Morning shootaround — Dec. 30


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Cavs concerned about Blatt | Durant goes through full practice | D-League stint helped Muhammad’s career | Gordon nearing return for Pelicans

No. 1: Report: Blatt not reaching Cavs — Followers of recent NBA history will note the situation emerging today in Cleveland with LeBron James is, perhaps, somewhat similar to what James went through when he joined the Miami Heat four years ago. According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein, the Cavaliers are concerned that coach David Blatt is not effectively reaching not just LeBron, but the Cavs at large. When James was with the Heat, there were concerns about whether or not Erik Spoelstra was the right man to lead the team’s Big Three — concerns which eventually faded after four straight Finals trips and two championships. Still, the Cavs are concerned about the Blatt-James dynamic, writes Windhorst and Stein:

There is a growing level of worry within the Cleveland Cavaliers organization about first-year coach David Blatt and his ability to reach the team, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that there is rising concern in team circles about the level of response that Blatt is getting on the floor, with Blatt himself acknowledging that the Cavaliers “lost our energy and we lost our competitiveness” in Sunday night’s embarrassing home loss to Detroit.

The Cavs would prefer not to be forced into evaluating their new coach just 30 games into Blatt’s NBA career, cognizant that the job has quickly evolved into a much different one — afterLeBron James stunningly decided in July to return to his home-state team in free agency — than it was when Blatt was hired from Israeli power Maccabi Tel Aviv in June with no NBA experience.

But the Cavs’ effort level, especially defensively, is eroding noticeably, raising the volume of questions about just how much the locker room is listening to the 55-year-old Boston native, who has enjoyed tremendous international success but began this season as a relative unknown to NBA players.

Blatt denied Monday that he didn’t have the team’s attention.

“Absolutely I do,” Blatt said. “We just didn’t play well (Sunday). I don’t think it was an issue outside of that. A couple games ago we were (17-10). I know some other pretty good teams in the NBA that didn’t have that record.

“We have not played perfectly this year, I don’t claim that. On the other hand, we’re doing pretty good. We lost a couple games, we’re down a few of our main players and last night did not look good and we did not respond well to it during the game. I recognize that. And certainly when that happens I’m every bit as much a part of that as everybody else, but it has nothing to do with questions along the lines of what I’ve heard. I just don’t think that’s right or fair. I really don’t.”

When asked Monday whether Blatt was the right coach for the Cavaliers, James wasted no time in saying that he’s content with Blatt and that everybody is still in the process of getting to know one another.

“I think my relationship with the coach continues to get better and better every day,” James said. “This is two months of us being together. I don’t know him fully. He doesn’t know me fully. He doesn’t know any of the guys fully and that’s to be expected. It’s our first year together. But he has our attention.”

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has proved in the past that he’s unafraid to make coaching changes, dismissing Mike Brown this past May with three fully guaranteed years left on Brown’s contract in his second stint as Gilbert’s coach. Yet it should be noted that Blatt was hired in the summer largely at Gilbert’s behest after Cleveland made unsuccessful runs at a number of high-profile college coaches, including Kentucky’s John Calipari, Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie, Kansas’ Bill Self and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg.‎

Blatt was indeed asked Sunday at his postgame news conference whether he is worried that he might be losing control of the team. He responded: “I’m not concerned about that at all. I’m more concerned with how we’re playing.”

Whispers about the lack of attention that various Cavs players are paying to Blatt during some timeout huddles, as well as their apparent preference to communicate with Cavs assistant and former NBA player Tyronn Lue, have been in circulation for weeks.


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses the LeBron James-David Blatt dynamic

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No. 2: Durant goes through full practice — The sting the Oklahoma City Thunder are still feeling after their 112-107 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday got lessened a bit Monday. Reigning MVP and franchise superstar Kevin Durant went through a full practice with the team and, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman, may suit up Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns:

Following a disappointing loss in Dallas, the Thunder went through an intense workout on Monday afternoon – rare for this time of the season.

“Today was a work day,” Kendrick Perkins said. “It felt like a training camp practice. One of them days where we came in, punched in the clock and got after it.”

Part of that energy was due to the frustration still brewing from the night before. But another factor was the presence of Kevin Durant. For the first time since spraining his ankle on Dec. 18, Durant returned to a full practice on Monday. And apparently he looked good.

“He was very lively and active on both ends of the floor,” Scott Brooks said. “He’s progressing well. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and go from there.”

Brooks wouldn’t commit to Durant returning from a six-game absence on Wednesday against the Suns. But signs seem to indicate that will likely be the case.

“Yeah, on the White team he scored 13 of the 17 points in about five minutes of the scrimmage,” Perkins said of KD. “So, yeah, he looked real good.”

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No. 3: Time in NBA D-League revived Muhammad’s career — Two years or so ago, Shabazz Muhammad was a top-flight prospect starring at UCLA and considered to be a can’t-miss future NBA star. Then came his rookie season and a dose of reality. Muhammad appeared in just 37 games last season, averaging 3.9 ppg and spent the majority of the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ NBA D-League affiliate, the Iowa Energy. That stint there helped wake him up about his game and place in the NBA and has paid off with a turnaround sophomore season, writes Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk.com:

By the time Minnesota assigned him to the Iowa Energy last January, he’d played just 42 minutes 33 games into the season. The early prognosis on him was bust. At times, even he questioned how he’d fit in the NBA.

But in the D-League, Muhammad saw how hungry the low-paid players were, how they ate McDonald’s because that’s what they could afford, how they dealt with long layovers that are foreign to NBA teams with private flights.

“I think that D-League stint was just really important for me, because it was really humbling,” Muhammad said. “That was something I really needed.”

Muhammad dominated the lower competition, and he performed a little better when called back up. But he still didn’t play much for the Timberwolves. He ranked 40th among rookies in playing time last season.

By the time this season began, he’d mostly fallen from the spotlight.

“That’s a great thing,” Muhammad said. “That’s definitely what I needed.”

Now, Muhammad is trying to become what the Timberwolves need.

When Minnesota traded Corey Brewer to the Rockets, Timberwolves president/coach Flip Saunders said the move was made in part to develop Muhammad, who began starting after the deal. Muhammad is averaging 13.3 points on 49.5 percent shooting and 3.9 rebounds per game this season. The advanced stats that skewered him now show a player finding his way. His PER of 20.2 ranks 38th in the league, better than everyone else drafted in the 2013 lottery.

Only No. 27 pick Rudy Gobert (21.0) and No. 44 pick Mike Muscala (23.2), the latter of whom barely plays, have higher PERs among the entire draft class.

Muhammad is averaging only one assist per game, and passing was one of his major deficiencies at UCLA.

But he’s working on it, and the results are showing. His assist rate is up to 8.3 from from 3.4 last year.

Really, Muhammad is working on changing everything about the perception people had of him entering the draft. He admits the criticism bothered him, though he leaves it up to the outside world to determine whether it was fair. But of all the flaws placed on him, one bothered him more than the rest – that he’s not a hard-worker. He just doesn’t see that as at all accurate.

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No. 4: Gordon nearing return for Pelicans — The New Orleans Pelicans are the No. 9 seed in the West this morning and trail the Phoenix Suns by two games for the No. 8 spot. If the team plans to make a pre-All-Star break push for the postseason, having some added scoring would help — and they may get that soon. According to Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune, shooting guard Eric Gordon is closing in on a return to the lineup after missing five weeks with a torn labrum in his left shoulder:

Monday brought about a day of more on the court drills, including shooting and passing sessions with assistant coach Bryan Gates after the Pelicans wrapped up team drills at their Metairie training facility.

During one portion of Monday’s session, the right-handed Gordon smoothly put up dozens of 3-pointers and took pull-up, mid-range jumpers with great success. At one point, he made seven of 10 3-pointers from the right corner, while showing no signs of a shoulder injury.

Although the Pelicans’ brass hasn’t publicly stated a desired return for Gordon, it appears that day is drawing near.

“How close? We are not sure,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said of Gordon’s return. “We are just going to – as we say – ramp him up to see where his conditioning is and to see how his shoulder responds to (doing) more and more each day.

“How far? We are not sure. We have an idea of when we feel like he can get back on the floor, but we are still not sure that his body will respond.”

Gordon wasn’t available for comment on Monday but when he spoke to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on Dec. 9, he put his return to the court at “about three-to-four week range.”

While there are no guarantees that Gordon will be able to return or that surgery won’t eventually be required, Williams said it is encouraging to see Gordon work towards a comeback.

His rehab has included stretching to increase range of motion in his shoulder, weight lifting, conditioning drills and shooting. The next step likely would be to participate in contact drills.

“Like I told you guys from the start, Eric has done everything possible to avoid surgery. That’s a great sign. Most guys in that situation, they have the option to have the surgery right away, (but) he has chosen to rehab and strengthen it. He has worked really hard to get where he is.”

Gordon was injured on Nov. 22 when he collided with Utah guard Alec Burks while trying to defend on the perimeter.

 

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kobe Bryant‘s dad, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, has been named coach of Fukuoka Rizing in Japan … Brookyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins had a message of sorts for Brook Lopez and Deron Williams last night: get used to coming off the bench … Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh is trying to break old habits and play more in the post … Boston Celtics veteran power forward Brandon Bass tried to clear up some of his cryptic comments from the other day … Charlotte Hornets forward Lance Stephenson should be OK to play Wednesday nightTony Parker and Kawhi Leonard will both miss tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies … The Washington Wizards had a pretty solid gameplan last night to slow down James HardenTurnovers continue to be a problem for the Sacramento KingsJ.J. Redick isn’t sweating the L.A. Clippers’ lack of “clicking”

ICYMI(s) OF THE NIGHT: If you thought Blake Griffin doesn’t attack the rim like he used to, he’s got a news flash for you …  


