Tag Archives: kobe bryant

Rose’s All-Star selection has historic significance

Now that Derrick Rose is an All-Star one question is whether it will hurt the Bulls the rest of the season.
Not that everyone among the Bulls and their fans isn’t thrilled and happy for Rose. But it suddenly becomes a long weekend toward the end of a long season and just before the traditional playoff strerch run.
And for Rose maybe longer than for anyone in NBA history.
Rose will participate in the rookie/sophomore game Friday, the skills challenge Saturday, in which he is defending champion, after an open All-Star practice for fans, and then the All-Star game Sunday before what is expected to be an all time record 100,000 attendance.
I checked with the NBA and there isn’t exactly detailed record keeping on all the All-Star weekend contests as some have changed over the years. For example, there used to be a seniors’ game until too many players were injured during it. But the NBA could not find a record of anyone participating in three events and one every day during the weekend.
And there’s no getting out of anything.
At one time, if you were scheduled for the rookie/sophomore game and then picked for the All Star game you could back out of the rookie/sophomore game. No more. The NBA now requires participation in both games if you are picked for either. And, in Rose’s case, both. You could land a suspension without a good medical excuse.
Rose is only 21, and his family members keep a close watch on him and he’ll likely get enough rest for the weekend to be ready for the unofficial second half of the season.
I talked to him on this trip about his frequent movie viewing and he said he been through many in his collection and was out with a few of his teammates to see some of the new movies, though he gave only an OK to the much hyped Avatar. He did give it a Siskel thumbs up, though it wasn’t quite enough action, which he prefers. Yes, he’s a kid. So it’s been a delight to experience his joy at making the All-Star team.
It officially raises his standing among his peers, though they knew how good he is. I know Bulls fans would like him to do some free agent recruiting when he’s in Dallas, though Rose isn’t that kind of person. I can see him as the kid with his face pressed up against the window of the NBA toy store with a big smile and taking it all in. But that he is there will make an impression on his peers, particularly those who don’t know him and what a terrific teammate he can be, respectful, earnest and talented. It’s the team’s best recruiting poster possible.
It’s also something of a historic achievement for a Bulls player. No one other than Michael Jordan made the All-Star team in just his second season and no Bulls player—even Jordan–ever made the All-Star team at such a young age.
Plus, among the young stars of this era, no one has been an All-Star more quickly. The NBA coaches are saying, in effect, how great they believe Rose can be.
Tim Duncan and Shaq did make it as rookies. But Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Brandon Roy and LeBron James made it in for the first time also in their second seasons.
Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh made it in their third seasons.
Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki made it in their fourth seasons.
Hello, Derrick, welcome to the elite. Get some rest. You and the Bulls are going to need it for that stretch run.

