Skip to main content

Posts Tagged ‘Alvin Gentry’

Pelicans shut down Evans through break


If it’s a Pelicans headline, it almost certainly has to do with injuries. That’s how 2015-16 has gone for New Orleans and, sure enough, that’s the reason for this post: Wing Tyreke Evans, sidelined with right knee tendinitis from the Pelicans’ past five games heading into Saturday, has been shut down at least through the All-Star break.

Evans was unavailable for the night’s game at Cleveland, coach Alvin Gentry confirmed, and won’t participate in the Pelicans’ three other games (at Minnesota, against Utah and at Oklahoma City) before the break. John Reid, beat writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, offered some details:

”It’s just a little tendinitis and it’s always there,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters before Saturday’s game at the Quicken Loans Arena. ”We’re probably going to hold him out until after the All-Star break.

”That gives him a situation where he has almost two weeks where he can rehab and get it back. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break and we’ll be able to play him for the rest of the stretch.”

In all, Evans is expected to nine games before possibly returning for the Pelicans’ first game after the All-Star break ends on Feb. 19 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Pelicans general manager Dell Demps continues to listen to trade offers and the franchise is no longer reluctant to trade Evans, sources say.

After this season, Evans, 26, has only one year left on his existing contract that will pay him $10.2 million. Evans missed the first 17 games this season after undergoing surgery in October to remove bone chips in his right knee. After 25 games, Evans was averaging 15.2 points.

New Orleans – currently without Eric Gordon (fractured right ring finger) and Quincy Pondexter (left knee) – has had 15 different players start at least once this season. Gentry used 13 different starting lineups in the Pelicans’ first 19 games and 22 lineups overall.

Gordon injury could mark end of Pelicans’ little-used big five

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The New Orleans’ Pelicans announced Wednesday afternoon that Eric Gordon is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a fracture in his right ring finger.

The injury is the latest of many for the Pelicans, who have already been without Tyreke Evans for 19 games, Norris Cole for 17, Jrue Holiday for six, Anthony Davis for five, Ryan Anderson for two, and Quincy Pondexter for the whole season.

In his first season in New Orleans, coach Alvin Gentry hasn’t had all his tools at his disposal. But he also hasn’t used his best tools together very often.

Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis have all been available in 17 games this season. And in those 17 games, that group of five players has been on the floor together for less than 33 minutes.

In those (less than) 33 minutes together, that unit has outscored its opponents by a score of 99-56, with an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent.

One reason that they’ve outscored their opponents by so much is that they’ve been on the floor for a lot more offensive possessions than defensive possessions. Gentry has used his big five mostly in the fourth quarter (22 of the 33 minutes), when his team needs a basket or when the opponent is looking to foul. In their time on the floor, they’ve racked up 61 shots and 33 free throw attempts, while their opponents have totaled just 52 and 10.

And of course, there are defensive concerns with that unit. But it’s so potent offensively that the Pelicans have always outscored their opponents with it.

20160120_nop_big_5

Even with his team near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, Gentry never took much of a chance on what is clearly his most talented lineup. Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis have played more than five minutes together in just two games.

In one of the only games it was given extended run, the lineup turned a four-point deficit into a six-point lead (and, eventually, a five-point win) in Denver on Dec. 20, scoring 19 points in 5:33.

Remember that game-winning alley-oop Davis threw down last week against Charlotte? Davis and Holiday had space to run their pick-and-roll, because there was *shooting at the other three positions to space the floor. But that was only the second offensive possession in the month of January in which Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Anderson and Davis were all on the floor together.

*Yes, even Evans (29-for-76 from 3-point range in just 22 games) can be called a shooter now.

There was hope that extended health would compel Gentry to use his best players together more often. But Gordon’s injury has the big five stuck on plus-43 in 33 minutes, with the possibility of Anderson being traded before Gordon returns.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 20


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Gordon fractures ring finger | Adams hoping Warriors push for Bulls’ mark | Gortat: Players at fault for injuries

No. 1: Gordon suffers fractured ring finger — Injuries have made a mess of the New Orleans Pelicans’ high hopes for 2015-16. Just when it seemed like the team is fully healthy, another injury has cropped up. This time the victim is shooting guard Eric Gordon — who has had his share of injury woes over the last few seasons — as  he suffered a fractured ring finger in last night’s home win against the Minnesota Timberwolves. John Reid of The Times-Picayune has more:

Starting shooting guard Eric Gordon fractured his ring finger on his right shooting hand after grabbing a rebound with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter during the Pelicans’ 114-99 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Smoothie King Center.

