Posts Tagged ‘Al Horford’

Horford responds to Heinsohn’s critique


VIDEO: Al Horford goes up top for the alley-oop against Boston

ATLANTA — Al Horford didn’t take the bait. 

It’s the playoffs, after all. And he knows better than to partake in anything that will shift the focus away from the business at hand, namely his Atlanta Hawks focusing on their preparation for Game 2 against the Boston Celtics Tuesday night at Philips Arena.

So when Horford was informed that Celtics great Tommy Heinsohn made some disparaging remarks about him after he led the Hawks with 24 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks in their Game 1 win in this series, he shrugged it off. Heinsohn told a television audience watching the Celtics’ postgame show that Horford was “not a great player. Get a man on him and he has trouble scoring.”

“I didn’t see it, but that’s his opinion, you gotta respect it,” Horford said after the Hawks’ practice Monday afternoon. “I do. That’s his opinion and that’s how he feels.”

Horford is a four-time All-Star who has helped the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his nine NBA seasons. That includes his rookie season, when the Hawks pushed the No. 1-seeded Celtics to a Game 7 in a first-round series en route to Boston winning the title 2008 NBA title.

There’s no extra motivation needed, Horford said. Just being in the heat of playoff battle is enough, no matter the opponent.

“I’ve been in the league a long time,” he said. “I know I have to focus on my team and this is the playoffs, we’re in a great position and we have a great opportunity, so we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Hawks swingman Kent Bazemore rolled his eyes when informed of Heinsohn’s comments, and offered up his own retort.

“Oh, wow, I’m sure Al is going to come out and prove somebody,” Bazemore said. “You know Al’s a great player and he’s extended his range. He can shoot it now, he protects the rim and blocks shots and he’s a great leader. I could go on all day about all the accolades he has. Al’s a great teammate. There’s always someone that’s going to say a guy’s not a great player. Even Jesus Christ had haters.”

 

Analytics Art: Lillard, Bryant, Horford among week’s worst shooters


VIDEO: Relive the Damian Lillard-Stephen Curry duel

By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com

For those who haven’t been following along, Kobe Bryant’s retirement tour with the Los Angeles Lakers hasn’t been going well.

Sure, there’s the elaborate parting gifts and raucous chants from adoring fans, but with their 62nd loss of the season on April 6, the Lakers have now posted the worst record in franchise history (overtaking last season’s 61-loss campaign).

Bryant’s bottom-feeding shooting percentages haven’t helped the cause. Now, instead of riding off into the sunset, the Black Mamba is hobbling to the finish line with the gusto of an injured gazelle. Bryant made PointAfter’s list of the coldest shooters of the week, joining two guys on teams bound for the playoffs.

Note: Statistics in this article cover games from April 1-7.

Guard: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard has been on a tear since being snubbed from the All-Star Game. He’s scored at least 30 points in a game 10 times post-All-Star, reaching the 50-point plateau twice during that span as well.

But while Lillard has poured in the points and guided Portland to a playoff berth, he didn’t have a great week to start the month of April.

Interestingly, Lillard’s best performance this week — 38 points on 13-of-27 shooting against the No. 1 seed Golden State Warriors — came in a loss. In Portland’s three other games (all wins), the point guard out of Weber State combined to shoot a ghastly 28.3 percent.

It’s worth noting that the Trail Blazers have managed to win games in spite of their leading scorer’s struggles. However, head coach Terry Stotts will only be able to work so much magic in the playoffs without his best player scoring like he’s capable.

Wing: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

There’s a whole lot of red on Bryant’s shot chart over the last seven days. And make no mistake, Bryant is giving the fans what they want to see: his trademarks jump shots. Unfortunately, the volume scorer who never made at least 47 percent of his field goals in a season throughout his career has been shooting blanks at age 37.

From difficult fadeaways to long three-pointers, Bryant is putting it all on display. But in bittersweet fashion, a once majestic show has reached its frustratingly inept final season.

He did amass 34 points in his final game against the Boston Celtics on April 3, but it took the five-time champ 28 shot attempts to get there (39.3 percent shooting). Add in 2-of-12 and 6-of-19 shooting performances from there, and it’s impossible to omit Bryant from this week’s shortlist of worst shooters. That’s not exactly an ideal parting gift.

Forward/Center: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

In his three games April games thus far, Al Horford converted just 36.4 percent of his shot attempts. For a guy who’s made more than 50 percent of his shots on the season, that’s wildly out of character for the big man. His infatuation with the outside shot this month didn’t help.

In a 108-110 April 1 loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the former No. 3 overall draft pick went 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. That lowlighted a 5-of-17 shooting performance for Horford that doomed Atlanta against the Eastern Conference’s top seed.

He went just 7-of-18 against the Phoenix Suns four days later, then hit 4-of-9 shots versus the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

Usually a reliable efficient offensive center, the former Florida Gator was anything but this week.

This article was originally published on PointAfter (http://basketball-players.pointafter.com/stories/12374/kobe-bryant-worst-shooters-week-damian-lillard-al-horford), a partner of NBA.com.

Ben Leibowitz (https://twitter.com/BenLebo) is a writer for PointAfter (http://www.pointafter.com), a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network (http://www.graphiq.com). Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA Players (http://basketball-players.pointafter.com)NBA Historical Teams (http://nba-historical-teams.pointafter.com) and dozens of other topics.

Blogtable: Predicting the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Predicting East’s middle seeds? | Predicting West’s bottom seeds? |
Top moment from 2016 HOF class?



