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)
This is going to sound gratuitous, but I have to say it: I love my chatters. The questions and the manner in which they are posed makes this a pleasure.All right, enough with the room-wide backrub. Let's get to it...
Cedric (Memphis TN)
How concerned should I be for my Spurs tonight? I decided to not go to game 6 after watching losses in games 3 and 4. Are you hearing any rumors about Timmy or Pop retiring after this season? Am I crazy for wanting Nene and JR Smith this offseason to join the Spurs?
Ric Bucher (1:04 PM)
A guy from Memphis worrying about the Spurs. Hmmm. No thought of Pop or TD retiring. No, you're not crazy for wanting Nene, but Spurs aren't going to be able to afford him. TD can opt out of his contract for next year -- little known fact -- and if he did and re-signed to a longer, lower number, the Spurs could have some FA wiggle room. Just not enough to get a Nene. But a Shawne Williams? A Marc Gasol? Don't know what those guys are thinking, but SA is going to have to find a diamond in the rough. And even Marc might not qualify as that at this point. Just don't see how Mem can afford to keep him at this point.
Azzy (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Hey Ric, I heard that Dwight Howard confronted you about those rumors that he's maybe heading to LA, is it true?
Ric Bucher (1:09 PM)
"Confront" is a little strong, but yes, he asked me as soon as I walked into the lockerroom where he was going. Half playful, half-why-are-you-stirring-this-up-and-making-me-deal-with-it. And I completely understand his frustration. Hard to have a completely frank, honest conversation in the middle of a lockerroom with teammates and other reporters looking on with keen interest. All I can tell you is this: I wouldn't have broached the subject if I hadn't been told under no uncertain terms, by someone who should know, that Dwight will opt out of his last year in Orlando and by GMs that they already know, based on their conversations, that Otis knows he's going to have to do something.
Ric Bucher (1:11 PM)
Now, I will take Otis at his word that he's not going to trade Dwight. That's actually the safe way to go. Now if Dwight leaves, the heat is all on Howard for deserting Orlando and the Magic can say, "Hey, we went to the wall trying to keep him." And they do get off a ton of money. But I don't know if that's the smartest way to go.
Josh (Chicago, IL)
What do the Magic need to get back to The Finals? It seems like they're more than just a backup center away.
Ric Bucher (1:13 PM)
They need Deron Williams, i.e., a PG who can also be a go-to guy. I love Jameer and what he's made of himself, but his size is simply a limitation as a go-to guy. It's why I don't see CP3 as a great fit, either. If you don't get a PG who is also a closer, then you're looking at trying to add two pieces. I'd go for one. And to answer the next question, no, I just don't see Deron going to Orlando.
I know it goes against some sort of code of ethics to speak poorly of coaches, but c'mon - Nate McMillan is without a doubt the worst coach of the 16 coaches that made it to the Playoffs. He has never implemented a successful defense (despite having good individual defenders), and his offensive playbook has never been successful in the Playoffs. For someone known as a defensive coach you'd think his career Opponent FG% would be better than D'Antoni's, but it's not. He's a fine coach for a rebuilding team, but clearly doesn't have the chops to make Playoff adjustments.
Ric Bucher (1:18 PM)
Can't go that far, Ben. Nate was dealing with a mixed bag. Bottom line: he didn't have a go-to guy. When Roy was, one more time for one magical night, they were a different team. The most interesting thing for me is that Andre Miller, for all his accomplishments, has never been to the second round. With plenty o'chances in different places. I've always admired his game, but I don't think that's an accident. Tells you something about the playoffs testing a player's ability to adjust his game when an opponent exploits his weaknesses.
Ric Bucher (1:20 PM)
Questions have piled up. Let's go rapid fire for 20...
Josh from IL gets the exact same question answered in 2 consecutive chats...that's persistence
Ric Bucher (1:21 PM)
Hadn't noticed. Thanks for keeping score. Josh, you're on probation.
Who do the Thunder want to win tonight?
Ric Bucher (1:22 PM)
Have to think SA, as sacrilegious as that sounds. Grizzlies can go toe to toe with them in length and athleticism.
Enough with the Magic, do you agree the biggest X facto is Celtics/Heat comes down to Rondo against whomever the Heat throw at him, or LeBron and Wade abusing the Celtics 2nd unit? or something else?
Ric Bucher (1:23 PM)
Rondo is the biggest X-factor. They're a different team when he's aggressive. Second biggest for Cs: Jeff Green or Big Baby. One of them has to make a contribution every night.
Ric, HEAT-Celtics. Who ya got?
Ric Bucher (1:24 PM)
i believe the lakers will beat the mavs fairly easily but if they play okc they will lose in a long series. Westbrook is too much for fisher Durant will be in a rhythm by the time they get to them and ibaka and perk can hold down paint. Memphis has a better chance than dallas. Or am i completely wrong
Ric Bucher (1:25 PM)
Memphis is no joke. Have seen them up close and they are for real. A lot I don't like about OKC right now -- execution in the final 2 minutes, Perkins looking like his knee isn't right and Westbrook's decision making.
What's up with Boozer? Has he just become old all of a sudden in front of our eyes or is this just a (2 month) slump? Also, Reggie Miller commented that Boozer plays better defense when he's playing well offensively. I agree. But Miller made it sound like this was a good thing. Is that not completely selfish?
Ric Bucher (1:27 PM)
Booz is not alone in playing harder on D when his O is flowing. I wonder if he's just never got in shape after the hand injury. Hard to do it during the regular season. He's also a sensitive guy and Thibodeau isn't treating him with kid gloves. Booz likes to be loved and the Bulls are taking the approach, "We'd love to have you but we're not waiting for you."
Ric, do you want to rescind your Rose for MVP vote now??
Ric Bucher (1:29 PM)
Good Lord, no. His leadership and adjustments vs. the Pacers only convinced me more that he was the right choice.
Eric (Lawrenceville, GA)
How likely is Mike D'Antoni's return as head coach of course assuming that the Knicks extend Donnie Walsh's contract?
Ric Bucher (1:30 PM)
It's up to Donnie to stay and re-upping Chauncey would indicate he is since he wanted that badly. I would not be surprised if D'Antoni gets a one-year extension. I know it's being discussed.
Todus (San Francisco)
Stern mentioned that NBAPA decertification is not a viable option in the NBA lockout scenario because it would unwind all the guaranteed contracts. Do you know if this is true? Thx.
Ric Bucher (1:31 PM)
I had been told that but the players union is under the impression that the contracts would not be affected. So I'm investigating. Will get back to you.
Z (New York)
Is OKC the best team out west right now?
Ric Bucher (1:31 PM)
No. The Lakers are. And have been.
Am I nuts or is Zach Randolph the best PF in the NBA right now?
Ric Bucher (1:34 PM)
He's not enough of a defensive presence, but there's a very strong argument for calling him the best scoring PF in the game. And, yes, I know Dirk fans will howl at that. But Zach's ability to score on the post and on putbacks is superior to the Big German's.
Given matchups, I'm sure the Bulls are breathing a sigh of relief that they got the Hawks, right? I'm not expecting this series to last past 5 games. I just hope they aren't TOO rested with the Heat-Celtics series likely going the distance.
Ric Bucher (1:35 PM)
I wouldn't worry about them being too rested -- Thibodeau's practices are maybe more intense than games. But Hawks present problems. Bulls haven't forgotten how they whupped them in the regular season. Biggest matchup challenge will be Horford. He's a level -- at least -- above Tyler and Boozer got demolished by the Tar Heel.
Ric Bucher (1:36 PM)
Five minutes left in rapid fire and I've broken my two-sentence rule several times. Let's stretch it to 10 and I'll toe the line.
Jared (The Nati)
If I were the Heat what team would I be most scared of? Honestly I think the Heat should be most scared of OKC. Elite PG plus a big that can lock Bosh down would make for a great series.
Ric Bucher (1:37 PM)
I would be most concerned with what's in front of them right now: a rested Boston squad.
Hi Ric, first time chatter! Even if Portland gets Oden back, how can they compete against OKC and LA next year? Is Portland's window completely closed because of the Roy contract?
Ric Bucher (1:38 PM)
Not just because of the Roy contract. They have a lot of good players, but no great ones.
I've read speculation about the Bulls pursuing Dwight Howard and offering Noah. Would that be smart? Dwight is a better individual player than Noah, but Noah's fierceness sparks the Bulls.
Ric Bucher (1:39 PM)
Bulls would deal Noah for Dwight, but it's not happening. Dwight wants to be Da Man, and Rose owns Chicago.
Ben (Austin, TX)
Hey Ric - what was Atlanta doing to make Orlando shoot so poorly?
Ric Bucher (1:40 PM)
Not doubling Howard and staying at home on their shooters. Had size and athleticism to make every shot contested.
Can Shaq and Haslem have a real impact given their long layoffs?
Ric Bucher (1:40 PM)
Haslem more so than Shaq. But I don't see either one of them being a deciding factor in the series.
We all know about thibodeau's ability to make defensive adjustments, but how well will he able to change the bulls' offense from what we saw during the pacers series?
Ric Bucher (1:42 PM)
He can't, but Atlanta doesn't play with as much defensive discipline or constant energy as the Pacers. Again, it's why Rose was my MVP -- Bulls don't have anyone else who can make a play for someone else.
who guards Rondo?
Ric Bucher (1:43 PM)
Has to be Chalmers. I don't see Wade or LeBron being able to do it other than in isolated situations.
