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: Although the matchup of All-Star point guards failed to live up to our hopes, the Spurs-Cavs game was a thriller down the stretch. Tony Parker did his part, going for 24 points and seven dimes, but Kyrie Irving had one of his toughest nights of the season, shooting 2-for-15 for six points to go along with seven assists himself. Rookie Dion Waiters showed some clutch skills with a step-back jumper to give Cleveland a two-point lead with 9.5 seconds left. But Parker — who won his lone Finals MVP by dicing up the Cavs in 2007 — went to work, operating out of the pick and roll to find a wide open Kawhi Leonard on the baseline for the game-winning 3-pointer.
News of the morning
Ex-Lakers coach sees bright future for L.A. — Depending on your point of view, it may not seem that long ago that the Lakers fired coach Mike Brown after going 1-4 to open the season. Since then, there’s been plenty more drama in Lakerland, USA, and we haven’t heard much from the man who had the first crack at making the Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash “superteam” work this season. Brown stopped by Colin Cowherd‘s ESPN Radio program yesterday, though, to say he sees some signs that the Lakers are heading in the direction he couldn’t get them to go when he had the gig:
Former Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown has had three months to ruminate on his former team and its struggles amid the additions of coach Mike D’Antoni, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, and the departure of Andrew Bynum.
Brown says despite a slow first half, he sees a Lakers team that can, with some work, turn its season around.
“I think it can be done,” Brown said Wednesday in a telephone interview with “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio. “Mike has a different philosophy, and it’s worked for him the many years he’s been coaching in the NBA. And I’m sure he’ll figure it out, which he’s been doing.
“He’s been making some adjustments as time’s gone on. So I think it’s a matter of time before they get it going.”
Brown noted he was skeptical when D’Antoni, upon his hiring, said the Lakers would implement a run-and-gun style offense and score in the 110-115-point range — “be the old ‘Showtime.’”
“I did not feel that was a running team,” said Brown, who was fired in November after a 1-4 start to the season. “Kobe [Bryant] is a guy who can run, but if you look back at the history of his career, he really hasn”t been on a running team, in his 15, 16, 20 years — whatever he’s been in the league.“Then you talk about having two bigs,” Brown said of Howard and Pau Gasol. “And both of those bigs are agile and capable runners, but they’re not the type of runners that you need to have to play in a system that’s going to score those types of points.”
Brown related his experience as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, when they had both Tim Duncan and David Robinson, saying an efficient scoring tandem is indeed possible between players with the skill sets of Howard and Gasol.
Regarding his firing, Brown said he was “shocked” to learn of the Lakers’ decision.
“But I always look at it this way,” Brown said. “It’s their team. They have every right to do what they want to do with it. You know, I appreciate the opportunity that they gave me, and it was a decision that the Busses and Mitch Kupchak came to. They felt they would be better going in another direction. So from that standpoint I respect it, I appreciate the opportunity, but it was a little surprising.”
KG bidding adieu to All-Star Game? — All-Star starter Kevin Garnett is making his 14th appearance in the league’s midseason showcase, but I guess we should all take time to soak in his play there. According to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy, Garnett says this will be his final All-Star Game. That would seem to imply that KG is pondering retirement after this season, but the Celtics’ standout said his reasons for not wanting to be in the game in the future have more to do with fatigue than the end of the road in the NBA:
Kevin Garnett said last night that his 14th All-Star Game appearance on Sunday in Houston will also be his last, though the Celtics forward stopped short of saying he was retiring at the end of the season.
Garnett, realizing he had just set off an alarm, then turned cryptic. He has two years remaining on his contract.
“This is definitely my last All-Star Game,” he said. “Ya’ll don’t know what I know. I’m more than grateful, and I’m not going to act like I have more All-Star Games in me. I’ll enjoy this one with friends and family. That’s what I meant.”
Garnett added he simply plans to enjoy himself this weekend.
