TrueHoop: Trevor Ariza

Swing 'mate

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
11:42
AM ET
By Conor Dirks
Special to ESPN.com
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Trevor ArizaRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesJohn Wall and Brad Beal bring the star power, but the Wizards don't go up 2-0 without Trevor Ariza.
The big stage has been kind to Bradley Beal. Just 20 years old and in his second professional season, Beal took the reins in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Chicago Bulls, scoring 26 points and pulling down seven rebounds to lift the Washington Wizards to an overtime win and a 2-0 lead.

After an inconsistent and often inefficient season, it wasn't evident that Beal was ready to be a featured playoff scorer. Two magnified games later, it’s clear why the Wizards believe he will be exactly that.

Beal joins first-time All-Star John Wall in a guard duo so potential-laden and presently exciting that the public can no longer dismiss Washington’s backcourt as something merely of the future. Potential’s recognition, though, is as much about observing what a player lacks as it is about hoping he’ll become something greater than his current incarnation. While Wall and Beal grease the cogs of their own development with increasingly zealous performances, it is left to one of Washington’s unsung heroes to ease the inevitable growing pains of rapidly maturing talent.

Enter Trevor Ariza. When D.C.’s guards struggled from the field in the opener against the Bulls, Ariza became the efficient scorer (18 points on just eight shots) the team needed by knocking down uncontested 3-point attempts and scoring at the rim. When Beal picked up the scoring slack in Game 2, Ariza seamlessly transitioned to a facilitative role, tying for the team lead in both rebounds (eight) and assists (seven). Looking closer still, Ariza led the team in "free throw assists" (passes that end in free throw attempts for a teammate) and hockey assists.

When Wall couldn’t stay in front of a frenzied D.J. Augustin (25 points), Ariza asked for the assignment. From the time the 6-foot-8 swingman switched onto Augustin, with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter until the end of overtime, the Bulls point guard missed all of his shots, including an attempt with 15 seconds remaining in regulation that would have put the Bulls up two.

For the Wizards, this is nothing new. While Wall and Beal remain the focal points of the franchise, Ariza, the only player on the Wizards' roster with a championship ring, has quietly become essential. The net value of his presence on the court, measured by on-court/off-court differential, was plus-6.3 points, which ranks behind only Marcin Gortat and Wall in Washington.

Ariza was slotted as the backup to Martell Webster coming into the season, and by many he was seen as eventual trade bait. His contract expires at the end of this season and he was a clear roster redundancy after the Wizards re-signed Webster for four years, $22 million and drafted Otto Porter Jr. third overall.

Now it’s hard to imagine this incarnation of the Wizards without him.

The "glue player" demarcation is overapplied, reached for when other easy definitions fail, and an easy definition would not be fair to the dynamic (contract) season Ariza has had. Or how resourceful he has been; during the regular season, Ariza was the biggest beneficiary of Wall's predilection for producing corner 3-pointers. The combination was so prolific that it made Ariza the league leader (78) in the category. In D.C., the early-season complaint about Ariza starting over Webster emerged from its cocoon at the All-Star break as panicked handwringing about an offseason price tag. With the Wizards, Ariza has found the niche that eluded him as he over-dribbled his way out of less productive stints in Houston and New Orleans.

[+] EnlargeTrevor Ariza
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTrevor Ariza has been the extra edge the Wizards have needed.
Lost in the dusty annals of NBA history, alongside the scroll authored in the pyrite age of Wizards basketball by Ted Leonsis that contemplated Javale McGee’s erudition, is record of Ariza’s first four seasons, in which he took a combined 43 3-pointers. Compare that number to the 442 he attempted this season. Don’t rush to understand, because Ariza surely doesn’t. Asked about going 5-for-5 on 3-pointers against the Orlando Magic in February, Ariza smiled, scratched his head self-effacingly and said, "I guess I'm living right."

In the postgame locker room, Ariza is bright, insightful and hilariously candid about not remembering what has transpired during any given game. Part amnesiac, part basketball intellectual, all California chillwave. From the first to the last game of the season, Ariza disregarded highs and lows alike, never seeming to break an emotional sweat. Which made it all the more surprising, and delightful, when he finally broke character.

With the Wizards down 69-61 to the Bulls in Game 1, Ariza found himself unable to shake off Jimmy Butler. After a momentary handoff to Nene, Ariza tried again, driving around Carlos Boozer and right at Joakim Noah. Noah, the defensive player of the year, shot a hand straight up, but couldn't account for what is so typical of Ariza's layups, a somehow languorous contortion that hooks close around defenders like hookah smoke before finishing awkwardly through the only window available.

It was then, running up the court after a layup, in the third quarter of his team's first playoff game since 2008, that Ariza finally reacted. His fists clenched before his face changed unrecognizably into a scowl as he threw both arms down and belted out an atypically impassioned “LET'S GO!”

And then, as if he was afraid it didn't take, another one. Nene, running beside him, enthusiastically joined the out-of-character rallying cry. In a game where Charles Barkley observed that the Wizards seemed as though they didn't fully realize they were in the playoffs until late, it may have been Ariza who again gave his team what they badly needed. This time it was fire.

Paul bests Bryant as Hornets take Game 1

April, 17, 2011
4/17/11
7:50
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
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The New Orleans Hornets provided the second stunner of the day upsetting the Los Angeles Lakers to take a 1-0 series lead.

According to Elias, this is was the 16th time a team coached by Phil Jackson opened their postseason at home, but the first time the team lost.

Chris Paul
Paul
The Hornets were able to pull off the victory thanks to point guard Chris Paul who scored 33 points while dishing out 14 assists.

Paul scored or assisted on 25 of the Hornets 34 field goals while he was on the court.

In the first half he picked up 10 of those assists, getting his teammates involved as the Hornets took an eight-point lead to halftime.

Then after the break Paul picked up the scoring load with 22 points in the final 24 minutes.

He created more opportunities for himself getting to the free throws 12 times in the second half alone after taking no free throws in the first.

It marked the fifth time in his playoff career that Paul notched 30 points and 10 assists, tied with Kobe Bryant for the most such games since 2008.

Speaking of Bryant he scored 34 points, his 79th career 30-point game in the playoffs, but it was Paul who controlled the game.

Combining points scored and points scored off assists, Paul created 63 points for the Hornets compared to just 46 by Bryant.

Kobe took 26 shots for the Lakers -- the rest of the starting five combined to take only 32.

The Lakers fell to 9-9 this season when he shoots 25 or more times.

The matchup to watch for Bryant the rest of this series will be when he’s guarded by former Laker Trevor Ariza.

Game footage showed, through the first three quarters Bryant torched Ariza scoring 20 points when guarded by him. However Ariza won the battle in the fourth holding Bryant scoreless when matched up against him.