VIDEOHeat solidify their playoff chase with win vs. Pistons

> By this time next week, which teams will be seeded No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the Eastern Conference? And which team (if any) is most at risk of falling into No. 7 or 8 territory and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

No. 3: Heat
No. 4: Hawks
No. 5: Celtics
No. 6: Hornets

This isn’t merely how I think they’ll land — to me, this represents the relative strength and playoff readiness of the four teams involved. Miami knows how vital it will be to land in the third (or sixth) spot, just to avoid facing Cleveland for as long as possible. I don’t think any of the four is in danger of slipping to No. 7 or No. 8. That’s the East’s “green room,” with Indiana and Detroit likely to get bumped fast and asked to return next year.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

No. 3: Celtics
No. 4: Hawks
No. 5: Heat
No. 6: Hornets

Minimal shuffling from current standings.  Boston will beat out Atlanta because of a favorable home schedule and having the critical Jae Crowder back in the lineup.  Also a pair of road back-to-backs will keep Charlotte down in the sixth spot.  I don’t believe any of these teams are in danger of slipping out of the middle of the pack.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com

No. 3: Celtics
No. 4: Hawks
No. 5: Heat
No. 6: Hornets

As much as this is the latest opportunity for a lot of people to wrongly overlook the Hawks again, because they are capable of a nice postseason run, it’s tough not to like the Boston defense as a difference maker in this race within the race. The return of Jae Crowder is a big boost. I don’t think anyone falls into 7 or 8.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com

No. 3: Celtics
No. 4: Hawks
No. 5: Heat
No. 6: Hornets

I’d be wary of the Heat, only because they might not feel necessary to press Dwyane Wade into heavy minutes for the stretch run. Miami could falter. Otherwise, this is a four-team coin flip.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com

No. 3: Hawks
No. 4: Celtics
No. 5: Heat
No. 6: Hornets

This is just a wild guess, because we don’t know what teams (out of this group or their opponents) are going to rest guys in the final eight days. I’ll guess the Hawks and Celtics finish at 49-33 (Atlanta would take head-to-head tiebreaker with a win on Saturday), while the Heat and Hornets finish at 48-34 (Miami wins division-record tiebreaker). And no, none of them are in danger of falling down to 7 or 8.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com

No. 3: Hawks
No. 4: Celtics
No. 5: Hornets
No. 6: Heat

The hot Hawks have a favorable schedule and can clinch their tiebreaker vs. Boston with a home win against the Celtics. The Celtics, for their part, close their season with three games (two at home) against these rivals — but it isn’t reasonable to forecast a sweep, given the tight competition within this grouping. The Hornets have been terrific on the road lately, which can enable them to hang in despite four remaining games away from home. It has been a month since the Heat has won more than two games in a row, and so a major move is unlikely now.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

No. 3: Hawks
No. 4: Hornets
No. 5: Celtics
No. 6: Heat

The Hawks have a relatively tough schedule remaining (home against Toronto and Boston, plus at Cleveland and Washington), but they’re due to win one against Toronto or Cleveland, and have played Boston and Washington well this season. Charlotte has been playing well, and they’re 10-6 this season against the teams they have remaining. And Miami has three games left against Boston and Detroit, who they haven’t won against all season.

2016 Trade Deadline blog

From NBA.com staff reports

One of the busiest days in terms of NBA roster chatter and speculation is here: trade deadline day. With the deadline behind us, here’s everything that happened on a mostly quiet day. While you’re reviewing all the action, don’t forget to check out our Trade Tracker and other 2016 Trade Deadline coverage.

Highlights

Live blog — Part I | Live blog — Part II
Howard, Horford, Teague, Anderson staying putStephenson dealt to Grizzlies | Markieff Morris to Washington | Hinrich to Atlanta | Pistons trade pick for Motiejunas | Frye headed to Cleveland | Jazz trade for Mack | Thunder trade for Foye | Heat get under the tax line

UPDATE, 3:52 p.m. ET — Bucks, others had Howard talks

Dwight Howard is staying in Houston for the rest of 2015-16, but there was a chance he could have been in Milwaukee, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com …

UPDATE, 3:28 p.m. ET — Sixers get Anthony from Rockets

Hours have he was acquired by the Rockets from the Pistons in the Donatas Motiejunas deal, Joel Anthony is on the move again

UPDATE, 3:18 p.m. ET — The names that didn’t move

There was plenty of chatter surrounding Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Ryan Anderson, as well as minor rumblings about Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Pau Gasol. But none of those guys are going anywhere at the deadline.

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m. ET — Stephenson to Memphis

UPDATE, 3:06 p.m. ET — Hinrich to Atlanta

Another small deal has trickled in after the deadline…

UPDATE, 2:43 p.m. ET — Markieff Morris to Washington

Markieff Morris, who’s been unhappy in Phoenix since his brother was traded last summer, was always the most likely player to be traded on Wednesday. And the destination for Morris is Washington…

Both Blair and Humphries had non-guaranteed deals for next season, so Morris’ contract (three more years, $7.4 million next season) eats into the Wizards’ cap space, which has been earmarked for Kevin Durant.

UPDATE, 2:16 p.m. ET — Heat get under the tax line

No team has made more deals than the Miami Heat this week, and it’s all been about getting under the luxury tax line. Pat Riley did just that with the third of the three deals…

Because the Heat were subject to repeater tax levels this season, they were set to pay more than $25 million in tax before the trades that sent out Chris Andersen, Jarnell Stokes and Roberts (who was acquired in the Andersen, three-team trade). Now, they’re not paying any tax, and will get a portion of the money that the remaining tax-paying teams are paying out.

UPDATE, 2:04 p.m. ET — No quit in the Kings

It’s not clear why the Kings covet Pau Gasol, but it is clear that they do…

UPDATE, 2:01 p.m. ET — No deal for Howard?