Gordon came off court, holding his finger and appearing to be in pain. He did not return and was not made available after the game. Gordon scored 11 points in 24 minutes, hitting three 3-pointers with three assists and a steal.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he wouldn’t know Gordon’s possible timetable until after doctors examined him on Wednesday. Prior to Tuesday, Gordon was the only Pelicans’ player to start 40 of the first 41 games.

Gordon ranked eighth in the NBA with 98 3-pointers made. In the previous five games, he had averaged 13.0 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range.

”We’ve got to try and figure it out,” said Anthony Davis, who led the Pelicans with 35 points against Minnesota. ”It’s time for guys to step up now and we’re going to miss him for sure because he brings a lot to the table. He was shooting the ball well. It’s going to be tough without him but we still got to find a way to win.

”(Eric) is a big key to our team with shooting the 3-ball and driving and things,” Tyreke Evans said. ”It’s part of the league and guys like [Norris] Cole and Jrue [Holiday] got to be ready. I believe they will be. We’re all competitive and we want to help each other out. I think we’ll be ready.”

After halfway point, 10 Pelicans players have been sidelined with injuries that caused a total of 125 games to be missed.

Knowing the importance of needing solid contributors, Holiday said they have to overcome not having Gordon, who could be sidelined up to four to six weeks.

‘Again, it’s another opportunity for someone else to step up,” Holiday said. ”Obviously it’s bad because it always seems like every year somebody getting hurt  like that. It’s a pretty big injury, but again I’ll say we’ll have to step up.”


VIDEO: Alvin Gentry talks after the Pelicans’ win Tuesday

***

(more…)

Morning shootaround — Jan. 19


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cavs fall flat vs. Warriors | George won’t yet commit to Olympic team | Is it time to trade Pau? | Pelicans running out of time

No. 1: Cavs’ performance vs. Warriors raises many questions — By halftime last night, the much-anticipated showdown between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers was effectively over. The Warriors built a 70-44 lead at Quicken Loans Arena and, really, had the game in hand much sooner than that (say by the middle of the second quarter). Afterward, the Cavs found themselves with a five-game losing streak to the defending champs and an 0-2 mark against them this season. Our Steve Aschburner was on hand and has more on just what Cleveland has to do in the wake of such a disastrous loss:

It was the Cavaliers, the presumptive class of the Eastern Conference, soiling themselves. At home. In a statement game. To a degree heretofore unseen.

Here was a one-game argument for 1-through-16, conference-less playoff seeding, in hopes that the Warriors and the Spurs could meet in the Finals and spare us four out of seven like this.

As a franchise, Cleveland had endured worse home losses before — but never with LeBron James. This one bottomed out in the biggest deficit of his career (43 points) and ended with the most lopsided losing margin (34). He wound up with a personal-worst of minus-34 — accomplished in a mere three quarters, because the Cavs’ subs actually outscored the Warriors’ subs in the backupalooza, meaningless fourth.

“They came in and gave us a good ol’ fashioned a-kicking,” James said. “They got a little bit of whatever they wanted.”

The Warriors have been the better team five consecutive times now, dating back to Games 4, 5 and 6 of the Finals and including both the Christmas meeting in Oakland and this one. That’s not nothing — even if the Cavaliers want to shrug off its significance and minimize any possible carryover should they face Golden State again in June, there’s no guarantee the Warriors will play along. Just because this drubbing doesn’t become some psychological hurdle to the Cavs doesn’t mean it won’t provide a psychological edge to the Warriors.

Golden State rolled out of Cleveland late Monday knowing that it put on a devastating performance, on demand, two nights after its clunker at Detroit. Cleveland knows that, on a big stage with its full cast healthy and accounted for, it froze and forgot its lines. The satisfaction from the Cavs’ recently completed 12-day, six-game trip — they went 5-1 — already is vapor, and in a lot of ways, they’re almost starting over.

“We do understand we’ve got to get better,” James said. “We’re 0-3 against the top teams in the West. … We’ve got a long way to go.

“We’ve got to get back to the basics. When you play against teams like this … you’ve got to have just a laser-sharp mentality. Both physical and mental. You can’t have lulls because they make you pay.”

“There’s nothing to say,” James said, when asked if he had aired out his teammates for the stink bomb outing. “It’s easy to say something when it’s bad. For me, I like to get on us when we’re doing well, to try to keep us focused. I’m not a kick-a-man-when-you’re-down type of guy.”

While James and the Cavs weren’t inclined to overreact, they had no assurance Golden State wouldn’t bookmark Monday’s game as a confidence booster for June. Remember how Doc Rivers hid money in the ceiling at Staples Center several years ago, confident that his Celtics team would get back to L.A. for the Finals?

