Morning shootaround — April 4


VIDEO: All the highlights from Friday night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Magic’s Vucevic planning to stay | Curry stung by ex-coach’s MVP pick | Spurs as NBA’s old, married couple | Bulls flirting with disappointment?

No. 1: Magic’s Vucevic planning to stay — So what if Minnesota, even at full strength, is far from an NBA powerhouse and on Friday happened to be playing without its three best big men. Nikola Vucevic didn’t have to apologize to anyone for his career-high 37 points and his 17 rebounds. More important, the Orlando center doesn’t want to have to apologize to Magic fans after saying goodbye in a few years, abandoning the franchise’s long-term plans the way Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard did. The big man spoke recently with Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel about loyalty and the vision he has for his career and his team’s future:

“Yeah, I’m here for the long haul. I hope to stay here my whole career,” he told me. “I love it here. I really love the city. I’ve improved here a lot as a player. I’d love to stay for a long, long time and make something special happen.

“If it takes years, it takes years … I ain’t going anywhere.”

Vucevic is inspired by the loyalty displayed by Italian soccer superstar Francesco Totti. Totti, 38, has played his entire career for Roma.

“Totti could have gone to bigger teams, made more money, do whatever he wanted. He didn’t,” he said. “He stayed with that team. He’s pretty much a god to that team.”

Rather humbly, Vucevic doesn’t consider himself in the class of Shaq and Dwight – repeat All-Stars and No. 1 overall picks.

The list of great big men here is short, but Vooch is already the third-best center the Magic have ever had. Eight long years passed between Shaq’s departure and Dwight’s arrival. Vooch has cut the wait time considerably after Howard departed.

He gets it done differently. Although he’s nearly 7-feet and weighs 260 pounds, Vucevic isn’t as dominating and demonstrative as his powerhouse predecessors. But he is a rare double-double machine, running quietly and efficiently.

More steady than spectacular, he relies on finesse instead of force, having learned the game overseas in Montenegro. Vooch does have a shooting stroke that Shaq and Dwight would envy (and he can make free throws).

“Both Shaq and Dwight had great legacies while they were here. I want to achieve what they achieved,” he said. “When I’m done, I’d love to have people talk about me the way they talk about them. I hope to get to the same level.

“I want to get there.”

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No. 2: Curry stung by ex-coach’s MVP pick — Unlike his team’s runaway atop the Western Conference, Golden State’s Stephen Curry likely is going to find himself locked in a tight race for the NBA’s Kia Most Valuable Player award. Some voters probably won’t submit their ballots until the deadline on Thursday, April 16, the day after the regular season ends. But that won’t stop others – those with votes and those without – from floating their opinions sooner, and one who did was ABC/ESPN analyst Mark Jackson, Curry’s former Warriors coach. Jackson’s choice of Houston’s James Harden caught Curry off-guard, as evidence by his reaction. But Golden State teammate Andrew Bogut rushed to his point guard’s defense vs. Jackson, as reported by ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss:

ESPN analyst and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Wednesday on the “Dan Patrick Show” that while Curry, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, are all worthy candidates, he’d give his MVP vote to James Harden of the Houston Rockets.

“If you twisted my arm today, I would probably vote for James Harden,” Jackson said. “The reason why is because he single-handedly has put that Houston Rockets team in the position that they’re in today.”

The comments come as a stark contrast to the way Jackson had previously championed his former charge as a superstar in the league, while he was coach of the Warriors.

“It’s his opinion obviously,” Curry said. “He’s probably been watching the league. People are going to ask what he thinks, especially his ties to the Warriors organization and myself specifically. Surprised me he said that. But, it is what it is.”

Curry had been vocally supportive of Jackson prior to the coach’s dismissal last offseason, something the Warriors point guard made mention of Friday.

“Obviously I wasn’t shy about trying to defend him last year when things were rumbling outside of our locker room,” Curry said. “But for him to … it’s kind of a different situation, but it is surprising that he didn’t.”

On Thursday, center Andrew Bogut, who had a less friendly relationship with Jackson, made light of his former coach’s opinion.

“Well what’s his name said no,” Bogut joked. “What’s that guy’s name? Mark? Mark? I don’t remember his name.”

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No. 3: Spurs as NBA’s old, married couple — If you’re an NBA fan of college age or younger, you probably can’t remember a season in which the San Antonio Spurs did not win at least 50 games in a season. Their remarkable streak at that level stretches 16 years now, a testament to the staying power of coach Gregg Popovich and his Hall-of-Fame-bound core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Our man Fran Blinebury wrote about the uncommon professional and personal relationships that have produced all that success, and here’s a taste to whet your appetite for more:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half the marriages in the United States are over by the eighth year, which makes the union of the Spurs and consistent excellence — at twice that length — an accomplishment of tolerance, dedication and bliss.

By defeating Denver on Friday night, the Spurs have now won 50 games for 16 consecutive seasons, extending their NBA record half a decade beyond the next longest strings. The Los Angeles Lakers (1980-91) are in second place with 12.

“Think about it. There’s not many marriages that last 16 years,” said ESPN analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy. “Think about working that closely together in a relationship, under that pressure and scrutiny and still enjoying each other’s company.

“What they’ve done is sustained greatness. I think that’s much more telling than five championships. First of all, it’s something that nobody’s done before. Winning 50 and having a plus-.500 road record all that time, to me that’s incredible.

“I am totally against the whole mindset that everything is about championships when it comes to evaluating players, evaluating teams. ‘Did they win a championship?’ Really, is that all you’ve got? I’m telling you, sustaining greatness is much harder than a one-, two- or three-year greatness.”

The Spurs’ run has been much like their style of play — more of a steady hum than a loud roar.

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No. 4: Bulls flirting with disappointment?Pau Gasol showed emotion near the end of the Chicago Bulls’ victory beyond his normal veteran’s range, yelling and mugging as a release after his offensive rebound and putback against Detroit’s formidable Andre Drummond secured a victory Friday at United Center. But it was Gasol’s more measured comments afterward that ought to get a rise out of Chicago fans, because he speaks from experience when talking about championship teams and the edge they need in the postseason. The Bulls, in Gasol’s view, still are searching, according to the report filed by ESPNChicago.com’s Nick Friedell:

The 14-year veteran, who earned two championships as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, knows what it takes to win a title, and that’s why he’s a little concerned by what he has seen from his new team, the Chicago Bulls, over the past couple of games. After a poor performance on Wednesday night in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls followed up by sleepwalking through the second half and almost blowing a winnable game against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. Like the rest of his teammates, Gasol is still convinced the Bulls have time to turn around their bad habits, but unlike most of his younger teammates, the All-Star center understands that time is running out.

“There’s not a magic button here,” Gasol said. “What you see in the regular season is what you’re going to get in the playoffs. So we have to try to be more consistent in the last six games that we have and that’s going to determine what we’ll see probably in the playoffs. Now every game, it’s meaningful, and that we have to be aware of that because you can’t expect things to click when it’s crunch time, when everybody is on. So you just got to do whatever you have to on a daily basis to put yourself in the best place regularly so you get to the playoffs and maybe try to turn it up like everybody else.”

The good news for the Bulls is that they found a way to win on Friday night. So often during this up-and-down season they have found ways to lose games like this — to weaker teams that don’t have the same level of talent. But as the Bulls get set for what they hope is a long run in the postseason, veterans such as Gasol and fellow championship club member, Nazr Mohammed, know that the great teams have to play better than the Bulls are playing right now.

“We just got to keep getting better,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “We got to understand what we’re playing for. We’re playing for a lot at stake right now. It was good to see guys like Naz [Mohammed] and some of our veterans speak up tonight and understand how crucial this win was.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Portland guard Wesley Matthews long trek back from a torn Achilles is getting serialized by The Oregonian. … Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic also is facing issues – and surgery – on his aching right foot, and sounds a little concerned about his future both on and off the court. … Hall of Famer John Stockton is helping as an assistant coach with Gonzaga Prep’s girls team, lending his hoops wisdom and getting valuable father-daughter time with Laura Stockton. … Kyle Lowry wants to play again before the playoffs, but the Toronto Raptors point guard also wants to be cautious with the back spasms that have sidelined him. … Boston’s Jared Sullinger came back Friday earlier than expected from a stress fracture, and he has lightened the load on that foot by 20 pounds. … Sounding more like part of the problem than part of the solution in Miami, Heat guard Mario Chalmers says he doesn’t know his role these days.

13 Comments

  1. TL says:

    i’d choose curry over harden

  2. Kirby Record says:

    This MVP stuff is silly this ear unlike years when there is a clear dominant all around player up till now Leborn James for the past six years or so. But this year Westbrook, Harden, Curry and Lebrron are all defendable choices. I think Harden deserves it but he is not a clear choice. James is still the best all around offensive and defensive player in the league but his numbers are down and no one counts defense much. Durant won because of his offensive only and that is obvious but he was SO dominant that year offensively I had no problem with his getting it. Rose won because people were tired of giving it to James but there was no companions between the two of them that year. This year it really is wide open and I think people should attempt to be less biased and more objective.

  3. LemW says:

    The article concerning Stephen Curry and Mark Jackson leave out a major component. There are three components and not two components.
    1) Stephen Curry
    2) Mark Jackson
    3) Joe Lacob (Majority), Peter Guber, Golden State Warrior Team Owners.
    Mark Jackson was fired because of conflict with owners.
    Why would Mark Jackson support an organization that fired him?

    More importantly, James Harden deserve MVP.

  4. robert says:

    Curry or Harden? give them the mvp trophy fast, because they will be politely eliminated quickly as always.

  5. harriethehawk says:

    Mario Chalmers is a bum.

  6. mmmmmmm says:

    I don’t care what Vucevic says anymore. That is something everyone says to the media. Dwight Howard said that when he was with the magic, Kevin Love said that when he was with the Wolves. Everyone says that. Few times is it true.

  7. Jeff Van Gundy says:

    Someone’s still upset about how things ended at their last job.
    Best player on the best team… no brainer.

  8. en. says:

    I’m getting tired of curry this and dat he used to be all right in my book now he ain’t stop whining and win a dam championship screw the mvp ……for curry it would be most valuable pu…..

  9. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Pau Gasol has been consistently good all year, If Gasol plays in the playoffs like he has this season then the Bulls can win it all. They have not had a post threat or all the offensive scoring like the have now in the past. There getting healthy at the right time. Curry and Harden co MVP’s. There both getting it done every night and have been consistent all year. There both so fun to watch. The Spurs are just the best in the league when healthy, there in the six spot and are capable of going on the road and winning. But not this year, there not making the finals, or WCF.

  10. ballin says:

    Bogut has no right to talk about anyone haha he is the next in line to go after Mark Jackson..Bogut is slow and gets outplayed by any decent big man. Seondly Mark Jackson is completely right James Harden deserves the MVP award based off of what he did with the rockets especially while Howard was injured. Not to mention Curry has sooooo much help in golden state that it is not even a comparison. The only knock on Harden is that he gets every whistle called in his favor for doing the same damn euro/hop step to the lane every play. When a player drives to the hoop these days the defender is not even allowed to so much as graze him without getting a foul called..Haha I guess Harden benefits from the league being super soft.. Thats why big men aren’t dominant and its a guard league now… Big guys can’t play to their advantage on the block getting physical anymore..any contact is a foul forcing teams to run with stretch pfs and stretch centers who can shoot the ball rather then rely on clear physical advantages.

    • Paul says:

      When Bogut is on the floor, they have the best defensive team stats in the league. So what if he doesn’t look to score, he doesn’t have to with the roster they have.

      • Paksta says:

        He has a right to speak. GS wins a heck of a lot more with Bogut than without for a reason.

        That said, Jackson should say what he thinks. He gets paid to give opinions on hoops, not lead the Warrior fan club. I don’t think championing a guy, and then saying he might be 2nd best in the league by a tight margin represents a ‘stark contrast’.

        For mine, Harden has done great leading Houston to 2nd best in the league with limited support. However, Warriors are looking like a great all-time regular season team, well ahead of the Rockets as you’d expect give Houston’s roster. I go with Curry. Then Harden right behind. But if Harden won it, couldn’t argue too much. Fun race two years in a row now!

      • Paksta says:

        He has a right to speak. GS wins a heck of a lot more with Bogut than without for a reason.

        That said, Jackson should say what he thinks. He gets paid to give opinions on hoops, not lead the Warrior fan club. I don’t think championing a guy, and then saying he might be 2nd best in the league by a tight margin represents a ‘stark contrast’.

        For mine, Harden has done great leading Houston to the leagues 3rd best record (currently) with limited support. However, Warriors are looking like a great all-time regular season team, well ahead of the Rockets as you’d expect give Houston’s roster. I go with Curry. Then Harden right behind. But if Harden won it, couldn’t argue too much. Fun race two years in a row now!