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December 2, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (2:05 PM)

Greetings from Cleveland everyone, where I'm here to see Shaq renew acquaintances with the Suns. I'd thought the Suns would carry the league's best record into this game too, way back yesterday when I got my ticket. Ah, the best-laid plans ...

Anthony (Toronto)

John, What is the name of basketball can/will the Raptors do to improve? Is Evans going to make a nice difference? When is he due back?

John Hollinger
  (2:07 PM)

I'm sure Reggie Evans will help the interior defense a bit, but remember he can't get on the court unless Bosh or Bargnani step off it. Their defense is truly pathetic, and the scary part is that they've had good health so far. If they ever have to get deep into their bench, forget it. To me, Triano is the one squarely in the crosshairs -- he HAS to get better effort on D than he's received thus far.

Jim (NYC)

Was last night nothing more than D'Antoni voodoo working against his old team, or a sign of things to come from the Knicks?

John Hollinger
  (2:08 PM)

As a wise man once told me, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while." It's great for the Knicks to post such a resounding victory, but I wouldn't take away any larger lessons from it.

JKL (Boston, MA)

Don't you have some kinda stat that would help Philly realize bringing back AI was a bad idea?

John Hollinger
  (2:09 PM)

AI's impact will never be measured in numbers. On pure cost and benefit, the signing makes sense -- he costs nothing and was by far the best player available. The real issue is whether he'll be a such a negative influence on the young guys that it lingers long after he's gone.

matt (memphis)

How many more wins do the Grizz need before Marc Gasol gets some serious all star consideration?

John Hollinger
  (2:10 PM)

I think he absolutely merits All-Star consideration, but I don't think he's going to break through because of all the other qualified big men in the West on teams with better records. In the East he'd be a lock.

Mike (Ohio)

So, are you surprised by the Artest admission of drinking during halftime?

John Hollinger
  (2:10 PM)

Yes and no. Yes, because I can't imagine playing hoops at a high level while sauced. No, because, nothing Ron Artest says or does can ever truly be considered a surprise.

Thomas (KC, MO)

Are you ready to project a playoff spot for Durant and Co?

John Hollinger
  (2:11 PM)

Can't go there yet, just because there's so much quality out West this year. I have nine high-quality teams in the Power Rankings, and New Orleans may make it ten once CP gets back. OKC is in the thick of it and if you held a gun to my head I'd say they get in, but their lack of depth scares me.

Josh (Knoxville, TN)

The Suns are off to a fast start, but why should we expect a different result in the playoffs than all the other years?

John Hollinger
  (2:13 PM)

By "result", I presume you mean "Not winning a championship." Sorry, but this is ridiculous. The league doesn't consist of 1 success and 29 failures. Phoenix made the conference finals twice and the conference semis in a de facto finals another, and lost partly due to injuries and suspensions each time. They have nothing to be ashamed of.

jay (rip city)

John, what is wrong with the blazers? And what do you think of the improvement Oden has made this year?

John Hollinger
  (2:16 PM)

That's the real oddity in a nutshell -- the thought had been, "if only Oden played like a star, then these guys would be unbeatable." Well, Oden's playing like a star, and they're still struggling. Roy, Blake, Przybilla, Aldridge all have #s well below last year's, and losing Outlaw and Batum really thinned out the wing rotation.

Matt (Atlanta)

Has JR Smith regressed AGAIN? He seems to have the physical talent and shooting ability to be an all-star, but will he ever get there?

John Hollinger
  (2:18 PM)

Check out his monthly splits the past two years. The guy isn't exactly a fast starter, and missing seven games at the start probably didn't help any. Trust me, by April you'll be happy to have him around.

Travis F. (DC)

John, my Pacers have too much depth and not enough talent. What can they turn their expiring contracts into that can help them this year and long term??

John Hollinger
  (2:20 PM)

the goal in Indy is to create cap space in 2011 and then make a run at a free agent, hopefully with a strong enough young nucleus to persuade a star to join them. That's the problematic part -- Hibbert has been good when he doesn't pick up three fouls in the first 45 seconds, but Rush and Hansbrough haven't provided much help.

Barry (Cleveland)

Why wont the Cavs deal Z to another team for a good player in return? The Cavs play better when they go small.