The Warriors could have stashed their goggles somewhere in their locker room at the Q and nary a soul could have blamed them.

***

(more…)

Morning shootaround — Jan. 15


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bryant to Warriors: ‘Make history’ | Perkins, Davis lament state of Pelicans | Butler puts in epic performance in Philly

No. 1: Bryant encourages Warriors to go ‘make history’ — With their victory last night over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Golden State Warriors improved to 37-3. That start matches the mark the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls had through 40 games when they won an NBA-record 72 games. After the win, Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who played against the dominant players (Michael Jordan in the 1990s and Stephen Curry today) encouraged Golden State’s stars to push for the 73-win mark, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:

Before Kobe Bryant left the Oracle Arena court for the final time Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers icon was greeted by a trio of Golden State Warriors who have been terrorizing the rest of the league lately.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all surrounded Bryant and chatted him up following their team’s 116-98 win over Bryant and the Lakers.

“You guys have got to go ahead and make history,” Bryant told Curry.

“I got to chase you,” Curry replied, a response that Bryant said he too would have used.

“Damn right,” Bryant told Curry. “Absolutely. Come and get it.”

Bryant also signed a pair of his game-worn sneakers for Green.

The message Bryant wrote: “Make history.”

A passing of the torch? Perhaps.

“I think so,” Bryant said. “It’s their time. It’s their time. It’s their time to step up and play and see how many championships they can win, see how many gold medals they can win. I had my run. Now it’s important for them to carry it forward.”

But the Warriors heard Bryant’s message loud and clear.

“He told us to chase history, so we’re going to try to chase it now like he did in his career,” Curry said. “He paved the way.”

***

(more…)

Davis out for Pelicans against Clippers

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The New Orleans Pelicans will be without All-Star center Anthony Davis today against Los Angeles Clippers, according to coach Alvin Gentry.

Davis injured his back during the first quarter of a game on Jan. 8 against the Pacers, when he dove into the stands to save a loose ball and landed on a chair. He missed the remainder of that game, and the Pelicans lost, 91-86. According to John Reid from NOLA.com …

Gentry told reporters on Sunday that Davis experiences sharp pains during certain movements he makes and it’s not worth the risk to play him if he is not fully ready to go. Davis did not practice on Saturday before the team departed for Los Angeles.

Without Davis, Ryan Anderson is expected to start against the red-hot Clippers, who are seeking their ninth consecutive win. The Pelicans are 4-15 on the road, but they beat the Dallas Mavericks, 105-98, on Jan. 2 at the American Airlines Center.

Davis and the Pelicans entered this season with high expectations, but injuries have kept them from flying high. They enter today’s match against the Clippers with an 11-24 record, and having lost four of their last five games.

In the 10 games before injuring his back, Davis was averaging 23.2 ppg, 12 rpg and 2.4 bpg.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 9




VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday night

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Spurs survive close shave | Davis injures back | Brand goal is to teach | Raptors take down Wiz again | Mbah a Moute shines

No. 1: Spurs survive close call against Knicks — Admittedly, the blowout wins the Spurs have been enjoying at home this season are much easier on the nerves. But when Jose Calderon’s last-ditch shot missed and San Antonio survived a nail-biter against the Knicks Friday night, it might have been the kind of game the streaking Spurs needed as they head into the meat of their schedule. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News has the scoop:

That their latest victory took the full 48 minutes to secure was not lost on Spurs players, who in recent games had grown accustomed to playing fourth quarters with their starters’ feet propped up.

“I think we needed it,” David West said. “I think we figured out some execution stuff, some timing stuff you can only do in a tight game.”

Throughout a stellar start to the season that left them at 32-6 on Friday, keeping pace with the best start in club history, the Spurs have been on the lookout for cracks to fill.

Not everything New York threw the Spurs’ way will prepare them for what is to come.

It will be a while, for instance, before they face another 7-foot-3 Latvian who can shoot the 3-pointer.

Rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis, all of 20 years old, scorched the NBA’s top-rated defense for 28 points and 11 rebounds. Porzingis was a thorn in the Spurs’ side on the offensive end, and an easy mark on defense. Aldridge got a batch of his points posting up the slender Porzingis.

The Spurs scored 60 points in the paint Friday, and Popovich thought they could have gotten more.

“It’s a strength that we have,” Popovich said. “And we’re getting better and better at recognizing it.” The Spurs did a better job against Anthony.

