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 (1:03 PM)
Hey there, thanks for joining me. Give me one more minute to queue up a few more of these early questions and we'll get started.
Ric Bucher (1:09 PM)
Let's start with a mea culpa...
Ric Bucher (1:09 PM)
No, it's not going to have anything to do with MVP or COY...
Ken (Bay Area, CA)
Hey Ric Bucher, I just watched you on Sportscenter this morining as I respect your opinion about Lakers team to beat. I'm a Spurs fan so atleast get your facts straight you said the lakers are up 2-1 in season series and you said Lakers killed Spurs twice but actually Spurs are up 2-1 and blew the Lakers out in first San Antonio game!!! Thanks for ruining my morning with false info. GO SPURS!
Tommy (Jacksonville, FL)
On sportscenter 4/6 you were saying that the only time the Spurs beat the lakers was a last minute tip in, otherwise there have been blowout wins by the lakers. Make sure you have your history straight before talking on TV, the spurs are 2-1 vs the lakers this year with on of the wins being a spurs blowout.
Ric Bucher (1:12 PM)
Apologies. I did my own research on that one, quickly, before I went on and screwed up. Served as a reminder to double-check my stuff with the real researchers before I go on. Glad you guys are paying attention. Now, onward...
i know ur not a stat head but y do u think team fg% is down from the 80's is it because of bad shoot selection, too much iso, lack of skill?
Ric Bucher (1:14 PM)
A lot has changed. Illegal defense rules were abolished being one. But I'd say mostly it's the time teams put into defense and the use of technology. A player can get a DVD of every pick-and-roll a particular opponent has run from any place on the floor. Players themselves put far more time into being good defenders.
Is it safe to say that Kurt Thomas would never have stood over Big Baby like he did last night if Perkins was still wearing green? Should Celtics fans be VERY worried that no one so much as stood in between Big Baby and Big Sexy? As a Bulls fan I love it and it told me everything I need to know about the Celtics' toughness and unity.
Ric Bucher (1:17 PM)
I had a charity game to play and dinner meeting with one of my editors, so I missed the game. But the Celtics -- KG, in particular -- clearly lost a lot of their toughness when they dealt Perkins. It's very much like the Lakers without Andrew Bynum: they can still win, but the margin of error is much thinner and makes them far more of a finesse team. Never thought I'd compare KG to Gasol in that regard but there you go.
Ric, the last person you'd probably expect a question on is Joel Anothny, so I'm going to do just that. Has there ever been anybody in the league with worse hands? I don't understand why he can't catch the ball. I mean, if you just throw basketballs at him at practice the whole time he's bound to learn how to catch, right?
Ric Bucher (1:21 PM)
I'm answering this because it brings up a point rarely discussed when it comes to big men. We make a big deal about their height and weight and wing span when those mitts are the true difference maker. I don't know specifically why Anthony struggles, but there have been plenty of bigs with small hands. It's a curse. Dampier, conversely, does have big hands but he has some sort of circulation problem -- so I've been told -- that impacts his grip.
frank (North Caronlina)
why are all of the reporters that cover the knicks so convinced that walsh is not coming back. Maybe dolan learned from his mistakes with Isiah and does not want to rush to extend? I mean those guys just try to make stories and create issues they are so upset the knicks made the playoffs they loved goofing on them
Ric Bucher (1:24 PM)
The competition in the NY market is fierce and I know the reporters are sometimes goaded by their editors/newspapers to write sensational stories for the sake of sensation. Or, again, that's what I'm told. But the questions about Walsh coming back are legitimate. I've heard from at least one source, though, that Donnie may have his reservations about coming back as well. Dolan stepped in and took over making the deal for Melo. He gave away far too much and now the Knicks are almost as stuck as they were when Donnie arrived. He's had a lot of health issues. Does he really want to have to go back to the grindstone to clean up another Dolan mess?
Dizzil04 (Chicago (MVP-Town))
Hey Ric, I can't stand people who say Westbrook is just as good as Rose. I think personally, he is a little immature still and relies totally on speed. To me it seems like Westbrook wants to be the Durant of that team and that causes him to do too much. Rose has a much more developed game and understands how to take over and impact games. He also doesn't have an MVP type player on his team to share the load. There really is not much of a comparison right now, agree?
