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November 4, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (2:13 PM)

Greetings everyone. Pretty exciting first week overall so we have plenty to talk about. First, a public service announcement: The 2 PM Thursday chat should be a regular gig, so remember to come back here every week.

Aaron (DC)

I'm a Spurs fan who prides himself on being rational. Yet four games in, I'm having a hard time keep my head about my squad. The big three looks spry, the young guys like Neal, Anderson and Splitter look like gamers and more importantly, Richard Jefferson seems to have gotten his soul back from the devil. So tell my why I shouldn't think my guys can be a legit contender come the playoffs.

John Hollinger
  (2:14 PM)

I think you guys can be a legit contender come the playoffs. Thought so before the season (had them with 54 wins

Phil (Lansing)

Looks like you were a year early with your Elton Brand breakout.

John Hollinger
  (2:15 PM)

Haha. He won't be playing the Pacers every night. Subjectively I didn't think he looked good when I saw him in other games, but you're right that his stats have bounced back somewhat this year.

Omar (Charlotte)

What is going on with the Thunder? Already blown out twice against the Jazz and Clippers.

John Hollinger
  (2:15 PM)

Discussed in today's PER Diem, which should be out soon if it's not already.

Brian (Indianapolis)

John - Do you think Brandon Rush will and should start over Dunleavy when he comes back?

John Hollinger
  (2:16 PM)

I've never understood Indy's fascination with Rush. The only reason to start him would be if Dunleavy simply can't do the job. I think it's a little early to say that definitely.

Randy (Portland)

Have you heard about all the Sonics fans going to the Portland vs OKC game tonight dressed in their Supersonics colors? Will you be at the game tonight?

John Hollinger
  (2:17 PM)

Thanks for bringing that up, because I will be at the game tonight and will be writing a report for the Daily Dime. On the Seattle thing, the last time Sonics fans were going to allegedly storm Portland only about twelve of them showed up, so color me skeptical about any massive green uprisings tonight.

Ryan (Washington)

What can you say about Armon Johnson? Steal of the draft?

John Hollinger
  (2:18 PM)

Still early enough that everybody thinks they got the steal of the draft, but Johnson has looked very, very good so far. Be a good battle of two quality young backup PGs when he faces Maynor tonight.

Matt (Memphis)

You seem more optimistic than most about Grizzlies' Mike Conley extension. Is this early improvement from Conley legit?

John Hollinger
  (2:20 PM)

I would describe myself as "less pessimistic." Lots of people think it's about the stupidest thing in history; I think it is merely stupid. The Griz have all the negotiating power in restricted free agency, and have made essentially a six-year commitment (this year plus the next five) to a guy whom, to date, hasn't been that good. Under the present CBA, I could easily see him being worth his contract a year from now. Under the new CBA, I'm a bit more dubious. Also, if you look at the Grizzlies' pay structure, it makes me wonder if they intend to keep Mayo when his contract expires.

Will (Athens)

What do you think about the Hawks start?

John Hollinger
  (2:21 PM)

About what I expected. They haven't played anyone yet (win at Memphis came with Gasol and Randolph out) so it's tough to make any grand proclamations. They've taken care of business, but nothing more yet.

Shawn (Rochester, MN)

Hi John. Expected the Wolves to lose to MIA and ORL, but not like *that*. Are they still that new together, or missing Beasley/Webster/Flynn that much, or bad coaching, or no talent, or ?

John Hollinger
  (2:21 PM)

Yes

Jim Crozier (Boise, Idaho)

John, both Durant and Westbrook played for Team USA over the summer. With their slow start, do you think part of it might have something to do with having a shorter than usual offseason? There's been talk for years about playing Internationally leading to greater fatigue and injury susceptibility in the next year. How legit is that?

John Hollinger
  (2:22 PM)

Basically, there's no data to support that point of view whatsoever. It's just drunk-lamppost material; if a guy plays in the summer and then either has a bad start or gets injured, everybody blames his summer.

Brian (Indianapolis)

Do you see Roy Hibber as a future All-Star? If so how soon and what are your thoughts on him?

John Hollinger
  (2:23 PM)

No, but I see him as a solid starting center, and I wouldn't have said that a year ago. He looks in better shape to me and the reduced foul #s say the same thing, and I like how he's passing out of the post.