Tag-teamed by Leonard and Danny Green, Anthony started 2 for 12. The eight-time All-Star eventually found his way to 20 points and 12 boards, thanks to 10 trips to the foul line, but nothing came easy.

“I think they did a good job,” Popovich said of Green and Leonard. “As good as can be expected against a Hall of Fame player.”

***

No. 2: Pelicans lose A.D. to back injury — Another day, another injury for the Pelicans in what has rapidly become a painful and star-crossed season. Star forward Anthony Davis crashed into the seats while chasing a loose ball early in Friday’s loss to the Pacers and suffered a lower back contusion. He was unable to return to the game and according to John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Pelicans are still waiting on an update on Davis’s availability:

Davis initially returned to the game, but shortly afterwards Alvin Gentry was forced to call a 20-second timeout to get Davis out of the game. Davis headed to the locker room for treatment and did not return. He was not made available after the game and his status for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers has not been determined but an update may be issued by the team after Saturday’s practice.
But X-rays were negative, and he is listed as day-to-day.

”I don’t know anything yet,” Gentry said after Friday’s game. ”He was telling me that he had back pains when he left the court. So I’m sure we’ll find out later on.”

Davis has missed three games this season due to injury, which included a right hip contusion injury and sore right left shoulder.

***

No. 3: Teaching is the thing for Elton Brand — If 36-year-old Elton Brand drops in a basket or two and chases down a rebound for the 76ers, that’s all just gravy. The veteran forward came out of retirement to join the team this week with one task in mind, says Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That’s to show the ropes to Jahlil Okafor and the other young members of the Sixers’ roster:

“He’s here to guide the young guys and anything else is a bonus,” coach Brett Brown said. “I see him at practice pulling Nerlens [Noel] and Jahlil aside and showing them some of [Atlanta forward Paul] Millsap’s tricks, how he scored on him in practice, how can that not just be priceless?”

Brand has put a price on it, and it isn’t monetary. It’s about giving back to the game, about acquiescing to pleas from his college coach and his agent and, maybe a little bit, to the idea that he can get back on the court again for a few minutes at a stretch and show a little something one more time.

“Before practice yesterday, I dropped my son off at school at 8 a.m. I got to practice early, did some cardio, shot with the coaches, lifted, then had a whole long practice,” Brand said. “I ate lunch with the team, shot free throws afterward, and still picked up my son. I was home by 5 o’clock.”

It sounds so reasonable, and perhaps Brand can pull off this balancing act. If it doesn’t work, the season will be over in three months and he can look everyone in the eye and say he tried.

***

No. 4: Raptors keep getting back at Wizards — If you think players have short memories and easily forget things that happened last season, think again. That four-game playoff sweep at the hands of the Wizards last spring was a shocking eye opener to the Raptors. Chris O’Leary of the Toronto Star says that miserable experience still motivated DeMar DeRozan and his teammates in Friday night’s win:

DeMar DeRozan didn’t blink before the words were out of his mouth.
“We got swept last year,” the Toronto Raptors shooting guard said, after he’d hung a season-high 35 points on the Washington Wizards, the offensive backbone in a defensively-sound 97-88 win. DeRozan’s previous season high was 34 and one of those games came against the Wizards too.

Last year’s playoff sweep at the hands of the Wizards is old news by now, hammered home by 2016’s arrival. But being on the Verizon Center court, hearing a crowd of 17,064 cheering the Wizards on and seeing those painfully familiar red, white and blue jerseys, brings the burn of failure back to DeRozan, at least for one night.

“I was here for the playoffs, and that was a bad feeling to get swept,” he said. “Coming back here just playing against them (gives) the same reminder of what happened.”

The Raptors (now 23-15) know that avenging that loss can’t happen until the playoffs, whoever their opponent would be. Friday’s win was a testament to how different these Raptors look now, getting back to their defensive roots after two embarrassing losses earlier this week to the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.

***

No. 5: Mbah a Moute helps Clippers thriveChris Paul has stepped up his All-Star level game. DeAndre Jordan has shouldered more of the burden. J.J. Reddick, Paul Pierce and others have made big shots. But a big part of the secret to the Clippers’ success in the absence of the injured Blake Griffin has been the below the radar efforts of Luc Mbah a Moute, says Dan Woike of the Orange Country Register:

“Luc is the most under-appreciated person on our team, in all honesty,” Paul said Friday. “We used to talk about DJ all the time, but everyone sees what DJ does on a nightly basis.

“But Luc is the guy. He does everything. He defends. He cuts. He does everything a coach would appreciate but a fan has no idea that he’s doing.”

