Hang Time Road Trip II: Going back to Cali!


By Sekou Smith

OAKLAND — On the road again.

Part II.

The Remix.

California Dreaming.

We considered them all as theme’s for this season’s Hang Time Road Trip, the follow-up to last season’s raucous 3,600-mile trek that took us from Cleveland and through fellow Central Division hot spots in Chicago and Indianapolis and on to Philadelphia, New York and, eventually, Chapel Hill, N.C.

We’re taking a different route this time around. We won’t cover nearly as many miles but we’re going back to California, where we spent tons of quality time during the playoffs and, ultimately, The Finals. It is the state some would say is the epicenter of the NBA universe as we kick off the 2015-16 season.

The champs reside here, after all. Eyes around the league will be on KIA MVP Stephen Curry and his Splash Bros. partner, Klay Thompson, and the rest of the Golden State Warriors as they target on a repeat performance from last season, when they ended a 40-year title drought for the franchise.

Our eight-day sojourn kicks off in Warriors territory, where Luke Walton is filling in for Steve Kerr as interim coach as Kerr continues his indefinite leave of absence while recovering from summer back surgery. Before we finish we’ll have chewed up plenty of highway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, where we’ll get up close and personal with the Lakers and Clippers.


VIDEO: Pacers boss Larry Bird visited on the Hang Time Road Trip bus last year

Kobe Bryant‘s back from injury and for what, as of this moment, is his final season under contract with the only franchise he’s known in his future Hall of Fame career. We’ll find out what he has left in his tank and if his latest supporting cast is up to the task of sending him out the right way, if this is indeed his final campaign in purple and gold. Are youngsters D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, as well as veterans Roy Hibbert and Metta World Peace, capable of holding up their part of the deal?

And no one has had a more eventful offseason than Doc Rivers and his crew (no emoji’s from us, fellas), who figure to be one the biggest threats to the Warriors’ parade plans this season. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and their free-agent contingent did everything they could to make sure DeAndre Jordan didn’t go anywhere, not with reinforcements in the form of Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson ready to help with the heavy lifting this season.

You know there will be plenty of craziness along the road — it’s what we do on the Hang Time Podcast — but as always our mission remains hoops. And where better to get things started than the Great State of California, where the storylines are aplenty.


Keep up with us around the clock on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook (using the hashtag #NBAHangTime):

Check the Hang Time Blog for our daily (video) podcast recapping our adventures and also Lang’s All Ball Blog for our daily updates.

VIDEO: Knicks boss Phil Jackson visits during the inaugural Hang Time Road Trip

One Team, One Stat: No D in Minny

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Today, we look at the Minnesota Timberwolves, who earned the No. 1 pick by playing the league’s worst defense.

The stat


The context

20151013_min_basicsShooting is the most important part of a good offense, and defending shots is the most important part of a good defense. The Wolves were the worst team at defending shots since the 3-point line was moved back (after three seasons at a uniform 22 feet) in 1997.

The Wolves’ defense ranked in the top 10 in opponent turnover rate and opponent free throw rate. But their success in those areas was trumped by how bad they were at keeping their opponents from missing shots…

… inside and on the perimeter. The Wolves ranked last in field goal percentage defense at the basket and 28th in 3-point defense.

To make things worse, Minnesota ranked last in defensive rebounding percentage. So when their opponents did miss shots, they allowed too many second chances.

Injuries, in particular to Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, were a factor. The Wolves allowed just 100.7 points per 100 possessions in 382 minutes with Rubio and Pekovic on the floor together. Kevin Garnett might have made an impact on defense when he was acquired in February, but played just five games after that.

This year’s Wolves are going to be fun to watch. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are special talents who are just just 19 and 20 years old, respectively. Both could be great defenders some day, too.

But the Wolves are probably going to struggle defensively again this season. In fact, through three preseason games, Wolves opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 57.9 percent.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Mid-range Knicks

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: New York Knicks

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Today, we look at the New York Knicks, who took the wrong shots in their first season running the Triangle.

The stat


The context

20151013_nyk_basicsIn the 2012-13 season, the Knicks had a top-3 offense and won 54 games while setting an NBA record for 3-point attempts (since broken by last year’s Houston Rockets).

Two years later, the Knicks ran the Triangle offense, ranked 21st in 3-point attempts, and took 775 more mid-range shots than threes. They took more than three times as many mid-range shots as the Rockets last season.

Mid-range shots are worth 0.26 fewer points per attempt than 3-pointers. So, for every four mid-range jumpers that you turn into 3s, you score an extra point.


The most valuable shots are those in the restircted area. And in the first season of the Triangle, the Knicks didn’t get enough of those either. The Knicks ranked last in both drives and shots in the restricted area.

More valuable than any shot from the field are trips to the line. And the Knicks ranked 27th in free throw rate. Their offense had no bite to it.

Of course, it was much, much better with Carmelo Anthony on the floor (scoring 105.1 points per 100 possessions) than it was with him off it (92.7). And Anthony missed 42 games.

But the Knicks actually took a greater percentage of their shots from mid-range when Anthony was on the floor (38.1 percent) than they did when he wasn’t (34.0 percent). And their free throw rate was about the same either way.

