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Sam Smith’s NBA news and notes | 11.11.2013

"Kyrie Irving, the Cavs’ star young guard, who faces the Bulls Monday, is shooting just 39 percent and averaging three turnovers," writes Smith. "Yes, Irving had the game winner in double overtime Saturday and 39 points, though he missed game winners at the end of regulation and in the first overtime. It’s not easy with the ball all the time."
(Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Sam Smith Mailbag

-- The greatest show in perhaps NBA draft history could be at the United Center Tuesday with the State Farm Champions Classic. Scouts and top executives from every NBA team are expected to be in attendance at what some team officials are saying could be the greatest collection of future NBA talent on one floor at the same time. With Michigan State playing Kentucky first and then Duke against Kansas, not only are there four of the top five preseason ranked teams but what pro scouts are projecting could be three or four of the top five picks in the NBA draft and eight to 10 potential lottery picks. “There may never have been talent like this on one floor in one night,” said one NBA scout. The headliners are forwards Andrew Wiggins from Kansas, Chicago’s Jabari Parker from Duke and Kentucky’s Julius Randle. The Kentucky team alone has at least a half dozen McDonald high school all-Americans on the roster and likely four or five first round picks in the 2014 draft. The others are expected to include at least point guard Andrew Harrison (his twin Aaron is there as well), holdover center Willie Cauley-Stein, wingman James Young and sophomore Alex Poythress. Their starting team could all be in the first round of the 2014 draft. Duke has the talented Parker, who could become one of the best ever to come out of Chicago, small forward Rodney Hood and shooting guard Matt Jones. Kansas has everyone’s No. 1, at least for now, Wiggins, along with center Joel Embiid, another likely top 10 player and shooting guard Wayne Selden, also a potential lottery pick. And for Michigan State there’s shooting guard Gary Harris and forward Adrein Payne, both considered to have first round talent. You could practically do your 2014 mock draft watching that doubleheader.

-- Tough to blame J.R. Smith for his one of nine and four turnovers in his season debut in Sunday’s Knicks blowout loss to the Spurs. Of course, if Smith were not getting caught using drugs he wouldn’t have been suspended. Plus, it’s sport to get on Smith, which the world’s most fickle fans did booing Smith and the Knicks quickly on Sunday. But with a three-year deal left and coach Mike Woodson’s curious ambivalence toward Iman Shumpert, many in New York expect the Knicks to look to move Shumpert with strong early play from rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. The Knicks also request for their schedule the most early Sunday games in the—wink, wink—hopes their guests enjoy the night before in New York. It doesn’t always work. Knicks “big man” Andrea Bargnani was outrebounded by the Spurs Danny Green 10-1 in Sunday’s loss. The Knicks held perhaps the earliest players only team meeting last week at 1-3. They’re now 2-4. … Kevin Garnett’s been doing a lot of yelling so far for what he sees as uninspired play by his new teammates. But Garnett is averaging six points on 32 percent shooting and his defensive mistake at the end of regulation enabled the Wizards last week to win in overtime and Saturday he got pushed around by David West and Luis Scola and committed a pair of late costly turnovers. It doesn’t seem like it’s the end for him, but this is his 19th season and eventually they all start looking like Robert Parish with the Bulls. … The Celtics had the amazing trip and win of the season sweeping Florida with Dwyane Wade’s all-time brain lock with that incredible attempted miss free throw for no reason that enabled Jeff Green’s winner. Ray Allen’s still was a better shot from the same spot. And bigger. But lost in that was Boston’s benching of Gerald “What am I doing here?” Wallace as they went on to beat Orlando and Miami. Wallace had not started in only 18 of his last 608 games. … The Nets/Pacers game ended about 36 hours ago, but someone check to see if Deron Williams is still dribbling between his legs?

-- The Heat at 4-3 is a game and a half out of last after that brutal home loss to Boston. They’re giving up more than 100 points per game and 27th in defensive field goal percentage. Yes, that third one makes it tough to concentrate. … Suddenly, the Pacers Lance Stephenson, a supposed bust a few years ago even as a second rounder, is looking like one of the top unrestricted free agents this summer and with any sort of decent offer problematic for the Pacers to keep with their small market economics even if they drop Danny Granger, as expected. … Former Bull Kyle Korver extended his streak to 79 consecutive games with a three pointer. He is tied for the second longest streak in NBA history with Michael Adams. Dana Barros holds the record with 89. … Remember when Brandon Jennings said now that he has big men he can pass? Sort of. Jennings is shooting his usual 37 percent and second on the Pistons in per game shot attempts to Josh Smith, who, by the way, is bombing away on threes at seven per game. Only Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard attempt more, though they shoot a bit better than Smith’s 28.6 percent on threes, his career average. No one’s obviously holding Josh accountable and you wonder how that could be with Rasheed Wallace on the coaching staff.

