Morning Shootaround — Feb. 1

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Because there were only two games on the schedule — and one of ‘em was an absolute blowout — we gotta go with Mavericks-Warriors today. Andrew Bogut made his presence felt with a game-saving block on Brandan Wright, Harrison Barnes was swooping and scoring, Klay Thompson was draining shots and … it was the Warriors being the Warriors and doing all of this while star guard Steph Curry (ankle) sat out for a second straight game.

.

News of the morning

Westbrook’s latest bout of ‘nothing’ | Report: Suns want Hawks’ SmithAinge ‘open’ to deals | Pistons like Calderon already | Nash still strugging in L.A. | Bynum gets a tune-up | Changes just starting in Toronto

Much ado about ‘nothing’ in OKCWith 8 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter, OKC’s rout of Memphis was definitely on. The Thunder had a 25-point lead — 65-40 — and Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook went to work on the left block. He was called for a 5-second violation and, as the ball was changing hands to the Grizz, Westbrook engaged in an argument with guard Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha’s man had come to double team Westbrook, leaving Sefolosha open at the 3-point line. But Westbrook continued backing down his man despite the defense.

Westbrook and Sefolosha argued, then Westbrook punched the ball to the court, catching it with both hands before handing it to the official. Westbrook played roughly another minute before being pulled for Reggie Jackson. Westbrook then sat on the bench and had an animated discussion with assistant coach Maurice Cheeks before leaving the court in a huff and heading to the OKC locker room. He returned to the bench and played a bit more in the fourth quarter.

After the game, both coach Scott Brooks and Westbrook addressed the outburst, with Westbrook talking to TNT’s Craig Sager. Both men blew off the incident as ‘nothing’, as USA Today’s Adi Joseph and The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel report:

From Joseph:

Russell Westbrook sometimes loses his temper.

Russell Westbrook never explains why he lost his temper.

The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard went off without any good explanation during Thursday’s 106-89 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. He had been called for a five-second violation while posting up Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless, and apparently he pinned the violation on teammate Thabo Sefolosha.

Now Sefolosha’s cut to the basket was ill-timed, but Westbrook got steaming mad in the moment. Coach Scott Brooks pulled him from the game, leaving him to stew even more.

“I decided to take Russell out because we needed to calm down,” Brooks said. “Russell went in the back. It was nothing. He just had to regroup. … It was nothing that has not happened before — not just with him, with all of our guys.”

Did we mention this happened while the Thunder had an 18-point lead?

Westbrook sat down next to assistant coach Maurice Cheeks and then left the floor entirely, heading to the locker room with a towel on his head.

After the game, Westbrook blew it off.

“Nothing, just a little miscommunication,” he said, via Daily Thunder’s Royce Young.

Little-known fact: Miscommunication is not a word, according to most dictionaries. Also, it’s not a valid excuse for that kind of tantrum.

But Westbrook takes a lot of heat for his play, as many critics think he shoots too often even as he has emerged as one of the best players in the NBA. He’s got a lot of steam to blow off, so sometimes it flies in undeserving directions.

“I’ll control it like a man,” Westbrook said. “Like I did.”

From Tramel:

Peter Pan was back in business Thursday night. You know. Russell Westbrook. The mischievous boy who can fly and who never grows up.

Westbrook barked at the genteel Thabo Sefolosha, took a shot so wild Scotty Brooks was forced to substitute, blew his stack while being counseled by Mo Cheeks, knocked over a chair and stormed off the court to the comfort of a Chesapeake Arena tunnel.

At the time, Westbrook was playing an excellent game and the Thunder led Memphis by 20 points.

The Thunder produced a 106-89 rout of the Grizzlies that was overshadowed by Peter Pan.

And maybe the basketball world will be better off if we accept what Westbrook is. Part hot hand, part hothead. Uncorrallable, not just by NBA opponents, but by Thunder brass.

“There’s no question he was frustrated with himself,” Brooks said. “Russell’s an emotional guy … not trying to downplay that. He has to be able to control his frustration. But that’s part of it.”

