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January 20, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Ric Bucher

Ric Bucher
  (1:02 PM)

Thanks for coming. First of all, RIP Etta. Here's the song, along with "Women Bleed," that I think of when I think of her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba7O12J-zcwAlso, forewarning: some guy named John from Cincinnati is going to get a lot of burn in this session. One, because I was just thinking about that weird and short-lived show this morning as I drove through downtown LA. Two, I'm from Cincinnati. And, three, because he submitted a string of poignant questions. It probably won't ever happen again, but I thought all of you should know.With that, let's get rolling...

Mark (Philly)

Ric, despite the signing of Rip Hamilton, I still think the Bulls are a gun short (offensive playmaker) of beating Miami. Do you agree? And if so, are there any trade option out there for them to get that last piece?

Ric Bucher
  (1:04 PM)

I kind of agree. I feel as if Rip was a nice addition, but not the perfect one. I don't see them making a deal because they love their chemistry and if the second unit continues to play D as they have, that might be enough to compensate for the missing extra gun. If they do add a piece, a stretch 4 is what they need. Ryan Anderson would be a great fit.

Anthony (Chicago)

Buc, Why did some analyst (particularly Broussard) believed the Bulls were going to take a step back this year? With the returning MVP only 23 and the team mostly in place from last year, it seemed logical that they would still be amongst the league best. Am I missing something?

Ric Bucher
  (1:06 PM)

I promise this isn't going to be a Bulls' heavy session but let me knock this out: I was the one who said on our preview show I could see them taking a step back. I knew Rose would be better, but with the way Thibodeau squeezed everything out of them and they came up short, I wondered if he could get them back to playing with the same effort. We saw this with the Jazz a few years back -- went to conference finals, realized they didn't have enough, were never the same. So far, Bulls collectively look hungrier. I started wondering if I might be wrong when I saw the shape Boozer and Noah were in to start the season -- as in much better than last year.

Web (Dallas)

How does the Spurs young (yes, young) talent measure up to your pre-season expectations?

Alexander (Texas)

Does the Spurs play witout Manu prove they can be a title contender when at full strength?

Steve (Hoboken)

Does Tiago/ Khawi/ Bonner for Howard for Spurs one year rental= instant Title?

Jimmy Bob (Alabama)

How many seasons will NBA writers conitinue to ignore the Spurs? Top 3 in West without Manu yet they get as much coverage as a D-league team....

Ric Bucher
  (1:11 PM)

I've been impressed with Kawhi Leonard and Splitter has given glimpses of why he was considered the best big man in Europe at one point. I also said before the season that while I wrote the Spurs off last year as around the bend, the way they were playing before Manu blew up his elbow convinced me they might have one more Mavs-like run in them with some young help. All that said, easy with the demand for attention. They just won their first road game. Their quality wins are running about even with their blowout losses to quality teams (Miami, OKC). They're in the mix. Let's not make more of them than that just yet.

Brian (SLC)

Why wouldn't the Clips trade Blake for Dwight? Perfect time to sell high on a guy with serious defensive limitations and a chance to pair CP3 with the second best player in the game as both are in the middle of their primes.

Ric Bucher
  (1:14 PM)

Clippers realize that Dwight is a better player right now. But Blake is on his rookie contract and the bang for the buck simply isn't close. Bottom line is, DH isn't coming to the Clips. They explored that last summer and while if there was a fourth team on his list they'd probably be it, they are not in the same place in his thinking as the Nets, Mavs and Lakers. In that order.

Maione (Da Park)

Whos the best player (right now) that won't make the olympic team? My bet is Deron Williams or Bosh. Also, how does a team thats only problem is size (and this is only compared to Spain) leave Amare off the 20 man roster.

Ric Bucher
  (1:18 PM)

Team USA has plenty of size and to be honest, I don't think of Amare as playing all that big these days. The international game is different than the NBA. Size isn't nearly as important as versatility. Bigs have to be able to shoot from range to space the floor. Right now I'd think Billups, Odom, Tyson, Blake Griffin are at the bottom of the 20-man list. They have duplication: Gay or Iguodala, Bosh or Lamarcus. That gets you to 14 but that's the best handicapping I can do until we see the injury status at year's end. Could be a big factor.

omarvls (North Hollywood, CA)

are you one of those analysts that thinks Miami will win it all but hopes they don't? like john barry/charles barkley/rob parker/michael wilbon

John (Cincinnati)

Barkley said Lebron needs to finally be assertive and take the reigns from DWade as the proverbial "man." Thoughts?

Garret (NYC)

What's LeBron's deal? Last night he was completely unintimidated by the pressure of facing Kobe, but then there are big moments where he tightens up and disappears (i.e the Clippers game). There's the Chicago series then the Finals.... Psychoanalyze for us.

Ric Bucher
  (1:23 PM)

Wish we could have a roundtable on this because you three hit on the crux of the dilemma. On paper, and based on their run last year, it's hard to pick against the Heat winning it this year. Can't speak for the other analysts, but Miami's folding under pressure and losing its way when it gets into a nip-and-tuck halfcourt game can't be ignored. It's like, "They should win, but..." I've heard them reluctantly picked by more people -- coaches, GMs, etc. -- than anyone else.

