Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

April 1, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Ric Bucher

Ric Bucher
  (1:02 PM)

Hey, thanks for coming. I've already queued a bunch of great questions and comments. Let me start by saying that I appreciate so many thoughtful, open-minded fans joining me, especially with as hot as the debate has run on a few topics lately. I'm going to post as many views as I can and give you my perspective. Forewarning: some of my early answers might be a little long, but I promise at least 20 minutes of rapid fire somewhere in the middle. So buckle up and here we go...

Donny (CA)

Do you believe there is a set criteria for the MVP award or agree with most fans that it seems to change every year?

Ric Bucher
  (1:05 PM)

There is no set criteria. The league wants it that way. If there has been a mistake that has created a problem, it's that deserving candidates have been overlooked in a particular year and suddenly a guy who we all know should've been an MVP somewhere along the line appears to be reaching the end of his career without one. So he winds up with a sympathy vote. The problem is that then the guy most deserving *that* year doesn't get the award. It's as if it's a big game of catch-up that never ends.

Matt (Orlando)

Thoughts on Hollinger's article. Seems pretty legit to me. And before you say I am an Orlando homer, I could sleep at night if LeBron or even Dirk wins the MVP. I have yet to hear/read a logical, statistacal or legitamate argument for Rose. And all the intangibles, I could easily say the same things for every other candidate.

Aaron (Chicago)

Any reaction to Hollinger's MVP article? It seems that lots of analytics guys want to reduce the award to one definition or the other, losing sight of the big picture - that's it's a synthesis of all components... winning, dominance, leadership, success, intangibles, statistics, clutch-ness, burden, etc. Is that fair?

Homer (Chicago)

Your thoughts on Hollinger's article about Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard? Also, what do you make of Dwight Howards offensive liability in late close games?

Brodie (Iowa)

What's a bigger joke.. not having Rose in someone's Top 5 MVP.. or that same someone using their own made up statistic as a base for their argument?

John (Chicago)

Not sure if you read Hollinger's article yesterday on the MVP race but he said Howard should win it (and Rose should be 7th or 8th) b/c Howard is the only true great center while the league has several great point guards. But didn't he just make a case for Rose for MVP. Rose has to go up against great point guards every night and has dominated them, mainly Williams and Paul. Howard plays against the likes of Joel Anthony and undersized players such as Jared Jeffries and Al Horford nightly. The Bulls are in 1st and Magic are 4th, yet Howard is MVP. Do you understand Hollinger's logic b/c I sure don't.

Ric Bucher
  (1:10 PM)

I don't want to make this out to be me (Rose) vs. John (Dwight). John is one of the nicer guys in our business. I believe PER has value, as I do most statistics. I also love how Dwight's game has evolved. Here comes the big "but"...

Ric Bucher
  (1:16 PM)

Here's one example of why I can't put Dwight Howard at the top of my MVP ballot: on Monday, vs. the Knicks, in the final five minutes, the NYK guarded him, 1 v. 1, with Jared Jeffries and Shelden Williams. They did that because teams know that Dwight does not want to go to the free-throw line with a game on the line and is not going to be the same aggressive Dwight he is in the first three quarters. They figure they can just foul him if he does make an aggressive move and he knows it, so he settles for jump hooks and more perimeter-oriented shots. What all this does is force the Magic to play a different way than they've been playing for most of the game *when the game is to be decided.* It's a huge advantage for every opponent to be able to play him straight up. Never mind how deflating it is for a Magic team to see their star suddenly passive at the most crucial time of the game.

Ric Bucher
  (1:19 PM)

Now, on the flip side, we have Rose, who becomes *more* aggressive with the game on the line. He's *looking* to win the game at the free-throw line. As all of you know, it's a huge advantage to be able to score from the line at the end of games because you can get your defense set (rarely is there a fast break off free throws) and you're scoring without the clock running, a major advantage if you're behind. More important, it demoralizes the other team. Suddenly all the Bulls are marching to the line because the team is in the bonus. Suddenly their bigs are in foul trouble and having to adjust how they play. More important, every Bulls player sees their leader saying, "I got this. Follow me." Have I seen every Orlando game? Every Bulls' game? No. But I've seen the same dynamics played out time after time throughout the season, that I know it's happened consistently all year long.

