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December 23, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with John Hollinger

John Hollinger
  (2:05 PM)

Good afternoon everyone, and a happy holiday season to all. Plenty to discuss in the wake of the past few days so let's get right to it ....

Bobby (Glendale, AZ)

Seems as though the Suns' trade was more about ridding themselves of Hedo's bad contract than adding anything meaningful (other than a late 1st rounder). Can you decipher a long-term plan in anything that they do? Will Gortat be one of those successful backups who gets exposed by more minutes?

John Hollinger
  (2:07 PM)

Disagree -- Gortat was very much a key to this deal. Getting a real center was a huge part of this, and getting it by shaving off some of the small forward surplus makes the minor downgrade from Richardson to Carter very palatable.

Jonas (Sacto)

Would Cousins shape up if he had a coach like Sloan or Pop?

John Hollinger
  (2:09 PM)

I don't know -- he's that much of a character qustion. What I do know is that the suspension was exactly like the Spencer Hawes thing a year ago -- a Cartman-esque, "you will respect my authori-TAY" move by a coach who couldn't command his locker room's attention in more conventional ways.

B (NY)

Should the Bobcats just blow up that team and start from scratch now that Larry Brown has gone?

John Hollinger
  (2:11 PM)

Yes, in fact I was going to write about all his options to do just that today before we learned that it was very much an open question whether he'll pursue that path. Chad Ford and I rated Charlotte dead last in the Future Power Rankings and have had them there for over a year -- they have no cap space, no future assets, no good young players, nothing. And the bulls have to be doing cartwheels about that future first they pilfered in the Tyrus Thomas trade.

bilal (uk)

we saw hedo playing pretty good defence against dirk on tuesday night, do you agree that him getting destroyed at the defensive end in phoenix and toronto was a motivation thing?

John Hollinger
  (2:12 PM)

I was tempted to write about that -- watching him compete against Dirk the other night had to be a total slap in the face to every fan in Phoenix and Toronto.

Joey (Portland, OR)

What's the best the Blazers' can hope to get from trading Miller and Przybilla? Is there any point guard out there that could be a good fit with Roy, much less one that might be on the trading block?

John Hollinger
  (2:13 PM)

Isn't the better question, at this point, whether there's a shooting guard out there who can fit with Miller? This stuff Roy's saying about Miller killing his #s is ridiculous; he does remember Miller was on the team last year, too, right?

Jon (Portland)

If the Miller, Mathews, Batum, Aldridge, Camby line continues to be successful, and Rudy remains more productive in a higher pace game while Roy continues to rest and get healthy, Will Cho (Allen and Vulcan) be force to really look at the posibility of trying to trade the face of the franchise, or will they continue to try and find a way to make it work around him because he was the start of the new era after the jail blazers?

John Hollinger
  (2:14 PM)

Not gonna happen. Roy has the league's most untradable contract right now -- he's in Year 1 of a huge extension and appears to be damaged goods.

Jay (New York)

Just saw your article on L.A. and Orlando falling from the NBA elite? Orlando aside, Do you really feal L.A. is falling from the Leagues Elite? No leeway for the 2 time champs?

John Hollinger
  (2:16 PM)

What I wrote is that they're not playing like a contender right now. I also wrote that it's foolish to dismiss them for playing this badly in mid-December when they looked even worse last March. But the concern I would have, if I were a Laker fan, is that the top two seeds are already getting away from them, and it's going to be awful tough to threepeat by winning three straight series without homecourt.

Enrique (Chi)

What kiind of player will BRoy be in the next five years? Who can you compare him to?

John Hollinger
  (2:16 PM)

T-Mac. I think that's a pretty obvious one. He's even started with the petty whining.

Gavin (Portland)

I hate to say it but since the season is clearly going nowhere for Portland and this lockout seems near impossible to avoid...why not just shut roy down this year and give him 18ish months off? Portland could probly still squeak and 7-8 seed and save some face

John Hollinger
  (2:18 PM)

I'm not sure if there's much benefit to just shutting him down ... his knee cartilage won't regrow. The real question, to me, is what outcomes are possible if he underwent microfracture right now and had the rest of this season plus a half-year of lockout to recover.

Doug (Utah)

Is this the worst a lottery class has ever produced in the first 30 games of their careers? Everyone is either injured or terrible or a headcase (The second overall pick is racking up DNPs on a team that can't make the playoffs in the East, for crying out loud). Favors has been one of the best of the lottery group and he's only averaging 7 and 6!