Kevin Durant defended Westbrook but also said the squad “talked it out” in the locker room and didn’t let it fester. That’s good.

“Russell is such an emotional player,” Durant said. “I knew he’d be back. That’s how he is. We want everybody to be themselves.”

That’s good. I like that. That’s the best advice the Thunder can receive.

Quit trying to change Russell Westbrook. Don’t even defend him. Just accept him for who he is. The boy who can fly and never grows up.

Report: Suns pursuing Hawks’ SmithAlex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com reports that several teams are interested in trading for Hawks forward Josh Smith before the Feb. 21 deadline, with the Suns trying to work their way to the front of the list. After parting with Steve Nash over the summer in a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers, the Suns have tried to rebuild themselves around Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Michael Beasley and others, but are the second-worst team in the Western Conference at 16-30 and are looking to make a move to set up their future:

The Suns are pursuing Josh Smith, according to multiple league sources. Phoenix will try to acquire Smith before the deadline or, if that fails, through a sign-and-trade deal next offseason.

The Suns are very interested in Smith and have had exploratory talks with the Atlanta Hawks about the 27-year-old forward. Phoenix views Smith as a franchise player who can be one of the cornerstones of the team for years to come. The Suns have been searching for a face of the franchise since Steve Nash’s departure last summer, and Smith could be exactly that. If the Hawks decide it’s time to part ways with Smith, the Suns will be one of the teams on the phone.

Phoenix has attractive assets, particularly Marcin Gortat, who could play alongside Al Horford and give the Hawks one of the best frontcourts in the Eastern Conference. They also have Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley as well as the expiring contracts of Wes Johnson, Shannon Brown (whose 2013-14 salary is non-guaranteed), Sebastian Telfair and Jermaine O’Neal. Phoenix also has several first-round picks – their own pick and two additional first-round picks that they acquired in the Nash trade with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Johnson trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Luis Scola could also be involved in the trade, but only if the deal is a sign-and-trade since he can’t be traded until July 1 due to the fact that he was signed by the Suns after being amnestied by the Houston Rockets.

Smith and his agent, Wallace Prather, are expected to meet with the Hawks at some point this week to discuss the forward’s future in Atlanta. The two sides met after Smith’s one-game suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but Smith’s camp didn’t demand a trade. It’s unclear if Smith and Prather will ask for a trade during this next meeting, although many people in NBA circles believe that Smith’s days in Atlanta could be numbered. In recent weeks, more teams have been calling the Hawks and inquiring about Smith, especially since his public comments about being “a max contract player.”

While the Suns will express interest in Smith, they aren’t the only team that will make a run at the star forward. The Houston Rockets, Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Smith.

A few hours after Kennedy posted his story, John Gambadoro, sports talk host for 620 KTAR in Phoenix, tweeted that the report was bogus:

You just have to love trade rumor season …

Ainge, Celts ‘open’ to offersCeltics basketball boss Danny Ainge isn’t putting specific names out, but did tell WEEI’s Big Show on Thursday afternoon that he is willing to consider trades to improve Boston. The name that’s being bandied about as a possible piece that could net the kind of assets Boston wants is Paul Pierce, but Ainge sounded at best lukewarm on trading the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. Ainge isn’t looking for a point guard to replace the injured Rajon Rondo. Gary Dzen of Boston.com has more:

“We are open and listening, but we don’t feel pressure to do anything,” said Ainge. “Whether we win every game or whether we struggle, I think it all depends on what opportunities are presented. We want to make some change to help improve our team.”

The player who would seem to have the most value on the open market is Paul Pierce. He’s a veteran who can help a contending team win now, and only $4 million of his $15.3 million contract for next season is guaranteed. Ainge said he has not received any offers for Pierce, but he said that he would inform his veteran forward of any potential trade discussions.

“Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” said Ainge. “Nothing is close to being done. I too would like to see Paul retire as a Celtic.That would be great. We’re all attached to Paul. He’s been great for the city, the franchise, and he’s been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up I would talk to Paul. My job is to do what’s in the best interest of our team, regardless of my personal ties or my personal feelings with the players.”