Ric Bucher
  (1:21 PM)

Now, if you want to say that because Dwight has superior statistical production and that's why he should be the MVP, OK. I'm good with that. That's not how I define MVP and I'd hope you would respect that. The guy whose play wins games in the crux of when a game is being won -- that's the guy I want to reward. That's the guy, to me, who is unique and rare. And that guy, above all others in the league this year, has been Derrick Rose.

Ric Bucher
  (1:25 PM)

As for the idea that DRose is a bad defender, it's just pure fallacy. Thibs uses him as his stopper if Brewer isn't getting the job done and he has stopped a variety of guys -- including Wade -- in that role. He fights over screens, he rotates well, he defends on the perimeter, he denies. He has bottled up some of the best PGs in the league. I like Booz, but any guard having to defend the pick-and-roll with him is at a major disadvantage.

Ric Bucher
  (1:25 PM)

And with that, let's go on to rapid fire now and I promise they will all be non-MVP, non-Rose/Howard topics...

Josh (Chicago, IL)

Hey Ric, a lot of people have criticized Otis Smith for the Magic trades, but seriously, Rashard Lewis is out for the season, Vince Carter has been playing hurt and has been inconsistent, and Pietrus is barely getting any PT with the Suns. So it was four guys for Gortat essentially, I call that a job well done for Otis Smith. What say you?

Ric Bucher
  (1:26 PM)

I agree. I'm always going to go with the guy who takes his cuts and goes for it. Otis went for it. I don't think it's going to pay off, but he made the best deals available to him. They just haven't paid off. Yet.

joe (maine)

do u think the 76ers will upset da heat in the 1st rd?

Ric Bucher
  (1:27 PM)

No. I was surprised to Chris Webber hint last night that it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Donny (CA)

Did Lamar Odom basically win the 6th man of the year award last night?

Ric Bucher
  (1:28 PM)

I believe he won it when he didn't get selected for the All-Star game. He's had such a great year he deserves to be recognized. Second-best Laker this year, in my opinion.

Adam (Minneapolis)

Hi Ric,Question about the draft pick the Wolves owe the Clippers from the Cassell trade. As I understand, there are no protections on it next year. But, can the Wolves opt to give their pick to the Clips this year to fulfill the trade? If this truly is a weak draft, why not?Logistically, when do the Wolves need to notify the league? Before the lottery? Before the draft?

Ric Bucher
  (1:29 PM)

No, they can't choose which one they send.

Corey (UT)

Speaking of the Jazz. What happened to them?

Ric Bucher
  (1:32 PM)

They weren't very good from the start -- I didn't ever like the Al Jefferson/Paul Millsap combo -- and they traded their engine and superstar (Deron) for future parts. It's a fractured organization right now and it will be interesting to see how fast they right the ship.

Ric Bucher
  (1:33 PM)

As an aside: someone compared Jerry Sloan to Tom Landry the other day to me. Thought it was apt. Both icons, both clearly no longer on top of their game at the end. Tough to say about guys who were so outstanding in their day but it's the harsh truth.

BalutPDX (Portland)

It is crazy that Nate McMillan hasn't won COY yet and that he isn't higher in the conversation this year. Three years of plagues of Biblical proportions, knees exploding, Dance Dance Revolution mishaps, slipping in the shower and the team still competes. And consider how much he got out of players like Blake, Bayless, Outlaw and Webster who now seem like also-rans on their respective teams.

Ric Bucher
  (1:34 PM)

Completely agree. He has done a masterful job once again this year. And yet he probably won't be in the top three.

John (FL)

When do we get the 3-man playoff preview podcast with you, Simmons, and Stein?

Ric Bucher
  (1:35 PM)

I don't believe we'll ever see a 3-man weave again. But you have to bang on Simmons about that. We still have three-man e-mail weaves and they're entertaining. Well, they amuse me, anyway.

Robert (NC)

Do you or Chris Broussard ever play the Devil's Advocate in your back and forth discussions? I know that the public has many opinions on each subject, and it seems like your debate at least gives a voice to those with a different view.

Ric Bucher
  (1:38 PM)

We sometimes like the same side of the argument but one of us believes he can make a case for the opposing view. I'm usually that guy, it seems. By nature, I have a tendency to challenge conformity. I'm not a contrarian for contrarian's sake, but I try never to take something as gospel just because a lot of people believe it. All that said, It's hard coming up with something every week to argue about passionately.

Steve (Philly)

Who do you think the better sixth man is: Lou Williams or Thaddeus Young? Should either of them be starting?