How about each team gets 1 get out of jail free cad on 1 contract per season? That saves them from the albatross contracts and also takes no money out of the pockets of stars
Ric Bucher (1:44 PM)
Wouldn't save the owners from making mistakes and costing themselves a ton of money. Actually might encourage them.
Alexander (Naperville, Illinois)
Ric, why do skip bayless and colin cowherd love to bash Rose? Is it the attention garnered by being dissenters?
Ric Bucher (1:46 PM)
That's no doubt part of it because both Skip and Colin know how to stir up their audience, which is why they're so popular. Also, because Rose is unconventional; we've never seen anything quite like him at the PG position.
Joshua (St George, Utah)
Hey Ric, do you think Jimmer Fredette would be a good fit for the system the Utah Jazz run? What team do you think has the best system for him?
Ric Bucher (1:47 PM)
Somewhere he can be a scorer off the bench for an up-tempo team. Phoenix? New York?
Ben (Austin, TX)
Hey Ric - what's Larry Bird's strategy right now with the Pacers in the offseason?
Ric Bucher (1:48 PM)
If I'm not mistaken, Ben is getting two questions answered. Happy Birthday. Big question is whether Bird will be back to make those decisions. I keep hearing rumblings he won't.
Boston and Miami just had confidence boosting series against weak opponents. Does that help them get over the hump or does it set them up for a rude awakening because they didn't have to raise their game?
Ric Bucher (1:50 PM)
I was more impressed with Boston closing out the Knicks in four, and walloping them in the end in MSG, than the crazy, undisciplined way in which Miami eventually overwhelmed the Sixers. But I respect Miami's ability to lock a team up on D when it matters.
Just Blaze (NBA town)
Do you think the idea of all these superstars teaming up is a bad idea for the NBA as a whole? I mean I think it would be good from a competion standpoint for the big dogs but the smaller market teams and the ones always in rebuilding mode will really suffer. Thoughts?
Ric Bucher (1:52 PM)
I don't think it would be a good idea if it were to continue, but I don't see that happening. The new CBA will put an end to it and I'm somewhat convinced this was a trend by a particular era of players, not a universal change.
J.D. (San Francisco)
% chance there is a franchise tag in the new CBA? I would think it's very low but do you think it would be good for the league?
Ric Bucher (1:52 PM)
10 percent. If there's a hard cap, I don't see a franchise tag as being necessary.
Who wins g6: Memphis or SA?
Ric Bucher (1:54 PM)
Having just been in Memphis for Game 5, it's hard for me not to think the Grizzlies will be amped up and run away with it tonight.
Anthony Perez (Jerz)
Do you think these unbalanced superteams whose stars don't compliment each other (MIA & NYK vs superteams like Boston) will always eventually meet a complete team who beats them? It certainly seems that way to me.
Ric Bucher (1:56 PM)
I do. Which is another reason I'm not convinced the trend will continue. If guys want to win more than play with a buddy superstar, they'll come to the realization championships aren't built on star power alone.
Why is it that Kobe gets fined 100K for using a homophobic slur, but I haven't found anything about Lebron for getting caught saying a racial slur? About 5:05 left in the fourth quarter of Game 5 he gets fouled by Hawes and on the replay you can see him calling Hawes a "*b**** ass n****" If we are suppose to be trying to get rid of that word than why is the most influential black athlete using it on the court? Thanks for your time!
Ric Bucher (2:00 PM)
That was the point I tried to make when the incident first occurred and I was taken to task by a member of the gay community. I'm in no way defending what Kobe said; but if we're going to take a stand against offensive language, let's be consistent about it. I understand that LeBron is using the N word in a different way, but I still contend Kobe was doing the same with the word he used. They're used as insults, not as a literal attack of the group to which the word is attached. All that said, I hate when something is done that smacks of grandstanding.
Ric, do you think the underdog role suits the Mavs better? What are your thoughts on Lakers vs Mavs?
Ric Bucher (2:02 PM)
Apparently some people out there think this will be a competitive series. I don't see it. Then again, the Lakers are capable of making any series competitive.
Do you see the Mavs being able to make a series out of this or will the Lakers length be too much for the Mavs?
Ric Bucher (2:04 PM)
Bynum-Chandler matchup will be very intriguing. I'd guess that's why Charles thinks the Mavs can win, because Bynum is so pivotal. I just don't see the Mavs having an answer for Odom and I would expect Kobe to have an easier time in this series than the last.
Mel Kiper (NFL Draft)
Bucher!!! Care to have the battle of all time? Who's hair is more debonaire? I think you might be scared and that's understandable.
I got some job interviews coming up, and I demand you release the following information: what kind of wax is keeping that hair so perfectly parted? Bonus question: what is the upkeep on that thing? Like, what kind of commitment am I looking at in the morning?
