Bledsoe, Raptors, Avery Bradley, Dirk’s Fallaway, Rockets, Pelicans

- Eric Bledsoe, rising Sun (from Ramona Shelburne, ESPN):

“People say it all the time. That they just need a chance to shine. Seems reasonable enough, right?

The truth is, it takes a lot of courage and vision to give someone who has never had an opportunity to shine enough time and space to really do so.

First they have to be able to project how someone will grow from limited information — the best version of what they can become, if they develop the right way. Then they have to create a good environment for them to grow in and be willing to live with all the mistakes they’ll inevitably make along the way. And most important: Whoever their boss is has to feel the same way.

In the talent business — and sports is definitely the talent business — the key to success isn’t simply taking chances, it’s taking the right chances on the right people.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough had watched Bledsoe for years. First in college as the kid who played alongside John Wall at Kentucky the year Wall became the No. 1 pick in the draft, then with the Los Angeles Clippers, when he was Chris Paul‘s understudy for three years.

“You just saw these flashes of what he could do,” McDonough said. “He doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game. There’s not a lot of things he can’t do, just with his strength, his athletic ability and his shooting.

“He just hadn’t played consistent minutes.”

Read it here: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/10202840/eric-bledsoe-rising-sun

- The Raptors’ Makeover (from Zach Lowe at Grantland):

” A…look inside the long, complex process of building a contender…

” (GM) Ujiri and the front office in an awkward position. Only two weeks ago, they were prepared to deal Lowry for future assets and dive headfirst for a top-five pick. That process may have included testing the market for DeRozan, though the Raptors are clearly growing comfortable with the idea of DeRozan as a long-term core piece. But Toronto has been winning with the kind of spirited, fun ball this city has been craving for years. And as it has done that, the rest of the tank brigade has continued to flounder around it.

” Add in the cost of tanking, and it’s clear Ujiri and his team face a thorny choice. Getting worse isn’t pain-free. It alienates a fan base that can only take so much, especially when there is nothing close to a guarantee that said losing would net Canadian proto-legend Andrew Wiggins. It can build bad habits among unmotivated players. It can cause friction between the coaching staff and management, which is why Casey wisely stays out of the entire discussion. “Masai is the boss,” Casey says. “I’m a company guy. I’ve gotta go with him. I’m never going to talk about losing games on purpose. I won’t even discuss it. [Management] doesn’t bring it down here, but they have every right to talk about it. They have to think about the big picture. What I have to do is coach the guys we do have, and coach the heck out of them.”

Ujiri understands the downsides of tanking, a strategy he explicitly avoided in guiding Denver through the post–Carmelo Anthony world. “You play ball to win,” Ujiri told Grantland. “It’s difficult to teach winning by losing. There is value in winning. If it comes to a point where you feel like the team is not what you felt it was, then I think you can react. But I think the team will dictate where we go.”

Read it here: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/10218662/the-overhaul-toronto-raptors

And another take on the Raptors is here: http://probballreport.com/raptors-on-the-verge-of-their-best-season/

- Avery Bradley Progressing Into One Of NBA’s Most Well-Rounded Guards (from Brian Robb, CBS Boston):

Read it here: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/12/31/robb-avery-bradley-progressing-into-one-of-nbas-most-well-rounded-guards/

- Offensive consistency a moving target for Rockets (Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):

” The Rockets’ plan seemed solid and logical. It also worked for more than a month.

Surround Dwight Howard with shooters. Force teams to help inside defensively and leave those shooters open on the perimeter. Fire away.

 But lately, only the fire away part has worked.

With whatever shortcomings the Rockets have had, they always had their offense. They would hit 3-pointers, pile up points and work to improve in other ways, knowing they had that high-speed, high-scoring offense.

But in a December crowded with games and injuries, the Rockets have misfired their way to the middle of the pack.”

Read it here: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/rockets/article/Offensive-consistency-a-moving-target-for-Rockets-5103273.php?t=de1253d5c3f992f472

- NBA stars copy Nowitzki’s patented fallaway jumper (from Dwain Price, Star-Telegram.com):

“Add Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love to the growing list of NBA players who have made Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged fallaway jumper a part of their repertoire.

That illustrious list also includes Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Pau Gasol.

“It’s kind of an honor to know that some of these guys obviously are trying to shoot it,” Nowitzki said. “LeBron shot it the last couple of weeks, Kevin Durant has been shooting it a little bit.”

-The Pelicans Jazz Up The Pick And Roll (From Scott Rafferty at HardwoodParoxysm):
“The New Orleans Pelicans like to run pick-and-rolls a lot. In fact, through their 29 games so far this season, they’ve used it in 35.3 percent of their offensive sets because it’s been that good to them. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they acquired the pick-and-roll fiend that is Jrue Holiday in the off-season, who over the years has ran the play to death, but it also helps that they have Anthony Davis – a freak athlete, who is as big of a target as anyone when he rolls to the basket. It’s a beautiful pairing and one that has shown great results in the early going.But on Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, they jazzed their usual pick-and-roll just up a little and it worked like a charm, as Holiday found Davis for an easy alley-oop thanks to some nifty play design from the sideline.”
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