Posts Tagged ‘Andre Miller’

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 3


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 2

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Gasol-for-Bynum swap losing ground | Rondo open to D-League stint | Report: Warriors, Kings interested in PG Miller | Blazers revel in big night from 3-point land

No. 1: Report: Gasol-for-Bynum talks stall out — Cavs center Andrew Bynum has been basically excused from the team since his suspension from the team for detrimental conduct five days ago. In the time since then, trade talks regarding Bynum have heated up — especially since moving him before Jan. 7 would spare the Cavs from having to pay Bynum anything more than half of his $12.25 million deal. One deal that seemed to be picking up steam involved Cleveland shipping Bynum to his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, for big man Pau Gasol. But as ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelbourne point out, that deal is starting to lose its momentum of a few days ago:

The deal is not dead, but it is no longer progressing. The Cavs, who have until Jan. 7 to trade Bynum before his contract becomes guaranteed and loses its instant value in a trade, are now actively seeking other options.

The major issue, sources said, involves the Lakers’ desire to get an additional asset from the Cavs beyond Bynum’s team-friendly contract, which could save the Lakers more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes. The Lakers are interested in also getting a young prospect or a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. The Cavs have been reluctant to part with either.

To satisfy NBA trade rules, the Cavs would have to add at least one more player to any trade involving Gasol for Bynum. Gasol is in the last year of a contract that pays him $19.3 million. Bynum’s contract is for $12.25 million but is only half guaranteed before next week, which is why the Lakers are interested. By trading for and then waiving Bynum, the Lakers could take themselves below the luxury-tax threshold for the first time in seven years.

The Lakers, though, remain reluctant to part with Gasol before giving the team time to recover from a wave of injuries that have derailed its season, sources said.

There is some pressure for the Lakers to get out of the luxury tax to help with future flexibility. If the Lakers remain in the tax this season, going into the tax in either of the next two seasons would trigger a “repeater tax” the franchise hopes to avoid. The Lakers are planning to be major free-agent players the next two summers.

Gasol, no stranger to trade rumors, addressed the latest one after the Lakers’ practice Thursday.

“I’m more accustomed to them and I deal with them better than I did at first, when it started,” he said. “But it’s just a reality, and I just got to stay cool and keep my mind on the game as much as I can.”

He also said he wants to remain in Los Angeles.

“It’s my home, it’s my team,” Gasol said. “It’s the team that I’ve been through so much with, and I’m not the type of guy that likes to jump ship because everything is not going right right now. So, I’m a loyal guy. I’d like to continue to be here and fight with the guys that are here and once we get bodies back, everything will be better. But right now, I’d like to continue to stay here. This is my team, this is my city.”


VIDEO: Pau Gasol talks about his name being bandied about in trade rumors

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No. 2: Rondo says he’s ‘pretty close’ to a return, is open to D-League stint — Some good news for the Celtics as the New Year gets rolling — point guard Rajon Rondo told the Boston media yesterday that his rehab is moving along well and his return might not be far off. One idea that was floated by Celtics coach Brad Stevens to help get Rondo back into NBA shape was the send him down to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League for a few games before he takes the court in Boston. That’s an idea that Rondo isn’t scoffing at, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

Rajon Rondo said Thursday he is open to a rehabilitation stint with NBADL Maine and is getting “pretty close” after missing nearly a year following tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament.“I’m better than last week when I talked to you guys,” he said, referring to his Dec. 22 meeting with the media. “I’m still getting my endurance but I’m getting pretty close, feeling good, feeling better. Like I said, I feel better than last week.”

“A like a 12-minute quarter, straight,” he said when asked whether there is one sign that he’s ready to return. “I don’t want to go out there and get fatigued and cause another injury. I want to makes sure I’m ready to go and I’m in shape.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Monday that the organization had discussed sending Rondo to Maine for game action and practice time. Rondo had been mum about the possibility until Thursday. If Rondo does play with the Red Claws, it would likely be away from Maine. After Sunday, Maine hits the road for five games on the West Coast before returning to Portland on Jan. 18.

“That’s an idea definitely,” he said. “That’s more game-like speed with our schedule, the Celtics, we don’t a chance to play a lot of pickup, so that might be a possibility. You just never know, I might just pop up and play. You guys won’t get the memo. You just have to catch me on YouTube or something. Each week I’m getting better so I just want to give it a test when I have a chance.”

