Morning shootaround — Jan. 8


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Unique challenge in Oakland | Pistons keep chugging along | Report: Grizz pursuing Deng, Green | Scott: Lakers ‘soft’ in loss to Clips | Cavs chime in on new faces

No. 1: Kerr’s unique challenge in Golden State Klay Thompson scored 40 points last night in the Golden State’s win over the Indiana Pacers, keeping the Warriors two games ahead of the surging Atlanta Hawks for the NBA’s best record. The good news continued for Golden State in that game, too, as injured center Andrew Bogut returned to the lineup after a lengthy absence. So with so many things going right in Oakland, life has to be golden for coach Steve Kerr … doesn’t it? Of course it is, but finding minutes for so many talented and clicking players could be his next hurdle. The Oakland Tribune‘s Carl Steward has more:

Draymond Green said it best: “Coach has some problems now. We don’t.”

Indeed, Steve Kerr has a pleasant problem of trying to find enough time for all the players who are playing well and want time and need time to continue being effective. It’s not going to be easy keeping everybody happy with a roster that got deeper with Andrew Bogut’s Wednesday night return, and one that will be ridiculous once Festus Ezeli returns soon from a sprained ankle.

“We have a lot of guys that can play and a lot of guys that are playing at a high level, but only so many minutes to go around,” Kerr said after the Warriors’ hard-fought win that was closer for a good long while than the final result indicated. “I told our players the sacrifice that they are going to have to make will not be easy. But they have to make it if we are going to be good. From one night to the next, it might be your night and it might not be. They have to accept that.”

Kerr and his assistants arranged their rotations on the fly after it was determined Bogut would in fact play. It resulted in some strange breakdowns. David Lee only played six minutes in the first half — Lee himself said it felt like two — and 11 in the second. Harrison Barnes played 18 first half minutes and only six in the second. Justin Holiday played eight first half minutes and none in the second.

It’s going to be like this for awhile and who knows how it is going to shake out. Kerr noted that he brought Bogut off the bench because Marreese Speights has earned the right to continue starting for now, and after a Speights had a rough start, he finished with 18 points with the strong fourth quarter. It might stay that way for awhile. But at some point, Bogut will be a starter again and then what happens to Mo Buckets, particularly if he’s competing for minutes with Lee? It remains to be seen how Lee handles being a bit player after a decade as a 30-40 minute starter. As he becomes more productive, as he was Wednesday night, will he continue to be happy with 15-18 minutes a game?

The reality is that it’s pointless to make these speculations because as healthy as the Warriors are now, more injuries are bound to occur over the final 49 games that will change everything. Hopefully not any serious ones, but the Warriors are well covered when they do come up. The best-case scenario is that the most indispensable players — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Green and Bogut — won’t be overtaxed in the regular season because of the team’s remarkable depth and they’ll be more than ready for the second season come mid-April.

Our rotations are so deep, it’s going to be a struggle for Coach to figure that out,” Curry said. “We have so many guys who can come in and play and who are hungry to play, too. But we have good character guys in the locker room that hopefully handle it well. Certain nights it might not be a certain individual’s night to go out and impact a game, but everybody needs to stay ready and it’s great problem to have when you can go 11-12 deep and still not miss a beat with how you’re playing.”


VIDEO: Klay Thompson runs wild on Pacers in Golden State’s win

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No. 2: Team-first mentality powering Pistons’ surge — Don’t look know, other teams fighting for No. 8 in the Eastern Conference, but the Detroit Pistons are right on your heels. With a 108-95 win in Dallas last night, the Pistons have seven straight victories and are three games behind the Miami Heat for the last playoff spot in the conference. Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News — who had some great Pistons points on the latest Hang Time Podcast — explains why last night’s win was a typical example of the Pistons of late:

With 4:40 left in Wednesday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy turned to his assistants and asked was it necessary to substitute players.

With the current lineup polishing off a thorough 108-95 thumping, starters Andre Drummond and Brandon Jennings gave Van Gundy a resounding negative and the Pistons – yes, the Pistons who had a 13-game losing streak earlier this season – won their seventh game in a row.