-- What’s wrong with Kyrie Irving? The Cavs’ star young guard, who faces the Bulls Monday, is shooting just 39 percent and averaging three turnovers, including nine in a narrow win over Minnesota. Must be his recovery from ACL surgery. Oh, that’s Derrick Rose, who faces Irving for the first time as both have missed half the last few years. Yes, Irving had the game winner in double overtime Saturday and 39 points, though he missed game winners at the end of regulation and in the first overtime. It’s not easy with the ball all the time. And what’s wrong with Chris Paul, eight for 24 with eight turnovers in his past two games. … Andrew Bynum’s playing about 14 tentative minutes per game with the Cavs, though it hardly sounds good as he told media in his return to Philadelphia last week he always has painful knees and is “a shell of myself.”… Kind of a milestone, though, as Cavs coach Mike Brown already has made it through seven games. The Cavs are now among a growing number of teams going with three guard lineups, especially to finish games. … Lottery pick Austin Rivers had played 13 minutes this season for the Pelicans, all in a blowout loss with three points before Sunday. He played 12 scoreless minutes Sunday against the Suns. … Bobcats mopup man Ben Gordon has played in only one game and a blowout loss as well. … Orlando’s Nik Vucevic is fourth in the league in rebounding with his fifth 20/20 game in his career and second 30/20 already last week with 30 points and 21 rebounds against the Clippers. … The Jazz remain the league’s only winless team, the anti-Pacers, and coach Tyrone Corbin probably didn’t present some of the best strategy in loss No. 7 when Utah reporters said third leading scorer Alec Burks was kept on the bench because Corbin was concerned with reserves’ production. … Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins finally has lost his starting job. He just doesn’t know it yet. Thunder rookie Steven Adams, the 12th overall pick from New Zealand, has been one of the big rookie surprises, leading rookies in rebounding and now playing more than the colossally unproductive Perkins. Perkins had one point in 19 minutes in the Sunday overtime win and was unusually impressive as only minus 8 on the plus/minus calculation in a win.

-- LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love are off to the best starts of their careers with Aldridge becoming the first Portland player to start the season with all 20-point scoring games since Clyde Drexler. Love is the first player in league history with at least 160 points, 80 rebounds and 30 assists through six games and first player since Hakeem Olajuwon to have three 30/15 games in his first six. He Practically had that in the first quarter against the Lakers Sunday and ended with 25 and 13. … The Nuggets, who now have lost center JaVale McGee with a stress fracture, are off to their worst start since Jeff Bzdelik and Michal Cooper were both let go in the same season. George Karl was their third coach that season. McGee was averaging seven points and 3.4 rebounds and supposedly one of the reasons Karl was not retained as he didn’t play McGee enough for ownership’s liking. … An early Most Improved leader has to be Eric Bledsoe for the surprising Suns (and coach of first two weeks Jeff Hornacek) since they’ve already won a quarter as many games (five) as most had them for the season. Bledsoe is averaging about 21 per game and playing strong defense like in a near shutout of Jrue Holiday last week. There’s not a missing persons award, but the guy found has to be Miles Plumlee, the Duke center who played 55 minutes for the Pacers all last season and went to the Suns in the Luis Scola deal. He’s averaging about 12 points and 10 rebounds in making fans forget about Marcin Gortat. Who? Bledsoe becomes a restricted free agent after the season. Plumlee, along with the Morris twins and Markieff, averaging about 23 the last four games, is part of a Suns reserve group that calls itself the Bench Mob. Original, at least. Ronnie Brewer is selling them T-shirts.

-- With the Clippers leading the league in scoring and second in points allowed, coach Doc Rivers borrowed a Pop-ism and said, “Offense is always fool's gold. You got to defend to win.” I think Phil Jackson used to say offense was iron pyrite..The Rockets have lost already three times to Los Angeles teams. … With that Timberwolves 47-point first quarter in L.A., 18 from Kevin Love, Los Angeles fans again are lobbying for the Minnesota franchise to move there. … Back too soon? Russell Westbrook is averaging 19 points, but shooting 33 percent and nine for 35 the last two games and averaging 4.5 turnovers per game this season. … I liked the way the Thunder got into overtime in their eventual win Sunday on a Kevin Durant three as they eschewed the screen, which spread the court and enabled the athletic Durant a better look and more space. … DeMarcus Cousins is putting up big numbers, 23.5 points and 9.7 rebounds and back to back 30-plus scoring games against the Trail Blazers the past weekend. But the Kings are 1-5 with the third poorest point differential and players saying there’s selfishness and bad body language already. Isaiah Thomas said they were not playing for one another. John Salmons said they needed to stop blaming one another. After six games? Cousins is an incredible talent who plays like he’s 6-5, handling the ball on the break, soft hands in the post. But he seems almost impossible to play with, constantly dribbling out of the backcourt on his own, shooting long jump shots and with almost no concept of an offense. New coach Mike Malone said he needs to change the lineup.

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