Omar (Charlotte)

The Hornets have 4 wins over 4 playoff teams from last year. Do you think they are legitimate playoff contenders in the West?

John Hollinger
  (2:24 PM)

Playoff contenders? Absolutely, have always thought so. Contenders to actually win anything important? Not seeing it, especially with such flimsy frontcourt depth. But if I can get a couple playoff trips to Jonny's Po' Boys out of this I'll be ecstatic.

Freddy 2-pc (Oakland, CA)

Are you suprised that the Warriors are 3-1? Not only are they 3-1 but the have out rebounded 3 of 4 opponents.

John Hollinger
  (2:26 PM)

I'm not surprised by the record as much as by Monta Ellis, who I also talk about in today's Per Diem. The thing you have to understand about Golden State is that they have about the most lopsided schedule in the league -- a very easy first half and a very difficult second half. So they have to bank all these wins now while they have home games against beatable opponents.

Ryan (Minneapolis)

No way Rondo keeps up this torrid assist pace or can he? He's got 4 hall of famers to dish too and Big Baby is lookin like a beast too! Say the celtics win 60+ any chance of Rajon for MVP?

John Hollinger
  (2:27 PM)

Highly, highly doubt that. But I do believe he will lead the league in assists because Boston is giving him so much responsibility to generate offense for them.

Barry (Portland)

Wat's for lunch today?

John Hollinger
  (2:27 PM)

Pondering Beau Thai, my little NW Portland staple, but I may branch out and go somewhere further afield since it's that rarest of rarities here -- a glorious sunny day in November.

John (Orlando, FL)

The Magic cannot win the finals as currently constructed. Do you think CP3 or Melo gives them a better chance to compete with the Lakers, Celtics ans Heat?

John Hollinger
  (2:29 PM)

I'm not sure I buy the premise of your first sentence -- they got awfully close the past two years -- but in terms of adding players, CP would be by far the more impactful performer. They already have the perfect team for him to operate with 3-point shooters and an alleyoop weapon in Howard; he'd get about 90 assists a game on that team.

Randy (Portland)

John go to Silk in NW Portland for lunch. Good Vietnamese food.

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

Good call. Been there. Real solid, and I loves me the Vietnamese coffee with the sweet condensed milk.

Ben (NYC)

Shouldn't the Clippers just let Bledsoe/Gordon/Griffin run the show? they looked fantastic last night!

John Hollinger
  (2:32 PM)

I don't want to get too carried away with one game, but I've been quite impressed with how advanced Bledsoe's floater is for a rookie who played one year in college. Usually guys need a lot longer to get that shot down. How they deal with Baron is potentially a huge issue -- I don't think he'll react well to a benching, but if this continues they won't have much choice.

Disco (Chicago)

Who's ahead in the Blake/Wall ROY race?

John Hollinger
  (2:32 PM)

Great question. I have Wall by a nose. He blew my doors off with the way he played in Atlanta. I know ATL can't guard quick PGs and that may have skewed my impression, but it was impressive nonetheless and his other games weren't chopped liver either. He's far more advanced than I expected at this point.

Jayvee (Manila)

Why do you hate the Lakers?

John Hollinger
  (2:33 PM)

Thanks, I was getting worried about you guys. It had been an entire half hour into my first chat of the new season.

Chad (Auburn Hills)

How's the ankle? And which of you ESPN writers can actually ball?

John Hollinger
  (2:35 PM)

Much better, thanks. (Sprained it last week playing ball). I haven't played with Broussard but everyone who has says he kills it. Stein, on the other hand, keeps kicking at the ball and trying to call "handball" on people, so he struggles.

Jeff (Camas)

When you're in Portland, do you and Canzano have a bald-off?

John Hollinger
  (2:36 PM)

Actually we're trying to get Joe Freeman's beard transplanted into our scalps. If it works we'll have Troy Polamalu hair.

Mike (Williamstown)

Hi John -- I know it's early but what's surprised you the most thus far?

John Hollinger
  (2:37 PM)

The relative lack of surprises, to be honest. Usually something early happens that takes everyone completely by shock. Haven't really seen that yet.

BSB (Philly)

76ers fan here. (paper bag coming soon) any hope for the 76ers? Were your projections for them too rosey?