Ric Bucher
  (1:29 PM)

LeBron, of course, is at the heart of that. Last night's game was a microcosm of what maddens me about his game. He has so much talent and he racks up prodigious numbers but it's as if he's oblivious how the best player is supposed to manage the game. He laid back at the start, getting the ball out of his hands, letting someone else make the first foray. You're The Man! You need to make a statement -- to your team, to the Lakers, to Kobe -- that they're going to be dealing with you all night long. Test what they're going to do to stop you and how. And then we get to the end and the Heat have a comfortable lead with five minutes left and rather than close the Lakers out and work on precise execution, the thing the Heat to show they can do to close out games, he starts jacking up off-balance early shots from all over the court. I don't care what his numbers are or what the Heat's record is, that lack of discipline does not fill me with hope that he or the Heat are all that different from last year.

Ric Bucher
  (1:29 PM)

Missing word: the thing the Heat *need* to show...

Ric Bucher
  (1:30 PM)

Time for rapid fire after that rant. Next 10 minutes...

Ross (West Hills)

Ric,Any news about when Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss might arise from their coma-like sleep, and decide this Laker team is going nowhere fast? And maybe MAKE A DEAL?

Ric Bucher
  (1:32 PM)

Problem as I hear it is they are on slightly different pages. Mitch wants to hold onto Pau and see if they can package him with Bynum to get Dwight. Buss wants to move Pau now for help/depth and thereby also eliminate the chance that his pet project, Bynum, goes anywhere. That's the unofficial buzz.

Amare Stoudemire (NYC)

Am I playing hurt or have my skills regressed faster than anyone could have expected?

Ric Bucher
  (1:33 PM)

Playing as you have on your knees is a medical miracle, from what I hear. Having Melo come in and steal all your thunder -- remember when you were an MVP candidate before he arrived? -- has been a pretty big buzzkill, too.

Chad (Sacramento)

Is anyone going to take Devin Harris off of the Jazz's hands. I don't think he likes playing basketball anymore.

Ric Bucher
  (1:34 PM)

Would you mention that to Bill Simmons? Remember when he killed the Mavs for dealing Devin for JKidd? Anybody think Devin could've defended LeBron and Wade in the Finals or hit the huge 3s Kidd did? Anybody think Dallas would be getting rings next week if that deal wasn't made?

Nick(Cali) [via mobile]

Pau Gasol to Houston for Scola and Lowery. What do you say?

Ric Bucher
  (1:35 PM)

I say the Rockets would do it, as would some people in the Lakers' organization. But it probably has to be Scola, Lowry and Martin for Pau and Blake.

Robbie (Jackson, MI)

Will you argue with Brousard next week about why Harden is better than Durant?

Ric Bucher
  (1:37 PM)

The wiseass Bucher posted this and started to respond. Fortunately, the calmer Bucher took back the keyboard. Let's move on...

Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)

Dear RicCould you see Flip Saunders gone after this season?

Ric Bucher
  (1:37 PM)

From the rumblings I've heard, it could be sooner than that.

Abe (Minneapolis)

Can you please tweet more... It's not so much that I want to read your insights and quips... as much as it would slow down the over-the-top prevalence of Heat/LeBron feeds that dominate ESPN's Twitter Feed. Thanks Ric.

Ric Bucher
  (1:38 PM)

I'll do what I can but I'm writing a book. If you see me on Twitter over the next few months for more than a comment or two, it's because I'm procrastinating in a major way.

Stew (Lincoln)

Last week you said that Dwight Howard wouldn't want to play on the same team as Lebron James; why?

Ric Bucher
  (1:40 PM)

One, he wants to be the straw that stirs the drink. Two, from what I've heard, Dwight wasn't really in the CP3/Wade/LeBron clique on Team USA and whether he feels disenfranchised or simply likes taking his own path, he'd like to keep it that way.

Jon (SLC)

Devin Harris and a pick for either Ridnour or Barea? Can the Jazz possibly rid themselves of Harris and get a reasonably decent pass-first PG (or a shoot-first PG who can make shots) in return?

Ric Bucher
  (1:41 PM)

Timberwolves have those veteran PGs for a reason: to keep the pressure off Rubio but not threaten him. Devin makes no sense for them.

Ric Bucher
  (1:43 PM)

Out of rapid fire, into the KD/Westbrook foray...

Shane (CA)

My take on Westbrook vs Durant. They are both obviously fabulous players. But 1) Westbrook's play has more of an impact on wins vs losses--he made the leap last year and they were in WCF, Durant the year before and they were middling. 2) They have to have the good side of Shaq-Kobe partnership, where Shaq/Durant dominates the scoring side of the equation 1st 3 1/2 quarters, but Kobe/Westbrook has to be more playmaker and because he has more off the dribble ability, has to get his own shot at the end. It might mean that Durant is more valuable for the entirety of the game. I also think the situation is the same in Miami with Lebron and Wade.