With the trade deadline just an hour away, the biggest name that had a decent chance of being traded is still in the same place…

UPDATE, 1:41 p.m. ET — Talk, but no action in Minnesota

When the Minnesota Timberwolves host the New York Knicks on Saturday, it will be Ricky Rubio bobblehead night. The real Rubio will probably be there, but the Wolves have talked with at least one team about trading their point guard…

A Kevin Martin trade would seemingly be more likely, but…

UPDATE, 1:26 p.m. ET — Thunder trade Augustin for Foye

Looking for a boost to their bench, the Oklahoma City Thunder have acquired Randy Foye from Denver…

UPDATE, 1:24 p.m. ET — Teague staying in Atlanta

Jeff Teague will be the Atlanta Hawks’ point guard for at least another two months.

The Hawks could field more offers for Teague in the summer, when multiple teams will be looking for a starting point guard and when the market is pretty shallow beyond the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley. Teague has one more season (at just $8 million) left on his contract.

UPDATE, 1:09 p.m. ET — No action in Dallas

The Dallas Mavericks are standing pat.

2016 Trade Deadline live blog — Part II

From NBA.com staff reports

One of the busiest days in terms of NBA roster chatter and speculation is here: trade deadline day. As we close in on the 3 p.m. ET deadline for all NBA teams to make trades, we’ll keep you in the know about any rumblings and reported deals as they happen. While you’re keeping up, don’t forget to check out our Trade Tracker and other 2016 Trade Deadline coverage.

The Trade Deadline Show will air on NBA TV at 2 p.m. ET.

Highlights

Live blog — Part I | Live blog — Part III

Nets hire Marks | Lawson still in Houston | Pistons trade pick for Motiejunas
Frye headed to Cleveland | Jazz trade for Mack

UPDATE, 12:57 p.m. ET — Jazz trade for Mack

The Utah Jazz didn’t trade for Ty Lawson, but found a cheaper option.

UPDATE, 12:46 p.m. ET — Guard trade talks brewing

UPDATE, 12:41 p.m. ET — Cavs getting Frye from Magic

Sharp-shooting forward Channing Frye was rumored to be a target of the Cleveland Cavaliers as we entered today and now, he is apparently Ohio-bound.

UPDATE, 12:33 p.m. ET — Clippers not buying Frye

UPDATE, 12:21 p.m. ET — Pistons trade pick for Motiejunas

The Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets have made a deal.

Motiejunas has played just 14 games this season dealing with a bad back, but was a big piece off the Rockets’ bench last season. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, Thornton will be unrestricted, and Anthony has a non-guaranteed year left on his contract.

With the pick top-8 protected, the Rockets are likely to get it this year, but it’s value goes down if the Pistons climb the East standings. They currently stand in eighth, but are just two games in the win column out of fifth.

UPDATE, 12:15 p.m. ET — The Randy Foye market

Randy Foye has a very tradeable ($3.1 million, expiring) contract, but that doesn’t mean that the Nuggets will trade him…

UPDATE, 12:03 p.m. ET — No takers on Howard?

The Houston Rockets have been trying to trade Dwight Howard, but finding a workable deal for a contract like that ($22 million this season, player option for next season) is not easy …

UPDATE, 11:58 a.m. ET — Heat lower tax bill

The first trade of deadline day 2016 is a (very) minor one and the third trade the Miami Heat have made this season to inch closer to getting under the luxury tax line…

The Heat would still need to make at least one more trade to avoid paying the harsh repeater tax this season.

UPDATE, 11:37 a.m. ET — Bucks looking for backcourt help

The 22-32 Milwaukee Bucks are a long shot to return to the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not buyers at the deadline…

Behind Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton, the Bucks have three guards – Jerryd Bayless, O.J. Mayo and Greivis Vasquez – on expiring contracts. Marshall is on a cheap, four-year deal, where the next three seasons are all unguaranteed.

UPDATE, 11:28 a.m. ET — Lawson still in Houston

UPDATE, 11:25 a.m. ET — Hawks standing pat?

Jeff Teague and Al Horford have been in the center of a lot of rumors over the last couple of weeks, but the Hawks aren’t necessarily ready to break up the core that won 60 games last season.

Teague has one more year on his contract, so Atlanta doesn’t necessarily have to make a choice between him and current back-up Dennis Schroder right now. Horford is a free agent this summer.

UPDATE, 11:13 a.m. ET — Thaddeus Young in demand

Sean Marks has been the Nets’ general manager for about an hour. But it’s deadline day and he’s got a power forward that some teams could use…

UPDATE, 11:10 a.m. ET — Pau to Sacramento? Nah.

A potential trade sending Pau Gasol to Sacramento was apparently wishful thinking from one side of the deal…

UPDATE, 10:20 a.m. ET — Nets hire Marks

Less than five hours before the trade deadline, the Nets announced that they’ve hired Sean Marks (previously assistant GM in San Antonio) as their new general manager. From the team’s press release…

“After an exhaustive vetting process, we are delighted to have Sean as our General Manager,” Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said. “His experience on the court, in coaching and management gives him a 360 degree view of the job at hand. His background helping to build one of the greatest teams in the NBA gives him an unparalleled frame of reference. And he impressed us all with his vision, his values, his personality and his enthusiasm for the club. The vote to select him from an incredible list of talent was unanimous. We welcome Sean into our Nets family and look forward to his strong leadership and independent thinking as we build our own success story.”

“I am very excited to be named the General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets, and to become a member of the vibrant and dynamic organization that represents Brooklyn,” Marks said. “I would like to thank Nets’ ownership for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to the challenge of creating a unified culture and building a winning team.”

