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January 6, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Ric Bucher

Ric Bucher
  (1:00 PM)

One of my resolutions is to start my chats on time this year, so let's get rolling...

Sal (ATL)

Why was Billups upset with the Knicks? They picked up his $14.2M option in April, and he will be getting all of it between the Knicks and the Clippers. Does Billups honestly think given that (1) he is 35 years old and (2) his recent injury history, that a contender (Miami, Lakers) would have payed him $10m+ this year? Sounds like a crybaby to me. Thanks.

Ric Bucher
  (1:01 PM)

He was upset because he didn't really want to be traded from Denver, was given every impression he'd be in NY at least through the season and suddenly found himself on the open market. He's 35, proud with a family and kids. Has nothing to do with $. And I don't blame him.

Jonathan (Long Beach, CA)

The Pacers are definitely still a leadership/superstar piece away, but they have a bunch of good/solid players at each position. Who in their starting five is most replaceable/should be replaced?

Ric Bucher
  (1:03 PM)

That's just it -- they're all very good but I don't see that one great player that championship teams have. So, in a word...they're all replaceable. Like what they've put together, but it's one important piece short of title contention.

Jec (Philippines)

Hi Ric, welcome back, I always loved your chats and try to stay awake to see it (it's currently 130 am here). Quick question: who's better, MIA or CHI? People say MIA is way ahead, but I'm thinking they've just about even, a seven-game series can go either way. Thoughts?

Ric Bucher
  (1:05 PM)

Getting this in early so you can get some rest. I agree, I'm not convinced there's as much separation as the general consensus seems to think. Heat have improved in some ways but so, clearly, have the Bulls. Picked Miami to win the east before the season, but if a 7-game series started tomorrow, I'd take the Bulls.

Andrew (miami)

with a markedly stronger supporting cast than last year (see: last night's hawks game), do you see any reason why the heat aren't the overwhelming favorites?

Ric Bucher
  (1:06 PM)

They are the overwhelming favorites in most people's minds. I still question the mental toughness of some of their best players. Not convinced more depth compensates for a flawed core.

Web (Dallas)

Do you see the Spurs as a top 4 team in the West?

Ric Bucher
  (1:08 PM)

I did before Manu's injury. I suppose they can still sneak in there, but I have to believe Memphis will get it together. If it does, OKC, Mem, Lakers and either Portland or Clippers look like better bets than the Spurs to have homecourt advantage right now.

Drew (Wichita)

What is your take on the Sacramento Kings debacle?

Ric Bucher
  (1:10 PM)

Bad mix from the start. Young, irascible team, owners itching to uproot the franchise and watching the bottom line and a coach with a loose-reins philosophy and a short, cheap contract isn't exactly firm bedrock. Westphal was never a good fit.

Justin H. (Orangevale)

Ric, do you remember the last time a player has gotten a coach fired (i.e. Cousins and Westphal)?

Ric Bucher
  (1:14 PM)

First, Cousins didn't get Westphal fired. Let's take a look at the entire team, shall we, and how it was performing -- not exactly buttoned up. But to answer your question: Shaq and Stan Van Gundy, Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan, Shaq (by way of pissing off Steve Nash) and Terry Porter, Jason Kidd and Byron Scott...I'm not even sure there's a direct link in all those cases, but they had more to do with it than Cousins did in Sacramento.

Rizwan (London)

Kevin Love is top 5 player according to Micheal Wilbon. Thoughts?

Ric Bucher
  (1:15 PM)

I admire both men. They both have their shortcomings. And, yet, probably fewer than I do. How's that for diplomacy?

Tim (Boston)

Buc, as a Celts fan, I've heard all the worries about the packed sched affecting the aged Cs. What about the kamikaze styles LeBron, DWade and DRose, though? Seems like almost as much as a liability to me.

Ric Bucher
  (1:16 PM)

It's a fair point, more so for Wade than anybody else you mentioned, because of age and history.

J.M. (Central Coast)

Who is the better building block, Westbrook or Harden? I think that is now a legit question.

Ric Bucher
  (1:17 PM)

When James Harden is actually a starter and the driving force behind a conference finals' squad, we can talk. Until then, it's not close to legit.

Jim Smith (nyc)

what kind of hair gel do you use?

Ric Bucher
  (1:18 PM)

Don't use gel. And for some reason Stephon Marbury is trying to talk me into using Vaseline.

Nick (CT)

Ric, what's wrong with Pau Gasol and his play early on? Is it still possible Lakers trade Pau?

Ric Bucher
  (1:20 PM)

It's because the Lakers were willing to trade Pau, in part, that we're seeing what we're seeing. I felt they needed to move him a year ago to get maximum value. So, in my mind: yes.

Matt (Portland)

Ric, your thoughts on the Blazers' hot start, only having played one cupcake so far?

Strenuus (Portland, OR)

Why do you keep discounting the Blazers? All I've seen is poking fun at the team and it's fans. Explain yourself.

Ric Bucher
  (1:23 PM)

I wrote two tweets last night about the Blazers, the first being from my 7-year-old son who could recognize that JCrossover took a silly shot in the waning minutes and a second tweet to Blazers fans defending him. So I suppose all I have done is poke fun at the team and their fans, now that I think about it.Here's my reason for caution with the Blazers: McMillan's teams always start fast. Had a scout remind me of that right before the season in talking about how a shortened training camp would affect various teams. So I like what I've seen and the parts look promising, but I need a larger sample size, as my stats-geeky friends would say.

Ric Bucher
  (1:24 PM)

Let's go rapid fire here for the next 10. Finishing up at quarter til. (My other resolution.)...

Rej (Montreal)

Do you think Keith Smart is the right guy for Sacramento?

Ric Bucher
  (1:25 PM)

As my single buddies still say, "I'm not looking for Miss Right, just Miss Right Now." Keith is Mr. Right Now.

Evan (Milwaukee)

still defending your pick from ESPN magazine with memphis being higher in the standings than SAS and DAL?

Ric Bucher
  (1:25 PM)

Three weeks in, um... yeah.

Kyle (Iowa City)

Is a straight up trade of Rondo for Westbrook equally beneficial for both team?

Ric Bucher
  (1:26 PM)

Hell to the no.

Rej (Montreal)

For which team do you think you'll receive the most "Why do reporter don't talk/respect my team?" questions this year? I predict either San Antonio or Portland. I would have added Atlanta to the mix but after yesterday's game, we have legitimate reasons for not believing in them

Ric Bucher
  (1:28 PM)

For me it's Miami, but that probably has to do with their perception of me. Next in line: Sacramento, Portland, Orlando. Small-town mentality. Credit TWolves' fans for their cautious, quiet optimism.

Sunil (NOT from a landline, and i love it)

Ric, long time listener, first time caller.Can D'antoni' rep last one more year of waiting for a good PG to run the show? (Nash as a free agent next year) I feel bad for Coach D'antoni.

Ric Bucher
  (1:29 PM)

Don't get the sense he has that long. Only question is if he finishes out the year. My bet, right now, is that he does as long as they're in playoff contention.

Josh (Chicago)

Bynum is much bigger, a better offense player and free throw shooter than Howard, if he stays healthy for the foreseeable future, there will be an actual discussion about who is the best center in the league. Bynum looks ready to take over games, something Howard struggles with because of his poor free throw shooting. Thoughts?

Ric Bucher
  (1:31 PM)

Staying healthy is the key difference. DH is a rock and Bynum can't hold it together. Howard's defense considerably better than Bynum's offense, in my opinion, and not a lot of separation between Howard's offense vs. Bynum's D.

Eric (New York, NY)

Hey Ric,If the Heat end up with a 59-7 record, how do we put them in historical context? It'd be the highest win percentage ever, but couldn't stack up against a 72 win season, right?

Ric Bucher
  (1:33 PM)

With the compact schedule and no training camp, I might argue that it would be a more impressive accomplishment. But only if I knew it would offend Heat fans that I was sticking up for their team.

Dave (CA)

Who has a bigger head: You or Blake Griffin?

Ric Bucher
  (1:33 PM)

I'd say ZaZa has us both beat by a considerable margin.

Kyle (Cleveland, OH)

What's the Cavaliers biggest need? A center with a post game?

Ric Bucher
  (1:34 PM)

Wingman who can create his own shot and score would be first on my list. A center with a post game is like an albino alligator -- not many around and I don't see the balance of nature being all that out of whack because of it.

Ric Bucher
  (1:35 PM)

Was that a weird analogy? I'm thinking it might have been. Took my kids to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park the other day. Rufus, or whatever the hell his name was, is still on my mind.

