Morning Shootaround — March 1


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 28

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron’s mask dilemma | Knicks eyeing Jackson as Woodson’s replacement? | OKC and Butler a perfect fit | Bulls confidence soaring during current run | Colangelo: “I tried to tank”

No. 1: LeBron’s black mask days appear to be over after just one game – Well, it was fun while it lasted, LeBron James in that black mask to protect his broken nose. Our Bleacher Report brother Ethan Skolnick broke the news that the NBA prefers LeBron wear the clear mask and no the black carbon-fiber shield he wore during Thursday night’s win over the Knicks. And according to Skolnick, this isn’t just the league being heavy handed. It’s more about them sticking to the precedent that’s already been established in regards to goggles and facial ware being clear so there is no advantage for the player who is forced to play with goggles or a mask (go figure):

In an email, Skolnick explained why the league prefers a clear mask as opposed to a black one: “The reason the league prefers the ‘clear’ is so that opponents can see a player’s eyes. They have set rules about goggles, which came into play with (Dwyane) Wade in New York in 2011.”

Defenders already have enough trouble stopping James. If they’re unable to read his eyes as a means of guessing where he plans to attack, guarding him would become even more impossible.

Still, this change will be a bummer for the Internet world. Twitter exploded with various comparisons, GIFs and Photoshop creations as King James donned the Zorro-esque mask in a 108-82 win against the New York Knicks Thursday night.

LeBron isn’t going to let the black mask go away without a bit of a fight. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that an appeal has been filed and that LeBron, while prepared to comply with the league’s request, would like to continue wearing the black mask. It’s complicated, of course, as is anything this seemingly trivial:

“It is our understanding LeBron used the black mask because a clear one he was comfortable with wasn’t ready,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.

James appealed the decision and is still trying to get clearance to wear the black mask because he likes the lightness and fit of it, a source said. He also said he liked the style and how it matched the Heat’s black throwback uniforms. It gave him no issues when he put up 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting in the Heat’s 108-82 win against the Knicks.

But James is preparing to use a clear mask Saturday, though he still may find a way to personalize it.

The black mask was a huge hit among fans, and James and several teammates posted pictures with it on social media. On Friday, the Heat started selling T-shirts with a masked James on them.

“Only LeBron can make breaking your nose look cool,” Heat forward Shane Battier said.

***

No. 2: Knicks eyeing Mark Jackson as Mike Woodson’s eventual replacement? – The Knicks are in the midst of an absolutely dreadful stretch right now, one that has brought into question the futures of almost all involved but especially coach Mike Woodson and resident superstar Carmelo Anthony. Anthony will make his own decisions about his future, this summer in free agency. Woodson, however, will see his fate decided by the Knicks’ big bosses. And if the fans get their wish, a familiar face would be the choice to replace Woodson. New York native and former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson, who happens to have a job coaching the Golden State Warriors right now, is the dream pick, according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

The big meeting took place right out on the Garden floor, for all to see.

Knicks president and GM Steve Mills and his top lieutenant, Allan Houston, were double-teaming Mark Jackson a little more than an hour before the Knicks pulled a no-show and were routed by Jackson’s Warriors, 126-103, on Friday night.

Go ahead Knicks fans, dream a little.

We can tell you on good authority, no job offer was made. We know this because it was just small talk, chit-chat among old friends.

But it was fairly obvious to everyone in the place that the Knicks have a crush on their old playmaker.

Early in the game, they paid tribute to Jackson on the big scoreboard with a nice video of his career, showing some of his highlights during his two-part career in New York.

Then came the ultimate tribute, at the end of the video, when the PA announcer introduced Jackson, saying, “Once a Knick, always a Knick.”

When they say that about you at the Garden, you know you’re family.

Even MSG Network seemed to be doing its best to give Jackson an inordinate amount of air time in its postgame coverage.

It sure does seem as if the Knicks have their eyes on Mark Jackson, out of Bishop Loughlin and St. John’s.