Bulls shake 35-point doldrums but lose to Knicks

The Bulls lost still another, this time Tuesday in New York, 88-81 to the Knicks, in a game in which the Bulls had the ball and a chance for a three to tie with 30 seconds left.
So they recovered, at least somewhat, from the shock of Monday’s staggering 35-point lost lead against the Sacramento Kings which left the Bulls in perhaps their worst shape in a disappointing season, as a national joke and object of ridicule.
There’s nowhere worse to be, and with a desolate, dispirited first half in which the Bulls trailed 54-31, coach Vinny Del Negro seemingly declared his independence from it all.
Conservative and cautious, always seemingly fearful of upsetting the veterans, Del Negro, instead, began the second half by benching both John Salmons and Brad Miller to go with a faster, more energetic team.
The result was an awakening that carried the Bulls back into the game behind Derrick Rose’s 16 third quarter points and the Bulls within 80-79 with 1:41 remaining.
It’s as close as they would come.
Chris Duhon then came out of a timeout and beat Rose, but shot too hard. the ball was rebounded by David Lee, who had 18 points and 21 rebounds. He was fouled and made both free throws.
Rose then short armed a jumper at the free throw line. Al Harrington, who led the Knicks with 20 points off the bench, missed a three. Rose penetrated and kicked back to Luol Deng, who missed a long two. Jared Jeffries was fouled, but missed both to give the Bulls a chance trailing 82-79 with 33.2 seconds left.
Del Negro said they were supposed to go on top for an isolation with Rose and back pick from Noah, who finished with 10 points and also 21 rebounds. But Kirk Hinrich lobbed, instead, at the rim, and the ball was deflected out of bounds. Taj Gibson snuck inside on the inbounds, but missed the pass in from Rose as he took a bad angle and the ball went out of bounds.
The Bulls elected not to foul with 28.3 seconds left. But Duhon found Lee open on a pick and pop and Lee made the deciding shot and the game ended in a welter of unnecessary free throws that artificially enlarged the final margin.
“It’s tough when you lose, especially the way we did last night,” said Del Negro. “I thought our energy in the second half was much better. When you make baskets and get after it defensively and guys are feeding off it, that’s a good sign.”
The sign I took out of the game, otherwise, is Del Negro, though not betraying a hint of anxiety, signed his personal declaration of independence.
And perhaps, finally, it’s what he needs to do to get this Bulls team on track.
Hold players accountable.
Play badly and you sit. Don’t defend and you sit. Take those crappy, quick jumpers and you sit. Who cares if you are a veteran or if you are playing for a new contract or what you did before.
“I thought Taj came with good energy, Kirk played with thrust,” said Del Negro explaining his decision to open the second half with Hinrich and Gibson. “I felt we needed a jump start. I liked the way we started the third quarter.”
Salmons said afterward he was surprised by the move, though perhaps that reflects more on Del Negro’s handling of the team thus far given Salmons is shooting 38 percent and 31 percent on threes. Salmons also committed a crucial turnover on a lazy pass with 3:16 left and the Bulls down seven and fighting to get back in and didn’t chase down court. Instead, Rose took off immediately and forced the breaking Wilson Chandler to lose the ball.
“John’s got to play through it, play with confidence and aggressiveness and make plays, not always settle for jump shots,” said Del Negro. “Not always try to score but make plays for teammates. He’s got to get back on track.”
Del Negro to start the second half also sat Miller, who put up another 0-fer Tuesday, though in just 13 minutes with three shots. Miller now has made just one shot in the last four games and is one for 15 in that stretch in 79 minutes played.
Which makes you wonder if the Bulls want to make a move with Miller. That’s because the hard luck Trailblazers, the Frailblazers as Mike from Queens suggested to me, lost center Joel Przybilla for the season Tuesday with Greg Oden already out. They have to have a big guy now. Would Portland go for a package around Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw, both free agents? You assume Philadelphia would be in there right away offering Samuel Dalembert. Something to watch.
“Instead of being passive we were attacking the basket and putting pressure on them,” said Del Negro. “Derrick was attacking, Lu was attacking. We got a few easy baskets, which got us back in. We had good shots. We did not get down. Our energy did pick up in the second half, especially defensively and we started making more shots. We got some easy shots instead of settling for jump shots.”
Now, no one is saying this season has been Salmons’ fault or Miller’s fault or any player in particular. That’s something to be shared.
As Noah said afterward, “We definitely have a lot of soul searching to do.”
If someone has to answer for it in the short term, though, it seemingly would be Del Negro. And he knows about that even if he doesn’t follow the standings or read about it. He’s asked about it now routinely and always said it’s out of his control.
Which for the most part it is.
Del Negro, though I’ve never fully discussed this with him, has coached like he’s a former player who always said if he ever got to be a coach he’d handle players the way he wanted to be treated: Give him his minutes and don’t change things around all the time. It doesn’t work. You’re brought in to coach them, not appease them. Hold them accountable and demand the best they have.
And so that appears to be what Vinny finally decided Tuesday. Enough of this standing around and shooting long jumpers when the urge hits you, not concentrating on either end.
Del Negro did address some of the meltdown from Monday’s Kings loss by playing both James Johnson and Jannero Pargo in the first quarter Tuesday, going nine deep after playing just seven Monday and seeing the shots come up short at the end Monday, a sign of tired legs.
After Monday’s game, Del Negro denied fatigue was a factor, but reconsidered and said before Tuesday’s game he could have done a better job getting other players in sooner with a big lead. Though Del Negro also said the team has had a tendency to blow leads, so he wanted to have his better players in.
It’s not uncommon with inexperienced coaches. They tend not to trust the lesser talents and while you’ll see someone like Phil Jackson sit even Michael Jordan and now Kobe Bryant when it his time to open the fourth quarter even if the team is losing, less confident and inexperienced coaches tend to ride their best players as a security blanket. It can backfire, and apparently did against the Kings.
But it was a brutal first quarter Tuesday, though Johnson had a poster slam late in the quarter. Yes, he can be spectacular, but his defense is poor and the Knicks led 22-12 after one and steadily extended the lead to 36-19 with Johnson and Pargo in. Johnson did get another stretch after halftime, but Pargo did not.
It looked over as the Knicks closed the first half to lead 53-31 on a Duhon back door layup, a driving layup and dunk from Wilson Chandler and then Lee rebounding a Chandler miss and finding Harrington for a closing 22 footer. Meanwhile, Deng and Salmons were firing wildly on long threes.
The Bulls were a different team to open the second half. They started off slowly, but their defense was more active as the Knicks missed five of their first six shots. Then Rose took over, pushing the ball for layups and fouls, and throwing in that Olajuwon-like dream shake move he’s picked up when he goes into the lane, though it was the one he came up short on with that last shot against the Kings Monday.
“I had to give it my all,” said Rose. “There’s really is no point in playing the game if you’re not going to go out there and give it your all. In the first half, we were tired from last night. But there are no excuses in the N.B.A.. You still have to go out there and ball. That’s what I tried to do in the second half but we didn’t get the victory.”
Rose would finish with 26 points and he seemed to rouse Deng, who ended with 23 and began again to collect loose balls around the basket for scores. Rose tossed in a fancy drive and Savard spin-o-rama and then ended the third with a full court burst against the clock for a pullup three, just his second three of the season.
The Bulls were within 68-56. And then after the Knicks seemed to regain control to open the fourth even without Nate Robinson (the Knicks are now 6-3 since they stopped playing him and 11-17 to 10-17 for the Bulls), the Bulls defense tightened again with Salmons back in and hitting a big three.
Noah’s half hook following a Rose set up after a Rose hanging drive for a score and another driving layup brought the Bulls within one with under two minutes left. They couldn’t finish, but perhaps it’s a start with Tyrus Thomas’ return from injury expected in the next game Saturday.
“We’re definitely capable of winning and I think that we’re just going through a tough stretch right now,” said Noah. “We’re not playing our best basketball mentally. As a team we’re not very good. So I’m hoping that we can get better and hopefully just find a way to play with high energy for a whole game, not just periods.”

