basketball team to some remarkable accomplishments since taking over what many thought was the worst Division I job in the country eight years ago.

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During Engle’s first season in 2008-09, NJIT snapped an NCAA-record 51-game losing streak. Five years later, the Highlanders, steadily improving on Engle’s watch, won 21 games, including a stunning upset at Michigan.

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This season, all the way back on Nov. 14, NJIT pulled off another impressive feat. On that night, the Highlanders held Jamal Murray, Kentucky’s freshman guard and a certain lottery pick in the June NBA Draft, to eight points. It was the only time through 31 regular-season games and three more in the Southeastern Conference tournament Murray didn’t score in double figures.

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Considering the hot streak Murrayho has scored 21 or more points in 12 of his last 13 gamesas been on the last month and a half, holding him to less than 10 points turned out to be a big deal.

“No kidding,” Engle said when he learned his team, and not Duke, UCLA, Ohio State, Louisville or 13 Southeastern Conference opponents on the Wildcats’ schedule, was the only one that, so far at least, has contained the prolific Murray.

“I’m gonna put that on the resume right there, when he becomes an NBA All-Star.”

Ask anyone who knows Murray, or who’s coached him, and they’ll quickly tell you NBA All-Star status is definitely in his future.

“I think he has a chance to be a multiple all-star selection,” said Larry Blunt, Murray’s coach at Orangeville Prep in Ontario. “I’ve been saying that since midway through our season last year.”

Murray’s coaches at Kentucky share that opinion.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Kentucky associate coach Kenny Payne said. “Jamal Murray will be an NBA All-Star. Many times over.”

He has come so far in the last two months, it’s kind of scary. It’s kind of like Karl did.

– Kentucky coach John Calipari on comparing Jamal Murray’s growth to former star Karl-Anthony Towns.

Considering that Murray, who made the decision late last spring to change classifications so he could enroll at Kentucky, should still be a senior in high school, that’s high praise. But it’s based not so much on what Murray has accomplished so far. It’s about what he’ll accomplish a year, maybe two years from now. That’s because Murray’s talent is matched by his work ethic.

That outlier game against NJIT turned out to be the best instructional tool at Kentucky coach John Calipari’s disposal. Here was evidence that settling for jump shots, even for a shooter who wound up knocking down 42 percent of his 3-pointers in the regular season, was a predictable pattern that could have made Murray easier to guard.

The transition didn’t happen right away, but Murray was building toward the streak with which he finished the regular season and SEC tournament. Starting on Feb. 2 in a loss at Tennessee, Murray scored at least 21 points in 12 consecutive games, boosting his scoring average from 17.4 to 20.1. The streak ended when Murray, heavily guard by Texas A&M, notched 17 points in the league championship game, but Murray didn’t care. Kentucky won.

Four months earlier, in the face of a determined defense, Murray might have stubbornly fired away from behind the 3-point line. But against Texas A&M he bided his time, waiting for the moment he had an open look. Murray’s 3-pointer in overtime helped seal the win.

“The people that have watched us at the beginning of the year know how much his game has changed,” Calipari said after Kentucky dispatched Alabama, behind 23 points and four assists from Murray, in the SEC quarterfinals. “And what’s happened is he went from degree-of-difficulty shots, avoid the contract, and just throw a ball at the rim, not getting to the foul line, not shooting enough catch-and-shoots. Assist to turnover ratio was under water. And we just kept demanding. This is what the best version of you looks like.

“He’s a great kid. He wants to be coached. And I was on him hard. Not as hard as I was on Karl Towns [the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft] but I’ve been on him really hard. All of a sudden, you’re seeing an efficient player who’s volume scoring.”

Murray’s adjustment was as much mental as it was physical.

“He had to process what was going on,” Payne said. “Whenever the spurt hit, all he did was process what we were teachinglowing down mentally, re-identifying his game.