John Hollinger
  (2:20 PM)

Clearly you're too young to remember Mike Miller's rousing ROY campaign in 2000-01. With Blake Griffin blowing up, that gang still comfortably takes top honors in any discussion of awful rookie classes.

Erin (Oakland)

Thoughts on Ekpe Udoh? He looks like he could be a good defensive player. Does he make Biedrins expendable?

John Hollinger
  (2:22 PM)

I want to see more and will when GS comes to Atlanta next week. For what it's worth I watched the Sacramento game and found him unrelentingly awful, highlighted by the play where Reggie Williams nearly hit him in the head with a pass. But he did have a nice block in there (on Evans I believe), so I suppose there's some hope.

Scott (Long Beach)

That 45 point blow out over Phili single-handedly moved the Bulls into the NBA elite according to your Power Rankings. Flaw in the system, or are the Bulls really playing that well?

John Hollinger
  (2:23 PM)

The Power Rankings can be over-influenced by recent blowouts because of the last-10 games component, but given that Chicago has yet to have its entire frontcourt contingent and could still address it's one glaring weakness (shooting guard) at the deadline, I'd say their ceiling looks rather high.

Will (Baltimore)

Heat need to worry about hack-a-Joel?

John Hollinger
  (2:26 PM)

I'd worry more about Play-a-Joel -- I still don't think he's a rotation player. As for "hack-a-[insert player]", it's such a heavily situational strategy that I can't imagine Miami (or Dallas with Haywood, for that matter) will have too many sleepless nights about it.

Andy (Chicago)

Wasn't the first rounder the Bulls got for Tyrus Thomas lottery protected?

John Hollinger
  (2:26 PM)

Yes, but unless the Bobcats find some lottery magic they're going to be terrible for quite some time.

BM (NYC)

Whats your prediction on Saturday's game? I can see the Lakers beating Miami as a statement game. Lakers have the supporting cast to easily beat them.

John Hollinger
  (2:28 PM)

I could see that too, for the reason you mentioned -- this is the first game all year that the Lakers are the ones with something to prove. That said, if they play the way they did against Milwaukee they'll lose by 90.

vk (dc)

Nick Young isn't terrible anymore.

John Hollinger
  (2:30 PM)

Great point. He's getting more 3s, taking better shots and playing more defense. But he still gets an assist about once every lunar eclipse. Literally. On the 20th, for instance, there was one lunar eclipse and Young had one assist.

Andrew (SF)

Has Kyle Lowry played over his head since starting, or is that generally what a team could expect if he got minutes like that?

John Hollinger
  (2:31 PM)

I've always like Lowry and was a bit puzzled that Memphis chose Conley over him. With the exception of the 3s -- which are a total fluke -- he's put up per-minute #s like this before, so we can't call it a total surprise. But I doubt he'll shoot 50% on 3s all year.

Bal (Toronto)

How about turning your "lebron vs. kobe" debate into "lebron vs. kobe vs. wade" debate......this man has won a championship with the team on his back, is just as clutch as anyone in the league, MADE SPOELSTRA look great in the previous 2 seasons.....

John Hollinger
  (2:33 PM)

Wade has been better than Kobe the past two years. WAY better. And he plays the same position, and he has a championship. Yet for some reason "Wade vs. Kobe" debates don't generate no response from people ... whereas LeBron vs. Kobe is like pouring gasoline on a campfire.

Daryl (Pisa, Italy (Castroville,Tx))

If the Spurs are able to defeat both the Magic and the Lakers in this next week of play, will the fact that neither team is playing up to their potential diminish the victories in the eyes of the so-called basketball "experts"?

John Hollinger
  (2:34 PM)

I think the Laker game will be seen as a major litmus test, especially since Bynum is playing. Also, the Spurs go to Boston on Jan. 5, so between those three games (not to mention OKC in between) it's shaping up as a pretty enormous week for San Antonio.

Matt (Wisconsin)

Can you explain the Bucks? Win at Dallas, destroy Lakers in LA, beat Orlando, take Spurs and Celts to the limit on the road, pound Hawks in Atl and Knicks at home. And lose to the T Wolves, Philly, Detroit...as inconsistent as any team in the league?