According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Marks has a four-year contract with Brooklyn

In discussions that extended to Wednesday night, the Nets significantly increased their contract offer to persuade Marks to accept the job, league sources said.

Marks, 40, had emerged as the Nets’ top choice through a two-month process.

The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford hold Marks in high regard and had been grooming him to eventually take over a more significant role in the organization.

2016 Trade Deadline live blog

From NBA.com staff reports

One of the busiest days in terms of NBA roster chatter and speculation is here: trade deadline day. As we close in on the 3 p.m. ET deadline for all NBA teams to make trades, we’ll keep you in the know about any rumblings and reported deals as they happen. While you’re keeping up, don’t forget to check out our Trade Tracker and other 2016 Trade Deadline coverage.

Live blog — Part II | Live blog — Part III

UPDATE, 10:14 a.m. ET — Gasol/Kings chatter

A Wednesday-night report had the Sacramento Kings “pushing hard” to get Pau Gasol from the Chicago Bulls. Sam Amick has an update…

UPDATE, 10:05 a.m. ET — Celtics holding strong

No team has the ability to trade for a star more than the Boston Celtics. Al Horford and Dwight Howard are two impact players on the market, but both could be free agents this summer. Horford is on an expiring contract and Howard has a player option for next season that he could decline.

UPDATE, 9:48 a.m. ET — Suns forwards on the market

Could Mirza Teletovic reunite with head coach Jason Kidd? From ESPN’s Marc Stein

Among the many things Phoenix is discussing today, sources say, is dealing Mirza Teletovic to Milwaukee. But the Bucks’ largest trade exception is agonizingly too small ($5.2 million) to absorb Teletovic’s $5.5 million salary, so any deal would have to involve players from both teams.

Teletovic is on an expiring contract and the Bucks don’t have much of a shot at the playoffs, so it’s hard to see much motivation for Milwaukee to get a deal done there.

UPDATE, 9:09 a.m. ET — The buyout list

Once the deadline passes, some players with expiring contracts could get waived by non-contenders so that they could sign with teams heading to the playoffs.

In order to be eligible for the playoffs, a player would have to be waived by March 1 (and doesn’t necessarily have to sign until the last day of the regular season).

UPDATE, 8:49 a.m. ET — Lawson may be done in Houston

When the Rockets play in Phoenix on Friday, Ty Lawson might not be with them, whether they’ve traded him or not.

Lawson played less than nine minutes in the Rockets’ last game before the All-Star break and has shot a career-low 39 percent this season.

UPDATE, 7:58 a.m. ET — Teams interested in Knicks’ prospect

New York doesn’t have many assets with which to trade, but according to Orazio Cauchi of Sportando.net, former 2015 Draft pick Guillermo “Willy” Hernangomez is drawing some interest.

UPDATE, 7:37 a.m. ET — Rockets turned down one Dwight deal

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported this morning that the Houston Rockets are working hard to trade Dwight Howard. The Charlotte Hornets offered up Al Jefferson and Spencer Hawes for Howard, Isola reports, but that deal was dismissed.

UPDATE, 6:51 a.m. ET — New overnight (and what you might have missed)


VIDEO: David Aldridge breaks down the Cavs’ trade chatter

Kings pushing hard to acquire Bulls’ Gasol — The Sacramento Kings find themselves on the perimeter of the Western Conference playoff picture, a manageable 4 1/2 games behind the Utah Jazz for No. 8. Trade talks have swirled around some members of the team (Ben McLemore, Kosta Koufos, Rudy Gay and others), but it seems they are potentially eyeing a massive deal with the Chicago Bulls. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Mannix report the Kings are trying to pry All-Star big man Pau Gasol from Chicago in a deal that would send he and Tony Snell to Sacramento for Koufos, McLemore and an adjustment on the 2016 first-round pick the Kings owe the Bulls.

Adding on to this, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune confirms Gasol is indeed available, but the Bulls want “a rotation player who can make an immediate impact and a first-round pick”. Additionally, Snell and forward Taj Gibson are also on the market as the Bulls’ front office is trying to determine how to manage the futures of Gasol (who will likely opt out this summer and become an unrestricted free agent) and injured center Joakim Noah (also a free agent this summer). Gibson, for his part, would be surprised at being dealt, Johnson reports. “I would be surprised, but I understand that it’s a part of the business,” he said. “An offer could be made and things could be shaken up. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or don’t appreciate you. It’s just that it’s a business. I totally understand it. I’ve been in (rumors) my whole career.”

Report: Jazz, Rockets discuss guard swap — If the season ended today, the Utah Jazz would be in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. However, point guard play has been an issue for Utah all season long and according to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz are looking to send point guard Trey Burke to the No. 9 team in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets, for troubled point guard Ty Lawson. Burke is the Jazz’s fifth-leading scorer this season and has played his entire career with Utah. He was an All-Rookie first team pick in 2013-14 but has become more of a backup since then, playing behind rookie Raul Neto this season.

Howard, Lawson tune out trade chatter — Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard was mentioned in a possible trades with the Charlotte Hornets and has been in and out of trade rumors all season long. Point guard Ty Lawson found himself tied into a potential deal last night with the Utah Jazz. Yet neither player is sweating what happens next, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Said Howard: “You always put it out of your mind. There’s always going to be rumors. People are always going to say stuff. At the end of the day, none of that stuff matters.”