Ric Bucher
  (1:39 PM)

I can see Thaddeus as a starter. I believe Lou is a tweener guard and thereby much better coming off the bench. FWIW: I feel the same way about Steph Curry. On a really good team, he's your sixth man. I'm not equating Curry and Lou on talent, just role.

Arthur (Philadelphia)

How many MVP do you think Kobe should of REALLY won already?

Ric Bucher
  (1:40 PM)

Two -- and not the year he won it. Did I violate my rapid-fire non-MVP rule? Sorry.

Ric Bucher
  (1:41 PM)

I'm still going to go rapid fire but open it back up, because we've got a lot of COY/MVP/Rose, etc. questions. And I want to give you guys some run on your responses to my earlier long posts.

jacob (miami)

Ok, I wouldn't be upset if D.Rose wont he MVP but all this chatter that GMs would draft Rose over Lebron in a draft to start a team is completely ridiculous. Who would you take first in a draft to start your team?

Ric Bucher
  (1:42 PM)

That's the subject of next week's debate. Look for it.

The Sane Madman (Bulls Nation) [via mobile]

This entry box states "Got a question or comment?" I see a lot of questions, yet hardly no comments. I find that egregious and almost discriminatory to all comments around the world. Oh yeah. Thanks for the chat. And you're welcome. This should cover the comment quota for the next month or so.

Ric Bucher
  (1:42 PM)

Thanks for filling the quota, Madman.

Paul (Bay Area)

Two NBA tie breaker questions ... (1) If the Bulls and Lakers have the same record and meet in the Finals, who gets home court and how (They split the season series) (2) If the Mavs and Thunder have the same record who gets the higher #3 seed? The Mavs won the season series 2-1 but the Thunder are division champs.

PAUL (BAY AREA)

Hi Ric! Love your sideline reports! So if the Lakers and Mavs tie or for that matter the Thunder and Mavs tie, I understand the Lakers and Thunder get the higher seeding because they are division winners regardless of season series. But do they get homecourt if they were to meet or does that resort back to head to head? Thanks.

Ric Bucher
  (1:45 PM)

This is the only time I'll reward a double-posted question -- when you realize you forgot to throw in the gratuitous compliment hoping to get it posted. Comes down to conference records and then a few other tiebreakers. To answer your question: I meant to look up the specific rules and ran out of time. I will tweet the answers later today. @RicBucher

Bob (Phoenix, AZ)

Hi Ric - Odds the Suns trade Nash? If Yes, what team(s) would be interested and what is the value in return? Thanks

Ric Bucher
  (1:45 PM)

This is where lockout situation gets tricky. Suns will move him if he makes it clear he doesn't want to stay, but they have to make that decision around draft time if they hope to get full value.

Mike (Stockton)

Don't you think the COY award is just as flawed as the MVP? its all based on expectations, phil jackson can never win because he has such a good team, same for doc rivers. Scott brooks won it last year because durant and westbrook got older. There's a reason great coaches like mcmillan and sloan never won, the vote makes no sense and is not based on merit. Thibs is deserving this year, but that could be based on expectations too, you could argue the GM deserves credit for not trading noah and getting all those free agents this summer

Ric Bucher
  (1:47 PM)

I'd say it has the same problem with voters looking to take care of a guy who has somehow not won it and thereby continuing the backlog. Jerry Sloan should have won at least one at some point, but to give him one in the last couple of years would have been a make-up call of sorts.

Billy (NYC)

So what do you make of Spencer Hawes? A big tease or a solid nba starte/player? Thanks!

Ric Bucher
  (1:48 PM)

Big tease to me. I was a believer early on, but I've had a lot of people run him down. That, though, is the danger of feedback - it tends to be more negative than positive and a lot of people like to bury guys. I'm not giving up on him, but I'm not counting on him. How's that?

Vinnie (ATL)

Should Hawks management take dynamite to this roster over the summer? The Hawks have no ceiling.

Ric Bucher
  (1:49 PM)

I'm told the Hawks will make major changes before the next time we play if they don't make at least a strong second-round showing this year in the playoffs.

Chris (Memphis)

How bout those Grizzlies?

Ric Bucher
  (1:50 PM)

Owe them an apology. Expected them to fold like last year. Forgot the impact a guy like Tony Allen can have and the addition of Battier was smart.