Ric Bucher (1:29 PM)
Physically, Russ is comparable. But when it comes to decision-making and organizing a team, it's not close right now. I watched the other night as Rose closed the Suns' game with five points, a dime and almost singlehandedly forcing a 24-second violation by smothering Nash for 20 seconds. The Suns finally took the ball out of Steve's hands for the rest of the game, which is extraordinary. At the same time, I saw Eric Maynor, Russ' back-up, use the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter to build an 11-point lead. Russ came in and gave half of it back with poor decisions, although they hung on to win and he did hit a key jumper to ice it. This is where, again, I don't see how stats capture what a guy is doing. It's not just how much he does, it's when he does it -- time and score, as they say in the L.
Ric Bucher (1:29 PM)
All right, let's go rapid fire to take this up a notch...
Rusty (Cleveland, OH)
Who is the best Heat player: LBJ or DWade?
Ric Bucher (1:30 PM)
LBJ, overall. But with a game on the line, I'd rather Wade have the ball in his hands making the decisions.
JB (New York)
Carmelo and Amar'e could be decent defenders if they really wanted to right? And if the Knicks get a starting-caliber center and these two make at least some sort of commitment to defense, could they be pushing for the 3rd seed in the East next year (behind Chicago and Miami)?
Ric Bucher (1:31 PM)
Melo certainly could and Amare could be better but his knees are going to limit him now. New York's problem is that I don't know how you add pieces between now and next season to improve the team. They don't have picks, cap room or young players with value.
Is there any doubt Chicago will be in the Finals?
Ric Bucher (1:32 PM)
Plenty. Postseason is a different animal.
Have you honestly ever seen a team that, year after year, is capable and actually does turn "it" on and off with such ease like these Lakers?
Ric Bucher (1:32 PM)
Honestly? No. They've been doing it for almost four years now. And gotten away with it, for the most part, which is why they're still doing it.
Who is your Most Improved player this year? K-Love? Is it possible Derrick Rose could be Most Improved Player and MVP??
Ric Bucher (1:35 PM)
Derrick should be in the running and he may wind up on a few ballots but not enough to win. KLove is in my pool of candidates, along with Kyle Lowry and Dorelle Wright, to name two. Haven't filled out my ballot yet.
Ric Bucher (1:36 PM)
Should add: KLove won't be at the top of my ballot. He showed us the second half of last season that he had this in him. He's just done it for an entire season this time with a couple of eye-catching nights, statistically.
Whats the dream playoff route for my Spurs? New Orleans in the first round? Then hope that the Thunder can move up to 3rd and upset the Lakers in the 2nd round? Because I feel that we are no chance of beating the Lakers over 7 games, and the only two in the West that have a (remote) chance are the Thunder and maybe Nuggets (at a push)?
Ric Bucher (1:36 PM)
I like the way you're thinking. Yes, that would appear to be the most advantageous path for the Spurs.
Matt @bakatadi (Santa Clara)
Why is LeBron considered an MVP candidate? Is it just an automatic bid every year? He has Wade and Bosh on his team. Thats like saying Kobe when he has Gasol and Odom or Rondo when he has Pierce, Allen, and Garnet, or even Ginobli when he has Parker and Duncan.
Ric Bucher (1:38 PM)
MVP never has been defined. Some think it should be best player, some most indispensable, some best player on best team, etc. LeBron has the most pure talent of any player in the league, much like Shaq or Wilt, once upon a time. My thing? There's a lot more than talent that goes into being an MVP and winning games.
Christian Jones (Quincy,IL )
Why dont we see more teams attempting to take charges against D.Rose when he drives from the 3 point line to the rim?
Ric Bucher (1:40 PM)
One, because he's so fast and has such body control and can score from such extreme angles it's hard to know where to set up. Two, he is extremely gifted at pulling up and shooting that one-handed floater from 10-12 feet.
Ric Bucher (1:41 PM)
By the way, anybody else see LeBron trying that same shot against the Bucks? Can't remember him shooting it before, but there it was -- one-handed floater from free-throw line. Made the first, bricked the second badly. Never went back to it.
Keith O'Neil (South Holland, IL.)
As far as the playoffs are concerned. Does Chicago's title hopes rest more on the play of Derrick Rose or the play of Loul Deng, Carlos Boozer or the bench. Which of the three is the most important.
Ric Bucher (1:43 PM)
Boozer. He has to rotate defensively and he has to be physical and have his inside-outside game working. That he doesn't look to be in shape because of the hand injury could be a big problem in the playoffs.
What is DeAndre Jordan's contract situation this summer? Are the Clippers intent to keep him, or is he an option for some of the center-lacking teams (i.e. New York, Miami)?
Ric Bucher (1:43 PM)
Restricted free agent. Will be interesting to see how much it costs the Clips to keep him.
im tired of people saying the heat suck,cmon their first year together their at least going to win 58 games...how do you see them doing in the future? thanks
Ric Bucher (1:45 PM)
I agree that they've taken more criticism than they deserve, but it's hard not to fault them after talking about all the championships they were going to win. I've said it from the start: they're a very good team. Championship-caliber? I've never a title winner built as they are, let's put it that way.
What do you think of a CBA that allots % of a salary to a player. Example: Kobe, the best player on a team gets 30% of a team's salary. The problem that exists is that small markets have to spend more on FA's and they shoot their wad on lesser players. Adande addressed this today. What do you think?
Ric Bucher (1:46 PM)
Interesting concept, but it smacks of a rookie salary scale extended to everyone. Can't see the players going for it.
Is OK City a good match up for Denver in the playoffs?Is PDX a good match up for Dallas in the playoffs?
Ric Bucher (1:48 PM)
OKC might be the worst matchup for Denver. Same for PDX with Dallas. Both Gerald Wallace and Lamarcus Aldridge can give Dirk fits. For OKC, Russ eliminates much of Ty's speed advantage and I'll take Ibaka over KMart at this stage of their careers. And who gets into KD physically as Artest did?
Will the Suns trade Nash and start the rebuilding process or will they keep him and try to bring someone in? Thanks Ric
Ric Bucher (1:49 PM)
I'm told the Suns realize it's time and will explore what they can get for him this summer, or before the next season starts.
Adrian C (NJ)
What do you think will it really take for D-Will to stay as a Net?
Ric Bucher (1:51 PM)
Getting Dwight Howard would do a lot, but upgrading the roster in general will be the biggest factor. From what I hear, Deron's family already has been out house-hunting and he regularly texts with Billy King about players that would be good to add to their team. That, at least, sounds like a guy looking to stay.
do you think chicago would have been better off in the playoffs this year if they had made the Asik for Courtney Lee deal? and which deal was better for the future?
Ric Bucher (1:54 PM)
No chance. Asik has more than earned his keep. Bigs who play that hard, with that kind of agility and have a decent hoops IQ are gold. His upside is far too great. Remember, Bulls are playing with house money this year. They shouldn't even be in the title conversation.
Do you agree that Dwight Howard's 18th tech & subsequent suspended game should count against him in the MVP race? No matter what the definition of an MVP, learning to control your emotions and not jeopardize your team should be part of it. It's not like this is his first year or two in the league...
Ric Bucher (1:57 PM)
On some level, yes, largely because of how he gets them. He stands straight up and swings his elbows and arms to get defenders off him. If he got into a stance, he'd naturally create more room for himself. But overall, sure, maturity has to be counted. The MVP, for me, has to be a leader in every respect. It's why neither Dwight nor LeBron can be at the top of my ballot.
Don Nelson (Maui)
Dennis Rodman? What do I have to do to get a little respect from the HOF voters?
Ric Bucher (2:00 PM)
The problem I see, Don, is that when voters look at your body of work they see a guy who racked up the most wins in the league merely through longevity. Never getting to an NBA Finals, much less winning a ring, is damning -- especially when you were the GM for the majority of your years and built your teams that never reached that level. I'm guessing all the teams you left in ashes after a run probably has something to do with it, too.
Ric Bucher (2:01 PM)
You could argue Rodman is one of the best defenders and rebounders to ever play the game. Can you argue Nelson is one of the best coaches ever? I don't know anyone who would put him in that echelon, regardless of wins or COY awards.
After his recent "suspension" do you think Rodney Stuckey's time in Detroit is over after this season?
Ric Bucher (2:02 PM)
What impressed me is how he played the next game out. As in very well. I have to say, for all the heat Kuester and those players have taken, they've continued to somehow co-exist and play/coach hard. All that said, I don't know that Stuckey has a whole lot of market value right now.
Lee (baton rouge,la)
What do you think about a trade between Memphis and Dallas during the offseason? Memphis has a surplus of wings and Dallas has a surplus of 1s.
Ric Bucher (2:04 PM)
Dallas doesn't have a surplus of 1s. Kidd is a 2 now, they just haven't announced it. So they have Beaubois and Barea.
You can give the Bulls only one postseason award. Which one is most deserving: MVP for Rose, COY for Thibs, or Executive of the Year for Forman?
Ric Bucher (2:04 PM)
Rose. Thibs has been great, but if his best player doesn't buy in, offensively and defensively as Rose has, they don't have enough offense or defense to do what they've done.
If you asked all 30 GMs if they were starting a team, who would they choose among LeBron, Dwight, KD and D Rose, who do you think gets the most votes? I say no one gets a majority.
Ric Bucher (2:07 PM)
I'd say you're right. KD and Dwight definitely are in the conversation. In fact, I might have to pick Rose as well as one of those two ahead of LeBron.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)
Do you know whether all NBA front offices use advance basketball stats? Assuming at least some do, what are the stats that they use most?
Ric Bucher (2:11 PM)
Almost all of them keep advanced stats, to varying degrees. Most keep stats that no one in the public forum, including the stat geeks, see or have access to. The top ones have staffs assigned exclusively to breaking down the kind of stats they want to track -- deflections, contested shots, etc. There's a company that makes a body of stats available to every team in the league, but the top ones keep their own. And when I talk to those teams and they tell me how they are continuing to try to figure out how their stats apply to winning and losing and building championship teams, it tells me a lot about where we are in the meaning of advanced metrics when it comes to the NBA. Which is still in the woods, in search of a meaningful path.
Ric Bucher (2:13 PM)
I should qualify that: I believe there are team stats that have been very beneficial and that coaches buy into wholeheartedly. But the use of stats to compare players remains extremely shaky. Has the guise of being scientific and precise when it's anything but.
I like how fans have no faith in their team, i mean comon, in order to be the best, you have the beat the best, and well if you dont beat them then back to square one next season. I say bring on the Lakers! San Antonio Baby!!!
Ric Bucher (2:14 PM)
There are blind-faith fans and then there are realistic fans. Takes something special to be both passionate and realistic.
do you think miami trades bosh next year too improve overall
Ric Bucher (2:15 PM)
I've heard it's already been discussed.
Throw out a % that you think we WILL have a lockout next season.
Ric Bucher (2:16 PM)
100 percent. Question is, will it cause us to miss games? I'd say there's a 75 percent chance of that.
How often do ESPN writers who aren't analytics guys use the Synergy program to watch various kinds of plays? For example, you think Rose is a great closer but the stats paint a different picture. You could put together a DVD of the set of plays and see with your eyes what the stats have been showing.
Ric Bucher (2:21 PM)
Can't speak for everyone. I use Synergy. At the same time, using those clips doesn't tell you time and score. You have to know what came before and after, not just isolated clips. The clips are useful to see what kinds of plays a guy is making and if he made the right or wrong one, regardless of the outcome. And unless you know basketball and you've talked to a team and know what their game plan is and what the spacing is supposed to be and what the order of options are, you can't possibly measure all that. And I've yet to see a stat guy even acknowledge such things exist. For me, you can throw out the stats with Rose because opponents don't guard anyone else. At the end of games he is the only threat they're trying to stop -- and they still can't. He keeps coming until the job is done and the Bulls' record reflects how often he has done that.
Big E (Houston, Tx)
Stop it. Kidd is not a 2. Doesn't shoot enough and surely doesn't shoot well enough.
Ric Bucher (2:21 PM)
Which is exactly the Mavs' problem.
Richie Sullivan (Dallas, TX)
Yeah, Aldridge and Wallace gave Dirk such fits that he logged 22 ppg on 52.5% shooting against them this year.
Ric Bucher (2:22 PM)
Time and score, Richie, time and score.
Do you really believe the sacramento kings will be moving to anaheim ?
Ric Bucher (2:23 PM)
Ric Bucher (2:23 PM)
Five minutes of rapid fire to wrap it up. I've gone 25 minutes long already, but what the hell...
Ric Bucher (2:23 PM)
Can't end on being a little snarky, anyway. No offense, Richie.
Last year's Cavs team with LeBron had a better record than this year's Heat team, with three All-Stars. Bulls, with one All-Star, has a better record. Can people start seeing that it's not all about stars?
Ric Bucher (2:24 PM)
This could be the year...
My brain can't get around how Lebron, playing with two All Stars, will have a worse record this year than last year's Cavs. Do Wade/Bosh not fit Lebron as well as Williams/Varajeo?
Ric Bucher (2:27 PM)
You're on to something. The Cavs' pieces for built specifically to let LeBron be LeBron. It's partly why they struggled so mightily without him. It's like wearing an Armani suit that isn't tailored vs. the one from Men's Wearhouse that fits like a glove. Which is the one that's going to look and feel better?