“He’s a great natural scorer. Naturally, he can put the ball in the hole. More than just jump shots. Floaters, runners, midrange, layups. Drawing fouls. He can do it all. He’s so young and he’s learning. He’s just a baby. When he accepted the way coach Cal pushed him, accepted what we were trying to get him to do, the way we wanted him to slow down, things opened up for him.” Kentucky Wildcats guard Jamal Murray had 17 points, including this dunk over Texas A&M Aggies guard Danuel House during the championship game of the SEC tournament.

Part of the reason Kentucky has become such an NBA factory under Calipari is that he stresses balance. Defense is as important as scoring, and during the course of the season, Murray made big strides on that end of the court, too.

“The biggest thing people are not catching is he’s starting to defend,” Calipari said. “Like he’s staying in front of people. He’s rotating. He’s just … he has come so far in the last two months, it’s kind of scary. It’s kind of like Karl did.

“Karl was this and that, and all of a sudden, by the end of the year, Karl was the No. 1 pick. And it wasn’t close, and it’s proven to be right. And I will tell you now that on that [draft] board], this kid [Murray] is moving in the right direction, and he has a chance to do whatever he wants.”

Murray has so custom basketball jerseys cheap pleased his demanding coach that Cal has even allowed the youngster to have a little extracurricular fun. After he makes a 3-pointer, Murray reaches into an imaginary quiver, pulls out an imaginary arrow, loads it into an imaginary bow, and, Katniss Everdeen style, launches it toward the direction of his bench, where it touches off some play acting by the Kentucky reserves, led by junior guard EJ Floreal.

“He was shooting arrows, and one game I decided, ‘this time it’s gonna catch me,’ ” Floreal said. “I just wanted to have fun. It’s nothing we ever talked about or planned. He just shot it, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna have fun with this.’ ”

Floreal’s theatrics have gotten him a lot of airtime, because Murray has made a ton of 3s. Through the SEC tournament, he’s racked up 110, just 12 off the NCAA freshman record by some guy who played at Davidson. Yes, that would be Stephen Curry. Given Kentucky’s track record under Caliparihe Wildcats have reached the Final Four in four of the last five seasonsurray should get the opportunity to pass Curry, unless somebody pulls an NJIT on him.

On the only really forgettable night of Murray’s sensational freshman season, he was 3 of 13 from the field and 1 of 10 from 3. What advice would Engle offer for Kentucky’s NCAA tournament opponents seeking to shut down Murray?

“I wish I had a great answer for you,” Engle said. “I think it was more just a function of, it was their second game of the year [and] they had played the night before. Obviously we were very focused on him. [But] I think it was probably more the fact it was his second game in less than 48 hours.”

Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.

You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour. Trending

After overhaul, Blazers’ McCollum accepted challenge

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TUALATIN, Ore — Black slacks, red sport coat with black lapel and black buttons, black-and-white kerchief in the left breast pocket, black dress shirt, black-and-red tartan tie with white accents.

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Yep. Nailed it.

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Not just Friday at the Trail Blazers practice facility outside Portland either, as C.J. McCollum walked into the small theater room a little past 10 a.m. to accept the trophy as Kia Most Improved Player for 2015-16. He was very good on the court and finally very healthy, he handled the pressure when his own organization dropped unwieldy pressure on his back in a difficult situation that could have proven too much, and then he even stuck the landing with the wardrobe choice for the moment of celebration.

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McCollum dressed in Blazers colors, and that’s only right. This is the season, after all, when he established himself as an actual part of the foundation, not a potential standout, the months of pairing with Damian Lillard in the backcourt to drive Portland from playoff longshots as training camps opened to playoff participants.

McCollum Wins Kia Most Improved Player Award

Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys guard C.J. McCollum wins the 2015-16 Kia Most Improved Player award.