Ric Bucher
  (1:36 PM)

Off the speed-dating clock. But I'll try to punch in as many as I can in the next eight minutes...

Joe (Wilmington)

Is Pau Gasol for Scola and Lowry a possibility?

Ric Bucher
  (1:37 PM)

Have to think it is for the Rockets. Lakers need to move a PG if they do that.

Jon (Paso Robles)

What does it take to begin making a team into a good defensive team? I am thinking of the Clippers here. It seems they have the ingredients but not the attitude.

Ric Bucher
  (1:38 PM)

A training camp, a system and a buy-in by the best players. See: Bulls, Thibodeau, DRose.

Joe (NY)

Melo versus Durant. Melo is known as a black hole type player even though he shoots the ball less than Durant and averages more assists. Last year Melo also averaged more rebounds and assists than Durant. So why besides the ESPN hype machine is Durant an MVP type player and in the top 5 players in the league and Melo is known as a one dimensional chucker when he does almost everything on the court better than Durant?

Ric Bucher
  (1:41 PM)

I love KD but I'm a little flummoxed by the MVP talk as well. Fantastic work ethic, great scorer, love everything about him. But he doesn't worry anyone defensively and his twiggy frame makes it difficult for him to dominate his position, much less the game, with certain matchups. He will always get his, but how many double teams does he draw, based on where he operates from? Did no one see Shane Battier get up and into him and nullify his presence for long stretches in the playoffs?

Dan (CA)

Was hoping you could explain why you think Westbrook is more valuable (or better) than KD.

Ric Bucher
  (1:45 PM)

See previous answer, in part. Westbrook can dominate his position, physically. Is he still a train wreck at times? Yes. But defensively he's a force, he's a far better rebounder for his position than KD and his penetration opens up opportunities for everyone on that OKC team. Just because he doesn't get the dime doesn't mean his drive and kick that leads to a drive and score by Harden or KD wasn't the impetus. KD is more efficient. That doesn't make him better.

Ric Bucher
  (1:45 PM)

Screw it. I'm going an extra five.

Jeremy H (Minneapolis)

How much longer can Adelman not start Rubio?

Ric Bucher
  (1:46 PM)

Why screw a good thing? Rubio is a nice change of pace off the bench. Starting is a whole different challenge. Defensive assignments might be a tad tougher. Let's not rush into anything.

Leo (Minneapolis)

What would it take for the wolves to get James Harden?

Ric Bucher
  (1:47 PM)

An offer that OKC would have trouble matching and still keep Ibaka, Russ and KD. There's an opening there and I like the way you're thinking.

Tyrone (Portland, OR)

Ric, love your stuff... do you think the Lakers can get either Cousins/Thornton for Pau or K-Love for Pau. We need something!

Ric Bucher
  (1:47 PM)

KLove for sure.

Andy (Phoenix, AZ)

Hi Ric,do you think Steve Nash will retire as a member of the Phoenix Suns?

Ric Bucher
  (1:48 PM)

No.

Buddy (Shanghai, China)

Can you tell me something positive about the Warriors? Ever since the OKC Thunder move killed our mascot nothing has gone right. Would a move to San Francisco mean the team could drop the "Golden State" name?

Ric Bucher
  (1:48 PM)

Sweet new unis. And they will end up in SF, next to that jewel of a ballpark. Good times ahead. Xiexie.

JRC (SUNS Fan)

Can u pass the word along to Sarver from us (fans) that we the majority want Nash and Hill packaged to a contender just for picks!!! Thanks cuz this team has no chance and a very high% of us want to REBUILD!!! Sincerely yours, TICKET PAYERS AND LEAGUE PASS SUBSCRIBERS

Ric Bucher
  (1:50 PM)

you want to trade Nash and Hill to a contender and get picks. Those would be non-lottery picks. That's what you're rebuilding with?

Chris (Chicago)

When is your podcast with Bill Simmons?

Ric Bucher
  (1:52 PM)

You have to ask him. As soon as I started shredding him on Twitter, he ran into the house and said he'd come back out on a podcast. I'm waiting on the porchstep.Thanks for joining me. We'll do it again next week from LA, where I've got sideline gigs on not one, but two, Clippers games. The times, they are a changin'...