With a healthy Anthony and some added talent around him, the Knicks should be better on both ends of the floor than they were in the worst season in franchise history.

But there’s still a question of whether or not Phil Jackson‘s and Derek Fisher‘s offense can work in today’s NBA. Was last season’s shot selection about the Triangle offense or the players that ran it?

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Morning shootaround — Oct. 13

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 11


Bosh provides insight on Aldridge’s role | Matthews gets through first full practice | Anthony wants to be held accountable | LeBron, Cavs not sweating winless preseason

No. 1: Bosh chimes in on Aldridge’s new role — Come next offseason, when a go-to guy (and free agent) on an NBA team thinks about taking on a supporting role somewhere else, his first call should be to Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh. Few in NBA lore understand or have experienced that path like Bosh did when he transitioned from superstar with the Toronto Raptors to complimentary piece with the Miami Heat teams of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. As the San Antonio Spurs try to fit new addition LaMarcus Aldridge into their star-studded mix this season, Bosh chimed in on the challenges of Aldridge’s transition before last night’s Heat-Spurs game in Miami. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News has more:

Of course, their situations aren’t completely identical. Bosh was clearly going to be third in that pecking order, while Aldridge, who signed the largest free agent deal in Spurs history after spending his first nine seasons in Portland, should remain the offensive focal point in San Antonio with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan both past their prime.

But though he won’t have to transform his game as substantively as Bosh, who became primarily a floor-spacing shooter with the Heat after doing pretty much whatever he wanted in Toronto, Aldridge will almost certainly have to sacrifice shots on a Spurs team brimming with depth.

And that, Bosh told the media in advance of tonight’s preseason game in Miami, could be easier said than done.

“The transition is the hardest part. He was getting a high volume amount of touches. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to be a team guy then. But now you have to play within the offense and then people are telling you to be aggressive and you don’t know how to do that. It’s going to be a continuous thing. And usually when you figure it out, the season’s over.

“At least that’s how it was for me. I’m sure in that organization, they’re going to try to fast-track him along. But when you’re playing with all that talent, with all those expectations, you got people chirping at you what you should be doing and you know what you need to be doing within the organization, it’s tough.

“I’m sure it’s going to be frustrating at times for him, because he’s used to getting the ball down on that left block. And he might get it on the right block. Or he might not get as many post touches or as many pick-and-pop looks. So, if it’s limited, he’s looking to move it, instead of shooting as usual.

“But they’re saying, ‘You’ve got to be aggressive.’ So it’s a fine balance, and you have to learn it.”

VIDEO: The Heat rally to top the Spurs in preseason action


Morning shootaround — Oct. 12

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 11


Harden exits preseason game with bruished right knee | No timetable for Kerr’s return | Kobe has no plan to rest in preseason, or at all | DeMarcus Cousins is living the big man’s dream

No. 1: Harden exits game with bruised right knee — Houston Rockets held their collective breath for a moment Sunday when James Harden suffered a right knee contusion in the first half of a preseason game against Orlando and did not return. Harden played just 13 minutes in the game, a 123-119 loss. Of greater concern for the Rockets, of course, is making sure Harden’s bruised knee is healthy and ready to go when the regular season starts, as the Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigen explains:

Suddenly, the to-do list, with all those check marks right where the Rockets would have wanted them, was meaningless. The first line, where the goal listed was to stay healthy, had made everything else too secondary to celebrate.

The Rockets had gone from clicking to limping when James Harden and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier collided late in the first half, with Harden slowly walking off with a bruised right knee.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale said that he had been given no update on the severity of the injury after the Magic had rallied back from a 22-point first-quarter deficit to take a 123-119 win. Harden left without speaking, but did not seem to have difficulty walking.

Rockets players did not seem overly concerned, offering an indication of Harden’s reaction.

“He said it’s not really that serious,” Rockets guard Ty Lawson said. “We just want him to get better and get healthy so he can get back to playing well.”

The Rockets began the game playing exceptionally well, but that soon became secondary to one fast break and one slow walk to the locker room.

Harden had just returned to the game with four minutes left in the half when he lost the ball on a drive and never quite got in front of Fournier on a break the other way. Fournier’s left leg banged into the side and back of Harden’s right, and both went down. Harden limped behind the baseline floor seats at State Farm Arena and then straight to the locker room with a shout that sounded more from frustration than pain.

“You kind of know if it’s serious,” said Corey Brewer, who was waiting to check in for Harden before Harden even reached mid-court. “I think he just bumped it a bit. Preseason lasts a long time. He has time to heal.”

VIDEO: James Harden bumps his knee vs. Magic


No. 2: No timetable for Kerr’s return — A rare spinal fluid leak during July surgery on a ruptured disc in his back is the cause for Steve Kerr‘s indefinite leave of absence from the Golden State Warriors, Kerr told reporters at the team’s practice Sunday. Kerr went into detail about the cause of his absence to clear up any confusion and to reiterate that there is no timetable for his return. Diamond Leung of The Bay Area News Group has more:

Eleven days after the Warriors announced Kerr would temporarily step aside to focus on rehabilitation, he gave his first interview after Sunday’s practice and detailed why he doesn’t know when he will return to coach the team.