Cavs reportedly offer Varejao to Magic for Frye — If nothing else this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have made it clear this season that it’s championship-or-bust time in Ohio. That being said, it’s not surprising to see Cleveland in the mix for several trades today, including a deal that would send Anderson Varejao back to the team that originally drafted him. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Cavs approached the Orlando Magic — who selected Varejao with the 30th pick in the 2004 Draft — for sharp-shooting big man Channing Frye. However, the likelihood of Orlando accepting the deal is in question, reports Sam Amick of USA Today Sports.

Love, Shumpert likely staying put with Cavaliers — As much as Cleveland is in win-now mode, though, it isn’t about to part with two key starters as the season winds down. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reports that Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert are expected to be with the team after the deadline (and Anderson Varejao may not get moved either). But even if the big names on this roster are staying put, don’t be surprised if smaller contracts/names on the roster — those of Richard Jefferson, Mo Williams and Jared Cunningham — are used in a possible deal.

Report: Celtics willing to part with Nets’ pick … for right priceKevin Love has been on the wish list. So, have Blake Griffin, Al Horford and other marquee big men. The Boston Celtics have plenty of assets with which to swing a trade — the foremost being the Brooklyn Nets’ No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes that the Celtics would be willing to trade away that sought-after pick for the right suitor, but they wouldn’t deal the pick in a trade for Griffin or Horford.

Thunder unlikely to make deal, but may mine buyouts — Oklahoma City is in a comfortable position in the Western Conference as the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule approaches. Yet should they be thinking about a trade as today’s deadline — and star Kevin Durant‘s offseason free agency — draws closer? Royce Young of ESPN.com digs into that issue and posits that the Thunder would be better off seeing who if a useful veteran (like Joe Johnson or Kevin Martin) is bought out at the trade deadline and perhaps swinging for them instead of a big-time trade.

Kupchack doesn’t expect Lakers to be busy today — The Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of potential talent on their roster in the form of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers are still waiting to see what all that potential becomes and, as such, are not expected to be involved in trades today, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. General manager Mitch Kupchak said as much in his address to the media yesterday and while the team has veterans on expiring deals (Roy Hibbert, Ryan Kelly, Metta World Peace) and others on somewhat reasonable contracts (Brandon Bass, Lou Williams), interest around them has been nil.

 

 

Morning shootaround — Feb. 14


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from All-Star Saturday Night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest | Hack-A-Gone? | Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother | Horford embraces uncertain future

No. 1:  LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest For years, the Verizon Slam Dunk was All-Star Weekend’s marquee event. The electricity surrounding the event may have waned in recent years. But last season, Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine gave it a jolt of excitement, notching his first win. And Saturday night in Toronto, a couple of 20 year olds, LaVine and Magic forward Aaron Gordon, took turns making jaws drop, posting alternating perfect scores in the contest’s final round until LaVine was ultimately able to grab the win in arguably the greatest dunk contest in All-Star Weekend history. And as Lang Whitaker writes, with the contest on the line, LaVine went to the free-throw line

High expectations? No problem.

After bringing the Dunk Contest back to prominence one year ago with a series of electrifying dunks, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine picked up where he left off, with help from Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

And with the Verizon Slam Dunk on the line, Zach LaVine went to the free throw line. Well, almost.

With a through-the-legs dunk from just inside the charity stripes, Zach LaVine earned his fifth score of 50 on the night, making him the 2016 NBA dunk champ. The 20-year-old LaVine became the first back-to-back winner since Nate Robinson in 2009 and 2010.

Going against Magic forward Aaron Gordon in the contest finals, LaVine and Gordon got locked into a heavyweight bout where they traded incredible body blows. After the contest, LaVine said, “We should share the trophy, because [Gordon] did some stuff I’ve never seen before.”

To begin the final round, Gordon completed a dunk with an unbelievable degree of difficulty, snatching the ball from Orlando Magic mascot Stuff — who was spinning on a hoverboard — and throwing down a twisting dunk. This earned a 50. LaVine countered by throwing himself an alley-oop and floating through the air for a one-handed finish, earning another 50.

Gordon then again used Stuff, this time clearing the mascot with his rear end while passing the ball below for a lefty finish. That earned another 50, putting the pressure on LaVine.

LaVine responded coolly, with a windmill from just inside the free throw line, for another 50. This marked the first time in Dunk Contest history the final round saw four scores of 50.

They didn’t stop. In the first dunk-off, Gordon enlisted teammate Elfrid Payton to throw an alley-oop off the side of the backboard. Gordon caught the ball and completed a reverse dunk while flying through the air. 50. LaVine responded by throwing an alley-oop to himself from the baseline, catching the ball and passing it through his legs for a reverse dunk. This earned another 50.

On the second dunk-off, Gordon ran along the baseline and did a two-handed double-pump reverse reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins. Gordon scored a 47. To win it, LaVine went back to the free throw line.

***

No. 2: Hack-A-Gone? A Q&A with the Commissioner of the NBA has become a staple of All-Star Saturday Night, and last night Adam Silver faced the assembled media to address several topics. As Steve Aschburner writes, among the many topics addressed, one change Silver is clearly looking to implement is an end to the Hack-A- intentional fouling that has become en vogue around the NBA lately …

If the Hack-A-Whomever strategy currently raising such a ruckus in some NBA precincts is actually something you like, take solace: It’s going to be with us, extending the real time of games, disrupting any sense of flow and showcasing a whole lot of bricked free throws, at least through the end of the 2016 playoffs.

If, though, you believe in the tactic as a coach’s best friend — something to encourage bad foul shooters to improve, lest they look silly and cost their teams victories — those guys had better get in the gym soon and practice their form, release and follow-through fast.

Change almost certainly is coming, based on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s comments Saturday in the annual state-of-the-league All-Star news conference.