Mike (Petaluma)

By the way using the won-loss metric, and ESPN's top five MVP canidates Derrick Rose is the only one of the canidates who even has a winning record vs other MVP's. Rose 8-2, LBJ 4-5, Howard 5-6, Dirk 4-5, Kobe 4-5. Does winning games count as value?

Ric Bucher
  (1:51 PM)

I'm not going to use that metric just because it favors Derrick. Truth is, you can use a variety of metrics to favor your particular guy. I'm sure there's a metric that puts LeBron over Dwight.

Ric Bucher
  (1:52 PM)

Hey, and apropos to nothing, one GM without a dog in the fight told me Dwight shouldn't even be in the conversation. I don't agree with that, but it sheds some light that people in the league are never going to look at numbers and say, "Wow, that guy is great."

Tim (San Antonio TX)

Ric please settle this belief I havefrom a former Die HardSpurs Fan saying the Spurs are done and that we have no answer for the Lakers Twin Towers of Pau And Bynum.How would you see the matchup?Thanks!

Ric Bucher
  (1:55 PM)

I've felt that from the start of the year. Popovich has been masterful using his depth and adjusting how the Spurs play to post the best record in the league. But he was gaming the system a bit. That's one reason he's not going crazy over this losing streak. He knows what he does and doesn't have. San Antonio has overachieved, massively. But their lack of defense and vulnerability of their seven-man rotation is being exposed.

Harry (New Zealand)

Hey Ric, what do you think about deron to orlando? miami cant defend against pgs or cs so orlando would smash them and then just have to beat the bulls to get to the finals in the next 2-5 years

Ric Bucher
  (1:56 PM)

I've heard this posed by a few Orlando fans. I can see Deron and Dwight getting together, but it won't be in Orlando.

josh (sioux falls)

with the lakers gaining on the spurs and the lakers playing the spurs at the end of the year there is a real chance the lakers might over take the spurs...my questions who is a tougher opponent the mavs or thunder? i dont think the lakers care who they play but i think the spurs would like to avoid the thunder

Ric Bucher
  (1:57 PM)

I believe the Thunder. Their athleticism poses a challenge for the Lakers. The Mavs don't have a strength that can attack an LA weakness.

-KRISnTEL- NBA podcasts (http://www.krisntelgrated.com)

Hey, one more off topic question. Do you think Dennis Rodman should be a hall-of-famer??

Ric Bucher
  (1:58 PM)

Yes. Can't wait to see him up there. I expect it to be one of the more heart-wrenching acceptance speeches ever. Don't know how eloquent, but I'm guaranteeing tears. Lots of 'em.

Aaron (AR)

So Shaq should never have won MVP because he can't shoot free throws?

Ric Bucher
  (1:59 PM)

I believe it should be given strong consideration as a deterrent. A guy who has a flaw that makes it impossible to play him in the final minutes, or forces you to play a different way to hide him, goes from being invaluable to a liability. But I realize I look at things a little differently.

DJ (San Diego)

Do you think Rockets can make a final push for a playoff spot?

Ric Bucher
  (2:00 PM)

I believe they're trying to do that right now. I don't see them getting there. Kyle Lowry deserves serious consideration for Most Improved.

Austin E (Mooresville, NC)

Don't you think if the Sixers would add Dwight Howard and keep the rest of their team in tact (maybe a few subtractions) that it would immediately make them a Championship Contender? They get their two things they need (a superstar and a center) in one. What do you think?

Ric Bucher
  (2:01 PM)

I believe adding Dwight to most teams would make them an instant contender. (See? I do like Dwight.)

Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)

It still amazes me that the Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoff hunt after everything they have been through this season. With how lackluster the 2011 NBA Draft is projected to be, making the playoffs for the second consecutive year as opposed to trying to win the lottery should be the priority for the Bucks even if they get swept in round one. What are your thoughts on being the worst playoff team or best non-playoff team?

Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)

If I could change one thing about the NBA Draft it would be to get rid of the one-and-done rule for college basketball. I would implement a modified version of the MLB draft rules that would allow high school players to go straight to the NBA. If a player goes to college, they have to wait three years to enter the NBA Draft. What do you think about my potential rule change to the NBA Draft?

Ric Bucher
  (2:03 PM)

The rare double posting -- doing it because I've developed an affinity with my Cheesehead, for some reason.I can tell you that at least one owner likes your idea of adopting the MLB model. I like it, too. I'd argue the one-and-done is why you see Butler and VCU in the Final Four. It's undermining the programs big enough to attract them.

