Chat with Ric Bucher
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, 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 Thursday at 1 p.m. ET!
Ric Bucher (1:05 PM)
Another week, another chat, another bushel of astute questions from my chatters. Sorry we're starting a couple of minutes late. I've been watching too much of the Celtics and Lakers taking their sweet time to get rolling...
I'll be honest, I only watch the NBA during the playoffs. The only 2 Dallas games I've watched all year are the 2 against the Lakers. Are my eyes deceiving me, or do the Mavs play defense now, or are the Lakers just not executing on offense?
Ric Bucher (1:07 PM)
LIttle of both. The Mavs' defense has certainly improved, thanks to the addition of Tyson Chandler and a more fit Shawn Marion than last season. But the Lakers are not finishing at the rim when they have position and of the 20 3s they took, a good 15 were uncontested. They can't win if they don't make shots when Dallas collapses in the paint.
Is Shawne Williams, Toney Douglas and Ronny Turiaf really the best the Spurs could expect for Tony Parker or can I step off the ledge?
Ric Bucher (1:10 PM)
I threw that out there as an example of the kind of youth infusion and roll of the dice move the Spurs have to make to rejuvenate. I've since learned Shawne is not a guy that would fit in SA's culture, at least by the Spurs' way of thinking. For those talking about getting more for TP, "an All-Star point guard" -- easy. The general consensus is that if you take Parker away from Manu and Tim, he's not a cornerstone guy. So getting a proven star back is not likely.
Ric, only now am I realizing how great of a player Dirk has been. For his playoff career he's avg 26 and 11. Looking back, in almost every elimination game he threw up monster numbers. Every yr he's taken a team with deficiencies to 50+ wins. Over the last decade, has he been the 3rd best player in the league behind Duncan and Kobe?
Why is everyone so surprised about Dallas-LA? The best player is a Maverick, Dallas has a much better and deeper bench, and the Mavs are better defensively. Dallas is (I believe) now 57-12 this season when Dirk plays. We knew this last week, so why the shock?
Ric Bucher (1:15 PM)
The short memory of fans never ceases to amaze me. I admire how Dirk has grown, but this is the same guy who got rattled in the 2006 Finals, got stuffed by Stephen Jackson and the Mavs and got knocked out of the first round last year, correct? I've always appreciated his game, but there's a reason no one was on his or the Mavs' bandwagon going into these playoffs.
Do you think its legit to say the Lakers issues have more to do with age and deep playoff runs for the last 3 years than anything else? Like Charles says, "father time is undefeated".
Ric Bucher (1:16 PM)
No question. As I've often said, Jordan retired -- twice -- rather than try to make it to the NBA finals four years' running. The grind and the toll are way beyond simply playing more games than anybody else.
If Ron Artest is not suspended the NBA is undoubtedly trying to help tha Lakers, No? I've seen too many acts like that where he got suspended with the Pacers. Not to mention Zaza's suspention earlier in the playoffs was not nearly as warranted.
Ric Bucher (1:20 PM)
ZaZa headbutted JRich multiple times with what is easily the biggest noggin in the NBA. Artest cracked JJ Barea in the head when the outcome already was decided. A JJ Barea who had been humiliating them. There's a reason Artest walked off right away without a peep. No rationale whatsoever for what he did, other than frustration.
Are the Miami Heat now the clear favorites to win it all?
Ric Bucher (1:21 PM)
Hard for me to go quite that hard with them. But I can envision them winning it all now, for the first time. Still amazes me to say that about a team that is as shaky as they are in the final two minutes, offensively, but their defense is legit and if they can consistently take double-digit leads into the final minute, I see that as their window.
Ric Bucher (1:22 PM)
Let's go rapid fire for the next 20...
joseph (los angeles, ca)
Is Simmons' tweet about Stein hugging strangers at the Laker game true? If so, could that be the biggest premature celebration ever?
Ric Bucher (1:23 PM)
Steiny Mo is not a hugger, he's a pessimist. Mavs could win the title and he'd be waiting for a recall.
Has there been a bigger playoff disappointment this year than Carlos Boozer?
Ric Bucher (1:24 PM)
Pau Gasol? It's a pretty tight race.
The thought process has always been "you never get equal value when you trade a superstar"....but I'm still thinking Orlando would be better served to blow it up and offer Dwight now. Certainly, some teams could give back something decent.....right??
Ric Bucher (1:25 PM)
Yes. The question is, does Dwight make that clear to them that they have to do it.
would miami land on veterans like t-mac or vc for the bench in off-season ?
Ric Bucher (1:25 PM)
What, you're afraid their defense is too good? You want them to take it down a notch?
Martin (Hattiesburg, MS)
Ok...I'm trying this 'get your question in early' thing.... Is there anyway the Spurs can move Jefferson? Would Denver give up Gallo if the spurs would take Al off their books?
Ric Bucher (1:27 PM)
His contract is palatable, but he would be hard to move without packaging him. Not a big market for 30-somethings who got benched for a journeyman rookie (Neal).
Whats ur take on Game 3 in Dallas? Lakers chance of winning without artest? And if they do, will the mavs have a deja vu of their recent Playoff history ( especially 2006)?
Ric Bucher (1:29 PM)
I feel as if the Lakers actually might have a better chance without Artest. He's been that ineffective and it might be the motivator for a few other guys to step up.
If you watch Artest's 'clothesline' on Barea again, it wasn't that terrible. He just happened to catch him in the face. Technical/flagrant foul, fine. But suspending him a game is highly questionable. Watch it again. Agree?
Ric Bucher (1:30 PM)
Don't agree; it was pointless. And I'm amused by the notion that it occurred because Barea is short; what, Artest wasn't aware of that?
If the Lakers lose, who is ABC rooting for to come out of the West? OKC?
Ric Bucher (1:31 PM)
Dallas is the next biggest market and Miami-Dallas would be an intriguing story line for mainstream America. At least for a game or two.
Ken B. (Mount Pleasant MI. )
Do you think Shaq will really play in this series or is this just a Boston smoke screen?
Ric Bucher (1:31 PM)
I expect him to play because I expect Boston to pull out all the stops. But I don't expect him to be a factor.
Ric, I know you're dead set against Dwight to the Bulls. But lets be honest, Howard isnt stupid. He wants to win rings and Miami is only getting better. LA with an aging Kobe is not a place to win NOW and in the future. Neither is New Jersey. The Bulls have TONS of assets to make a trade, how could Dwight pass on that chance?
Ric Bucher (1:33 PM)
I'm not deadset against anything regarding Dwight. I'm just telling you what I've heard and know and Chicago is not on his list.
DDL AA (Atl)
Am I crazy or are the hawks now the favorites to win the series against Chicago. I expected them to loose yesterday. But if they're good enough to win game 1 on the road, I think they can win both home games. Im just surprised by how many commentators still think the bulls can win.
Ric Bucher (1:34 PM)
You're not crazy, just a bit taken by one result. Bulls had one of the best defenses in the league. If DRose can back to being DRose despite the ankle, Chicago still is and should be the favorite.
any chance of dwight howard going to atlanta?
Ric Bucher (1:34 PM)
No. Not on the list, either.
Thomas (Fremont, OH)
Why wont Kobe go to the rack. 1 FG attempt at the rack in 2 games. Although, slowing down he can still beat Kidd off the dribble cant he?
Ric Bucher (1:35 PM)
Kobe has slowed down, which means he can get past the first defender, but not so quickly that the second and third can't get into place. And Dallas has some size and length and is packing the paint.
Between the 2002 and 2009 titles, the Lakers were prone to 'throwing in the towel' so to speak, as the team makes their playoff exit (2004-Gm5-DET, 2006-Gm7-PHX, 2008-Gm6-BOS). Do you see this as a possibility in Dallas this weekend?