Silver, addressing and fielding questions from reporters before the skills, slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests at Air Canada Centre, reiterated what he has said on several recent occasion. “I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made,” Silver said, citing conversations he has had with broadcast partners, sentiment expressed in fan data and feedback from players, GMs and owners.

As for coaches, Silver said “Clearly our coaches who are smart and using very complex analytics believe it is benefiting them.”

But changing the rules wouldn’t be pursued to make life tougher on the league’s coaches, any more than it would be done to let the most frequent targets of the tactic — notoriously poor free-throw shooters such as DeAndre Jordan (.423 free-throw percentage), Andre Drummond (.351), Dwight Howard (.532) and a handful of others — off the hook. It would be a decision driven more by the NBA product as entertainment, not merely athletic competition.

Silver did share that, when the league’s competition committee discussed the strategy last summer, it sought data from an additional season before making a recommendation. That data so far? “We’re seeing the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used at roughly a five-and-a-half-times greater rate than it was used last season,” the commissioner reported.

That’s a lot of standing around, stoppages in play and, for folks viewing from the stands or on TV at home, a procession of finely tuned, multi-millionaire athletes failing at one of basketball’s fundamental skills. That’s not a good look for anyone involved.

Interestingly, Silver said that there is no consensus among the practice’s critics what remedy should be pursued. Treat the entire game like the final two minutes, when fouls away from the play equal one free throw and retained possession? Come up with something more stringent to snuff even the temptation to hack a targeted player intentionally?

Silver said he would want to have a specific alternative to propose. And even then, that sort of change would need the approval of two-thirds of the league’s members (20 of the 30 teams).

“So we’re nowhere near that point where we’re even starting to count heads,” Silver said. This summer would be the soonest, he indicated.

***

No. 3: Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother It was no big surprise last season in Brooklyn when Stephen Curry managed to win the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest; after all, he was midway through an MVP season and establishing himself as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Last night in Toronto, when it came time for Curry to defend his title, he posted a fine performance, making the final round, until his Splash Brother and Warriors backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson was able to get hot and edge Curry. As Sekou Smith writes, if there was any questions left about the league’s best-shooting backcourt, those doubts were officially laid to rest night

For the second straight year, one of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers walked off the All-Star Saturday night stage as the champion of the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

But it wasn’t defending champion and NBA three-point king Stephen Curry. This time it was teammate Klay Thompson taking home top honors in a competition that, by the final round, looked like something the Warriors might do at the end of every practice.

It marks the first time in Three-Point Contest history that different players from the same team have won it in consecutive seasons.

“Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool,” Thompson said.

Thompson saved his best for last, finishing with 27 points in the final round to conquer one of the deepest fields in the history of the competition, a group that includes some of the best long-range shooters in the game today and perhaps ever.

“He definitely shot well tonight,” Curry said. “I still think I can hold my own in the competition, but the way that he finished off that second round was amazing. So trust me, the pressure of knowing what number he had to hit and making five out of five was fun to watch.”

Curry collected 23 points in his final round, but was on his feet cheering with the rest of the contestants as Thompson drained shot after shot on his final rack. Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker, the youngest player in the league, finished third after netting 16 points in the final round.

***

No. 4: Horford embraces uncertain future All-Star Weekend is traditionally something of a swap shop for trade rumors, and with his contract expiring this summer, All-Star Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford hasn’t been immune from hearing his name. But considering the trade rumors and that he was swimming in the Caribbean when he got the last-minute call to get to Toronto, stat, as Sam Amick writes, Horford says he’s thrilled to be in Toronto and taking everything day by day

It’s no secret that the Hawks have been exploring trade options that include Horford, but that doesn’t mean the four-time All-Star’s days in Atlanta are necessarily done. The relationship between the player and the team that drafted him third overall in 2007 remains strong, with nine seasons of history between them and a dynamic between Horford and president of basketball operations/coach Mike Budenholzer that could still lead to him re-signing this summer. And yes, it should be noted, the Hawks are well aware that retaining a talent like Horford in today’s NBA will come with an enormous price tag not only because of his talents but because the league’s salary cap is about to spike from $70 million to $89 million next season (and $108 million in 2017-18). He would earn approximately $25 in his first season.

But the 31-24 Hawks, like any team that isn’t playing to its anticipated level, must consider all options this time of year. They are also known to be engaging in trade discussions relating to point guard Jeff Teague, who is less of a flight risk than Horford because he has one year left on his contract ($8 million). The New York Knicks and Utah Jazz, to name a few, could be serious suitors for Teague in the coming days.

The Boston Celtics are widely believed to be a potential fit as a Horford trade partner, but the real level of interest from general manager Danny Ainge remains to be seen in the coming days. And while Horford continues to speak positively about the city and his situation, there’s an inherent uncertainty to this process that always acts as the driving force.

“I’m very happy in Atlanta,” Horford said when asked if the Hawks had reason to be concerned that he might leave. “I’ve said it repeatedly. I love the city. My family, we all live in Atlanta, we stay there in the offseason, so my focus is just to keep playing and taking it day by day and, right now, it’s to enjoy this weekend. … Just taking it day by day. That’s the only thing I can do. We really can’t worry about three or four months from now.”

Especially when a welcome All-Star berth comes your way.

While Horford wasn’t selected to the team initially, he was given the nod on Friday when Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh unexpectedly pulled out because of a calf strain. Horford was vacationing with his family near Cancun, Mexico, when he got the call.

“I had my phone off (and) I was in the water,” said Horford, who is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. “I was doing my morning swim out there, and I got the call (around 9:30 am).

