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Morning shootaround — April 5


VIDEO: Iverson, Yao, Shaq lead 2016 Hall of Fame class

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kerr: Warriors ‘not really pushing’ for 73 wins | Report: Conley’s season likely over | Carroll gearing up for return | Kobe reflects on rescinded Paul trade | Scott: Young ‘not here with us, mentally’

No. 1: Kerr says Warriors ‘not really pushing’ for 73 wins — Don’t misunderstand Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, here. Yes, he would love to see his Warriors break the NBA single-season wins mark set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (which Kerr was a key role player on). But in a chat with USA Today‘s Sam Amick, Kerr clarified that he isn’t pushing the team for the record, but instead playing out the season in hopes of getting it while also trying to keep the squad healthy as the playoffs approach:

Steve Kerr, the one-time Chicago Bulls sharpshooter turned Golden State Warriors coach whose past and present are racing to the regular-season finish this week, is pushing back against the idea that he’s pushing his current team toward what could be a record 73-win campaign.

“We’re not really pushing for this,” Kerr, whose Warriors (69-8) must win four of their final five games to best the 72-10 mark set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls squad on which he played a pivotal part, told USA TODAY Sports after practice Monday. “All we’ve said is, ‘Yeah, it’d be nice to get. We’d like to get it.’

“But if I were pushing for it, I probably wouldn’t be resting (backup point guard) Shaun Livingston and (center Andrew) Bogut, and I’d be playing our starters more. We’re just playing it out. I don’t understand if people are going to say that we’re pushing for this. I don’t think that’s the right word to use. We’d like to get it, but we’re still resting people and trying to get us set up for the playoffs.”

And if they happen to break the Bulls’ mark, Kerr will be as elated as anyone. No matter what Luc Longley has to say about it.

“He had a great line,” said a smiling Kerr, whose Warriors host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday before facing the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies twice apiece in the final four games. “He said ‘You know, you haven’t thought this through obviously.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Your coaching legacy is already established. You won a championship, so people are going to know down the road that you were a good coach. But as a player, you were mediocre at best. So if you break this record and you don’t have that record as a player, nobody’s ever going to remember you as a player, so what are you thinking?’ And I said, ‘Are you talking about you or me, Luc?’ He said, ‘both.’”

This week, in fact, former Bulls star Scottie Pippen said the 1995-96 team would sweep the Warriors in a playoff series. Pippen even detailed his own part in the hypothetical clash, saying he would hold Stephen Curry below 20 points a game with his length, athleticism and physicality. To that charge, Kerr decided not to push back.

“(What Pippen said) doesn’t bother me,” said Kerr, who had three titles with the Bulls and two with the San Antonio Spurs. “Every player out there who is connected to that team is going to be asked that question, and my response is always the same. The rules are so different, and the game is so different. We take 30 threes a game, or more, but the defensive rules are totally different in terms of illegal defense.

“With the old illegal defense rules, we would’ve had a hard time guarding the post. But now we can flood the strong side in a pseudo-zone. Back then you could hand-check, now you can’t hand-check. It’s hard to make a comparison if you’re really looking at it objectively, so I don’t even bother.”


VIDEO: Curry, Kerr talk after Thursday’s practice

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No. 2: Report: Conley not likely to play again in 2015-16 — The Memphis Grizzlies lost All-Star center Marc Gasol (broken right foot) for the season in late February. They have been without starting point guard Mike Conley (Achilles tendinitis) since mid-March. The Grizzlies have basically become a MASH unit since then, yet remain in the Western Conference playoff mix despite those injuries and others. Memphis’ hope was that Conley would be back in time for the playoffs, but according to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal, that’s not going to happen:

Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger listened to a reporter’s question, made certain he understood it and then paused.

He let the inquiry marinate in his mind and delivered a succinct answer.

Is there any expectation for Mike Conley, Brandan Wright, Jordan Adams and P.J. Hairston to play for the Griz again this season?

“I think we’ll see P.J. again,” Joerger said as he walked away.

The Grizzlies take a six-game losing streak into their game Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls, with their playoff hopes in peril and no hope of key players returning before next season.

Hairston has been out since March 15 with a hamstring injury. The guard’s return indeed appears imminent given he ran sprints during an extensive pregame workout Sunday before the Grizzlies’ loss at Orlando.

Hairston represents a relative upgrade to the multiple players on 10-day contracts that the Griz have called on over the past two months. But don’t hold your breath for the return of Conley (Achilles), Wright (knee) and Adams (knee). Marc Gasol was ruled out for the rest of this season with a broken foot before the All-Star break.

The Commercial Appeal independently confirmed that Conley was re-evaluated last week by team doctors. It was determined that it is in Conley’s best interest to not return to action until the 2016-17 season.

The biggest mystery involves Adams.

The Grizzlies are unwilling to discuss Adams’ situation. Team management, including general manager Chris Wallace, haven’t responded to inquires in two weeks. Team media relations officials last delivered an injury update on March 25.

A statement read: “Adams has increased his activity daily, including beginning court workouts. He will be re-evaluated weekly in hopes that he can return to team practices in the near future.”

After The Commercial Appeal was denied an interview recently, Adams said in a March 18 statement: “I have been working hard throughout my rehab process to get back and join my teammates on the court as soon as possible. I am trying to ramp up my cardio workouts as of late and hoping to get back to practice soon.”

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No. 3: Carroll trying to get back in gear as playoffs near — The Toronto Raptors are more or less locked into the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. Their next three games (tonight vs. Charlotte, Thursday in Atlanta and Friday vs. Indiana) are a challenge, but after that, a three-game stretch against non-playoff teams New York, Philadelphia and Brooklyn loom. The playoffs are coming quick for Toronto and getting forward DeMarre Carroll back in th emix — who hasn’t played since having knee surgery in early January — is job No. 1 for it now, writes Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun:

While there is no set timetable for a return, the most likely scenario — and the one both Carroll and coach Dwane Casey seemed to be hinting at Monday — would see Carroll ramping things up on the practice court or at shootaround over the next five days and then hopefully getting an increasing number of minutes over the final three games of the season when the Raptors will be playing non-playoff teams.

“He’s coming (along),” Casey said. “I don’t know what the timetable is, but he is moving well. There is no obvious swelling. Again, I am not a doctor. I will leave that up to the medical people, but he is working … We are not going to put a timetable on it and have an update every day.”

So no timetable, but Casey has a plan of attack if all goes well.

“The last three or whatever games there are when he comes back we will use those as his test lab,” Casey said.

Casey never gives anything away, but he seemed to be hinting that those are the games in which he might give players some rest.

“I want to be ramping up toward the playoffs, not the day before, the week of,” he said. “These (next three) games here are going to be a great test of playoff-type style of game. Playoff atmosphere. Whether we play all of our guys, that’s another story. Mentally, we’ve got to go in and get ready for the physicality and the speed on both ends of the floor. We have to do it Tuesday, Thursday and Friday this week.”

Carroll is looking to be back in action as soon as possible but he knows going a million miles an hour now could prove to be less beneficial in the long run. And he recognizes the chance for another setback is there.

“It feels totally different,” Carroll said of what he is feeling now compared to when he first came back and suffered that setback with all the swelling. “When I was working out before, I could feel the swelling when I was working out and now I don’t feel nothing so that’s a good sign.

“We just keep pushing it and hopefully, I keep playing two-on-two, three-on-three, four-on-four and coach is ready to put me in and call my number and I’m ready to play,” he said.

There’s no question Carroll with his tenacious defence and his sheer love of stopping opponents would be a huge benefit to the Raptors in the playoffs.

They took one step closer to getting that back in their lineup yesterday, but there is still work to be done and likely a few obstacles to overcome before Carroll is all the way back.


VIDEO: DeMarre Carroll talks after Monday’s practice

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No. 4: Kobe reflects on failed Paul trade in 2011 — As the NBA emerged from its lockout-induced haze in late 2011, a potential blockbuster deal was on the horizon: then-Hornets star Chris Paul being dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers to pair with an in-his-prime Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and others. The Hornets (at the time owned by the NBA) would have sent Paul to L.A. as part of a multi-team mega-deal, but ultimately the NBA declined to approve the trade and Paul ended up being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. That doesn’t mean Bryant and Paul didn’t dream about what could be in Lakerland and Bryant recently opened up about that time in his life to ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes:

In early December 2011, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was working out at an Equinox Fitness Club when his phone rang.

Chris Paul was on the line.

Paul appeared to be on his way to Los Angeles to join Bryant in the Lakers’ backcourt after the team struck a deal to acquire the MVP-caliber point guard from the New Orleans Hornets.

Bryant said the phone call lasted about 20-30 minutes, and they weren’t talking about how many games they planned to win together.

“You know me. My dream isn’t to win games,” Bryant recalled to ESPN this week. “It’s like, ‘How many of these titles are we going to win [together]?’ Because if we don’t win, we’re a failure.”

“It was crazy,” Paul told ESPN this week. “It was exciting. We talked about potentially being teammates and all that stuff like that. Then, in the blink of an eye, gone.”

In a move that stunned the basketball landscape, then-NBA commissioner David Stern nixed the deal for “basketball reasons,” a term that instantly became infamous among Lakers fans.