When asked if he was truly open to playing in the D-League, he said: “That’s what it’s for. I’ll probably be the first (NBA player) to (use it as rehab) but it doesn’t make a difference. I want to make sure I’m healthy and I handle it the right way. I don’t want my first time to come back out game-like to be the first time with the Celtics. I haven’t had a preseason. I haven’t had a training camp. Right now, this is my training camp.”

The Celtics entered Thursday in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite a 13-18 record. Boston has been one of the league’s most surprising teams because of the chemistry quickly gained under Stevens but Rondo said the team’s record will have nothing to do with the timing of his return.

“I’m pretty motivated regardless of our team’s record,” he said. “I told myself before the season I wasn’t going to base it off our record. It’s based off how I feel. We could be 2-30 right now, if I’m able to come back and play I want to play. I love the game. I’ve been away for a long time, and when I feel ready to play, I’m going to play.”

***

No. 3: Report: Warriors, Kings interested in acquiring Nuggets’ Miller — ICYMI (and as we reported in this space yesterday morning), Nuggets point guard Andre Miller and coach Brian Shaw got into quite the shouting match during Denver’s eventual New Year’s Day loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The fallout from that war of words resulted in Miller being suspended two games by the team yesterday. But there might be more to this tale as Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!Sports.com report that the Warriors and Kings are both trying to work a deal to trade for the apparently disgruntled Miller:

The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings are intrigued with the possibility of acquiring suspended Denver Nuggets point guard Andre Miller, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

For now, Denver management is determined to smooth over the acrimony between Miller and coach Brian Shaw, and plan on bringing back Miller on Monday for practice, league sources said.

Denver had resisted trade overtures before Wednesday’s encounter between Miller and Shaw on the Nuggets bench, and teams reaching out to the Nuggets on Thursday insist that Nuggets GM Tim Connelly still seems committed to working through the issues with Miller and getting him back on the floor for Denver.

The Warriors have been shopping for a backup point guard and have been engaged for weeks with Toronto on Kyle Lowry, sources said. The Warriors and New York Knicks have been two of the most persistent suitors for Lowry, but Toronto’s recent run of success has made the front office more reticent to unload Lowry, league sources said. Toronto hasn’t completely changed course on a possible deal for Lowry, but they’re no longer simply auctioning him.

Sacramento GM Pete D’Allessandro was a longtime executive with the Nuggets and has long been an admirer of Miller’s. The Kings would love to use Miller as a veteran mentor for young point guard Isaiah Thomas, league sources said.

The frustration that started on the floor on Wednesday night extended into the postgame locker room too, sources told Yahoo Sports. Miller has grown frustrated with Shaw and had recently addressed some issues to him in a locker room meeting forum, league sources said.

Connelly spoke with Miller for approximately an hour late Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center, and the team suspended Miller on Thursday for its next two games.


VIDEO: Coach Brian Shaw talks about the team’s suspension of Andre Miller

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No. 4: Blazers enjoy their record-setting night from deep — If you’ve spent any time at all this season watching the Trail Blazers on NBA League Pass or on national TV, you’ve surely noticed they have plenty of capable 3-point shooters and a willingness to fire from deep, too. Damian Lillard is third in the NBA in 3-pointers attempted with 240, while Wes Matthews (203, t-6th) and Nicolas Batum (185, 9th) are both in the top 10 in that category, too. The Blazers’ shooters were simply on fire last night in a win against the Bobcats as Portland set an NBA record by becoming the first team in history to nail 20-plus 3-pointers twice in a season. After the game, the Blazers soaked in their accomplishment, as Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune writes:

“I like being part of history,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I think that’s pretty cool. It’s good to do something that’s never been done before.”

The Blazers entered the game shooting a league-best .396 from beyond the arc and improved on that considerably.

“It was a lot of fun, with shots falling like that, but we’ve been doing it all year,” Lillard said.

Well, not like Thursday night. But the Blazers have made the 3-point shot their calling card this season.

“Everybody has been willing to make that extra pass,” Lillard said. “We have a lot of good shooters. If we get in a good enough rhythm, if we get good looks and the ball is moving how it did, that’s the kind of night it can be.”

“We’re going to shoot 3’s and we’re going to shoot them well,” Stotts said. “We’re going to make our percentages, because we have a lot of good shooters.”

Seven Blazers knocked down at least one 3-point shot, and even LaMarcus Aldridge (0 for 1) and Meyers Leonard (0 for 2) tried to join the party.

“When the guys are hitting like that, that makes it easy for me,” said center Robin Lopez, who had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting and five rebounds in 26 minutes. “All I have to do is get somebody on the floor open, set the screen, give him a little space and let him go to work.”

“Making those shots is contagious,” Matthews said. “Our crowd gets into it. Our crowd is almost willing the ball in for us, before we even shoot it.

“When that ball is flying around the perimeter like that, when (Aldridge) is kicking it out, it’s almost like it’s expected you’re going to make the shot.”

For a team with a league-best 26 victories, the Blazers have precious few blowouts. They are 14-3 in games decided by 10 points or fewer and had only two wins by more than 15 points before Thursday. Stotts was able to get at least seven minutes of action for all 13 players dressed, with nobody playing as many as 30.

“It’s always good to get a win like this,” Stotts said. “Guys on the bench can get some minutes; starters can get some rest. You have to enjoy these, because they don’t come often.”

“It’s a good feeling,” Matthews said, a smile forming on his face. “We didn’t get to do that much last year. It was on the other end, actually.”


VIDEO: Trail Blazers nail 21 3-pointers in a rout of the Charlotte Bobcats

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Good news for the Magic — Nikola Vucevic‘s ankle injury isn’t as bad as was initially feared … Although he says otherwise, it seems that Knicks guard J.R. Smith is still a tad upset about the team cutting his brother, Chris … Veteran Keith Bogans isn’t too happy about his lack of playing time with Boston this season … Kendall Marshall will become the sixth different player to start at point guard for the Lakers this season

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: Apparently, it was a good night to have the last name “Plumlee” as both brothers — Mason (of the Nets) and Miles (of the Suns) — got to finish off tasty alley-oops.


VIDEO: Miles Plumlee reverse jams the alley-oop assist from Goran Dragic


VIDEO: Mason Plumlee gets up to finish off the alley-oop from Deron Williams

Ujiri The Ultimate Chemistry Teacher




VIDEO: DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors are on a roll right now, winners of four straight games

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Masai Ujiri‘s front office peers around the NBA should pay close attention to the way the Toronto Raptors’ star goes about his business. While some franchise architects like to work their so-called magic with the public watching intently, Ujiri has done a masterful job (first in Denver and now in Toronto) tweaking chemistry and getting results.

In fact, Ujiri has proven himself to be the ultimate chemistry teacher these days in terms of knowing how to tweak a roster just right. The reigning NBA Executive of the Year, an honor voted on by his peers, Ujiri is making a strong push for repeat honors with the way the Raptors are playing since the Rudy Gay trade went down.

They are 9-3 and winners of eight of their last 10 games since moving Gay to Sacramento Dec. 9. It was a move designed to give the Raptors long-term flexibility and not necessarily an immediate jolt that has helped them climb all the way up to the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

But Ujiri has a way of studying a roster, figuring out what works and what doesn’t and then being fearless in his attempts to change things for the better. Since Gay was jettisoned, the Raptors have scored huge wins over the likes of Dallas and Chicago, and most recently in Oklahoma City (where they handed the West-best Thunder their first home loss of the season) and kicked off 2014 with an impressive home win over the East-best Indiana Pacers.

As much as this is about the fine work being done by Raptors coach Dwane Casey and his staff, and of course, the contributions of a roster full of grinders like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, Greivis Vasquez and others, this is about the man who put it all together.

Ujiri just happens to have the magic touch right now. And if you don’t believe it, just look at the hard times his former team has fallen upon in his absence. The Denver Nuggets have lost eight straight games, their longest such skid since the end of the 2002-03 season. Veteran point guard Andre Miller turned the heat up even more by ripping first-year coach Brian Shaw after Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, making matters worse in Denver while Ujiri has his new team soaring.

A boss like Ujiri keeps those dustups contained, as best can be, or at least at a minimum and away from the public. You don’t have to worry about those sorts of altercations when working conditions are at a premium. And Ujiri has freed up virtually every key rotation player on the Raptors’ roster to do what he does best after the Gay trade.

DeRozan and Lowry in particular are allowed to play more to their natural strengths on the perimeter, while Valanciunas has become more of a focal point as well. Role players like Johnson, the ridiculously underrated Vasquez, who came over from Sacramento in the trade, and young journeyman forwards Tyler Hansbrough and Patrick Patterson have become critical pieces in the Raptors’ current run.

“No one on this team is selfish; everyone accepts their roles,” Patterson told reporters after the Raptors outslugged Paul George, Roy Hibbert and the Pacers to kick off the New Year. “No one wants to get more shots, no one wants to do more of this, no one is jealous of another player … we all understand what we have to do in order to make this machine keep rolling smoothly.”

The man responsible for making sure that machine runs without a hitch, of course, is Ujiri. He understands, as well or better than most right now, that team chemistry trumps just about everything else that goes on inside a team’s fabric in this day and age. Even the Miami Heat needed a year (and a Finals defeat at the hands of a Mavericks team that had off the charts chemistry) to figure that out.


VIDEO: The Raptors took it to the Pacers, kicking off 2014 in style before the home crowd

Morning Shootaround – Jan. 2


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Jan. 1

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Miller argues with Shaw | Garnett continues to struggle | Gordon seeks contender

No. 1: Miller argues with Shaw — This season has been a roller-coaster ride for the Denver Nuggets. After a disappointing 1-4 start, they surged to 11-6 thanks to a seven-game winning streak. It looked like the 50-win Nuggets from last season were back. But now Denver is 14-17 and in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Emotions are as high as the altitude. So much so that point guard Andre Miller has been suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team. Miller decided to voice his frustrations to head coach Brian Shaw during last night’s game, according to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post:

After the Nuggets’ eighth consecutive loss, 114-102 to Philadelphia on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center, J.J. Hickson agreed with the notion that the Nuggets have hit rock bottom. But that point may have come earlier, in the second half, when Andre Miller, headed for his first healthy scratch, decided he would verbally take it out on coach Brian Shaw.

Miller yelled about the disrespect he felt he was being shown by sitting. And if he was being disrespected, he’d do the same to the Nuggets’ first-year head coach.

“There’s a time and place for everything,” Shaw said. “In the middle of the arena in front of everyone … I just tried to calm it down.”

Asked if Miller understood the reasons for his one-game seat on the bench, Shaw said, “You’ll have to ask him.”

But by that time, Miller had already left.

Many of his teammates remained, however, to explain the free-fall the Nuggets are in.

It is the team’s longest slide since dropping eight straight to end the 2002-03 season. It is also the Nuggets’ fifth consecutive home loss. And this one came with an increasingly agitated fan base that peppered the team with boos at the end of the half and in the third quarter, and then flat-out started leaving en masse with 5:33 left in the fourth and the team down 104-89.

The fans booed again as time ran out on the latest defeat.

“We deserved every bit of that,” Shaw said.

It was that kind of night.

“It’s not even a slump right now,” Shaw said. “It’s worse than a slump.”

***

No. 2: Garnett continues to struggle — The Kevin Garnett acquired by the Brooklyn Nets this summer was never expected to be MVP-level Garnett from the mid-2000s. But his massive struggles so far this season were equally unexpected for the future Hall-of-Famer, even at the age of 37. Garnett is still searching for a rhythm within the Nets’ offense, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“It shouldn’t,” Garnett said when asked if his shooting struggles have impacted his confidence. “Obviously, the most frustrating thing about me is I could see if I wasn’t hitting shots and I wasn’t in here working or taking [expletive] days off.

“I put time into my craft for it to come out, but then that’s rhythm on offense. And I don’t have that right now. I’m not [expletive] about it, nor am I complaining. I’m just trying to adjust to it.”

After missing all five shots he took Tuesday, Garnett is now shooting a dismal 36.4 percent for the season — more than a full 13 points below his 49.6 percent clip last season in Boston — and looks as if he is years removed from the player who averaged 12.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in Boston’s first-round exit against the Knicks at the end of last season.

“Honestly, I have no rhythm,” Garnett said. “I’m trying to establish some confidence, and figure out where I fit into this whole ‘where I fit into the offense’ thing.”

Garnett and Nets coach Jason Kidd were asked Wednesday if part of Garnett’s inability to get into a rhythm stemmed from him being placed on a minutes restriction this season, as he’s played less than 30 minutes in every game he’s participated in and hasn’t reached 20 in four of his last five games and seven of his last nine.

“[We’re] sticking with this,” Kidd said when asked whether the minutes limit could change, adding it’s in place to “get [Garnett] through the season.”

“He’s getting great looks,” Kidd added. “Some of them haven’t gone in, but we believe as a team they will.”

Garnett said that more than just the minutes, this season has been difficult for him because of all of the adjustments he has had to make.

