VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 5
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Beal letting his game do the talking in D.C. — Earlier this week, as our David Aldridge reported, the Washington Wizards and shooting guard Bradley Beal agreed to hold off on a contract extension … for now. The Wizards have hopes next summer of landing marquee free agent Kevin Durant and pairing him with All-Star guard John Wall, all while keeping Beal in the fold, too. While it’s unknown how next summer will shake out in terms of big names coming to D.C., Beal is committed to what the Wizards are building. Yahoo Sports’ Michael Lee has more on that:
The Wizards view the 22-year-old Beal as a foundational piece for the organization, a future star who has already teamed with Wall to form the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, a duo that’s surging on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as the best in the league. But the Wizards also have plans to upgrade the roster next summer – preferably with the signing of a four-time scoring champion who was born and raised in the area and will be a free agent in 2016 – and need Beal to exercise both patience and faith for that to occur.
“This is where I want to be. I’m not looking at any other teams. I’m not looking to go anywhere else. I believe in this team we have in this locker room. I’m a big cornerstone of this team, so I’m here. I want to be here. Hopefully, the front office knows that. I’m pretty sure that they know that,” Beal told Yahoo Sports. “It’s a business at the end of the day. I can’t let that affect the way I play, nor will I ever let it. It’s money at the end of the day. And I just want to go out here and play my butt off, each and every night and get what I deserve. Earn every penny that I get. If that’s the max, then it’s the max. And if it’s not, it’s not. At least I can look at it and say I gave it my all.”
Beal stands to make more money by waiting. Since Wall was already named the team’s designated player when he agreed to a five-year, $80 million extension in 2013, Beal was eligible for only a four-year extension worth more than $90 million. By becoming a restricted free agent, Beal could sign a five-year contract with the Wizards worth more than $120 million.
The incentive for Beal to sign a rookie extension, however, was more for the security of not having to worry about the risk of injury, since he has missed parts of his first three seasons with stress injuries in his right leg. When Anthony Davis agreed to his record, five-year, $145 million extensionwith New Orleans only a minute into the free-agent negotiating period, Beal fully thought the Wizards would quickly take care of him, especially since Wall received his deal before making his first All-Star team and following a season in which he missed 33 games with a knee injury.
“When you’re in that situation, you’re sitting there waiting, like, ‘Here we go,’ ” Beal, who went third overall in the 2012 draft, told Yahoo Sports of his reaction to Davis’s extension. “But it didn’t happen. It’s no hard feelings and you just have to move on. It was frustrating at first, but I understood it. I couldn’t be selfish about it. I couldn’t think, ‘Oh, they don’t want me.’ Because that’s not the case. They’re just being smart with what they want to do. And I honestly, I respect it, because it makes sense for both sides to wait until next year anyway.”
The Wizards offered an extension for less than the maximum with a purely strategic purpose, considering Beal’s talent would surely command such a deal with the deluge of television money arriving next year. But Beal’s cap hold will be $14 million next summer, as opposed to $20 million had they agreed to an extension. With the extra room, the Wizards could chase Kevin Durant and add some help to a roster that currently has just four other players under contract for 2016-2017 – Wall, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre.
“That’s the goal. Obviously, that’s the goal,” Beal told Yahoo. “I trust what they’re doing. I understand what they’re doing. I have no [anger] toward [team president] Ernie [Grunfeld] or anyone else in the organization. I know at the end of the day, this is where I’m going to be and hopefully that I continue to be here. I don’t even worry about it. I’m worried about this season and controlling what I can control. I’m not in there arguing back and forth with Ernie like, ‘I need this!’ I’m just out here playing and doing what I do and letting my game speak for itself.”
Beal has adjusted his game, vowing to take more 3-pointers and “stop shooting those damn long twos” after heeding the advice of Pierce and watching film with his trainer, Drew Hanlen. He has also adjusted his attitude, with that nasty streak sticking around for a while. He’s motivated to be a better player, to earn the contract he believes he deserves and to help the Wizards advance further than the second-round inferno that has ruined the past two seasons.
The smile might come back. He might even shave. But Beal has no intention of letting up with so much at stake this season.