While his brother Marc Gasol (24 points) helped the Memphis Grizzlies pull of the first upset of the day, Pau Gasol was held to only eight points, his fewest in a playoff game since joining the Lakers.

He only attempted nine shots despite playing 37 minutes.

With David West out for the season due to injury, the Lakers entered the series with a distinct frontcourt advantage.

However the tandem of Gasol and Andrew Bynum (13 points) were matched by Carl Landry (17) and Emeka Okafor (4) with 21 points, providing the Hornets with an unlikely boost.

Kevin Martin has no complaints

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
10:13
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Kevin Martin
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images
Kevin Martin is reunited with Rick Adelman and Brad Miller -- and couldn't be happier about it

There might not be a player in the league with a more confounding game than Kevin Martin. Take a look at the odd, left-leaning release on his jumper and you can imagine a nation of high school basketball coaches cringing. Martin's field-goal percentage and defensive game have never been all that impressive on the surface. But once you get past traditional measures -- both aesthetic and statistical -- you'll find a uniquely efficient perimeter player who thrives in systems that take advantage of those gifts.

Rick Adelman's read-and-react offense in Houston is one such system. Although Martin is a capable one-on-one player, he's always been most effective running off screens, cutting, curling or fading to the arc when the defense sags. Martin harbors an appreciation for his days in Sacramento, where he went from an obscure late first-rounder out of Western Carolina to the first option in the offense. But he's thrilled to be back with his first NBA coach, whom Martin credits with helping him become that marquee player.

We caught up by phone with Martin in Houston last week, and talked about the change in culture he's experienced since the trade that sent him from Sacramento to Houston, the limitations of his game and the influence of Brad Miller:

So what's your summer day like?
I decided to get a place in Tampa so I could do some extensive training.

What are you working on in specific?
The basics. Getting my form back because I had surgery on my left wrist last year, so we wanted to get my 3-point shot back. There were a couple of minor mechanical things. Also, defenses load up on me, so I'm working on a lot of counter-moves for when the defense stops that first move.

When you're not in the gym, what do you do in your down time? You a beach guy?
I'm more of a city guy. I like to roam around, maybe check out a restaurant. I also like playing with my electronics -- like the new iPad.

So you're a proud member of the Apple cult?
Yeah!

Sacramento to Houston -- the perception is that's a huge cultural move for you. "Culture" is a term that sportswriters -- and front office people when they're talking to sportswriters -- throw around a lot, but does "team culture" really exist from a player's standpoint?
There definitely is such a thing as team culture. It starts with the organization, what kind of veteran players they have. Here in Houston, Shane [Battier] and Yao [Ming] are the veterans. They set the tone for us on how to be professionals. They've been around the community a lot. They set a big example for young fellas and are just two great leaders with what they do.

So if someone were to drop you in a random locker room of some team you didn't know, you could totally tell whether it was a winning or a losing locker room?
Unfortunately, yes. I've been on both sides of it. We're all paid to play this sport we love. If you're on a team like that as a team leader, you wish it didn't happen and you try to minimize it, but you can only control so much. It's up to the players to be professional about it. But you can definitely tell the difference.

How do they do things differently in Houston?
First, it's a veteran ball club with guys who just want to win. We all made names for ourselves in the league and the only legacy we're trying to leave now is winning. We can all put up nice numbers and things like that. You have to give credit to [general manager] Daryl [Morey] for bringing in those kind of people -- players with a lot of class and who are motivated. Of all the guys on our roster, there's really only one player who came into the league with big expectations, and that's Yao. The rest of us -- we've been the hard workers. I was like the 15th player on the roster my rookie year and had to work my way up. Then I was the No. 1 player for three years. This isn't to disrespect guys, but it's not about hype in Houston. These are guys who have worked their way up the ladder. I'm definitely happy to be in an organization like this. You know what you need to do and you just go out there and get it done. You don't need anyone on your throat all the time.

With Trevor Ariza on the move, what does the situation look like at the small forward on the court for the Rockets?
It shows how much faith Daryl has put in our other 3s -- in Shane and Chase [Budinger]. With the starting lineup we have now, Shane is the defensive stopper, and that helps us a lot there. Those guys will have to pick up Trevor's production on both ends of the court. I think we have a great system that allows other guys to do that.

How do you rate yourself as a defensive player?
Great question. I've never had anyone ask me that. I get judged a lot on it. I try to work hard, but the last three years I was a guy who had to put up 25 points a game just to not lose by 10. But my first two years under Rick Adelman, that's how I stayed on the court. It was because of defense. And I could because I had four offensive players around me. I know I have to get back to that, but I also think Houston is a better place to allow me to get back to that because I won't have to be the No. 1 option every night. Now I can do other things on the court.

So it's true that guys conserve energy on the defensive end because so much is asked of them offensively? That means their defense is less intense.
For some players that's true. Everyone has their roles.

Stat-heads love you because your true shooting percentage -- which takes into account 3-pointers and free throws -- is always impressive. You have this knack for drawing contact and getting to the line, or just draining the 3. But one thing I've never completely understood is how a player like you makes decisions. When you have the ball in your hands out on the perimeter, are you looking to either shoot or draw contact? I'm either going to get a clean shot or I'm drawing a foul? Are you looking to do both? How do you decide in the moment?
There are always different scouting reports on how to guard me. Guys know my first step is so quick so they might back up off me. Right there, I'm just going to take the open shot because I'd rather do that then try to go in there against all those big guys and get hammered on the floor. Then other nights, guys are like, "He's such a great shooter," and they try to get up on me. That's when I use my quickness. Once I get by you, I just know the rules -- you can't bump a guy off his path. If I'm going to the hole, and I've gotten past you, you can't get back in my path. That's how I get a lot of those calls. It's tricky and you have to have a lot of moves in your arsenal and trust your game. As the No. 1 guy the last three years, I've gotten knowledgeable about knowing how the defense plays me.

You didn't pass the ball a lot in Sacramento. Was that a function of the system or is that just not your game?
If you watched those games, when I'm making a move, I'm going to make that move and try to score. Also, there's time where my assists weren't there because maybe I'm not the greatest playmaker, but I will pass the ball and give other guys chances. That's how that went. Over my three years in Sactown, they got rid of (Ron) Artest and I was playing with a lot of guys who were trying to make names for themselves in the league. They were young guys and just learning the game. Once Artest was gone, I was playing with four starters who had never started before. But I also think that's what made me the player I am today because I had all the attention of opposing teams.


So we should expect your assist totals to go up this year, just by virtue of Rick Adelman's system?
Yes.


When we say that a perimeter player knows how "to play off a big man," what does that mean?
I've always wanted to play with a guy like Yao. I think the trick is to keep them happy. You give them the ball when they're in great scoring position and you make the right plays when they give you the ball -- like me and Brad [Miller]. My offensive game is where it is today because of Brad Miller. The way he and Rick taught me how to cut and things like that made me so much better. The last three years in Sacramento, it was all, like, one-on-one. Now I'm back in a system where I can cut. Playing with big guys like Yao who get rebounds for you, you feed them back. Keep them happy.


