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: One day after we were treated to a mostly disappointing Pacers-Heat showdown in Miami (the Heat romped in the second half to down Indiana), we had another matchup on paper that looked solid: Thunder vs. Spurs. This one actually lived up to the billing a little bit better than Pacers-Heat did, so it’s our game of the night. Nice early drama in this one as the Thunder took a 32-22 lead after the first quarter, but then things fell apart for OKC in the second quarter and just kept on going south from there. Led by the 3-point shooting of Danny Green and the all-around skills of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs rattled off a 23-4 run in the second quarter to take control of the game. Although OKC made a series of runs each night to keep the game close, San Antonio more than dictated the game with its defense and kept hold of the No. 1 spot out West with the win.
News of the morning
Iggy non-committal on future with Nuggets — In his first season with Denver, Andre Iguodala is the team’s third-leading scorer, ranks second in minutes played, is third in rebounds and leads it in steals. He’s amassed more wins already (43) than he did in any of his eight previous seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and is part of a team that seems primed for a legit playoff run that may carry deep into May or even June. So, re-signing Iguodala — a free agent this summer — seems like a lock, right? Not exactly, writes Paola Boivin for the Denver Post:
With just 17 games remaining in the season, Andre Iguodala is closer to making a decision about his future.
Iguodala’s contract gives him the opportunity to “opt out” and become a free agent after the season.
Although the issue will get his full attention then, he admits he is aware of what is happening around him.
“Obviously, you’re talking to your agent and you’re paying attention to trades, and salary caps that are being opened up through sign and trades and other guys who are in the same position as you,” he said. “It’s in the back of your mind. But as far as making a concrete decision, you really don’t size it up until the season’s over, because we have some opportunities to do some really good things here.”
Van Gundy remembers the good ol’ Orlando days — Stan Van Gundy‘s farewell season and departure as coach of the Magic likely couldn’t have gone worse, with Van Gundy dealing with the almost-daily “Dwightmare” talk surrounding Dwight Howard, his awkward mid-season news conference in which Van Gundy addressed rumors of Howard wanting him fired (and Howard pretending not to know about it) to getting fired shortly after the Magic lost to the Pacers, 4-1, in the first round. Yet for Van Gundy, in an interview with USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt, the memories of playoff runs and building a winner in Orlando outweigh his final season:
Oh for sure, it got squirrely and it all went sideways last season with a compelling mix of humor, stress, bad decisions and communication disorder. It was a general malaise and dysfunction, resulting in Howard’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in August. Howard returns to play in Orlando for the first time Tuesday, and his reception will not be warm and fuzzy.
But before all that, former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said it was, “a lot of fun. We worked hard, and I think guys had a lot of fun and enjoyed the success. It was just a good time here.
“They had been 12 years without winning a playoff series. We were able to go on a little bit of a run, and there was a lot of excitement around our team. Things were really on the upswing.”
“Dwight matured into an outstanding player … the best big man in our league,” Van Gundy said. “(Then-general manager) Otis Smith did a great job of putting the roster together and surrounded him with outstanding players who really fit him very well.”
…Almost always siding with fun, Howard grew up in Orlando, Van Gundy said.
“At first, there were times when he needed to be more serious,” he said. “But as it went on, he understood, for the most part, being serious when we had work to do. There were other times when he could relax and have a good time.
“Even in practice and games, Dwight’s a guy who wants to have a good time and enjoy what he’s doing and have a smile on his face. That’s just the way he is. I don’t think that will ever change.”
Van Gundy said if Orlando decided to retire a number, “it would have to start with Dwight and Shaq (O’Neal). They are, by far, the two best players in the history of the organization. Then, in my mind, you have to start with Dwight. He was here longer and certainly had just as much success.”
Wallace’s future looking stable in New York — The Knicks’ depth has been tested of late with Amar’e Stoudemire out for the rest of the regular season after surgery on his right knee and Rasheed Wallace out after having surgery on his broken left foot. New York recently re-signed veteran Kenyon Martin to a second 10-day contract to provide another big body for the frontline, but depth remains an issue and signing another player isn’t out of the question. Coach Mike Woodson tells Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that any roster move the Knicks make won’t led to ‘Sheed being released:
Mike Woodson hinted that the club could make a roster to move to add another player but in a strange twist the Knicks head coach indicated that releasing injured Rasheed Wallace isn’t under consideration.
The Knicks have 13 available players with Wallace and Amar’e Stoudemire sidelined for the remainder of the regular season. In order to sign a player, the Knicks would have to create a roster spot by cutting a player. Wallace, who had foot surgery last month, is the most logical candidate since it is unlikely he will play again this season. In fact, he may be forced back into retirement.
But when Woodson was asked if he has reconsidering waiving Wallace, a player he convinced to come out of two-year retirement, the head coach said: “I don’t know where that came from. That was you guys (in the media). I never made that statement about waiving Rasheed. Rasheed still has a chance to bounce back as well but again as we go up this road we’ve just got to wait and see.