And, technically, until Thursday his contract wasn’t fully guaranteed for the season.

Ultimately, the decision to keep him wasn’t much of a decision at all.

The Clippers lucked into Mbah a Moute last summer after the Sacramento Kings voided his free-agent deal due to a failed physical – the results of which have been disputed.

Looking for a landing spot, the former UCLA star ended up with the Clippers right before training camp, competing with veteran big man Chuck Hayes for the final roster spot.

Last season, Clippers coach Doc Rivers chose Jared Cunningham over Joe Ingles for the Clippers’ final roster spot. Cunningham was traded to Philadelphia in early January and was waived. Ingles, who was claimed by the Utah Jazz, ended up starting 32 games at small forward, a position where the Clippers could’ve used him.

This season, clearly, Rivers chose right.

Hayes hasn’t played this season, and Mbah a Moute is the Clippers’ starting small forward.

Since inserting him into the starting lineup, the Clippers are 15-5 – the third-best record in the NBA. They have the fifth-best offense in the NBA during that stretch and the sixth-best defense.

“What I love about Luc also is Luc can play a lot of minutes in a game or he can play very little minutes in a game, there’s still no body language change or anything like that,” Rivers said. “He understands there are nights we need offensive guys on the floor, we need floor-spacers. There are nights where we need a stop, and Luc does it.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stephen Curry is now wearing soccer style shin guards to keep playing through his injury…One front row fan in Minneapolis got a little too up close and personal with Timofey Mozgov…Lamar Odom has been moved out of hospital as rehabilitation continues…Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t ruling out a return to Phoenix to conclude his NBA career…LeBron James wants to see J.R. Smith the All-Star Weekend 3-point Shootout.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 7


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry won’t sit 4 weeks to heal injury | Gentry rips Pelicans’ effort vs. Mavs | Report: McCollum could have played last night | Raptors try to get by while Carroll mends | Lee officially out of Celtics’ rotation

No. 1: Curry unlikely to rest four weeks to heal troublesome shin — Several storylines follow the Golden State Warriors on a near-nightly basis now — whether or not they can surpass the NBA record of 72 wins set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, when coach Steve Kerr will return to the sidelines and whether or not Stephen Curry will suit up each night as he deals with a nagging shin injury. The first two questions remain unclear in terms of an immediate answer, but for the time being, Curry won’t be out of the lineup for weeks on end to heal the injury. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons has more on why Curry isn’t at risk if he keeps playing on the injury:

Warriors point guard Stephen Curry isn’t interested in sitting out four weeks to let the painful contusion on his left shin heal, and a noted orthopedic surgeon with a specialty in treating sports injuries says that’s just fine.

“He’s not risking his career or anything by this,” said Dr. Brian Schulz, who works for the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. “He’s just going to have to deal with pain, which he’s proven in the past is not a big deal for him.

“It’s not a serious thing, but it’s definitely something that could annoy him.”

Curry has been plenty annoyed by the injury, which occurred in the Warriors’ victory over Utah on Dec. 23. He has been kicked three times in the same spot since then, despite sitting out the Warriors’ back-to-back set last week in Dallas and in Houston.

It happened again in the third quarter Tuesday, when Curry’s shin smacked into the leg of Lakers center Roy Hibbert. The Warriors had to call a timeout calm the pain for Curry, who talked his way back onto the court.

“I’m not going to sit out four weeks, so we’ve just got to figure out how to protect it when I’m out there on the floor and keep playing,” said Curry, who is listed as questionable for Friday’s game at Portland on the team’s injury report. “We’ve done a good amount. I’ve just had a couple of unlucky plays. We’ll keep addressing it and keep treating it, I’ll keep playing, and hopefully, over time, I’ll get through it.”

The Warriors have been experimenting with different shin pads to protect Curry, and Schulz says anything that limits the force of the impact on the sensitive area is the correct way to go about it.

“The other option, which I know he’s not going to do, is just sit out until it goes away,” Schulz said. … “It’s not a structural-damage kind of thing. He’s not risking further damage, other than the fact that if he keeps banging it, it may linger around longer.”

Data curated by PointAfter

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Jan. 6


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 5

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Dragic: Suns ‘always changing something’ | Curry annoyed by shin injury | Hoiberg, Bulls praise Butler’s play | McCollum’s star turn | Davis doesn’t mind criticism from Gentry

No. 1: Dragic questions loyalty of Suns’ front office — Goran Dragic has been in the NBA for eight seasons and spent roughly half of that time as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Although he’s currently on the Miami Heat and spearheading the attack of one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, he can look back at his most recent stint in Arizona (2012-15) and see how Phoenix has gone from potential upstart team to one of the league’s worst squads. In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Michael Lee, Dragic claims that the Suns were too willing to tinker with a core that seemed primed for success:

Dragic is too concerned with his own adjustments in helping Miami regain a spot among the Eastern Conference elite to be overly consumed with the situation in Phoenix. But he has his own theory for why a franchise that seemed so promising is suddenly foundering, based on his own experience with the Suns.