Bulls feel better about this loss to Lakers

You have to hope what happened Tuesday in a hustling, determined Bulls effort, in the end a 96-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant’s 42 points, doesn’t become a habit.
Not the playing hard and competing, finally.
The being satisfied with it.
“We’ve just got to learn from this one and get better, improve,” said Joakim Noah, who was a hustling force with 11 points and 20 rebounds, 14 on the offensive boards, the most for a Bulls player in 12 years. “You’re getting blown out by 30 points how can you say we’re improving? Tonight we can look at ourselves and say we gave everything we had (and) put ourselves in position where we had a chance. We can’t get down just missing open shots and some layups. If we bring that energy we should be happy with ourselves.”
Not too happy as it was another loss, the 11th in 13 games to fall to 8-15, three games poorer than last season this time when the Bulls were playing Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes.
It was a lost opportunity, in some sense, as the Bulls got 96 shots to 79 for the Lakers, outrebounded them 51-37, had 14 blocks to five for the Lakers and had more points in the paint, fast break points and second chance points.
The biggest statistic is they scored more than us,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.
Noah was terrific. Derrick Rose, who suffered a strained rib and left the game for a time, and Luol Deng each had 21 points in a promising sign the way the team in the first three quarters opened the floor more for Rose and speeded up the game with fast breaks.
It helped that Bryant, who scored 20 points in the first quarter playing with a splint on his right broken index finger to show he could, also made eight turnovers and effectively took the Lakers out of their dominant offense by shooting so much.
The Lakers crushed the Bulls in Los Angeles last month going inside repeatedly to their big guys, seven footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who combined for just 18 shots to 26 for Kobe and 20 threes for the Lakers, 18 through the first three quarters which ended with the Bulls ahead 73-72.
I asked Noah about the difference Tuesday, and he looked up like I’d just landed from France with the Coneheads.
“I think Kobe Bryant taking 30 shots, that makes a difference,” Noah said. “They (big guys) didn’t get the ball maybe as much as they wanted to.”
Then realizing you don’t spit into the wind or question Bad Bad Kobe, Noah added: “When Kobe is hot like that you cannot really be upset.”
Kobe was hot, oooh and aaah hot as he blitzed John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich with jumper after jumper in the first quarter, eight straight in one stretch. Though at the end of the quarter, it was 31-31 in one of the Bulls best quarters of the season.
Actually, I thought the Bulls strategy of not double teaming Bryant was sound. First of all, the Bulls are not a great team at doubling and recovering. They bring the double along the baseline a lot, and then opponents have learned to turn middle on it for an easier shot. Plus, the more Bryant looks to shoot, the more it levels the field with the huge advantage the Lakers have inside.
“They’re a load,” agreed Brad Miller, who seems finally to be coming on as he started to match the big guys and had 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
I can hear Bill Walton demanding: Throw it down! Big guy.
“Aaron Gray made a comment one time that Bynum with one of his flatfooted shots was still six inches above me,” said Miller. “They’re long and they’re big, but Jo and Taj (Gibson, who added three offensive rebounds) really played hard.”
It came down to the end, as it often has this season for the Bulls, and there was no one there again, the Bulls outscored in the fourth quarter 24-14 (seven from briefly-a-Bull Shannon Brown) as the Lakers pulled away.
“There isn’t the outside threat (Ben) Gordon presents or the streak scorer that he was,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson earlier had offered in assessing his onetime franchise.
But it’s more than that as the Bulls still can’t seem to find someone to rely on consistently down the stretch in games. It got complicated, I thought, Tuesday when after opening the floor more with isolations, fast breaks and some dribble weave actions, the Bulls reverted to that side to side high pick and roll which gets Salmons standing around in one corner and Deng in another as the defense forms a wall against Rose and the Bulls stop moving.
“You want to get into that role (of closer),” said Deng. “Every competitor in the league wants to be in that role for his team. We’ve got to commit to that guy whoever that guy is.”
But the Bulls don’t seem close to figuring that out.
Deng and Rose divided 13 fourth quarter shots Tuesday, but were a combined four for 13. Noah even took five and was scoreless, though all tips and layup attempts. The Bulls were six of 27 in the fourth quarter while the Lakers were 10 of 18 to take the game. Brown, the Proviso East product, was terrific to open the quarter with a three and one of his highlight dunks. And then Bynum got deep for a three-point play and Bryant added a jumper to put the Lakers ahead 86-77 with 6:53 left. This Bulls team doesn’t make up nine-point deficits in six minutes.
“We kind of addressed it after the game,” said Hinrich, rounding back into shape with 11 points and three blocks.  “If we give this kind of effort night in and night out, good things are going to happen for us. On offense as a team. I thought we got off to a good start.  Then we started missing some shots in the fourth.  We probably got some good looks, but we just couldn’t knock them down.  They might have worn us down a bit. Tonight everyone played hard.  There was some urgency there.  Now we’ve got to build on it.  Even a loss, we’ve got to build on how we competed.”
The Bulls got off to a good start, and Hinrich replaced Salmons five minutes into the game as Salmons kept biting for Bryant pump fakes and fouling. Hinrich ended up playing 31 minutes to 29 for Salmons.
Del Negro probably has a decision to make before long.
This Bulls team with its lack of scoring can’t afford to ease into games, as it often does. It didn’t Tuesday, and the effort was contagious until they wore down or slowed down at the end. But they were scoring, moving the ball, making steals and disrupting the Lakers and even got eight fast break points in the first quarter.
“It was really fortunate for us that (Bryant) was shooting so well,” said Jackson.  “We won’t win many games playing like we did tonight.  We gave up about a gazillion offensive rebounds.  Noah just did a great job tonight.  He’s one of the most talented rebounders in the league.”
Noah even had four of his six blocks in the first quarter. Bryant was on the way to 80 points, but the Bulls were there and looking good.
While Salmons has continued to founder, shooting one of five for two points and zero for three on threes. He cannot seem to find a spot in the offense, and now seems to have settled on hoisting up jumpers after he hasn’t shot for awhile.
The Bulls seemed to operate better pairing Hinrich with Rose. Though a smaller backcourt, Hinrich came out shooting aggressively, making five of 11, competed energetically on Bryant, though without great success, and could take pressure off Rose as an additional ballhandler. It allowed Rose at times to attack from the wing after getting the ball back running through the offense instead of having the defense line him up.
In the perimeter game the NBA has become, you see more teams using two point guards in the backcourt, and it’s been successful for teams like Milwaukee, Houston and Sacramento to help open the court. Del Negro probably is going to have to face at some point soon benching the slumping Salmons and giving him a chance to find his shot against the opponents’ reserves. Del Negro has been resistant to such moves for the way a player might react, though this Bulls team doesn’t have much more time to straighten out this season.
The first quarter was a joy with Bryant going off like that and the Bulls coming out blazing fast with even Miller blowing by Bynum on a drive. The Bulls led 18-9 after Hinrich stripped Bynum and passed ahead to a streaking Rose. The Bulls got a scare then as Rose grabbed his side and left the game with a note from the team saying he wouldn’t return with a rib injury.
“He hurt his rib last week,” Del Negro revealed. “He went for a layin and turned the wrong way and stretched it out again. He kind of aggravated a muscle in the sib cage. He went back in and it felt better when it got loose. We’ll see what the doctor says.”
It was the Bryant Show then, offset by Hinrich shooting and Noah beating the Lakers to the boards.
“He was just making shots,” said Hinrich. There weren’t many times I thought I could’ve done something different. There was handful of times I felt like ‘I should have done this or that,’ but for the most part he made shots.”
“I just wanted to get a rhythm going,” said Bryant, who termed the broken finger the most troublesome injury of his career.  “I got here early and got some shots up.  I felt pretty good.  This is the most challenging one.  I’ve played with sore ankles, broken knuckles and things like that. It’s tough. It affects my follow through.  I’m still having a little trouble handling the basketball.  I have trouble dribbling through traps, but close to the basket I was pretty effective.”
That was at the left elbow, where Bryant went for quick postups and fadeaways, but he wasn’t beating the Bulls.
Rose returned midway through the second quarter with the Bulls down five as Jannaro Pargo and James Johnson were off again, missing all six attempts combined. It may be the chicken-and-egg thing for Johnson, who hasn’t played much. But he hasn’t played well when he has been in, generally making one nice play and then following that with several mistakes and misses.
The Lakers moved ahead 54-48 at halftime, but the Bulls put in a strong third with Deng willing himself to the basket and Rose providing the highlight by splitting a double on top and flashing to the basket for a layup past Pau Gasol, who had 10 points while Bynum had 11, the only other Lakers in double figures.
The Bulls bogged down again to open the fourth and couldn’t recover as no one could get much going. With Bryant sitting the first five minutes when the Lakers went from trailing by one to leading by seven, would it have made a difference to start Rose and Noah in the fourth quarter? Rose did come in with three minutes gone and the Bulls trailing by four, but you have to rest sometime and the Bulls seem fixed on a seven-player rotation until Tyrus Thomas returns, perhaps early next week. But nobody really was effective.
“We’ve got to take a positive out of this one,” said Deng. I’ve thought the last three games, even the Celtics game where we lost by a lot–maybe fatigue set in–we’ve played harder. If we play this way every time, I think we’ll definitely turn this around.”
Follow me on Twitter at @samsmithhoops