“The leak is fixed, but still getting some symptoms,” Kerr said of his follow-up surgery early last month. “And that’s why I’m out.

“And because I’m still having symptoms, it makes it difficult for me to be on the floor. And so the prospects are good. I’m going to heal. The doctor says everybody’s body is different. It’s a matter of your body sort of recalibrating. And unfortunately, it’s not like a sprained ankle, one to two weeks. There’s no telling. It’s a little bit open-ended, but everybody’s very confident everything will be fine.”

Kerr said he has not questioned his long-term future as a coach going through the grind of an NBA schedule.

“I’m 50 years old,” he said. “I’m in good shape. I’m in good overall health. This is a unique circumstance, and once it’s resolved, I’ll be fine.”

Kerr said he wanted to be upfront with fans and media members about his condition after declining an interview request Friday while attending the Cal volleyball match.

“I’m not going to put a timetable on when I’m going to come back,” Kerr said. “I have to get my health right before I can coach the team, before I can bring the energy that’s necessary to coach the team.

“When you are forced to be away, it hurts.”

GameTime’s crew discuss Steve Kerr’s injury and how it affects the team


No. 3: Kobe has no plans to rest in preseason, or at all — Easing into his 20th NBA season is not the way Kobe Bryant plans on doing things for the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he’s doing anything but this preseason, and according to coach Byron Scott, has not even discussed it. Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News has more:

As he sheds off rust without showing any setbacks with his surgically repaired right shoulder, Kobe Bryant left the Lakers feeling encouraged for two reasons.

In the Lakers’ 126-83 victory over Maccabi Haifi on Sunday at Staples Center, Bryant took advantage against the Israeli professional team by posting a team-leading 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 5-of-5 from the foul line in 19 minutes. Lakers coach Byron Scott also reported feeling “very optimistic” that he will play in all of the team’s four remaining preseason contests.

“He wants to play every game,” Scott said.

That seems unlikely to happen, though, for the 82-game regular season. Bryant may sit out for at least a portion of the Lakers’ 18 sets of back-to-backs.

“We haven’t talked about that yet,” Scott said. “I talked to him a week ago and said, ‘We need to sit down and talk about back-to-backs and pick and choose which ones you’ll play in and which ones you’ won’t.”

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks after the Lakers’ preseason win


No. 4: DeMarcus Cousins is living the big man’s dream — Sacramento Kings coach George Karl clearly knows the way to his big man’s heart. All he had to do was get DeMarcus Cousins out of the paint to make the Kings’ All-NBA center to smile. Cousins has been experimenting with his perimeter game during this preseason and it’s not just a gimmick. He’s polishing up his handle and working on his shot from deep as he dives into every big man’s dream. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has the details:

Cousins will not be shunning the post this season. But coach George Karl has said he will move Cousins all over the court. That includes allowing Cousins to shoot threes.

So meet Cousins, the floor spacer. He has never liked being labeled as just a post player, so this season he will have the opportunity to show he’s more than that.

“I don’t really consider myself a center,” Cousins said. “I’m just a basketball player. There’s so much I can do on the floor. People get stuck on the word ‘center,’ ‘big man’ and (are) kind of ignorant to the situation. I can’t really worry about that. I just go out there and do my job.”

And like anyone else, when there are changes to the job, there is an adjustment.

“It’s weird kind of floating out there,” Cousins said. “It’s a different thing, but I know it’s going to help the team, too. It’s just something I’ve got to adjust to and get used to.”

“It’s fun, but it’s also a process,” Cousins said. “This is my first time, but this is what the preseason is for, to knock the rust off, figure each other out and hopefully prepare for how we’re going to play during the season. I think we’re on the right path.”

When Karl was hired last February, he said he thought Cousins could be just as good a face-up player as he is in the post. Karl was also intrigued with Cousins’ ability to dribble and pass the ball.

“I do have those skills but it’s still an adjustment,” Cousins said. “This isn’t just pickup at the park, it’s an adjustment.”

Cousins’ expanded freedom on the court will cause a problem for defenses. Teams that defend Cousins with a bigger player will have to deal with how to match up with him on the perimeter.

If teams counter with a smaller player, Cousins can work closer to the basket where his size and strength are advantages.

“I think Cuz will figure out a balance between what shots we want from him,” Karl said. “Some teams will let him go outside, some teams will let him go inside.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The NBA has extended the deadline for rookie deal extensions to Nov. 2 due to the normal Halloween deadline falling on a weekendLeBron James, aka “JP,” went full prohibition era (“Boardwalk Empire” style) for his good friend’s birthday party over the weekend. Hair piece and all … Milwaukee swingman Marcus Landry is right where he wants to be with the hometown Bucks … Are you tired of the preseason chatter between the Warriors and Clippers coach Doc Rivers? Good, because Rivers tried to clear the air a bit from ChinaDerrick Rose went all in for his son P.J. and his monster Ninja Turtles birthday party …

Quick preseason start encouraging sign for Carmelo, New York fans

VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony scores 21 points and the Knicks defeat the Wizards

Whether you’re a member of or a fan of the New York Knicks – with just one victory in a playoff series and only five postseason appearances, total, in the past 15 years – you’ll appreciate just about anything coming along sooner rather than later. That it happens to be Carmelo Anthony‘s recovery from knee surgery last winter makes it doubly welcome.

