NEWS OF THE MORNING
Waiters: ‘One guy can’t beat us’ | Carroll says Lowry must ‘man up’ now | Report: Celtics in pursuit of Butler | Hawks shell-shocked by barrage of 3s | Report: Bickerstaff pulls out of consideration for Rockets’ job | Vogel awaits fate today
No. 1: Waiters says Aldridge alone can’t be Thunder — The San Antonio Spurs are more than getting their money’s worth out of free-agent addition LaMarcus Aldridge in the Western Conference semifinals. The newest Spur has been on fire in the series, averaging 39.5 points and shooting 75 percent in the first two games of the series. But to Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dion Waiters, the numbers that matter are 1 and 1. That’s the state of the series despite Aldridge’s heroics and, to Waiters, things are looking down for the Spurs as a team if Aldridge continues to sizzle. ESPN.com’s Royce Young has more:
“One man can’t beat you,” Thunder guard Dion Waiters said Wednesday. “So we’re fine with that. If they want to continue to get out of their offense and throw the ball down there to him, we’re fine with that. One guy can’t beat us, no matter how much he scores.”
“We’ve just got to make adjustments, try to make it tough on him,” Waiters said. “He’s a great player in this league, an All-Star. He’s going to make shots. He’s playing tremendous right now. But we’re fine with one guy just beating us. We’re fine with that. At the end of the day, Serge [Ibaka] and Steven [Adams] got to continue to do what they’ve been doing, but guys are going to make shots in the NBA and as long as they’re not running the offense and dropping it down to them, we’re living with that.”
Aldridge was asked by reporters in San Antonio if he’s putting pressure on himself to not cool down after his two big games in the series.
“I’m just playing basketball. I’m not trying to go do it [have a huge game],” he said. “You know, honestly, I didn’t think that I’d do it again after the first game. It’s just I’m going with the flow of the game out there.”
The Thunder primarily stuck with single coverage on Aldridge, with coach Billy Donovan saying they were mostly happy with the defense on the Spurs power forward. In the series, Aldridge is 17-of-26 on contested shots.
“We’re making him take the shots that we want, and he’s just making them,” Adams said. “That’s the only thing that’s kind of bumming us out right now. … We’re making him take similar shots [as in the past] and he’s just making all of them. And it sucks.”
No. 2: Carroll says teammate Lowry must ‘man up’ — In this space on Wednesday, we chronicled how Toronto Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry has been anything but on target in the playoffs. His shooting woes have been the story of the postseason at time for Toronto and that hasn’t changed after the Raptors fell in Game 1. His teammates are supporting him through and through, yet one teammate, DeMarre Carroll, is trying a little tough love on the star to get him back on track. Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun has more:
It’s not that he isn’t having any impact at all. He’s distributing and putting his teammates in position to succeed. He’s defending, probably better this series than last, but he’s chipping in at that end, too.
And he’s trying to lead by example, refusing to succumb to the frustration that builds with every missed shot.
But when the best part of Kyle Lowry’s game is his press conference game, there is something awfully wrong.
As one teammate put it yesterday ‘I don’t want to see happy, cooperative Kyle up there on the podium. I want scowly, a@#hole Kyle up there.”
The belief is that Lowry is at his best when he’s giving the world the finger. And it’s a tough notion to argue with, given most of his best basketball has come under those circumstances.
But it’s tough to be that way when you are shooting just 31% and the Twitterverse is having its way with you.
Lowry publicly laughed off his worst NBA playoff shooter stats of all time that hit Twitter on Wednesday, suggesting he deserved a trophy or something.
“(Raps PR maven Jim LaBumbard) showed me I’m the worst shooting player ever in the playoffs,” Lowry said laughing. “I’ll take that award, take something with it. It’s life. It’s a basketball game, I know I can shoot better than 31%.”
But laughs aside, Lowry is taking this untimely slump very seriously.