“It feels like they’re always changing something,” Dragic told Yahoo Sports. “They’re not like Miami, San Antonio, those teams that are really loyal when they find something.”

Dragic still has fond memories of his time in Phoenix – six seasons spread out over two stints – and is especially grateful for the opportunity the Suns provided after he chose to return for his second run with the team. They put the ball in his hands and allowed him to use his jet-ski speed and creative improvisations to earn third-team All-NBA honors during a surprising 48-win season in 2013-14 that now looks more like a mirage with the passing of time.

While claiming “no regrets” about his Suns tenure, Dragic remains disappointed by the ending, which he claims was the result of too much tinkering – primarily at point guard, a position the 6-foot-3 Slovenian had already proven he could handle. Dragic made it work after the team traded for point guard Eric Bledsoe in July 2013 and helped the Suns emerge as that overachieving darling. But Dragic was pushed away further from the ball – and inevitably, the team – the following season, when the Suns added another ball-dominant guard, Isaiah Thomas, in July.

“Me and Bledsoe, we built really great chemistry together, we played well and the whole team did. Everybody expected that we’re going to get some big guys that we thought we needed, but they did another move, they bring in a point guard and it was tough,” Dragic told Yahoo. “I was a little bit frustrated. It was tough, especially for me, because I was playing off the ball all the time, and I was guarding [small forwards]. That was tough for me, but they did what they did.”

The Suns don’t have the NBA’s worst record this season, but they have arguably been the worst team in the league over the past two weeks. Phoenix has lost nine straight games, including a home defeat to Philadelphia and an embarrassing road loss to the Kobe-less Los Angeles Lakers. During the free fall, Markieff Morris was suspended two games for throwing a towel at coach Jeff Hornacek; two of Hornacek’s top assistants were dismissed; and Bledsoe – the team’s best player – sustained a season-ending knee injury.

And on Friday, amid all of that turmoil, the Suns will welcome back Dragic, who noticed the fissures in the structure and got out before the unseemly collapse.

“I always believe when you find some pieces that you leave those pieces [alone]. But then you upgrade the other positions. Like San Antonio is doing. They always have the Big Three, but then it’s a good team. They always find another player at another position, so they’re always good. But that’s not my call,” Dragic told Yahoo, with an uncomfortable chuckle. “I was just there to play basketball. I tried to do my job.”

The Suns used dealing Dragic as a chance to again remake the roster as they got rid of Thomas and used a valuable trade chip – a top-three-protected pick from the Los Angeles Lakers – to acquire Brandon Knight at the deadline. They later split up the Morris twins, dealing Marcus to Detroit to clear cap space in a failed attempt to land LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency. And the addition of Tyson Chandler has not yielded much. Dragic is sympathetic to the plight of his former teammates.

“I wish them all the best,” Dragic told Yahoo. “I already went through the season with only [25] wins … and it’s not pretty. Most of the guys, we’re really competitive and you want to win a lot of games. And when you get to that mix where you don’t win [in] like 10 games in a row, that’s really tough. That’s really tough. Everything is worse. In your personal life. Everything. I always say I’m hurting sometimes, have a lot of injuries. But if you win a game, I feel great. But if you lose the game, those injuries, they come up. I don’t know how to explain it, winning is such a unique thing.”

Dragic sought that “unique thing” in Miami, where Pat Riley has built a franchise that has been stable and consistently good over the past two decades, with only four non-playoff seasons during his reign with the organization.

“That’s why I didn’t hesitate to sign in free agency, because they are always on top,” Dragic told Yahoo. “They are always looking at that big picture to win a championship. I still remember that year with the Suns, when we made the [conference finals in 2010]. That was one of the best moments in my career and I want to feel that again, to be in the playoffs and to be a contender.”

*** (more…)

Morning shootaround — Jan. 2


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Walton was right for Warriors job | Does robbery make Knicks tougher sell? | Porzingis taking safer route as rookie | Is Jabari Parker taking a step back?