John Hollinger
  (2:35 PM)

Actually, I can't. Seriously. I got nothing. They have me completely bewildered. Between the assorted injuries and the wild game-to-game fluctuations, I have no idea if they're good or bad at this point. Although I still suspect they'll make the playoffs when all is said and done.

Mike (Cleveland)

Forget the Heat -- what about the Spurs' chances of winning more than 72 games?

John Hollinger
  (2:37 PM)

I suppose we at least need to address this, given their gaudy W-L record, but the chances are still very strong that they end up just in the low 60s. The biggest thing to me is that the Spurs have been virtually injury-free despite having such an old roster (ironically the only major injury was to a rookie), and you have to think Manu and Duncan will miss a few at some point.

James (Europe)

Do you see the Jazz , with a healthy Memo, as a potential contender in the West? What separates the LA, Dallas and Spurs from Jazz?

John Hollinger
  (2:40 PM)

I'd describe Memo as "suiting up" more than "healthy" at the moment -- Achilles injuries typically take a long time to come all the way back from. However, he does improve their biggest weaknesses -- frontcourt depth. I'd still like them better if they had another good wing (Hayward I suppose could still become that guy) and an ace big-man defender.

Chuck (Chicago)

Do you see Bogans being relegated to the bench anytime soon? It seems like Brewer or Korver should be getting those extra 15 minutes per game that Bogans is currently getting.

John Hollinger
  (2:42 PM)

I know why Thibs is doing it -- he wants a defender out there against A-list wing players and Korver/Brewer are both subpar on D. The problem is that Bogans just isn't good enough to be playing that kind role, which is why I strongly suspect they'll try for an upgrade at the trade deadline.

Tee (Charlotte)

Jackson, Gerald Wallace, and DJ.....who is staying and who's getting traded?

John Hollinger
  (2:43 PM)

Have to think Cap'n Jack is the most likely of the 3 to go, given his age and desirability to contending teams. Wallace is 50-50 -- trade rumors have been around for a while, but he's also the face of that franchise and at 28 he's not exactly a fossil. Augustin is expendable, but will go only if it can facilitate the dumping of a bad contract like Diop, Najera or Carroll.

Giorgio (Chicago)

Brewer subpar on D? I don't know about that.

John Hollinger
  (2:45 PM)

He is. Watch him. Good hands for steals, playing passing lanes, etc, but not 1-on-1 and not great team D. It's why Matthews took his job in Utah and it's why Bogans beat him out in Chi.

Brandon (San Antonio)

Hollinger, why does everyone (icluding yourself) still think the Spurs are an old team? Hill, Neal, Splitter and Blair are all in their 1st or 2nd seasons and significant contributors to their great start. I guess experts still think they only score 90 points a game too!!

John Hollinger
  (2:47 PM)

Because if those players get hurt they'll hardly notice, but if Manu, Tim or Tony go down it changes everything they do. I agree a more youthful bench has made a huge, huge difference for them, but it doesn't make the three guys they count on any younger.

Ben (Boston)

Do you see the West like I do, 3 elite teams, 2 better than the rest, and about 5-6 teams fighting for the last 3 spots?

John Hollinger
  (2:48 PM)

Pretty much, yep. The one thing that will be really cool is if we end up with Utah-OKC and a Williams-Westbrook point guard battle in the first round. I think I'm even more excited bout that possibility than Utah-New Orleans.

Lance (Pdx)

Hey John, Do you have an all-underrated team Or is it too early?

John Hollinger
  (2:49 PM)

yes too both. This dish needs to marinate a bit longer.

Lance (Pdx)

Hey John, What do you think of the Timbers off-season so far? (A little MLS love)?

John Hollinger
  (2:51 PM)

Ha! Not sure yet, I need to ask Stein who these guys are ... But I walked past PGE Park last time I was in PDX and looked in at the work -- it should be a pretty sweet field by the time they're done. I definitely have Timbers games high on my lockout to-do list.

Chris (SA, TX)

You mentioned if Tim, Tony, or Manu go out it would change everything. And the same goes for the Lakers..if kobe were to go out with injury, 1 single person, the season would be done..why don't you experts consider that when analyzing the Lakers???? Everyone just hopes the Spurs will go doen, I am going to laugh hard when they take the title this year!!!!