“I’m so excited to be here, man. Words don’t describe it. Being here in this city, in Toronto. I remember last year looking at it, and I was like, ‘It’s going to be in Toronto, I would love to be a part of that,’ because, you know, the fans here are so lively and just being around these guys and it happens to be Kobe’s last All-Star. It’s kind of a big deal, and for me to be a part of this I’m very grateful.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carmelo Anthony says he’s not getting tradedKarl-Anthony Towns struck a blow for bigs in the Skills Challenge … If you haven’t heard, it’s really, really cold in Toronto this weekend … The Indiana Pacers are eyeing a future All-Star Weekend bidJimmer Fredette was named MVP of the D-League All-Star GameKevin Hart tied Draymond Green in their own three-point shootout.

Report: Horford to replace Bosh on East roster

TORONTO — Chris Bosh will miss Sunday’s All-Star Game and, presumably, Saturday’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, reports Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, Bosh will be replaced on the Eastern Conference roster by Hawks center Al Horford.

USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt reports that it’s a strained calf that will sideline Bosh on Sunday. Bosh is the second East player to bow out of the game, following the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler, who was replaced by teammate Pau Gasol.

This will be Horford’s fourth All-Star appearance and the Hawks join the Bulls, Heat, Raptors, Thunder, Spurs and Warriors with multiple All-Stars.

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 10


VIDEO: The Fast Break: January 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

A kinder, gentler Bryant? | Lopez doesn’t regret sticking with Brooklyn | Stevens rejoins Celtics | NBA’s Australians looking forward to Rio

No. 1: A kinder, gentler Bryant? For the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour has become the focus of their season. Which may be a good thing, since the Lakers otherwise haven’t been very good, compiling an 8-30 record thus far. Yet despite all the losses, Kobe seems to be enjoying himself as he plays out the string, and the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan writes, has Kobe’s legendary burning desire to win faded a bit in this his final NBA season?

It was bad to be a trash can if Kobe Bryant was mad.

This was years ago, back when there were championship expectations, but Bryant booted one clear across the Lakers’ locker room at Madison Square Garden after a rough loss.

It was also sometimes bad to be toilet paper, apparently. Bryant angrily called his teammates “soft like Charmin” during a rant at practice in which he didn’t feel challenged. This was a little over a year ago.

The smoldering Bryant is now replaced by a smiling one, even as the Lakers (8-30) pinwheel toward the worst season in their 68-year history.

They played well Friday but lost a tight one to Oklahoma City. The new, lighthearted Bryant showed up again in the interview room, just like the previous night after a close loss in Sacramento.

The losses don’t seem as devastating to him.

“I just hide it a lot better,” he said Friday.

***

No. 2: Lopez doesn’t regret sticking with Brooklyn Last summer, Brooklyn center Brook Lopez was one of the most talented big men available in free agency. He eventually re-upped with the Nets, and though the team has struggled this season, Lopez has been a bright spot, averaging 19.8 points to go with 7.8 rebounds. The Nets may face an uncertain future, but as Andy Vasquez writes for the Bergen Record, Lopez says he has no regrets about re-signing with the Nets…

The Nets are in the midst of another disappointing season, certainly far from what Lopez envisioned when he re-signed. But the 27-year-old doesn’t regret his decision.

“No, no, no. I’m happy to be here,” Lopez said Thursday at the team’s practice facility.

“Time and time again I’ve said I wanted to see something built here, I see a special opportunity, a great situation to be in.”

The current situation isn’t exactly a bright one. Brooklyn just lost starting point guard Jarrett Jack for the season with a torn ACL.

Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who showed promise, is at least another month from returning from a broken ankle that has sidelined him since early December.

While the Nets aren’t mathematically eliminated from the NBA playoffs — it’s not even halfway through the season — they may as well be.

Brooklyn is closer (seven games ahead) in the standings to the awful Sixers than to the final playoff spot in the East (nine games behind).

The Nets don’t have control of their first round draft pick until 2019 thanks to the 2013 trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

So the franchise’s best chance is to hope free agents agree with Lopez about there being a special opportunity in Brooklyn.

Despite all the doom and gloom, the Nets do have some things going for them.

They should have about $40 million in cap space next summer, enough to offer two max salaries to free agents.

Barclays Center is still the league’s newest arena and the team’s state-of-the art Brooklyn practice facility opens next month. And then there’s the lure of the nation’s largest media market.

“The opportunity to play in New York, first and foremost,” Lopez said, when asked how he’d pitch the Nets. “The facilities we have. I think, for me, it’s all about potential.”

That potential starts with Lopez and Thaddeus Young, 27, two nice players with several prime years remaining in their careers. Both are having seasons worthy of All-Star consideration.

Meanwhile, Hollis-Jefferson was better than expected when he played. And the Nets have an intriguing young prospect in Chris McCullough, who has spent the season rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered at Syracuse a year ago.

Add the right pieces and the Nets could be a good team next season. And Lopez said that matters more than anything.

“At the end of the day, it’s about winning, regardless of where you are,” Lopez said.

“Whether we’re luring free agents or want people to stay or whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to show them that there’s opportunities here for that. We have to have the right product on the court.”

***

No. 3: Stevens rejoins Celtics Before joining the Boston Celtics, coach Brad Stevens led Butler University to several memorable NCAA Tournament appearances. And with his former Butler player Andrew Smith in the hospital battling cancer, Stevens recently missed a Celtics game in order to spend time with Smith. Stevens rejoined the Celtics on Saturday and, as the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn writes, says the last few days helped put things into perspective…

Celtics coach Brad Stevens returned to the team Saturday, conducting a rather important practice at the University of Memphis in his quest to end the team’s recent doldrums.

He returned from his trip to Indiana with a heavy heart. He acknowledged visiting former player Andrew Smith, who has been suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but wouldn’t offer specifics on his condition, only to say he felt compelled to visit him immediately.