VIDEO: Blake Griffin soars past the Jazz defense for a power slam

… and the Rockets’ backcourt of Corey Brewer and Patrick Beverley is going to be a nightmare come playoff time … 


VIDEO: Corey Brewer’s defensive hustle leads to a layup for Patrick Beverley

14 Comments

  1. Joshua Stone says:

    The first indication that something is wrong with the Cavs, at least in my opinion, is when LeBron said “chill mode was deactivated,” after getting into a little argument vs Orlando. There should be no chill mode at this point in the season, in such a close game. I don’t think Blatt is the right coach for this team in particular, and there are a few immature players on the team – remember what Luol Deng said about that group of punks. They need a good coach who demands respect and will hold players accountable. Blatt hasn’t earned that respect… Go, Bulls!!!!

  2. harriethehawk says:

    Who cares about the non-drama in Cleveland. All attention should be focused on Kevin Durant, who isn’t wishy washy or trips on egos. He’s our reigning MVP! Can’t wait for his return, he’s awesome!

  3. Paul says:

    LeBron’s had problems with not only Blatt and Spoelstra, but with Mike Brown too. I wouldn’t say LeBron is fastidious or anything like that though…its kind of like a wine connoisseur tasting anything less than the best wine, he knows it’s not good (while a wino will glug anything down). LeBron is elite, if not one of the best (I’m only in doubt now because of his natural and inevitable decline due to his aging) he’s one of the best now and one of the best of all time. So if he’s not matched up with a great coach, he won’t, his team won’t win the games they’re supposed to win. Yeah Spoelstra got four finals trips and two rings during his short tenure, but that was because of LeBron. Do you disagree? Just look at them now, they went from the championship to below .500 right after and because LeBron left. Mike Brown won the coach of the year award while coaching the Cavs when it was LeBron who was making them successful. No? Well then why did they literally go from first to worst right after LeBron left? Now Cleveland isn’t getting wins, but if they were people would be praising Blatt. LeBron is just past his prime, but Love and Kyrie aren’t. Besides, a LeBron just past his prime is still better than most everybody else in the league. Yeah, they need time to gel. But I always had my doubts about Blatt, even before he coached one game in the NBA. I thought, like LeBrons other coaches, he’d get undue praise if LeBron & co got the team wins. But it isn’t working out and I think it’s partly Blatt. Not that it’s his fault really, I just don’t think he’s ready for the level he’s at.

  4. 4pt Range says:

    Leave Blatt alone you jerks/writers.

  5. beachesq says:

    I’ll say it here for no one else who writes sports has the nerve to write it. Sure, there is lack of interest by the Cavs’ players to Glatt. The reason is simple- he is a Jew. Black players dont warm to jews in case people dont know that. This is not an anti semetic statement or outcry. It s just a fact.
    First, most experienced black players dont warm easily to a white ocach. When you throw in that he is a jew you add another element that becomes a problem leading to friction.

  6. CJ says:

    looking forward to Durant’s return and i’m not even an OKC fan. i think the injury struggles this year will propel the team to a new level

  7. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Indiana’s own Eric Gordon get it together, North Central alum baby Go Panthers……..

  8. dustydreamnz says:

    Muhammad is an underrated player.
    Eric Gordon is overrated, he’s often injured and when he’s on the court is a shadow of the player he was(probably injury related). I’d be trading him if there were are any takers.
    The Suns need more power up front, they should be trading too I think.

  9. Ralph Ramos says:

    The effort with the Cavs is just isn’t there. Especially with LeBron. It seems like he has been putting his play on cruise control and not giving it his all. If he wants to be the MVP and be considered the best player in the league, the effort with him has to be 110%. If LeBron takes it all the way his teammates will follow his lead, and thats the way it should be. Coming from a concerned LeBron James fan, PLEASE STEP IT UP LEBRON!

  10. Skrutz says:

    Wow, way to go. Wasn’t it yesterday that there was the article with James saying Blatt is no issue, and this is the media creating it? Well you went ahead with that article anyways, despite the irony. Now you come out with the exact thing he was talking about?

  11. freeze3000 says:

    Blatt isn’t much fun it seems – he lost attention day one. He could take a lesson from SVGundy, Steve Kerr and even Pop (who for all his straight faced incommunicative front facing façade, has a strong sense of humour and camaraderie). Blatt runs the team like a stock portfolio, not like an entity with all the chaos human egos provide and the needs they draw.

  12. B Radd says:

    It’s time for teams to quit testing young coaches at this poin Labron simply needs a hardnosed coach and who else fits the criteria than non other than coach Karl. It he can tame a Rainman and a trashtalkin Glove.. He can tame a King.

  13. ohz grayt says:

    Cavs will right the ship…

    • Dan says:

      Problem is with LBJ. His mood, play changes a lot. He is dynamic one minute and hopeless in another minute. No one can predict his productivity. Dan Gilbert and all his former coaches know about it, but …