Saturday, February 14, 2009
All-Star Saturday notebook
By John Hollinger
PHOENIX -- A few more notes from Phoenix before I head out for the D-League All-Star Game and then try not to get killed by the city's silent but deadly light rail when I walk over to the Saturday night events:
• A while back I was talking to another exec about the Bulls, and he mentioned that he didn't think Bulls general manager John Paxson was a lifer. He meant this in a good way, that Paxson had lots of outside interests and was a well-rounded person rather than a compulsive hoophead. Given that background, I don't find Friday's rumors of Paxson's stepping down at some point in the near future terribly surprising.
The impression I was given was that Paxson would try to quickly get the Bulls back to a point where he could walk away satisfied. If he were to pair Amare Stoudemire with Derrick Rose, I'd think he'd be in a position to do that; right now, the Bulls' offer of Tyrus Thomas, Thabo Sefolosha and the expiring contracts of Drew Gooden and Cedric Simmons appears to be the leader in the clubhouse as we approach Thursday's trade deadline.
• As far as lukewarm endorsements of an embattled coach go, "We have not made that decision" has to rank right near the top. That's what Suns owner Robert Sarver told our Marc Stein on Friday night; short of saying, "Hang on, we're still writing the press release," I'm not sure what he could have said that would have inspired less confidence in Terry Porter's prospects for keeping the job.
Incidentally, if assistant Alvin Gentry does succeed Porter as many speculate, I think that would be a solid hire by the Suns. They don't have the bank to go after the Van Gundys or the Avery Johnsons of the world, and Gentry did reasonably well in his past three head coaching gigs. His first orders of business, obviously, would be to increase the emphasis on the Stoudemire-Steve Nash combo offensively (at least if Stoudemire is still there) and to get the team to guard with more zeal.
• I was so hung up on analyzing the short-term implications of the Heat-Raptors trade yesterday that I sidestepped this little nugget: By making the deal, Toronto put Miami in great position to make a run at Chris Bosh. This is an odd thing, of course, since he's Toronto's best player.
Bosh will be a free agent in 2010, and making this trade cuts Miami's summer of 2010 obligation by about $5 million (the amount the departed Marcus Banks was owed); additionally, it let the Heat convert Shawn Marion's 2009 expiring money into Jermaine O'Neal's 2010 expiring money. And Miami, with its balmy weather, superstar shooting guard and lack of state taxes, would appear to be a very alluring destination.
Of course, the Raptors may have figured, "What's one more?" Several of the league's vultures were already circling around Bosh, most notably the Knicks, and regardless of who else is competing for him, the Raptors can offer him $30 million more over the life of the deal if he stays in Canada. Besides, one presumes that the Raptors might trade Bosh before he ever becomes a free agent if it comes to the point where it's obvious he's leaving -- in which case the Heat's cap space can't hurt them anyway.
• Jeff Green made the go-ahead 3 for the sophomores last night, and it underscored one of the big changes in his game this season. Last season he would hesitate any time he was left open on the perimeter and often failed to convert when he did get the nerve to shoot it. This season, he's not even thinking about it and letting it rip.
Green credits a summer of hard work on his jump shot in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas with teammate Kevin Durant, giving Green the confidence to fire away.
He's arguably the most improved shooter in the league, hitting 41.5 percent from downtown after making only 27.6 percent a year ago; from midrange he has also been more successful, and he's shooting it from those distances far more willingly.
"It opened up every aspect of my game," said Green, who says he now has more options to drive and post up. That isn't reflected just in his shooting percentages; it's also apparent in his turnovers. With opponents no longer laying off him to guard against the drive, Green has already scored more points in 300 fewer minutes than he did all of last season -- and he's done it while cutting his turnovers by nearly a third.
• Durant or Greg Oden? The question has rarely looked more lopsided than it did last night, when Durant was raining 46 on the poor rookies while Oden sat out with a bum knee. The Blazers undoubtedly will take some flak for this, so it's important to remember that while some of us who shoot spitballs from the sidelines were campaigning for Durant to go No. 1 in the 2007 draft, every executive I talked to said they would take Oden. All of them.
So far, the health issues have prevented him from achieving close to his ceiling, but he has played far better in the past two months, and as he continues to recover from last year's microfracture knee surgery he should be one of the league's most productive centers. Whether he'll ever match Durant's output, however, remains very much in question.
|Jeff Green is showing a lot more confidence in his outside shooting this season.|
John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.