Chat with Ric Bucher
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN NBA reporter Ric Bucher stops by to give you his thoughts on the latest news from the court.
Bucher joined ESPN in January 1999 as a San Francisco-based senior writer covering professional basketball for ESPN The Magazine, and as an NBA reporter for SportsCenter and NBA Fastbreak. Bucher also contributes to ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join Bucher Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Ric Bucher (1:01 PM)
Hello, everybody. First of all, let me compliment those of you who got your work in early. That's what the good ones do. Lots of solid questions already lined up. A word to the wise: if you really want a question answered, send it 15-30 minutes before the session starts. I have time to look through them and be selective. Once we get started the pace is maddening and I'm grabbing from whatever page is in front of me. With that -- ding! ding! ding! -- let's get started...
If that was the two best teams in the west playing each other last night then the West isn't very strong. I'm still not sold on the Spurs. If they are playing a motivated Lakers team how can they hold up inside the paint against them??
C.J. (San Diego)
Is it just me or does the Eastern Conference enormously lack depth of talent compared to the Western Conference?
Ric Bucher (1:03 PM)
Isn't it beautiful how everyone sees the world through their own prism?
Ric Bucher (1:05 PM)
To answer the first question about the Spurs: yes, the Lakers' length still gives them a huge advantage over San Antonio. The Spurs can't play appreciably better than they are right now. They used to have a style that you didn't want to face in the postseason. That's less the case now. Duncan is, essentially, David West, as in a jump-shooting PF/C. That's not what wins playoff games.
Bukes, saw you at the Nets/Nuggets game Monday night looking sharp as always! I think Denver dropped the ball, and is going to be uber-desperate come the week of the deadline. Any chance that the Nets can work a deal in which they don't include Favors? And would that change Melo's potential stance on signing an extension with the Nets? Thanks Ric.
Ric Bucher (1:09 PM)
JD, like myself, doesn't know how to put umlauts on vowels. If anyone out there knows the trick, please let us know.Denver would love to do a deal with New Jersey. That's not what this is about. Nor is it about Melo not thinking NJ is good enough for him. He has been put in a completely unfair position, because he never brought up New Jersey. He has one team in mind: the Knicks. That's where he'd like to play. Others -- the Nuggets, Melo's reps -- have muddied the water, but he's the one who has to answer for it.Ultimately, what I'm hearing is that the likeliest scenario now is that he doesn't get traded until, A) after the season to the Knicks or B) simply signs with them as a free agent.
What shooting guards are available at the trade deadline that could really make the Bulls legit contenders in the East, and what would they have to give up? It seems to me this is the final piece that they are missing, a guy that can knock down deep shots but also handle the ball if necessary to take pressure off of D Rose.
Do you see the Bulls picking up a SG at the Trade Deadline? If so, who do you think it will be?
Ric Bucher (1:11 PM)
The Bulls might pick up a 2-guard before the trade deadline, but it's not going to be a difference-maker. They have been unbelievable, thanks largely to DRose. With Noah and Boozer both healthy and fit, they can only get better. A first-rate 2 is in the mail.
Could you see the Cavs trading for Greg Oden? Blazers can't be happy paying $14 mil in luxury tax for a likely 1 and done playoff team. I feel like it'd be a decent risk for Cavs to get him & hope for the best with his recovery. I mean, if he could be a solid starting Center for the 2012-13 Cavs
Ric Bucher (1:15 PM)
That's not a bad idea. I'm surprised the Cavs haven't used their trade exception or tried to make some other deal. When your team's confidence is shaken the way theirs is, sometimes you need to just rearrange the furniture. Maybe they're hoping this torture will do for their young guys what that 3-21 start -- or whatever it was -- did for the Thunder a couple of years ago.
sim (los angeles)
Do you think the lakers need a trade
Ric Bucher (1:17 PM)
I said last summer my chief concern about the Lakers was that they were trying to ride the same core to a fourth consecutive title. The prospect of that task contributed to Jordan retiring. Twice. I don't see a trade that changes things at this point. They're an execution team and I don't see a way to bring in a guy and get him grooved between now and April. Lakers fans have to hope Derek Fisher and Ron Artest have more left than they've been able to show. One other disappointment: Steve Blake. I and everyone else in the league thought he'd have a bigger impact.
Gary (Los Feliz)
Rumors and rumors, how likely is it that the Lakers will make a trade? If so, which players will be involved? Artest/Bynum or Odom/Bynum? Thanks Ric!
Ric Bucher (1:21 PM)
Gasol is the player I would've moved. Wonderful player. But he would get you back the most and there are certain players in the league that intimidate him. And they happen to be on the team the Lakers would have to beat to win another title. That, and his motivation seems a bit sapped in a belly-full-with-2-rings sort of way.
Ric Bucher (1:21 PM)
Let's go rapid fire so I can hammer through a few. Next 10 minutes...
Maxwell (Los Angeles)
After months of Carmelo chatter, I have to admit: I'm bored of him. Since his game hasn't done well under the microscope, he's now more obviously a second-tier superstar. Bummer.
Ric Bucher (1:22 PM)
Riiiiight. Clearly, he was never under the microscope before.
D-Rose will be the MVP, admit it.
Ric Bucher (1:23 PM)
You have me confused with someone else. I ordered the "Rose for MVP" placards.
Hi Ric, how does Tim Duncan make the ASG over LaMarcus Aldrige? Even the fans (in their voting) knew that Tim Duncan was not deserving of that honor this year. You think the coaches put him in by a "force-of-habit"?
Ric Bucher (1:24 PM)
Starting your argument by citing fan voting is not getting off on the right foot. Spurs have the best record in the league. Duncan is still the most integral player on that team. End of story.
Do you see the Pacers making the playoffs?
Ric Bucher (1:25 PM)
No. I don't know Frank Vogel, but I don't see him leading a revival. And I'm just not sold on their talent.
Wally (Lansing, IL)
Are you going to Bulls-Dubs??
Ric Bucher (1:25 PM)
Who do you see getting bought out after the trade deadline?
Ric Bucher (1:26 PM)
Likeliest is Antawn Jamison. Cavs will try to deal him, but if it doesn't happen I would expect a buyout. And the team likeliest to sign him after that is New Orleans right now. They need a stretch 4 and he would be perfect.
rene martin (boston, ma)
why are the okc. thunder preforming at a lower level than last year, when they've lost nobody?
Ric Bucher (1:28 PM)
Simplest answer: they've become accomplished scorers and think they can win that way and are not playing defense at the same level they did when they thought that was the only way they could win. That and, as Westbrook has blown up, the connection between him and KD has not evolved in a great way. That and the expectations are so much higher.
what are the chances blake griffin leaves the clippers after his rookie contract and joins KD and the thunder?
Ric Bucher (1:30 PM)
Don't see it. Thunder will have to commit financially to a number of guys before then that will prevent them from getting him as a FA. But it's a nice thought.
Matt (Seattle, WA)
Since there are no Sonics... I am unfortunately a Jazz fan... can they get anyone servicable for AK and maybe throwing in Bell or Hayward?
Ric Bucher (1:32 PM)
Bell has no trade value. You're not going to get anything back for AK that's going to make your team better. I do know a few people in the league that believe Hayward is a player, but you'd be selling him on the cheap since he hasn't had a chance to show it.
Hi Ric, Thibs has done a great job in Chicago but is he riding Rose and Deng too much? Doesn't he know Deng's injury history?
Ric Bucher (1:33 PM)
When your team is as minimally talented as the Bulls, you can't worry about saving guys from injury. Deng and Rose are two of their best defenders, so I imagine that's why he had them in at the end of the game.
Ric Bucher (1:35 PM)
And, yes, you read that right: Rose is one of their better defenders. Thibs, a defensive guru, now uses him as his stopper at the end of games. A role Rose would accept for longer stretches but Thibs is being judicious.
Do your friends ever just stop and call out "Bucher? Bucher? Bucher?" in a Ben Stein kind of voice?
Ric Bucher (1:35 PM)
How did you know?
Brian Z (Chicago, IL)
Hey Ric. Before the season people (critics, media, reporters) said that the Bulls ceiling was a second round playoff match-up. Now, I am hearing folks say Eastern Conference Finals. Do you think by the end of the season folks will be saying potential NBA finals participant, or are they still a few years away?
Ric Bucher (1:37 PM)
I don't see anybody getting past Boston in the East. But I like their chances of getting to the conference finals. All depends on who they have to go through and how healthy they are. But I've liked them as a conference finals' darkhorse since training camp.
Ric Bucher (1:38 PM)
Rapid fire over, but I'm going to hold myself to three sentences or less. I feel as if I'm lagging today. Am I lagging? Jolt of java and let's go!
Pierre (New York)
Is it really that hard to play basketball when your name is in trade rumors. Every player gives the same cliche answer of how the NBA is a business and their still focus on playing but when you see them they don't play with that mentality. What do you think?
Ric Bucher (1:42 PM)
It is. Keep in mind the age of the players involved. No one wants to admit they're afraid for their future, so they'll say they're playing through it. Truth is, if you had landed your dream job in your early 20s and you started hearing you were going to be sent somewhere else, it would mess with your head. Teams preach loyalty and all-for-one and a young guy buys in; until he learns the hard way they want *my* loyalty, but it's not a two-way street.Also understand that playing basketball at the NBA level requires a concentration and focus unlike anything most of us have experienced. One slip and you're getting exposed and possibly embarrassed on national TV. Turn your head, forget your rotation or to protect the ball or the proper cut for just a split-second and you've mucked up the works.