“I’ll have no feelings whatsoever,” he said when asked about Sunday. “I always enjoyed each All-Star Game. I’m not a guy who is going to show too much emotion at that time. The All-Star Game for me is more for friends and family. You always have that wild-assed uncle who shows his ass, you always have that friend you always have to pull to the side and have that little conversation (with). It’s a fun time.”
Garnett admitted to feeling the wear and tear on the inside this season.
“The last four or five days have been exhausting,” he said. “Mentally more than physical. The three overtimes against Denver was emotionally draining, the travel, having to come in here and prepare after losing to Charlotte, so yeah, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”
Jennings refutes talk of frustration — Bucks fourth-year guard Brandon Jennings is having one of his better all-around seasons, averaging 18.5 ppg, 6.1 apg, 1.9 spg and shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range. Jennings, a restricted free-agent this summer, had a chance to sign a four-year, $40 million extension with Milwaukee but passed on it and will test the free-agent waters this summer. An analysis story on ESPN.com said that Jennings has “irreconcilable differences” with the Bucks’ front office and is demanding a trade by the Feb. 21 deadline. But Jennings later came back and spoke with ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard — who did not write the first Jennings story — to clear up his side on things:
ESPN.com, in an analysis story on 10 NBA players who could be traded, cited sources as saying Jennings is frustrated. One source called it “irreconcilable differences” and said Jennings wants to be moved before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
“That is not true,” Jennings said in a text message when asked if his relationship with the Bucks is beyond repair. “Just because I got a new agent doesn’t mean anything. That stuff never came out of my mouth. They’re just reaching for a story since I changed my agent [to Jeff Schwartz].”
ESPN.com said it stands by its reporting.
A year ago, Jennings told ESPN.com that he was “doing [his] homework on big-market teams.” Since then, Jennings’ long-term status in Milwaukee has been the subject of speculation among league insiders, and when Jennings left agent Bill Duffy, the rumors swirled again about whether the guard is unhappy with the Bucks. The Bucks offered Jennings a four-year, $40 million extension, according to sources, but he turned it down. He will become a restricted free agent this summer.
One other theory being floated: Jennings is upset because he didn’t make the Eastern Conference All-Star team, despite leading the Bucks into playoff position by averaging team-highs of 18.5 points and 6.1 assists, or that he wants more exposure than small-market Milwaukee can offer.
Jennings denied that.
“Being in Milwaukee wasn’t the reason I didn’t make the All-Star Game,” Jennings said. “Guys just had better numbers than me.”
When asked about his future on Wednesday, Jennings said he’s only focused on the present.
“That’s something me and Jeff will discuss in the offseason,” he said. “The Milwaukee Bucks are in 8th place in the East, and I’m looking forward to helping them get to the playoffs in the second half of the season.”
Jazz’s lingering question: What to do with Big Al? — Utah has one representative — Jeremy Evans in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday — heading to Houston this weekend, which might be a good thing for the front office. Leading scorer Al Jefferson has been thrown about in trade rumors, but nothing of serious merit has floated out there. Jefferson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, has said in the past the Jazz will have the right of first refusal for him. The emergence of second-year center Enes Kanter as well as Utah’s desire to eventually free up minutes for third-year big Derrick Favors puts it in a situation where some decisions have to be made, writes Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune:
The Jazz’s biggest issue, as they head into the All-Star break after Wednesday’s game at Minnesota and anticipate the NBA’s Feb. 21 trade deadline, is what to do with Jefferson. His expiring contract will make him a free agent in July, creating options for the team. How the Jazz’s management addresses the Jeffersonian Dilemma is central to the franchise’s immediate and long-term future.It’s complicated, that’s for sure. The answer is not as simple as saying the Jazz should trade him just to get something in return before he walks away. Any deal they make next week must genuinely advance their rebuilding process, not merely bring them some temporary assets that the other party wants to unload.
The Jazz keep showing enough flashes of potential, such as Tuesday’s convincing win over Oklahoma City, to make this season’s goals worth pursuing, as opposed to starting over with two months remaining. When the injured Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward return, the Jazz should be able to solidify a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and I’ll always endorse postseason play as meaningful.
The tricky part of this discussion is that the Jazz have become so dependent on Jefferson that he’s both the solution and the problem with their offense.