Pete Dakota (DC)
Ric, would DC be a dark horse in the Dwight sweepstakes this summer if the lottery gods come through once again? Would McGee, top 3 pick, and parts/cash/extra picks for Dwight be enough, and on the flip, would the DC market, playing with Wall, and their other young talent be enough for Dwight?
Ric Bucher (2:28 PM)
It's not a matter of what a team is offering. It's a matter of where a guy wants to go. Melo proved that. Sure, Utah shipped off Deron -- but trust me, that's going to come back and haunt the Jazz. You think any big-time free agent is going to trust their front office? Not a chance.
I appreciate that it was purely Hollinger's opinion but to exclude Grant Hill from All-defensive teams because there's a difference between 'really good for a Sun' and 'really good' seems a little off. I agree completely that the Suns are beyond bad when it comes to defense but surely that makes Hill's accomplishments all the more impressive? He's put in consistently brilliant performances on the defensive end, not least holding Blake Griffin virtually scoreless in the half he was assigned him and frustrating Durant into a 3-14 night. Where do you stand on this?
Ric Bucher (2:30 PM)
Grant would have to be on my first or second team. His defense has been outstanding. But it goes to show, if your team D isn't sound, an individual defender isn't always going to look good.
Should off-court "intangibles" factor into MVP votes? such as Rose buying into Thibodeaus system and making a commitment to defense compared to Lebron bashing Spo and consistently breaking Spo's "system" for better or worse.
Ric Bucher (2:32 PM)
For me they should. It does make it difficult for fans to sometimes grasp where I'm coming from -- they just don't have the access to the same people and information I do. I'll live with the slings and arrows, though. Can't not say and write what I believe to be true.
Matt (Chicago, IL)
Ric which NBA team has the best experience around the stadium sorta like the Chicago Cubs being in the middle of a beer garden?
Ric Bucher (2:35 PM)
I'm a big fan of LA Live around the Staples Center. I like set-ups where I can walk to the arena from my hotel and get something to eat afterward. Phoenix works. Little Italy is a short walk from TD Garden. Atmosphere depends on game, opponent, etc.
Please do some research, before dissing LBJ in the clutch, Ric. Just a casual look at 82 games shows he is at the top in virtually every stat in that category. And for you to seriously say that D Rose would have led the Cavs to as good a record as did LBJ is seriously delusional. Rose had a team equivalent in talent to last year's Cavs in 2009-2010, and he did not exactly get 62 wins. I think your LBJ distaste and your bromance for D Rose are clouding you...Here's the link
Ric Bucher (2:39 PM)
Sorry, numbers don't tell you everything. And who said anything about Rose playing for Cleveland? LeBron is inconsistent in what he tries to do with a game on the line. That, in turn, throws off everybody else and makes the game infinitely harder. I'm not going to go search for a number to explain that because I know what it does to a team. Conversely, I know what being an aggressor and having a specific set of options does every time out. If you expand or shrink your definition of crunch time, you can make the numbers say anything you want them to say, or favor anyone you want them to favor. There's no way to assess a player's ability with the game on the line without actually watching the game and accounting for all the moving parts. At least for me and the people who run 30 NBA teams.
When analysts discuss high-maintenance stars what exactly do they mean? Can you give any examples of players being high maintenance either on the court or off?
Ric Bucher (2:41 PM)
Guys who won't give you defensive effort unless you get them enough touches on offense. Guys who won't practice hard or give you effort unless you're touting them publicly. Guys who will not rotate or attack the glass if the play isn't for them. Those are a few examples.
"Can't not say" ... you write for a living?
Ric Bucher (2:41 PM)
Hey, it was rapid fire. But you're right, awful sentence. My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Gravely, would be appalled.
Myk (Seattle, WA)
So if all the opponents are focused on Rose this year what were the opponents focused on with LBJ the last two years? Shaq? Jamison? Or, are you arguing that LBJ suddenly lost all of the traits you are applying to Rose this year??
Ric Bucher (2:45 PM)
No, absolutely, teams were focussed on LeBron in Cleveland as much as they are Rose now. Difference: LeBron's teammates never knew when they were going to get the ball or where, if he would shoot it or dish. There are no surprises, or excuses, with Rose. You ever heard any talk about "if only he had this or that" from him or anyone else with the Bulls? You know why? Because neither Rose nor anyone in his camp is about to say anything like that.
Ric Bucher (2:47 PM)
I would love to go on, but I'm 45 minutes over and have been ignoring my phone for the last 30 minutes. Thanks for the lively sessions, as always. We'll do it again next week, hopefully from the home office in flip-flops and a hoodie. Til then...