McCollum isn’t the face of the franchise, Lillard is, but McCollum is emblematic of the good that has happened. Lillard was already great and no one had reason to expect anything other than a continuation, if not more of pedestal than before with all LaMarcus Aldridge’s touches now available. The other guard had everything to prove — like the team as a whole that was supposedly limping into a rebuilding plan after losing or trading 80% of the previous starting lineup.

McCollum missed much of his senior season at Lehigh because of a foot injury, then played only 38 games in 2013-14 as a pro rookie mostly because of a foot injury, then played 62 games mostly because of a finger injury. And then he played 80 games this regular season.

Meanwhile, his shooting percentage went from 41.6 percent as a rookie and 43.6 last season to 44.8, while his three-point accuracy jumped from 37.5 and 39.6, respectively, to 41.7 percent. McCollum didn’t easily beat Kemba Walker of the Hornets and third-place finisher Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks for Most Improved because of the minutes windfall created by Wesley Matthews’ free-agent departure, opening a hole nba jerseys for cheap at shooting guard. McCollum won and won so handily because of what he did with the opportunity.

He was the Trail Blazers of October. Unproven, with possibilities but nothing more than potential and big-picture plan.

Suddenly, he is the landslide winner of the award, Terry Stotts is a candidate for Coach of the Year, Ed Davis got votes for Sixth Man of the Year, Lillard re-affirmed his standing as a star at point guard, and the Blazers are in the playoffs, not a deep crater, after a 44-38 regular season. They also down 2-0 to the Clippers as the series shifts here to the Moda Center on Saturday night and Monday night, but the Portland season has been an unqualified success that offers hope far beyond what most could have expected in August.

Just look at what they have become, McCollum and the Blazers, together.

C.J. McCollum’s MIP Media Session

C.J. McCollum talks with the media following the Most Improved Player award ceremony.

“I put an inordinate amount of pressure on Dame and C.J. this offseason,” said Neil Olshey, the president of basketball operations. “We decided to go in another direction, we decided to get guys on the same career arc as Dame and C.J. As much pressure as we put on Dame, we put even more at times on C.J. because we knew for us to be successful this season it was imperative that C.J. make the jump we knew he was capable of. The amount of credit that goes to C.J. is supported by the amount of credit to the coaching staff. David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jay Triano, Jimmy Moran and of course Stotts.

“They just spent countless hours getting extra reps up, extra shots, watching film, getting him to be the player we all knew he was capable of three years ago when we took him with the 10th pick in the draft. Nobody in this room is more deserving or has put more work in to reach this point in his career and I can tell you watching this guy in the gym, watching how he relates to the coaches, handles himself on the floor, this isn’t the last award he’s going to get from the NBA during his long career. Congratulations to C.J. We as an organization and as a city are very lucky to have C.J. in this family.”

McCollum could see what was coming as soon as July collapsed around the franchise. It was trouble. Or maybe it was a chance.

“Yeah, I understood I was being put in a position to sink or swim,” he said. “And I think they prepared me to swim, honestly, being here over the course of the summer and the two summers previous, working with the staff, getting in sync with the offense, what was going to be expected of me playing backup point guard and some of the duties I would have. I relished the opportunity. I looked forward to it. It could be a disaster if you don’t play well. But it can work out really well in your favor if you do play well.”

It worked out really well in his favor. The Trail Blazers took a big jump forward from where they seemed to be as camp opened, McCollum took a big jump forward.

Nailed it.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Playoff absence may be best move for Bulls’ future

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Ninth place in the Eastern Conference stinks.

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Eighth place equals four or five or six more games, an exercise in futility in which nemesis LeBron James puts them out of the NBA playoffs for the fifth time in seven years.

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Seventh place means matching up against the Toronto Raptors Jerseys, an opponent against whom the Chicago Bulls Jerseys oddly have had their “number” in recent seasons, though that could change considerably Monday night at Air Canada Centre (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass). The Raptors also have a dynamic All-Star backcourt playing the way Chicago’s was supposed to be and an acceptance that they have something to prove to the league — a humility that seems lost on the Bulls.

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(Oh, and there still is a chance that seventh place means a best-of-seven matchup with Cleveland, if the Cavaliers decide to rest and cruise into the postseason without regard for the East’s top seed.)

Sixth place means taking on a Boston team that has demonstrated how much better life can be with no stars than waiting for and worrying about “stars” the way Chicago has all season. Or it means Miami, the team that just completed its season sweep of the Bulls by scoring 240 points in two games in a span of 11 days.

Fifth place? Fifth place would get the Bulls a nose bleed. No way they’re climbing that high anyway, not over so many teams with so few games left.

So maybe it’s time for the perfectly mediocre, 32-32 Bulls — the team whose preseason billing as the “East’s second-best” now echoes as a taunt — to start making peace with the idea of a lottery finish rather than a last-gasp run to the wire. Breaking a sweat, skinning some knees, looking in the mirror and sneering at what stares back? Nah, that’s more accountability than this team has shown itself to be capable of during its 10-20 meltdown after waking up Jan. 7 with a 22-12 record.

For the folks who still fill the United Center 22,000 strong night after night, whether it’s out of habit, for the show-biz stuff between the basketball or because they’ve been on a waiting list since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen romped there, the 2015-16 season is a combination “Groundhog Day” and the “boy who cried wolf” parable.

Heat vs. Bulls

Goran Dragic goes off for 26 points with 9 assists as the Heat take down the Bulls 118-96.

This is Year 6 of championship dreams forsaken, a process built in reverse in which the Bulls reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, had the NBA’s Most Valuable Player that season, didn’t make The Finals and has been disassembling ever since. The scaffolding and girders that dominate the arena’s East side (future atrium and retail complex, with the Jordan statue as its centerpiece) is as stark and incomplete at the moment as vice president John Paxson’s and general manager Gar Forman’s master plan. One of them will be spruced up and completed fairly quickly, the other is going to get uglier before it gets better.

Injuries — to Rose, to Jimmy Butler, to Joakim Noah, to Nikola Mirotic, to Mike Dunleavy and, as of Sunday, to Pau Gasol (swollen knee) — have been crippling and undeniable. But as former Bulls forward Luol Deng noted late Friday, after his Miami team scored 64 points after halftime to yank a game out of Chicago’s grasp, those things predated Tom Thibodeau’s five-year run as coach and surely have post-dated Thibodeau this season.

What set management’s hair on fire as Thibodeau’s recklessness with players’ minutes now is written off as bad luck under new coach Fred Hoiberg, Paxson’s and Forman’s hand-picked successor with a veneer more acceptable to the executive suite. But the defense that was the Bulls’ face to the NBA under Thibodeau is gone now, too. And the offense that his bosses wanted Hoiberg to install as its keeping-up-with-the-Warriors idea is under construction more than your typical Chicagoland tollway.

Apparently the old joke about the city’s seasons applies to the Bulls as well. There’s only two — summer and team construction.

The notion that Butler (expected to play at Toronto Monday), Gasol (a week or two away) and Rose (flip a freakin’ coin) can come back, mesh with the role players (Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, E’Twaun Moore, Bobby Portis) and underachievers (Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, Aaron Brooks Jerseys) around them and flip some switch for the home stretch is naïve. Not to mention narrowly held.

The Bulls’ locker room remains empowered in unaccountability, residue from management turning its own coach into a lame duck all of last season? Telling a full roster of players “Aw, pay no attention to that guy, he’s gone” only makes it harder when you bring back that same roster and suddenly announced, “Now this guy is the one you need to listen to.”

The power in this dynamic resides with the players, more so now than with most teams. Rose made it clear when he tapped out before Friday’s loss to Miami that no team circumstance — a playoff berth in the balance, a game on the line — never again will get between him and his sense of secure game-fitness. Or maybe his marketability for 2017 free agency.

GameTime: Pau Gasol

GameTime sits down with Pau Gasol sits down to discuss Bulls’ season and what they can do to improve.

Butler seems to be moving along Deng’s trajectory in Chicago, game to play whenever possible but achingly aware of the physical toll it’s taking, and heeding it a bit more than his mentor did. nba wholesale jerseys Noah, his season done after 30 games with shoulder surgery, might have played his last game with the Bulls; he’s the heart of the team pulled out and shown to them, as if in a Bruce Lee movie, before they actually die.

As for Gasol, he’s smart enough to see what’s going on and to keep his options open this summer, literally in an early-termination of is contract and figuratively. A double-double guy with surprising triple-double capacity lately, the 35-year-old doesn’t even have to be that cerebral to grasp the math involved.

“The season is winding down,” he said, “and every game that goes by it is [fewer] games left to play, and our margin of error is gone.”

Chicago sports radio last week began bandying about the idea that the “second-best in the East” Bulls might miss the playoffs entirely and whether that might be preferable to the decidedly profitable two or three home playoff games in a one-and-done cameo. Folks who argue against it cite the run seven consecutive postseason appearances, the cachet that could help lure a free agent or two this summer and a subconscious organizational fear of ever returning to the team’s 1999-2004 bleakness.

But with Gasol’s opportunities elsewhere, Noah’s uncertainty and both roster flaws in general and mismatches between the talent base and Hoiberg’s preferred style of play, some serious roster reworking is going to be required regardless. Might as well begin it with a longshot lottery pick.

Maybe ninth place doesn’t stink as bad as the spots just above it for the Bulls this season.

Hoiberg tried to perk up his players’ pride and motivation over the weekend when he spliced into the team’s video breakdown a clip from “Animal House.” It was the one in which John Belushi’s character mangles history in his “Nothing is over” speech.

Frankly, the Bulls coach should have used the Kevin Bacon one from later in the movie.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Five players who have a solid shot at joining 80-point club

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The NBA boasts the best collection of basketball talent the world has to offer with supreme athletes, elite defenders and high flyers marking each team. But there’s nothing like watching a professional scorer enter the proverbial zone.

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On Wednesday night, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry put on a scoring clinic, starting with a 25-point first quarter against the Washington Wizards Jerseys. To say Curry entered the zone would be an understatement. Steph made 9 of his first 10 field goals, including 7 of 8 from 3-point range. By halftime he had 35 points and the Twitter-verse wondered just how many points he would score. 50? 60? 70?

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Curry Explodes for 51 Points

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Stephen Curry was cookin’ on Wednesday night, scoring 51 points on 11-for-16 from 3-point land.

After the first period, the reigning Kia MVP was on pace to reach 100 but no one really thought it was obtainable. After all, he’s sat out 14 4th quarters this season. Curry would finish halfway to the century mark — 51 points, thanks to an 11-for-16 effort from 3-point land. Steph can score 50 points at any moment, but can he or anyone else flirt with 81?

It’s been 54 years since Warriors legend Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points and 10 seasons since Los Angeles Lakers Jerseys guard Kobe Bryant scored 81. Neither Wilt nor Kobe were prolific 3-point shooters, but they both shared the mentality that the next shot was guaranteed to fall.

“Scoring 100 points is a lot,” Chamberlain once said. “But … I maybe could have scored 140 if they had played straight-up basketball!”

Kobe’s 81 Point Night

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81 point game on January 22nd, here’s a look back at that night and what some players around the League had to say about his performance

The thought of one player scoring 100 points is insane, let alone 80. In fact, Chamberlain possessed the ability to score at will and only surpassed the 80-point threshold once in his entire career. Out of the thousands of players to play in the NBA’s lifetime, only five players have scored 70-plus points in a single game. That list does not include three of the top four scorers in NBA history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan.

Most Points Scored in a Single Game

Player Points scored Year

Wilt Chamberlain 100 1962

Kobe Bryant 81 2006

Wilt Chamberlain 78 1961

Wilt Chamberlain 73 1962

Wilt Chamberlain 73 1962

David Thompson 73 1979

Just last month, Bryant was asked about reliving his historic 81-point performance and, like Chamberlain, he felt he “should have had 90 points or more.” If Bryant thinks 90 is possible, then 81 should be within reason.

Clearly it would take a young player with a true scorer’s mentality. Wilt was 25 years old when he scored 100 and Kobe was 27 throwback nba jerseys cheap when he poured in 81. The player that scores 80 has to be a volume shooter that can get to the free throw line often. He must possess the ability to create his own shot as well as 3-point shooting range.

Using this criteria, many players may fit the mold but five All-Stars — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins — immediately come to mind. These are the top four scorers in the league who have a total of 13 career 50-point games. Three of the five players (Curry, Harden and Cousins) are responsible for four of the six 50-point games this season. So who’s the most likely candidate for an 80-point game?

The Obvious Picks

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors): A list that involves scoring can’t be constructed without the “Baby-Faced Assassin.” Curry leads the league in scoring (29.8 ppg), has amassed four career 50+ point games and is the only player with multiple games with 11 3-pointers made. The 2015 Foot Locker Three-Point Champion has been on a tear this season (232 3-pointers through 47 games). He’s the first player to make 200 3-pointers prior to the All-Star break.

Curry Hits 11 3-Pointers

Relive every 3-pointer from Stephen Curry’s incredible night.

While he may be an obvious selection, it’s highly unlikely he’ll reach 81 or more points. The most free throw attempts Curry has in a single game is 14. He’s averaging 5.5 free throw attempts per game this season, a career high.

One would need at least 20 points on free throws to have a realistic shot at 80. Curry knocked down 11 threes on Wednesday and still fell 30 points shy of Kobe’s mark.

Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder Jerseys): At first glance, Durant was the favorite to score 80. Standing nearly 7 feet tall, Durant can score with ease from anywhere on the court. He has the ball-handling to blow by defenders and the range and scoring arsenal to create jump shots for himself from anywhere.

Durant Scores 54

Durant poured in 54 points in an incredibly efficient performance, helping Oklahoma City beat Golden State 127-121.

Like Curry, Durant’s career high is 54 points and he, too, has four career 50-point games. But what sets the two apart is Durant’s career high 26 free throw attempts.

During the 2012-13 season, Kevin recorded his first 50-40-90 season. A true testament to a player’s shooting ability when they average 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent shooting on 3-pointers and 80 percent shooting from the line. With his size and range, there’s no limit to what he can put up on the scoreboard.

But, as long as he shares the load with Russell Westbrook, 80 points appears to be out of reach.

The Longshots

Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors): Thompson is bigger and taller (6-foot-7, 215 pounds) than Curry (6-foot-3, 190) and, some would argue, has a better shooting form than Curry, too. Klay has one career 50-point game — a 52-pointer (where he went for 37 points in a quarter) last season against the Kings. In that magical outburst, Thompson made all 13 of his field goal attempts, nine of which were 3-pointers.

Thompson Dominates Kings

Highlights from Klay Thompson as he hits 13 of 13 shots with 9 triples to notch a NBA record 37 points in the third quarter.

Problem is he only attempted two free throws that period. Thompson’s career high is 12 free throw attempts in a single game. While he may have the height advantage and shooting motion over Curry, he doesn’t get the wealth of touches these players get on a nightly basis. Thompson may have a 60-point effort in his future, but 80 doesn’t seem likely.

DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings Jerseys): “Boogie” is the lone big man to make the list. He has a 56-point game under his belt, which he recorded this season and is tops in 2015-16. An 80-point game would appear to favor a center since most teams play small and offensive rebounds are at a premium. Cousins appears to be developing into an offensive savant game by game. He’s made 45 3-pointers this season after making 11 total in his first five seasons.

Cousins Scores 56 vs. Hornets

DeMarcus Cousins scores a new career-high 56 points and grabs 12 rebounds versus the Hornets.

He boasts a 73 percent career free throw shooting mark and has five career games with 20 or more free throw attempts. All of this makes 80 a possibility, but, unfortunately for Cousins, the NBA is no longer a big man’s game.

The Choice is …

James Harden (Houston Rockets Jerseys): Prior to “The Beard” arriving in Houston, many wondered if he throwback nba jerseys cheap could be a team’s leading scorer. Those questions were quickly answered. In just his second game as a Rocket, he tallied 45 points with an impressive 17 free throw attempts.

Rockets vs. Hawks

James Harden explodes for a career-high 45 points in the big win over the Hawks.

Harden has three career games with 50-plus points and nine games with 20 or more free-throw attempts.

(If you haven’t caught on by now, free throw attempts are key.)

In Bryant’s 81-point game, he went 18-for-20 on free throws and made just seven 3-pointers. Ever since he got to Houston, Harden has mastered the art of drawing the foul. Proof? He has led the league in free throw attempts three times (including this season).

With no true number two scoring threat, Harden is the type of player that can go for 60 or more points and many would shrug at his performance. Along with his ability to cash in at the line, Harden utilizes the 3-pointer as well as anyone (he’s third in the NBA with 140 3-pointers). According to NBA.com/Stats, Harden ranks in the top 15 with 9.3 drives per game. He’s shooting 48.8 percent on those drives and getting to the free throw line nearly four times a game off drives alone. When he’s fouled on penetration plays, he’s making 86.6 percent of his free throws. As a result, Harden scores 75 percent of the time when he drives to the basket.

All those factors mark a player who has the skills to one day deliver an 80-point game. Trending

Untested Blazers make up for youth with plenty of mettle

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Potential, to put a spin move on historic Brit writer Samuel Johnson, is the last refuge of a team expecting to lose. And when this 2015-16 NBA season began, expectations for the Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys in particular were set at the limbo level of your average Tobagonian mouse.

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Twenty-three victories, some critics predicted for Portland. OK, maybe a few more than a half dozen. But the Blazers, most concurred, would be lucky to win even half as many games as they had last season (51) and would best be served by putting out of their heads any notions of a playoff berth.

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We’ve all got to be together. We’ve got to be a unit, and that’s what we’ve turned into. We’ve become a unit and that’s what’s been working.

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– Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys star Damian Lillard

After all, it wasn’t just LaMarcus Aldridge who vamoosed as the biggest name in free agency last summer. Of the six Blazers players who saw the most court time for last season’s 51-31 squad, five — Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Steve Blake — were gone when 2015-16 began. They took with them 50 percent of Portland’s points (4,197 of 8,429 points), leaving point guard Damian Lillard with arguably the biggest and loneliest challenge in the league this season.

So when coach Terry Stotts began talking roster architecture and synchronization to those wondering about his team’s inevitable plummet, it sounded like so much whistling past the graveyard.

Except get a load of the Trail Blazers now.

At 32-28, they are tied with Dallas for sixth place in the Western Conference, 3½ games behind fifth-place Memphis and 3½ games out of ninth. Heading into their game against the New York Knicks Jerseys at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass), they were 2-0 to start their current six-game trip and a grueling stretch of 12 road games in the next 15.

From the predicted morass of their difficult 15-24 start — a pace that would have netted 31 victories — the Blazers have gone 17-4 since. Their roll includes victories over Oklahoma City, Golden State, Utah (twice), Houston (twice), Chicago and Indiana. They’ve gone from being outscored on average by 2.0 points through their first 39 games to outscoring teams 108.6 to 101.3.

Damian Lillard’s Best From 2015-16

Damian Lillard has had an amazing season, averaging 25.6 points, 7.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds so far this year!

Whatever sneaking up was done on unaware or dismissive opponents is done. Has been for a while.