Paul and Bryant will face off for the final time this week, as the Lakers and Clippers are scheduled to play each other on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Leading up to the back-to-back, both players gave thought to what could have been and believe they would have formed a dominant backcourt duo.

“It worked for the Olympic team and stuff like that,” Paul said. “I played in a lot of All-Star Games with Kobe. I don’t know how many, but I remember one of them, we said, ‘As long as we’re both on the same team playing this game, we’re not going to lose,’ just because we both know how competitive we are.”

Bryant agreed.

“When we played together in every All-Star Game, we never f—– around,” Bryant said. “It was like, ‘Listen, the guys have their fun, but now let’s do what we do.’ I knew how competitive he was, and I knew it would be a perfect fit. We just kind of talked about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to scheme to get things done. Unfortunately, it never happened.”

Although both players are admittedly alpha males, Bryant believes they could have coexisted, even if they butted heads from time to time.

“Butting heads is fine,” Bryant said. “If we didn’t butt heads, we wouldn’t have won championships. There’s different variations of healthy butting heads and not healthy. [Shaquille O’Neal] and I would butt heads in a very unhealthy way, but then we figured out how to make it happen.

“But I think Chris and I are really two completely different players, and where Shaq and I really butted heads was in the work ethic, because his size and injuries prohibited him from working as hard as he could have been working. So what I used to get on him about was that. That’s what we really disagreed on — the amount of focus and physical attention that it takes to win this damn thing. And so Chris and I would never have these issues.”

 

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No. 5: Scott says Young ‘not here with us, mentally’ — The D’Angelo RussellNick Young video incident last week was the buzz of the NBA world for a bit. But for Young himself, it appears to be just another thing in a season that has been a challenge both professionally and personally. ESPN.com’s Jovan Buha reports that Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott clarified why he has kept Young out of the lineup of late:

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott clarified his decision to bench forward Nick Young for the past 11 games on Monday. He said it “has everything to do with basketball,” as well as Young’s not being mentally present with the team, given the recent drama in his personal life.

“It has nothing to do with the chemistry,” Scott said at practice Monday. “It has everything to do with just basketball. Right now, I know what he’s going through, and I know it’s hard on him. But he’s not here with us, mentally, and there’s no need for me to put him out there on the floor.”

Scott placed Young on the inactive list before Sunday’s 107-100 loss to the Boston Celtics. Scott said he views Metta World Peace as the more valuable player, and he understands Young is dealing with the fallout of a leaked video that teammate D’Angelo Russell secretly recorded of Young discussing women other than his fiancée, rapper Iggy Azalea, recently going public.

“I was thinking about that for the game last night — who to put on the IR — and my first thought was Metta [World Peace]. But then I said, ‘I can use Metta,'” Scott said. “It was strictly a basketball decision. It’s all based on because I know how [Young]’s feeling right now. He’s not really here with us.”

Before the video incident, Young and teammate Jordan Clarkson were dealing with a harassment claim levied by Alexis Jones — an activist focusing on sexual assault and harassment, abuse and domestic violence among athletes — and her 68-year-old mother on March 20 in Hollywood.

“It’s been tough,” Scott said. “This is probably the icing on the cake, as far as how tough it can be. He didn’t get off to a great start. His shooting has not been what it has been in the past. It went even a little downhill the last couple of months.

“The situation last week didn’t help. We all, as coaches, players and everybody, feel for him and understand the situation he’s in. It’s a tough situation.”

Young’s off-the-court distractions and resulting dip in production haven’t translated to his effort in practice, though, as Scott has still been satisfied with Young’s attitude and intensity.

“He’s been coming to practice every day,” Scott said. “He’s here, and he’s been doing what he needs to do. I have no problem with that whatsoever.”

Although Scott wouldn’t commit to keeping Young on the inactive list for the rest of the season, it seems unlikely that Young will play again this season.


VIDEO: Byron Scott addresses Nick Young’s status

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Like most of America, “Inside the NBA” analyst Charles Barkley really liked the ending of last night’s national championship game … Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s April Fool’s joke on Draymond Green did not go well … Willie Reed is making the most of his surprise stint in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets … Potential lottery pick Thon Maker did an extensive Q&A on why he plans to declare for the 2016 Draft … The Utah Jazz are moving their NBA D-League team to Salt Lake City come 2016-17 … Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight is done for the season and likely needs offseason surgery for his sports hernia … Speaking of the Suns, center Tyson Chandler plans to hold a camp for the team’s core players at his home this summer … Oft-injured Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is back from his second injury rehab trip in Qatar … This season has been a big one for the development of young Milwaukee Bucks guard Tyler Ennis … 

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