No. 1: Walton was right for Warriors’ job — When Steve Kerr developed complications from back surgery and had to take an indefinite leave of absence, folks rightly wondered if the Warriors had a decent replacement. Remember, Alvin Gentry bolted months earlier for the Pelicans job and the Warriors didn’t hire an experienced replacement to lend an ear to Kerr. Luke Walton, who didn’t bring much seasoning, took over and the Warriors haven’t looked back. With Kerr bracing for a return, possibly this weekend, Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group writes what we all now know: Walton was a good choice …

With Walton guiding them as the interim head coach, the defending NBA champion Warriors have gone on a dream ride and steamrolled the competition on their way to the best start in league history at 30-2. As Walton appears to be winding down his stint, his success should not have come as a complete surprise.

Kerr, who could soon return from his leave of absence after a spinal fluid leak sidelined him, trusted the 35-year-old caretaker of the team to strike a familiar tone that balances competitiveness with calm.

“When he delivers a message, he’s comfortable,” Kerr said. “He’s really made for it. Nothing rattles him.”

Walton did have his sense of security shaken off the court during the Warriors’ undefeated November. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle that his wife, Bre, drives was allegedly stolen from their home and crashed. Even for the 20-year-old man arrested on felony charges of first-degree residential burglary and unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle, Walton offered compassion.

“I feel bad for the kid,” said Walton, who grew up in an area of San Diego where the front door was rarely locked. “I mean, seriously, you’ve got a 20-year-old kid. What’s going on in his life that that’s what it’s coming to at the age of 20 years old?

When Walton was 20, he was a 6-foot-8, curly-haired redshirt freshman point forward at the University of Arizona. He was just starting a playing career molded by the Hall of Fame voices that are still in his head today as a coach on a meteoric rise.

Walton’s free-spirited father, Hall of Fame player Bill Walton, considered Arizona coach Lute Olson to be the modern-day version of UCLA’s John Wooden, whose sayings (“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.”) were scrawled onto Luke’s lunch bags as a child.

“He was a master at the fundamentals of the game and paying attention to the smallest details in practice, and I — probably from him — am a huge believer in those things,” Luke Walton said of Olson.

“Whether it’s footwork or it’s the way we’re defending a screen-and-roll, the positioning of our screens, those type of things I’m naturally always looking for from the sideline.”

Walton led all frontcourt players in the country in assists as a junior in the Wildcats’ up-tempo offense. He flourished as a cerebral and outspoken player who could read defenses and direct his teammates to the right places on the floor. He could command a huddle, according to point guard Jason Gardner, who with Walton served as senior captains.

***

No. 2: Does robbery make Knicks a tougher sell? — When Cleanthony Early was robbed at gunpoint outside a Queens’ club in the wee morning hours a few days ago, it shed more light on the potential dangers of athletes being in nightclubs because their wealth and celebrity can make them targets. Because this happened in New York, where everything is magnified, it wasn’t a surprise when a New York writer wondered aloud if the Big Apple could be off-limits to some free agents who don’t like big city living. Frank Isola of the Daily News took it a step further and weighed whether the Early robbery was a red flag for those free agents:

In the span of eight months, Chris Copeland was stabbed outside a Manhattan nightclub; another NBA player, Thabo Sefolosha, had his leg broken by a New York policeman; Derrick Williams was allegedly robbed by two women he invited into his apartment, and our newest victim, Cleanthony Early, was robbed and shot outside a strip club in Queens.

This all occurred within a 10-mile radius of the NBA league office and Madison Square Garden, two institutions damaged the most by a string of crimes in which the victims are mostly guilty of poor judgment.

That was certainly true of Early, a 24-year-old second-year role player who was fortunate not to lose his life in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday in Queens. His career, however, could be in jeopardy.

Early becomes the latest example of the old adage that nothing good happens after midnight. The same can be said of his Knicks teammate, Williams, who was allegedly robbed of nearly $700,000 in jewelry by two women 10 days earlier.

Early’s case is much more horrifying and evil. It was around 4 a.m. Wednesday when Early was robbed at gunpoint and shot in his right knee for good measure.

Really, what more can the NBA do than just hope its players will avoid trouble and exercise good old common sense. Some of the league’s bigger stars are accompanied by security guards when they venture into public places, including nightclubs.

But security detail and curfews won’t prevent NBA players from entering clubs and enjoying the spoils of being rich, young and famous. Besides being famous, Williams and Early are no different than some hot shot young attorney or hedge fund guys with plenty of disposable income. The motto is simple: have money, will party.

“We all are targets at the end of the day,” Carmelo said on Wednesday. “Regardless of how much love people will show you and whether you feel comfortable being in this place or that place, it will always be that one person who thinks differently, who feels you shouldn’t be in the position that you’re in, that you shouldn’t be as blessed as you are.