Ric Bucher (1:37 PM)
I don't see it as throwing in the towel, but a reflection of Phil Jackson as a coach. Give him a good hand and he'll play it as well as it can be played. But adjusting and tweaking matchups in the course of a series with a mixed bag? There are other coaches who are better. Rick Carlisle might be one of them.
Steve (Palo Alto)
What is the likelihood Nene stays in Denver? I like our rebuilding pieces but he has to be the core of that.
Ric Bucher (1:38 PM)
There's a chance, but they're going to have to come strong. Nene will have a lot of value on the open market and his agent also has Dwight. If I were him, I'd be dangling Nene as a consolation prize for anyone who wanted Dwight but ultimately didn't get him.
The Boozer situation is getting a bit awkward. He badly needs a breakout game or some boost of confidence. Do you think it's the injured toe that's making him look so different? Or how should we account for his mediocrity? Do you think there's hope?
Ric Bucher (1:40 PM)
I believe it's that he never got into shape after the hand injury and his confidence is shot, for whatever reason. But they have to keep hoping he'll find a game and rhythm -- hard to see them getting to the Finals without some kind of contribution from him.
Mark Cuban (Big D)
So is my team on Dwight's list? *crosses fingers*
Ric Bucher (1:41 PM)
Yes, it is. But you knew that.
Safe to say Dirk > Pau?
Ric Bucher (1:41 PM)
In this series, sure.
Ric, Boozer obviously needs to step up his game, but some blame has to fall on the COY the MVP, too, right? Why give all that money to a guy whose bread-and-butter is the high pick-and-roll and then install an offense that hardly utilizes the high pick-and-roll? And it has to be said that Derrick isn't yet the best at running the pick-and-roll: Boozer will splash home a 15- to 17-footer off the "pop" every time, but the ball always arrives late, after the defense has resettled.
Ric Bucher (1:44 PM)
You either owe Boozer money or are related. Boozer is struggling, but it's not because of the PG or the coach or getting the ball late. Giving Boozer on the pop means you're living by his jumper, which has not been falling. They're not getting anything else out of giving him the ball there, which was not always the case.
Miami was NEVER on the LeBron list until the final week. It was ALWAYS Cleveland, Chicago or New York. If Howard is presented a chance to play for the Bulls, I personally GUARANTEE you he won't pass it up!
Ric Bucher (1:46 PM)
What you meant to say was LeBron was stuck between staying in Cleveland or going to Miami from the start and the rest was a charade. But I'm happy to help you out.
Do ESPN NBA analysts have a contractual clause forbidding them from mentioning Rose's abysmal shooting percentage and volume?
Ric Bucher (1:49 PM)
No. One, I've heard it referenced in a number of places. But those analysts are also required to actually watch the games and give their analysis based on having played the game, knowing what Rose is being asked to do on a bad ankle, what opposing defenses are doing and the fact that he continues to do everything necessary to win. Put down the boxscore and watch the plays that are made to win the game. DRose is making them.
You national guys rarely respect Dirk like he deserves. No one is saying he's Jordan. We're saying he's a future hall of famer, the best player the Mavs have ever had, and has been one of the best 5 players in the league the past ten years. Why isn't that enough?
Ric Bucher (1:54 PM)
Oh, stop with the no-respect card. The pendulum has swung wildly on who and what he is, from league MVP to choke artist and back. Now he's having a great scoring series against the two-time defending champ and he's supposedly been overlooked all these years. Uh, no. When all is said and done, Dirk is a Hall of Famer and probably the best-shooting big man the league has ever seen. He has improved as a defender and a rebounder and I love his work ethic. But let's look at the body of work. There are a few glitches in it. Pointing those out, or having a balanced view isn't hating on him.
Who is playoffs mvp so far?
Ric Bucher (1:55 PM)
Zach Randolph? Dirk? DRose? DWade? Those would be my candidates.