Let's talk more about Brad Miller and Rick's system.
Rick's system is all about read-and-react. When you're young and watching film, you like to watch a couple of guys who you're modeling your game after, and mine was always Rip Hamilton. I always looked at how he came off screens. That's where my shooting and curling evolved. That was my bread and butter my first three years. Then I moved on to other things. Playing with Brad, he's the one who taught me how to cut at the right time -- not cut too early. When I started doing more iso stuff, I watched film of [Dwyane] Wade iso situations. You put all this together and that's how you become a more complete player.


So Brad was like Yoda Big Man? How did he impart this knowledge to you?
With Brad and me, it was always on the court. And I also got a chance to watch him and Peja [Stojakovic] play a lot my first year because I didn't really play too much. He and Peja had a great connection. I knew I was a lot quicker and had a lot more agility than Peja. So at the beginning, I would always do everything so fast. I'd be too fast before the cut, during the cut, after the cut. Brad would say, "Slow down! You're faster than everybody out here, but you have to read it!" He showed me the ins and outs of making those cuts and reads -- when to come around. Like when a guy plays under you, come around and take the jumper. And when a guy is playing you tight, you just go back door. Brad taught me how to play.

Monday Bullets

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
6:00
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Thursday Bullets

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
6:57
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • J.A. Adande and Sam Smith offer two evocative impressions on Scottie Pippen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.
  • Albert Lyu of Think Blue Crew has put together a series of compelling work on the blocked shot. Today he unveils part three, which examines which types of shots are most and least commonly blocked. Here's an interesting finding: "19.73% of all generic layups were blocked in 2007-2010."
  • Neil Paine of Basketball Reference's blog looks at how teams with unusually high turnover in personnel traditionally fare the next season. The post offers further evidence that watching the 1978-79 San Diego Clippers would've been a joyous ride.
  • A fine, fine blog post from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Cunningham after observing Larry Drew's assistant coach clinic. Not only did Cunningham get to watch Tyrone Hill play the role of Al Horford, but he witnessed a more fluid game plan than the one that the one Hawks fans were accustomed to: "For weeks L.D. has said his system would 'force the ball to move' and I get that now. Things happen so fast there’s not much opportunity for holding the ball. The screens and cuts happen quickly and if the first option is not there then the ball quickly swings the other way, leading to move movement. Not much possession time is spent on the one- or even two-man game. Each guy gets a chance to touch the ball at different spots on the floor. Decisions must be made quickly for things to flow correctly."
  • Trey Kerby of Ball Don't Lie visits with Kevin Durant. The interview gets off to a fun start: " Trey Kerby: I know you're going to deny it, but ... Kevin Durant: Then why are you going to ask? Why you have to ask me this, Trey? (laughing)."
  • The average ticket price for the Heat's home opener in Miami against Orlando? That will be $806 please. (Hat Tip: Magic Basketball) For the Bobcats home opener in Charlotte against Indiana on the same night, you can get into the lower corners for $51 per ticket.
  • There's little discernible excitement for Derrick Favors outside of New Jersey and specific precincts in Atlanta, but I'm not sure why. As Devin Kharpertian demonstrates through video, Favors is an explosive force with a soft touch around the rim. 20 percent of Favors' field goals at Georgia Tech came on dunks which, when you consider the Jackets' guard play, is worth noting.
  • Unlike Favors, Al Harrington is a known quantity, but his versatility still warrants examination. Fortunately, Jeremy Wagner has opened up the Roundball Mining Company Film Room for regular showings of Harrington's irregular game.
  • Rahat Huq of Red94, Ryan Schwan of Hornets247, Jared Wade of 8 points, 9 seconds and Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching gather around the virtual roundtable and discuss Wednesday's four-team trade. Huq has some interesting misgivings about Ariza's defense: "The issue of Ariza’s defense is a contentious one. His reputation precedes him, but his is a reckless, instinctual approach, garnering him gaudy steals totals but often leaving his teammates scrambling to rotate after blown coverage. Still, this manner can be conducive to forcing tempo if that’s your cup of tea."
  • The Hornets have long needed some help on the wings. Here's a stat pack from Hornets247 on how Ariza and Marco Belinelli can help.
  • Indy Cornrows breaks down Darren Collison's stellar rookie campaign.
  • Jeff Skibiski of Forum Blue & Gold on Shannon Brown: "Shannon’s insatiable appetite for scintillating dunks and seemingly endless energy has been one of the most exciting facets of the Lakers’ past two title teams. In many ways, I think this is what ultimately hurt Shannon more than anything in his disappointing dunk contest appearance. Like Kobe, Brown is more a jaw-dropping in-game dunker, which in my opinion, is a much more valuable skill set to have than the creative costume faire we’ve see at the past few All-Star Weekends. After the viral 'Let Shannon Dunk' campaign, his lackluster performance in the dunk contest was definitely a lowlight of last season, but I don’t think it’s indicative of much of anything as far as his play with the Lakers is concerned."
  • Roland Lazenby joins the Los Angeles Times' Lakers Roundtable to discuss Jerry West and the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team under coach Pete Newell.
  • Zarar Siddiqi of Raptors Republic: "[I]t’s easier to be a defensive specialist than it is an offensive weapon, the latter requires a degree of tangible skill like shooting, dribbling, creativity and finishing whereas playing defense is more about effort. I’m not suggesting that playing defense doesn’t require skill, but it’s a skill that is born of effort (which Doc Rivers swears is a skill). Got that?"
  • Nate Robinson's home court in Seattle.
  • Brandon Rush and DeMar DeRozan: Two native Angelenos with two different ideas of go-to joints. Advantage Rush, not only for restaurant choice but his willingness to order breakfast food in the middle of the day.

Breaking down the four-team trade

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
3:44
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Every acquisition has a cost, which is one of the bedrock principles of bartering. Unless you're purchasing Manhattan or annexing the Sudetenland, it's virtually impossible to get something for nothing. The NBA's trade market has three primary currencies in circulation: talent, cap relief and flexibility -- with the latter two linked to some extent. On Wednesday, Houston, New Orleans, Indiana and New Jersey cooperated on a blockbuster trade that saw each team forfeit assets in service of a larger goal.

Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesCourtney Lee will pick up some of Trevor Ariza's minutes in Houston.


Houston Rockets

Coming: Courtney Lee
Going: Trevor Ariza


On the surface, the deal for the Rockets appears to be a cost-cutting measure. Houston re-upped Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry this summer, while signing Brad Miller to a free-agent contract. Deep into luxury tax territory, the Rockets unloaded the remaining four years and $28 million on Ariza's deal in exchange for Nets guard Courtney Lee.