Ainge was also adamant that he was not currently in the market to pick up another point guard to replace Rajon Rondo.

“Not right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons why we’re not just jumping out and doing something.There really is nobody that you can find to replace Rondo, either through a trade or free agent acquisition, at this time of year. We like the guys — Barbosa’s been dying for a chance to play, and Jason Terry, and Avery Bradley at the point. I think all those guys are looking for an opportunity.”

The Celtics have won their last two games with Rondo, and talk radio was filled Thursday with fans calling in suggesting that the team might be better without its All-Star point guard. Ainge quickly shot down notion.

“He single-handedly carries us every night, and I don’t know how people don’t see that,” said Ainge. “It’s silly. He’s a great, great player, and he’s proven that time and time again. The guy’s been MVP of probably four or five series over the last five years. He’s been the best player in a series against LeBron James. He’s been the best player in a series against Derrick Rose. He’s been the best player in three games in a Finals series. The guy has done too many good things. The question is, ‘Are the pieces right around him?'”

Ainge sounded relatively happy with his current team. He did not sound like a GM looking to make drastic changes for this season.

“I think I’ve been pretty consistent on this team the last couple of years,”he said. “I said I like the individuals. Obviously I don’t like 20-23, which we were when Rondo got hurt. I didn’t like any part of that.

“But what I particularly said is I like what these guys are made of, especially our core guys. When it comes down to playoff basketball, I know what they’re made of, and I know that they have the gear to take it to another level.”

Pistons thinking of keeping Calderon?Don’t think of Jose Calderon landing in Detroit as a rental situation for the Pistons. Our man Vince Ellis at the Detroit Free Press reports that the Pistons have always liked Calderon’s game and see him as a long-term helper in their rebuilding efforts, particularly in developing the skills of rookie big man Andre Drummond and second-year point guard Brandon Knight. Here’s more on why Calderon intrigues Detroit:

Calderon traveled to Detroit on Thursday and likely will take his physical this morning. It’s not clear when he will suit up for the Pistons — the process can be tricky since he is a Spaniard now playing in the U.S. instead of in Canada. He will talk to the media today after a team shoot-around.

“We’ve always had a high value on Jose,” coach Lawrence Frank said after the Pistons’ loss at Indy on Wednesday. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s a guy who has been top five in the league in assists for the past four or five years. It gives us flexibility moving forward.”

The financial ramifications of the deal for the Pistons are obvious — Calderon’s $10.5 million comes off the books after this season.

If they do nothing else through the Feb. 21 deadline, Charlie Villanueva picks up his $8.5-million option for next season, and they decide to keep Rodney Stuckey for the full $8.5 million for next season, the Pistons will be roughly $20 million-$23 million under the cap. If they decide to invoke the amnesty clause on Villanueva during a weeklong window in July and cut Stuckey (they would owe him $4 million) before the June 30 deadline, the total could move to roughly $30 million-$35 million.

But don’t discount the Pistons trying to keep Calderon — at a reasonable price.

A Pistons source said the team is open to trying to re-sign Calderon over the summer, adding that the team thinks his playmaking skill would be a major boon to rookie center Andre Drummond.

Calderon was very good at setting up Toronto big men, playing a major role in helping former Piston Amir Johnson and young big Ed Davis, who was sent to the Grizzlies in the trade.

Nash losing a step in L.A.?The Lakers did well with Kobe Bryant serving as the primary playmaker/assist man in L.A.’s offense for three games. That’s all well and good, but what about that future Hall of Fame point guard the Lakers signed in the offseason? Steve Nash has hardly had the ball at all, a change for someone used to directing an offense — particularly coach Mike D’Antoni‘s — for the entire game. The always-solid Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register delves deeper into why L.A. might be turning away from Nash (and toward Kobe) as the season wears on:

Bryant has more assists than any of the other four players left above him on the all-time scoring chart. He has been passing a lot more than you’ve noticed over the years.

So it’s not exactly brand-new, though he is now concentrating more on passing, for sure. It is increasing team energy while draining less of Bryant’s energy, it should be noted — but the Lakers’ loss in Phoenix on Wednesday night showed that trying to balance this approach with his natural inclination of shoot down the stretch is his newest toughest challenge.