And the heroes of the victory at San Antonio – Drummond and Jennings – didn’t play in the fourth quarter. But they were the main cheerleaders as D.J. Augustin and Greg Monroe carried the Pistons.

“One of the things I really liked tonight is we finished with almost an entirely different group than we finished last night,” Van Gundy said. “At one point I turned to my assistants on the bench and said, ‘Do we want any subs?’ And I had Brandon (Jennings) and Andre (Drummond) standing up going, ‘Hell, no!’ You know this group is rocking.

“So that’s what we’ve got right now attitude-wise, it’s different people every night and nobody seems very concerned about it, they just want to try and win games.”

“On any given night it can be anyone,” Augustin said. “We’re in this together. It doesn’t matter who it is. We just want to win at this point.”

But when the Pistons were leading by five at the half, Jennings sensed an opportunity and urged his teammates at halftime to take the game from one of the Western Conference’s best teams – and rest during Thursday’s off day.

“I said we can rest tomorrow, we got 24 minutes to do something big – not just for us – but for the city,” Jennings. “Let’s go give it all for the last 24 minutes and see what we got.”


VIDEO: Brandon Jennings explains how he’s matured during Detroit’s win streak

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No. 3: Report: Grizzlies looking to land Deng or Green — After a triple-overtime win in San Antonio on Dec. 17, the Memphis Grizzlies were sitting pretty at 21-4. Since then, the team has gone 4-6 and may be slowing a bit. While the Grizz remain an upper-eschelon team overall in the Western Conference, they don’t want to lose any more ground. That may explain why the team is reportedly looking into trades for scoring small forwards Luol Deng of the Miami Heat and Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has more:

The Memphis Grizzlies, looking to bolster their scoring options on the wing in the ever-competitive Western Conference, are actively trying to obtain Miami’s Luol Deng or Boston’s Jeff Green ahead of the Feb. 19 trade deadline, according to league sources.

No deal is imminent, sources said, but it has become clear the Grizzlies are intent on upgrading their wing rotation. The teams behind third-place Memphis (25-10) in the Western Conference standings already have made notable in-season additions — such as Dallas (Rajon Rondo) and Houston (Corey Brewer and Josh Smith) — and Oklahoma City has yet to move into playoff position.

It is not immediately known how willing Miami would be to trade Deng, who is not even halfway through his first season of the two-year, $19.9 million contract he received from the Heat in the wake of LeBron James‘ return to Cleveland via free agency.

Miami, though, already is five games below .500 at 15-20 as it begins a challenging five-game road trip out west, leading some around the league to wonder whether Heat officials would indeed be open to moving Deng to start trying to acquire future draft picks or other trade assets, since they currently possess so few.

Green, meanwhile, is widely believed to be available leading into the deadline in the wake of Boston’s deal to send Rondo to Dallas last month. However, Green told local reporters last week on the eve of Rondo’s first game at TD Garden as a visiting player that he doesn’t “want to know how that feels because I don’t want to be traded.”

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No. 4: Scott rips into Lakers, calls them ‘soft’— Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott remembers the days when, as a player for the Lakers, beating the crosstown L.A. Clippers was basically a given. Much has changed since those days and the Lakers find themselves as the struggling team in L.A. After the Lakers suffered a 114-89 defeat marked with many, many, Clippers alley-oops, Scott ripped into his team. (This isn’t the first time he’s done that this season). The ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Baxter Holmes has more:

Lakers coach Byron Scott called his team “soft” four times after its 114-89 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, the Lakers’ fifth straight defeat to their fellow Staples Center tenants.

“We were soft,” Scott said of his team, which trailed by as much as 43 points as the Clippers won for the ninth time in their past 10 meetings with the Lakers.

“[I have] a lot of respect for that team over there. They’re a good team. I don’t consider them a physical basketball team, but they came out and punched us, and we were soft, period.”

Scott said he had another message for his players, too.