Ric Bucher (1:43 PM)
Anyone who suggests that because they get paid a lot they should be hyper-focussed has, quite simply, never been a high-pressure situation. Because money doesn't enter into it. Maturity, preparation and experience do.
Tim Duncan (SA)
I have 4 rings, am the top Big on the best team in the league (record-wise), and still people are questioning my merits to be an All-Star over Kevin Love? Ridiculous...
goyo. keizer, or [via mobile]
Why didn't Lamarcus Aldridge make it to the All-star? His team is better, they just beat the best team on Tuesday. Is it like high school all over again, where the popular choice gets picked over the better player? Aldridge has paid his dues, has had to overcome a heck of a lot more?
Ric Bucher (1:49 PM)
LA has not paid his dues. This is really the first time he's stepped up and been the player he's long been capable of being. I'm a huge KLove fan, but I heard a debate today about how Tony Parker is better than Manu because his shooting percentage is higher. This is where comparing stats drives me nuts. Is it fair to Manu to question his FG percentage when he's asked to take more pressure shots and has defenses geared more toward him than the other guy? No knock on TP, but the idea that he's better than Manu is just bizarre. No one in the Spurs' organization or the league would try to make that claim. TP is the guy opposing teams attack at the end of games; Manu is the guy to whom the Spurs hand the ball. Trust me, SA knows what these guys are shooting and what their efficiency is. As do opposing teams. So when they do certain things, it's not out of "habit." It's because that's what gives them the best chance for success.
Mike J (Greensboro nc)
I noticed you have not mentioned Lebron in this chat and I am sure it's because you hate him and refuse to take any questions about the heat or Lebron. Will he win a third straight MVP?
Ric Bucher (1:51 PM)
Actually, I've been shocked at how few Heat questions there have been. I don't think he'll win a third MVP. I don't hate LeBron. Nor the Heat. I'm just going to tell you what I see and because it's not what some Heat fans apparently want to believe they have, that means I must hate them. It tickles me to no end, but there it is.
Roger (Littleton, CO)
I believe Larry Coon wrote in a recent article for ESPN that trading Melo after the season really isn't an option for a bunch of reasons unless it's a sign and trade in free agency (if that still exists in the new CBA). Are the Nuggets really willing to risk losing Melo for nothing?
Ric Bucher (1:53 PM)
It's not the ideal situation, for sure, but it still can be done. And, yes, from what I've heard, the Nuggets might just be willing to let him walk for nothing. Depriving him of the bigger paycheck would be their moral victory. Besides, what can they do if Melo isn't going to sign an extension as part of the deal?
Thomas (Geneva, Switzerland)
I love the job that Thibodeau has been doing. However, I noticed something in the Clips game that had me worried. With the Bulls up by 18 points with 1:31 left in the game Thibodeau left Rose and Deng in the game. Why? The game was already won. Del Negro pulled Griffin and Foye from the game. Thibodeau risks those guys getting injured. It didn't happen. Thank god. But it could have. Most coaches take their best players out when the game is already decided to rest them and to prevent injury. Why doesn't Thibodeau?
Ric Bucher (1:55 PM)
I will say this about that: Thibodeau has been known to lose track of guys and the minutes they're playing. He did it filling in for Doc in Boston and he's done it a few times this year. His thinking about the game during the game is simply in other places. You are right about one thing: that they are one of the best defensive teams in the league is a testament to his coaching. Because this is not a hugely talented defensive team, individually.
If the Melo trade doesn't go through by the dead line does NY still get a #1 from Minny for Randolph?
Ric Bucher (1:57 PM)
I would think not. My sense is that a deal like that would be made after the draft lottery, when everyone knows exactly where those picks sit and the players available to be selected. Why deal for the unknown vs. the known?
Josh (New York)
Do you see a Kaman-Iguodala trade happening?
Ric Bucher (1:58 PM)
No. It's slipping my mind as to exactly what I heard, but the upshot of it was that Kaman wasn't likely to be dealt.
What can detroit get for Rip and or Tay?? Okur?? Ak 47? Kamen??
Ric Bucher (1:59 PM)
Sounds like desperate times in Detroit. You can get a lot for Tay, less for Rip. But your biggest problem is you don't have an owner, so it's nearly impossible for Dumars to do a deal unless it's a money-saving one. That's why you're not likely to see Rip bought out. Kathy Davidson -- hope I got that name right -- isn't cutting that check because she's saving someone else money by doing it.
You probably don't think LeBron is the best and most complete player in the league either..right?
