VIDEO: The Fast Break — April 9
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Spurs trying to solve Curry and vice versa — After three games this season, and with another showdown looming Sunday, it’s clear the Spurs have targeted Steph Curry as the player they must stop. That’s not exactly breaking news; Curry is the league’s leading scorer and the heavy favorite to win his second straight MVP. But the Spurs bring one of the league’s top defenses and can throw multiple bodies in Curry’s direction, starting with Tony Parker and Patty Mills and at times they might surprise Curry with Kawhi Leonard. Curry spoke about the Spurs on the eve of the final meeting between the teams before the playoffs with Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle …
Stephen Curry thinks he figured out something in Thursday’s meeting with the Spurs, and he’ll get a chance to test his theory when the Warriors play at San Antonio on Sunday.
After scoring 14 points on season lows in field-goal (4-for-18, 22.2 percent) and three-point (1-for-12, 8.3 percent) shooting in the Warriors’ 87-79 loss to the Spurs, the Warriors’ point guard bounced back with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the floor in Thursday’s 112-101 win.
“I just watched the film and made adjustments based on how they played me in San Antonio and how I thought they’d probably continue,” Curry said before Saturday’s game against the Grizzlies. “Instead of searching for the three, I was trying to keep them off-balance by getting into the paint and making plays.
“I just slowed down, really. Any game where somebody makes crazy adjustments like that, you’ve got to be able to take your time and figure out how you’re going to attack that space. I didn’t do it well in San Antonio, but I made the proper adjustments last game.”
Curry is averaging 11.1 three-point attempts per game, but with the Spurs switching on pick-and-rolls and running him off the three-point line, Curry made a concerted effort to get into the lane.
He attempted only seven three-pointers Thursday, and two were prayers at the end of quarters. It was the eighth time all season that Curry attempted seven or fewer three-pointers.
“I think teams have mimicked what the Spurs did the last time we played them in San Antonio,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Teams really started jumping out at him and switching, so we’re seeing it more and more. They definitely have a plan, and they’re good at it. They’re obviously smart. To do something like that, you have continuity, understanding and togetherness, and they’re really good at it.”
Curry has gotten pretty good at handling it, too.
That’s one of the reasons that the entire basketball world will be tuned into Sunday’s game.
No. 2: Rockets’ brass will be evaluated at season’s end — With the Rockets qualifying as the heavy favorite to win the season’s most disappointing team award, are big changes coming? That question wouldn’t even be asked right around this time last season, when the Rockets were one route to an appearance in the Western Conference finals. But this season has been all sorts of hell, starting with the early firing of coach Kevin McHale and the failure to incorporate Ty Lawson into the lineup. It would be big news if Daryl Morey loses the GM job if only because Morey has a reputable track record. Anyway, owner Leslie Alexander must decide the fate of Morey and also interim coach JB Bickerstaff. Here is Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com …
Sources told ESPN that the Rockets believe every aspect of the organization — coaching staff, front office and, of course, their roster — must be subject to a thorough review in the wake of Houston’s slide to a 38-41 outfit that’s at serious risk to miss the playoffs after damaging losses this week to Dallas and Phoenix.
Houston won 56 games and reached the Western Conference finals last season.
Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has publicly acknowledged that Bickerstaff — who replaced Kevin McHale in an interim role just 11 games into this season — would have to be assessed at season’s end.
Significant roster changes are likewise expected, with free agent-to-be Dwight Howard widely anticipated to move elsewhere and little certain beyond the Rockets’ presumed intention to reload around star guard James Harden.
Sources say Morey, whose contract runs through the 2017-18 season, also faces some uncertainty in the wake of the Rockets’ struggles. Morey’s ever-bold approach to roster assembly won deserved kudos for bringing Harden (October 2012) and Howard (July 2013) to Houston in quick succession, but team chemistry has been a rising concern this season given the well-chronicled deterioration of the Harden-Howard relationship and the failed offseason gamble on guard Ty Lawson.
“You’re asking the wrong guy about that,” Morey told ESPN in a recent interview when asked about his job security. “That’s Mr. Alexander’s choice and all I do is my job every day. He makes that call.”
After a 4-7 start, Houston made the stunning decision to part ways with McHale, who had barely begun the first year of a new three-year extension.
Bickerstaff has fared better, going 34-34 in his interim role, but Houston’s defensive frailties and repeated inability to hold big leads have conspired to put the Rockets on par with the Chicago Bulls on the list of this season’s most disappointing teams.
Bickerstaff, for his part, says he has not yet commenced discussions with management about his job status.
“No, not at all, that’s not even a issue [or] a concern,” Bickerstaff said of his future prior to the Rockets’ loss to the Suns on Thursday night.
No. 3: What can Bryan Colangelo bring to Philly? — The Sixers haven’t officially named Bryan Colangelo as the successor to Sam Hinkie, who resigned last week, although it could happen by Monday. But that hasn’t stopped Philly from wondering if the team of Colangelo and Colangelo — no, not a law firm, but the father-son front office combo of Jerry and Bryan — can produce a somewhat drastic turnaround for the rebuilding team. Here is Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer on the possibilities …
Folks bashed the Sixers for nepotism, immediately after learning it would be Bryan Colangelo. They brought up that he was unable to win an NBA championship during his stops as general manager of the Phoenix Suns and the Toronto Raptors.
And they delivered perhaps the lowest blow of all, mentioning that he drafted 20-year-old Italian Andrea Bargnani with the first overall selection in the 2006 NBA draft. Let’s just say making Bargnani the first European to be selected first overall didn’t pan out. He never lived up to the hype surrounding that pick and is on his third NBA team.
But what the disappointed folks don’t mention is that Bryan Colangelo is a two-time NBA executive of the year. The 50-year-old first won the award in 2005 with the Suns. His second award came in 2007 with the Raptors.
“If you are the Sixers, you should be really happy about this,” said a league executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Plus it will be a seamless transition with Jerry and his son. Everything will be on the same page.”
That wasn’t the case with Jerry Colangelo and Hinkie over the last four months.
But aside from Bargnani, Bryan Colangelo has been known for excelling while making aggressive moves.
He drafted Steve Nash 15th overall in the 1996 NBA draft and traded him to the Dallas Mavericks in 1998 in exchange for Pat Garrity, Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells, and a 1999 first-round pick that he used to select Shawn Marion.
He also drafted Amar’e Stoudemire ninth overall in the 2002 draft.
Some of his most noteworthy roster moves came during and after the 2003-04 season, when the team finished, 29-53.
In January 2004, he sent Anfernee Hardaway, Stephon Marbury, and Cezary Trybanski to the Knicks for Howard Eisley, Maciej Lampe, Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward, Milos Vujanic, and 2004 and 2010 first-round picks. Then he signed Nash as a free agent that summer.
The following season, the Suns went 62-20 and lost to the Spurs in the Western Conference finals. Nash was named the league’s MVP, and Mike D’Antoni, now the Sixers’ associate head coach, was the NBA coach of the year.
That was the first of three Pacific Division titles and the first of back-to-back conference finals appearances for the Suns.
However, Bryan Colangelo wasn’t there to celebrate all that put in place due to a soured relationship with managing owner Robert Sarver, who bought the team from Jerry Colangelo.
So he took over the Raptors’ on Feb. 28, 2006. In 2006-07, the Raptors finished 47-35 and made their first playoff appearance in five seasons. It was also their first winning season since 2001-02.
Bryan Colangelo is also an architect of this season’s Raptors, who are the Eastern Conference’s second-best squad.
He selected DeMar DeRozan with the ninth pick of the 2009 draft. Colangelo hired Dwayne Casey as the head coach in June 2011. He drafted Jonas Valanciunas with the fifth pick of the 2011 draft two days later. Then, after drafting Terrence Ross with the eighth pick in 2012, he acquired Kyle Lowry in a trade with Houston Rockets in July 2012.
No. 4: Should losing teams rest players? — The Sacramento Kings are going nowhere except the draft lottery again, a fate that has been assured for weeks. However, that hasn’t stopped them from sitting players. DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, among others, have “rested” as though they were veterans with minor ailments, awaiting for the playoffs to begin. Is that fair, especially since the NBA, beginning with this season, spaced games apart and reduced back-to-backs? The Kings are hardly the only non-playoff team to sit players for reasons other than injury; but some fans in Sacramento sounded off on it to Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee …
At 12:31 p.m. Thursday, the Kings put out a news release that said DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo would not play that night at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It attributed the planned absences of the star center and flashy point guard to their need for rest. The two must have really been tired, because they just got a night off Saturday in Denver and a night off the previous Monday in Portland.
Along with Rondo and Cousins, another young man at Sleep Train Arena on Thursday night was tired. His name is Terrence Zwane, and he was tired of big-money players resting on nights like Thursday, when he paid $300 to sit in the lower bowl.
“I don’t think it’s cool,” said Zwane, 26, a legal assistant who attends about 10 games a year.
Zwane reasoned, accurately, that the salaries of Cousins, who is making about $15.9 million this season, and Rondo, who punches the clock for $9.5 million, are largely responsible for his high cost for a good seat. The abilities of the two, of course, are the reason Zwane was willing to spend the money. Then he came to the game and they didn’t play, and the team didn’t even make the announcement that they were not going to play until seven hours before the game, when the two players were as healthy as could be reasonably expected for the 79th game of the season
Resting a player for one or two games over the course of a long season, “if you need to do that,” makes sense to Zwane. Otherwise, in instances such as Thursday, “It’s really pointless, especially when you are paying them big money and we are paying big money to watch them,” he said.
Without Cousins and Rondo, the Kings understandably lost to the Timberwolves 105-97. Maybe they needed Thursday off to ensure they would be rested enough to play in Saturday’s final game at Sleep Train Arena, which is expected to be filled beyond capacity to celebrate 28 seasons there.
After Thursday’s game, Kings coach George Karl was asked what he would say to the fans, if he could say anything, about paying big money to see the game and then having Cousins and Rondo miss it to rest.
Karl was the wrong guy to take the question. It should have been directed to general manager Vlade Divac, but Divac wasn’t on hand, so the coach gave it a shot.
“I’m old school,” Karl said. “I like playing every game like it means something.”
But in the modern NBA, “everybody’s doing it,” Karl said about giving guys days of rest when it appears to people like Zwane that they don’t really need it.
“Philosophically,” Karl said, “I can see the good in why you do it, and I can see philosophically why the fans should be upset, why they’re upset.”
In addition to holding Cousins and Rondo out of the Minnesota, Denver and Portland games, the playoff-eliminated Kings rested Kosta Koufos, Rudy Gay and Darren Collison in Tuesday’s loss at home to Portland.
As Karl said, it is popular for teams to dial back on playing time for those who have been pounding the floorboards fairly relentlessly since October. Most of the time, the decisions to rest players are made collectively – between the front office, coaching staff and players – although it’s not known how the decision was made by the Kings.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Not only does Kobe Bryant want the Warriors to break the Bulls’ record of 72 wins, so does LeBron James … Fred Holberg says the Bulls need to figure out a leadership command for next season … Brent Barry was asked his opinion of the Timberwolves and also about the coaching position, and Bones was to happy to share his thoughts … Can Alec Burks stay healthy and help the Jazz lock up a playoff spot?