The Rockets' front office deeply believes the best value contracts in basketball are max deals granted to transcendent superstars, and rookie scale contracts belonging to productive young players. In Lee, the Rockets get a young wing who will earn only $1.35 million in 2010-11. In addition, the Rockets hold a team option on Lee for $2.23 million in 2011-12. That's real value for a 24-year-old with the talent to start. A $6.3 million trade exception doesn't hurt either.

Lee and Rockets starting shooting guard Kevin Martin train together in the offseason -- the latter regarded as an older brother to the third-year guard. Although Lee might not be the stopper Ariza is, he is capable of covering either guard position and can certainly tread water against some of the league's less dynamic 3-and-D small forwards. Lee will find strong organizational dynamics in Houston, similar to what he encountered during his rookie season in Orlando, where he succeeded. With Ariza's departure, the Rockets will have to figure out who picks up his minutes beyond Lee and whether that means experimenting selectively with Martin at the 3 spot.



New Orleans Hornets

Coming: Trevor Ariza
Going: Darren Collison and James Posey


The wing has been an enduring problem for the Hornets dating back to Desmond Mason, Bostjan Nachbar and J.R. Smith. Ariza might not rank on Chris Paul's list of the top 25 guys he most wants to play with, but the second Ariza puts on the teal, he'll instantly become the most athletic and versatile wing New Orleans has seen in recent years -- but at an enormous cost.

Collison has one of the best value contracts in basketball. He'll earn $1.3 million this season and carries team options for $1.46 million and $2.31 respectively over the subsequent two seasons. As a rookie, Collison played more than 2,000 minutes and compiled an impressive player efficiency rating of 16.55.

There's no guarantee Chris Paul will be sticking around New Orleans after his contract expires in the summer of 2012, and Collison's presence was a healthy -- and cheap -- insurance policy against that departure and any injury. Removing the remaining $13.4 million of James Posey's contract and the addition of Ariza's gifted -- but limited -- game seem to be an expensive bounty for a player with the potential to be very special and who is already contributing on a nightly basis.



Indiana Pacers

Coming: Darren Collison and James Posey
Going: Troy Murphy


"Point guard, Indiana Pacers" has been the NBA equivalent of "Drummer, Spinal Tap." The Pacers haven't been able to buy a break at the top of the floor for several seasons. Jamaal Tinsley, Anthony Johnson, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Jarrett Jack and, most recently, T.J. Ford and Earl Watson have all walked through the revolving door in Indianapolis.

A.J. Price, picked in the second round of the 2009 draft, showed some promise in his rookie campaign. But the acquisition of Collison finally locks down the point for the Pacers for the foreseeable future.

Normally, a salary like Posey's would be an onerous burden, but the Pacers have one of the cleanest spreadsheets in the league going forward -- only $18.8 million committed in 2011-12 before you tack on Posey's deal. The addition of Collison gives the Pacers the freedom to buy out Ford and not overpay for the services of Watson.



New Jersey Nets

Coming: Troy Murphy
Going: Courtney Lee


There's a pleasing symmetry to this deal, and it ends in Newark where Murphy arrives in exchange for the departing Lee. Murphy offers a lot of appeal for the Nets. First, he's in the final year of his contract, which will pay him a hair under $12 million in 2010-11. Second, he gives the Nets a stretch 4 who can crash the defensive glass and deliver smart interior passes, assets the Nets want alongside Brook Lopez's more traditional skill set.

What about No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors? The power forward out of Georgia Tech turned 19 the week following Orlando summer league. With Yi Jianlian moving down I-95 to Washington, there will be plenty of minutes for Favors in the Nets' frontcourt rotation.

The Nets will presumably fill the void left by Lee with a platoon of Terrence Williams, Anthony Morrow and Quinton Ross -- three players who share absolutely nothing in common. Williams' versatility and range of talents span the board. Meanwhile, Morrow could beat Ross in a shooting contest wearing a blindfold, but few players in the NBA can torment perimeter scorers the way Ross can.

Plenty of heroes in Houston vs. Denver

March, 16, 2010
3/16/10
10:50
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Holy cow, what a game. Denver's hoping to catch the Lakers for the West's top spot, while the Rockets are in "one game at a time" mode, praying to sneak in as the eighth seed. Everything was high octane.

John Hollinger's Playoff Odds give the Rockets a 4.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, and there were moments of this game where victory seemed about as attainable.

Things appeared a little hopeless for Houston; for instance, when they were down 11 points about three minutes into the fourth quarter and suddenly seemed unable to make a field goal. If you ignore a goaltend, their first real bucket of the fourth quarter came with 8:33 left.

I also felt it might have been Denver's game when the Rockets were up five and Trevor Ariza did a Ron Artest maneuver: Having not done much to help his team for a spell, he decided to "pitch in" by taking an ill-advised shot. With his team down five and less than a minute-and-a-half to go, Ariza clearly felt he had to earn his contract. Instead of running the offense, he nearly turned the ball over, then pulled up for the 3 that Carmelo Anthony invited him to take. He's a 32 percent 3-point shooter, and most players shoot that shot better off the catch or when they're wide open, not on the move and off the dribble. As the ball was airborne, the Nuggets must have felt good. But fortune smiled on the Rockets in this game, as they hope it will in the playoff hunt.

The highlights demonstrate the mastery of high-scorers Aaron Brooks and Carmelo Anthony (although they miss his best play, when he took every inch the defense gave and dunked to tie the game before Houston's game-winner) in this game. But there were other stories. Consider a series of Denver defensive miscues, including one that led to a Luis Scola three-point play in the final minute. And the game's many other heroes:
  • I don't know if there's such a thing as a defensive player getting "in the zone." But if there is, Anthony Carter was there early in the fourth quarter. With the Nuggets up five, Carter stole the ball from Brooks, blocked Scola from behind and poked the ball away from Kevin Martin. Remember, forced turnovers like that are far rarer than made shots -- three shots in quick succession is considered tremendous. Three live-ball turnovers ... that's ridiculous. All the while, Carmelo Anthony kept scoring, and the Nuggets built a lead that it seemed they might never relinquish. Eventually, the Nuggets cooled off, Chauncey Billups returned for Carter and the Rockets snuck back into the game. Carter sat through the meat of the fourth quarter, coming off the bench only to check Brooks on the final play after Billups fouled out. As I watched, I thought to myself: I bet Carter has a good plus/minus in this game, and sure enough, he led the Nuggets at plus-eight.
  • With about 35 seconds left in a game the Rockets led by two, Nene got great position in the lane against Scola. But he missed the shot and there was a scramble for the rebound. Nene was there, but it was mainly Scola and J.R. Smith. Scola, however, left no doubt that he wanted it more than anybody, and came up with the biggest board of the game.
  • Just as the Nuggets had a productive guard on the bench in crunch time, so did the Rockets. The Rockets essentially couldn't score at all for a period. Then Scola broke the ice, and Shane Battier got his first points of the game on two quick, huge 3-pointers. Then the Nuggets adjusted to Battier, and the Rockets looked lost for a moment, until Kyle Lowry went to work. Lowry is as tenacious a player as there is in the NBA, and in addition to hounding Billups on defense, he powered his way to the rim for two straight buckets to reinvigorate the Rocket offense, and keep the Nuggets within shouting distance. Brooks replaced Lowry with about four minutes left and keyed the win, but credit Lowry with making big plays at both ends, while keeping Brooks fresh for crunch time.

Monday Bullets

December, 28, 2009
12/28/09
5:20
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Bruce Bowen: NBA Archetype

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
1:57
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Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Kevin Pelton writes that Bruce Bowen's legacy is a complicated one -- charitable spirit, borderline dirty player, hopeful symbol for the undrafted and, of course ... 

I would also say Bowen brought a certain level of attention to the unglamorous work of defensive stoppers. Bowen wasn't the first player to gain accolades for individual perimeter defense, and he won't be the last. However, an entire generation of offensive-challenged defenders gets the luxury of the "next Bruce Bowen” tag, not unlike talented young swingmen in the post-Michael Jordan era. For a guy who took nearly a decade just to become the first Bruce Bowen, that's not bad at all.

That hyperlink to the "next Bruce Bowen" reveals 24,700 Google search results. For the record, the names include Trevor Ariza, Quinton Ross, Tony Allen, Corey Brewer, Ime Udoka, Kyle Weaver, Dahntay Jones, Justin Cage, Luke Walton, Marcus Dove, O. J. Mayo, Yakhouba Diawara, Paul Harris, and Gerald Henderson. And that's just the first 50 results.

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The construction of an NBA Summer League roster follows a certain blueprint: Start with draft picks and most of the second-year guys under contract. Throw in an undrafted rookie or two, some D-Leaguers, then the journeymen who've been bouncing around or playing overseas.

But how do organizations actually choose among the hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of players who exist in this talent pool?

We sat down with Sam Hinkie, the Rockets' vice president of basketball operations, to better understand how Houston's Summer League roster was put together.

"Gersson Rosas [the Rockets' director of player personnel] handles the heavy lifting in putting the team together," Hinkie said. "The rest of us weigh in heavily, but Gersson does most of the legwork."

The primary goal for a team?

"Figuring out who you want to learn about. Who can be an NBA player? That's the key," Hinkie said. "All of these players have some skill or something that's shown up somewhere that's caused us to say, 'There's a reason that guy can be in the NBA.'"

Winning is way down on the list of goals for the Rockets in Summer League play in Las Vegas.

"We want players who want to win," Hinkie said. "We want players who will lead to winning and they ought to impact winning on this level too, but winning here is the least of our concerns."

With that, we went through the Rockets' Summer League roster name by name, with Hinkie explaining the organization's rationale for each invitation:
Garrett Temple Garrett Temple: Will there be an NBA roster spot in his future? (Fernando Medina/NBA via Getty Images)
Garrett Temple
Hinkie: "He's a perfect example. He's a two-position, maybe three-position, defender. He's a massive winner. He's caught between positions."

For a big, combo guard like Temple who didn't work in the most generous system for his talents at LSU, Summer League offers the perfect laboratory to see what he can do at the point.

Hinkie: "It might take him a month. It might take him a few years in Europe. But if he can make that transition, he's an NBA player."

Wherever Temple ends us next year, the Rockets will continue to watch him.

Rod Benson
Hinkie: "He's killed in the D-League. That gets you a look. Guys who kill in the D-League end up on the Rockets' radar."

Jermaine Taylor

The Rockets drafted Taylor with the 32nd pick in this year's NBA draft out of Central Florida. The Rockets are curious to see what he can do against superior competition.

Brad Newley

The Rockets' drafted the Aussie swingman with the 54th overall pick in the 2007 draft. Newley has played in Greece each of the past two seasons.

Hinkie: "He's played well and is making big strides. He's one of our properties, so learning about him is important."

James White
Hinkie: "He's important to us. We invested in him last year, and he's got a chance to make our roster this year."

Aside from Tracy McGrady, the Rockets have only three wings at the moment -- Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier, and Brent Barry. Given the team's familiarity with White's game and, as Hinkie said, its previous investment in him, White will get a strong look.
Houston Rockets "Who can be an NBA player? That's the key," Sam Hinkie said. (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)
Mike Green
Hinkie: "A backup one who we've always been interested in. I think he'll be good for us here. Tough guy, winner, can rebound, can draw fouls, can create his own shots, but is also a pure point guard. He's a decent defender and can pressure the ball. Those are qualities we like and he's earned the right to be evaluated in an environment like this."

Chase Budinger
The Rockets drafted the Arizona forward with the 44th pick in this year's draft.

Will Conroy
Hinkie: "He killed in the D-League, and he was a legitimate one in college and is becoming more legitimate by the day. He's backup one ready and a guy who's a logical 10-day call-up."

To that end, Hinkie emphasized that it's important to be familiar with a player before you pick him up mid-season.

"When we put a guy on our roster, I don't want that to be our first look at him," Hinkie said. "Why not be in position where not only our staff weighs in, but our coaching staff can weigh in and say, 'He was good at this, or he struggled at this?' It gives us a chance to perform more due diligence."

Joey Dorsey
The Rockets selected Dorsey 33rd overall in the 2008 draft.

Maarty Leunen
Houston took Leunen with the 54th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He played last season in Turkey.

Charles Gaines
Hinkie had said that, as a general rule, the younger the player, the better in Summer League. Given that Gaines will be 28 before the year is up, I asked him why the team made an allowance in Gaines' case.

Hinkie: "He earned his way. He played really well in Europe. He came in a make-good Summer League situation. Even though we have a roster of guys with his sorts of skills, he's the kind of player we love -- rebounds his tail off, plays hard, is undersized and doesn't care."

Hinkie's answer sounded uncharacteristically sentimental for a Rockets' organization that bases every decision on empirical fact. I asked him if, in Gaines' case, the Rockets bowed to their love of his grit.

"The only sentimentality to Gaines is that he does the things we know are empirically valuable," Hinkie responded. "He just rolls hard. He just sets good screens. He just bodies guys at the elbow when they come down. He just tries to get every single rebound."

Hinkie draws a comparison between Chuck Hayes and Gaines. Like Hayes, Gaines knows his offensive limitations, so he resists shooting, making him a more efficient player.

"Gaines is a Houston Rocket," Hinkie concluded. " We might not have room for him, but he's earned his way."

Darryl Watkins
With Yao almost certain to miss the entire 2009-10 season, the Rockets are in need of size.

Hinkie: "He fits that need. He's young and getting better -- and we want to see how much better, and how quickly."
The Shawn Marion deal is grounds for cautious optimism for Dallas. The Antonio McDyess signing means that Spurs ownership will take a hit in the pocketbook. And the quasi-Trevor Ariza-Ron Artest swap in Houston stirs mixed emotions. 

Shawn MarionRob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "While the Mavs won't be confused with the SSoL Suns, it's still easy to see [Shawn] Marion fulfilling his same duties as a one-man fast break. But more than anything, the Mavs are somewhat reliant on the notion that putting more weapons around Marion will boost his effectiveness and his efficiency on offense. Marion was a second offensive option on his last two stops, but with the Mavs he moves a bit further down the totem pole. The Mavs have an elite scoring talent in Dirk [Nowitzki], but also boast shot-creators in Jason Terry and Josh Howard. The attention that those three draw should definitely relieve some of the pressure from Marion, but the question is: Will it be enough? ... It's hard to say exactly where the Mavs' moves thus far put them in the context of the Western Conference ... For every little flaw I've picked at in this post, this is still Shawn fricking Marion. Even Shawn's harshest critics would have to concede that Dallas improved as a result of this deal. For every minor issue Marion brings to the forefront, he solves a handful of others. While he may not fit like a glove, the acquisition of Marion is far from forcing a square peg into a round hole. Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban showed some creativity in getting Marion to Dallas, and now it's up to Rick Carlisle to show some creativity in getting him to excel here."

Peter HoltGraydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "By signing [Antonio] McDyess to the full Mid-Level Exception and [Marcus] Haislip to the full Bi-Annual Exception (most likely), the Spurs are now a solid $10 million over the line ... Peter Holt took a serious financial hit yesterday and he did so for the good of the franchise you love. It's hard to feel sympathy for a man whose net worth is counted not just in millions but in tens of millions, but compare Holt's situation to Mark Cuban's, whose net worth is presumed to be north of $2 billion, and you begin to recognize the commitment Holt is making to the franchise. When the Mavericks head into the luxury tax, Cuban hardly feels the prick of a pin. Holt and the rest of the Spurs ownership group commit a significant fraction of the franchise's net worth to the team's success. Mr. Holt's financial commitment to the team is significant to no one more than the 3 individuals we adore most: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. Whether by only requesting reasonable contracts or restructuring their contracts to allow the team to acquire the necessary supporting cast, over the last several years the big three have done their part to ensure the Spurs are in a position to compete for championships. By allowing the front office to take the steps they took today, Holt has kept up his end of the bargain."

Trevor ArizaAnup Shah of Rockets Buzz: "The wan, dreary days that have been the two weeks since the draft finally parted the clouds for a glimmer of hope today. The Rockets were granted an exception for Yao, and now Daryl Morey can make the moves to at least give the Rockets a chance next season. And with the money they got from the exception, the Rockets officially inked [Trevor] Ariza for $5.7 million and still have $5.7 million more to spend on someone else. The hype won't match that of a year ago, but it certainly allows the Rockets to be more proactive -- to, as much as I hate to say it, start thinking past the TMac-Yao era. Then there was this video I watched more than once today. You hear [Ron] Artest say how he 'always wanted to be a Laker' and that this decision was a 'no-brainer.' To Rockets fans, pull the knives out of your back and patch up that cut. If you watch this video, every time Artest shoots the ball, you'll see a teammate calling for the ball back. And you remember the bad that came with the good. The 4-for-21 nights. The nights Artest was NOT the facilitator of the offense. I don't know what the future holds for the Rockets this year, but it'll be something new, and fans have come to trust Daryl Morey's judgment."

THE FINAL WORD
3 Shades of Blue: A blogger-owner dialogue with Michael Heisley.
Knickerblogger: Smart breakdown of salary cap arcana.
Bucksketball: Free agent signings -- not all they're cracked up to be.

(Photos by Streeter Lecka, Noah Graham, Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rasheed in green. Ron-Ron in purple and gold. Trevor as LeBron's wingmate. Baby Davis as Duncan's understudy. The NBA offseason plunges down the free agency rabbit hole.

Rasheed WallaceZach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "[Rasheed Wallace] does everything Glen Davis does, but better (except for grabbing offensive boards) and he does a lot of things Glen Davis simply cannot do ... Glen Davis became a valuable offensive player last season because his jump shot helped the C's space the floor and gave defenses an extra threat to think about. Rasheed Wallace can do the same thing, except he can stretch the floor even further ... He will be able to spell both Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins for more extended stretches than any back-up big the Celtics have had since KG got here. That has enormous benefits. We still don't know how well KG's knee is going to hold up in, say, Game 52 of next season. He will also likely replace Kendrick Perkins in the team's crunch time line-up on a semi-regular basis. Truly, I believe signing Rasheed Wallace could have just as big an impact on the Eastern Conference hierarchy as Cleveland's deal for Shaq and Orlando's decision to trade for Vince Carter instead of signing Hedo Turkoglu."

Ron ArtestKurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "... the loss of [Trevor] Ariza saddens me. It has been amazing to see on this and other boards people dismissing Ariza -- those people must have a foggy memory of the playoffs and finals. The Lakers would not be champions without Ariza, who hit timely threes and did things on defense like frustrate Hedo Turkoglu that nobody else had done to Orlando before. And he was a player that had really grown on the court in the past year, we (or at least I) have a very fond spot for players we watch mature and develop in our team's uniforms. While I intellectually understand what happened, there is a bit of a mourning process. But we have to move on as fans. Ultimately, it will come down to me accepting [Ron] Artest, someone I had preached against the Lakers getting. While I don't like to be wrong, this is one of those moments for he as a fan when my heart must overrule my head. I have to root for Artest now, and that is an adjustment mentally. Don't get me wrong, I understand on paper just what a great fit Artest is in the triangle -- he adds another very versatile weapon to a team and system predicated on versatility ... But I don't think you can follow his history and just dismiss it as the meaningless past. I don't see how you can watch how he played in Houston ... or Sacramento or Indiana or Chicago and say with certainty be different this time. Change happens but it is almost always a tumultuous process. Like all of us, Artest is the sum of his past experiences, and at this point I think Artest largely is who he is."

James and ArizaJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Right now, all indications point to LeBron [James] staying, as they have for some time with his public statements. For Cavs fans, I don't think anyone's ever really fully wrapped their head around a scenario where LeBron would actually leave, so the status quo feels pretty much the same for me. But an alleged promise isn't a contract. A contract is a contract. I don't know LeBron personally. I don't know [Trevor] Ariza personally. I don't know this alleged 'source.' I'm not a mind reader. When he decides, he'll decide. Until the ink is dry, let's chill on this. Meanwhile, we were ready to throw core money at Ariza? He's kind of a taller Delonte clone with more size and less playmaking and shooting, isn't he? He's either a show starter at 2 and pushes Delonte to the bench or becomes an uber-Wally off the bench himself. 55 million dollars is not uber-Wally money. I'm confused by the logic on that one. This worries me that we're going to spend money just to spend it this off-season. Shaq's expiring, so he's harmless, but we've got one big signing left for the foreseeable future. Let's make sure it's the right guy."