“I told them to man up, basically,” he said.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who finished with just four points on 2-of-12 shooting in 28 minutes, didn’t disagree with Scott’s point.

“He said the same thing I said. He just didn’t use a toilet paper analogy,” Bryant said, referencing a practice rant earlier this season in which he said his teammates were “soft like Charmin.”

Lakers forward Ed Davis also agreed with Scott.

“We played soft,” Davis said after scoring four points. “That’s all there is to it. We played soft.”


VIDEO: Byron Scott talks about the Lakers’ loss to the Clippers

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No. 5: Cavs high on future with their new guards — Newly acquired shooting guard J.R. Smith made his Cleveland Cavaliers debut last night, going scoreless. His fellow ex-New York Knicks teammate, Iman Shumpert, did not play last night as he heals up from a shoulder injury. Despite the limited (very) early returns on these players, the Cavaliers’ brass and the team’s players are high on what Smith and Shumpert can add to the team. ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin has more:

Before J.R. Smith made his forgettable debut Wednesday for the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 105-93 loss to the Houston Rockets, the shooting guard vowed to do exactly what his playing position suggests when asked how he plans to adjust to his new team.

“Worse come to worse … my motto is, ‘When in doubt, shoot the ball,’ ” Smith said before going 0-for-5 in 18 minutes off the bench against the Rockets, albeit with two of his shots better described as heaves to beat the clock. “So when in doubt, I’m going to shoot it and hopefully that don’t catch nobody off guard.”

Cleveland coach David Blatt had dinner with the newly acquired Smith as well as Iman Shumpert on Tuesday night at Red, the Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland and came away impressed with the pair.

“For me, he’s a new and welcomed player on our team,” Blatt said of Smith. “I have no preconceived or pre-existing opinion, and I have no doubts about his ability to help us as a basketball player. I had a discussion with him. I can tell you that it was a good and open discussion — short and to the point.”

As for Shumpert, out for the next 2-3 weeks with a dislocated left shoulder, Blatt called him a “willing defender.” Blatt added, “He’s a guy that if you say, ‘Hey, go stop that guy today,’ or ‘Today, this guy is your job and tomorrow it may be somebody even better,’ he’s willing and up to that task.”

Cavs general manager David Griffin found himself defending Smith’s character when asked about bringing in a player with such a spotty off-court history into the Cavs’ organization.

“There’s always concern when you’re adding any piece to your locker room, let alone a piece that, let’s call it ‘volatile’ in his career,” Griffin said. “One of the things that we heard from everybody – players that played with him, coaches that coached him: his issues have never been as a teammate. He competes and his teammates like him because he lays in on the line for him. That’s not been his issue.

“Does he take too many shots sometimes in the wrong places? Absolutely. A lot of players do that and have done that. But J.R. comes to battle. He competes on a consistent basis and so that was something that mattered to us.”

Smith also got a stamp of approval from LeBron James, who already had a moniker ready for his new teammate and fellow Dallas Cowboys fan, calling him “Junior,” rather than J.R.

James was also high on Shumpert, comparing him to Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls.

“Just a guy to go out there and you put him on the best offensive player and he’s going to try to contain him his best way,” James said. “He’s very capable of doing that and his offensive game has gotten better year after year. But I kind of see him as Jimmy Butler at some point for our team.”

 


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses how Shumpert and Smith will fit in with the Cavs

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Atlanta Hawks keep finding new and exciting ways to win … If you missed it, LeBron James says his knee and back are healing up nicely and he’s on track to return soon … The L.A. Clippers may be eyeing Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten … The Atlanta Hawks get a vote of confidence that no matter who buys the team, it is unlikely to be moved elsewhere … The Denver Nuggets are making moves with their roster this season, but what’s the long-term plan?Rasual Butler has a cheerleader on the Wizards: teammate Marcin Gortat … The Sacramento Kings continue to go back to basics on defense

ICYMI(s) OF THE NIGHT: Blake Griffin put on a dunking show against the Lakers, but this one was our favorite …  


VIDEO: Blake Griffin hammers home the sick windmill jam

Jusuf Nurkic tries to throw the alley-oop to J.J. Hickson, but ends up with a weird-ish hook shot instead …


VIDEO: Jusuf Nurkic nails the lucky shot

12 Comments

  1. Non Delirious Fan says:

    Lakers may have banners, but they certainly don’t have a future. That’s why Laker fans choose to dwell on the past, because they know there’s nothing to say about the present or the future.

