NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Joerger hoping to get Kings to defend — The Sacramento Kings haven’t ranked higher than 20th in defensive efficiency since the 2005-06 season. Hoping to end that 10-year streak of futility is new coach Dave Joerger, who had two top-10 defenses in his three seasons as the head man in Memphis. Joerger knows that improvement has to start with effort, as he told the Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisin:
Joerger’s challenge is transforming an unbalanced roster into something resembling chicken soup. A team featuring Cousins, Collison and Rudy Gay pleases the analytics people but has been susceptible to injury and devoid of chemistry or defensive commitment. The playoffs are a distant memory. A joyous locker room traces back to another era.
As training camp approaches for the Kings’ first season at Golden 1 Center, Joerger is tinkering and pondering, noncommittal about a style of play and, in his mind, moving the players around a chess board.
“We have a lot of work to do, and it starts defensively,” he said during a lengthy conversation. “We are a very poor transition team. Turnovers were catastrophic last year. I think we can play fast, but I don’t think you go three or four possessions without DeMarcus touching the ball. He should be a playmaker. How do we do that? That’s a spacing issue and a shooting issue. We just have to try to build a foundation and go from there. We have to understand what it takes to grind, because we need to grind here. And we need to outwork people.”
Joerger also joined ESPN’s Zach Lowe this week for a podcast about his days in Memphis and his plans for the Kings.
No. 2: Heat hoping Whiteside can assist shooters — In his 140-game NBA career, Hassan Whiteside has recorded a grand total of 35 assists. The Miami Heat have replaced Dwyane Wade with better shooters, but the question is if Whiteside can help create open shots for the likes of (the returning) Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington. The South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman talked to Ellington about that topic:
Actually, the conversation was about the potential for the Heat to successfully play inside-out, an approach that could maximize Ellington’s ability to contribute.
And that made the conversation about Hassan Whiteside, which it has to be, as much for what Whiteside realized in the offseason (a four-year, $98 million contract) as what he hasn’t often otherwise realized (35 total assists over the past two seasons).
To put Whiteside’s lack of a passing into perspective, consider that based on the NBA’s player-tracking statistics, Whiteside ranked 80th among centers last season in points created off assists, at 0.9 per game (as compared to Pau Gasol’s league-leading 9.6).
That’s 80th among centers in a league with only 30 teams.
The ball simply didn’t come out of those hands that often, with Whiteside 40th among centers last season in passes per game and 40th in secondary assists created (the pass that leads to the pass for an assist).
“It’s no question. That’s something big for us,” Ellington said of getting Whiteside and the Heat’s outside threats on the same page. “And being able to get on the same page with Hassan and the other big guys is crucial. Gaining that attention and defenses being so focused on him, being able to go out and find the open guys is going to be huge for us.”
No. 3: Is Harrison Barnes ready? — On the flip side of Kevin Durant‘s move to Golden State is Harrison Barnes going to Dallas with a max contract in hand. And the question is whether Barnes is ready for a much larger role with the Mavs than he had with the Warriors. The Dallas Morning News‘ Eddie Sefko talked to Barnes about the move:
The question of whether he’s going to be a next-step player this season is one that nobody can answer yet, not even Barnes. His arrow is pointing upward. But how far upward?
“Whether I’m ready or not, I guess we’ll find out starting with the first game,” Barnes said. “But I’m willing to put in the work. And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from coach [Rick] Carlisle.
“He said: ‘It’s going to be a process. We believe you’re ready. We think you can be that player. But there’s going to be some growing pains just because you’re going to be adjusting to some different things.'”
Among the things Barnes will have to adjust to is having the ball in his hands a lot more than he did when playing alongside Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and [Draymond] Green.
And it’s not just about getting more shots. It’s about making decisions with the ball and determining the flow of the Mavericks’ offense.
Meanwhile, Barnes’ new point guard sees unfinished business in Dallas. Sefko spoke with Deron Williams about signing another one-year contract with the Mavs and his thoughts on his new teammates…
He had surgery to correct a sports hernia after last season, which ended with him not being able to contribute for much of the stretch run and in the playoffs.
“I’d have liked to be here for a little longer,” Williams said of the one-year deal. “We’ll see how it goes. It is what it is. For sure, I wanted to be back. I felt like I had some unfinished business at the end of last year the way things ended and I wasn’t able to be on the court. Hopefully I’ll stay healthy because I’m excited about this team.”
Williams said the changes in the offseason, bringing aboard Barnes and Andrew Bogut in particular, should help offset the loss of Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia.
“We’re definitely going to miss Chandler, but Harrison stepping in, that’s not a downgrade,” Williams said. “It’s going to be great to see how he handles being a go-to guy. He’s kind of been in the shadows (at Golden State). We’ll see what he can do now with the ball in his hands. And I’m looking forward to playing with big Bogut. I’ve been a fan of his for awhile. He’s definitely a player point guards like to play with.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: After winning a championship with the Cavs, Mo Williams is “strongly considering retirement” … Kyrie Irving doesn’t scare Avery Bradley … Tristan Thompson took Larry O’Brien on a tour of Toronto … and should the Knicks take a flyer on Lance Stephenson?