He has watched and re-watched clips of every shot he has taken in these playoffs and sees no mechanical glitches. They are all the same, save for a little drifting now and then. It has only served to make him more frustrated.
“It’s crazy. It’s like I said, it’s mind boggling to me,” he said. “‘Dude, how are you not making these shots?’ he asks himself.’ For me, I go into the games like I’m about to (get right) and we are going to win this this game. Then I miss a shot and it’s ‘OK.’ Then I miss another shot and that’s when it’s like ‘All right, I got to try and do something different.’ ”
At this point digging himself out is his only option.
DeMarre Carroll, who followed Lowry to the podium Wednesday afternoon was asked what kind of words of encouragement he could offer his teammate. But like only he could be, Carroll bluntly suggested words might not be the best approach right now.
“You can (offer encouragement), but you know, sometimes you just have to look yourself in the mirror. You have to man up,” Carroll said. “You have to be like, ‘I’m the Kyle Lowry that played the 82 games, All-star.’ You can say a lot to encourage him, but I feel like Kyle as the individual and a competitor, who he is, he has to look in the mirror and say ‘I’m Kyle Lowry.’”
No. 3: Report: Bulls making it hard on Celtics to get Butler — The Boston Celtics have a treasure trove of assets to use this offseason to rebuild their team ranging from young players to future Draft picks to potentially a lottery pick in the 2016 Draft. As such, the Celtics are in the midst of some early trade rumors with superstars, one of whom is Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler. While Boston would love to land Butler, CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely reports the Bulls aren’t making it easy on the Celtics to do so:
It’s no secret that the Boston Celtics are among the many teams that would love to swing a deal to acquire Chicago’s Jimmy Butler.
Well for now at least, it appears the Bulls aren’t willing to budge off moving their all-star small forward.
A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.
And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.
“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.
Any deal involving Butler to Boston from Chicago’s perspective, would most likely have to include Jae Crowder who is one of the best bargains in the NBA – and will be so for years to come.
With the increased salary cap on the horizon this summer for teams, the five-year, $35 million deal Crowder signed last summer is looking like an absolute steal on the Celtics’ part.
Meanwhile, Butler just completed the first year of a five-year, $92.3 million contract which raises questions if you’re the Celtics as to whether the difference in their salaries makes doing such a deal worth it.
If you’re the Celtics, such a deal would be a significant bump in paid-out salaries but it would also better position Boston to acquire a second superstar a la Kevin Durant who will be a free agent this summer.
More likely than not, the Celtics will have to go in a different direction which may result in Boston pulling off a deal for Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
No. 4: Hawks baffled by Cavs’ avalanche of 3s — If at some point on Wednesday night, you, like the Atlanta Hawks themselves, figured the Cleveland Cavaliers would cool off from 3-point range at some point, you’d be just as wrong as the Hawks were. Cleveland set an NBA record by nailing 25 3-pointers en route to a 123-98 romp in Game 2 that gave it a 2-0 series edge. On the other side of things, Atlanta was simply shell-shocked and in disbelief in its locker room after the dust had settled, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
There are losses – and then there are losses of epic proportion.
The Hawks were on the wrong side of one of the most amazing playoff performances in NBA history Wednesday night.
“I’ve never seen a team shoot that well in one game,” Kyle Korver said. “That was pretty amazing. If they shoot the ball like that, I don’t know if anyone can beat them, to be honest.”
The Cavaliers made 18 long-range baskets, on 27 attempts, in the first half alone. They shattered the record for 3-pointers in a half of 12.
How bad was it for the Hawks? Consider the first half:
* The Cavaliers were 18 of 27 (.667) from 3-point range. They were 6 of 21 (.286) from everywhere else.
* Seven different Cavaliers made a 3-pointer. J.R. Smith was 6 of 10 from long range. LeBron James and Kevin Love each had three.
* The Cavaliers led by as many as 38 points.
