NBA Rumors, News 2014: Heat, Knicks, Bulls, Suns, Hawks, Team USA, and Andray Blatche

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
September 8, 2014 Updated: September 10, 2014

The NBA rumors and news keep coming, especially regarding remaining free agents such as Ray Allen and Andray Blatche.

Check out the latest buzz below.

Bulls Target Allen?

Ray Allen has drawn a ton of interest as he continues to debate whether to retire or return for another year. The Cleveland Cavaliers want him, as do the Miami Heat–and the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, and Washington Wizards, among other teams.

Sam Smith of Bulls.com, though, says that Allen’s best “and, really, only sensible option” is to sign with the Bulls.

“Allen provides a role and fills a need for the Bulls like he would nowhere else,” Smith said.

“The Bulls are likely the only significant contender pursuing Allen who do not have a true starting shooting guard. What an ideal situation for Allen at this stage in his career. Jimmy Butler likely will start the season at shooting guard. Butler’s more natural position probably is small forward, which isn’t exactly a strength for the Bulls, either,” he added.

“Not that it’s a weakness, but possible starter Mike Dunleavy Jr. is better suited to come off the bench and Doug McDermott is a rookie. Likewise, with little playing time Tony Snell comes into the 2014-15 season more like a red shirt rookie. The Bulls more than any other of the prime contenders and destinations for Allen have the most obvious need and thus a defined role for a proud veteran like Allen.

“Butler could start at shooting guard and then swing over to small forward to work in McDermott and Snell and keep Dunleavy stronger for the playoffs. Similarly with Kirk Hinrich, who theoretically could be a shooting guard starter. But the heavy minutes as a starter would seem counter productive. Plus, Hinrich isn’t the kind of shooter like Ray Allen.”

Allen should make his decision soon as the date for training camps gets closer.

Blatche Boosts Profile in Spain; Could Head to Heat

Andray Blatche’s move to play for the Philippines national team was one of the more bizarre stories this summer, but it paid off with his profile being raised as he was obviously superior to the competition.

Blatche has always been highly talented but wildly inconsistent. The talent is good enough for him to play in the NBA, even if he has too many off-nights.

The Brooklyn Nets apparently don’t want Blatche back, and he’s being linked increasingly to the Miami Heat, which has a thin frontcourt.

Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts will likely start at the Heat but the only other big man they have is Chris Andersen.

“Bringing Blatche on board would also free up Bosh to play more at his natural position, which is power forward. This move alone would yield benefits on the offensive side of the ball because Bosh is a finesse player from mid range. His bread and butter shots are all in that area of the court. His move to starting center will take away some of those shot opportunities,” noted Rant Sports.

“If Blatche is willing to take a reduced salary, signing him has to be a no-brainer for the Heat organization. The positives most certainly outweigh the potential negatives in this case, and his addition to the Heat frontcourt would be a tremendous boost. Riley needs to push hard in negotiations to get this guy in a Heat uniform.”

Blatche fueled the rumors by telling a Filipino journalist that he was flying straight from Spain to Miami to “negotiate.”

Knicks Triangle Offense Update

The New York Knicks will be playing with Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, and will need a strong point guard to guide the sets.

Jose Calderon, recently acquired from the Mavericks, and Pablo Prigioni figure to get most of the playing time at point, and will need to play well within the offense to get it to work.

Hoops Habit points out that Calderon has more assists per game than mots of the other point guards who have guided the offense, such as Derek Fisher with the Los Angeles Lakers and Steve Kerr with the Chicago Bulls.

Stats analysis reveals that Calderon is a pass-first point-guard, which should benefit the Knicks greatly.

“Calderon should still be considered a key piece in New York’s triangle offense.,” it said, noting that he’s getting older.

“At 6.8 assists per game he’s bound to find shooters at will and, once the ball gets there, it will be their duty to do their best to put points on the board.”

US knows where Slovenians are on the court

Epoch Times Photo

DeMarcus Cousins of the US, dunks the ball during the Group C Basketball World Cup match against Ukraine, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. The 2014 Basketball World Cup competition take place in various cities in Spain from Aug. 30 through to Sept. 14. United States won 95-71. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

BARCELONA, Spain—On a map, Slovenia is a mystery to the U.S. basketball team.

“Do you know where Slovenia is?” center DeMarcus Cousins was asked by a European journalist Monday.

“No,” Cousins responded. “Do you know where Alabama is?”

On the basketball court, the Americans know exactly where to look: on the perimeter.

Goran Dragic and the Slovenians are a small team that thrives on the outside but struggles to defend the interior. The Americans will look to ride their size advantage to a quarterfinal victory Tuesday at the Basketball World Cup.