Phil Jackson meets the media in his return to Chicago

By Adam Fluck
With the Los Angeles Lakers in town to face the Bulls, Head Coach Phil Jackson returned to the arena where he helped lead Chicago to its last NBA championship. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Hall of Fame Head Coach spoke on several topics, including coming back to the Windy City, Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the addition of Ron Artest, and his thoughts on this year’s Lakers team. Below are excerpts from his comments, along with the full audio.
On whether he thinks more about the Bulls’ successes during his time in Chicago or the way it ended:“I never think about the way it ended. It ended when it was supposed to end, I guess. That’s all you can say. The fun we had as a group was terrific.”
On his advice for Derrick Rose:“He just has to bide his time as a player and feel out what’s going on. You really know the temperament of your team if you’re a teammate—what’s permissible, what’s not, how to fit in. The role they are trying to put on him, he’s got to grow into that role. It can’t be forced on him overnight.”
On John Paxson in his role as an executive for the Bulls:“I had him as an assistant coach for a year. I really wanted him to get into coaching. I thought he had a great mind for the game. He thought he was too combative for it.”
On similarities between Kobe Bryant’s past situation and Tiger Woods’ current situation (Jackson declined to comment on the specific parties but said the following):“In our society, it’s been true that we build up icons and then tear them down. As much as they’ve been built up, they’ve been torn down. With Michael and his retirement here, there was a scandal about his gambling. Those things are all redeemable if you come back and show your character, and that character is about winning and doing the job right.”
On if there is a comparison between Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman:“There really isn’t. Ron is not the most quiet person and talks a lot. Dennis was very reluctant to speak. He could go through a week of practices and never speak once. But at night after the game was over, sometimes he’d open up and be very funny. The more he got out and partied, the happier he got. The key with Dennis was that he got involved… he did a lot of things to draw attention to himself, but Ron’s not like that.”
On this year’s team with the addition of Artest:“It’s taken on a quiet kind of demeanor. We’re here, this is where the buck stops, so to speak, and he gives us that security that there is a guy out there who is going to drop the weight on somebody if they come in the paint. He’ll stand up and be accounted for when defensively we’ve got to do the job and that’s given us some security.”
Audio—Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro on the team’s strategy against the Lakers, Kobe Bryant and his work ethic, and the coaching job Phil Jackson has done (12.15.09):

Audio—Jackson meets the media prior to his team’s game against the Bulls (12.15.09):

Kobe Bryant to Derrick Rose: Just do it

By Adam Fluck
Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose spent time together this past September in California doing promotional work for the video game NBA 2K10. For Rose, it was the first chance he had to get up close and personal to one of the NBA’s best.
Following the Lakers’ shootaround at the United Center on Tuesday, Bryant shared a little of the advice he imparted on the Bulls guard.
“Just making sure he stays focused on what got him here,” said Bryant. “There are so many things when you get to this level, people pulling you left and right. You just have to remember what’s important.”
Bryant knows a thing or two about carrying his team year in and year out. He also discussed the pressures on Rose to step up and become more assertive for the Bulls.
“Just do it,” he said of what it takes. “Do the best job you can. Go as hard as you possibly can and practice as hard as you possibly can. Just leave it out there on the floor. That’s all you can ask of yourself at the end of the day. If you’re comfortable going home and looking in the mirror and saying that you played 100 percent every single night, then that’s fine.”
Bryant’s effort certainly cannot be questioned. The 14th year guard broke his index finger last Friday, but has not missed a game since.
“He has the talent to do it,” added Bryant said of Rose. “With him, it’s just going out there and doing it. I think it’s tough for a younger player to have that kind of confidence in himself to be able to do it, but he has all the skills for it.”
Audio—Lakers guard Kobe Bryant on facing the Bulls and Derrick Rose following his team’s shootaround at the United Center (12.15.09):

All-Star voting and Vinny speaks

The NBA Thursday released its first All-Star game fan balloting results, and another year seems like it may go by without a Bulls player being voted to the All-Star team, which would make 11 years.
The fans select the starters and the coaches vote for the reserves. The way the Bulls have been playing this season, it may hurt the chances of anyone from the Bulls getting a coach’s vote, though it seems Derrick Rose remains a possibility.
Rose will be invited to the weekend of events in Dallas to play in the rookie/sophomore game, likely along with Taj Gibson. Rose may also be invited to defend his skills challenge championship from last season’s All-Star game.
In the first balloting, Rose was fifth among Eastern Conference guards, Brad Miller was 10th among East centers and Luol Deng was 11th among East forwards. Joakim Noah, perhaps the team’s most consistent player this season, was not listed on the ballot as the committee of media members preparing the ballot apparently did not know he was a starter although he started much of last season and in the classic first round playoff series.
Here are the East leaders:
Forwards:  LeBron  James (Clev) 649,327; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 533,187; ChrisBosh  (Tor)  303,550;  Paul Pierce (Bos) 131,379; Josh Smith (Atl) 109,404;Danny  Granger  (Ind) 100,122; Andre Iguodala (Phi) 75,146; Michael Beasley(Mia) 58,461; Hedo Turkoglu (Tor) 55,416); Rashard Lewis (Orl) 46,073; LuolDeng (Chi) 37,428.
Guards:  Dwyane  Wade  (Mia)  672,227;  Vince Carter (Orl) 292,002; GilbertArenas  (Was)  212,526; Ray Allen (Bos) 208,276 Derrick Rose (Chi) 196,059;Allen  Iverson (Phi) 136,976*; Joe Johnson (Atl) 118,964; Rajon Rondo (Bos)113,371; Jose Calderon (Tor) 68,084; Mike Bibby (Atl) 48,935.
Centers:  Dwight  Howard  (Orl)  625,279;  Shaquille  O’Neal (Cle) 206,657;Andrea  Bargnani  (Tor) 67,310; Al Horford (Atl) 52,747; Andrew Bogut (Mil)45,920;  Brook  Lopez  (NJ)  39,420;  Jermaine O’Neal (Mia) 38,956; RasheedWallace  (Bos)  36,855;  Kendrick  Perkins  (Bos) 19,408; Brad Miller (Chi)17,188; Tyson Chandler (Cha) 14,062; Samuel Dalembert, S. (Phi) 13,969.
If it holds to form, which seems likely, the East starting lineup will be as it is with LeBron James and Kevin Garnett at forward, Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter at guard and Dwight Howard at center.
The obvious choices, it seems to me, for reserves are Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Joe Johnson. That would leave three spots with Gilbert Arenas, Josh Smith, Brook Lopez, Andre Iguodala and Rose leading candidates.
In the Western Conference, the starters from the initial results are: Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki at forward, Kobe Bryant and, amazingly, since he has yet to play, Tracy McGrady at guard and Amar’e Stoudemire at center. The McGrady situation is intriguing as the Rockets continue to hold him out, allegedly for injury. Steve Nash and Chris Paul are close behind and league officials likely are hoping they pass McGrady in later results.
The delicious irony in the West is with the Spurs, who objected in previous years when Tim Duncan was listed as a center in an effort to purge the ballot of undeserving big men given the league requires 12 centers to be listed. Feeling Yao Ming would get so many votes from Asia, the Spurs requested—and the NBA complied—for Duncan to be listed as a forward. Now, Duncan is fourth among forwards without Yao among the leaders as he’s out for the season.
Meanwhile, back at the Berto Center, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro addressed rumors his job is on the line given the team’s slump and spate of recent blowout losses. Here are some of Del Negro’s comments to reporters Thursday:
“It’s easy to sit back on the sidelines, and everyone has all these great ideas and all these things that people think they know what they’re talking about. But until you live it and do it, no one has an idea. All you (reporters) have to write and do your job and come up with stories and things, and that’s all great, and you have to do that, but you guys really don’t know what it’s like, because you’ve never done it. My thing is, I’m a fighter. We fight as a team. We stick together as a team, and that’s all you control is your effort, your preparation, the opportunity that’s ahead of you. The NBA is tough. Pro sports is tough. You can’t be soft. You got to after it. Guys want to rip your heart out. And you just got to be tough enough to continually persevere and find ways to get better. You can’t take a position like this and not think you’re going to get criticized. It’s part of the deal. If you can’t live with criticism and the heat, then you shouldn’t take the job. You shouldn’t be in pro sports. You got to be able to suck it up and understand it. I get frustrated too, when we’re not playing well. But you just got to keep on pounding the pavement and go to work.”
The Bulls open a stretch of six consecutive home games starting Friday against Golden State. I have personally heard no indication the Bulls are planning to make a change. Of course, I’m not exactly consulted on these things.
I also must say I’ve seen many coaches in this position before with fans screaming for their job and national commentators predicting their departure. Vinny has continued to deal with everyone on a professional basis, hasn’t lashed out bitterly like Tim Floyd was fond of doing toward the end of his tenure and has given no indication it is interfering with his preparation.

LeBron James mocks Bulls in Cavs victory

LeBron James made a big fuss recently with his suggestion of a homage to Michael Jordan by asking that the league have all teams permanently retire Jordan’s No. 23.
But in the Cavs 101-87 victory over the Bulls Friday, James insulted what Jordan stood for as a competitor and basketball player and demonstrated why James, at least, doesn’t even deserve to wear Jordan’s number.
With the Cavs leading by 19 points with six minutes left in the game and the Bulls having long given up and not playing any of their top players in the fourth quarter, James began strutting around, shimmying and dancing on the sideline after he was fouled on a drive.
It was pretty classless behavior acting like a clown and rubbing it in with guys still trying to play.
James may have the all around talent of someone like Oscar Robertson, but hardly the class and dignity. Legends of the game like Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would be horrified by such demeaning and selfish behavior. You never saw anything like that from them. They understood the game transcended everything, that it was the game that enabled you to have everything you did. It’s a sad testament about the game today to see it celebrated in the image of someone like James given his insulting behavior.
With James at the free throw line, Bulls center  Joakim Noah, who seems to respect the game much more than James, yelled to James to stop showing off. James made one free throw and then walked menacingly toward the Bulls bench.
How dare anyone question the player who adoringly calls himself, “the King.”
Noah and James after the game declined to say what was said, but I consulted a lip reader who watched the replays and said Noah was telling James, “That was #$&%$& lame. You’re lame.”
Noah is young, but the veterans of the game would be proud of him. I wished more of the Bulls were as insulted. When legends say the game has changed, that’s what they mean.
James’ act was pathetic, and like his puerile refusal to meet with reporters following his playoff loss last season when he ran away and hid, James’ talent seems only exceeded by his narcissism and egotism.
Of course, the Bulls still would like to have him as a free agent next summer.
So here’s the real question from Friday’s bad Bulls loss, which I’ve been able to avoid writing about thus far.
Will James be more likely to consider Chicago because the team has someone like Noah who isn’t afraid to stand up to him and thus James could have a teammate he knows will fight with him. Or is James so vain and arrogant that he wouldn’t care to be on a team with players, unlike in Cleveland, who would dare question anything about him and not show the proper obedience?
“Nothing (happened),” said Noah, who had seven points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes, his fewest in a month. “When you’re losing the way you’re losing and guys are rubbing it in your face, dancing and all that…It’s just a frustrating situation. It’s just frustrating to lose the way we’ve been losing lately.  That’s really it. It just sucks to lose.  That’s the toughest thing.  We can’t compete 48 minutes. We’ve just got to find a way to win games because this losing thing is just not a good look.  It’s not what, I think, that anybody in this locker room expected.  We’ve just got to find a way to start winning games.  This losing thing is really frustrating.”
Noah said he respected James, though James threw in a little snarky shot when he told reporters after the game: “It’s nothing against Joakim or none of those guys. This is not something that is new. We have fun. We love to play the game of basketball. It’s nothing about showboating. I’ve seen it happen all last year. I think he was more frustrated about the way he played as an individual. He didn’t help his team win.”
James is a great talent, one of the best the game has seen, though he again clanked a bunch of free throws on the way to a game high 23 points and 11 assists. It’s why some believe James eschews the big late game play for fear of having to shoot the free throws. It’s why most team executives still grade Kobe Bryant a bit higher. James is more talented overall given his size and explosiveness. But Bryant will do what the true stars do, which is challenge the defense and take the big shot.
James’ big shots seem as likely aimed at piling on and embarrassing someone.
Michael would be ashamed.
The Bulls had to be a little ashamed as well as they collapsed after halftime, missing 12 of 13 shots in one stretch as the Cavs went on a 19-4 run behind James’ scoring and passing to blow open a tight game.
The guy really is a terrific player.
The Bulls trailed 76-61 after three quarters and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro basically threw in the towel then as Taj Gibson, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds, was the only starter to play in the fourth quarter.
I’m not so sure I was happy to see that. I know the Bulls are shorthanded, but they haven’t played a back to back in more than three weeks.
With Jannero Pargo, Lindsey Hunter, Gibson, James Johnson and Brad Miller opening the fourth quarter, the Cavs took a 19-point lead on a Jamario Moon lob dunk with just over eight minutes left.
“I just didn’t think we were playing well in the third quarter,” said Del Negro.  “And, with the number of minutes some of the guys have been playing and with the back-to-back tomorrow night at home (Toronto), I thought about bringing them (starters) back with nine minutes to go to make another run at them.  We were down 18 or 20 at that time, and the energy it would have taken and they were beating us to the ball a little bit, I just felt it was a better decision. We’re a little short-handed right now.   We need some more bodies, we know that, but the guys keep playing hard.”
The game wasn’t over, but with Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich out and another game Saturday, Del Negro made the decision. So it’s under eight minutes now, the Cavs leading by 15 and no Bulls regulars are coming back into the game. That’s pretty clear.
So Cavs coach Mike Brown, for some reason, brought James back into the game.
Maybe they all were mad the Bulls beat them at home last month.
It seemed Brown wanted to do some rubbing it in as well as James was up and dancing after Moon’s dunk and then with teammates dancing and shoulder shimmying in timeouts.
The Cavs kept the lead at 19 on a Mo Williams three and then James drove and was fouled by Aaron Gray, stumbling off to the right sideline. James again began dancing and shaking and as he went to the free throw line. Noah began telling James how unprofessional he was. James shot one free throw and then began walking toward the Bulls bench, where players stepped between he and Noah.
James drew a technical foul for walking toward the Bulls bench, which could have precipitated a fight or incident.
“The stuff the Cavs do during games is just so awful,” said one NBA coach. “Clowning, dancing.”
Sounds like the kind of team that’s never won anything.
Winners, as Jordan and all the great ones know, don’t act like that.
It doesn’t do any good for the Bulls, though.
After defeating the Cavs earlier this season, it was a disappointing effort as the Bulls fell to 7-10 and 2-9 on the road.
Gibson played well, leading the Bulls with 14 points and John Salmons was good early with 12 points. Derrick Rose added 13 points and seven assists. But Rose didn’t get a chance to get aggressive in the second half as the Cavs pulled away midway through the third to effectively end the game.
“I just thought we ran out of gas a little bit there in the third quarter when they were able to get over the hump,” said Del Negro.  “I thought we did some good things, especially in the first half.  We gave up too high of a field goal percentage (58.3 percent for the Cavs in the first half), but we were still down one (47-46).  So, I felt good about that.   Then, in the third quarter, they jumped on us.”
There wasn’t much good to say for the Bulls about Friday’s game.
Gibson, who had been in foul trouble a lot lately, was aggressive with his shot early and hitting it from his favorite spot at the elbow, though the Cavs led 30-25 after one quarter. The Cavs didn’t get much from Shaq and barely played him in the first half. But the pairing of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao proved too big for the Bulls as the Cavs would finish with a 46-20 inside scoring margin.
Del Negro finally gave James Johnson some time in both halves and Johnson made a nice score switching hands on a drive. He clearly should be something of a ball handling forward and could prove a good mismatch playing that way.
The Bulls remained close through the second quarter, though I thought Rose was easily beating the Cavs guards on the perimeter and then pulling up and passing to open shooters. It is the right basketball play, though I’d like to see him force things a bit more and draw some fouls and get the defense in more foul trouble. As it is with his passing the Bulls are shooting too many jumpers.
The Bulls actually pulled ahead 54-52 on a baseline jumper from Rose with about eight minutes left in the third before the Cavs went to their LOL routine and broke open the game. The Bulls, at least Noah, and good for him, didn’t find it funny.

Joakim Noah for Most Improved?

Now, this has nothing to do with the Cavs losing to the Celtics on opening night Tuesday. Actually, LeBron James was terrific, if very much alone, in a magnificent fourth quarter in trying to rally the Cavs back in a game the Celtics mostly dominated. Hello, Mike Brown! Are you awake yet? Put in a play. Enough of the LeBron one-on-four.
Anyway, I’m a day late getting to my preseason awards, and I didn’t have James as the league MVP. The Bulls started Bulls TV this week—it’s really good even with my face projected as big as it is–and I was on the record Monday stating my choice of Dwight Howard for MVP. All these awards are questionable, to an extent, because there is no actual criterion. Basically, the MVP generally goes to the best player on the team with the most wins. It’s a bit skewed because of the vagaries of a few wins in the regular season. In any case, if that formula is followed, James will be at a disadvantage because I don’t think the Cavs will come close to that 66 wins of last season. Maybe 52? As Rasheed Wallace astutely noted Tuesday night of the new Shaq Cavs, “They’re not the greatest in pick-and-rolls,” he said. “Just keep running the pick-and-roll and keep moving the ball. You’ll eventually find an open shot someone.” Somewhat less astutely, Wallace said the Celtics could match the Bulls’ 72 win season. So did the Lakers’ Ron Artest. You figure it was those two guys to make that prediction. Anyway, here’s one view of the 2009-10 award winners:
MVP: Howard, Orlando Magic. Lebron, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Howard all are finalists. If you make the argument of who means most to the team, anyone can win because the teams revolve so much around each. But Howard is becoming such a major force and his team looks like it’s going to win a lot of games.
Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy, Magic. I thought he should have won it last season, though I may have voted for Rick Ademan. I don’t think anyone had the Magic in the Finals last season, though post season doesn’t count in the voting. The Magic almost is remaking its team after going to the Finals, which isn’t easy for any coach. Yes, he’s got Howard, but all the great coaches have great players: Jackson with Jordan and Kobe, Popovich with Duncan, Sloan with Malone and Stockton, Riley with Magic and Kareem. You don’t become great without great players. Van Gundy gets them to compete, improves seemingly every season and remains demanding. He may even get the best out of Vince Carter.
Most Improved: Joakim Noah, Bulls. This one is almost impossible to pick because there are even fewer standards than with the MVP. I don’t think you should be most improved if you were the top choice in the draft because you were supposed to be a star. But many are predicting Greg Oden, though he had injuries. I usually like to pick guys who were low or second round draft picks because they truly have improved if they gain notice, and the award often goes that way with recent winners including Monta Ellis, Hedo Turkoglu, Boris Diaw and Gilbert Arenas. So Noah is a bit of a reach as he was the No. 9 pick, though the way the NBA draft breaks, usually the top five or six are the sure shots. But Noah could be a double/double guy with this Bulls team, a long way from where he’s been. Others to watch are undrafted Anthony Morrow, Roy Hibbert, Rudy Fernandez and Andrew Bynum.
Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings. A week ago I gave this with no runnerup to Blake Griffin. Ooops. He’s injured and this is the third time in a relatively short while he’s out. It doesn’t bode well for the rookie season. Too bad. Evans doesn’t have much of a perimeter shot yet, but he’s tough and strong and physically overmatches most of the guards he’ll play. He’ll get lots of time on a bad team and could produce big numbers. If Griffin returns before Christmas and remains healthy, he might overtake him. But who knows now. After that it’s the little guards like Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.
Sixth Man: Ben Gordon, Detroit Pistons. The contenders are mostly the recent winners, including Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Gordon. Perhaps Paul Millsap if the Jazz doesn’t trade Carlos Boozer. Maybe Rasheed Wallace or Rudy Fernandez or Randy Foye or one of those Washington other guards. It looks like the Pistons will play lots of three and even four-guard lineups, so Ben should get plenty of shots.
Defensive Player: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics. The general consensus is Howard given rebounds and blocks, though I think Oden also is going to have good numbers there. Ron Artest will get some mention, but he looks a little thicker to me and slower. I like big guys who also can defend the perimeter and Garnett generally is the leader of the league’s best defense.

Bulls aren’t championship contenders yet, and it’s OK

Do you want a coach who tells you what you want to hear, says what is politically correct and generally misleads you about the fate of his team? Or do you want a coach who tells you the truth?

Can you handle the truth?
That was the Bulls story of the day Tuesday, in part, because there is no story of the day.
This preseason has gone on way, way too long. One sign is I’m writing about this.
Derrick Rose probably is OK. So is everyone else. So let’s play some games already. The NBA did begin Tuesday night, and in the featured game the Boston Celtics fairly easily outplayed the Cavaliers in Cleveland with the Big Experiment not looking so good to start. With Shaquille O’Neal, the Cavs now are 23 games behind their pace of last season when they won their first 23 games at home. They’re now 0-1 at home.
The Bulls don’t open until Thursday. And how many times can you ask Rose about his ankle? We may be two days from asking Lindsey Hunter…something.
So coach Vinny Del Negro went on ESPN-1000 radio Tuesday morning and was working his way through his list of clichés when co host Marc Silverman blurted out one of those media non questions that was sort of an indictment regarding playing Derrick Rose down the stretch in games.
Actually, Vinny did just about all the time with a rare exception or two last season, and certainly in the playoffs. But one of the second guesses about Vinny last season involved who was taking last shots–though the Bulls missed just about all of them until the playoffs–and timeouts.
NBA coaches tend to have thin skin regarding being second guessed. Mike Fratello once screamed at me for 10 minutes while I was writing on deadline after I’d questioned his use of John Battle, whoever that was. So maybe Vinny is officially a veteran NBA coach now.
Anyway, the exchange became a bit abrupt as Del Negro explained: “He’s my best player, but he’s still young. He’s still growing. Confidence is a big thing in this game. Statistically at the end of games last year, Derrick wasn’t our best player.”
Asked about Rose being on the floor late so he can prepare for playing for a championship, Del Negro responded: “Well, I agree with that, but do you think we’re ready to win a championship with all these young guys?”
No, obviously.
But this also set off a mini frenzy of concern that Del Negro was saying the Bulls can’t win the championship this season.
And the issue would be?
Oh, right, you’re not supposed to say that! Even if everyone knows. Where’s your sense of competition? Don’t dribble out the clock trailing by 20 with seven seconds left. You never know. The felony is giving up.
I got a bunch of emails from fans suggesting the coach wasn’t showing the proper faith in his team and there was radio discussion about how this was violating the unwritten rule—don’t you wish someone would write them down—about promoting your team to properly motivate them.
Later at practice, Del Negro sought to diffuse the issue—if it was actually one—by explaining he never said the team didn’t have a chance to win a title, that the Bulls have the players to do so. But you have to work every day and blah, blah, blah and yadda, yadda, yadda….
Oh, where was I?
Of course, the Bulls don’t have a chance to win the NBA title this season. It’s ludicrous to suggest they do. Neither do about 20 some other teams. I have yet to get one email even from the guys who send me emails with Bulls logos and declare themselves the biggest fans ever that predicts the Bulls will win the 2010 championship.
They aren’t good enough. It’s OK.
We all learn we aren’t good enough for something. So then we try to get better. That’s what the Bulls are trying to do. Did anyone say the goal was to win the championship this season? I know, I know. You try to win all the games. You are only limited by your doubts. I wish I’d say that. Oh, I did.
But how about trying to get to the second round of the playoffs first?
The Bulls don’t have good enough players yet to win the championship.
Basically, no one’s ever won a championship without an All-Star, and the Bulls don’t have one yet. Rose could be. He’s certainly answered enough bad ankle questions to be on the all-ankle ouchie team.
There was one aberrant season, 1978-79, when the Seattle Supersonics without an All-Star went to the Finals. But that was probably the worst era of the NBA with the recent merger of the ABA and the ABA talent, generally more star oriented than the NBA in that time, working its way on to various teams.
The 44-win Washington Bullets won the championship that season. Only three of 22 teams that season won more than 50 games.
This could be a great NBA season. There are several teams that could win 60 games and led by future Hall of Famers, like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. The other one has Dwight Howard and Vince Carter. You aren’t about to get to the Finals and win a championship this season on some fluke.
So good for Vinny. He thought you could handle the truth. He may have given some too much credit.
Fans and media types always are wishin’ and hopin’ for the real story, for their favorite sports figures to be straight and honest with them, to tell them what they really think.
Or do they really want that? From the way Del Negro’s comments were disseminated, it suggests many media types and fans would rather live in a fantasy world and assume everything is always going to work out as they hope. Perhaps it’s appropriate to remain optimistic as much and as long as you can.
I guess you can live that way.
Sometimes there is too much truth, and I understand why the Bulls weren’t thrilled when Scott Skiles a few years back wondered aloud if Tyrus Thomas ever would try. Sometimes there’s better ways of putting things, I agree. But I’d rather hear it the way I believe Vinny meant it. There’s no shame in acknowledging the obvious.
There’s a process to this. It doesn’t happen from wishing and hoping and pretending there’s a tooth fairy. It happens when you gain experience, when you work harder, when you learn from your mistakes and when you build your talent base. It doesn’t happen because we want it. It happens when you earn it.
This Bulls team isn’t at that level yet. But they have the chance to be pretty good before too long. The players also ought to know that and know they’ve got a lot of work to do.
I’m proud of Vinny for telling it like it really is. Howard Cosell would be as well. And Jack Nicholson (are you missing all my ’60s and ’80s references)? Maybe the truth is just overrated.


How some see the Bulls and NBA this season

So what’s the view of the Bulls from the outside coming into this season? It seems actually a bit more optimistic from the Vegas guys than it does from the NBA guys. Which I actually think is a good thing for the Bulls as the Vegas guys’ jobs depend on paying closer attention to all the teams.
The NBA released its annual survey from its general managers last week and earlier this week I received a look at the odds from Bodog.com.
Bodog.com analyzed each team and is suggesting, at least on the Bulls, that no one exactly replaces Ben Gordon, but that Derrick Rose is the leading scorer at 18 points and with seven assists followed by John Salmons at 17 points. Sort of the scoring being made up across the board. The odds service listed those numbers for an over/under figure and listed other Bulls as follows: Luol Deng, 15.7; Tyrus Thomas 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds; Joakim Noah at 7.4 points and eight rebounds.
Like the general managers, the bodog folks had the Lakers the favorites to win the championship followed by the Cavs and then Celtics and Spurs.
The Bodog.com estimates had the Bulls at 45-1 to win the title, tied for 11th with the Pistons, Hawks and Heat. That would have the Bulls in chances tied for fourth in the East, and I think they’d take that today if they could. The odds listed the Wizards, Raptors and 76ers just behind the Bulls. After the Spurs and before the Bulls’ group were the Magic, Nuggets, Trailblazers, Jazz, Mavericks and Hornets.
The estimate had the Bulls regular season win total at 41.5, though I assume that rounds up. In wins, that put the Bulls tied for fifth in the East with Washington, which, at this point, I think the Bulls also would take. The oddsmakers had Atlanta better with 44.5 wins, but Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Toronto just behind at 40.5.
That seemed relatively positive for the Bulls as a fifth spot in the East gives a team a good chance to make it to the second round of the playoffs.
The GM’s didn’t seem as sanguine about the Bulls.
There were some 60 categories and the Bulls and their players barely registered.
The only recognized Bull in the regular voting was Derrick Rose, fourth behind Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Aaron Brooks as fastest with the ball.
There were “others receiving votes” in most categories. Tyrus Thomas got into that list for Most Athletic, which was led by LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Josh Smith. The only other Bull mentioned was in the “others” category as well with John Salmons in the Doing the Most with Least. The leaders were Mehmet Okur, Matt Bonner, Chuck Hayes, David Lee, Luis Scola and Hedo Turkoglu.
Here are some other leaders according to the GM’s
Toughest: Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade.
Highest IQ: Steve Nash, Bryant, Garnett and Jason Kidd.
Taking the Last Shot: Bryant, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony
Head Coach: Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Jerry Sloan.
Most Improved Teams: Wizards, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors
Biggest Offseason Impact: Vince Carter, Ron Artest, Richard Jefferson, Shaquille O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace
Most Underrated Moves: Anthony Parker, Antonio McDyess, Rashed Wallace, Trevor Ariza, Brandon Bass, Shawn Marion.
Best Leader: Chauncey Billups, Bryant, Tim Duncan, Garnett, Kidd, Nash, Paul.
Best Finisher: James, Wade, Howard, Bryant.
Best Passer: Nash, Paul, Kidd.
Best at Getting Own Shot: Bryant, James, Wade.
Moving without the Ball: Richard Hamilton, Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen, Kevin Martin.
Best Shooter: Ray Allen, Jason Kopono. Also receiving votes were Joe Johnson, Kyle Korver, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Martin, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and J.R. Smith.
Best Home Court Advantage: Cleveland, Utah, Lakers, Portland
Most Fun to Watch: Lakers, Orlando, Denver, Cleveland, Golden State, New York.
Player to Start Franchise with Today: James, Howard, Bryant.
Most Likely Breakout: Kevin Durant, Anthony Randolph, Russell Westbrook, Louis Williams.
Best Point Guard: Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash.
Best Power Forward: Duncan, Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki
Best Center: Howard, Duncan.
Best Shooting Guard: Bryant.
Best Small Forward: James, Anthony.