“So it will always be the 99 people who are bigging you up and then the one person over here who is trying to take you down.”

***

No. 3: Porzingis takes the safe route as a rookie — Of course, New York can be a very safe place if you take precaution. That’s what a certain Knicks rookie has chosen. Maybe it’s because he’s 7-foot-3 and easy to spot, and because he’s already a celebrity, and because he makes millions. But Kristaps Porzingis, only 20, has not only stayed away from certain hot spots in New York, he has “security” in the form of his parents. Here’s Mark Berman of the New York Post with more:

If any Knick is a good bet to stay out of trouble, it is Porzingis, who often has said he is in New York City only for the games.

Porzingis, who claims to not drink, is living in a cocoon in White Plains with his parents from Latvia and his two brothers.

“It’s always good to have support around as young as I am and New York with a lot of attention,’’ Porzingis said at the United Center on Friday. “My family’s around to make sure I’m doing the right thing and staying out of trouble and focused on basketball. For me, it’s great to have family around.’’

The Knicks are reeling from two ugly incidents in a space of 11 days that prompted GM Steve Mills to give a talk to the players before they flew to Chicago for New Year’s Eve. The Knicks face the Bulls on Friday night.

Knicks forward Derrick Williams allegedly got robbed of $750,000 worth of jewelry two weeks ago by two women he met at a club and took back to his apartment in the wee hours.

On Wednesday at about 4:15 a.m., Knicks forward Cleanthony Early was robbed and shot in the right knee after leaving a Queens strip joint and being held up by at least six bandits.

“It’s sad that things like that happen,’’ said Porzingis, the first Knick to tweet a sympathetic message to Early on Wednesday morning. “It shows how careful you have to be in those situations.’’

Although the drinking age in Latvia is 18, Porzingis says he does not drink at all. And as far as going out to a nightclub, Porzingis said, “I’m 20 years old.’’

***

No. 4: Is Jabari Parker taking a step backward? — He was widely considered by scouts to be the most NBA-ready player taken in the draft a few years ago. Then Jabari Parker got hurt less than two months into his rookie season and missed almost a year following knee surgery. He has made a triumphant return this season and shows flashes of being the player the Bucks projected when he left Duke. But he hasn’t put it all together just yet. Does Parker deserve the benefit of time, or does his sporadic struggles mean he’s in for an inconsistent season? Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel takes a look:

The 6-foot-8 forward firmly believes he will break out of it soon.

“I know what skills I have,” Parker said. “I’m just playing my role. It’s there. It’s always been there.”

Parker was 2 of 11 from the field and scored five points in the Bucks’ 131-123 loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday night and was 2 of 7 with six points in a 103-93 loss at Dallas to begin the Bucks’ four-game trip Monday night.

He played just 18 minutes in each game.

In the past six games he has connected on just 22 of 60 shots (36.7%), and that includes an 8 of 10 performance against the Philadelphia 76ers last week.

Parker tore his left anterior cruciate ligament last December and missed the final 57 games of his rookie season after undergoing surgery. He worked hard throughout the summer and returned to action Nov. 4 against Philadelphia, in the fifth game of the season.

He has showed explosiveness at the rim and finished some spectacular dunks, but he has struggled with his medium-range jumper while shooting 45.7% from the field. Parker is averaging 10.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 27 games, including 23 starts.

“He has had some very good games,” Prunty said. “He’s been very helpful and he’s important to what we do. Obviously there are games where he’s going through a learning curve.

“I think people tend to look at offensive statistics, but we’re always trying to grow on both sides of the ball. So defensively and offensively he’s made great strides. We like where he is. But like all our players, we’re trying to get better every single day.”

Donovan said Parker — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft — would not necessarily remain a power forward as he continues his NBA journey.

“Seeing him in high school, I don’t think people realize this,” Donovan said. “He played the center spot; he played the point guard spot.

But he admitted the last few weeks have been rough, not only for him but the team, as it has dropped nine games below the .500 level. He said it’s a matter of confidence with his jump shot right now.

“We’re losing; everyone is always disappointed,” he said. “I have to stay positive, do what I can control, just play hard.

“I still believe in my team, regardless of anything. I still believe in us.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Stats really don’t tell how good a season LeBron James is having … Marcus Morris of the Pistons, twin brother of recently suspended Markieff Morris, gives his thoughts about the SunsRudy Gobert is angling for a recovery and return for Utah … The Nuggets could use a breather for some of their workhorse players Dwyane Wade is going strong to the rim again.


Advertisement