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 (1:06 PM)
I'm on the ground, hunkered down in the SFO terminal, laptop fired up. Lots of good questions already and lots to cover. Let's get at it...
ric, last week during your chat, u stated u didnt thinkn lebron was the best in the league, surely u aren't the only expert that feels that way, why arent more experts that feel that way say it publicly?
Ric Bucher (1:11 PM)
It's probably been more than one of my chats that best player in the league has come up. Let me be clear: I believe LeBron is the most naturally gifted player in the league. But he's not the player I'd start my franchise with and I don't believe he's the best all-around player. My reasons for that are based on a lot of intangibles. It's a lot easier just to look at his size, speed, strength and statistics and make an argument that he IS the best. I'm not looking to make the easy argument, just -- in my mind -- the right one.
Last week you defended Westbrook in my Westbrook for Rondo/true PG trade. Doesn't last night's game, if not prove my point, at least provide additional credence to it? The Thunder don't need scorers or athletes. They need someone to move and distribute the ball. Just because they made the conference finals with him, doesn't mean his skill set is the best for them.
Ric Bucher (1:13 PM)
Neither Westbrook nor the Thunder are a complete product. Does Russ need to make better decisions? Absolutely. But he's 22. That jumper will get better. His decision-making will improve. The only guards I'd consider trading him for would be Deron or Derrick.
Matt Leevy, South Bend IN [via mobile]
I recognize this would never happen, but I was wondering if there are restrictions in place against additional coaches being hired by playoff teams? We all know Kobe can't jump to the Mavs at this point, but hypothetically could Mark Cuban bring Phil Jackson in to be a bench coach? Thanks!
Ric Bucher (1:15 PM)
Contracts generally run until July 1. So, no, bringing in someone under contract with a team this season can't happen. I do know of teams who have brought in coaches who weren't working for anyone that particular season to help out. Not on the bench, but in preparation.
Bryan (Springdale, AR) [via mobile]
So Ric, I know you hate to admit it since you are the biggest cheerleader of Derrick Rose, but Dirk has been the best player in the playoffs. That is, unless, through all you sources and convos with experts you have reached a superior conclusion that only you can attain.
Ric Bucher (1:21 PM)
I'd exchange "cheerleader" for "believer." Either you don't believe I actually talk to people in the league or you think I shouldn't take their counsel. Not sure why that would be. In any case, not sure I'd say Dirk has been the best player in these playoffs. He has had the most advantageous matchups and teams have not loaded up to stop him the way they have Rose -- or even Durant. I give Dirk credit for taking advantage of that, but big numbers don't make a guy the best player. I haven't asked any of my people in the league about that, that's just what I've seen by watching.
Why do people say that Chicago will have money next year to sign a 2 guard? They have over $60 million committed to their top 9 guys.
Ric Bucher (1:27 PM)
I said last week that they hadn't spent all their money. Under the current rules they have about $2.5 million left and they have the mid-level exception, which is worth about $7 million or so. My thinking was they could get a Jason Richardson or a Jamal Crawford with the latter if exceptions are still in play. If they aren't and there's a hard cap, I'm not sure what happens, but just about everybody would be capped out. I would think in a situation like that, JRich or someone of his ilk would rather be a starter on a title-contending team with a PG like Rose than somewhere else. But we'll see.
The Punisher (Punishing People) [via mobile]
Let's hear something regarding your thoughts on the series. Do it before I have to slap someone.
Ric Bucher (1:31 PM)
On Chi-Miami: I felt the Bulls had to win Game 1 to have a chance to win the series. I felt Miami then had to win Game 2 to have a chance. So now I see a full-out dogfight. Being in the Bulls' lockerroom after the Game 2 loss, I got the sense they weren't sure what to do with everyone touting them as the favorite to win it all after winning Game 1. They've been a quiet underdog all year. Bulls had a great chance to put a stranglehold on the series by winning Game 2. Now that they didn't, I'm not sure if they blew their chance or simply made it a dogfight to the end.
Drew (Palo Alto, CA)
Jerry West! Jerry West! Jerry West! Jerry West! Jerry West! Jerry West! Jerry West! WARRIORS! Jerry West! Jerry West! Jerry West! Jerry West! WARRIORS! Jerry West! Jerry West! Contenders? Phil Jackson? Chris Paul? Dwight Howard? What can we expect?
Ric Bucher (1:34 PM)
I'll be honest: it's a curious hire. The world-at-large has to be impressed by a name like Jerry West. But he didn't exactly connect all the dots in Memphis and he's in a non-decision-making role here. Hard for me to see a guy like West happy in a role like that. At the same time, it's hard for me to see a rebuilding franchise putting West in charge. I will say this: nobody is coming to the Warriors just because The Logo is now getting a paycheck from them. Takes a little more than that.
I think once Coach Cheeks came to talk to him, Westbrook should have stopped griping. I think he was disrespectful to Brooks but I don't hear TV guys saying that.
Ric Bucher (1:38 PM)
This is always dangerous territory. We know Russ was unhappy. We don't know about what. Was he mad at himself? Was he mad that he got pulled? Was he mad that somebody ran the wrong play, which ended up making him look bad? Was he mad that the suit he wanted to wear to the game that day wasn't back from the cleaners? We don't know. And again: he's 22. You're asking him, in the biggest game of his life, to just sit down and shut up. Some guys can, some guys can't. I'm not going to kill a guy because his emotions and competitive desire were greater than his maturity in a situation like that. Unless it becomes a habit.
Billy OKC [via mobile]
The beard went crazy and jet stunk up the joint, Mavs aren't really too concerned are they?
Ric Bucher (1:40 PM)
They should be. They're going to OKC, which is a tough place to play. Harden is a tough cover for them. They don't have anyone who can be as physical with KD as Tony Allen and Shane Battier were for Memphis. Making Dirk a playmaker was very effective. We have two great series going right now and I expect them both to go seven.
E (The World) [via mobile]
Let's get to it.
Ric Bucher (1:41 PM)
As rapid fire? I'm with you. Let's do it...
Mary Ann (NY)
Hi Ric, I've been a long-time lurker on your chats and I love em! The Hamilton v. Armstrong doping feud has got me wondering. If the logic is: how could Armstrong NOT be doping when everyone in his sport was, wouldn't the same logic transfer to basketball. Eg: How could basketball players NOT be doping when every other sport (baseball, cycling, olympics, football, mma, etc.) is? I mean Kevin Durant would have been muscular in the 80's but by today's standards he's too thin - is it all just better training, diet or improper testing and regulation?
Ric Bucher (1:44 PM)
From what I know about PEDs, you cycle on and off with them. The need for consistency over the length of the NBA season and the fact that pure strength is not the same factor in basketball simply makes it a sport less conducive, I would think. But there have been rumors, all unsubstantiated, about various players in the league utilizing them to deal with injuries later in their careers.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)
There is some talk of having a one-time amnesty clause in the next CBA that would allow a team to buy out one contract to wipe it off the blocks for salary cap purposes. I hate the idea because it gives a reprieve to teams that spent money foolishly like the Lakers signing Ron Artest to a horrendous extension. What are your thoughts on the one-time amnesty clause in general and whether it has a chance to be in the next CBA?
Ric Bucher (1:45 PM)
You have to have some sort of vehicle to allow teams to pare down to a hard cap of $50 million. I don't know how else you do it, short of reducing everyone's salary by 30 percent. Is that anymore fair?
I have seen you say that the Jazz could have received more for Deron if they made it known to the league that he was available. What package of players and picks are better than what they received?.
Ric Bucher (1:48 PM)
We'll never know. Because they didn't put him out on the market. But in casual conversation with a variety of GMs -- there I go again, talking to people (I have *got* to cut that out) -- they would've offered almost anything they had to get one of the top three PGs in the league and arguably one of the league's top 10 players.
Who says "No"? Tony Parker for rights to Rubio (assuming he would sign) and Derrick Williams plus bits and pieces to make work under cap. Veteran leader to Minny and youth to SA.
Ric Bucher (1:49 PM)
Minnesota. They're not moving Rubio. And from what I've heard just recently, Minnesota should have him whenever we start playing again.
Which point guard has had a sadder ending to their NBA career? A.I- given a bench role, refused it, retired then came back then wasn't particularly wanted again so retired a second time? Or Gil Arenas- technically still in the NBA but his quickness has long gone plus he carries an excess contract and again, appears to not really be wanted?
Ric Bucher (1:50 PM)
I'm going to go with AI. He was a transcendent talent and should still be playing in the league. Gil, in many ways to me, was an overachiever.
Brendan (Pittsfield, MA)
Ric,While I was impressed w/Boozers play in the regluar season (when he wasn't injured), we can all say he's been a disappointment in the playoffs. He seems to be very impatient and not trying to score in the same ways he normally does. Anyways, will his contract be a stumbling point and prevent the Bulls from becoming a championship team? (yes I know I'm over-reacting just a bit)
Ric Bucher (1:51 PM)
I wouldn't say you're overreacting. With a squeezed salary cap, a team has to make every dollar count. Boozer, to this point, is not living up to that contract and it's a long, expensive one.
Matthew (Columbia, NJ)
Ric, Chris Kaman for Iguodala trade does that make sense for both teams?
Ric Bucher (1:52 PM)
It does in the sense that it saves Philly some money and gives them a bigger frontline while the Clippers get a great veteran leader and fill the hole at SF.
Jason Timmons (Pittsburgh,PA)
How are the Sacramento Kings holding up to get a new arena in Sac-Town..I hear the fans are actually trying make a rally to keep the Kings in Sacramento so will this work or are they on their way out?
Ric Bucher (1:55 PM)
I don't know how much it was the fans or the league letting the Maloofs know their intended move to Anaheim wouldn't be approved, but the odds are still heavily against the Kings staying. Even if they had an arena approved tomorrow, they couldn't get it built in time to relieve the financial burden and the demographic just isn't there. I see the Kings in Sacramento for one more year and then in, oh, let's just throw a flyer out there: Kansas City.
Ric, any chance Orlando pushes the button on a trade before the world ends tomorrow?
Ric Bucher (1:57 PM)
Not sure what happens tomorrow, but it all depends on Dwight telling them he wants to be traded. That, to my knowledge, hasn't happened yet. But I've been reassured that he is not signing the offered extension.
Hoping you will take a break from the playoffs to discuss the Abdul-Jabbar/Lakers conflict. Do you think Kareem's issue goes beyond LA to his perceived place in basketball's hierarchy? GOAT conversations start with MJ, occasionally involved LBJ and Kobe but rarely Kareem. Yet, 6 NBA rings, 3 college championships, all time leading scorer, etc. etc. Seems you can easily make a cogent argument about Kareem being GOAT. Yet, in reality people slot him behind MJ, Magic, Russell, and others if they remember him at all. Perhaps in the last 1/3 of his life he wishes he was thought of differently. What do you think?
Ric Bucher (2:00 PM)
Kareem isn't alone in this. Rick Barry is persona non grata with the Warriors and he is arguably, after Wilt, the greatest player to ever play for the franchise. He won them a title, for PistolPete's sake. But it comes down to a couple of things: how you treat people. What you're capable of contributing outside of being a great player. Being part of a front office or working with others is completely different when you're not a transcendent talent. It takes people skills. It takes a mindset, sometimes, that you're not a star but just a worker among workers. Because, in your new role, in many ways, you are.
Ric Bucher (2:03 PM)
That's a long way of saying: Kareem pissed a lot of people off in the way he conducted himself during his days as a player and then afterward. And people who were stepped on don't forget. And those are the people, in the end, who can create a place for you in the organization after you're done playing. Does he deserve a statue because of what he did as a player? Absolutely. Does he deserve a job, head-coaching or otherwise, because he was GOAT? Not so sure about that.
Ric Bucher (2:04 PM)
One last thing: I'm not saying it was malicious or intentional on Kareem or Rick's part. Some people just have personalities that make it difficult for them to mesh or work with other people. But when that's what a job demands, it's hard to look past that and say, "We're going to hire the guy because he was once a great player."
I can imagine how hard is for you to watch LeBron take over game after game in the clutch
Ric Bucher (2:09 PM)
Not really. This is who I once thought he could be. My argument always has been that he shouldn't be giving the ball up to lesser teammates with the game on the line. What irritated me were people who wanted to anoint him when clearly he wasn't being all he could be and bailed out of taking the responsibility that comes with being the most gifted player on the floor. You were shortchanging him by being satisfied with less, in my mind.What I regret is coming to the conclusion he'd never take and make the kind of shots he is now. I generally try not to give up on people who have a certain kind of talent. But let's see where we are in June and what part LeBron plays in getting us there.
Apologies to Kahn and such, but isn't the NBA draft just a little fishy? I mean it really does seem to be fixed. Where else can the person/team with the best chance to win actually RARELY win. It really does seem like the best story usually wins. Feel free not to comment.
Ric Bucher (2:13 PM)
The problem I have with the conspiracies is that the NBA is a business and having the best "story" win the lottery isn't necessarily good for business. But however the lottery turns out, someone comes up with a conspiracy to fit the result. I also have a problem with Kahn being raked over the coals for being glib. He was clearly joking about a subject we all like to joke about, privately and publicly.
MoPETE (N Hollywood, CA)
Ric, I know you fancy yourself quite the grammarian, but twice in less than a month you've screwed up the who/whom thing. (May 13: "It's not just listening, it's knowing who to listen to." April 15: "Knowing both of those guys, they're up until all hours fretting over their game plan no matter who they're playing.")Is that your only grammatical Achilles heel or do you make any other common mistakes?
Ric Bucher (2:18 PM)
It's the one I have the most trouble with when I'm doing a chat because I'm trying to write as fast as I can. Between picking out questions that cover a variety of subjects, making sure I hit the topics that seem to be most popular and trying to come up with interesting answers to them all, I still feel deathly slow. I also try to edit typos and spelling errors out of questions when I can. So my grammar suffers at times, particularly the dangling participle/who-whom one. Just know that I'll try to be more conscientious because it feels akin to a turnover to me.
Ric Bucher (2:20 PM)
Didn't get to nearly as many questions as I would've liked, but I have to roll. Thank you all for joining me. We'll do it again next week.