Stevens left the club in Chicago on Thursday afternoon, missing the team’s 101-92 loss to the Bulls.

“It’s very tough, not as tough on me as it is certain on [Smith and his family], but certainly emotionally, very challenging,” Stevens said following practice at the Larry Finch Center. “It certainly puts things in a lot of perspective. The conditions [of Smith] were worsening. I’ll let [his family] talk about his condition. I’m glad that I went.”

Stevens returns to a team that has lost four of five games and fallen out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics have been abysmal shooting from the field in their past two losses — 36.5 percent from the field, 25.5 percent from the 3-point line — and are playing with wavering confidence.

“We could have controlled things to give ourselves a little bit better chance,” Stevens said of the Chicago loss. “I told [the players] this today. We’ve got to get better in a lot of areas. But we usually play hard.

“Sometimes we play a little haphazard but we usually play hard, so we need to bottle that up and play a little more controlled at times.”

Isaiah Thomas, who has made just 11 of 37 shots in the last two games, took full responsibility for the Bulls loss, saying his poor body language and frustrations spilled over to his teammates. Stevens didn’t fully agree.

“I think it says a lot about him from an accountability standpoint,” Stevens said of Thomas. “And at the same time, that’s an overreaction too, because we don’t feel that way. He’s going to have his moments. Other guys are going to have their moments. Other guys are going to have bad moments. We just all have to be in this thing together. We need to improve.”

***

No. 4: NBA’s Australians looking forward to Rio — The NBA has become a global league, followed worldwide and played by athletes from all corners of the earth. Australia, in particular, has become a hotbed of hoops, with its own popular domestic league and several NBA players who originated Down Under. As Roy Ward writes in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australians in the NBA are looking forward to trying to find Olympic glory this summer in Rio…

The 82-game NBA season engulfs the lives of all players and Australia’s basketballers are not immune from this.

But on planes, buses or in down time, the country’s leading players admit their thoughts turn to the Rio Olympics and the glass ceiling that sits in front of a first men’s Olympic medal.

Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Cameron Bairstow, Aron Baynes and Joe Ingles are all in thick of the action this season while Dante Exum continues to rehabilitate his reconstructed knee.

In Europe, in US college basketball and in the NBL sit the rest of the Boomers aspirants with the final 12-man squad not due to be announced until later in the year.

Since the team qualified for Rio in August last year, they have made public their goal to win the gold medal in Brazil despite Team USA’s long-running dominance in the men’s competition.

What adds credence to the Boomers’ brave stance is Bogut, Mills, Dellavedova and Bairstow are playing on NBA championship contenders while Bogut, Mills and Baynes have won NBA championship rings since 2014.

“There is a lot going on here but while it’s not the every day to day focus it’s always in your mind that it’s coming up and that all the boys are playing well, not just in the NBA but in Europe and the NBL,” Dellavedova said.

“We are all very excited and keep in regular touch through group message, we are going to catch up at All-Star break.

“We are all very excited, focused and committed to trying to do something really special at Rio and we realise the time is now for that.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Atlanta Hawks got a career night from Al Horford last night in a convincing win over the Bulls … Some changes may be in store for the D-League Showcase … Chicago is hoping to get Joakim Noah back from injury this weekRobin Lopez is starting to focus on his offensive post playIsaiah Canaan pays attention to advanced stats … Powerball fever may have been sweeping the nation the last few days, but don’t expect Dirk Nowitzki to get excited about it …

Kobe, Curry lead in initial All-Star voting returns

HANG TIME HQ — The All-Star Game may be heading north of the border this season, but in the initial voting returns, the West is winning.

The first voting results for the 2016 All-Star Game, to be held in Toronto, were announced today, and Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has a commanding lead in overall totals. Bryant has 719,235 votes in the initial returns, the most of any NBA player. Bryant, who announced earlier this season that this will be his final NBA campaign, is on track to make his 18th All-Star appearance.

The second-leading vote-getter early on is Golden State’s Stephen Curry, who has 510,202 votes. Curry was last season’s leading vote-getter, and went on to win the NBA MVP award as his Warriors won the NBA Championship. This season, the Warriors have gotten off to an epic start, winning 27 of their first 28 games. His teammates Klay Thompson (4th) and Andre Iguodala (7th) are among the West’s leading guards, and Draymond Green (5th) and Harrison Barnes (14th) are among the West’s leading forwards.

Cleveland’s LeBron James leads the Eastern Conference with 357,937 votes, while his former Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade trails James by roughly 57,000 votes. Indiana’s Paul George (283,785), who missed most of last season after a compound leg fracture, trails only James among Eastern Conference forwards. Detroit’s Andre Drummond (148,278), averaging 18.2 ppg and 16.1 rpg, and who has never made an All-Star appearance, is currently in third place.

The 2015 Eastern Conference All-Star roster was dominated by the Atlanta Hawks, who sent coach Mike Budenholzer as well as four players (Al Horford, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague). In the initial returns this season, only Millsap is among the Eastern Conference leaders, 13th among forwards with 10,501 votes.

The 65th NBA All-Star Game will be held on Sunday, Feb. 14 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. TNT will televise the All-Star Game in the U.S. for the 14th consecutive year.

NBA All-Star Voting 2016 presented by Verizon is an all-digital program that gives fans everywhere the opportunity to vote for their favorite players as starters for the All-Star Game. New to the voting program this year, fans can cast their daily votes directly through Google Search on their desktop, tablet and mobile devices. They can also vote on NBA.com, through the NBA App (available on Android and iOS), SMS text and social media networks including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as via Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblogs in China.