Ric Bucher
  (2:05 PM)

On the first question: Sneaking into the playoffs or just missing is a tough place to be. Almost ensures mediocrity. But this is a rare year. We're looking at a lockout and a lot of teams are hoping to get that $3-5 million bump from playoff ticket sales before they shut it all down. Makes sense to me. But you have to do one or the other. Bail out and increase your lottery chances are go for it.

Kunaal (Chicago)

Hey Ric, love your work and keep it up. I was wondering that in the MVP race why is there almost no attention given to the fact that so many current and former players have called Rose MVP? I mean don't they know best? Lebron, Dwight to a degree, Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Michael Jordan, Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, Anthony Tolliver, Jawon Howard, Chris Bosh, and that's just off the top of my head.

Ric Bucher
  (2:12 PM)

I believe it will, at the end of the day. A lot of sturm und drang over the analytics and numbers and LeBron supposedly being punished for going to Miami, but at the end of the day, anybody who has watched all of the candidates play recognizes that Derrick Rose, much as he did his first two years, has dragged a team well above its natural capabilities. Guys who actually have to face Derrick Rose, playing or coaching against him, know how valuable and superior he is. My job is to explain to you why they feel that way and why I share their belief. I don't know how well I've done it, but I'm trying. I must say this: it's not because mainstream media people favor "a good story." I can't think of a bigger insult. If that was the case, George Karl would be the run-away choice for COY. Did Derrick Rose surprise? A lot of people, yes. But that's not why he's the MVP. He wins games and he does it not just with his own talent but by utilizing the role players around him and doing it all with one thought in mind: winning games. That's the funniest part of this: we all care about MVP far more than he does. He knows that doesn't define who he is as a player. Winning championships ultimately will.

Lawrence (Toronto)

Is Thibodeau a shoe in for Coach of the Year? Or does Collins have a chance?

Ric Bucher
  (2:13 PM)

i expect it to be very close. I'm wondering if Popovich, the third guy in the battle, will fall out if they don't have the best record. I'm not sure he should.

JD (NY)

Last week you said you were hearing that the appeal of Brooklyn & DWill was gaining steam for Dwight Howard. Have you heard anything over the last week that has further substantiated this? I'd think a Humprhies/Brook for Dwight trade is as good as any with regards to what Orlando could bring back.

Ric Bucher
  (2:14 PM)

Orlando has its new arena and I'm told that's why they spent as lavishly as they did on players. Now that that's over, I expect them to dial back on their spending. NJ is very attractive because they can absorb Dwight's contract and send back Lopez and picks that give Orlando a chance to rebuild. They don't have to match salaries to make a deal.

Nick (Chicago)

I know the Bulls have not won a single series with this group, but they are the best rebounding team, the beast defensive team, and have a superstar who can take over a game. Aren?t these all part of a championship team? What do you think can stop them from winning it all?

Ryan (Chicago, IL)

Hey Ric, do you think the bulls have actual chance of winning the NBA title this year?

Bart (Stetin, Po )

are Bulls too inexpierenced to make Finals or even make it past Heat in 2nd round(if they met there). Playoffs are different ballgame and on offense they may suffer without any other viable option except for Rose.(Booz, Deng - can't see them takin over on offense )

Ric Bucher
  (2:17 PM)

My question about the Bulls is just how mentally tough they are, collectively. A seven-game series exposes all your flaws, mental and physical, and I'm just not sure how some of their guys will respond in a Game 4 on the road or huge Game 5 at home. Hard to know until we see a group in that moment. I don't see them beating Boston. Miami would be tough, too, but I believe they're vulnerable, because we *do* know the answer about how some of their guys respond when things get tough.

Chad (MI)

Ric Bucher = ESPN rebel confirmed

Ric Bucher
  (2:18 PM)

Don't know if that's good or bad, but I'm going to take it as the former.

Ric Bucher
  (2:21 PM)

Have to close this down. Really appreciate all of the questions and comments. Didn't get to as many as I would've liked. I hope you didn't mind me going on at the start, but I began something on twitter that I felt I needed to further explain. Agree or disagree, I just hope I gave you something to consider. The end-of-game examples are about one of a half-dozen elements that I believe are important that I don't see encompassed by pure statistics. At least not the ones available to us. We'll do it again next week. Til then...