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Saturday, 9-Apr-2011 00:58 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Brandon Knight's Draft Stock Blows Up after Tournament has an article today about Brandon Knight's draft stock and how it has blown up after the NCAA Tournament.

Here is an excerpt from a NBA GM that is very high on Brandon after Kentucky's Final 4 run.

Originally Posted by :
"It was totally obvious," one general manager said of Knight not merely stepping up but thriving in the pressure. "I don't know if he wanted it or [coach John] Calipari gave it to him. Regardless, even if Calipari gave it to him, he took it on with great confidence."

It doesn't answer the pressing NBA question about how far away a volume shooter (who is also a freshman) is from being able to run an offense. But Knight is about three inches and 10 pounds bigger than Walker, depending on how phony the college measurements turn out to be after the pre-Draft measurements are taken, and Knight has established himself as wanting the moment. Both he and Walker project to be picked somewhere between No. 5 and No. 10.

Friday, 25-Mar-2011 02:04 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Finding a Niche for Ben Hansbrough

Ben Hansbrough was essentially a spot-up shooter his first two seasons of college basketball at Mississippi State. 70% of his 400+ field goal attempts came from beyond the arc.

After transferring to Notre Dame, Hansbrough's role expanded, but it wasn't until Luke Harangody graduated last summer that he was given a chance to truly show what he could do as the team's primary facilitator and designated go-to guy.

Since then, the fifth year senior has absolutely exploded onto the college basketball landscape, winning Big East Player of the Year honors after leading his team to a sparkling 14-4 record in a conference that many perceived to be the toughest in the NCAA.

In turn, talent evaluators have been forced to adjust their perceptions of “Tyler's brother” and his chances of playing in the NBA, which are looking as real as ever these days.

He's become a more versatile player, but Hansbrough's best attribute as a pro prospect remains his perimeter shooting ability.

He ranks as one of the most effective jump shooters in college basketball, making an exceptional 48% of his catch-and-shoot attempts and 44% of his overall 3-pointers. Hansbrough shows outstanding shooting mechanics, deep range, a quick release and the ability to make jumpers both with his feet set and off the dribble (even when coming off screens). His ability to step out beyond the NBA 3-point line really stretches college defenses, allowing his teammates to operate more effectively inside the arc.

This season Hansbrough was also asked to operate as Notre Dame's primary ball-handler. He generates over a third of his offense in pick-and-roll and isolation situations, where he is extremely efficient. He has a below average first step for an NBA point guard, but he has good size and strength and is a strong ball handler capable of changing speeds effectively. He shows choppy footwork and has the ability to use quick spin moves to keep defenders off balance and draw fouls.

Hansbrough is not particularly fast or explosive, something that appears most noticeably in transition, where he is just average and at times has trouble converting shots in traffic inside the paint. Nevertheless, in half-court settings his smarts, high skill level and aggressive nature allow him to create shots successfully, as evidenced by the fact that his team sports the third most efficient offense in the NCAA--aided greatly by his high shooting percentages, his above average ability to get to the free throw line and his low turnover rate.

Hansbrough demonstrates excellent court vision and timing with his passes. When defenses close out, he has a knack for finding the open man cutting to the rim. He's a highly unselfish player who knows how to make teammates better and executes his half-court offense crisply and proficiently. However, he's also not afraid to improvise creatively if things break down. Despite converting to the point guard position late in his college career, and not even playing there full-time this season, he should be able to operate effectively as a point guard in the NBA, considering his skill level and basketball IQ--even if it's clear he's not a traditional playmaker.
Defensively, Hansbrough is, like the rest of his Notre Dame teammates, nowhere near as accomplished. He lacks great length or lateral quickness, struggling to contest opponents' shots on the perimeter effectively and having a difficult time staying in front of more physically gifted slashers. He puts a solid effort in and will make plays on occasion thanks to his smarts and aggressiveness, but overall he projects as an average defender at best at the NBA level.

Hansbrough is exactly the type of college prospect many NBA types tend to shy away from. There will be plenty of question marks about his defense and his effectiveness at creating scoring opportunities at the next level.

With that said, his work ethic, which is reportedly legendary, his competitiveness (we should know by now after Tyler), and his productivity (Big East Player of the Year) cannot be ignored, particularly considering the level of play he competed at in the Big East.

Unfortunately for Hansbrough, the last three games of his career (30% FG, 13-9 ast/to ratio) were far from his best performances this season, something that could stick out in the minds of talent evaluators, who do their most intense travel in the month of March. Based on the latest information we've received, Hansbrough has elected not to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament—another setting he could have used to showcase his late-blooming skills.

When it's all said and done, individual workouts could end up deciding his fate. Showing that he can defend his position effectively and continue to create shots at a high rate against the best prospects in this draft will likely ease any concerns teams have about him—and dictate just how high he gets drafted, if at all.

Hansbrough has many interesting qualities, making him a player coaches may like to have in their backcourt rotation. He's a more versatile player than Andy Rautins, for example, who was drafted 38th overall last year, and is every bit as good of a shooter. Will that earn him a spot in the first round this June? We'll have to wait and see.

Edited by Patrick Crawley, Sports Editor for Neon Tommy and Managing Editor of Basketball Fiend.

Thursday, 17-Mar-2011 01:20 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Jeremy Lin: NBA's Cinderella story

March Madness, the season of underdog stories, began at the conclusion of college basketball's regular season, as teams around the country battled for conference titles.

On March 12, Harvard lost to Princeton on a last-second shot and missed out on a trip to the Big Dance. Still, the Crimson finished the regular season at 23-7 (a perfect 14-0 at home), earning a share of the Ivy League title for the first time in school history and their first-ever bid to the NIT Tournament.

Perhaps more surprising than their successful season was the fact that Harvard advanced without Jeremy Lin, who graduated last spring and himself became the NBA's Cinderella story of the offseason.

Lin, an undrafted, 6-foot-3 guard with an economics degree, outdueled the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, John Wall, during the summer league in Las Vegas.

Most spectators had never heard of Lin, who finished the game with 13 points and four rebounds and stifled Wall defensively. But soon the national media and Internet were buzzing about him.

Then came his fairytale kicker. Lin's hometown NBA team -- the Golden State Warriors, whose stars he hung posters of in his childhood bedroom (they're still there today) -- signed him to a partially guaranteed two-year deal.

He held a press conference in Oakland, Calif., following the signing, which made him the first Asian-American in the NBA since 1947 and the first Ivy League graduate to play in the league in almost a decade.

"It was surprising to see that we had almost a full-blown media day, with a bunch of national media here, for an undrafted rookie," Warriors coach Keith Smart said.

The attention didn't stop there. In the Warriors' first month of play, the Oracle Center crowd erupted every time it saw Lin removing his warm-ups and moving toward the scorer's table in what was usually garbage time.

"When he first came into games, it was a roar," Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said. "People love him."

His teammates agreed.

"I've never seen that kind of reception for a rookie," David Lee added. "In New York, I saw that kind of reaction maybe for Nate Robinson, but Jeremy has a cult following."

Local fans loved cheering their native son, who led Palo Alto High (Calif.) to a Division II state championship in 2006. And many Asian-American residents of Santa Clara County, 32 percent of the county's total population according to a 2009 Census, rallied around him.On Oct. 29, 2010, Golden State hosted its annual Asian Heritage Night. While several NBA teams hold a similarly themed evening each season, the Warriors showcased Lin in several ways, including a postgame Q&A before the crowd of over 17,000.

Halfway through the fourth quarter, the crowd began chanting, "We want Lin!" He entered the game with just under three minutes to go, and the arena sounded like a home crowd cheering their All-Star during a playoff game.

But the frequent well-intentioned cheers pressured the rookie. While at Harvard, Lin rarely played in front of crowds of more than 1,000 fans. Now, he routinely saw close to 16,000 inside the "Roaracle," who often reserved their loudest cheers for him.

On Nov. 3, 2010, San Francisco Gate columnist Rusty Simmons wrote a piece entitled "Stop cheering for Jeremy Lin," arguing that the crowd's explosions worsened the rookie's game. Even Lin admitted, "When I'm on the road, I don't feel like the spotlight is on me."

Critics began questioning his value, wondering whether his signing was a strategic marketing ploy to draw more fans instead of an investment in the best basketball talent available.

But new owner Joe Lacob was quick to defend his signing. Having seen Lin play high school ball against his son, Kirk, who is the head of Warriors basketball operations, Lacob was familiar with Lin's game. He has particularly cited Lin's potential impact on the defensive end and that Lin is a developing asset.

Lin also acknowledges that he's a work in progress and that he needs to adapt to the NBA.

"I have the exact opposite role on this team that I had last year, and that's obviously a huge adjustment," Lin said. "I haven't been in this position very many times in my life, so that's something I have to embrace."

Lin worked hard, despite the lack of playing time early on, ensuring that he performed consistently in practice. His extreme focus was at times his downfall. Smart, while appreciating Lin's determination, noted early how the rookie tended to overanalyze.

"Sometimes he watches so much film that he becomes like a robot," Smart said. "The game is all about instincts."

Lin grew up in Palo Alto with his parents, who'd emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan, and his two brothers. Lin's older brother, Josh, started playing basketball when Jeremy was five. Their mother, Shirley, tells stories of Jeremy begging to tag along to his older brother's practices.

As a teenager, Jeremy Lin focused on AAU basketball teams, rather than participating in the Bay Area's Asian-American leagues. But those involved in the Asian-American hoops circuit have been following his career.

"He's the first Asian kid to make it," said Darren Yamashita, of the Northern California Nisei Athletic Union Basketball League. "It shows the Asian-American kids here that they can do it; they can compete at the highest level."

"We have fans who love him," said Rich Twu, who founded the Dream League, an amateur basketball league for men and women in the Bay Area and New York. "But you also have the Asian-Americans who want to blend in as an American and say, 'He's not playing well, so what's the big fuss.'"On Dec. 28, 2010, after appearing in 17 games in which he averaged 1.9 points and 1.1 steals in 8.5 minutes per game, Lin was assigned to Golden State's D-league affiliate, the Reno Bighorns.

At Reno, Lin demonstrated why the Warriors had signed him. He played almost 18 minutes in his first game and scored 10 points. Two nights later, in 21 minutes of play, he finished with 20 points. Lin appeared in two more games, averaging 18 points per game, before Golden State called him back up. But Lin was declared inactive for three games before being sent back to Reno.

"The first time was really tough for me because I felt like it was a demotion, even though I tried not to view it like that," Lin said of playing at Reno. "Then, as I got to play more, I was able to be myself on the court again."

On Jan. 15, Lin was named to the NBA D-League Showcase first team. He found his rhythm and went on to start eight of 12 games while averaging 17.9 points (leading the team), 5.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 32 minutes per game.

Bighorns teammate Patrick Ewing Jr. said the guard had exceeded expectations.

"I went to a major D-I school, so I was wondering what a kid from Harvard can do, but he's definitely proven himself," Ewing said. "He's got a lot of talent and he's only going to get better."

Ewing was also impressed by Lin's character. While flying to away games, Lin often offered his first class seat (NBA signees receive first-class treatment) to a teammate.

"We've had other signees down here before, and they've never done that, and that makes me respect him even more," Ewing said.

On Feb. 5, the Warriors recalled Lin again. After rejoining the team, Lin tweeted, "i'm as glad to be back with the team as my teammates were that I got a haircut. learned a lot from the dleague!" But life on the court since has been a mirror image of his earlier NBA days. Through March 16, Lin is averaging 1.9 points, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals in just over eight minutes of play per game.

The fans' initial excitement over Lin has waned, says Scott Muranishi, a 27-year-old Asian-American who regularly attends Golden State games.

"He needs more minutes to do something significant, even if it's just one play, to really bring the hype back," Muranishi said.

Yet Lin's presence still resonates, not just within the Asian-American community, but amongst Crimson alumni as well.

"He is the pride and joy of Harvard people everywhere," says 28-year-old Los Angeles resident Zach Puchtel, a former Harvard JV basketball player. "I don't know him but I love him to death because he's a Harvard guy, and Harvard people aren't usually known for their athletic prowess. He made it to the bigs. I love what he's done."

Harvard may have lost to Oklahoma State, 71-54, on Tuesday night in the NIT's first round, but the Crimson carved their imprints on college basketball's national stage. Their next test will be working consistently to stay there. Just like their former star.

"I wasn't surprised that he would get a look (in the NBA)," Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson said of Lin. "Now he's got to work his tail off to make sure he can stick in the league with the best players in the world."

When asked about the pressure Lin might feel from the collective love affair with his story, Smart said he discussed it with Lin one afternoon early in the season. Smart asked Lin how he might handle the attention.

"He said, 'I don't really want all that stuff,'" Smart remembered. "I said, 'Understand that you need to embrace it. Because this is the time you're in. Ten, 20 years from now, you won't have that moment again, so embrace it and understand that that gives you a bigger purpose of playing.'"

Lin, a devout Christian, has taken those words to heart. He said his strong faith in God has sustained him through the tumultuous past eight months.

"This is a blessing in disguise from God," Lin said. "This is an eye-opening experience that's humbled me and taught me to be more thankful and about surrendering my will to God's will."

Thursday, 3-Mar-2011 01:20 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Chiefs' employees would see pay cut if there's a lockout

All Chiefs employees — including general manager Scott Pioli, coach Todd Haley and president Mark Donovan — would see a pay reduction if the NFL experiences a work stoppage.

The collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players expires Thursday night. If no new agreement is reached, owners have indicated they would lock out the players.

At that point, much of the league’s business would be suspended. That includes the free-agent signing period and organized off-season workouts and practice.

The salary-reduction plan would be phased in over eight months, according to a Chiefs source with knowledge of the plan. No employees will be laid off or furloughed. Employees would retain full benefits.

Salary adjustments would be tiered across the organization and those with the highest salaries would receive the greatest percentage reductions.

“The plan contemplates any and all scenarios,” the source said. “Even in the worst-case scenario, the average reduction for all employees would be less than 10 percent. The salaries of top executives, vice presidents and assistant coaches would be reduced by less than 20 percent, on average.”

If the owners and players reach a labor agreement in time for a full 2011 season to be played, employees would be reimbursed for the salary lost during the duration of the lockout.

“Everyone is paid in full if we play a full season,” the source said.

Several Chiefs employees were laid off after the end of the season. The source indicated those moves had nothing to do with the impending lockout.

Other NFL teams will make similar moves. Among them, the New York Jets will cut the pay of assistant coaches by 25 percent. If the lockout lasts more than 90 days, coaches’ pay can be cut by 50 percent. Other Jets employees are subject to furloughs.

Also, the San Diego Chargers will reduce the salaries of their top personnel, including general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner.

Saturday, 19-Feb-2011 04:02 Email | Share | | Bookmark
All-Star homecoming for Sixers' Holiday

Jrue Holiday can't help smiling when he talks about tonight's NBA rookie / sophomore game at the Staples Center.

Considering he gets to participate in all-star Cheap NFL Jerseys weekend in his hometown of Los Angeles, the seemingly permanent grin is understandable.

"It's an honor," Holiday said earlier this week. "I'm blessed just to be here and to be a part of the all-star festivities. For the first one to be at home, I'm ecstatic."

The 20-year-old Holiday's goals for the game are pretty simple.

"I know everybody out there is going to go out there and try to be MVP," he said, grinning again. "I just want to have fun. I hope to come back for many more all-star games."

Holiday, a second-year point guard after he was a part-time player as a rookie, is having a very good season. He is one of the reasons the 27-29 Sixers have already matched last season's win total.

Holiday is averaging 13.8 points, a team-best 6.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals and shooting 81 percent from the foul line. He is the only Sixer to start all 56 games and has logged a team-high 1,956 minutes, already surpassing last year's total by nearly 200.

Holiday recorded his first career triple-double (11 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) in a Feb. 2 road victory over the Nets. He's scored 20-plus points nine times this season (the Sixers are 7-2 in those games) after doing so four times as a rookie.Holiday is also one of 14 NBA players averaging 13 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds in 2010-11.

"He can play both ends of the floor," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "He can disrupt you (on defense). He's unselfish. He makes the game easier for other people."

Holiday is the 10th Sixer to be named to the rookie/sophomore and is the third current Sixer to participate, joining Andre Iguodala (2005, '06) and Thaddeus Young ('09).

Iguodala, who was named MVP of the rookie/sophomore game in his second pro season, said the key thing is to "just make sure you get a win."

"Don't let the rookies beat you," Iguodala said with a smile. "The All-Star weekend can be exhausting for some guys. It's important to have a good time and try to get some rest."

Like Holiday, Young wasn't picked to the game as a rookie, only to make it as a second-year pro.

"It shows that you've grown and taken major strides toward success," Young said. "Jrue has been great for us all season long. I think he's going to continue to be great and definitely one of the star players in this franchise and in this league for years to come."


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