John Hollinger
  (2:52 PM)

Remind me again -- which of those four players you mentioned has missed the least playing time the past couple of years? We worry about Manu and Tim because we've seen it happen before.

Chase (Virginia)

Hey John, do you think Gilbert Arenas can get back to All Star form with Orlando?

John Hollinger
  (2:53 PM)

No. But if he can be a useful sixth man and initiate some offense he'll help. Especially compared to Duhon.

George (Winston-Salem)

Hey John, what do you think will happen with the NO Hornets? Move? (Seattle maybe?) Think Paul will leave? Where to?

John Hollinger
  (2:55 PM)

I still think the most likely scenario has them staying in New Orleans, with Chouest ultimately buying them after a lockout buys him some time and gives him better rules to work with. CP is the more interesting case -- I don't think this team is much better than it was when he initially began squawking, they don't have many good cards left to play, and if West departs it probably seals CP leaving too.

Flavio (Brazil)

any chance that butler will not finish the year in dallas?? Maybe try a trade to get G.wallace no?

John Hollinger
  (2:56 PM)

i think there's a great chance that Butler won't finish the year in Dallas, yes, but I don't think Gerald Wallace is a good fit there. He's basically doing the same things Marion does -- a little better, sure, but there's serious duplication.

Pahal (Burlington)

Lakers up by 1 with 3 secs left. Miami Ball.....every true heat fan knows our best chance to come out with the W is to put the ball in dwade's hands

John Hollinger
  (2:58 PM)

Statistically, I believe Melo and LeBron have been the two best in these situations. But in this case LeBron would be going against Artest, so you can argue that Wade vs. Kobe might be a better matchup. Might.

Tyson Chandler's Toe (Dallas)

What was it Sam Presti didn't like about me again? Does he miss me now?

John Hollinger
  (2:59 PM)

Dallas has the financial resources to take that risk. OKC doesn't. It's that simple. That's why the Thunder's approach has been so conservative.

andrew (Houston)

With Charlotte in dire straights, do you think they'll host a fire sale? I'm hoping Daryl "the Wizard" can pilfer Gerald Wallace for a few expiring contracts and a assortment of the rockets lesser assets.

John Hollinger
  (3:00 PM)

I was expecting a fire sale, with Jacko, Diaw, Mohammed, and quite possibly Wallace going on the market and the Bobcats tumbling to a 23-59 type of year, but apparently they want to try to salvage the season first.

Doc Rivers (Boston)

Hey Hollinger....my team would be in trouble too if any of our big three got hurt!!!

John Hollinger
  (3:01 PM)

Really? Because last I checked Rondo was hurt and they seemed to be doing OK.

Scola (Houston)

I deserve at least an all-star spot this year, no?

John Hollinger
  (3:05 PM)

Good luck with that. Have you seen the West forwards this year? And Pau is going to get voted in as a forward, which takes another spot out of play. Behind likely starters Durant and Pau, you have Melo (for now),Dirk, Millsap, Love, and Blake Griffin, and I would argue of those final three players only one is getting in. AFTER that, you have Scola in with David West, Zach Randolph, Lamar Odom and LaMarcus Aldridge trying to get noticed. Making All-Star as a Western Conference forward is just brutal.

Allen, Garnett, Pierce (Boston)

Please learn to count to three

John Hollinger
  (3:06 PM)

Sorry, I thought you were referring to the team's best three players ... Regardless, Boston has shown it has the depth to withstand losses to key players.

Derrick Rose (Chicago)

John, when will ESPN give me the respect I deserve and tell everyone I'm a top 3 PG?

John Hollinger
  (3:10 PM)

What if you're not? Are we supposed to do it anyway because the Bulls have more fans than New Orleans or Oklahoma City?

Mike (San Antonio)

Do you think San Antonio needs to make a trade to win a title this year? or are they good with there big three?

John Hollinger
  (3:11 PM)

They are plenty good enough as is. I think they'll be opportunistic at the trade deadline if something helpful comes up, but the only major midseason deal I remember them making is the trade for Nazr Mohammed in 2005.

Jake (Florida)

So that's Westbrook, Paul and Williams topping your list?

John Hollinger
  (3:13 PM)

That'd be my three right now, yes. I'm sure Rose will eventually crack it, but right now he doesn't.

John Hollinger
  (3:13 PM)

Folks, that's all the time I have, but thanks again for all the great questions. We'll do this again same time next week.