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. I've got 57 quality minutes to provide you, so let's not waste them on a big wind-up. Here we go...
Miami Heat (Wisconsin)
Does Udonis Haslem have any chance of coming back for the playoffs at all? And do you think that they need to win it all?
Ric Bucher (1:05 PM)
I bought into Udonis' optimism in March, but all indications are he hasn't progressed as expected. The tricky part now would be inserting him back into the rotation. I think he'd still be a plus, but it's a little like with Shaq in Cleveland last year -- the Heat really seem to be rolling and I don't know if you mess with that, not knowing what Udonis would be able to give you after such a long layoff.
Joey (new york)
what have you been hearing in regards to Dwight Howards next move??? Do you think he will be leaving and if so, to what team??? P.S. its my birthday so can you please respond. Thanks
Just admit it, you dont like orlando and you WISH Dwight Howard would leave so you can cover him in a big market that suites you just fine.
Ric I have seen in the past that you report players going to the wrong places quite frequently (*cough* Lebron to Chicago) Do your "sources" talk to the players and hear directly from them that people like Paul and Dwight want to leave their home teams?
Vanilla Gorilla (Denver)
Hey Ric whats up with some of the writters at ESPN trying to swirl rumors about players wanting to jump ship on teams even though they have not talked directly to any of them? I think last week you said the Magic were going to trade Howard in the offseason but Otis Smith refuses to do any such thing, thoughts?
Ric Bucher (1:14 PM)
1. I never, ever said LeBron was going to Chicago.2. I have not seen where Otis has said he is not trading Dwight. I have heard, and I believe read, where he said he would have to accept trade calls on Dwight this summer.3. At this point, do you really believe a player when he says he's not going anywhere? Didn't LeBron insinuate he wouldn't leave Cleveland? Didn't Melo suggest he'd be perfectly happy staying in Denver?4. I'm not reporting that Dwight will be traded this summer. I believe he will be based on what I'm hearing. I said that only in response to a question in a chat. This may be hard to understand, but doing it here is a little different than going onto SC and declaring it or writing it in a piece on ESPN.com. A lot has yet to happen. But anyone saying he categorically doesn't want to leave Orlando, I have one question for you: Why hasn't he signed his extension? It makes absolutely no fiscal sense not to with the looming lockout. I don't care what he says; I care what he does. And what he's doing is leaving his options open.5. I could care less where any player plays. I rarely stray from the hotel when I'm in the road. Spartan existence: work out, eat, do my work. Milwaukee is the same as Miami for me.
Brandon Lane (Mattoon, IL)
Fosters hard fouls last night...Flagrant or just playoff fouls? I felt like he went after Rose and Deng's heads, but I am a Bulls fan.
Ric Bucher (1:18 PM)
They were playoff fouls back in the day -- when Foster first came in the league -- but they're flagrants now. I've known Jeff for a long time and consider him a quality guy. He's doing what he can to help the Pacers get a win. With his back as bad as it is, laying wood in the paint is pretty much it. If Rose were eating my team alive and I were in his position, I'd be compelled to do the same thing.
Big Mone (Atlanta)
Why has the NBA and ESPN disrespected the Magic/Hawks and relegated them to ESPN2 for one of the best series thus far in the playoffs?
Ric Bucher (1:21 PM)
It's not disrespect, it's business. They don't draw ratings. And I'd be hardpressed to say this has been one of the best series. Indy-Bulls, Grizz-SA have both been better. You want disrespect, how about the No. 1 seeded Bulls starting the playoffs with a noon tipoff?
Do think Vogel deserves to have the "interim" label removed? Pacers are finally generating excitement here after the O'Brien debacle of 3.5 years.
Ric Bucher (1:24 PM)
I've seen Frank's work up close. He's very impressive. If the Pacers change their front office, which I'm hearing they are likely to do, then it would stand to reason that the new regime would want to select the coach. But Vogel is as solid and composed in huddles as any coach I've seen. He's made a few questionable decisions, but he deserves a shot at being more than an interim. If not in Indy, somewhere else.
Blazers or Mavs game 4?
Ric Bucher (1:26 PM)
I had the Blazers as the likeliest team to pull off an upset in the west, but I have not been impressed with their defense or their poise. Game 3 was very winnable for the Mavs. Unless LA comes alive, I'm going to say Dallas.
Matt (Princeton, NJ)
Ric-Honestly how good is Chris Paul? Taking this team to 46 wins in the west, and absolutely carrying them in the 1st round...are the Lakers in a real dogfight?
Ric Bucher (1:28 PM)
CP3 has been so much better than he was for long stretches in the regular season. Wasn't sure he still had it in him with the condition of his knee. But I don't see this as a dogfight, because I don't see Pau continuing to struggle. The Lakers simply have too much for NO, especially if Bynum can continue to be as aggressive and agile as he was in Game 2.
Drew (San Diego)
Your buddy Hollinger thinks local announcers are responsible for the perception of referee favoritism/inadequacy/incompetence. Agree or disagree Buch?
Ric Bucher (1:30 PM)
I watch locally broadcast games with the sound off. The second-guessing of calls and insinuation that someone is getting ripped off -- particularly when the announcers don't know the rules -- drives me crazy.
Ric Bucher (1:31 PM)
I can only assume, though, that the broadcast crews are encouraged to do that by ownership. If it bothered the check writers, it wouldn't happen.
How does the effect of the lengthy and no compromise ways of the NFL CBA negotionations compare to what we will see in a few months in the NBA?
Ric Bucher (1:33 PM)
The NBA is watching the NFL proceedings closely, but there's a huge difference: NBA players are not likely to decertify because it means all those big guaranteed contracts go away. NFL players are less impacted by that because their signing bonus money is really the only guaranteed money they gave up by decertifying. Everyone I've talked to doesn't expect the players to acquiesce to what the owners are asking for until they start missing paychecks -- which doesn't happen until Nov. 15.
Ric Bucher (1:35 PM)
To be clear: as I understand it, the only guaranteed money NFL players get is from their signing bonuses. So whatever they had left on the payout of that is what they lost by decertifying. Not nearly as much as an NBA player, who assumes he's getting his entire salary no matter what.
Ric Bucher (1:36 PM)
Let's go rapid fire for the next 15 minutes...
Ric Bucher (1:36 PM)
I'm going to limit myself to two sentences an answer, max.
Do you see the Bulls as the favorites to come out of the East? Don't you think they have been struggling a little too much against the Pacers for them to be considered the favorite?
Ric Bucher (1:37 PM)
Never had the Bulls as the favorite in the east. That said, I don't see their close wins over the Pacers as an indication they're any less dangerous than I thought they were going into the playoffs.
Marshall (Napa, CA)
Hey Ric,OKC are playing out of their minds. How big an impact with Afflalo's return make? As a UCLA guy, I love the idea of seeing he and Westbrook go at it.Also, I wondered why, in must-score situations, we don't see more use of a Maynor-Westbrook combo. Maynor has proven himself both as a great distributor and shooter of daggers -- he would seem a better option for running a play out of a timeout than Russ, who tends to dribble himself into tight spots, and forget that he has the league's leading scorer on the wing.
Ric Bucher (1:39 PM)
Afflalo would be a huge bonus, but I don't see a guy coming back from a hamstring injury being able to stay in front of Westbrook. OKC took its defense up a notch, finally, and if they keep that up I don't see much suspense in this series.
Three games into the post season are still picking the bulls to beat the field in the eastern conference?
Ric Bucher (1:40 PM)
You have me confused with someone else. I had Boston. I'll stick with them until further notice.
Is the criticism of the bulls valid? Are they no longer the serious title contender we thought they were?
Ric Bucher (1:41 PM)
Pacers are being vastly underrated; they were playing as well as any team in the league coming into the playoffs. The Bulls are winning tough, close games in the final minutes, which is an ability essential in the postseason.
I know everyone's focus is on the Bulls, but what do you make of the Pacers play in the first three games? And what do you think of this team's future going forward? Coaching, current players, position needs, etc...
Ric Bucher (1:42 PM)
Their combination of talent is still an odd mix, but they have hard-working, quality guys. That can make you a perennial playoff team in this league -- just not a title contender.
Ryan Valentine (Long Beach, CA)
Is Rick Adelman a strong candidate to replace Phil Jackson as head coach? Where do you put the chances of that happening?
Ric Bucher (1:43 PM)
Have not heard his name connected with the job, but he'd be perfect for that situation.
Elliot (Boulder, CO)
Is DWade going to be able to handle the load on defense as the playoffs rolls on? Doesn't he have to cover Rondo, and if they move on, Rose for the Heat to be successful?
Ric Bucher (1:44 PM)
As good as the Heat have been -- and I've really been impressed with how LeBron in particular has attacked the boards -- they are going to run into matchups in the next few rounds that test their weaknesses far more than Philly can.
More disappointing playoff performance so far: Gasol for L.A. or Boozer for Chicago?
Ric Bucher (1:45 PM)
That's a close one. I'm going to say Gasol, just because I don't think his matchups have been nearly as challenging as Boozer's.
Ric-how do you rate this draft class compared to some of the weak ones in years past? Better or worse than 2006? 2000?
