Morning Shootaround — March 24


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Woodson takes blame, Knicks postseason hopes on the brink | Bryant confident as ever Lakers will get back to the top | Heat defensive focus lags, struggles continue | Thunder will contend as long as Westbrook’s knee holds up

No. 1: Woodson shoulders blame as Knicks fall to Cavs, postseason hopes hang in the balance — Done in by Jarrett Jack. Is that the epitaph that will be written on this season for the New York Knicks? After Cleveland’s veteran point guard, filling in for All-Star Kyrie Irving, shredded them late to snap their eight-game win streak, it’s a legitimate question. Knicks coach Mike Woodson took the blame, a noble endeavor considering he was going to get his fair share anyway. But the Knicks’ postseason hopes hang in the balance every night and losses to the likes of the Cavaliers destroy the cause, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com points out::

Atlanta lost on Sunday afternoon, so the Knicks knew exactly what was at stake when they took the court on Sunday evening. That made the loss to the Cavs all the more catastrophic.

“We didn’t handle our business,” Woodson said, “and I’ve got to take full responsibility for that.”

“It’s tough,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We should’ve won this game. We gave it away. They earned it. They beat us.”

The Knicks were up 15 at the half but allowed Cleveland to score nine straight to start the third quarter.

“I thought we came out a little flat,” Anthony said.

Anthony led the Knicks with 32 points but went cold late, missing 11 of his last 13 shots and all five in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks as a whole went 5-for-18 in the fourth and missed 11-of-15 3-pointers in the second half.

“They were just scrapping more, I think,” J.R. Smith said. “They were more hungry than us in the second half. … It’s a huge opportunity lost, one we can’t afford. But we can’t get it back. Just got to go out there on the road and win some games. Hopefully, [the Hawks] keep losing.”

That’s what the Knicks have been left with in this roller-coaster season: hoping the eighth-place Hawks can continue to give away their lead.

For what feels like the 30th time this season, the Knicks failed to do that. And it leaves Woodson and his team in a difficult spot. According to Elias Sports Bureau, just one team in the past 30 years has overcome a deficit of more than four games with 14 games or fewer to play in the regular season to make the playoffs.


VIDEO: Sunday’s top 10 plays

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No. 2: Kobe in touch with Jim Buss, confident Lakers will get back to winning ways — Whatever he lacks in good health Kobe Bryant more than makes up for in unabashed confidence in himself and the Los Angeles Lakers resilience. This despicable season will be forgotten, as soon as he can get back to health and as soon as Jim Buss and the rest of the Lakers’ front office brass finish their franchise makeover. These tough times, Bryant insisted during an interview with ESPN’s sports business ace Darren Rovell, will not last. He did, however, acknowledge that things are going to be different without Dr. Jerry Buss around to fix the Lakers’ issues:

Bryant, who signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension with the team in November to lock up his 19th and 20th seasons in L.A., reiterated his message of urgency to Buss to return to the top as soon as possible.

“This organization is just not going to go [down],” Bryant said. “It’s not going to take a nose dive. But I think we need to accelerate it a little bit for selfish reasons, because I want to win and I want to win next season. So, it’s kind of getting them going now as opposed to two years from now.”

Despite already airing his concerns about what direction the Lakers might be heading, Bryant said his faith is as strong as ever in the Lakers’ ability to bounce back to contender status.

“Extremely confident,” Bryant said. “That was one of my concerns [when he re-signed] and they assured me, ‘This is fair for you for everything you’ve done for the franchise and will continue to do while being able to construct a team that is going to contend for a championship here over the next couple of years.'”

Bryant also responded to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban‘s assertion that “I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers,” because of the absence of longtime owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who died last year.

“It will be different,” Bryant said. “You can’t lead the way [Dr. Buss] did. Because Jeanie is different. Jimmy, who is running basketball operations, is different.

“So they have to find their rhythm and get in sync with each other and figure out exactly what their leadership style is going to be. It’s nearly impossible to try to separate basketball operations from the business standpoint so you got to kind of get in sync that with that and have one voice that is leading that charge. But once that happens, the idea might take shape. But you can’t look at what Dr. Buss did and say, ‘I’m going to try replicate that,’ and be exactly what he was. That’s just not going to happen.”


VIDEO:
Mavericks guard Monta Ellis was a flash against the Nets Sunday

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No. 3: LeBron and Spoelstra point to lagging Heat defense as their struggles continue Bellyaching about your team’s energy, effort and championship focus in the wake of seven losses in your last 11 games is not a shocker, not even for the Miami Heat. But it’s good to get some specifics. And the Heat, fresh off of yet another head-scratching defeat (Saturday night in New Orleans), provided plenty. And it’s all about their defense, which has been uncharacteristically porous of late. That’s something everyone, from coach Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James and Chris Bosh, in the Heat camp can agree on. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel highlights the particulars:

    “We’re not accustomed to this type of play, these types of standards, particularly on the defensive end,” coach Erik Spoelstra said before giving his team Sunday off in advance of Monday’s visit by the Portland Trail Blazers to AmericanAirlines Arena. “And if we want to change, we have to look inward. Every single one of us, including the staff, including the players, have to make changes.”

Forward LeBron James said the Heat are failing on the defensive end both individually and collectively.

“First of all,” he said, “you have to guard your man, and rely on help second. But when you break down, you’re going to have to rely on the help, and we’re not getting both.

“First of all, guys are not playing their man. And guys get beat, which you will be, which will happen in this league, because there’s great players, the help comes. We’re not doing anything.”

Factor in the Heat’s longstanding rebound issues and the defensive pressure has been unrelenting.

“Sometimes we get stops and we don’t get a rebound. Sometimes we don’t get stops,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “It’s a lot of different things. At this point, we’ve got to put it all together, we’ve got to get stops and rebounds. We can’t get a stop and then give up an offensive rebound and get another 24 [seconds on defense].

“We’ve got to guard the ball, and then when the ball gets in the paint, we’ve got to step up, we’ve got to contest. Shot goes up, we’ve got to box out both bigs and got to get it and go.”

The frustration has shown on the court and in the locker room.

“Defensively, we can’t stop a nosebleed,” center Chris Bosh said. “No good blitz, the pick and roll coverage, one-on-one defense, everything is bad.”


VIDEO: Check out the Kevin Love Show from Sunday, starring … Kevin Love!

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No. 4:Thunder’s title hopes rest on Westbrook’s knee — Miami and Indiana aren’t the only places where championship hopes are in doubt these days. Folks in Oklahoma are also wondering just how fragile their title aspirations are in the wake of yet another knee scare from All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. Even with MVP frontrunner Kevin Durant destroying the competition night after night, the Thunder’s confidence is tied directly to the health of Westbrook and that knee. It’s a dangerous way for an entire state and fan base to live. But it’s the only way they, according to Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman:

Nobody in our state slept well Friday night. Starting with Scotty Brooks, Sam Presti, Westbrook’s clothier, Rumble, that woman who screams “Russellllllllllllllllllllllll” during his foul shots and most everyone with a cable or satellite dish in every hamlet from Tuskahoma to Tonkawa.

For about 20 hours or so over the weekend, we all wondered if Russell Westbrook’s knee was tore up again. Westbrook limped off the court in Toronto on Friday, and the wind was replaced by “aarghs!” and “gulps” sweeping down the plain.

Of course, now word is that Westbrook is OK and might even play either Monday night (Denver in OKC) or Tuesday night (at Dallas). Whew. That was close.

Thunderland knows the feeling of life without Westbrook. Knows it all too well. And it stinks. When Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus in the Houston series last playoffs, the Thunder scraped by the Rockets, then was bullied by the Grizzlies in a five-game series defeat. When Westbrook has sat out periodically this season, the Thunder has mostly struggled, save for a magical 10-game winning streak in January during which OKC was the league’s best team.

Westbrook’s latest scare is reason to ask this question. Is the Thunder better prepared to play without him this season than last season? If Westbrook limps off in some game soon, or in the middle of a playoff series, is the Thunder better-equipped to survive?

Depends on what survival means. Win the NBA championship? No. Not going to happen without Westbrook riding shotgun.

But go deeper in the playoffs? Win a tough West semifinal? At least challenge the Spurs or the Clippers or whoever emerges as the Western Conference elite? Yes.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: This is a different Raptors team than you are used to, one that is rising to the late-season challenge … Andre Miller finally clears the air about what went down in Denver … No one is doing it better these days than the bench mob from Phoenix … Kobe Bryant announces his partnership in a new business … Rockets big man Dwight Howard is practicing but remains “day-to-day” with that tender ankle … The surprising comeback for Steve Nash has already hit yet another injury snag

ICYMI of the Night: Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins wants you to know that this is his world and the rest of the big men in the league are just living in it …


VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins goes hard for his 32 points and 12 rebounds

15 Comments

  1. Go wolves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Bob M says:

    The Lakers “greatest comeback in history” is doubtful. Pau will be gone next year, Kobe has an achilles and knee injury, and Nash is coming back; they have little cap room and a bad system. They are stuck and don’t have talent to work a good trade. Let’s see, but I would place the odds as unlikely at best.

    The Heat have the best player in the world. They have a good scheme. But, LeBron is right by going “all Patriots” on his team, “if you are on the floor, you have to produce, bottom line.” LeBron is taking too much on himself, and that is a big problem. Without D Wade doing his thing, Bosh not stepping up, and the supporting cast not consistently stepping up, the Heat are not playing like the Heat. However, the Heat have a team that has been together for a long time, they know what to do, and have the experience to turn it around.

    As for blaming Spolestra, forget about that excuse. The players play the game. The players have to get the stops, execute the game plan (that had them in 3 Finals), and have the right mental preparation to win. LeBron is carrying them now, like the good old Cavs days. That won’t bring a 3 peat. There are a laundry list of players that aren’t performing up to expectations. If there is one team that can get it straight, it’s the Heat. The players have to step up, Spolestra hasn’t made one basket in all his time there.

  3. jg says:

    cant wait for kobe to come back…
    …he needs to participate in the loosing process rather than watch it happen from the bank, i mean bench.
    he is nothing now than a marketing tool full of excuses.

  4. rabags says:

    Lakers will win the title next season! I’m as confident as Kobe. The “black mamba” will get his 6th ring next season! Go Lakers!

  5. dustydreamnz says:

    Steve Nash injured? Couldn’t be…

  6. Althogh i am an Heat fan,viwew are as follows:
    1.Miami will not get to the finals ( perhaps it will even miss the eastern conference finals)
    2.LB will leave Miami at the end of season.
    3. I hope that Spoelstra be fired when the season ends, as he has clearly demonstrated his lack of vision and competence. He hasn’t been able to make proper use of the Heat’s roster, changig lineups not giving time for the development of a tecnical relationship among the players ; moreover he made so many changes in the startig lineups that I doubt the players understood what was his objective.
    4. Last year I wrote he was a poor coach, and I maintain it!. He didn’t won the championship, the plyers did, DESPITE of the COACH!!!

  7. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    The 2 best NBA scorers on the same team. That sounds like fun to me, maaan. 🙂

    KD and Russell and Carmelo were awesome on the 2012 Olympic team.

    Imagine them joining up with the Thunder after this season in which the Knicks fail to make the playoffs for the first time since … does anyone know the last time the NY Knicks FAILED to make the playoffs? Egad.

    Melo, get out of that downward spiral and join up with 2 former Olympic Gold Medal teammates.

  8. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Phil Jackson doesn’t know how to manage a nonplayoff team like today’s Knicks.

    Carmelo Anthony HAS TO join OKC As Soon As Possible — ASAP. If he’s serious about wanting to win as much as possible, OKC is his best option. NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. Anyone who thinks he may join the Bulls has NO IDEA what they’re talking about. The Bulls are still good, but their future is bleak.

    Melo has to join the young and elite OKC Thunder, a Championship-caliber team for the next 15+ seasons / years.

    Plus, Russell Westbrook will be healthy for a very, very long time.

    • ss says:

      Does OKC even have the cap space to sign melo? wouldnt they have to trade a guy like ibaka? and were would that leave them? with 3 players who likes to take +18 shots a game, wouldnt work. Melo would be a complimentary player with durant on his team, doubt he would like that, and melo playing in a small market team like OKC will never happen.

  9. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Adding Phil Jackson (and probably overpaying him) will ease the pain when Camelo Anthony leaves the Knicks after the Knicks fail to make the playoffs for the first time in probably a long time.

    When was the last time the New York Knicks failed to make the playoffs? Wow. I thought they had a slim chance, but after losing to the Cavs at home, it doesn’t look likely now. They HAD to win almost all the rest of their games just to make this season’s playoffs. It’s over.

    Melo can make the excuse, now, that: “oh, I may be leaving, but (sarcastically) you still have Phil Jackson.”

    In reality, once Carmelo leaves for a contender like OKC, Phil Jackson won’t help at all. He can only win or be part of a winning organization when he has superstars. He has no idea how to rebuild. It’s over for the Knicks for the next few seasons.

    Here’s what’s going to happen also: Phil Jackson will, then, be exposed as incredibly overrated. He came to the Knicks when they’re struggling. Once Melo leaves, the Knicks are doomed. Anyone can win when you have certain superstars on your team. Phil Jackson is overrated. He ruined his reputation by becoming a manager of the Knicks.

  10. TheRealSteveNash says:

    We will win next season,its scripted for the Lakers to do so,I gotta get back to turning,bye 🙂

  11. okc2014 says:

    As an OKC fan, I was really concerned about Russell Westbrook and his knee. I do believe his knee will continue to be troublesome and I strongly believe the Thunder are much better prepared. But the secondary issue has become the injuries to starters Perkins and Sefalosha. Without ALL 3 of these players on the court, OKC will begin to struggle at the 2nd round just like last year. That thought makes me so sad for Kevin Durant. I just know this is supposed to be his year. Go Thunder!

  12. hnic4life says:

    The video editor didn’t check his/her end point/mark, thus creating the extra “black” space/time.

  13. Cameron says:

    The last video with DeMarcus Cousins has a length of 6:50, but cuts out at 1:10.