John Hollinger
  (2:22 PM)

I would not be surprised to see him dealt closer to the trade deadline, when the Cavs have a better idea of their needs. But it's partly an emotional decision -- he's such a huge part of the franchise, first, and they also have to worry about how LeBron might react. By the way all signs point to Z playing tonight and breaking the record before the home crowd, despite the Suns' smallball ways.

Jake (La Jolla)

John, most cried overpaid when the Lakers signed Bynum to that huge extension. Is he starting to prove that he deserves his fat check?

John Hollinger
  (2:23 PM)

I think he's proving it, yes, but the Lakers were going to have to pay that money no matter what. Somebody would have come after Bynum with a huge offer if he'd ever hit restricted free agency.

David (DC)

Seems like Nick Young has performed decently with some extra playing time for the Wizards. Should he be more entrenched in the rotation even when Miller is back?

John Hollinger
  (2:24 PM)

We can't possibly be watching the same player. The Nick Young I saw against Toronto last night was horrible. He blew multiple defensive rotations even though he was guarding a non-threat, and his offense has yet to progress beyond trying to jump over his defender to get off a jumper. The shooting guard deficiencies in Miller's absence are a big reason the Wiz are struggling.

phil (pa)

What are your thoughts on Jason Smith? I really like his shooting range and athleticism, but he seems to have the game of wing player in the body of a post player.

John Hollinger
  (2:25 PM)

Not sure I have much to add. Every time I watch him I think he should be better than he is. Maybe he just needs more time for the knee to get comfortable.

Brian (Cleveland)

Is there any other unsigned player you see coming out of "retirement" to play? Stackhouse? Wally-Z, Big Shot Bob?

John Hollinger
  (2:27 PM)

Stackhouse is by far the most likely to rejoin the ranks of the living. Wally is debating whether to retire, and Robert Horry is one of us now.

Jeff (Cleveland)

Where you getting dinner tonight in Cleveland? Cleveland loves Hollinger!

Jen (Cleveland)

Where are you having dinner tonight? May I suggest Mallorca on w. 6th St.

John Hollinger
  (2:27 PM)

Any other thoughts? Especially quick takeout type places.

Mike (Peoria)

The Bucks are 1-5 in games Michael Redd has played. The team has played much better when he isn't in the lineup. What can the Bucks do with him? Could the Bucks find any takers for his or are they stuck with him.

John Hollinger
  (2:29 PM)

Don't go overboard with this -- last year they were 17-16 with Redd and something like 2-350 without him. He hasn't looked like himself to me and the knee is likely a factor; they may need to reduce his minutes. He's not worth a max contract, obviously, but a knockdown shooter like that has major value, and once the Bucks get into the teeth of their schedule it should become more apparent.

Joey (SLC, UT)

Yes, the Bucks should trade Michael the Jazz!

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

I would love to see Redd on the Jazz. 0% chance of happening due to his contract, but we can dare to dream.

Jimbo (San Antonio,TX)

What's up with the Spurs' schedule - they've played 5 games less than Portland and are off until tommorrow?

John Hollinger
  (2:32 PM)

Spurs tend to play a very backloaded schedule -- they did last year too -- partly because of that extended road trip they take around the All-Star break. Blazers, in contrast, have a heavily front-loaded slate, in fact I do wonder if they may be a little weary right now.

jake (slc, ut)

Why has there been no trade chatter in Utah when the jazz have 3 highly tradeable assets in Harpring, korver and boozer's expiring contracts?

John Hollinger
  (2:35 PM)

Luxury tax, my friend. The Jazz will go into next year's tax if they use their expiring contracts to take back players with longer deals. So it's not clear to me what deal would be available that could help both parties.

John Hollinger
  (2:35 PM)

Lots of votes for Vincenza's pizza. For those nominating Great Lakes Brewing, thanks but that probably needs to wait for an off day.

Chip (Cleveland)

So Z gets to set the record tonight, but how many mins should he really play against the smaller Suns? Will forcing him into this game hurt the Cavs?

John Hollinger
  (2:36 PM)

I've had the same thought but they can play Z when the Suns have Amundson or Lopez in the game. They'll at least give it a few minutes in the first half and let him get his ovation.

Joe (Grand Rapids, MI)

Wouldn't the best asset that Utah has be the Knicks unprotected first round pick?

John Hollinger
  (2:37 PM)

Absolutely, but I doubt they'll trade it unless they play dramatically better than they've done thus far.

Neil (Cambridge, MA)

The Lakers look great now. I believe that if they play well, they can't be beaten. That said, do you think they use Adam Morrison's contract in combination with Farmar or Vujacic to make a move at some point this season?

John Hollinger
  (2:38 PM)

I absolutely think they *could*, especially if Fisher/Farmar/Brown doesn't float Phil's boat, but remember two things -- first, Jerry Buss has been pretty careful with the money since inking Bynum's extension, and second, it would require a high quality point guard to come available in a salary-dump type of trade. So the odds against are better than the odds for.

Dennis Plätz (Stuttgart, Germany)

John, there's ONE SUN that should be ashamed: Sarver, for selling all those picks, when those players might have pushed the Suns over the top!!

John Hollinger
  (2:39 PM)

A valid point from across the pond.

Mike (Detroit)

Do you see Detroit making the playoffs if they can get Hamilton and Prince back by the end of the month? And, in some respects, would it almost be better for them to miss out and get a high lottery pick that could turn into a franchise-type guy (because Stuckey is quite obviously not what they stubbornly thought he would be)?

John Hollinger
  (2:42 PM)

I actually think Detroit's had a pretty good start all things considered. I never would have guessed they could withstand this many injuries to core players and still stay in the East playoff hunt. Granted, that's partly because the East is a joke this year, but still... As far as your franchise guy in the lottery, remember that it really only improves their position a couple spots. No. 8 seeding the East will pick 15th, while a lottery season puts them, say, 10th-14th with little to no shot at the top three. Not worth tanking for that.

Dustin (Austin)

Gotta ask, who you taking for college football championship?Florida, Alabama or Texas!?

John Hollinger
  (2:44 PM)

Usually I just root against the BCS, since I find the whole thing convoluted and idiotic. They want the validation of a computer ranking but also want to dictate what the ranking ought to be ... I keep rooting for a game that absolutely nobody thinks matches the two top teams, so this year I was really pulling for Cincy-Iowa or Georgia Tech-TCU. Alas, that will have to wait for some other year.

Ron (locker room)

do you see the Nets winning a game any time soon?

John Hollinger
  (2:45 PM)

Yes, they have a few winnable games coming up and they have Harris and Lee back from injury. I imagine Kiki's first 17 games will be more successful than Frank's.

Nathan (Puerto Rico)

If Atlanta faces Miami again in the playoffs... who wins??

John Hollinger
  (2:46 PM)

Atlanta easily. The gap between the two teams has only grown since last spring.

will (NYC)

I am not a fan of either team, please explain to me how Boston moves up five spots in your rankings while LA actually loses points in it's RAT with similar victories on the same night? Also I think LA poses a particular problem for your rankings as their last three games have been blown out at the half and then two quarters of garbage time so your reliance on margin is less accurate here.

John Hollinger
  (2:49 PM)

Will, the Lakers' situation with a blowout that grew closer in garbage time is not unique -- in fact it's also happened to the Celtics a few times. The big differences yesterday were that 1) Boston's win came on the road, and 2) the "last 10 games" portion shifted out a bad result for the Celtics (86-76 at New Jersey)

Brian ((Cleveland))

would you continue to start JJ over Anderson if you were Mike Brown?

John Hollinger
  (2:50 PM)

Yes, because I think he can do more things offensively to stop teams from collapsing around Shaq and LeBron. To me Andy works best as the backup 4/5

Jay (VA)

When the All-Star break comes, do you still see the Rockets hanging around .500?

John Hollinger
  (2:50 PM)

Yes. In fact if they can just make it to Christmas it's all downhill from there, as their schedule the first two months is absolutely brutal.

Ian (Winnipeg MB Canada)

Hey John, At what point does BC start to look at packages for Bosh and what sort of offers can us Raptor truthers expect?

John Hollinger
  (2:53 PM)

A very valid question in light of the Raptors' struggles this week. I wouldn't pull the trigger just yet, and if they get to that point the first step is a pow-wow with CB4 to see how committed he is to staying. But since the general consensus is that he'd rather go and win than stay and lose, they'd have to look hard at packages with the likes of Chicago and Miami.

Mully (Oaktown)

John, do you think the Warriors recent semi resurgence come due to Nellie not being on the bench?

John Hollinger
  (2:54 PM)

I think it's two things: 1) Monta Ellis has really stepped forward with Jacko gone and tried to make it "his" team, for better or worse. Not sure if that happens with Nelly around. 2) The other part, though, is that this team is really pretty talented. They were going to win some games sooner or later. Management is what's holding them back.

Smooth B. (The ATL)

Josh Smith, All-Star???

John Hollinger
  (2:55 PM)

Got my vote. But I'm there every day, so I'm not really sure how much his national profile has changed this year.

Scott (Minneapolis)

Kahn and Rambis have said they'll move away from the triangle and start running once Love returns. I think that will definitely help because it's fairly obvious they don't have the personnel to run the triangle with any success. Plus Flynn and Sessions are uptempo/pick-and-roll guys. How much do you think that change in philosophy will improve their play?

John Hollinger
  (2:56 PM)

I'm disappointed that they said "when Love returns" instead of something more along the lines of "right now". The shift is long overdue, it's painfully obvious that they're running a system designed for talented wing players with the worst wing talent in the league.

Colin Slater (school)

when will the hollinger playoff predictions/projections comeout?

John Hollinger
  (2:56 PM)

We're working on it. The hope is that we can do it this week but a few sprockets still need to be tightened in the engine room.

Gabriel (LA)

Bynum, All star ?

John Hollinger
  (2:57 PM)

I'd say so, yes, but you're ignoring the most important variable -- will he still be upright by mid-February?

Tyson (SLC)

Does Chris Pauls injury help DWill's chances to finally make the All-Star Game?

John Hollinger
  (2:58 PM)

Doubtful -- CP will be back within a week or so, sayeth our Marc Stein, and if that happens he's going to have enough games under his belt to make the team.

Chris (Aurora, IL)

I'm beginning to think you know nothing about my Bulls.

John Hollinger
  (3:00 PM)

I know that the lack of outside shooting is killing them, that they'll probably play better in the second half of the season one Derrick Rose's ankle is up to snuff, and that Kirk Hinrich can't possibly be as awful as he's looked so far.

Jon (NYC)

John, looking ahead a bit here, but humor me. I'm assuming the Nets don't have a legit shot at LBJ, so what about an Amare, Joe Johnson & John wall trifecta this summer?

John Hollinger
  (3:01 PM)

There are several teams I could see Joe Johnson leaving the Hawks for. The Nets are not among them. I fail to see why he'd ditch a pretty good Atlanta team for a reclamation project, especially one that won't be going to Brooklyn for a while longer.

Joel (Philly via Youngstown)

Kevin Martin = trade bait?

John Hollinger
  (3:03 PM)

This will be a very interesting situation to watch, especially with Sergio Rodriguez's recent strong play. The obvious temptation is to go with Rodriguez and Tyreke Evans as the backcourt of the future and trade Martin for frontcourt help and/or a true 3 who can also be a defensive stopper. There are a few teams where Martin would really fit in great because of his shooting -- including the aforementioned Bulls -- but this can't be a fire sale. Kings have little incentive to rush into this.

Joe (Davis)

Does ESPN spring for good seats for its writers? How are the media digs at Phillips?

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

We get credentials for games that are provided by the team, not by ESPN. That entitles us to a seat, but the position of said seat varies by arena. Pretty much all of them come with their pros and cons -- Atlanta, for instance, has good work spaces and fast wireless, but not the best seats.

Melvin (Dallas)

Are you going to be in Dallas on Saturday?

John Hollinger
  (3:07 PM)

Until Marc Stein moves to Manchester, I doubt I'll be in Dallas much. No point in sending me there when Stein's already present. That's the same reason I'm hardly ever in L.A. (Adande) or New York (Sheridan), and why they're hardly ever in Atlanta.

Larry (Indianapolis)

Can I call Brandon Rush a bust yet?

John Hollinger
  (3:08 PM)

I'll go ahead and do it for you. What's funny is that I thought he'd really be a force defensively but struggle offensively. Instead he's in and out defensively .. and struggles offensively.

Steve (San Jose)

Your Firefox hasn't crashed yet?

John Hollinger
  (3:09 PM)

you had to jinx it! Amazingly, it's made it through the entire chat upright, which I believe is the first complete game Firefox has pitched in several weeks. On that happy note, we better wrap this up before Firefox takes a header. Thanks again for all the great questions and we'll be back at the regular time (thursday noon) for next week's edition.