Averaging 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds, Jefferson has done more than anyone could have expected of him in his third season with the Jazz. He’s the team’s closest thing to an All-Star and he cares about winning, by all accounts.
It’s just while I’ve come to appreciate his game more and more, I still say his style — backing in, holding the ball, faking and working for a shot — just doesn’t fit the Jazz’s traditional offensive approach that calls for the players and the ball to keep moving. To his credit, he’s become much more willing to pass in the last month, resulting in the team’s field-goal percentage finally climbing above .450, ranking in the top half of the league.
The summary is that even though I don’t see him as a long-term fixture here, trading him is not necessarily the right call.
The Jazz should move Jefferson only if they can net a return that’s a reasonable percentage of the package they received from New Jersey/Brooklyn for Deron Williams two years ago. They got Derrick Favors, Devin Harris (later traded for Marvin Williams), a first-round draft choice in 2011 (Enes Kanter) and a future first-round pick, which will be conveyed via Golden State this year.
In any case, the D-Will deal should be somewhat of a model for any trade of Jefferson. It actually would make more sense for the Jazz to trade Paul Millsap, as popular as he is, because Favors is better prepared than Kanter to assume a bigger role right now.
For the sake of their future, the Jazz have to commit themselves to Kanter, at some point. I’m just not sure that time is next week.
Why Smoove to the Spurs doesn’t make sense — Few players have had their name bandied about in trade rumors more the past few weeks than Hawks forward Josh Smith. From New Jersey to to San Antonio (and points inbetween and beyond), there’s been talk of the multi-talented forward having his skills shipped to any number of contenders around the league. The Spurs would seem to be a Finals shoo-in should they pick up Smith, but we’ve got a dose of reality courtesy of the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff McDonald on why a Spurs trade for Smith is nonsense:
And so we come to the “rumor” that the Spurs are looking to trade for Atlanta forward Josh Smith. In a power-rankings column yesterday, the great Marc Spears at Yahoo! Sports mentioned the Spurs as one of many teams expressing interest in Smith.
This morning, the folks at ProBasketballTalk took Spears’ mention a step further, hopping on the trade machine to put together a hypothetical deal between the Spurs and Hawks. To PBT’s credit, the site made imminently clear the “hypothetical” part.
The deal they made up: Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson’s expiring contract, a pick (perhaps?), a young point guard (perhaps?).
Again, nobody is reporting that the Spurs and Hawks have discussed any sort of deal at all. It’s all hypothetical.
If I may, here are three reasons why the Josh Smith-to-Spurs thing will not happen.1) The Hawks are primarily interested in acquiring picks. Lottery picks. The Spurs, as you may have read, are 41-12. They’re going to have to do a championship job of tanking after the All-Star break to wind up in the draft lottery. As it stands now, they’re going to have the No. 30 pick overall. Not an enticing trade chip for a team like Atlanta.
2) The Spurs have little to no interest in adding big payroll after this season. Smith is going to want a maximum contract when his deal is up. It’s the reason the Hawks are shopping him. I have no doubt some team out there will give Smith the payday he desires. I guarantee you it’s not going to be the Spurs. You really think the Spurs would be interested in giving up Kawhi Leonard — a guy Gregg Popovich envisions as the future face of the franchise – for a half-season rental? Because I don’t.
3) Leonard is borderline untouchable at this point. Look, you never say never about trading anybody (except maybe Tim Duncan). But thanks to the rookie scale contract system, the Spurs have Leonard — aka “Bruce Bowen with skills” — for two more seasons at a total of $3.1 million. That’s chump change, and quite a value for a player who is becoming increasingly important to what the Spurs do at both ends of the floor. For the budget-conscious Spurs, a player so vastly over-performing his contract is worth holding onto for dear life.
ICYMI of the night: JaVale McGee gets a lot of heat on Shaqtin’ A Fool when he does something wrong, and most of the time the criticism is deserved. But when he does something right — like this dunk last night over Gerald Wallace – well, we’ve got to give him props …: