NBA Rumors: Nash’s extension, Grizzlies like Thabeet and more

– Steve Nash plans to wait and see what happens to the Suns’ roster before getting serious about an extension.

– Ron Artest would like to return to Houston, but if he gets an offer he can’t refuse from someone else, he’s not going to refuse it.

– The Nets have been rumored to be shopping Yi Jianlian, but Rod Thorn doesn’t see it that way.

– Before the lottery, the Grizzlies were supposedly one of the few teams to have more interest in Hasheem Thabeet than Blake Griffin, so expect Memphis to take the UConn shotblocker with the second pick in the draft.

– ESPN Insider says that the Knicks’ interest in Stephen Curry might have more to do with LeBron’s friendship with and admiration for the young man than his being the right pick for the Knicks. So they may draft Curry to have a better shot at LeBron next summer.

– It looks like Rockets owner Leslie Alexander is willing to spend. There’s never been a better time to wrestle good players from other teams looking to cut salary. The Rockets have T-Mac’s monster contract ($22.5 million) that expires next summer, which means the Rockets may be able to pull off a deal similar to the Iverson/Billups swap that the Nuggets made last year.

– The Jazz are willing to pay luxury tax to keep Paul Millsap on the roster. This could just be a smokescreen meant to dissuade other teams from making the restricted free agent an offer, but the Jazz do seem determined to re-sign the talented forward.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

No Love?

The rosters for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge have been announced and there are a few surprises.

The rookie roster consists of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, Rudy Fernandez, Michael Beasley, Brook Lopez, Greg Oden and Marc Gasol.

The sophomore roster includes Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Durant, Wilson Chandler, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Luis Scola, Al Horford and Thaddeus Young.

Kevin Love isn’t on the nine-man roster for the Rookie Challenge, and it’s a big, glaring snub. ESPN’s John Hollinger agrees.

For starters, the decision to select Eric Gordon ahead of Kevin Love for the rookies was completely inexcusable.

Don’t get me wrong; Gordon is going to have a fine career, it seems, and in almost any other year he’d be a shoo-in for the team. But he made this squad mainly because the forlorn Clippers have no choice but to play him extensive minutes.

As good as he’s looked, Gordon is the only rookie team member with a Player Efficiency Rating below the league average, while Love has a better PER than every player on the rookie team except Greg Oden. Love leads the league in offensive rebound rate, as I mentioned the other day, but his prodigious work on the boards has gone largely unnoticed because he plays only 23.2 minutes a game, far less than Gordon’s 32.2.

Love’s absence is especially surprising considering how the rookie roster is loaded with four guards (Rose, Westbrook, Mayo, Gordon), one G/F (Fernandez) and only one true forward (Beasley). You’d think that if it were a tossup between Gordon and Love (which it isn’t) that they’d at least want to get another true forward on the roster to balance things out.

Hollinger goes on to rail against the sophomore roster snubs, which included Wilson Chandler over Jamario Moon, Al Thornton over Carl Landry and the worst of all (he says) — Aaron Brooks over Ramon Sessions.

Interestingly, seven of the top 11 picks of the 2007 draft — Mike Conley, Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer, Brandan Wright, Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes and Acie Law — did NOT make the sophomore roster. (I counted Greg Oden amongst the four since he made the rookie roster.) Conversely, six of the top 11 picks in the 2008 draft did make the rookie team.

