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March 4, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Ric Bucher

  (1:31 PM)

We're tracking down Ric now. Hopefully he'll be available to chat today!

Ric Bucher
  (1:45 PM)

Hey there! Thanks for sticking around. Give me one minute to grab a couple of starter questions and we'll get rolling.

Trae (Jacksonville)

When if @ any point will Dewayne WaDE atcually show up during big games?And do you think the Heat can get all their guys on the same page with Udonis returning in April to make a deep playoff run giving there 5-10 record against the top 6 playoff teams?

Ric Bucher
  (1:53 PM)

Figured we should start with a Heat question, since they're topic #1 with their recent travails. It's an overstatement to suggest Wade hasn't shown up big in games this year. For whatever it's worth, he's the one who drove on Dwight to get to the line and give Howard a 5th foul late in the game the other night. As valuable as I think Udonis is, I wonder if he can really solve their late-game issues. He can and will make that mid-range J with a game on the line, so it does add that, but I'm not sure that is enough to get them anywhere near a championship.

Toby (Houston)

A lot of contenders were interested in signing the same few players who got waived/bought out (Murphy & Brewer, for instance). Why don't those teams just claim the player off waivers instead of risking it in a bidding war?

Ric Bucher
  (1:56 PM)

It's a good question and I wish I could look up the exact terminology in the CBA rules for you, but I'm running late as is. I do know it has to do with flexibility to sign them to whatever deal you want. If they're picked up off waivers, then a team has to be able to have room for their existing contract, regardless of whether they were bought out or not. I need to double-check that, but I believe that is the reason.

Gunnar C (Rockland, Maine)

Do you think the Celtics bench as of right now is deep enough for a title run?

Ric Bucher
  (1:58 PM)

The basketball Gods are certainly testing Danny Ainge's move to transform his team in mid-stride. I would say, yes, it is deep enough, if healthy. But as of right now? No. Big Baby is a huuuuggge part of their playoff viability and they're going to need minutes from Delonte West, too, now that KryptoNate is gone.

Andrew (West Chester, PA)

What do they Heat really need? They seem to have plenty of shooters (Bibby, Jones, Miller). Are they a Center away? Or are Wade and Lebron's jump shooting "problems" going to be harmful going forward.

Ric Bucher
  (2:02 PM)

Easiest solution? They need LeBron James to be able to play PF and all that comes with it. As in a post game and a willingness to defend the post. He wants to be a facilitator rather than a closer, anyway. Working off him in the post would create the perfect fit. As is, I just don't see the Heat effectively executing in halfcourt sets with LeBron, Wade and Bosh all working from the outside. And that, essentially is where Bosh has been since they tried to post him and started out .500.

Andrew (West Chester, PA)

What do you think about Vescey's (Falk's) point that Bibby did not give up as much money as it indicates, since he would not receive next year's salary if next season is lost. Should more veteran's consider accepting buyouts and losing some guaranteed money that might not be actually received (looking at Rip Hamilton)

Ric Bucher
  (2:04 PM)

Totally agree. Any player who can get next year's salary in advance should jump at the chance. That's what I can't understand about Rip's decision. He could be on a playoff team right now and he could be one of the few guys getting his money for next season. Because you can believe all the happy talk you want, all indications are there will be games missed next season and there's a chance we could sit out the entire year.

Chris (Athens, GA)

Why didn't the Knicks keep Brewer? I was proud of the Knicks for being smart through the Melo deal, but letting Brewer go was a mistake.

Jon (NYC)

What was the thinking behind the Knicks buying out Brewer. Why not at least give him a shot. Did they save any real money

Ric Bucher
  (2:12 PM)

No offense to Corey or his family and friends, but I'm a little mystified how he suddenly became the next coming of Scottie Pippen. There's a reason two teams -- Minnesota and the Knicks -- essentially let him walk. He has some intriguing physical gifts but his offensive game is incredibly quirky and for all his length he's not very strong. He also needs to be super-efficient if he's going to be a one-dimensional player, and I haven't seen him be that. The Knicks need shooters, so he made no sense for them. I'll be interested to see exactly how much he plays and what kind of impact he has in Dallas. I'll be honest: I'm not expecting much.

Ric Bucher
  (2:12 PM)

I'm lagging so let's do a rapid-fire 10-minute stretch. Here we go...

Kings Fans (Sacramento)

What are the odds that Buss/Sterling could convince enough owners to reject a potential Kings move to Anaheim?