John Hollinger
  (2:38 PM)

I think they'll be OK. I worry about Collins leaning on veteran mediocrities so much at the expense of his better young players, but Lou Williams looks great, Brand has been better, and one presumes he'll eventually realize that Thaddeus Young is better than Jason Kapono.

Chris (Miami)

Luis Scola, Dorell Wright, Mike Conley, Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo, they're all having breakout years but which ones are most likely to see their numbers drop?

John Hollinger
  (2:39 PM)

Scola. It would be pretty unprecedented for a 30-year old player to suddenly blow up like this.

Dominick (Maine)

Do you think the Nets should back off the trade talks with Denver and hold on to Favors?

John Hollinger
  (2:40 PM)

Yes, because I think realistically they should be focusing on the 2012-13 season and making a splash in Brooklyn. But I fear Prokhorov is more interested in winning the press conference than building a long-term winner.

Colin (Chicago)

John, give me some of your random thoughts on the BULLS!

John Hollinger
  (2:42 PM)

Still worried about the lack of shooting but had a personnel guy tell me Luol Deng was shooting the 3 pretty well in preseason. I was skeptical until he hung 40 on Portland. That would be very helpful for Chicago. Right now Rose is having to do way too much but once Booz comes back the load should lighten. Also, no way they keep holding opponents to such ridiculously low 3-point percentages.

Trevor (San Antonio)

Surprised that Richard Jefferson is leading the Spurs in points and PER? He was incredible in the 4th against Phoenix last night.

John Hollinger
  (2:43 PM)

Stunned. I sat courtside and watched him play four games against Phoenix last spring, and can't recall one impactful moment he had. Obviously, last night he was rather impactful.

Kerry (Dallas)

If you could give the T-wolves organization three pieces of advice, what would they be?

John Hollinger
  (2:45 PM)

How about one piece for now -- bad franchises tend to focus on their best players's weaknesses. All you heard Minnesota talk about last year was how Al Jefferson couldn't move, and now you hear the same thing about how Kevin Love can't defend. Kind of like the things we heard about Pau Gasol in Memphis. The problem isn't Love or Jefferson, it's that they're stuck on a bad team ...

Lenz (Tel aviv)

Who's your First week MVP?

John Hollinger
  (2:46 PM)

CP. Killing me that I didn't choose him in our preseason picks. If Hornets win 50 he has a great shot at it.

Disco (Chicago)

Is the pull up 3 on a fast break the worst shot?

John Hollinger
  (2:47 PM)

No, the contested long 2 off the dribble with 20 on the shot clock is the worst shot. Last year Monta Ellis was the master at this, but he seems to have gained some sense over the summer.

kyle (minneapolis)

Biggest reason for Bosh drop in PER:1) small sample size2) new teammates and role3) learning new system

John Hollinger
  (2:48 PM)

I'll go with 1) for sure. Instead of 2) or 3), I'll say I don't like how they're using him. He should be facing up opposing bigs from the elbow and attacking off the dribble more. He doesn't really get the rock much in the pick-and-pop because LeBron's instinct is to back it out and run the Cleveland everybody-stand-and-watch offense. That should change as year goes on.

Zaza Pachulia (Atlanta)

John, do I keep playing this well? Am I suddenly competent with the ball in my hands because I no longer hate my coach?

John Hollinger
  (2:52 PM)

While I'm tickled over the strong start by the Atlanta area's tallest restaurateur, his rate stats haven't changed much -- the main difference is he's shooting 69.6%. Given the weak opponents and small sample size, I'd expect the shooting percentage to slink back to his normal range.

Phil (LA)

Who's my third all-star? Bynum, Odom, or Brown?

John Hollinger
  (2:52 PM)

Well, if Odom keeps shooting 80% on 3s and 70% overall, then I think it's Odom. Phil has a very interesting decision to make when Bynum comes back given how well Odom has been playing.

Disco (Chicago)

Any comment on KG and CV?

John Hollinger
  (2:54 PM)

It's a he-said, he-said, so we don't really know what went on. Best thing that can come of it is the acknowledgment that, even in the heat of battle, certain things should be off limits.

Dan (Kansas City)

John, any idea what's up with Nic Batum in the last two games?

John Hollinger
  (2:54 PM)

Puzzled, as much by the early hooks from McMillan as by his own poor starts. He should be an ideal defender against Durant because of his length, but I want to see how long Nate rides him if he starts slowly.

ilya (portland)

if Oden is a bust, as many would say (i disagree, not enough sample size yet), what does this make Thabeet? a "let's never talk about him" pick?