Travis (West Covina, California)
Hi Ric. I've been thinking all season long that the Bulls are extremely overrated and will fall once they face an elite team in the playoffs because they have a one-man show offensively, and get them into pick-and-roll situations, or isolations, and they can't keep up and guys can practically walk into the paint undeterred. I feel once the Heat finish off their series, which I have full confidence they will, they will easily handle the Bulls. Do you agree?
Ric Bucher (1:58 PM)
Can't see them easily handling them, but Rose clearly is impaired by that ankle. He's having to pick and choose when he goes and how hard he goes and the Bulls' limitations are being exposed. Two healthy scoring stars vs. one injured one and two comparable defenses? It would be hard not to favor Miami. If we get there.
Zohaib (Hermosa Beach, CA)
Dirk always look so clutch at the end of games (whether you're watching the game or by stats), but his team's playoff record/botched series don't reflect it. Why the disparity? He's had some good teammates in the past.
Ric Bucher (2:02 PM)
Because he wasn't always. For whatever reason, he seems to have reached a point where the previous failures have thickened his skin. He looks to aggressively take shots with the game on the line, and fight for quality shots no less, where before he looked intimidated by the moment. After the Finals loss and upset by GS, it's as if he said, "Screw it, I've taken the worst beatings I can take, shooting and missing with a game on the line can't be worse."
Ric Bucher (2:04 PM)
Which, I suppose, should hold out hope that one day LeBron will figure it out and fully utilize his talents.
Teams with 'score-first' point guards never win titles. Can we really expect much out of The Thunder and Bulls?
Ric Bucher (2:05 PM)
Isiah Thomas on ilne 1. Says he wants to know if you forgot about him.
Mike (St. Paul, MN)
I haven't heard anything about owners wanting to cut back on rookie contracts in the new CBA but I keep reading the the Wolves are trying to get Rubio signed before May 31 so that HE will avoid losing money with the new CBA. I think the rookie scale is great for the NBA. Are owners trying cut back on rookie salaries as well? Wouldn't it be safe to assume that he would make about the same amount even if he signs after May 31? Thanks.
Ric Bucher (2:07 PM)
The owners want to cut back everything. It makes no sense to reduce maximum salaries and not do the same with the rookie scale. Actually, it would put GMs in a bind trying to build their rosters.
So the big theme this year is that finally the old guard can't keep up. Who is ready to grab the ring?
Ric Bucher (2:08 PM)
Don't completely agree. Dallas is still old guard and they're in the mix.
Josh (Knoxville, TN)
I have eyes and a brain. Implying that because people bring statistics means they don't watch the games is weak sauce. Your argument that you can see things others can't and your knowledge is greater than others and your opinion is worth more than any numbers is perfect b/c it's irrefutable. No matter what someone says you just get to say that you know better. It's ridiculous.
Ric Bucher (2:16 PM)
It's not my opinion. It's based on what I know from having covered the league for nearly 20 years and all the conversations I've had with players, GMs, coaches, scouts, etc. If I don't know more than the average bear after all that time, well, I'd have to be hit by one of those Men in Black sticks every morning. All that said, I almost never base anything merely on my opinion and I use statistics regularly as well. My problem is that because of advances in baseball metrics in evaluating individual talent, it now has become fashionable to think the exact same advances have been made in basketball. They have not. They are two different sports and individual performance in basketball is intrinsically connected to the other four players on the court. Trust me, I regularly talk to teams who are exploring what metrics can do for them. If there were stats that worked, I'd be all over them. I love nothing more than getting deeper insight into how a game I love works and what makes a team or player successful. But when someone starts out by saying so-and-so is shooting xx percent, it's meaningless without looking at it in the context of the game, almost possession by possession. Sorry if that offends you.
Ric Bucher (2:18 PM)
Would like to stay longer after that diatribe, but I have to roll. We'll pick this up a week from now -- and the beauty is we'll have a lot more answers. Thanks as always for joining me.