It’s not as if Jackson hadn’t been back at the Garden before this night. So their show of affection seemed a tad excessive.

But maybe the Garden was just sending signals about who it wants to coach down the line. Jackson got his win, which wasn’t very hard to do. His meal ticket, Stephen Curry, notched his triple-double and there were still two minutes left in the third quarter. His team rebounded nicely off a 20-point loss two nights earlier in Chicago.

Mike Woodson is walking around with a look on his face as if he knows the end is near. Well, after these final 23 games.

“I’m not aware of it, I’m coaching my basketball team, so I haven’t kept up,” Jackson said beforehand about his old team.

Of course he was playing dumb.

He called the Knicks “a dangerous team.”


VIDEO: Masked LeBron was great against the Knicks but will he make another appearance in black?

***

No. 3: Butler a good fit for Thunder on and off the court – The Thunder ended that skid with Russell Westbrook back in the lineup, courtesy of Kevin Durant‘s 30-point second half in a win over Memphis Friday night. But they’re focused on regaining their winning ways and more right now. Caron Butler is set to join the Thunder’s title quest now that his buyout in Milwaukee is complete and once he’s cleared waivers. As Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman makes clear, Butler is an excellent fit for the Thunder’s culture, on and off the court, and should be play an integral role in whatever they do going forward this season:

You’ve probably read or heard about all that he brings: toughness and experience, professionalism and character, defense and 3-point shooting.

But what few among us know is why Butler, free to sign with any team after being bought out by Milwaukee on Thursday, chose to come to Oklahoma City.

For now, all we can do is assume it’s because the Thunder gives him a chance to win his second championship. But there’s got to be something more.

That alone is something other franchises, like Miami, Indiana, San Antonio, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers, also could offer. And the Thunder, for myriad reasons, couldn’t offer the most money or the most minutes or the biggest and best metropolis.

So what’s bringing Butler to OKC?

One reason could be the Thunder’s culture closely matches Butler’s mentality.

Butler would become only the second player the Thunder has signed after another team agreed to a buyout. Derek Fisher in the 2011-12 season became the first.

Both carried with them well-established reputations for being upstanding citizens, community-minded individuals and championship-driven players. Their attraction to Oklahoma City could say as much about the Thunder as it does about them.

It could say the Thunder is now a prime destination for players who want to win.

***

No. 4: Bulls confidence soaring after latest show of toughness – The Chicago Bulls take pride in their toughness. Coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled that in them from the start. And with leaders like Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich around to spread the message, it’s no wonder the Bulls are thriving during what would be tumultuous times anywhere else. They know that no matter the circumstance, no matter who is or is not in uniform, they will compete to the very end. They showed off that intestinal fortitude in an eye-opening comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas Friday night. It was the Bulls’ eighth win in 10 tries. They are cut from a completely different cloth than any other team in the league in that regard, notes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com:

The difference between the Bulls and many other teams in the league is that they rarely lose focus on what they are trying to accomplish. They believe in themselves and they believe in coach Tom Thibodeau’s system. They believe, no matter how good their opponent might be, that they can win each night. That’s why, when they got into a 16-point hole in Friday’s first half and had to knock down shots late in the game, their demeanor never changed. They never stopped believing that tough defense and big shots would be the elixir against a Mavericks team playing some of its best basketball of the season.

“I just think we didn’t panic,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said, “I think guys understood what we have to do. … We’re just focused right now. Our defense is really clicking. Our offense is really clicking. Guys are really taking big-time shots, we’re never panicking late, we’ve been in this situation. Our poise is just through the roof right now and we’re really in a rhythm.”

That’s the key for Thibodeau’s team as it streaks into March. The rhythm Gibson talked about was missing before the turn of the new year. The same Mavericks team came into the United Center in late December and beat the Bulls by 22 points. Gibson and his teammates are finding ways to adjust on the fly, something that was apparent in the defining fourth quarter, when the Bulls tightened up their defense and held the Mavericks to only six makes from the field in 25 attempts.

“We’re tough whenever we’re playing defense,” Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said. “Rotating, getting into the ball. I think that’s where the basketball starts for us. We let our defense dictate our offense.”

The Bulls are only going to go as far as their defense takes them this season. That’s why Friday’s comeback win meant a little more to them. They realized yet again that they have the ability to shut down good teams on the road — a trait that will serve them well in the playoffs. They realized that they could overcome their surroundings, as Mavericks owner Mark Cuban barked at officials under the basket and Dallas assistant coaches Mike Shedd and Mike Weinar screamed out most of the Bulls’ sets whenever Thibodeau made a call. It’s games like this, victories like this, that remind the Bulls just how important the little things are to winning.

“I feel like when people call you resilient that’s a compliment,” Noah said. “But we just got to stay hungry, stay hungry, keep this mindset, we got punched in the face early in the game, we stuck with it and we kept fighting. I think that’s what this team represents. We got one of our best wins of the year today.”

***

No. 5: Ex-Raptors boss Colangelo: “I tried to tank” – The Colangelos, the first family of basketball to many, has upheld the NBA shield for decades. But Bryan Colangelo, the former boss of both of the Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors, admitted committing the cardinal sin for a franchise when admitted to trying to tank with the Raptors a couple of years ago. Colangelo came clean on a panel discussion at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Colangelo said he did so during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, a move he said was a basic necessity for the Raptors, given their predicament at that time. USA Today Sports’ Sam Amick delivers the details:

As part of a Basketball Analytics panel in which a current proposal was discussed in which the league’s draft lottery system would be replaced by a structure in which the incentive for losing would be eliminated, Colangelo shared the sort of story that the NBA community is well aware is somewhat commonplace but that executives typically keep to themselves.

“I like (the proposal) because there’s no assurances (of getting a good pick) when you do tank,” Colangelo said. “Admittedly, I will say, I tried to tank a couple years ago.

“And I didn’t ‘come out and say, ‘Coach (Dwane Casey), you’ve got to lose games.’ I never said that. I wanted to have him establish a winning tradition and a culture and all of that, but I wanted to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players, and with that comes losing. There’s just no way to avoid that, but I never once said, ‘You’ve got to lose this game.’ “

Colangelo reflected on the ripple effect of that season, as the Raptors finished 23-43 and ultimately drafted Terrence Ross out of the University of Washington with the eighth pick. Because Toronto had finished with the same record as the Golden State Warriors, they had a coin flip to determine which team picked first.

Less than a year later, Colangelo was, in essence, replaced by former Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri. Colangelo stepped down as team president three months later.

“Just one less loss (that season) would have put us in a coin toss for (the Portland Trail Blazers’) Damian Lillard potentially (he was taken sixth), and that was a need that we had on our team that year, a point guard need,” Colangelo said. “So it would have kind of taken us on a whole different route in this rebuilding process, and of course if we had lost a lot more games we would have had better odds to get (the New Orleans Pelicans’) Anthony Davis, the big prize that year. We’re looking at it, and it didn’t work out.

“There’s no assurances (in the lottery). I do like the certainty of the (proposed) process. I think there are some merits to obviously take it to the next extent, except I wish we could start it sooner because there really is some ugly basketball being played.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Friday night was a bonanza for mercurial performances around the league. Not only did Kyrie Irving go off for his first triple double … but Goran Dragic scored a career-high 40 points in the Suns’ win over the Pelicans … and Jordan Farmar made Los Angeles Lakers fans forget their woes, at least for a moment, with a career-high 30 points of his own in a win over the Sacramento Kings … Rachel Nichols sat down with Nets center Jason Collins for an in-depth interview about the veteran big man’s journey back to the NBA … and finally, the “Fire Woodson” chants and boos are getting louder and louder at the Garden

ICYMI of The Night: Steph Curry, needed just three quarters to record a triple double and help the Warriors dump the Knicks at Madison Square Garden 


VIDEO: Steph Curry loves working at Madison Square Garden

33 Comments

  1. kobeballhog says:

    does the black mask cover even the eyes? lmao nba making excuses

  2. okc2014 says:

    The boos and f”ire Woodson” chants in the Madison Square Garden get louder and louder? LOL…..

  3. Unkle Daddy says:

    I really would love to see the Suns get a good draft pick or make a good trade this off season they should not mess with there two point guard system though, when they both are healthy they work really well together. They should try and get Barnes from Golden State.

  4. lol says:

    THE BLACK MASK GIVES SUPERNATURAL POWERS!! LEbron with Black mask = Superhero James. When u see him walking down the court with the black mask u know hes gunna rip appart the enemy team. PWNAGE LEBRON JAMES!!

  5. Kareem says:

    The nba is so full of it.. nothing was said to Kobe or kyrie even though they wore black masks multiple times. Kinda senseless

  6. NBAIQ says:

    Ok why change the Mask. Carbon fiber is a lot stronger and lighter than plastic. LeBron should be able to have the best protection for his face as possible while he heals. Come on NBA nothing wrong with the black mask in fact is a better option than the clear ones.

  7. Kal says:

    needless to say, the mask was super cool.

  8. Chanta says:

    Nothing was wrong with the black mask, NBA has issues and needs to “STOP LIKING MAN” and it doesn’t matter what coach they give to NeW York they need to change the players and bring Carmelo better helpers BOTTOM LINE!

  9. Leo says:

    Jesus Christ!!! Ban the mask?!?!?!? Seriously??? The NBA has truly reached a new level of stupid. The seeing the eyes thing is absolute bs. The eyeholes on his mask are HUGE. Why don’t they want him wearing the mask then? Because he looks awesome?!? Makes zero sense, and makes me sick. I guess the idiots in the suits just hate any individuality. Or hate LeBron. Or both? The suits should shut up and let the players play basketball. For the love of God!!!

  10. Russell Eastbrook says:

    Lebron is such a crybaby. The ONLY reason he’d rather have the black mask is because he wants to keep getting called Batman even though the mask looks more like Robin’s or Zorro’s mask. Dude loves the attention and make it all about himself. Dude just loves the attention. Calls himself ‘King James’ and a superhero. AND he’s always referring to himself as ‘an inspiration to the youth’. He obviously is but I don’t hear ANY other person saying that in the history of the world. I got respect for his game, but my god I have never seen someone more narcissistic

    • mee(a)t says:

      -Kyrie wears black mask, league doesn’t care
      -Lebron wears mask, league suddenly cries

      Come on now…

      As for Knicks situation, Leave Mark Jackson alone…go get that guy who was fired from the Grizzlies last year…Lionel Hollins was it? Whatever….go get him so he could teach the Knicks DEFENSE

    • krishawn-MIA says:

      Lmaoooooooooo, lebron has to be one of the most humble persons I’ve ever saw play basketball! Everyone calls him king James, and he never says he is an inspiration, he along with every nba player always say that they wanna be and inspiration

    • timpson says:

      I agree with everything u said he always want to be in spot light he gets on my nerve and yes he is big cry baby.

  11. TY LAW says:

    TyLaw Hightower · Sales at Westgate Resorts
    What does the color of a mask has to do with anything really? King James is gonna do his thing no matter the color! So? It’s his safety and he comfortable with it, it’s his health and well being. NBA is bugging maybe because it’s BLACK? really i don’t know is it a rule against it? Next thing not BRAIDS,DREADS,TATS AND YES MASTER NO MASTER! DID IT HURT ANYBODY ? OFFEND ANYONE or THERE BELIEF’S?

  12. TheAll-Star136 says:

    Why the mask change? It doesn’t matter what color they wear.

    Goran Dragic will be an All-Star next season and beyond. If Phoenix signs another All-Star or two, they could be trouble for the top teams of the West.

  13. allllllan says:

    uhhh.. Kyrie wore a black mask numerous times, and we called him the Dark Knight when he wore it. Lebron should be able to wear the mask, but just know he is a copy cat copy cat

  14. Ryan says:

    And if someone hits the plastic mask how does this protect LeBron’s nose? If anything the Carbon is softer than plastic

  15. Ryan says:

    Really? Does the the NBA not have bigger things to worry about than what colour LeBron’s mask is? If anything the black mask makes more people want to watch NBA games for the whole alter ego like aspect of LeBron

  16. Lakeshow says:

    Wait a minute…he was wearing a mask? I couldn’t even tell

  17. uncredibleBOY says:

    lebron, keep that mask in your bedroom and stop acting like a teenager you are 30.

  18. kenneth says:

    give me a break. nba..

  19. Jason says:

    Players cannot see Lebrons eyes with the black mask? The black mask that has eye holes? With big eyes holes, so Lebron can see in his peripherals? Is Lebron to much for the NBA? Are they scared of his power and fan based? Are they jealous and angry? Will they do anything to tear him down, to see him loose? Is change to much for some people? Do people have control issues? Are they feeling control be loosened from their grips? Wisdom tells me if the mask brings attention to the game, then the NBA should endorse it. Does the mask really block his eyes from being seen? really? Or does the dark black make his white eye balls glow a little more. Let him keep the mask, it gives character to the game.

    • krishawn-MIA says:

      …….Relax- I don’t have a problem with the mask but u really are looking too deeply into the situations it doesn’t have anything to do with the nba being mad at the fan base geeeeez stop and I’m a Lebron fan btw but jus stop plz

  20. Someone who used to be me says:

    The important thing with the mask should be – Does it provide a safety danger to LeBron James himself or any of the other players on the court? If the answer is no to both then there should not be a problem with him using it.

  21. Bird33 says:

    I don’t buy Colangelo’s story – yes, the Raptors were not a good team under his leadership. But was he trying to intentionally tank? hmmmm….I think that is just more of Brian’s BS that he was slinging in Hogtown. I think he was just a bad GM. Just because he’s “Gerry’s kid” doesn’t make him a basketball savant. The Raptors are going in a good direction now that’s he’s gone. I’m fairly certain that they would not be where they are today if Brian was still at the reigns.

    Now – if MLSE would only get new home announcers and ship Devlin and Jack off to do another sport.

    ATTENTION Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment and their Advertisers!!!!
    - you know you have really bad announcers when your TV fans go through the extreme trouble and great expense to “acquire” the ability to watch your games from a US feed (no easy feat here in Canada!) so they can listen to the Away announcers call the game. So much for seeing your commercials and buying your products. This is low hanging fruit – no trades, no salary caps to deal with – they’re announcers! Ship them to TSN and let them call hockey games – they spend half the night talking about hockey or other sports anyway – perhaps they’d enjoy working in those sports more? At least the home fans wouldn’t have to listen to them announce “Airball” when a Raptor misses a shot – seriously….they do! They don’t even know how to be good “homers”!!

    I think they must have pictures of someone in a compromising situation. It’s the only explanation that makes sense lol

  22. Silly league says:

    This is just plain stupid. Why would the league pick the mask that the players wear? The NBA has been talking about LeBron’s mask all the week and now they are warning to ban it? This league is being more and more reasonable day after day.

  23. justsayin says:

    1. Got to go with Bron on this one. The mask doesn’t cover his eyes – so there is no logic to their claim of an advantage. I’d actually been wondering for years when they would bring in colored masks instead of those ugly clear abominations. I’d rather see them be the new fad than using t-shirts to make nba players resemble soccer players. (clearly pandering to international markets)

    • justsayin says:

      5. If they want to remove the lottery adv for losing – really only three options.

      Remove the draft entirely and emancipate our players. (my pref, for freedom’s sake)
      Remove the lottery and simply go by record.
      Completely randomize the draft: equal chances for all to land anywhere. That progam would get serious ratings lol. Every team’s fans would tune in.

  24. nathaniel easton says:

    Goran Dragic alert best point guard in the nba