Anthony, 31, a 25.2 ppg career scorer, played in just 40 games last season and was done by February, with the Knicks headed toward the worst record in franchise history: 17-65. They didn’t reap the reward in draft position they might have had in mind for that lowly finish (though forward Kristaps Porzingis might, in time, make up for New York’s fall to No. 4). And they were low-impact players in free agency, despite having almost $30 million to spend.

So getting max-salary, max-years, max-ball dominator Anthony back with most of his skills intact, ahead of schedule, would boost some spirits around Madison Square Garden, as well as the Knicks’ prospects early in the 2015-16 season. That’s what Al Iannazzone wrote about for Newsday over the weekend:

Carmelo Anthony was itching to get back on the court, but for nearly five months after he had knee surgery, the Knicks and their doctors wouldn’t let him touch a basketball or set foot in a gym.

“I wasn’t even allowed to go near the court,” Anthony said. “They had a no-Melo-on-the-court sign on the door. They had a picture of me with an X on there. I didn’t pick up a basketball until the end of July.”

What followed were hours and hours of shooting from all over the court to get ready for this season. The Knicks’ lone All-Star worked on trying to regain his rhythm and timing, on getting comfortable in different spots on the floor and pushing off his surgically repaired left knee to see if he had his power back.

Anthony is not officially done with his rehab, but judging by the Knicks’ first two preseason games, all the work he did is paying off. Anthony has been extremely sharp. He’s shot 18-for-25 and scored 38 points in 45 minutes.

“The most important thing is being healthy,” he said. “When you’re healthy, everything kind of falls into place mentally. There’s a lot of clarity for me at this moment. I can kind of just play ball and not have to worry about ticky-tack injuries or having surgery. I can just focus on my team.”

“I think Carmelo’s excited about basketball again, which for veteran players is hard to do as you move through your career,” [Knicks coach Derek] Fisher said. “Being away from the game oftentimes reawakens that childlike joy that you have for playing the game. He has that right now.

“It’s more about the mindset that you see and his approach to the game. He’s being aggressive. He’s making passes when he should make passes. He’s putting in effort on the defensive end, and he’s really leading our guys.”

Morning shootaround — Oct. 11

VIDEO: Recap the preseason games from Saturday night


Hornets’ Lin plays, and plays it safe, in China | Metta World Peace: ‘It’s a baby’s game’ | Wizards’ Humphries stretching his game | Jordan touts NBA, Nike brand on trip

No. 1: Hornets’ Lin plays, and plays it safe, in China — Here, Jeremy Lin is a little more famous than other NBA players of his caliber, owing to his ethnic background (Chinese) and memories of his “Linsanity” splash onto the league’s scene with New York in February 2012. There – that is to say, in China, where Lin is visiting with his Charlotte Hornets team – he’s some combination of Michael Jordan, Elvis and Beatlemania. His popularity since he picked up that country’s basketball baton from Yao Ming is tremendous – but also something to respect and handle properly, as the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell wrote from the Hornets’ stop in Shenzhen:

China has been very good to Charlotte Hornets guard Jeremy Lin.

He has millions of followers on Weibo, the Chinese parallel of Twitter. He makes millions off endorsement deals for cars, sports apparel and sports drinks. He draws massive crowds on the mainland for every promotional appearance or basketball camp.

And then there’s the other side of being so famous in a country with more than 300 million basketball fans.

“It can be scary, too,” Lin said in a lengthy interview with the Observer. “When people somehow know what room I’m in, what floor I’m on. Fans aren’t supposed to get up that elevator, but somehow they do. And then they’re waiting for me and all I can say is, ‘You know you are not supposed to be up here?’

“If I am in China I always have a personal body guard, and if I’m making an appearance I’ll always have a team of security. The body guard is legit; he’s always there to stay by my door to hear every knock. Then I can be comfortable and feel safe.”

Lin is an Asian-American who played college basketball at Harvard. His parents immigrated to the United States from Taiwan and his grandparents were born and raise on mainland China.


No. 2: Metta World Peace: ‘It’s a baby’s game’ — Besides going global, the NBA allegedly is going soft. At least, that’s the opinion of Metta World Peace, who cites what he considers to be diminishing toughness in play and players compared to what greeted him as a rookie in 1999. Of course, World Peace was named Ron Artest back then, a reminder that lots of things have changed since then. His analysis came after the Lakers’ practice Saturday – he’s attempting a comeback at age 36, with a contract that isn’t guaranteed – and was reported by the Los Angeles Times, among others:

“I remember I came into the NBA in 1999, the game was a little bit more rough. The game now is more for kids. It’s not really a man’s game anymore,” World Peace said. “The parents are really protective of their children. They cry to their AAU coaches. They cry to the refs, ‘That’s a foul. That’s a foul.’

“Sometimes I wish those parents would just stay home, don’t come to the game, and now translated, these same AAU kids whose parents came to the game, ‘That’s a foul.’ These kids are in the NBA. So now we have a problem. You’ve got a bunch of babies professionally around the world.”

World Peace wasn’t quite done.

“It’s no longer a man’s game,” he said. “It’s a baby’s game. There’s softies everywhere. Everybody’s soft. Nobody’s hard no more. So, you just deal with it, you adjust and that’s it.”

On a nonguaranteed $1.5-million minimum contract, World Peace is hoping to make the Lakers’ 15-man roster for opening night. The team currently has 19 players almost midway through the preseason.
In his debut, World Peace gave the team’s second unit a boost against Utah, leaping over courtside seats while chasing down a loose ball last Tuesday. The Lakers would ultimately lose in overtime.

“I forgot that I was on a nonguaranteed contract when I dived,” World Peace said. “My brother reminded me, ‘What are you doing? You’re on a nonguaranteed contract. You’re going to kill yourself.’

“I was like ‘Oh wow, that’s right,’ but that’s the only way I know how to play, so I don’t care about a nonguaranteed contract. I just want to play hard.”


No. 3: Wizards’ Humphries stretching his game — So often, it’s NBA fans taking shots at and otherwise heckling journeyman forward Kris Humphries over his don’t-blink marriage into the schlock-famous Kardashian family (his marriage to Kim had a shelf life of 72 days, from vows uttered to divorce papers filed). This time, Humphries is the one taking shots – specifically, 3-point shots, a new challenge for him driven by the Washington Wizards’ recent embrace of small ball and the league’s trend of deep-threat big men. With Humphries doing work from the arc early in the Wizards’ preseason schedule, Ben Standig of CSNMidAtlantic.com wrote about this old dog’s new trick:

“This is a different game for me,” Humphries stated this week.

The obvious difference involves the 3-point shot, a non-factor in his game truly until this past offseason. Playing a traditional power forward role, Humphries attempted only 26 shots from beyond the arc for his career. That included seven last season. He missed them all. The last make came during his 2004-05 rookie season.

Through two preseason games, Humphries leads the Wizards with 10 attempts. Yes, change is coming.

“That’s what they want to do here. You kind of have to adapt to help your team,” Humphries said following Tuesday’s preseason opener. “I just wish I would have started shooting 3’s earlier. This is really like the first summer where I was like I’m going to work on my 3-point shooting. Before you might shoot a few corner 3’s or something in a workout. This year I was like, I’m going to work on it.”

Yet the actual deep shot isn’t the only distinction in the 6-foot-9 forward’s game this season. Anybody playing the 4-spot for Washington this season won’t simply be camped out in the lane for offensive rebounds or interior passes. The spread-the-floor philosophy deployed during last season’s playoff run is the primary staple now.

“It’s different, especially for me,” Humphries said. “I haven’t really played on the wing, like at the 3-point line to where I’m going to try to get an offensive rebound and then running back and then running again. It’s adding that extra [23 feet 9 inches] of running in there. It doesn’t seem like a lot but it catches up to you. It’ early on. I’ve just got a little extra shooting and conditioning — I’ve got to be in better shape if I’m going to play this way.”

Humphries went 2 of 4 on 3’s in Tuesday’s blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers, but struggled in Friday’s loss to the New York Knicks, missing five of six attempts.


No. 4: Jordan touts NBA, Nike brand on tripMichael Jordan, as the Hornets’ principal owner, a Nike icon and the NBA’s most recognizable ambassador, was in China with his team. Not known for his interview availability these days, His Airness did sit for a chat pegged to this trip, with the story carried in the Shanghai Daily. The Web site’s translation to English was a little spotty but it did capture some insights into Jordan:

Jordan visited China only once in 2004, which caused a national craze. “Ah, 11 years ago,” Jordan, talking about the visit in 2004, said what impressed him most was the Chinese fans. “You know the fans, the way they were passionate about game of basketball. Obviously they remember me playing, I enjoyed spending the time there,” Jordan recalled, “it gives me an opportunity after 11 years going back. It’s kind of reconnecting with the fans based over there. Jordan Brand fans, Michael Jordan fans, so I’m looking forward to it.”

As for Hornets’ prospects for the new season, Jordan showed his sober optimism. “They should be okay. We changed a lot of personnel. Everybody is excited I’m very excited but I don’t want to get overexcited.”

Jordan made specific mention of Jeremy Lin, who joined in the Hornets from the LA Lakers this summer. Jordan saw it a successful deal, “We just got Jeremy Lin, who I think is going to be our biggest acquisition. His penetration, his shooting capability, his point guard savvy, he can really pass the basketball, his energy about the game of basketball something,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s success derives from his desire to excel and unparalleled confidence, which, as he said, was an inborn instinct accompanying his growth.