Ric Bucher (1:46 PM)
I'd have to go back and study those drafts to make a full assessment, but the quality of this draft will be decided by the quality of the international players in it. You'll see more foreign players taken in this draft than you've seen in the last three or four.
Conspiracy theory: the Knicks are making a hubbub around Stat & Chauncey's injuries, whether or not they play, etc to mask the reality they blew two golden chances to take away home court and they simply aren't as good as Boston. I smell smokescreen.
Ric Bucher (1:47 PM)
Not me, particularly with Chauncey. The way he came down on that knee and considering his age and build, I'd be surprised if we see him again in this series.
Now lets be objective here...with a healthy Billups/Amar'e...would Boston be in trouble...NY has had them on the ropes in 2 games now, and while lack of execution has been the popular saying these last few games, not having those players in end game situations has been a big part of the poor execution. Would this series still be 2-0 or some like 1-1 or possibly 2-0 in NY's favor?
Ric Bucher (1:48 PM)
This is the same viewpoint that sees the Bulls as struggling -- execution in the final minutes is what a team needs to make a long run in the playoffs. If anything, I see the Bulls and Celtics gaining confidence from how they've performed in these opening games.
Shawn $-Money (Chicago)
Despite two phenomenal games, Derrick Rose has struggled against the big man high trap this Pacers series and Paul George's length. Not to get ahead of myself or anything, but it seems like Miami is built well to create the same kind of matchup issues. Thoughts?
Ric Bucher (1:49 PM)
Fair point. Only problem is, I don't see Wade or LeBron having he energy to guard Rose for long stretches *and* doing all they have to do on offense.
Very troubled about your Heat comments. You, Simmons, and many retired players hope they don't win because they didn't go about things the right way. I'm still not clear what's the "right" way. And I still don't know the difference between what the Heat did and what the Celtics did 3 years ago.
Ric Bucher (1:52 PM)
Dangerous trying to answer this succinctly, but I'll try because I like impossible challenges: The Celtics were three vets brought together by management via trades who went to Europe and bonded with the rest of their team. The Heat were three guys who made the entire league court them the entire summer when they'd already decided to join forces, then threw a lavish celebration where they talked about winning eight championships, with only one of them knowing exactly what it took to win one.
What are you hearing in regards to the Kings leaving/staying/Maloofs selling etc?
Ric Bucher (1:54 PM)
Maloofs aren't selling and the economic model just doesn't work in Sacramento. It's not as if they haven't been trying to make it work there for a while now. I could see a last-ditch effort that keeps them there one more year, but I'd say that's the best-case scenario unless they relent on selling.
Scott (Santa Barbara, CA)
The Clips still need a starting small forward and will try again this summer to land one. Will they finally do it and what kind of trade value does Kaman have around the league?
Ric Bucher (1:55 PM)
Kaman has considerable value, but I don't know about that need for a small forward. I really like what I've seen from Aminu and he's a great fit next to Gordon and Griffin.
Chris (Burlington VT)
I don't have a question but it is frustrating (as a Celtics fan) whey they are compared to the heat.. Celts big 3 were on the downhill side of their careers also.... Not 3 in their prime...
Ric Bucher (1:56 PM)
There's a huge difference in a multitude of ways. But I tried to be succinct. My guess is most people outside of Miami need no explanation.
Ric Bucher (1:58 PM)
And all that said, I have no problem with Miami winning it all and the way they're playing defense, I give them a chance. But if you're asking why so many people felt the way they came together and how they've conducted themselves is a little unbecoming, well, I hope I outlined why.
Thoughts on the SPURS? You know, the #1 seed?? I've seen countless Bulls posts, but you're NBATV'ing the Spurs right now.
Ric Bucher (1:59 PM)
If they have Manu, they get out of this round. Hard to see them in the conference finals, but I'll have a better feel at the end of the weekend -- working sideline on their game Saturday night.
So you're upset with the Heat because of the trash talk? A PR move ticked you off? Have you read your own articles? Or listened to yourself on podcasts? Wow. Hand me some shades, your halo is blinding me.
Ric Bucher (1:59 PM)
Wow, I wasn't that succinct. You need to read what I wrote again. Slowly.
Do you think that the Heat's championship in 2006 is somewhat diminished by the horrible officiating in that series? Be honest.
Ric Bucher (2:00 PM)
No. They weren't the more talented team and they came back from a 2-0 deficit. It was a tremendous performance by a group of outcasts ('Toine, JWill, etc.)
Do you honestly believe that NBA officiating is totally unbiased? Because honestly, their fans don't. Superstars and Big markets get the calls.