Ric Bucher (2:05 PM)
Takes about two minutes. No wax. Hoping to get an endorsement deal out of what I use, so I'm not giving it up yet.
Ric Bucher (2:07 PM)
And, yes, by posting those questions and answering them, I've accepted that the fascination with my hair is not something that is going away anytime soon. Note: I've promised my six-year-old son that we're getting matching buzz cuts this summer. So it's coming off. Just hoping I don't have a Scottie Pippen sharpei dome underneath it.
I've posted this question in like 10 straight chats and it is yet to be answered!! I'll never rip on courtside interviews again! Here goes: If you're the Bulls, do you offer Booz and Noah for Howard via an extend and trade this offseason?
Ric Bucher (2:08 PM)
And I already answered it. In this chat.
It shocks me how much so called analysts are impacted by personal feelings and grudges rather than stats and facts. Chris Paul and Deron Willaims are twice the point guards Rose is. And statistically MANY other players are better.
Ric Bucher (2:11 PM)
And it shocks me how someone will ignore what they see and stare at a number, or numbers, to tell them who is better. I don't know how we got to the point that watching a game and understanding what has to be done and how and assessing who does it better is now "antiquated" and "unreliable" compared to looking at percentages of efficiency and production for players operating in different systems with different teammates, but we're apparently there. And it's a little bit sad.
Ric Bucher (2:13 PM)
I rely on statistics all the time, mostly when it comes to comparing teams and their relative efficiency. Memphis and SA, for example, play at a very similar tempo and the numbers tell me Memphis was more efficient at both ends of the court during the regular season. I believe that. The numbers led me to look at them in a way maybe I wouldn't have. But stats to compare players on different teams to say who is better? Without watching them play? And knowing what their jobs are? Meaningless.
Do you think Westbrook makes a Rose like leap next season? or does he nestle in behind Rose CP and Deron?
Ric Bucher (2:16 PM)
I believe Russ can be a much more efficient PG. But he doesn't manage a game, or utilize what's around him, anywhere close to the way Rose does. He is a bigger, stronger Tony Parker, what I call a two-option PG. He can score or he'll find the second option. But the third or fourth, when they may be the best on that given play? I don't see him consistently doing that.
deryk (los angeles)
Do you ever feel like you know the outcome of an NBA game after a few plays? After watching games my whole life I feel like half the time their is a pattern.
Ric Bucher (2:18 PM)
Yes. I've often seen a matchup early and thought, "Ooooh, they have no answer for that." Felt that in Game 5, even though NO missed only one shot and had the early lead. Lakers were so dominant inside, I just felt that Bynum and Gasol had the aggression to make that play out over the course of the game.
Just to be clear - who did you have in Dallas/Portland?
Ric Bucher (2:19 PM)
I started out with Portland as the likeliest team to pull an upset in the west. Three games into the series, I felt, and said, Dallas would win. Just didn't like how the Blazers were defending.
If Dwight wants to be Da Man, how can he go to LA? Kobe is Da Man there.
Ric Bucher (2:20 PM)
But for how much longer?
So when you watch Lebron playing the 1,3,4,5, depending on matchups and being all over the court, you think that that doesn't show up in the stats?
Ric Bucher (2:24 PM)
I think that the ball being in his hands a lot and that he's the most physically gifted player the league has shows up in the stats. He *can* play all those positions. Sometimes he plays some of them really, really well. Doesn't have the tools to play them well all the time. At other times, it's as if he takes himself out of the equation, which is amazing for someone who can impact the game the way he can. I'm fascinated by LeBron, both because of what he is and what he isn't. And why.
Chris (NY, NY)
Just a guess....Odds Dwight teams up with Deron in Brooklyn?
Ric Bucher (2:26 PM)
Honestly, I don't know. Twenty-five percent? For me, it's the move that makes the most sense for Dwight. But there are a lot of moving parts that have to come together to make it happen.
Numbers (My Computer)
SA was 2nd in Off Efficiency; Memphis was 16th with a gap of 5.0 points. Defensively it was 11th; 8th with a gap of 0.3 points.
Ric Bucher (2:28 PM)
Which just goes to show you can make numbers say anything. SA's 3pt shooting skewed that efficiency. I look at defensive and offensive field-goal percentage. Memphis was better in both, if I'm not mistaken. No element of a team's offensive game can be derailed from regular season to postseason more easily than its three-point shooting. SA and Orlando are the primary examples this year. Historically, we've had plenty of them.
When is the MVP going to officially be announced? I would like to stop referring to Rose as the likely MVP, and just give him the guaranteed MVP stamp of approval.
Ric Bucher (2:29 PM)
I'm told it will be this series. I'd go with Game 2.
Ric Bucher (2:30 PM)
Hey, Russillo just called. Time for me to go on with him. Thanks for joining me. We'll do it again next week.
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