“No point did I doubt my skills. As a basketball player, there are things I feel like I had to improve on, but in terms of confidence about me playing the basketball I never doubt that at all,” Jordan told Xinhua, even if when he entered NBA as a rookie in 1984, “Rookie? I always felt like I could play, I just need to learn, I considered myself the lowest on the totem pole but I know I have to work my way up, but I didn’t lack confidence at all. I lacked the experience.”

Jordan said that it was the game of basketball that gave him a chance to do a lot of different things and meet a lot of different people, affecting and inspiring them. “The game allowed me to touch a lot of people I probably would never be able to touch if I don’t play the game of basketball.”

Jordan said he hoped people looked at him from a lot of different aspects. “When you see Michael Jordan you are going to see him in the sense that he is very versatile. He adapted, he looked at challenges, he looked at things can make himself better and he worked hard at it. So I would like people when they look at Michael Jordan is an all-around, good person, good competitor, good businessman, good basketball player, all the above.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were planning to put their proximity to Michael Jordan to good use on the Clippers’ and the Hornets’ China trip. … Paul’s broken left index finger, which kept him out of Sunday’s game in Shenzhen, reportedly won’t sideline the Clippers point guard for long or pose much of a problem. … LeBron James might own motorcycles but that doesn’t necessarily mean he rides motorcycles. Ditto for that motorcycle helmet and wearing it or not. … Kevin Love participated in his first full 5-on-5 practice with the Cavaliers since undergoing shoulder surgery during the playoffs. … The Hornets’ Steve Clifford is trying to stay flexible and be creative in moving lineup pieces around to pick up injured wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s slack. … Derrick Williams‘ contract might wind up getting blamed by New York Knicks fans for hurting the team’s chances of landing Kevin Durant in free agency next summer. But for now, the underachieving former No. 2 pick in the draft has shown signs of “getting it” and might actually help this season. … Washington anticipates bumps along Otto Porter‘s learning curve as he tries to fill Trevor Ariza‘s and Paul Pierce’s veteran shoes. … Relieved that his New York criminal trial is over, a vindicated Thabo Sefolosha scrambles to catch up with Atlanta Hawks teammates. He might play Wednesday. …

Nuggets’ Lauvergne, Bucks’ Plumlee sport separated-at-birth look

Joffrey Lauvergne has been a big contributor and nice surprise so far through three preseason games for the Denver Nuggets. At 16.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 76 percent field-goal shooting, the second-year center from Mulhouse, France, has continued his fine play from both the Las Vegas Summer League and the FIBA EuroBasket tournament.

Some say his performances make him a candidate to start in the middle for the Nuggets. Others – like those of us at Hang Time HQ – say: Has anyone ever seen Lauvergne and Miles Plumlee in the same place at the same time?

The resemblance between the two NBA big men is uncanny, at least when encountered one at a time. Plenty of photographs, too, support a separated-at-birth theory:

For the record, Lauvergne is 6-foot-11, weighs 240 pounds, was born on Sept. 30, 1991 and was drafted at No. 55 by Memphis in 2013. Moving to the Nuggets with Darrell Arthur in the trade for Kosta Koufos, Lauvergne averaged 3.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 11.2 minutes in 24 appearances last season.

Plumlee, by comparison, is listed at 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds. He was born on Sept. 1, 1988 in Fort Wayne, Ind., and was the No. 26 pick by Indiana in the 2012 Draft. He arrived in Milwaukee in the midseason Brandon Knight-Michael Carter-Williams trade, averaging 4.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 16.4 minutes in 73 games split between the Suns and the Bucks. And of course he has a brother, Portland’s Mason Plumlee, who bears a family resemblance to him – just not as striking as Lauvergne’s.

Last season, Lauvergne and Plumlee were never quite in the same place at the same time. Neither played when Denver played at Milwaukee on Feb. 20 and when the Bucks faced the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on March 3, Plumlee chipped in eight scoreless minutes while Lauvergne again logged a DNP-CD.

So it’s possible, isn’t it, that this is one guy pulling down two NBA paychecks by filling out the rosters in both markets? Or some sort of sports spy switcheroo, in a “Mission: Impossible” or 007-worthy stunt? Roundball sleuths won’t have to wait long to dig further into this double-take: the Bucks play at Denver on Nov. 11, with the teams squaring off against Nov. 30 in Milwaukee.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 10

VIDEO: Top plays from Friday’s preseason action


Dave Meyers — UCLA star, Bucks enigma — dies at age 62 | Klay gives Doc some of own medicine | Sefolosha clears name, can work on game | Mavs’ injuries dampen Dirk’s mood

No. 1: Dave Meyers — UCLA star, Bucks enigma — dies at age 62Dave Meyers‘ greatest basketball achievements came at UCLA, where the 6-foot-8 forward anchored legendary coach John Wooden‘s 10th and final NCAA championship team. But for a lot of NBA fans, particularly in Milwaukee, Meyers represents a terrific player who got away and a man who lived life on his terms rather than strangers’ expectations. Meyers, 62, died Friday at his home in Temecula, Calif., after a lengthy battle with cancer.