“Aw, man, we’re over that,” forward/center Mason Plumlee said over the weekend in Chicago. “That was, like, preseason. We haven’t thought about that. I would say, when we got our first couple wins, we knew we were better than 23 wins or whatever they projected us. We’re moving on, we’re looking at bigger things.”

The potential about which Stotts has spoken since summer is legit. The Blazers, under GM Neil Olshey, have been refashioned with parts suited to Lillard and his backcourt mate C.J. McCollum, who are in their fourth and third NBA seasons respectively. After backup center Chris Kaman, who has played 13 seasons, reserve Gerald Henderson, 28, is Portland’s most grizzled veteran.

The Starters: Second Best Backcourt in NBA?

The Blazers backcourt is coming on strong but are they really better than the Raptors duo? Tas and Skeets debate.

This group was assembled to grow together, and it has maxed out the double-meaning of that phrase: In growing up as NBA individuals, the Blazers have bonded as a team.

“They’re all close in age, close [to the same point] in their careers,” Stotts said. “They’ve all been in the league two, three, four, five years, and it’s really a cohesive group. They communicate well together. They spend time off the court. They have good, positive interaction. We’ll have practice and they’ll stick around, get extra shots. That’s kind of refreshing to me, to have a good young team that’s anxious to get better and likes the whole idea of getting better.”

Lillard and McCollum have generated most of the headlines because they’ve generated most of the heat. Their combined average of 46.2 points through 60 games ranked third among NBA duos, behind cheap custom basketball team jerseys Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson (52.5) and Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook (52.2). Lillard has scored 30 points or more in seven of his last nine appearances, and the two rank among the league’s top 3-point tandems as well.

But there are nights when the shots aren’t dropping, and Portland — despite its tender years — has been finding ways to be successful then, too. Its bench and its defense have been invaluable over the past seven weeks.

At Chicago, for instance, all five of the Blazers’ subs finished with positive plus-minus ratings and four of them — Henderson, Ed Davis, Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard — stayed on the floor to thwart a Bulls comeback. Portland’s bench has outscored its counterparts in 17 of the past 22 games and, since Dec. 3, the Blazers are 19-6 when that occurs.

GameTime: Killer Combo In Portland

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann talks about the effectiveness of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum when they’re on the court together for the Trail Blazers.

Davis in particular was a force defensively against the Bulls, with a pivotal block on Mike Dunleavy to snuff Chicago’s rally. The nearby Blazers bench erupted and the Bulls never broke 95 points; Portland is 17-4 when holding teams below 100.

“The stuff that we notice from the bench is not just the big block or the big play,” Lillard said. “It’s where they’re breaking our lead and it gets to five, and we’re going back and forth and then Ed deflects a pass. And then we push it down and we miss, and it’s a 3-on-2 and Mase [Plumlee] comes back for a chase-down block. Those plays like that add up.”

Lillard and his All-Star snub will be in the spotlight again at Madison Square Garden. But the perceived overachiever from Weber State sounds most proud that, of the impact he has had on the Blazers, mostly it has been on teammates’ confidence.

I would say, when we got our first couple wins, we knew we were better than 23 wins or whatever they projected us. We’re moving on, we’re looking at bigger things.

– Portland Trail Blazers Jerseys forward/center Mason Plumlee

“Anything that I’m involved in, I’m just a huge believer … that it can be successful or it can work out,” Lillard said. “It’s just one of those things to see that everybody else has that same kind of belief. It’s the time we put in — you’ve got guys coming in an hour before practice, getting in their work. Guys who don’t even get minutes. Guys that have that same belief I’ve always had.

“It’s not even being in sync with me, it’s being in sync with each other. If G [Gerald Henderson] is not in sync with Mo [Harkless] but me and G is in sync, it’s [still] hard. We’ve all got to be together. We’ve got to be a unit, and that’s what we’ve turned into. We’ve become a unit and that’s what’s been working.”

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

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