“I promised that every time I stepped on the floor, I was going to give it my all,” Beal told Yahoo. “I’m not playing for anybody else but my family, the man upstairs, myself and these guys in this locker room. The biggest thing for me is making sure I’m confident in myself and continue to prove to myself and prove to my teammates that this is what I’m going to continue to do for the rest of the year.”
VIDEO: Bradley Beal’s clutch 3-pointer seals a win over the Spurs
No. 2: Tracing a growing relationship between James, Love — Merely by having LeBron James in the fold, the Cleveland Cavaliers by default had one of the best frontcourts entering last season. When they traded for All-Star Kevin Love, it got that much better. Yet in 2014-15, that duo never seemed to fully click on the court and, at times, didn’t seem to get along. All of that has changed since the offseason and Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal has a telling look at how James and Love are growing as teammates and growing into new roles:
James spent years admiring Love. The two stars didn’t know each other well when James was heaping so much praise on Love’s game during the 2012 Olympics that Love initially thought James was just messing with him.
Then when James announced to the world he was returning to Cleveland, one of his first calls that day was to Love, who was unhappy in Minnesota and looking for a way out. The Cavs, coincidentally, had pursued Love for years, but he had no interest in signing long term in Cleveland — until LeBron went to Cleveland.
Yet from almost the moment Love arrived, the relationship seemed to sour. James went to great lengths to get him here, and now team officials concede James didn’t treat him very well once he arrived.
In truth, James was frustrated in part because Love showed up out of shape. He didn’t work out much at all the summer he was traded here and he wasn’t the player James was expecting. His legs bothered him all season. His back was hurting. All of the parts were connected and none of them were firing properly.
James loves talent and he loves playing alongside elite players. Love’s physical condition prevented him from being the player James thought he was getting. As a result, James gravitated toward Kyrie Irving and Love never fit well into this system.
Coach David Blatt often grew irritated and defiant last season whenever Love’s role was questioned, but even he now concedes something needed to be done.
“From midseason until he got injured, I thought he played great basketball,” Blatt said. “But I thought he really needed to find a comfort zone within the team.”
When Love approached James in Los Angeles, he went with a clear message. He wanted a bigger role in the offense, but it wasn’t an ultimatum. He insists he had already decided he was going to take the Cavs’ max offer.
“More than anything I just wanted to see what he thought about where the team was going and what we wanted to accomplish,” Love said. “It was always ‘we’ or ‘us.’ It was never like, ‘You need to tell me this.’ Never.”
James listened and obliged. Love wanted a bigger role, so James is giving it to him. Love spent part of his summer working out and rehabbing from shoulder surgery in the high altitude of Park City, Utah. He arrived at training camp in fantastic shape and erupted with big games against the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat.
James’ approach, however, remains curious. He has never called another teammate the focal point of the offense. He has never claimed to ride another teammate’s coattails, as he has said multiple times already this season and again on Wednesday.
James is still in his prime and can still fly. Despite calling Love the “focal point,” James still has the higher Player Efficiency Rating (24.89 to 21.50) this season and a significantly higher usage rate (31.9 compared to 24.2). Love’s usage rate is still higher than his 21.6 percent last season, which basically means he is now more involved in the offense.
But James is still in control. When Love was struggling to make a shot Wednesday against the New York Knicks, James for the first time this season took the ball and began initiating the offense.
James also has no intention of taking games off to rest. He said earlier he wanted to play in all 82 games this year, something he has never done in his career, and reiterated to the Beacon Journal he won’t sit out games this season if he’s healthy.
“I want to play in 82. I owe it to my fans if I can possibly do it,” he said. “If I’m out, it’ll be for an injury or some other reason. If I’m healthy, I’ll play, I won’t be out.”
This move with Love is calculated. Now he’ll sit back and watch how his co-star handles the pressure of winning on a big stage. And he’ll be there to help on nights Love falters. Love understands all of this, too. He just laughs when he hears James call him the focal point.
“I don’t know if that quote is completely true,” Love concedes, “but I’m going to treat it like a big opportunity for me and a big responsibility.”
No. 3: Grizzlies players not impressed by Clippers’ trolling — Memphis’ season has been full of fits and starts thus far, the worst of which was a 50-point road loss to the Golden State Warriors (the largest margin of defeat in Grizzlies history) on Monday. The Los Angeles Clippers squared off against those same Warriors on Wednesday night and lost, too, but only by four points. After that game, the Clippers’ Twitter account posted (and has since deleted) a tweet that posted the final score followed by the hashtag #didntloseby50. Grizzlies players weren’t happy about that and sounded off on it on Thursday, as ESPN.com reports:
The Grizzlies aren’t taking kindly to a tweet sent by the Western Conference rival Clippers that took a dig at Memphis’ rout at the hands of the Golden State Warriors two days earlier.
After the Clippers lost 112-108 at Golden State on Wednesday, the Clippers’ Twitter account posted the losing score followed by the hashtag #didntloseby50, referencing the Grizzlies’ 119-69 drubbing Monday at Oracle Arena. The tweet was taken down but still lives via screenshots.
“It’s childish,” guard Courtney Lee told the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Thursday. “We took our L and we kept it moving, right? We lost by 50. We didn’t cry over it, and went on to the next one. Apparently, they’re holding on to it. That’s what they got to do to overshadow their loss. Last time I heard, a loss is a loss. But that’s what they do over there.”
The employee who sent out the tweet was disciplined but not fired, a team spokesman told the Los Angeles Times.
Tony Allen called for the employee to be fired, similar to when the Houston Rockets fired their social media manager for an inappropriate in-game tweet directed at the Dallas Mavericks in April.
“I’ve never seen anybody broadcast losing,” Allen said. “Who’s proud of losing — whether it’s by one, two, three or 50? Enough said.”
No. 4: Duncan: Spurs are thinking too much — From the front office to the on-court product, the San Antonio Spurs get well-deserved credit for being cognizant of what kind of team they are assembling. Often thought of as one of the most cerebral teams in the NBA, the Spurs added a lot of shiny new pieces in the offseason in hopes of making another Finals run. Yet as we look at the standings this morning, they’re a ho-hum 3-2 and No. 5 in the West — hardly what was expected of them even in the early going of 2015-16. Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express News caught up with Tim Duncan, who succinctly explained San Antonio’s early woes:
It was late in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards when it started to happen for LaMarcus Aldridge.
After receiving a pass from Manu Ginobili, Aldridge started to back down Wizards center Nene on the left block, his favorite side of the court. Instead of attempting his signature turnaround jumper following a few back downs, Aldridge seemed to stutter, executed a spin move, and missed what appeared to be an easy layup. That miss was Aldridge’s fifth of the opening quarter, and it wouldn’t get any better from there. He finished the first quarter 3 of 7, and only converted one shot the rest of the way for a 4 of 14 shooting night.
“I came into the game feeling good,” said Aldridge, who finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds in the 102-99 loss to the Wizards. “I overthought myself out of the game; missed some easy shots and then after that, I was kind of gone.”
The key word: “Overthought.”
It’s what Tim Duncan points to when trying to describe what is hurting the Spurs after five games this season.
“Everybody is trying to think the game,” said Duncan. “They’re trying to think the right way, they’re trying to make the right decision every time, and when you’re thinking too much, your normal reaction comes secondary. That pause and that hesitation takes something away from your game. We just have to get through that.”
Asked how the Spurs can breakout of thinking so much, Duncan explained how game action is the only way.
“It’s a playing thing,” said Duncan. “It’s an experience thing. It’s a situational thing. It’s all those things. You can watch film and do all you want to, but the bottom line is when you’re out there on the floor and get put in those situations, you don’t know what to expect.”
As Aldridge gets more comfortable with his new surroundings, the goal is to just play his game and not think too much. But did take full responsibility for his performance against the Wizards.
“It’s just a process,” said Aldridge. “It’s going to happen in certain games. Some games I will fit in good and I will play well. (Against the Wizards) it was all about me. It wasn’t the offense or anything like that. It was just me overthinking things and I did it to myself.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has a target return date in mind, but he’s not revealing it … Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (concussion) will miss tonight’s game in Sacramento … Center Dwight Howard could play both games in Houston’s back-to-back schedule this weekend … Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle signed a five-year extension with the team yesterday … Boris Diaw has served as a tutor of sorts for Toronto Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo … Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart isn’t rushing back from his toe injury …
ICYMI of the Night: Rudy Gobert gets a lot more of these kinds of blocks than he doesn’t, Kenneth Faried …
VIDEO: Rudy Gobert meets (and denies) Kenneth Faried at the rim