His basketball accomplishments came in the first half of his life, including the national championships he won with Wooden and UCLA in 1973 and 1975. Meyers was the No. 2 pick in the ’75 NBA Draft, behind only North Carolina State’s David Thompson. Three weeks later, Meyers was packaged in one of the NBA’s most famous trades ever, sent by the Lakers with Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters and Elmore Smith to Milwaukee for an unhappy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley. He averaged 11.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg in four seasons with the Bucks but is most remembered for walking away from the game at age 26. Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times was working in Milwaukee then and wrote about that in Meyers’ obituary for the Times:

Another member of the Meyers family gained fame in the sport. Ann Meyers Drysdale, Dave Meyers’ sister, was also a UCLA basketball All-American and is currently a vice president of the Phoenix Suns in the NBA and the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, as well as a broadcaster for both teams.

“People always remembered Dave as a tenacious player with a big heart,” Meyers Drysdale said Friday.

Meyers was also known as a private person, who shocked the sports world in 1980 — five years into a productive and lucrative pro career with the Bucks — by announcing that he was leaving the NBA to spend more time with his family.

“Remember, David played for an unbelievable teacher at UCLA,” Meyers Drysdale said, referring to Wooden. “He was taught more about life than about basketball.”

Meyers returned to California, and after a stint in sales for Motorola received his teaching certificate and taught elementary school — mostly fourth and sixth grade — for more than 30 years. He began teaching in Yorba Linda and later taught in Temecula.

An aggressive, fundamentally sound player, he rebounded, played defense and handed out assists with the same enthusiasm that he took shots. From his power forward position, he used the backboard on his shots more than most players and became known for those skillful bank shots. It was something he learned from Wooden.

“I’d run into Bob Lanier,” the former Bucks’ star, Meyers Drysdale said, “and he would always tell me how sad he was that David retired. Lanier always said that, if he had stayed, the Bucks would have won the championship.”

Meyers suffered a serious back injury during his pro career and was pressured by team management to undergo surgery. He refused, partly because that surgery went against principles of his Jehovah’s Witness religion and, according to Meyers Drysdale, partly because there were extreme risks to that kind of surgery.

“In the end, it was what he said it was,” Meyers Drysdale said. “He wanted to be with his family and watch his children grow up.”


No. 2: Klay gives Doc some of own medicine — Make up your own mind which you think is sillier: Folks elsewhere in the NBA saying things that seem to detract from what the Golden State Warriors did last season or the Warriors dignifying little barbs and digs by responding. Who cares what Houston’s James Harden or Ty Lawson thinks about Steph Curry‘s MVP season, at this point? Or whether Clippers coach Doc Rivers was sticking a Phil Jackson-esque asterisk on Golden State’s championship run from last spring? But Warriors guard Klay Thompson didn’t let the opportunity to zing back pass, as chronicled by Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:

Warriors players issued several retorts to Doc Rivers after the Los Angeles Clippers coach commented on Golden State being lucky it faced neither the Clippers nor San Antonio in the playoffs.

“Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? Exactly,” Klay Thompson said Friday, laughing in reference to Houston coming from behind to beat the Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals. “That just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1, too? Yeah, tell them I said that. That’s funny, man.”

Walking away from reporters after his interview session, Thompson continued, “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.”

Rivers’ remarks were the latest in a string of perceived swipes at the defending NBA champions. In published comments, Rockets guard Ty Lawson lamented that Stephen Curry was allowed to relax on defense in the Western Conference finals, and teammate James Harden insisted he felt he deserved the Most Valuable Player Award that Curry won.

Asked on KNBR about the suggestion from other teams that the Warriors were lucky last season, Andrew Bogut joked, “I’ve actually got my ring fitted for my middle finger.”

“We respect all previous champs,” Bogut said. “We’ll respect future champs. They don’t want to respect us, so be it.”


No. 3: Sefolosha clears name, can work on gameThabo Sefolosha missed all of the Atlanta Hawks’ training camp while testifying in New York in his own defense against three misdemeanor counts, stemming from an incident outside a nightclub there in April. The 6-foot-8 wing player also missed the Hawks’ preseason game against New Orleans Friday in Jacksonville. But Sefolosha, who suffered a broken leg while being arrested by police that night for allegedly interfering with them, did get acquitted on all counts earlier in the day. Now he and the Hawks can get back to basketball, as detailed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Now he wants to get back to playing basketball with the Hawks. Sefolosha hasn’t fully recovered from the injuries apparently suffered when a police officer kicked his right leg. He has been cleared for all basketball activities and has participated in training camp before leaving this week for the trial. He hopes to be ready when the Hawks’ season opens Oct. 27.

“I hope I still have a long career,” he said.

Jurors declined to comment as they left the court, but several of them shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with Sefolosha on the street outside the courthouse. Sefolosha thanked them in person and with his public comments.

“I want to assure them this was the right verdict,” he said. “They were on the side of truth and justice today. I’m happy this is over now.”

Sefolosha, a 31-year-old native of Switzerland who has played in the NBA for nine seasons, thanked his family, attorney Alex Spiro and the Hawks organization. He singled out coach Mike Budenholzer, who testified on his behalf Thursday.