Ric Bucher (2:03 PM)
Most gifted player, without question. Most complete? No. Too many holes in his game, technically. Decision-making still very suspect. Still takes a lot of plays off or settles. He can be the most dominating player and is, at times. But it comes and goes. When challenged, he answers his critics, as he did vs. Orlando. But then he'll dial it back down again. Just not convinced the competitive fire burning inside him is hot enough to win a championship. But we'll see.
Myk (Seattle, WA)
You always say that Rose is the MVP because of his weak supporting cast. Do you actually watch NO games? One of the worst supporting casts I've seen in a long time.
Ric Bucher (2:05 PM)
If Paul had been playing without David West for half the season and Okafor for the other half AND NO had a better record, we'd have reason to have this discussion. But they didn't and they don't. Next...
Frustrated fan (USA)
Why are the majority of your questions being answered about the Bulls? There are 29 other teams. Spread the wealth. I'm sorry, but this has been a poor quality chat compared to Hollinger's yesterday. You're an obvious Chicago Homer, and that's fine, but remember this is a National website.
Ric Bucher (2:06 PM)
That's what is filling the box. But let me hunt around, give an extra five minutes and this will be a Bulls-free zone from here on out...
matt (long beach)
Do you think David Stern chooses Kevin Love as the injury replacement for Yao? He is having a monster year and it's not his fault he's stuck in Minnesota.
Ric Bucher (2:09 PM)
I don't know how David is going to play that one. I fully expected him to exert his executive privilege to limit Blake to the rookie-soph and dunk contest. That way he sells the heck out of those two events -- everyone knowing that's their only shot to see Blake -- and spreads the wealth in Sunday's tilt. Love is an LA guy and he does come from a market that assuredly could use the pub, so...I'd be good with either Love or LA. I'd make another push for Odom, but it's hard after he failed to box out McDyess last night. I know it's one play in a long season and he has been their second-best player overall, but it just didn't have a very All-Star-ish look to it.
DO you think the suns will make any move that will not involve Nash. They need a good powar forward.
Ric Bucher (2:11 PM)
They do, but I actually like the way they've played the last week or so. Their defense appears to be markedly improved, holding Boston and Milwaukee to under 40 percent shooting. As I posed in this week's debate, I see them sneaking into that 8th spot.
Demarcus Cousins = future all star??
Ric Bucher (2:13 PM)
Just because I was accused of not taking any Kings' questions last week: yes. Though not as many times as he probably should be. As it was with Sheed, so is it likely to be with DeMarcus. He might be a head case, but goodness gracious is he talented. I have a soft spot for knuckleheads who don't seem malicious, just misguided. He's certainly in that category right now.
Lupica actually found a perfect description for Dolan in his column about Walsh: Only a complete idiot, about basketball and basketball New York and the Knicks and the Garden, would even think about letting him go. Agree?
Ric Bucher (2:14 PM)
i'm a huge Donnie Walsh fan. Great human being, very good manager. He's done wonders to clean up that organization in a relatively short time.
Bucher > Simmons! Hope that gratuitous brown-nosing is enough for you to take my question. The Mavs really needs a three like Tayshaun who can fill the offensive void while being able to play defense. What could they give to get a player like that? Do you think Caron's expiring and a 1st rounder be enough?
Ric Bucher (2:17 PM)
Congratulations -- it worked. Then again, that's not news to anyone in this chat. Right, my people? Mavs can't get Tay because Detroit can't take on money and, let's face it, the Pistons are actually not out of the playoff race in the east and Tay is a big reason why. Points off, though, for sending it multiple times. Just noticed. You won't get through next time.
Did you really just say Gasol should be traded because he is intimidated by Boston? The same Gasol who outrebounded Garnett 18-3 in last years game 7? I thought that myth had been officially put to rest...
Ric Bucher (2:18 PM)
Was that the game Perk missed? Yes, yes, I believe it was.
Last person, up until last nights 'magic"al performance from LBJ, to put up a 50,11,8 line?? Jordan. Ok ric so the Decision was a mistake, but for that you wont give lebron his third (and deserved) MVP!!?
Ric Bucher (2:18 PM)
For one game? Uh, no.
JJ Hickson, Trade or Building block?
Ric Bucher (2:23 PM)
Can't leave my good people in Cleveland completely out: trade. This was the perfect situation for him to step up and be a monster. He has been way too inconsistent to be a building-block 4 in this league. Technical skills, OK, I'll give a young guy time to pick those up. Toughness and energy, when you're trying to make the grade? If not then, when? And with that, I have to cut out. Always enjoy it. Hope you did, too. Will be doing next week's chat after chopping it up with Skip and everyone else on First Take next Friday. Tune in and then swing over to the chat room for refreshments. Til next week...