“Are these guys able to come back for us? I don’t know what the process is in terms of being able to add another roster spot. I haven’t really looked into that.”
Woodson admitted that he is approaching the remainder of the regular season as if he won’t have either Stoudemire or Wallace. He then revealed that he intends to speak with general manager Glen Grunwald next week about adding a player.
“When we come off this trip Glen and I will sit down and start accessing that very closely,” Woodson said. “Because I think we have until the latter part of March to make some decisions.”
Wall on his future, his jump shot and more — As our man David Aldridge pointed out in his must-read Morning Tip yesterday, the Wizards have gone 15-13 after a 4-28 start and have notched wins over the Heat, Thunder, Nuggets and Hawks during that span. The biggest reason for that success has been the return of point guard John Wall, who is improving as a playmaker and shooter for the Wizards while also remaining a solid perimeter defender. Zach Lowe of Grantland.com chatted with the Wizards’ young star about his comeback, his future in D.C. and more in a solid Q&A:
That much is clear from the numbers and your record since you got back. Your jumper will obviously be a key issue going forward. What’s the state of it, mechanically? What do the coaches have you working on, in terms of form?
Nothing much. Just making sure I’m staying on balance, jumping straight up and down. Things like that.
Can you do what they are asking for with consistency? Have they basically remade your jumper since you left college?
No, not really. It’s the same form. It’s just making sure that I don’t hold onto the ball as long as I used to, that I follow through, don’t fade away. Things like that.
Yeah, that Tyreke Evans leg kick, right?
Yeah, something like that. That’s something I used to do a lot, and they don’t want me doing that.
It sounds like you feel a bit better about your shot.
For me, it was just little things, and it’s about confidence. So for me, once I got my confidence, I’m cool. I don’t mind taking them. If I miss a couple, I’m still shooting it, and I’m not scared to take that type of shot in the fourth quarter.
Speaking of those guys: It feels like your name has kind of fallen out of the “elite point guards” conversation a bit, given the time you’ve missed with injuries this season. Do you notice that? Do you care?
Nah, I can’t pay attention to that. I don’t think like that.
Have you started thinking about your contract extension talks yet?
I haven’t started thinking about that.
Really? The deadline isn’t that far away.
That’s true. Look, I’m just enjoying D.C. This hasn’t been going the way we wanted it to, in terms of winning, but I think we are building something here.
Do you feel like you deserve a max contract? That you’re a max guy?
I feel like I am. I do, definitely.
Kanter finding his rhythm in second season — When Utah shockingly decided to trade Deron Williams to the Nets at the trade deadline in 2011, one of the pieces they received back from New Jersey was a first-round pick in the 2011 Draft which eventually became the No. 3 overall selection. With that pick, the Jazz took young-but-raw big man Enes Kanter. The center from Turkey struggled with the NBA game as a rookie and, although he showed some prowess on the offensive glass, looked very much like a work in progress. Since then, Kanter spent the offseason honing his body and is regularly tutored by Utah’s veteran center, Al Jefferson, on the post moves and footwork that are Jefferson’s trademark. Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune details how Kanter has stepped up his game this season thanks to that offseason and in-season work:
Now that the rest of the league has had an opportunity to catch a glimpse, it may finally be time for an honest discussion about Kanter’s potential and future with the Jazz. In the five games since his start against the Bobcats, Kanter is averaging 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, up from season averages of 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds.
“I got experience,” Kanter said. “I just help my teammates however I can. We lost the last couple of games; it was pretty sad.”
While the Charlotte game was the one for which Kanter received the most attention, coach Tyrone Corbin said his subsequent performances in games against Milwaukee and the Cavs may have been more impressive.
From setting hard screens to rolling the right way, Kanter has grown, Corbin says. He was in the game at the end against Milwaukee, and had a chance to win the game after rebounding Gordon Hayward’s blocked layup, but his shot missed at the buzzer.
“He was at the right spot, he caught it and just finished, he didn’t bring it down,” Corbin said. “That kind of thing is invaluable to get guys on the floor to get the experience and grow through it, especially while they’re young.”
Corbin and Jefferson agreed that the key for Kanter in the recent stretch was the confidence that he would play big minutes. That he could be patient, and didn’t have to force anything to try to make an impression.
“I think coming off the bench, sometimes young guys figure if they don’t do things right, they can get snatched out the game,” Jefferson said. “I just think that he knew he wasn’t coming out of the game and he had a swag about himself and it worked out for him.”
Kanter’s role will only increase beyond this year. During Kanter’s struggles earlier this season, it was common to hear chatter that power forward Derrick Favors had developed more rapidly, that he was more ready than Kanter to step into an enhanced role.
All the while, Kanter continued to work. He famously shed 51 pounds in the offseason and arrived at training camp with abdominal muscles that could be played in a zydeco band.
ICYMI(s) of the night: We love “The Manimal” around these parts, so here are a pair of must-see plays from the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried: