VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 11
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Nets may not be looking Calipari’s direction — Almost immediately after the Brooklyn Nets cleaned house on Sunday by firing coach Lionel Hollins and reassigning GM Billy King came word that Kentucky coach John Calipari would perhaps be interested in filling the coach’s chair. The price for getting Calipari out of Lexington, though, was thought to be at least $120 million (per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports) with other privileges thrown in. But maybe, the Nets are going in a completely different direction than Calipari? ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reports that based on who is making the decision about the next GM and coach for the Nets, Calipari may not be the guy the team looks to next:
Quietly, members of owner Mikhail Prokhorov‘s inner circle have reached out to possible general manager candidates to gauge their interest and seek insight on how the Nets might pry themselves out of a brutal situation they find themselves in, sources told ESPN.com.
Meanwhile, on a completely separate tack, Kentucky coach John Calipari’s emissaries have been putting out the word that if he were ever going to leave Lexington, it would take certain historic conditions, sources said. He would require total control as coach and team president as well as an astronomical guaranteed cash figure, they said.
Wes Wesley, Calipari’s coaching agent, has told plenty in power across the NBA that it would take an offer of no less than “$120 million guaranteed” to get Calipari’s interest, sources said. It has not been clear how many years that would entail or whether it would require him to coach for the entire contract. One of Calipari’s perceived selling points, sources said, is the horde of former Kentucky stars who are scheduled to become free agents over the next three to four years whom Calipari could recruit again to a new NBA home.
Calipari responded on Twitter on Monday, saying he isn’t going anywhere.
Those who have spoken to the Nets recently believe the search for replacements will be led by Dmitry Razumov, Prokhorov’s right-hand man, and Irina Pavlova, who runs the U.S. wing of Prokhorov’s investment vehicle. It was Razumov, for example, who was the driving force in hiring Jason Kidd in 2013.
There is also a growing belief within the league that Prokhorov is leaning more on Sergey Kushchenko, a legend of Russian sports. Prokhorov relied on Kushchenko to be the president of Russian basketball power CSKA when he owned that franchise and more recently tapped him to run the Russian biathlon team, a passion for Prokhorov leading into the Sochi Olympics.
The point is that Nets CEO Brett Yormark, who is one of Calipari’s closest friends, is not currently seen as a major driving force in deciding on the new leadership of the Nets. Yormark leads the Nets’ business operation, and he has done deals with Calipari in this capacity. Kentucky played at Barclays Center as part of an event last month, and there’s another deal in place for the Wildcats to play in the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum, owned by Prokhorov and operated by Yormark, next fall.
No. 2: Warriors turn to familiar trick to oust Heat — En route to their 2015 championship, the Golden State Warriors found themselves in a 2-1 series hole against the Memphis Grizzlies in the West semifinals. A strategic switch to put center Andrew Bogut on Memphis’ Tony Allen — a putrid outside shooter — swung the series and helped Golden State prevail 4-2. Last night, with the Miami Heat in town, Golden State broke out that strategy again (this time on Heat rookie Justise Winslow) to pull away for the win. Ethan Strauss of ESPN.com has more:
When Golden State was down 1-2 in last season’s Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies, they used a tactic few if anyone saw coming: Center Andrew Bogut guarded Tony Allen, a perimeter player who can’t shoot. On Monday night the Warriors harkened back to that when, in the second half, Bogut started out guarding Miami rookie wing Justise Winslow, a 22 percent 3-point shooter. The Warriors built a nine-point advantage before Miami finally conceded and subbed Winslow out for Gerald Green.
“It was just an idea we had at halftime,” interim Warriors coach Luke Walton said about the tactic. The Warriors had expected Miami center Hassan Whiteside to play, and were caught a bit off guard when Whiteside was declared out with a knee issue and Chris Bosh started at center. Instead of continuing to have their rim protector chase Bosh out to the 3-point line, they lessened the workload while shrinking Miami’s space.
“No, we didn’t discuss that pregame at all,” said Bogut, who also guarded Luol Deng. “We didn’t really know Whiteside was inactive before the game. So we ran out there and he wasn’t in warm-ups so, realized he wasn’t playing. And obviously Bosh is on the perimeter a whole lot more now so, just something we’ve done before with Tony Allen and a couple other guys. We went to it, and it worked.”
Freezing out Winslow put Miami in a bind. They aren’t exactly replete with wing defense and he’s an ace wing defender. Taking him out compromises so much of what they hope to do.
Golden State’s superior versatility couldn’t have happened without Draymond Green‘s rapid evolution. Green, who had another great game (22 points, 12 boards, six assists) on Monday night, ended his rookie season as a 20.9 percent 3-point shooter. Long ago, he was in Justise Winslow’s place, sans the security that comes with being a lottery pick.
On what changed for the now 42 percent 3-point shooter, Green said, “Lot of hard work. Countless hours in the gym, just continuing to work and believe in yourself, knowing that it’s not easy. If it was easy everybody could do it.”
Green didn’t want to be the kind of player who received the Tony Allen treatment and he resolved to be someone who shoots freely when open. “After my rookie year I just told myself, if I’m not going to make it in this league, I’m going to go down playing like me.”
VIDEO: Warriors top Heat, move to 36-2 on the season
No. 3: Irving still working to get back into a groove — A little more than a week ago, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving had his best performance of the season, notching 32 points, five rebounds and three assists (in 34 minutes) against the Washington Wizards. Proof that the All-Star guard is fully recovered from his knee injury from a season ago, right? Not quite, says Irving. In a conversation with ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin, the guard says he knows he’s still working back into form:
As Kyrie Irving prepared to play the 10th game of his comeback after being sidelined for nearly 6½ months following surgery to repair a fractured left kneecap, he wanted to express his appreciation for a couple of his teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers for holding down the fort in his absence.
“Kev and Bron have done an unbelievable job of leading the team for, basically, I’ve played in nine games so the … 26 other games I didn’t play in,” Irving said of Kevin Love and LeBron James after the Cavs held practice at the Mo Williams Academy on Monday. “So, you know, I just try to kind of just fit in. But also there are games where they’re telling me, ‘Come on, be aggressive. Come on, be yourself.’
“And then I just have to find that balance that we had last year where we had that continuity between the three of us and then it trickles down throughout the team because when we’re all clicking, man, it just opens up so many other opportunities for other people.”
Irving started off the Cavs’ current six-game road trip with a big-time game of his own, scoring 32 points on 14-of-22 shooting during a win in Washington. The two games that have followed produced the same result for the team — Cleveland beat Minnesota and Philadelphia to extend their winning streak to seven games heading into Tuesday’s showdown in Dallas — but have been a bit of a rough patch for Irving personally. He scored just 21 points on 8-for-27 shooting (2-for-9 from 3) combined against the Wolves and Sixers.
Asked if he still is working his way back to form, Irving said, “I am. I know I am. But it’s not hovering over the team. And I would never allow it to. There are things that I still have to figure out, but it’s still within the framework of the team. And that’s the way I want it to be.”
The Cavs will play the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, an occasion that will surely conjure up memories of Irving scoring a career-high 57 points last season — the most ever by a visiting player at the AT&T Center. But he insists he isn’t putting pressure on himself to make a bevy of buckets every night.
“The games are going to be different,” Irving said. “It’s not every night I’m looking to score 32, or have the ‘unbelievable’ game. That’s not what I’m looking to do. Whatever my team needs me to do going into those four quarters, however many minutes I play, I’m going to do. Every game can’t be like Washington, as much as we would love it to. But as professionals, that’s why it’s a team. It’s a team sport. You let that selfishness go and just do whatever is best.”
“I just put so much expectations on myself when I go out there, it feels like there’s a lot of ground that I have to make up and a lot more that I have to prove to myself more or less” Irving said. “When you miss the game for seven months and then you come back, it’s just like, ‘I’ve got to make every shot.’ Like, I have to play well every game.
“For me, it’s just about progressing. And, damn, still going 3-for-15 (against Philadelphia) sucks. But at the end of the day, we’re still winning.”
No. 4: Miles relishing his role with Pacers — Indiana Pacers shooting guard C.J. Miles is one of the last remaining players in the NBA to get there straight from high school. He’s been in the league since 2005 and has played with three teams (Utah, Cleveland and now, Indiana) and has turned himself into a solid role player in each spot. Miles is second on the Pacers in 3-pointers made and scoring average and tells Joel Brigham of BasketballInsiders.com how he’s enjoying this time in his career:
“I’m more important to this roster than I have been to any other roster, but solely because I’ve been put in the position to play more than just a little piece of a role,” Miles told Basketball Insiders. “I’ve been given the green light here, and I’ve been able to help more with what we’ve been trying to do. Confidence-wise, to know that, makes such a big difference.”
Before last season in Indiana, Miles had spent the majority of his career playing mostly bit roles in Utah and Cleveland. He’s been part of the main rotation for a good chunk of his professional life, but it wasn’t until he landed with the Pacers that he really was forced to be a bigger part of the offense, and even then it was out of necessity because of Paul George’s essentially season-ending injury.
“I came here from Cleveland right before LeBron James came back and right when Paul George got hurt, but sometimes those things turn out to be blessings in disguise,” Miles said. “I don’t wish injury on anybody, and I didn’t know anything about LeBron in Cleveland, but with how things worked out in those two spots, I ended up having to play more and step up my game some. That allowed me to do the types of things I’ve been doing this season to help Paul and Monta (Ellis) and George (Hill). That just helped me take steps forward in my game.”
A lot changes in a decade, of course, and Miles has carved out a role for himself on a team that has presented itself as one of the more promising in the Eastern Conference.
“We believed in the guys we had in the locker room, and with all the new players, coming off the injuries and stuff, we knew there were guys that were going to have to step up,” Miles said. “I feel like myself and Rodney Stuckey both have done that. George Hill has stepped up, we’ve worked faster with Paul back, we’ve added Monta. Ian (Mahinmi) has been so much better. We knew with that style of play anything was possible.”
Now, Miles very much hopes he’ll get his first taste of the postseason since 2010.
“It’s been a while since I played in the playoffs. It’s been years, and I’m definitely hungry to get back there,” he said. “With this team, I feel like we have the opportunity to do some damage, not only in terms of how this season goes, but we’ll keep building. Next year, and the next year. I’m excited about it.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is expected to accompany the team on its East-coast road trip … Inconsistency is raising its ugly head once again for the Chicago Bulls … Former Slam Dunk champion Nate Robinson is reportedly going to work out with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers … It may not be long until the New Orleans Pelicans hire Joe Dumars as their new GM … Why the Dallas Mavericks future may be brightest if it centers on small forward Chandler Parsons …