Morning Shootaround — April 18


VIDEO: Ahmad Rashad goes one-on-one with Steph Curry

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pierce savoring these final playoff moments | Pelicans’ Davis eager to take next step | Clippers using Spurs blueprint to knock off champs | Kidd at center of Bucks’ turnaround

No. 1: Pierce savoring these final playoff moments — The truth is Paul Pierce knows this might be one of the last times he’s on this stage, this playoff stage. And the Washington Wizards’ veteran swingman is savoring each and every second these final playoff moments of his career. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post provides the details:

The end is near for Paul Pierce. Next season will be his 18th and final tour as a professional basketball player, meaning scenes like the one that will unfold Saturday afternoon in Toronto, Game 1 of an NBA playoff series, are dwindling for the future Hall of Famer.

“It’s very different for me because I don’t have too many chances left in my career of playoff basketball and opportunities to try to win a championship,” Pierce said. “So I enjoy each and every moment, each and every practice, each and every game.”

Pierce, 37, will step onto the Air Canada Centre hardwood Saturday before a frenzied crowd in a Washington Wizards uniform, his third playoff appearance in three years with a third different team. He will be Raptors fans’ Public Enemy No. 1, the result of his clutch play as a Brooklyn Net against Toronto last postseason and his recent comments on the Raptors’ lack of the “It” factor, whatever “It” is.

The setting is why the Wizards hired him, to supply his famed shot-making ability, valuable experience and notorious swagger to help ascend the Wizards to another level when the stakes are highest.

“He can help on the floor. Off the floor. Around the floor,” guard Bradley Beal said. “Whatever it is related to basketball and life in general. You can basically call him the Oracle. He knows pretty much everything.”

This will be Pierce’s 12th career playoff appearance. He has crashed the tournament seven straight springs. He has been on underdogs, on favorites. He has suited up for underachievers and overachievers. He has experienced nearly every possible scenario, including both ends of regular season sweeps that were reversed in the playoffs. So he insists that the Wizards losing all three meetings with the Raptors during the regular season doesn’t concern him.

“Each team’s [0-0], so right now we’re a confident group,” Pierce said. “We feel like we can beat pretty much any team in the East.”

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No. 2: Davis eager to take the next step for Pelicans Anthony Davis is ready. Ready for the moment, for the Golden State Warriors and to take the next step in the evolution of a player many believe to be the future face of the NBA. John Reid of the Times Picayune explains:

For the first time in his NBA career, New Orleans Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis is on the big playoff stage.

The games will be more difficult now, the accomplishments more significant and the pressure more immense than anything he experienced during the regular season.

But Davis appears eager for the challenge ahead, starting on Saturday at 2:30 when the eighth-seeded Pelicans open their best-of-seven opening-round playoff series against the top-seeded Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Game 2 is set for Monday night before the series shifts to New Orleans for Games 3-4 starting this upcoming Thursday.

It will be Davis’ first playoff game in his career. The Pelicans are in the postseason for the first time since 2011.

To earn their spot, the Pelicans beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, 108-103, on the final night of the regular season on Wednesday to clinch after holding the tiebreaker edge over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Although the Pelicans head into Saturday’s opening game against the Warriors as underdogs, Davis and several of his teammates said that’s just fine with them.

”We’re confident in our game, confident in our strategy, our game plan and we’re going to go out there and play to win,” Davis told reporters after Friday’s practice at Oracle Arena. ”We love matchups like this. We’ve made it this far, so we’re not looking to go home just yet.”

Despite the immense buildup involving the playoffs, Davis appears to be unfazed.He seems only concerned about performing at a high level like he did throughout the regular season.

For the past month, the Pelicans played with an elevated sense of urgency to win to games in order to remain in playoff contention. Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he’s confident that Davis and the rest of his players are ready to carry over the same urgency and caliber of play into the playoffs that led to winning eight of their final 11 games to close out the regular season.

”He’s (Davis) responded in national champions, olympics, World Cup the same way,” Williams said.”He’s got a lot of hype with him but he backs it up.I don’t think he’s afraid.I think he’s ready for it and we’re going to try help him as best we can.”

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No. 3: Clippers using Spurs’ blueprint to knock off champs — Can’t beat ’em? Copy ’em. So say the Los Angeles Clippers, who face the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. Instead of trying to come up with creative ways to knock the champs off, the Clippers (underdogs despite being the No. 3 seed) are using the template created by the Spurs to foil them. Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times has more:

The Clippers have the NBA’s second-highest-scoring and most efficient offense while the Spurs rank seventh in both points and efficiency, but there’s no debating which team has been the model for playoff performance in recent years.

San Antonio made the Miami Heat resemble a cat chasing a ball on a string in the 2014 Finals, constantly getting yanked from spot to spot to spot to the point of exhaustion.

“They figure if they move the ball around long enough,” Clippers forward Matt Barnes said, “then someone will eventually make a mistake on the defensive end.”

It’s the same story with the Clippers, whose success goes far beyond the playmaking of point guard Chris Paul. Forward Blake Griffin is one of the league’s best passing big men and three-point specialists Redick and Matt Barnes help space the floor to create lanes for player and ball movement.

The Clippers are more athletic than San Antonio, but the Spurs historically have been more disciplined and patient.

“They have things that we don’t have,” Rivers said. “We probably have things that they don’t have and that’s all we can focus on. They’re going to take away what you do well or at least your first couple of options on every set.

“Where they’ve been great over the years is they keep trusting their third and fourth [options] and other teams eventually break down. What we’ve done, as you can see through the year, is get better and better at it.”

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No. 4: Kidd at center of Bucks’ turnaround — If anyone wants to point fingers in Milwaukee these days, they need to start with Jason Kidd. The first-year Bucks coach is at the center of the turnaround for the franchise. And that’s exactly the way it had to be this season with all of the injuries and adversity the Bucks faced on their road to a playoff date with the Chicago Bulls. Gary D’Amato of the Journal Sentinel explains:

You almost never know from studying Jason Kidd’s face during a game whether the Milwaukee Bucks have just turned the ball over on six consecutive possessions or are on a 15-0, dunk-you-very-much run.

The Bucks’ first-year coach, usually dressed in a suit coat and dress shirt unbuttoned at the top, sits impassively on the bench for long stretches. He might, if things are going exceedingly poorly, briefly massage his furrowed forehead, but that’s about as demonstrative as he gets.

He probably would make an excellent poker player. Daniel Negreanu with hops.

Oh, but there’s a lot going on behind that flat-line countenance. Kidd could be frustrated with his young team, but he’s not going to show it.

“For me, I never want to show disappointment,” he says. “I never want my guys to feel pressure or feel like they’ve done something wrong, which snowballs into something else. Yeah, there’s probably a lot of things going through my head. There could be some screaming. Might be a lot of ‘Wows!’

“But I can remember doing those same things. I’ve been in some of those situations. You’re trying to make a play and it just didn’t turn out right. If you show disappointment or discouragement, I think my team feeds off of that and I never want them to feel that way.

“The game of basketball, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s how you handle it, how you go on to the next play.”

Whatever he’s doing is working. Kidd, 42 and just two years removed from a Hall of Fame-worthy playing career, has engineered the second-biggest turnaround in franchise history.

Just one year after going an NBA-worst 15-67, the Bucks finished the regular season with a 41-41 record and earned the No. 6 playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference. They open the first round of the playoffs Saturday night against the third-seeded Bulls in Chicago.

The Bucks’ 26-game improvement is second only to a 29-game jump the team made in 1969-’70, its second year in the league (that one happened to coincide with the arrival of a center from UCLA named Lew Alcindor).

“I’ll honestly say I didn’t expect this kind of turnaround,” says Bucks general manager John Hammond. “There are some very special things that have happened this year. It’s been remarkable for me to watch and see.

“It’s my 25th year in the league and I’ve seen a lot of things, and I don’t know that I’ve seen anything like this.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Josh Childress explains what really happens to your money in the NBA … Is Roy Hibbert‘s time in Indiana coming to an end? It appears so, if the Pacers plan on playing smaller and faster next season … They don’t have a legion of believers out there, but the Rockets are confident they can get it done in the postseason … A surprise starter could crash the playoff party for the Portland Trail Blazers … The Toronto Raptors have a secret weapon they’ll deploy against John Wall … Lance Stephenson knows he had a bad year in Charlotte … Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak says his team will be back in the hunt quickly after this lost season …

ICYMI of the Night: Russell Westbrook‘s season is over. The Oklahoma City Thunder star reflects on his unbelievable year … 


VIDEO: Russell Westbrook’s finished this season but he his exploits won’t soon be forgotten

 

2 Comments

  1. 4pt Range says:

    I don’t give a (expletive) about Paul Pierce or what he says, but I love when gm’s use some (expletive) (expletives).

  2. harriethehawk says:

    I’m tired of the prophetic words from Fakers fans, players and management about how they are going to be……