Ric Bucher (2:03 PM)
I guess that's why OKC got a favorable call over Denver. Oh, wait, Denver is the bigger market. But KD and Westbrook are the big stars, so that does make sense. But wait, the call was for Kendrick Perkins. I'm going to need a spread sheet to keep the conspiracy theory logic straight.And how did the Jazz, Spurs and Pistons ever get to the Finals? Multiple times, no less. Someone must not have received a memo.
Small market guy (Small Market)
I want one reporter to answer this question for me once!! What is the point of being a small market fan?! They can't keep their players!! It's a shame another one is going to leave. (Dwight Howard)
Ric Bucher (2:04 PM)
Two words: Kevin Durant.
Would you answer questions that doesn't have to do with one of the top 8 teams or is it strictly a chat for great teams with star players?
Ric Bucher (2:05 PM)
Yes, I will. Does this qualify
Ric Bucher (2:05 PM)
Ric Bucher (2:05 PM)
Ric Bucher (2:05 PM)
WOW so you don't think the 2006 Finals officiating was terrible? Unbelievable. Afraid Stern will ban you from the sidelines?
Ric Bucher (2:06 PM)
Didn't say the officiating wasn't suspect. Just said it shouldn't discount the Heat's victory. Dallas had a chance to be just as aggressive going to the cup as Dwyane and it wasn't.
Jorgen (San Diego)
Is Bynum the worlds most interesting man after reading that SI article.
Ric Bucher (2:07 PM)
Sam Dalembert is just as computer savvy and came out of unbelievable poverty in Haiti. So, in a word: no.
I believe the correct wording is "couldn't care less". If you could care less, it's possible for you to be caring an enormous amount.
Ric Bucher (2:10 PM)
You are correct. Thank you for catching me. But what took you so long? That was at the start of the chat!
Seems like you have a lot of haters on here compared to other chats.
Ric Bucher (2:11 PM)
My guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that I give a little more run to the dissenters. I enjoy contrasting opinions and explaining why my thinking is different.
Buc, I have to admit it is a bit entertaining when you and Simmons get sick of the masses of whiners and complainers writing you and start to put them out to dry in the chat.
Ric Bucher (2:11 PM)
There's that, too.
Cheese (Washington, D.C.)
Hey, real quick, does Simmons still work for ESPN or what?
Ric Bucher (2:12 PM)
Unless something changed in the last 24 hours, yes.
How everyone is describing Rose's future, weren't we saying the same about Lebron's 3 years ago?
Ric Bucher (2:15 PM)
Not everyone. In fact, I get the sense there were a lot more people on the LeBron bandwagon than there are on Rose's now. I always thought LeBron would be great -- and he is -- but I also felt there was something missing. Still do. I don't know if Rose can dominate at his size, but I'm gong to bank on his work ethic and fearlessness that he will find a way.
Matt (beeswax, not yours)
If we shouldn't listen to local broadcasters because check is signed by team, aren't you in the same category? You really can't suggest ref bias and have NBA stay on good terms with ESPN. If they didn't like what they heard, you would be gone.
Ric Bucher (2:18 PM)
Slightly different. We pay the NBA, not the other way around. My struggle in critiquing referees is that I've done the job -- briefly, as a D League ref for a story -- and I've talked extensively with a great number of referees. I know who they are as people and I know how they approach their jobs. It is a thankless, impossible job to get right all the time with relentless scrutiny. Are they perfect? No. But they no more try to make mistakes than I do. They take pride in their work. The ones I know have great integrity.
Why does the term "work ethic" get thrown around as if it's a special attribute to certain players when pretty much 99% of pro athletes have to have it to even get this far?
Ric Bucher (2:25 PM)
It's a fair question. It does take a great deal of hard work to make it to the NBA. But then there's a special category for the ones who practice hard after back-to-backs, who dedicate their offseasons to improve their weaknesses, who play hard every minute, every night. Everybody has to have a work ethic to make it to the NBA. But not everyone is disciplined and maniacal about it.
Part of the Heat's plan was to convince free agents to take less money for a chance at a ring. Does that thinking diminish if the Heat don't make the Finals this year?
Ric Bucher (2:27 PM)
I don't know how well they actually did that. They had to pay a lot to get Mike Miller there and keep Udonis. The other guys didn't have a whole lot of options. Considering how many touches and shots go to the Big Three, I don't see the attraction for guys in any case, but certainly not if they don't prove they can deliver the hardware.
longest 53 minutes i've ever seen?
Ric Bucher (2:30 PM)
Excellent point. Once again, you guys lured me into staying longer. Time to go. We'll do it again next week. Thanks again for joining me.