Ric Bucher
  (2:13 PM)

Haven't heard Buss/Sterling are thinking that way. OC market is totally separate from LA, but will save both Clips and Lakers on travel cost for several games a year.

zack (nashville)

Ric, one game, for your life, who do you take? kobe, bron, wade, melo, or durant?

Ric Bucher
  (2:14 PM)

Kobe. If not Kobe, Derrick Rose. And that order might be about ready to change.

Craig (Home of Big Green)

Pandering here to you college roots, yes. Am I crazy to think the Wizards should let Nick Young walk and frontload an offer with a poision pill to restricted free agent Arron Afflalo? Plays D, high hoops IQ, young, winner. Thoughts?

Ric Bucher
  (2:15 PM)

Yes, you're crazy. I like Afflalo, but he's a complementary player. As is Young.

Jason (Boston)

First Perk, now Robinson getting surgery. Did Ainge pull a fast one on OKC?

Ric Bucher
  (2:16 PM)

No. OKC knew what they were getting. Remember, Sam Presti dinged Tyson Chandler for a bad toe.

Chris (Vancouver)

What are your thoughts on the 'scoring margin is the best predictor for future success' stance by Hollinger? I don't see why hammering the mediocre teams of the NBA matters so much more than how a team fairs in close games and how they do against the other elite teams. I'd much rather a team beat other top teams and win close games (via solid execution) then hammer bad teams, lose to good teams and lose close games.

Ric Bucher
  (2:18 PM)

It has proved over time to have as much value as any other number in predicting future success. But as with every number, it needs to be taken into context with how and when those numbers are being accrued. The Heat could have the best point differential, but a simple eye test tells you they're not the league's best team.

Jeff (Culver City)

Hi Ric. Jerry Sloan... finally Coach of the Year?? :)

Ric Bucher
  (2:19 PM)

GM Kevin O'Connor's year has been tough enough already.

Paul (London)

Why is everyone surprised by the Spurs? This is the first time they've been healthy since 2007 (when they won a title). 2008 (Manu), 2009 (Duncan & Manu), 2010 (Parker

Ric Bucher
  (2:21 PM)

Because they've stayed healthy (until TP's ankle) all season and as you noted, they've been unable to do that in recent campaigns. That and they're winning with a different style than before. Didn't know they had that much Phoenix Sun in them.

Josh (Knoxville, TN)

Given other questionable personnel choices maybe by Minnesota and New York, I'm not sure I'd take their dropping Brewer a reflection of Brewer's lack of ability.

Ric Bucher
  (2:22 PM)

Point taken. But no one was willing to trade for Brewer and he has been readily available for well over a year. He's a young guy you take a flyer on and hope you catch lightning in a bottle. And if not, well, you didn't invest a whole lot.

Julius (Atlanta)

Asking again, who wins this year since now all the trades are over, who you got?

Ric Bucher
  (2:24 PM)

Need to see a few more games. Had Lakers at start of season, switched to Boston at midway point. I'll stick with the Cs for now, but health and postseason seeding are going to play roles.

Mike (Boston)

The Celtics have only 2 guaranteed contracts in 2012, Rondo and Pierce. Any chance they make a run at Dwight Howard? And what are the odds he'd pick that core over D-Will and Brooklyn? Or is he warm-weather bound?

Ric Bucher
  (2:27 PM)

This is the part that may not have come across in the recent debate between Chris Broussard and I on where Howard should go if he leaves Orlando: he wants to go to a major market where he can exploit his entertainment options. There are really only two markets for that. All those suggesting Boston, San Antonio and other historically successful franchises are not taking into account that where Dwight plays is as important as for whom. He's looking outside of Orlando because he doesn't want to be in a small market. Boston is not small, but it's not top-tier big, either.

Greg (Miami)

Ric, who is the best player in the league right now, not MVP, just best?

John (New York)

Ric, who is the best in the league?

Ric Bucher
  (2:34 PM)

It's an interesting question. LeBron has the most raw ability and greatest physical gifts. He's almost cursed by that because it has led him to bad fundamental habits that raise their head when he's under pressure. Both Kobe and Derrick Rose manage games and execute at crunchtime better. Deron Williams is in the conversation, too. With Kobe's physical ability diminishing, it puts us in an interesting time in the league -- I don't know that there is one guy who deserves that title. I'd probably still say Kobe by default, but he's not nearly the same defender he once was.

Daniel (Glendora, Ca) [via mobile]

What's going on with CP3? Is he hurting that bad or is he trying too hard to make his teammates look better than they are? He's been way too passive on O.