THE FINAL WORD
Cowbell Kingdom: How would Carlos Boozer look in purple?
48 Minutes of Hell: Don't make room for Baby.
Warriors World: The case for Brandon Wright

(Photos by Ronald Martinez, Noah Graham, Harry How/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ron Artest supplants Trevor Ariza as the three-man in the Lakers' triangle. Celtics fans bid a wistful farewell to fan fave Leon Powe. And is Paul Millsap the right guy for OKC's front line? 

Artest & ArizaRob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "[Ron] Artest only makes sense offensively in situations where his skills can be utilized without damaging the team concept. Los Angeles, home of the triangle offense, is not that place. Artest's tendency to stop the ball, throw possessions into the wind, and take what can only be described as 'Ron Artest Shots' can't fly well with Phil [Jackson], with Kobe [Bryant], with Pau [Gasol], with Tex Winter, or with just about anyone who has come to know and love (or at least respect) the most dominant offensive unit in the game. The Lakers ... were able to dissect a fantastic defensive team in the Finals because the talent was there and the system was there. Artest brings plenty of one, but substitutes the other for generally poor basketball IQ and the possibility of going bonkers at any particular time. Sweet. On top of that, the Lakers seem to be severing their ties with Trevor Ariza. Signing Artest is doing more than showing Ariza the door. It's pushing him out, throwing his stuff out on the lawn, and handing Ron a molotov cocktail ... The true delight comes in the fact that Ariza could function within the system at a level we can never expect Artest to. Trevor made a habit out of deferring on offense, and perfecting a few offensive skills in his ability to hit the three from select spots and his tremendous finishes ... This team clearly competes at a different level with Ariza on the floor, and that's a credit to just how hard he's worked on his game."

Leon PoweZach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "I really hope Leon Powe knows how much Celtics fans like him and will miss him. We all know why that is -- the well-documented childhood difficulties, the never-ending series of knee injuries that seemed to happen right when he was turning a corner, and the way Leon responded to all of it by working even harder. He's a bit of a cliché fan favorite, actually -- the scrappy role player who overcomes personal and professional obstacles to contribute to a championship team. But let's talk about basketball. There was something that drew me to Leon Powe from the moment I saw him play: He's a bit awkward ... Leon is not pretty to watch. You see -- almost feel -- every bit of effort it takes him to put the ball on the floor, lower his shoulder into a taller defender and flick a one-handed shot toward the rim. He can't leap much without a head of steam, and he's not quick or explosive enough to beat his defenders with spin moves or dribble-drives ... He often pushed off with his left hand to create the minimal space he had. Every time he attacked the rim, I cringed, expecting an offensive foul. The shots, once released, look a bit like blind tosses toward something approximating the correct area of the rim or the backboard. And they always seem to bounce around the rim and off the backboard before going down. And they went down 52 percent of the time, and 57 percent of the time in the '08 championship season ... He is a graceless, below-the-rim player for the most part, and I love him for it."

Paul MillsapRoyce Young of Daily Thunder: "I think the organization sees Uncle Jeff [Green] as its power forward. But if they sign [Paul] Millsap, I guess we'll know they think differently. Unless of course Millsap is being signed just to take Nick Collison's spot, which would be great if the Thunder could sign Millsap for the same money they're paying [Nick] Collison. But that probably has about as much chance of happening as me getting a 10-day contract. Millsap is a nice player. He was excellent in Carlos Boozer's absence last year and that great play earned him what's sure to be a nice contract. But the Thunder's fairly stacked at power forward. Of course there are Green and Collison, but what about D.J. White who played just seven games last year? White looked pretty darn good in those games and with some added weight and a little refining, what's to say he's not going to be an excellent backup big man? Or even Serge Ibaka? He's coming over and playing in the summer league. Maybe he blows management away and makes the roster as an extra big. Now you're jammed full of power forwards, but one of them you just signed for five years and $40 million. To me, signing Millsap isn't a very [Sam] Presti-like move. It seems like a rushed, let's-get-better-right-now move instead of the planned, calculated progression Presti has had since he took over. Signing Millsap would make you either take some clothes to Goodwill or make you completely rearrange everything."

THE FINAL WORD
Bucksketball: An open letter to Detroit fans, re: Charlie V.
The Two Man Game: Welcome to the Big D, Marcin Gortat.
Orlando Magic Daily: A concrete-heavy photo tour of the Magic's new home for 2010-11. 

(Photos by Jeff Gross, Steve Babineau, Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

At draft time, one team's savior is another team's headache. Is "combo guard" a sticky label? And everyone loves Trevor ... but how much is he actually worth? 

Ricky RubioMatt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm: "[Ricky] Rubio has the potential to be a game-changer (so to speak) for certain teams. New York. Minnesota. Even the Clippers though Dunleavy will give up Griffin over his cold, dead body ... Rubio could be a true facillitator for the Wizards, a franchise player for the Kings, the next evolution for the Warriors, or the Nash Toronto wants but can't have. But to Memphis? He's a pain the ass that may decide to play chicken with them; a player that won't sell as many tickets as other players can (we've seen the way Memphis gets attached to awkward looking Spanish dudes), doesn't provide them an inside scorer, makes their investment in Mike Conley seem completely vapid, and generally is a terrible fit ... What compounds this nightmare scenario is how awesome drafting Tyreke Evans would be for them. Even with Conley on board, Evans represents an evolutionary step for the Grizzlies akin to the development of lungs. Versus Rubio, Evans has great size, can attack the basket with an almost religious ferver, will sell tickets being a Memphis U kid, if even for a year, and creates a sort of dark Horsemen aspect for the Grizzlies 1-2-3 combo. Rubio would be like trying to create a cheap knock off family theme park in Memphis."

Jeff TeagueRob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "For the most part, I try not to worry about position ... Team needs are often better defined as particular skills or even skill sets, and to boil that down to position alone essentially ignores a handful of options. That said, Jeff Teague's position terrifies me. He's obviously a pretty great talent, albeit one that could have benefited from more time playing college ball. He's going to be a fine scorer on the next level, and he's in no danger of slipping out of the first round. There's nothing inherently wrong with scoring 'point guards', provided they're surrounded with the proper accoutrements. The Mavs got a first hand look at a dynamite scoring point in Tony Parker. Jason Terry is another prime example. Unfortunately, both Parker and Terry are outliers; many other combo guards in the league are high volume scorers but also high volume shot takers (Ben Gordon, Monta Ellis, etc.). Many are turnover-prone, defensively inept, and lack the ability to set up even the most basic offensive sets under duress. I don't expect Teague to be an anomaly in the Parker/Terry/Gilbert Arenas mold. He'll score in the pros at a rate that'll pay the bills, but likely won't bring the average team any kind of sustained success. The Mavs want a point guard waiting in the wings when Jason Kidd finally hangs 'em up or leaves in free agency, but you don't leave the keys in the ignition for Jeff Teague. The dude is a shooting guard through and through, and one that can't defend opposing point guards particularly well."

Trevor ArizaDarius Soriano of Forum Blue & Gold: "Trevor Ariza has earned the right to remain a Laker. He's improved his game to the point that he's already the ideal Triangle small forward ... He's a defensive minded player that has shown he can shoot the three ball all while being mentally tough. He meshes well with Kobe [Bryant] and [Pau] Gasol, moves well off the ball, and has shown a high basketball IQ in picking up our sets on both offense and defense. If he makes some small improvements to his game ... he'll be a true force on a perennial contender. Everyone knows my bias towards Lamar [Odom]. But, I'm just as fond of Ariza. I think (along with Kobe, Gasol, [Andrew] Bynum, and Odom) he's one of our best five players. And just as I've said about LO, we need this player. After all the growth we've seen from Trevor, it'd be a shame to see him truly blossom with another team. I understand that there are aspects to retaining Ariza that are out of the team's control. I also understand the financial implications to keeping both of Ariza and Odom. But, in the end, I think this team deserves the chance to defend its title. In a way, I'd feel cheated if we didn't get to make at least one more run with this entire group in tact. I can only hope the front office and ownership group feel the same way."

THE FINAL WORD
Daily Thunder: What makes a draft bust?
Nets Are Scorching: A Twitterview with Terrence Williams.
The Painted Area: Jonas Jerebko might be the second international player off the board. 

(Photos by Josep Lago, Streeter Lecka, Kevork Djansezian/AFP & NBAE via Getty Images)

Thoughts, euphoria, grudging respect, and sober analysis of the Lakers' 15th NBA Championship from around the TrueHoop Network:

TrophyRob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "Focusing on individual storylines and details can be a fantastic enterprise, but in this case I truly think it disservices the bigger picture: the Lakers kicked ass in these playoffs. They forgot who they were for a minute against the Rockets, but on the whole we've seen some terrific basketball from L.A. Good enough, in fact, that today I don't care to think about Phil [Jackson] vs. Red [Auerbach], or what this means for Kobe [Bryant] in the grand scheme of things. We've got a long summer ahead of us, and there will be plenty of time for that. What I want today is a proper acknowledgment that the Lakers weren't just a really, really good team, but one that happened to trump the Magic with superior will ... Look, nobody is crazy about the idea of the Lakers winning it all. But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate, in typical playoff fashion, the last thing that we saw. We saw a better team execute at an incredible level against an elite defense, we saw the elevation of games on a personal and team-wide level, and we saw the Lakers perform in a manner all series long that should remove any doubts to their worthiness. The Lakers accomplished a singularly great thing last night: a pretty damn good team playing to its potential. As such, we should appreciate their accomplishment with blinders on. Phil's tenth, Kobe's first P.S., that all can wait. This is a day for the Lakers as a team/organization and Los Angeles as a city, as it'd be a pity for this singular success to be overlooked."

LakersZephid of Forum Blue & Gold: "Ah, so this is the sweet taste of victory. Winning the NBA championship, cheering our team to the pinnacle of this sport. But, it is not the victory that brings us sweetness. It is the long 82 game regular season, all 23 games played in this postseason, all the rigors of this season. It is the tough December losses, the mental break-downs in January, the beautiful road streak in February, the frustrating losses in March. It is the Christmas game, the back to back @Boston, @Cleveland games. It is the leads given up against Utah, the blowout against the Yao-less Rockets, the home loss against Denver. It is the Game 7 victory against Houston, the Game 6 closeout in Denver, and this closeout here in Orlando. It is [Derek] Fisher's struggles and redemption, Lamar [Odom]'s excellent form, break-down, injury, and now return to form. It is Andrew [Bynum]'s coming out, injury, and coming back as a role player. It is [Pau] Gasol and Kobe's consistency and fire. It is Sasha [Vujacic]'s shooting woes, Jordan [Farmar]'s struggles, Luke [Walton]'s benching, [Trevor] Ariza's development, and [Josh] Powell's bad hands. It is the pain of last year's Finals loss, Boston's Game 4 comeback, the 39 point blowout in Game 6. It is the entire journey, with all its pain, suffering, joy, jubilation, frustration, relief, and exuberance, that makes this victory sweet."

Orlando MagicZach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "I don't feel any sense of disappointment, frustration or regret. How can you? The Lakers easily mulled through the Magic to capture their 15th championship, and they did so in dominating fashion it.There's not a person in the world who can say the Magic are better than the Lakers. And when you can say that, losing hurts a lot less. The sting especially softens when your team didn't fail because of dumb turnovers, poor coaching or lack of effort. None of that was the problem. The Lakers were simply better than the Magic ... The Magic simply couldn't trade punches with the Lakers, who are too good, too deep and too versatile. They're built with the ability to counter anything the Magic could throw at them. And they're killers - when they see blood, they attack. The Magic's only hope was to shoot 62 percent like they did in their only win of this series. That wasn't happening tonight. Toward the end of the second quarter, as the Lakers completed a 16-0 run that wiped out a hot Magic start, it was clear. The players, coaches, and fans of both teams knew it was only a matter of time till this thing was over ... It was beginning to sink in. The Lakers were going to win the NBA championship on Orlando's home floor."

Lamar OdomM. Haubs of The Painted Area: "Let's take a second to remember a key moment in the Lakers' championship season, back in preseason in October when Phil Jackson commented that he wanted Lamar Odom to come off the bench - clearly the best move for the ball club. Andrew Bynum could play a larger role as a starter, and the versatile Odom was the perfect guy to run the show for the second team, and of course he'd have plenty of opportunity to play with the first unit as well ... Odom balked at the bench role ever so briefly in October, before accepting it with essentially not a peep of dissatisfaction the rest of the season (though the Bynum injury did get him back into the starting lineup for a good chunk of the season). By accepting a lesser role, Odom placed the good of the team ahead of his own self-interest in terms of trying to maximize the dollars he could command as a free agent, and that acceptance was a key element of L.A.'s season ... It is sacrifices like these, up and down the roster, that championships are made of. A key to San Antonio's run has been Manu Ginobili's sacrificing multiple All-Star appearances by accepting a role with lesser minutes, which keep his stats artificially low. And now Odom's acceptance of lesser minutes in a free-agent year has helped put L.A. over the top, and he deserves praise for it."

THE FINAL WORD
By the Horns: Congratulations, Phil.
Cavs the Blog: Are the Magic next year's favorites?
Valley of the Suns: The Shaq rumors are percolating. 

(Photos by Andrew D. Bernstein, Emmanuel Dunand, Ronald Martinez, Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

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