Meanwhile, Steve Nash has some stuff to figure out, too.

As in, what has happened to him?

There is one viable excuse. Nash’s way is to take a break from basketball in the offseason. It’s why he was able to say on the first day of training camp: “I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.” But the tradeoff for that freshness is basketball rust, which has been exacerbated by Nash’s leg injury taking him off the court for 21/2 more months.

And with teammates unfamiliar with how, when and where to set picks for him to go where he wants, Nash has looked nothing like the old master and commander of the pick and roll.

In both the opening night loss to Dallas (seven points, four assists) under Mike Brown and the most recent loss to Phoenix (11 points, two assists) under Mike D’Antoni, Nash was basically Derek Fisher out there.

Nash was slow, trying to keep up on defense and generally not doing that much.

Nash has gone from D’Antoni’s oft-declared unequivocal savior while mending the leg fracture — “Steve’ll fix that” … “Steve’ll get that to happen” … “Steve’ll make me look like an offensive genius again” (well, maybe just paraphrasing on the last one) — to the guy D’Antoni in recent days consistently references as “39 years old.”

That’s D’Antoni’s capsule explanation — even though Nash doesn’t turn 39 for another week — for why Bryant is running the offense now, not Nash. D’Antoni says Nash will still carry the load at times, but Bryant can help him this way, and blah-blah-blah.

C’mon. If Nash was still Nash, D’Antoni of all people would never take the keys away and hand them to Bryant.

Nash has no distinct role and doesn’t have the sort of personality to demand one.

In the fourth quarter in Phoenix on his homecoming night, Nash had one assist (hardly a classic one considering it came on a Bryant 22-footer). He took one shot, a missed 21-footer with 5:21 to play. He was such a nonfactor that he didn’t even have any turnovers as the Lakers blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead.

“I think I can help,” Nash said afterward. “I definitely think that I can score and set up my teammates and especially in the fourth quarter take some pressure off Kobe. Those are things we’ve still go to work out and find that balance.”

Nash’s idea of saving his legs for the fourth to carve up a defense unaccustomed to defending him is a great one … except it’s pretty much impossible to envision Bryant standing off to the side at crunch time. That’s the time Bryant wants the ball more, not less.

So Nash’s search will go on. He has the sweetest attitude of anyone, but Nash must find something for himself. Whether it’s making five 3-pointers every night or seizing a pick-and-roll time with Gasol early each game to play his old way, the guy who has made so many role players look so good in his career needs to find a role of his own.

Bynum has a tune-up of sortsAndrew Bynum went to New York to get Synvisc shots from his physician, Dr. David Altchek. Synvisc, a joint lubricant that can provide up to six months of knee pain relief per injection, is expected to help Bynum continue on his road to finally getting on the court for the Sixers this season. As he’s said all along, Bynum hopes to play before the All-Star break, but the Sixers are (of course) taking a cautious approach with him. PhillyBurbs.com’s Tom Moore provides details:

This is the third consecutive season in which Bynum has had two sets of Synvisc injections, with the second typically coming right before the all-star break. He got the first ones this season in late September.

A 76ers spokesman said Bynum, who is recovering from bone bruises in both knees, is expected to return to rehab and working out as soon as Sunday. Bynum has said he hopes to make his Sixers debut soon after the Feb. 14-19 all-star break, but there is still no official timetable.

The 7-foot, 300-pound Bynum has been running on the anti-gravity treadmill, as well as doing basketball shooting, low-post and agility drills for the past 10 days.

GM Tony DiLeo said earlier this week that Bynum could practice with the team as early as the first week of February, which begins Monday. It’s unclear if he’ll still be able to practice next week.

Coach Doug Collins cautioned against expecting too much too fast from Bynum, noting he hasn’t appeared in an NBA game in more than eight months.

“The one thing we have to understand is, he’s not all of a sudden just going to jump into a 5-on-5 scrimmage,” Collins said after Thursday’s team practice. “He’s done nothing laterally or impact-wise. For us to run him out there and he’s going to play 37 minutes would not be feasible because he would have a setback with that.