The teams met in an exhibition game just before the tournament, and the Americans cruised to a 101-71 victory. Anthony Davis scored 18 points and Kenneth Faried added 14 as the U.S. big men dominated their undersized foes.

“They do not defend in their normal practice a lot of the stuff that we do, so they’re not accustomed to being inside,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “So our guys have to take advantage of that. Not so much posting, but for offensive rebounds.”

Krzyzewski was quick to note that the Slovenians were managing Dragic’s minutes in the exhibition and that they have since improved.

“But for us, too, we’ve gotten better since then,” Krzyzewski said.

And Slovenia hasn’t gotten bigger.

Only five players on its roster are 6-foot-7 or taller, while the U.S. roster lists eight players who are at least that big. The Americans had a whopping 50-22 advantage in points in the paint in the first game, though the 6-foot-11 Cousins wouldn’t say that bigger always means better.

“Slovenia’s a tough team. It doesn’t really matter the size I would say,” he said. “Everybody has a different type of playing style and I think our playing style kind of wore them down. So hopefully we could do that the next game as well.”

Cousins wasn’t much of a factor then, but has emerged as a powerful weapon off the bench for the Americans. He has scored in double figures in each of the last three games, and shot 5 for 5 in two of them, including Saturday’s 86-63 victory over Mexico.

Slovenia advanced with a 71-61 victory over the Dominican Republic behind 12 points from Dragic, the Phoenix Suns’ star point guard, and 18 from his brother, Zoran.

The Slovenians went into the final day of the group stage in position to avoid the Americans until the semifinals, but their loss to Lithuania, following Australia’s loss to Angola, dropped Slovenia into the other half of the U.S. bracket. The basketball governing body FIBA is investigating Australia’s loss because it appeared the players may have stopped trying to defend late. The loss moved the Australians out of a potential quarterfinal matchup with the U.S., however they lost the first elimination game to Turkey.

“It’s too bad that we have now USA, but of course we cannot do nothing. We just go to face them and try to win,” Zoran Dragic said.

With the Dragic brothers leading the way, Krzyzewski said the Slovenians can put five 3-point shooters on the floor at one time. But if they’re not hitting, the U.S. can swarm Goran Dragic, as it did in holding him to 3-for-11 shooting in the exhibition rout.

Dragic was in foul trouble that night, as were plenty of teammates who struggled to defend bigger players. The U.S. shot 46 free throws, while Slovenia was just 10 of 17.

The winner will face Lithuania or Turkey on Thursday night.

Krzyzewski said the Americans have to forget the warmup game, and Faried said there was no game plan to pound the ball inside like last time. As for the basketball cliche that a good big team beats a good small team?

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Faried said. “If we win, then hey, the cliche is right. But if we don’t, then hey, the cliche was wrong. So we don’t know.”

Zoran Dragic Linked to Suns

Epoch Times Photo

(FIBA)

Goran Dragic’s brother may be heading to the Phoenix Suns soon after his strong play for the Slovenian national team during the FIBA World Cup.

ESPN reported, citing sources, that the Suns are among three NBA teams expressing the most serious interest in Zoran.

The other two teams aren’t clear as of yet.

“Zoran’s new contract in Spain with Unicaja Malaga, sources say, does still allow for an escape to the this season as long as A) the 25-year-old makes the move before the start of the new league season in Spain and B) he pays a higher-buyout fee than specified later in the contract. If Zoran Dragic ends up playing out the coming season with Malaga and thus delays his jump to the NBA until the summer of 2015, his buyout then would be 750,000 Euros (about $971,000),” it reported.

“And signing Zoran after this World Cup, sources say, is indeed an option Phoenix is pursuing, which would be a move that offers potential short- and long-term benefits for the Suns in their fight to hold onto Goran Dragic with unrestricted free agency looming for The Dragon in July 2015.”

Hawks Moving?

Rumors are spreading that the Atlanta Hawks could be moving to a location such as to Seattle because the team is being sold.

“It is very early on in the conversation, but don’t be surprised if the Hawks are shopped around to different cities. The NBA has not been satisfied with the empty stands and lack of revenue, and neither have the Hawks investors. The team has been losing money for years despite consistently putting a good team on the floor every year,” noted Rant Sports.

“Seattle has been searching since 2008 for a way to purchase another NBA team since their former club, the Seattle Supersonics, left for Oklahoma City. Atlanta has struggled for the past decade to fill its seats despite having good teams every year. There simply isn’t enough support for a pro-basketball team.

“The Atlanta Falcons, Braves, and collegiate powerhouses of the Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech are well supported by fans in Georgia. The Hawks, on the other hand, suffer the same lack of support as the former NHL club Thrashers, which has since left for Canada.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.