Jeremy H (Minneapolis)

You sir need to stick to reporting potential trades and NBA news. After saying Westbrook is better than durant you have zero credibility left amongst us die hard NBA fans. Keep your opinion to yourself and stick to the facts.

Bryan (Springdale, AR)

Mr. Bucher, if most people, both professional and fans, don't agree with your assessment of Westbrook being more valuable than Durant, doesn't that mean that you need to look in the mirror and re-evaluate how you arrive at the opinions that you espouse on this network? People are wrong all the time; what separates those people from each other is their ability to either continue to be stubborn or admit that they were wrong.

Allen L. (Chicago)

Can you inform these fans on what Westbrook brings to the table and why his extension is a tremendous thing for the OKC Thunder

Ric Bucher
  (1:53 PM)

Let me say first of all that there's no reason KD and Russ can't co-exist and that everything I know about the two, there is no comparison to Steph and KG as far as their relationship is concerned. The comparison is in how they're viewed: KG was absolutely beloved because of his public persona, much as Steph was an acquired taste because of his. That should have nothing to do with how they're assessed as players, but a lot of fans seem to transfer how they feel about guys to how their teammates must feel about them. What baffles me is how strident people are in saying there is no room for debate on this subject. If you're a stats guy, the stats say different. If you watch the Thunder night in and night out and understand how their offense and defense work, the eye test says different. I'm OK with anyone who says, 'Hey, I like KD more, but I can see why you prefer Westbrook,' I'm perfectly OK with that. I'm confident that as they both evolve, Russ' ability to dominate in different ways is going to become more and more apparent. But for all of you who have called me an imbecile or that I've lost all credibility with you or I should be fired for suggesting such a thing, there's no reason for us to talk. The basis for my argument is plain as day for anyone who chooses to look past persona and what the two of them actually do for 48 minutes.

Josh (Obscurity, Minnesota)

Who makes the All-Star Game as a reserve, Nash or Rubio?

Ric Bucher
  (1:54 PM)

My guess would be Nash because the reserves are picked by the coaches and they understand Rubio doesn't carry nearly the same responsibility that Nash does.

wes (lala land)

what made kobe jump ahead of d rose in your best player rankings?

Ric Bucher
  (1:56 PM)

I got swept up in seeing a guy putting up 40 a night, at 33, with a bad wrist on a disjointed team. It just defied so many things. And I picked that top 7 for where I saw them that particular day going onto SC. If I had to do the top 7 today, Rose would be at the top.

Jared (Alberta)

Hi Ric: Why are hometown commentators such unabashed homers? With League Pass Broadband, I hear a lot of home broadcasts for lots of teams, and most have at least one excitable, 'roid-raging, conspiracy theorist commentating. It's very irritating to know they're whipping their home town fans into a frenzy of hate for the refs and David Stern.

Ric Bucher
  (1:58 PM)

Because they're paid by the teams and, from what I gather, owners have become more hands' on in recent years about wanting their product promoted by their employers. I think it hurts the relationship with a fan base and doesn't give fans enough credit for wanting to hear the truth rather than a soft sell, but hey, I haven't been in an owner's shoes. Maybe it makes sense from their perspective.

Suzanne (Maine)

Are my Nets doomed? Is Dwight still a realistic future?

Ric Bucher
  (2:01 PM)

Not doomed. You have the richest owner in the league and Billy King is a smart GM. I don't know if they get Dwight or keep Deron, but they already did the hard part -- they got Deron. If he stays, great -- I'd be shocked if they don't get something for him if he goes. And don't close the door on DH coming to NJ.

John (Cincinnati)

What do you make of the statistical evidence that Kyrie is having a better rookie year than Lebron and CP3?

Ric Bucher
  (2:02 PM)

That stats can't be trusted.

kazem (montreal)

You real facinate me. Sometimes i think you are the smartest and sometimes i think you are not. However, you do make good arguments when you say shocking things. My question to you, after last night, and what i've been saying for three years it that Lebron is better than kobe simply because he impacts the game in so many ways, he can dominate without scoring, something kobe can't do and it was proved last night when he was just awful from the field, it seemed he couldn't do anything else to help. Agree or no?(forget mental capacity/finals last year, we are talking overall best basketball player)

Ric Bucher
  (2:06 PM)

I can't forget the mental aspect of the game. You're right, at this point, LeBron is light years ahead of Kobe physically. It's no contest, as we saw when LeBron posted and spun on him -- and then gakked the reverse layup. The most invaluable thing a player can provide is consistency. It's why I consider Wade, no matter how he's playing, more dangerous than LeBron, even though the physical ability there isn't all that close anymore, either. That's not semantics or narrative or "feel." It's visible, tactile.

Jon (Chicago)

With Love playing as well as he is, how do you see D Will getting more minutes? He needs to be on the court more but I don't know about him guarding 3's.

Ric Bucher
  (2:08 PM)

Don't know but I'm working the sidelines tonight at Clippers-TWolves. Ask me in next week's chat and I'll have an answer. Or fire me a Tweet tonight. Sorry for the longwinded answers, but I'd rather dig into a few choice topics than just riff. We can go back to a steady stream of one-liners if you prefer that. Until next week, thanks for joining me and be safe.