Ric Bucher
  (2:36 PM)

I was told he came into the season heavy and he looks as if he's dragging around one leg. His explosiveness and change of pace were what made him so difficult to stop from getting inside. He's not creating the same space for those in-between shots as he once did, forcing him to kick the ball elsewhere. At least that's what I see.

mike (ca)

For the people that cannot attend, can you provide an update / overview of the Conf., biggest star / celeb ?? Also, heard you are joining Simmons website, any truth??

Ric Bucher
  (2:38 PM)

I haven't seen nearly enough of it myself. Had a 1 v 1 with Apolo Ohno about the scientific, psychological and technical advances made in Olympic training that I found fascinating. Looking forward to heading back over after this chat and taking in a few sessions today and tomorrow. Will tweet from @RicBucher anything noteworthy.

Ric Bucher
  (2:39 PM)

Simmons, by the way, is now calling Joe Dumars one of the four worst GMs in the league. Of course, he once called Doc Rivers the worst coach in the NBA, so Simmons' in-the-moment grading system is alive and well.

Chuck (Chicago, IL)

Ric out of any team in the league, who has the brightest future (next 5 years)??

Ric Bucher
  (2:41 PM)

1. OKC2. Chicago

Chris (NY)

Should the Knicks hold tight for CP3 or DWill OR resign Billups for less next season and go grab some help for our Big 3?

Ric Bucher
  (2:43 PM)

If they don't exercise their team option for Billups' $14 million, I seriously doubt he stays in NY. The problem is, I don't see how NY is going to land a third star with the kind of CBA the owners are proposing. That's why giving away so much for Melo is so damaging. It's not that Melo wasn't worth all those pieces, it's that with a new CBA looming, it's not going to be easy for the Knicks to replace all of them.

Ric Bucher
  (2:43 PM)

And a message to my friend Shawn in West Springfield, MA: sending the same message 50 times and clogging my box is the surest way not to get a question answered.

Chuck (Chicago, IL)

Should me, a fan from Chicago, join in this convo? You've posted two fans one from NY and one from Miami. Carmello vs. Lebron?

Ric Bucher
  (2:44 PM)

If it's overall, I have to take LeBron. If it's for the last five minutes of a Game 7, I'm going with Carmelo. Hope that makes sense.

Charles (San Jose)

Are you sure he ever had Doc below Mike Dunleavy?

Ric Bucher
  (2:45 PM)

I do believe, at one time, he did.

Ric Bucher
  (2:45 PM)

But that might've been the tequila and Marlboro Lights talking.

Ric (SLC)

What do you see happening with the Jazz PF's? They have to start Favors next year. Do you think they will relegate Millsap back to the bench or trade him?

Ric Bucher
  (2:48 PM)

Millsap is ideal your first big off the bench. It's clear he's not built to be a starter -- relies too much on energy to compensate for being undersized. But their problem is that even with Favors, they have, essentially two PFs (Al and Favors) and an undersized PF with similar skill sets. For where the bar is set when it comes to PF play in Utah. none of them has enough right now. Favors might down the line.

jeremy (foster city, ca)

hi Ric! with the mass exodus of star players to the eastern conference, and the aging of the powers in the west (spurs, lakers, mavs), is it possible for my sacramento-- i mean anaheim-- kings to make the playoffs with a core of evans/cousins/casspi in the next 2-3 years?

Ric Bucher
  (2:49 PM)

West is still deep, just not as top-heavy. You're going to need more than that to see the playoffs. One major top-flight point guard more.

John (Philadelphia, PA)

Kapono has been out of the rotation for months - why wasn't he bought out?

Ric Bucher
  (2:50 PM)

Thanks for reminding me to check on that. I know it was being discussed, even though he's an Arn Tellem client and Arn generally doesn't negotiate buyouts. Ask me again next week and I might have an answer for you.

Brett (Fargo, ND)

With your Simmons comment, does that make you a non-fan of the Sports Guy?

Ric Bucher
  (2:52 PM)

Big fan of The Sports Guy. He is just hilariously reactionary and often misguided. Part of his charm.

Ric Bucher
  (2:54 PM)

And with that, I'm going to head over to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and absorb some major brain wattage. Apologies for showing up late. Not sure what time zone I'll be in next Friday but I'll keep my 10 am PT/1 pm ET slot clear so we can crank it up on time. Thanks again to those who stuck around. See ya next week...