  2. "Smart" NBA fan says:

    Lakers have beaten some pretty good teams so far this year. plus we have had many injuries rattle the whole squad. many of these guys are new to each other. youll notice kobe scores his points and nick young but others barely struggle to get past just 10 points. this is why the Lakers cant win not to mention lockdown defense and grab rebounds! defense steal the ball,block shots and grab rebounds. we need alot more defense and dont worry about scoring so much.

  3. Jill says:

    Kobe is still playing because he brings people to the arena. During the Clippers-Lakers game he was one more spectator just watching Blake dunk over and over. No defense at all. He is just not the player we were use to see. The coach is just doing what the owners want. So Kobe haters you may be upset about the privileges he enjoys, but after 19 years it is not easy for him. He may retire next season. His body has too too many miles.

  4. JOEL says:

    LBJ compared Shump not JR to Butler

  5. Mud says:

    Why is Kobe still on the floor when he plays TERRIBLE? He has ZERO defense, can barely shoot anymore, and is just overall lazy. The coach of the lakers continues to insult his team after every loss but doesn’t realize HE is the problem cuz he keeps putting Kobe back in.

    It’s very simple: KOBE cannot ball anymore. Bench him and let other players have their turn.

  6. Gerry Singson says:

    I am a Miami Heat fanatic but as things go, they may not make it to the playoffs this season. Without Lebron, they became a very weak team especially so that Dwayne Wade is aging. Bosh cannot carry all the load considering that their coach consistently positioned him on the center when in fact he plays better with small or power forward position. Deng has been inconsistent with the Heat so are the others. Chalmers and Cole have caught up with area fatigue and Haslem’s play had deteriorated. The Birdman too is getting old and can’t fly as high as he used to be. Pat Riley should have seen this coming with the departure of Lebron and I don’t think that they can even reach the 50% mark this season. Sorry Heat, it’s time to rebuild. Coach Eric should also try a different approach.

  7. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Pistons, Bucks, Hawks, are all better then the Cav’s, and they got the so called best player in the world……. and Love and Irving… were they do that at.

  8. harriethehawk says:

    I would much rather see the Detroit Pistons make 8th seed than the pathetic Miami Heat. Let’s mix it up and see new and fresh teams in the Leastern playoffs!

  9. The Angry Buddhist says:

    Memphis should never have traded Rudy Gay,, but the greedy owners got what they wanted. As for Green, remember OKC, dumbly traded Green for awful “blue collar” Perkins, “Blue collar” is usually reserved for untalented, brawny white guys.
    This forgotten trade ranks as an all time worst, but not nearly as bad as giving away Harden for what amounts to “blue collar” Steven Adams. Adams is the perfect foil for “blue collar” Tiago Splitter.

    If OKC had left their roster intact they would have fielded the most athletic team of all time, Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Harden and Green.
    So few team presidents actually have the talent to even be a used car salesmen

  10. dustydreamnz says:

    1. I think the Warriors might be in for a trade with all their depth.
    2. Often you see teams improve after a trade but I’m not sure if I’ve seen a team improve like the Pistons.
    3. The Grizzlies badly need a small forward-Green is more of a match winner but Deng is more consistent.
    4. How many times have the Lakers been soft this season? They actually play well in some games then serve up rubbish.
    5. LBJ comparing J R Smith to Jimmy Butler. Come on now.

  11. TheTruth says:

    So another play where Kobe could have defended but instead gave up on the play and looks at his teammates when an opponent gets an easy bucket. Sorry but Kobe isn’t getting that 6th ring anytime soon.

  12. BIG-GAME-JAMES-23 says:

    JR swish!