* The Cavaliers led 74-38 at intermission. They scored 39 points in the second quarter, one more than the Hawks had for the half.
“Just throwing it up there and they were going in,” Paul Millsap said. “You look at some of the 3’s, what else can you do? Give them credit. They came out, heated up, stayed hot, set a record. Enough said. Move on to the next game.”
Overall, the news wasn’t much better for the Hawks. They have now lost all 10 postseason games against the Cavaliers. In addition, the Cavaliers are 9-0 all-time when leading a playoff series 2-0.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game the Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting was a “huge concern.” His team has bigger problems now.
“In transition we are not doing a good enough job,” Budenholzer said. “We need greater urgency and greater understanding in getting to all of their shooters. I think it starts there. Then in the half court, they are in the paint a lot. When you collapse and people help, they are making the extra pass and making shots. Then the third piece, several of them, obviously, J.R. Smith are hitting extremely difficult 3’s on top of those first two things.”
“J.R. Smith did a great job of getting them going by being super aggressive,” Kent Bazemore said. “One time, he had his heal above the out-of-bounds line and he knocked it down. A game like this you have to shake their hand and move on to the next one.”
No. 5: Report: Bickerstaff withdraws from mix for Rockets’ gig — The Houston Rockets’ season ended with a whimper in Game 5 of the first round against the Golden State Warriors just about a week ago. Since then, talk of the future of the team’s roster (including, but not limited to, free-agent center Dwight Howard), its star, James Harden, and who will coach it next have all been discussion points. One name that is not going to be in the mix for the coaching job, though, is last season’s interim coach — J.B. Bickerstaff. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski has more:
After a meeting with ownership and the front office on Monday, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has informed team officials he’s no longer a candidate for the head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.
The Rockets are beginning to line up candidates in what promises to be a wide-ranging search, league sources told The Vertical.
Houston owner Les Alexander and general manager Daryl Morey met with Bickerstaff on Monday, as well as Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Houston assistant Chris Finch, league sources said. The team also met with Philadelphia 76ers assistant Mike D’Antoni on Wednesday, league sources said.
Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.
Former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy remains prominent on the organization’s list of candidates, league sources said.
Conversations with potential candidates are expected to include several prominent college coaches, sources said.
Among the NBA candidates with whom the Rockets are working to set up interviews are former Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and Charlotte Hornets assistant Stephen Silas, league sources said. There could be 10-15 – perhaps even more – candidates interviewed in the process, league sources said.
Though it is Bird’s annual custom to meet with reporters at the end of the season, this availability comes in the midst of speculation about coach Frank Vogel’s future.
Following the team’s Game 7 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Bird created national headlines by expressing indecision over retaining Vogel.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Bird told IndyStar, and could not offer a timeline on when a decision will be made. “What I don’t want to do is leave Frank hanging – there’s other jobs out there he could get.”
On Tuesday morning, the Pacers held exit interviews and Vogel’s fate was not revealed to players. Vogel met individually with players as he normally would at the end of the year.
Now in Bird’s first news conference since season’s end, observers have been guessing what Bird may reveal.
On Wednesday, former Pacer Danny Granger offered an opinion on his SiriusXM show.
“For the most part, what I think is going on in Indiana – and I don’t think you needed to be there or be within the organization to see this – but for a press conference to be called and no one knows what’s going to be discussed, including Frank Vogel, and that’s from the reports I’ve heard, that he doesn’t even know what’s going to be discussed, then obviously I think the writing is on the wall as to what will be discussed,” Granger said. “So I don’t know why they would call a press conference to say we are going to retain a coach.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kobe Bryant‘s “Dear Basketball” letter is going to become an animated short film scored by John Williams … Toront Raptors coach Dwane Casey and his team are feeling an awful lot like underdogs lately … For the record, TNT analyst Chris Webber stands by his calls late in Game 2 of the Spurs-Thunder series … San Antonio Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge is off to a historic start scoring-wise in the semifinals …