“Hopefully, he’ll be able to start playing a little 1-on-1 in the post and then build up with that.”

Collins also said the Sixers don’t plan to change their offense “if and when” Bynum can play.

Changes just beginning in TorontoGiven the comments of Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo to our NBA TV crew on Wednesday night (see the interview here) and what he’s telling the media in Raptor-ville, there might be more moves on the horizon north of the border. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star opines that, given Toronto’s current roster makeup, there has to be more coming down the pike:

Then again, let’s all list together the great trades made by Colangelo as GM of the Raps.

You go first.

Maybe Colangelo took the broad hint delivered by the Bell/Rogers unholy ownership alliance and figured the walls were closing in on him if he didn’t make something happen soon.

But really, he knew that at the beginning of the season, no? And he did try to land Steve Nash last summer, going so far as to work the Landry Fields signing to make the entire process come together.

So getting Gay wasn’t a winter impulse. Colangelo’s been working on winning now for a while. It’s just that getting Gay cost a lot, more than just money. There are those who believe Ed Davis will prove to be the best player in this deal, and we’ll see about that. Trading a youngster just as he’s hitting his stride has been, of course, a Leaf trademark for decades.

But if Colangelo is right and Gay blossoms in Toronto, part of the reasoning will have been that for the Raps, getting this kind of player is only possible through trade. Free agents, notable ones, just aren’t going to sign in the Great White North, at least not with an also-ran.

Gay may become the front-court scoring threat who combines with DeMar DeRozan for a true one-two punch. But how does that fit around the youngster, Jonas Valanciunas, who’s a bit of a project still? Meanwhile, Colangelo seems committed to dealing Andrea Bargnani, and now it doesn’t make sense to do that for futures, does it?

Feels like there’s another shoe to drop here.

Clearly, the Raps now want to win, just as the Jays now want to win, as the Argos felt they had to try to win. The sensible path for the Leafs is to show some patience, but there’s been no indication from MLSE ownership that Nonis has permission to do it nice and slow.


A town that had Mats Sundin, Chris Bosh and Roy Halladay, then watched them all leave town, is getting some names back.

Just (trying) to win, baby.

ICYMI of the night: There are veteran tricks, and then there is what Vince Carter pulled on the unsuspecting Warriors last night …:

5 Comments

  1. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Russell Westbrook was probably so mad cause this lame 5-second (they should rename it 6-second violation) is so rarely called in the first place. Plus, the refs blew that particular call. Plus, how come Kobe Bryant never gets called for this 5-second violation? Bryant ball-hugs it constantly when posting up a defender from the 3-point line all the way to the painted area. GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Interesting. Bryant. How much you paying the refs? Make those calls?

  2. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Wow, I just looked up the rules. It states a violation is called if you hold the ball for MORE THAN 5 seconds when backing down or “posting up” a defender when past the free-throw line.

    WOW!! Westbrook may have done that for 5 seconds, at the most. Not a good call by the refs. Oh well.

    If you think about it, they may as well call Kobe Bryant for a 5-second violation every time he backs down his defender from the “wing” area all the way toward the painted area.

    Call it the same both ways.

    If you’re going to call it on Westbrook, I’m going to expect refs to watch how often Kobe Bryant breaks the 5-second rule on many LA Laker possessions. Bryant should be called for this lame 5-second-back-to-the-basket violation AT LEAST three times a game. In a recent game with Lakers against the mighty elite OKC Thunder, Bryant repeatedly broke this rule clearly. The refs never once called Bryant for this 5-second-back-to-the-basket violation. NOT ONCE!! But he broke the rule constantly!!! MORE CHEATING BY THE LA LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    What is a 5-second violation? Cause Westbrook didn’t keep possession of the ball for that long. That was a quick 5-second call. Very fast 5 seconds.

    Kind of like that very-fast 3-second violation called on Kevin Garnett in a previous playoff series against the Lakers.

  4. cp10 says:

    Vinsanity

  5. Billy says:

    Sekou, how do you forget John Havlicek?