John Hollinger
  (2:56 PM)

Every scout I talk to about Thabeet doesn't even qualify their answer. It's not "well, he does this well but that not so well," ... it's more like "he's not any good." I think he's headed toward Darko territory on the bust scale. The good news is that in 2017 David Kahn will sign him to a five-year, $20 million contract.

JP (Baton Rouge, LA)

Are there any available bigs that the Hornets might be able to get in return for Peja?

John Hollinger
  (2:57 PM)

Darko Milicic and Hasheem Thabeet.

Mark (New Orleans)

When Demps turns Peja into Kaman, will your expectations of the Hornets change?

John Hollinger
  (2:59 PM)

He has a better chance of turning Lake Pontchartrain into tundra. Every fans thinks theirs is the only team that has a large expiring contract; actually every team can conjured up similar dead weight, so the difference-makers become draft picks and quality young players to spice up a deal. Hornets don't have the cards some other teams do on that front.

Brad (Toronto)

I believe Darko's contract expires in 2016, so that is likely when Thabeet will sign.

Hollinger Fan (on your lawn)

Dude, I think you're were dead on about the Thunder. They were the trendy pick to challenge the Lakers out West, but you're right, Portland has way more reasons to be excited about.

John Hollinger
  (3:01 PM)

Hey, get off my lawn! As for the Thunder, I'm very interested to see what we get from them tonight. Their hugely negative 3-point differential is a fluky thing that will probably even out at some point, but even if you take that away they're not defending at last year's level.

Chuck (Woodbridge, VA)

Al Thornton's agent says Al would not have signed an extensiion as Al will blow up this year. Al has lost weight and seems into defending. You've been hard on him in the past. What's his ceiling?

John Hollinger
  (3:02 PM)

I'm glad you brought this up -- I couldn't believe how much better Thornton looked when I saw him in the Atlanta game. What impressed me most wasn't conditioning related, it was that he didn't make a single dumb play the whole game. In the past he'd constantly undermine himself with bad decisions, but he was really solid and scoring very efficiently in ATL. If he keeps it up he'll definitely get paid.

john (portland)

John, who wins WCF Lakers or Portland?

John Hollinger
  (3:03 PM)

Lakers are overwhelming favorites to win the West until further notice. Very impressed with how well they've played without Bynum, and Kobe's knees haven't been an issue thus far.

Travis (SLC)

Thoughts on Utah's slow start and then the crushing on two opponents? Where do you see them? Somewhere in between the two teams that we have seen right?

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

Pretty much. That first game in Denver was very weird because of how disjointed the offense looked, but I'm guessing they'll be fine from here on out.. (by "fine", of course, I mean more like "cruising to a 6 seed" than "watch out LA").

Alex (Charlotte)

As a STH for the Bobcats I was not at all happy with them dumping our starting PG and Center. Do we have any chance of going back to the post-season?

John Hollinger
  (3:06 PM)

In the East you always have a chance. But it will require tremendous health, strong development from young guys like Augustin and Brown, and perhaps an in-season upgrade at center. All are possible, but I wouldn't bet on it either.

Keith (Michigan)

Are the Pistons and Rockets as bad as their records suggest?

John Hollinger
  (3:08 PM)

Rockets -- no. Pistons -- perhaps. They lost a couple tough games but I don't like that they already appear to be splintering. Also, somebody needs to remind Rodney Stuckey he's in a contract year and the coach-killer label isn't going to do him any favors this summer.

Angel (Portland)

#20 will shine bright in the Rose Garden tonight. Another player taking from us way to soon. After the moment of silence, "LUUUUKKKEEEEE" will ring loud and strong. Maurice Lucas will be missed.

John Hollinger
  (3:10 PM)

And that's a fine way to close. Should be an emotional night in PDX. By the way, the last time they honored a fallen Blazer, Kevin Duckworth, we also were treated to one of the best game I've ever seen -- the Blazers-Rockets contest with three lead changes in the final two seconds. The NBA still uses the crowd shot of Brandon Roy's game-winner in commercials.

John Hollinger
  (3:11 PM)

Thanks again for all the great questions everyone, and we'll do this again next Thursday at 2.