2008 NBA Preview: #18 Milwaukee Bucks

Offseason Movement: New GM John Hammond was busy this summer wheeling and dealing. Two starters from last season are gone. The Bucks traded Mo Williams to Cleveland in a three-way deal that brought Luke Ridnour from Seattle/OKC. Williams was more of a scorer, while Ridnour is definitely a pass-first point guard. The team also traded Yi Jianlian (and Bobby Simmons) to the Nets for Richard Jefferson. This move implies that the team is in “win now” mode, which makes sense given the roster.
Keep Your Eye On: Charlie Villanueva
Everyone thought that Charlie V would be one of the first Bucks to go once Hammond took over, but the team dealt Yi instead and they’re expecting V to take over at power forward. In the 31 games he started last season, he averaged 15/8, so if he can play enough defense to make new coach Scott Skiles happy, he could be in for a big year. The Bucks sure need him to break out, and there’s a good bet that he will, especially if he takes the ball to the hole more.
The Big Question: Can Scott Skiles whip this team into shape?
For the last several years, the Bucks have lacked a defensive mindset and toughness. There’s definitely enough talent to compete; a starting five of Ridnour, Michael Redd, Jefferson, Villanueva and Bogut makes for a good young core of skilled offensive players. If Skiles can get them to increase their effort on defense, the team should make a jump in the standings. It’s no sure thing that all the players will buy in; it’s just as likely that the Bucks will be looking at a losing record two months in and Skiles will have a revolt on his hands.
Outlook: Encouraging. The addition of Jefferson is a huge upgrade at small forward, which has been a weak spot for the last two seasons. The loss of Yi is a loss of potential only, as Villanueva should be able to produce better numbers from that position. Assuming good play from Redd and continued growth from Bogut, the Bucks are one of the darkhorses in the East. If Ridnour helps the team meld into a single cohesive unit offensively and Skiles can get them into the middle of the pack defensively, then the Bucks will be in business.

2008 NBA Preview: #27 New Jersey Nets

Offseason Movement: The team traded Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, and both players figure to play a prominent role this season. The Nets are rebuilding with an eye on the summer of 2010 when LeBron James (and a few other stars) might be hitting the free agent market. Last summer, the team elected to re-sign Vince Carter, a decision they’re certainly regretting now.
Keep Your Eye On: Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez
The team is trying to put together a young and inexpensive core that will attract a big-name free agent in the summer of 2010. Harris is no Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but he’s a great young point guard with a lot of potential. Potential is all that Jianlian has right now, though he played pretty well in spurts for the Bucks last season before injuries started to take their toll. Brook Lopez slipped to the Nets in the draft and they’re happy to have him. He’s a big body who can score in the post. If everything pans out for this trio, the Nets will have their point guard, power forward and center locked up. Now all they need is a couple of wing players and Vince Carter is signed through 2011…hmmm…
The Big Question: Does the team really have a viable chance to land LeBron?
One thing about making a long-term plan like the Nets have is that there really aren’t any pressing issues since the team isn’t really built to win right now. They want to see their youngsters develop, they want to acquire draft picks and they want to avoid spending any serious money. In an ideal situation, LeBron would join a Nets team that has a dynamic All-Star caliber point guard (Harris), a veteran off guard (Carter) an up-and-coming versatile power forward (Jianlian) and a double-double guy in the middle (Lopez). Two things need to happen: 1) the youngsters must develop and 2) LeBron must agree to play in Brooklyn. If you build it, he will come…
Outlook: Nets fans shouldn’t expect a playoff berth this season. Carter is still there to put butts in the seats, though he’s not as dynamic as he used to be. The Nets are just too young to compete with the best in the East, but the opportunity for growth is certainly there.

Check out our NBA Preview page for a look at every team. We’ll be posting three previews per business day, which will take us up to the start of the season on Tuesday, October 28th.

Redeem Team blows by China, 101-70

It was a rough start for Team USA in its Olympic opener as China made eight of its first 12 three-point shots. After that run of hot shooting, China was still within three (35-32) with 4:10 to play in the second quarter, but the U.S. outscored the Chinese 66-38 over the last two and a half quarters to win, 101-70.

Dwyane Wade came off the bench to lead Team USA in scoring with 19 points, shooting 7 of 7 from the field and 5 of 5 from the free throw line. LeBron James had an outstanding games, posting 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks, including two spectacular rejections in the first half.

The U.S. was sloppy at times and struggled to get good inside shots against China’s 2-3 zone. Shooting is still a team weakness as the U.S. made just 7 of 24 from long range. But the Americans’ overall athleticism was just too much in the end.

For China, Yao Ming posted 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and looked pretty active coming off a foot injury. Yi Jianlian, who was drafted by the Bucks but was recently traded to the Nets, had a pretty rough game, missing his first seven shots and finishing 4 of 13 from the field. China is going to need him to play better to make the medal round.

Team USA’s next game is Tuesday morning against Angola. Check your local listings.

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