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December 3, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Ric Bucher

Ric Bucher
  (1:01 PM)

Fresh cup of joe, digits stretched, ready to roll. Good morning/afternoon and thanks for joining me. Let's get at it.

Jared (Alberta)

Hi Ric: last night's Lebron was the one I think everyone (outside of Ohio) wanted to see this season. Do you think last night's game will have any affect on the Heat mentality going forward?

Chris (Manchester, UK)

Everyone seems to be in total awe about LeBron's performance last night, but most of us seem to ignore the fact that Wade and LBJ hit most of their outside shots, while the other attacking options still seemed to cause panic for the Heat. What happens when Wade and LBJ are not hitting those fade aways, is yet to be seen...

Ric Bucher
  (1:04 PM)

LBJ's stepback J was falling and the Cavs let Miami in general, and him in particular, get out in transition. He was very good but DWade did the heavy lifting in this game. I came away from it all realizing that A), Cleveland doesn't have a PG or a scoring post player and B), the players weren't as dead-set on challenging LBJ as the fans were.

hasnain (mumbai)

ric, thoughts on ed davis, bayless, and aminu. who will make the biggest impact and who will be the biggest bust?

Ric Bucher
  (1:06 PM)

Whenever I can go with questions from the UK and Mumbai back-to-back, I'm doing it. Really like what I see from Aminu. He's the Jeff Green of the Clippers' core, with Blake/Gordon = Westbrook/Durant. Not the defender Green is, but he's a nice complement to their games, especially when they play fast.

Tom (Austin)

Is something physically wrong with Tony Parker?

Ric Bucher
  (1:08 PM)

Haven't watched him closely in the last week -- will try tonight -- but TP's off-the-court stuff has a tendency to impact him on the court. Word is he and Eva were having problems right before they got married and he was a wreck -- and it showed in his game for a really good stretch. I believe that was when Pop even brought him off the bench for a while. They blamed it on an injury, but that's not what was being said behind the scenes.

Alex (Houston)

Have the Rockets considered trading Luis Scola once Dec 15th rolls around and who would they target?

Ric Bucher
  (1:10 PM)

Look for the Rockets to be very active after Dec. 15. I'm told they have no untouchables on their roster. Just a thought: if you're Miami and you could get a package of Scola and Lowry and Battier for Bosh, do you do that? It would be tempting. And, no, I'm not saying that offer is out there. But Rockets would do a deal for Bosh in a heartbeat.

kwyjibo (Tiffin, Ohio)

I have a question and it was never discussed (at least I never heard it) in July nor leading up to the game in Cleveland).Of all the suitors for Lebron, he was asked why he chose Miami. He answered with something to the effect of "I felt Miami would give me the best chance to win a championship in 2011." If you look at what every team had then, wouldn't Chicago have been the best choice? Chicago now + Lebron may still be better than the Heat currently. Am I nuts in this thinking?

Ric Bucher
  (1:11 PM)

Not nuts. LBJ bought into the vision Pat Riley sold him, along with the fact that he could play with his buddy DWade and live in Miami. But Chicago was tailor-made for him to go after a ring right now. Remember, they could've got LBJ and *still* added Boozer.

BD (Detroit)

As a former professional basketball player one of the most important thing is to comfortable on the court. The Cavs fans did a great job of doing that before the game started. When it started the first time LeBron touched the ball he should of been fouled hard or even flagrant fouled. Basketball is 90 to 95 percent mental, once he started joking and talking with the players and coaches, all the booing and taunting the fans were doing was a waste of time. Bryan Scott should of told his team this before the game.

Ric Bucher
  (1:14 PM)

I don't want to dwell on this, but you're right. And Spoelstra out-coached BScott. He trapped Mo right off the bat, which put Cle on its heels and he took LBJ off the point and allowed him to be a scorer. DWade's steal and dunk right off the tip was huge. My biggest issue: what was the game plan for defending LBJ? I didn't see one.

Ric Bucher
  (1:15 PM)

As an aside, if LBJ doesn't like Spo now, he's just flat-out ungrateful. Spoelstra went out of his way to make the night a success for LBJ.

Rachel (Hattiesburg)

Hi Ric! Louis Williams of the Sixers... why isnt he a starter? He's pretty consistent and is great at getting to the line and making his free throws. Id like to see him start.

Ric Bucher
  (1:17 PM)

Because they already have two guys who are 2 guards masquerading as PGs -- Turner and Jrue. I just don't know what Louis does particularly well, other than get to the line. And Corey Maggette is the champ at that and, well...

Carey (Norfolk,Va)

Is there any stop gap options at Center that will be available for my Thunder before the trade deadline?

Ric Bucher
  (1:19 PM)

I don't see them doing anything major. Thunder are taking the slow-and-steady approach. They want as much flexibility on the other side of the new CBA as they do now. Besides, I'm a big believer that Serge Ibaka in two years is going to be everything they need -- a free-throw shooting Ben Wallace, if you will.