“I’m thankful to the American justice system,” Sefolosha said. “Justice was made today.”


No. 4: Mavs’ injuries dampen Dirk’s moodDirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams participated in their first contact workouts of the preseason Friday, but the overall health of what’s projected to be Dallas’ starting lineup still is a work in progress. Wesley Matthews (Achilles tendon) and Chandler Parsons (knee) still are rehabbing from offseason surgery, and center Samuel Dalembert has been hobbled this week by a swollen knee. Nowitzki apparently was pretty candid, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, when he spoke of the effect such injury absences have on October enthusiasm:

The plethora of injuries, combined with the light workload for Nowitzki early in camp, has made getting a handle on these Mavericks impossible. They have been beaten soundly in two exhibition games, but with four of their projected starters yet to play, that’s understandable.

“It’s disappointing,” Nowitzki said. “Honestly, you’d wish more guys would be doing more, at least more contact or run more. But that’s not the case. Some of these guys have had major, major surgeries. And whatever the doc tells them, you got to take it slow.

“Obviously, Parsons and Wes are both guys that want to be here for a lot of years. It would be wrong to push it too much in October and not have them later in the season. You want to take it slow and progress week to week, and whenever they’re ready, they’re ready.”

Carlisle, by the way, said Parsons and Matthews are on similar timetables. Neither is close to playing in the preseason, and both players have said their only goal is to be ready by opening night Oct. 28 in Phoenix. Playing exhibitions is not a prerequisite for being ready when the games count, although it wouldn’t hurt.

At the least, it would help foster some chemistry with so many new players in the rotation.

“It’s not optimal, especially when you have a new point guard [Williams] trying to learn the system,” Nowitzki said. “You can run all the five-on-oh you want, but until you practice and play with each other, it’s not going to help much. But we’re doing all we can to get everybody used to the plays and the calls.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: When The Logo speaks, real NBA fans should want to listen. Here’s an ESPN.com Q&A with Hall of Famer and current Golden State advisor Jerry West. … LaMarcus Aldridge‘s adjustment to his new job in San Antonio is proceeding as methodically as his selection of the Spurs as his free-agent destination, per our man Scott Howard-Cooper. … Our own Steve Aschburner talks with Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker about his rehab methods and his coping techniques in coming back from ACL knee surgery. … Dallas owner Mark Cuban, never shy about speaking out, obviously has at least one qualification for the job. But Speaker of the House in Congress? Really? … Members of the Warriors staff would love to seek out coach Steve Kerr for input on various preseason issues, but they’re consciously avoiding that so Kerr’s aching back can recover (second item). … ICYMI, as folks say on social media: Bill Bridges, a 13-year NBA player and three-time All Star who died in late September at age 76, was a pro’s pro and formidable rebounder.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 9

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 8


Butler squashes talk of rift with Rose | Kobe ignores his ESPN.com ranking | Parker wants to play 20 yearsAnderson expecting big things from Pelicans

No. 1: Butler sounds off about rumored discord with Rose — The Chicago Bulls have one of the best backcourts in the NBA with All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose leading the way there. But since last season’s East semifinals ouster at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, there has been lingering chatter that Rose and Butler do not get along. According to sources in a story appearing in Wednesday’s Chicago Sun-Times, Butler is supposedly not a fan of Rose’s work ethic. Well, things came to a head last night and Butler stood up for himself and his relationship with his teammate after a preseason loss to the Denver Nuggets. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more:

“I don’t understand why everybody wants to find a problem with me and Derrick,” Butler said. “Let us be the fierce (expletive) competitors that we are (and) just let us play together. There’s nothing going on.”

Ever since the funky ending to last season’s playoffs, in which a passive Rose took four second-half shots in the final game against the Cavaliers, the storyline has lingered. Butler has spoken about it several times, including during a lengthy sit-down in August at the USA Basketball minicamp.

He did so again Thursday in perhaps his strongest fashion, the words coming in a torrent.

“I’ll try to keep my cuss words to a minimum, but it’s making me mad,” Butler said. “I love having Derrick as a teammate. I think we can be one of the best — if not the best — backcourts in the NBA.”

“Derrick and I are two great players who play well together,” Butler said. “We do have to adjust a bit to each other’s game because we haven’t played a lot together. But we will continue to get better as we play more games and get the feel for this new offense.”

Butler also has emphatically expressed his intention to become a more vocal leader, even mentioning a shortage in that department despite the presence of Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

“I’m not taking a shot at anybody,” Butler said. “If you ask Jo, he will tell you, ‘Jimmy needs to lead more.’ If you ask Pau, he’d say, ‘Jimmy needs to lead more.’ It’s not just me saying it; it’s everybody on this roster, (including) the coaches. I have to man up because I’ve been here longer than a lot of guys now. There have to be some leader aspects coming out of that sooner or later.

“Everybody wants to talk about how this is my team, (but) that’s not the case. I’ve said it multiple times: I don’t care whose team it is. My job is just to help (us) win — when we win, everybody looks great. Everybody gets a ring.”

VIDEO: Jimmy Butler comes up with a steal and jam vs. the Nuggets