Morning shootaround — Oct. 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played Oct. 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

OKC trying to figure out its Plan B | Bryant mentoring in a new way | Jackson: Dolan won’t ‘meddle’ in roster moves | Shaw monitoring Lawson’s ankle injury

No. 1: OKC searching for lineup solution in wake of Durant injury — In case you were under a rock yesterday, the Oklahoma City Thunder received some tough news mid-morning that their superstar (and the NBA’s reigning MVP) Kevin Durant will be out 6-8 weeks with a stress-related fracture in his right foot. It’s tough news for that team to swallow, but they must move forward as the start of the season approaches. One of the most well-informed OKC observers, The Oklahoman‘s Darnell Mayberry, offers up this view on what may be next in Thunder-land:

There is no Plan B for losing the NBA’s leading scorer four times over to injury. Still, the Thunder must come up with one.

Quick.

Five preseason games might remain, but Oklahoma City’s season opener arrives two weeks from Wednesday. And the Thunder, remember, hasn’t even determined — or at least hasn’t announced — who’ll be this year’s starting shooting guard and center.

Now tack onto that the chore of figuring out who will be the starting small forward. Figuring out who will replicate Durant’s 32 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Figuring out how to survive 20 games in the ruthless Western Conference.

“Replacing 30 points and high efficiency, that is not going to be easy,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said at a news conference discussing Durant’s injury Sunday. “It will be a collection of things.”

Presti pointed first to defense.

“One of the ways to improve your team and make up for loss offensively is to be play even better defensively and reduce the net rating between the offense and the defense,” Presti said.

Part of the shame in Durant going down will be the delayed unveiling of OKC’s revamped offense, which has looked phenomenal at times through two preseason games thanks to ball movement, spacing, cutting and off-ball action that has been missing for the better part of six seasons.

The challenge for the Thunder, and it will be a real challenge without the world’s best scorer standing on the wing striking nightly fear into defenders, is to maintain that offensive identity and allow it to lead to easier scoring opportunities. No longer can the Thunder rely simply on the two-headed monster of Durant and Russell Westbrook. For too long OKC has gotten by with their supreme talents bailing out the offense. Now, the offense will have to sustain what suddenly has become a far less talented active roster.

The basketball world already is on edge waiting to see what Westbrook will do as a ball-happy, shot-hungry point guard without Durant by his side. But if all goes according to plan, the basketball world will be disappointed. Because unlike the 2013 postseason, when the Thunder’s offense unsuccessfully went from a glorified two-man show with Westbrook healthy to a horrifying one-man show staring Durant after the infamous Patrick Beverley play, Westbrook and his teammates have displayed a commitment to better ball movement, better execution and, thus, better structure.

In time, it could lead to the Thunder becoming a better team.


VIDEO: Thunder GM Sam Presti discusses how OKC will move on after Kevin Durant’s injury

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No. 2: Bryant taking softer approach as a mentor? — Few players in the NBA are as intensely competitive as Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant is in … well … everything. That trait has been a hallmark of Bryant’s Hall of Fame career and often lead to him being hard on younger and/or less skilled teammates through the years. Could that stance be changing, though? As Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes, Bryant is taking a bit of a softer approach to mentoring L.A.’s roster this season:

Bryant said last week that he was taking a more “nurturing” role with this year’s Lakers, who are leaning on far less experienced players than Bryant is used to.

“You had a lot of veteran guys that have been around,” Bryant said, “so, the teaching style is a little different.”

Byron Scott, who was Bryant’s rookie mentor with the Lakers in 1996, said Bryant “has done a heck of a job with taking guys to the side, just teaching them little things about the NBA.”

Scott described Bryant as a mentor and “a little bit of an assistant coach,” shortly before the Lakers played the Golden State Warriors on Sunday at the Citizens Business Bank Arena.

If this gentler, more patient Kobe doesn’t quite align with the image Bryant has carved out over his career, it should be noted that it wasn’t long ago he was much tougher on young players.

“I didn’t even talk to the man,” said Robert Sacre, who was a Lakers rookie in 2012. “I introduced myself to him. I think the first two things I said to him was ‘ball’ and ‘outlet.’”

“He just wants to win,” Sacre said, “and I think he knows what he needs to do to help this team and we know what we need to do to be a be part of his legacy, so we just want to help him out and make it better. And all around we’re a closer team.”

Bryant spent the summer training individually with Wesley Johnson, and also logged sessions with Nick Young, Julius Randle and other Lakers.

But it’s Randle for whom Scott anticipates Bryant’s guidance could be the most helpful.

“He and I had a talk one day with Julius,” Scott said, “and I told him that if he has anywhere near the work ethic as Kobe, he’ll be an All-Star. If you don’t you’ll just be a good basketball player in the NBA one day.”


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks after the Lakers’ preaseason loss Sunday to the Warriors

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No. 3: Jackson says Dolan won’t ‘meddle’ in Knicks’ roster moves — For New York Knicks fans, it has become somewhat en vogue the last few seasons to blame team owner James Dolan for all that ails the team — be it from the roster to the coaching to just about anything. The team’s hiring of Phil Jackson as president last year marked a new era for the Knicks and according to Jackson, it will be an era in which Dolan won’t get in the middle of player movement on the roster. Ian Bagley of ESPNNewYork.com has more from Jackson, who discussed his relationship with Dolan:

Knicks president Phil Jackson believes owner James Dolan has been “forced to meddle” in basketball decisions in the past. But Jackson said he has received assurances from Dolan that it won’t happen again as long as he’s running the team.

Jackson said Sunday that he spoke to Dolan about having full autonomy to make basketball decisions before he accepted the job as Knicks president.

“I was point blank and honest with him and said, ‘If I walk into your office or call you up on the telephone and tell you that I want to trade X player who’s an All-Star or Y player who’s the fans’ favorite, if I think it’s the right move, I want you to feel confident that I can do this, will you give me the liberty to do this?’ And he said yes, and that’s really the key,” Jackson said while speaking at The New Yorker Festival in Manhattan.

Jackson’s authority extended to the team’s decision to re-sign Carmelo Anthony, according to the team president. Dolan told Jackson before he took the job in March that if Jackson didn’t feel signing Anthony was the “right direction to go, then you don’t have to sign him.”

“I had that liberty to make that choice and needed to have that to come and do the job the right way,” said Jackson, who inked a five-year, $60 million deal to run the Knicks.

Jackson ultimately re-signed Anthony to a five-year, $124 million contract.

“He has just touched the surface of his greatness, and I think we have a guy that has a lot more to offer,” Jackson said of the 30-year-old Anthony.

Dolan has a strong relationship with Anthony, and many observers wondered whether he would strong-arm Jackson during negotiations with Anthony over the summer.

Jackson addressed Dolan’s meddling with basketball decisions Sunday.

“He has this tremendous competitive drive and wants to really do well,” Jackson said. “In the process, he’s gotten involved in basketball simply because things have happened in this organization that have irritated him.

“Some of the ways that the teams have been handled, some of the decisions that have been made on players that were brought in and were costly to the organization, hampered and handcuffed them to making changes. So he felt obliged and obligated to get involved in it so he could correct the inadequacies or errant direction in which the organization was going. … So he’s been involved in it on some level, and as a result there are some things that have happened where he’s looked like he’s meddled. And I think he had to meddle at some point. He was almost forced to meddle in some situations. That word meddle might be a little bit harsh to even use.”

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No. 4: Shaw keeping close eye on Lawson’s ankle — Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson is averaging about 21 minutes a game in the preseason as he works his way back from various injuries in 2013-14 that caused him to miss 20 games. One of those injuries was an ankle sprain suffered late in the season that caused him to miss Denver’s final six games. Nuggets coach Brian Shaw says he’ll be closely watching Lawson’s ankle all season and may give him a little more rest, more often. Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post has more:

Lawson’s ankle will be one to watch this season. He sprained it late last season and missed the last six games because of it, and further tests after the season showed more damage than just a simple sprain. The upshot of it all was Lawson could not run until July and was not able to do a full offseason conditioning program in the manner he wanted.

He will wear a small brace on it on-and-off all season long. And in a season with 21 back-to-backs and a good number of four-games-in-five-nights sets, it will be under constant stress. How much Lawson is used, and how Lawson takes care of himself as well, is already on Shaw’s mind.

“There is some concern,” Shaw said. “I haven’t really been killing him in practice or even in games. I’m cognizant of that. But once again, it’s something that he’s going to have to work himself through.”

Asked if he’d rest Lawson in any of the preseason games, Shaw said, “It’s a possibility. It’s that fine line because you want guys to continue to build up their stamina and their conditioning and be sharp. Kenneth (Faried) kind of got his game this last game (at Phoenix). If Ty just really busts out and has a big game and is showing me that ‘Okay, I’m ready’ then maybe I’ll feel better about doing something like that.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Second-year guard Glen Rice Jr. will hold down the starting shooting guard spot for the Washington Wizards while Bradley Beal heals … The New Orleans Pelicans are giving serious thought to starting Tyreke Evans at small forward … Talk between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio about a contract extension are still at a standstill … Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau sounds pretty convinced that Pau Gasol can be a great defender … Free-throw shooting may still be an issue for DeAndre Jordan … Indiana Pacers forward Solomon Hill will likely have a bigger role on the team this season … Let Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive explain what “NBA 3.0” is … The Brooklyn Nets starting lineup is likely to be Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett and … Bojan Bogdanovic

ICYMI OF THE NIGHT: Ronnie Price shows you the creative way to stop a fast break — throw your shoe at the team in transition …


VIDEO: Ronnie Price tries to stop the Warriors’ fast break by throwing his shoe

12 Comments

  1. kobeballhog says:

    Michael jackson is gone dude

  2. Bartholomew says:

    I hope the young Pelicans will make the playoffs this year.

  3. Dax says:

    Phil was not with the Bulls when MJ was drafted but he does know talent and more important he knows how to handle talent.

  4. Knicks says:

    I remember Phil Jackson wanted to draft Michael Jordan late in the first round and everyone told him he was nuts. Phil’s pick turned out to be the best player in nba history and has the best eye when it comes to talent!

  5. harriethehawk says:

    I’m going to defer my comment about OKC for now. Did anyone see how pitiful the Fakers looked last night against the GWS’s? What is Kobe gonna do? He can’t carry that whole team. They stink bad.

  6. Krespino says:

    That’s why the Spurs are winning. Deep roster and not being dependent on one or two players; the bench might even perform better in some games… No superstar but every player on the court can score. Look for teams this year with deep and balanced rosters, maybe the Mavs , Warriors …

    • teg says:

      I don’t really buy Mavs’ bench. Clippers and Warriors look deep and I wouldn’t sleep on the Nuggets that’s if they don’t get heavily injured again.

  7. TTKIN says:

    Why is #3 news? I thought this was discussed last season when Phil was introduced to the media?

  8. mike says:

    What happened to Jackson? What’s his injury report?

    • e.flame says:

      If your talking about reggie jackson of okc. the he hurt his wrist during the game vs the mavs friday night. Going up for a layup then came down hard on his wrist. Nothing to serious Just a sprain maybe a strained tedon sources say. Any questions of comments just reply back.