Dan (FL)

Why is your face so big?

Ric Bucher
  (1:20 PM)

Dad, you're such a kidder.

Bill (NJ)

Hey Ric, as a Nets fan this constant speculation both ways about Carmelo's willingness to extend w/ NJ if he was traded here is driving me nuts. Is it safe to say people still don't really know what his intentions are?

Ric Bucher
  (1:21 PM)

His intention is to have his choice of where to play next season - and I'm told NY is his first choice. I expect he'll be dealt by February, but it will be a team willing to take him without an extension signed.

Bill Simmons (Los Angeles)

Why don't you come on the podcast and use a landline phone so we can talk about the NBA Season so far?

Ric Bucher
  (1:23 PM)

I have a landline and I'd be happy to do a podcast. I can only guess you're too busy working on your Q rating, your TV chops or you prefer having your way with Steiny Mo and House.

Taylor (Tx)

Ric, what are your thoughts on the Mavs? They look real good, they're going to get better when Roddy B returns. With the new tea, identity of defense, Chandler bringing the team together, do you think the Mavs can do something special this season? In other words, do you think they can make the conference or NBA Finals?

Ric Bucher
  (1:26 PM)

Don't see it. Chandler makes them better, but they remain a team that if you can game-plan for, as you can in the playoffs, it's easy to take advantage of their flaws. The chief one is that they have to play 2 PGs now to have the full impact of one. Kidd is still the brain/orchestrator, but they need JJ or Beaubois to give them a penetrator who can finish in the paint. It just won't work against the best teams in a series.

Scott (Santa Barbara, CA)

The Clips need a star to put around Griffin and Gordon. With Kaman, Aminu, Bledsoe, their own picks, and the Wolves pick do they have enough to land Carmelo and would he agree to an extension if it meant playing with Gordon and Griffin?

Ric Bucher
  (1:29 PM)

They don't need a star -- they have that in Blake. What they need are vets who can still play and are from winning situations. Guys who know how you have to work every day to be one of the best teams in the league. Blake has a great work ethic, but there's not a single guy on that roster who can teach him the finer points of being a great pro. Nobody is setting the bar for him and it's always dangerous when a guy, no matter how committed, is setting the bar for himself.

rae (oakland)

What is up with Steph Curry this year, he kind of sucks? Also, what is the trade value for Biedrins right now? The Warriors need to make some changes

Ric Bucher
  (1:33 PM)

There's an awful lot to like about Steph Curry, but put me in the camp - albeit a small one - that doesn't think he's a full-time PG in this league. He has real trouble defending them and he doesn't have the athletic ability, in this era, to break guys down and create. That's why he has so many TOs; his passing windows are very narrow. I know there are the Nash comparisons, but Nash proved to have incredible vision and never has been given credit for his ability to take a bump and keep his balance to finish a play. Body strength, innate balance, whatever it is -- Nash has a special degree of it that I don't see in Steph.

steve (INDY)

Why didn't the Cavss play tougher against James? Was he just that good last night? I thought they would put him on the floor at least once...

Ric Bucher
  (1:36 PM)

I'm trying to stay away from too many Cavs' questions, but there are a lot here, so...look at Cle's crew. Who is the firebrand leader? I don't see one. I like Powe and Andy's competitiveness, but the ranks get really thin after that. And, again, the teams that upset Mia have either a really good PG/dribble penetrator, a post-scorer, or both. Cavs don't have either.

Dan (Rochester, NY)

Brighter future, Bulls or Thunder? I know you love both.

Ric Bucher
  (1:38 PM)

Tough one. I believe Rose is the best player to build around at this point -- while conceding you need to put the right pieces around him -- which is a change from what I said before the season. But Sam Presti is a great GM and that, in the long run, is a surer bet. So I'll go with Thunder. By a hair.

Steve (North Carolina)

Can you think of a college that has contributed more to the NBA than Wake Forest? They have given us the key component to one of the most recent dynasties (Tim Duncan) and one of the newer great teams (Chris Paul), as well as one of the biggest NBA controversy causers (Josh Howard) and this year's NBA feel-good story (Ishmael Smith, an undrafted rookie who is now seeing regular playing time with the Rockets).

Ric Bucher
  (1:39 PM)

You went a long way to give Ishmael some love. North Carolina crushes Wake Forest in this category, but on behalf of Ishmael, I want to thank you for coming.

Phil Jackson (Los Angeles)

My Lakers have lost four straight. Should I be worried about my job. Jerry Buss loves Pat Riley (even introduced him at the Hall of Fame!).

Ric Bucher
  (1:43 PM)

A joke question, but gives me a chance to riff on Lakers. They haven't played with much energy all year, so the losing streak isn't much of a surprise. Nor is their lack of energy. They've played with essentially the same corps to 3 straight Finals. No way to get excited about games in Nov/Dec when you know you're going to be making that run again. What I will watch closely is Kobe. He doesn't have much lift, he's defending with his arms/hands and not moving his feet and he's relying on 3s and floaters. He has to have more athleticism than this in April/May/June for them to win another title.

Keith (uk)

What are your views on Grant Hill? Personally, he never seems to get enough credit for what he's overcome with injuries, his recent injury free run (i've jinxed him now!) and the level he is playing at on both ends. Can you convince ESPN to run a story on him?

Ric Bucher
  (1:45 PM)

Two UK questions, and good ones - hey, USers, step up your game. Agree completetly. GHill was a flat-out star in this league, financially secure. Had no reason to endure what he did to get back to playing and now has refined his game to be an effective role player. He was, at one point, as big as AI or TMac and yet found a way to sublimate his ego and re-tool his game to still play. Incredibly impressive and doesn't get enough recognition.

Dan G (Cleveland)

Should I go after Iggy? I mean he is a decent scoring SF you could probably take this team to a 5 seed. Your thoughts?

Ric Bucher
  (1:47 PM)

Fifth seed? East is bad, but not that bad. And I just got finished telling you you don't have a post scorer or a PG and you want to get a poor man's LeBron? Dan, you're *still* not paying attention.

Larry (Boston)

I have to admit I was impressed by LBJ's focus and intensity last night. Where was focus against the Celtics last year? I think that's what makes LBJ a player who needs a tougher guy to deliver a ring.

Ric Bucher
  (1:51 PM)

Decided to sprinkle one in, here and there...LBJ has demonstrated he can dial in now and then and have a other-worldly game, especially when that long jumper is falling. His very first game in Sacramento comes to mind, as does the big game vs. Detroit a few years back. But his game last night was not anything revolutionary. The J form was still low-percentage, for the most part, the rest came in transition where he's always been phenomenal and the Heat were comfortable after about six minutes knowing they could whatever they wanted. Honestly, I didn't see it as an indication of much other than Erik Spoelstra is a pretty good coach and DWade is a great teammate who made the big plays to get Miami rolling in the right direction. LBJ was, quite honestly, along for the ride.

Evan (Boston, MA)

Don't you think that it's a bit unfair for everyone to be criticizing the Heat about their slow start? It seems ridiculous to me that fans and the media alike are holding the Heat to the same high expectations even though they don't have Miller or Haslem. This is NOT the team people thought could win 70+, they're missing their best bench players!!

Ric Bucher
  (1:54 PM)

Interesting -- Heat defense from Boston. Answer: No. You don't talk about winning seven-plus championships, taking down names, accepting the bull's eye, etc. and then play as lackadaisically as the Heat on many nights. Not without taking some criticism. If it was just lack of execution and timing, that would be one thing. They haven't played hard and they've already publicly chaffed at practicing hard and playing long minutes. In my mind? They talked the talk but are not walking the walk.

Jasono (Toronto)

Best player in the nba this season is....westbrook. Agree?

Ric Bucher
  (1:56 PM)

No. He's taken another step forward, but he's not even the best PG in the league. Deron Williams and Derrick Rose are my top 2 right now. And I'm shocked no one is talking about DWill as a MVP candidate. Stop being enthralled with stats and look at what the man does and what he's doing it with.

Ryan (LA)

Who do the Bulls need to really put them in elite territory? What player should they target who YOU KNOW is available?

Ric Bucher
  (1:58 PM)

It's more complicated than that. They're looking for a bargain-priced 2 who can make them better. With Booz, Noah, Deng and soon-to-be Rose on max or near-max contracts, they're not going to pay for a big-time 2 unless they can move Deng in doing it.

Dan (Washington)

Along for the ride...give me a break. Have you ever described a 38 point performance like that before?

Ric Bucher
  (1:59 PM)

Sure. Vince Carter, Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady have had dozens of them. Each.

Pat (Ottawa, ON)

You ignored hasnain's question. Who has the biggest upside/bust potential between: Ed Davis/Aminu/and Bayless? (This is why the Raptors need to be on ESPN).

Ric Bucher
  (2:01 PM)

Aminu has the biggest upside. Haven't seen enough of Ed Davis to really know what he is yet. Bayless is a good tweener 3rd guard on a the right team.

Kobelover (Left Coast)

Who's hamstring is more worrisome for his respective team: Rondo's or Gasol's?

Ric Bucher
  (2:01 PM)

Because of age and the fact this is a recurring injury, I'd say Gasol's.

Steve (Los Angeles)

Post Dec 15: Clips trade Kaman and Gomes to Rockets for Yao....think about it....yup....

Ric Bucher
  (2:03 PM)

Terrible idea. Clips are an up-tempo team and for now, that's the best way for Blake to play. That's not Yao's forte.

Ryan (SLC)

Wow! Did I just see an ESPN employee give DWill some love and even go so far as to mention him as a legit MVP candidate??? (rubbing my eyes) I never thought I'd see the day!

Ric Bucher
  (2:05 PM)

Glad I could make your day. Sorry my answers ran on so long. Will try to be more succinct next week. Thanks for joining me. Same time, same bat station on the 10th.