“Yeah, and a lot of the offenses I’ve been in I’ve been pretty much a primary,” he said. “This has been an adjustment period. Coming here, I didn’t expect a lot of minutes, I didn’t expect a lot of touches, so I figured I would come in here and help and be a kind of liaison, or kind of attach things to where they lacked at.

“I don’t [think] the objective to bring the three of us [Garnett, Pierce and Terry] here was to play a bulk of minutes or be primaries … it’s [been] a lot of moving parts throughout the year, and it’s hard to get a rhythm with that.”

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No. 3: Gordon seeks contenderIt’s no surprise that an NBA player would prefer to play for a contender. But this urge must be especially high for Ben Gordon who has spent the better half of his career on the struggling Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats are finally making some noise this season, but that didn’t stop Gordon from voicing his aspirations to Lang Greene of Hoopsworld:

For Gordon, an unrestricted free agent next summer, his present and future is all about getting back into the mix of contenders as he closes out his career.

“It means everything,” Gordon told HOOPSWORLD on the importance of closing his career with a title. “That’s why we play the game, just to have a chance to get into the playoffs and see what happens. For me especially, I haven’t been to the playoffs the last four seasons so making it this year is a big goal of mine. Not only for me but my teammates as well.”

However, Gordon says he’s learned through the years free agency is based on many other factors outside of box score results and maintains he isn’t letting his looming free agency status this summer impact him mentally.

“You pretty much don’t think about,” Gordon says of his impending free agency. “It’s something I learned earlier in my career, that those situations are out of your control. A lot of times it’s just a waiting game. But the most important thing is what you’re able to control and do on the court out there. It’s the same mindset.

“I’m a veteran now so I know [free agency] relies on so many factors  that are out of my control that I’m just focused on the things I can control and take it all day by day.”

The rise in the standings didn’t come as a surprise for Gordon, who credits the arrival of head coach Steve Clifford as one of the reasons Charlotte has significantly improved over last season.

“Not at all because coach has been around a really long time,” Gordon said. “He hasn’t been a head coach but he’s been around as far as being an assistant. He’s worked with some of the best coaches in basketball, so it’s not a surprise. I think with the talent we have we’re still building chemistry.

“I think that’s our focus night in and night out with the pieces we have. The Eastern Conference has allowed us to have a decent record so far. I think we still have huge room for improvement, but right now I wouldn’t say our play is a surprise at all. We expect to be a playoff team.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kyrie Irving has a left knee contusion and is questionable for tonight’s game … Philadelphia 76ers Arnett Moultrie participated in scrimmages and may return later this month … Cody Zeller tried to dunkPortland assigns C.J. McCollum to the D-League … Boston Celtics Rajon Rondo is expected to travel with the team soon … Some believe there is not much of a trade market for Andrew Bynum

ICYMI of The Night: The Toronto Raptors continued their hot streak last night with an impressive win over the equally hot Indiana Pacers.

VIDEO: Raptors Cool Pacers

Robinson On Rose-Less Bulls: ‘They’ll Figure Out A Way To Win’

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DALLAS – Back in Chicago for a late October preseason game, Nuggets guard Nate Robinson acknowledged how much he missed his old Bulls teammates with whom he’d been through so much during last season’s inspiring and trying ride without Derrick Rose.

Exactly a month later, with Rose having undergone season-ending knee surgery Monday, it’s the Bulls who might miss Robinson more than they could have imagined.

An important offensive spark and a big-shot maker during his one season with Chicago, Robinson never got the chance to play with Rose. Just four nights ago, he faced off against him in Denver, going for 11 points and three assists to help his new club beat the Bulls by 10. The next night at Portland, Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee just 10 games into his return from the torn ACL in his left knee that kept him out all of last season.

“Sad,” Robinson told NBA.com Monday night as the Nuggets prepared to face the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s sad for me, it’s sad for him, I know for sure. My son was really sad about it because he loved Derrick Rose. He got a picture with him last year. He was so excited.”

The entire NBA was excited to have Rose, the 2010-11 league MVP, back in action. Suddenly, and sadly, everybody’s wondering if Chicago can reset again without their star point guard and grind out another season without him. That process has started excruciatingly slow in the immediate aftermath. On Sunday in Los Angeles, the Clippers hammered the Bulls by 39 points, 121-82. Playing at one-win Utah on Monday, the Bulls struggled again, losing, 89-83 to the Jazz in OT.

“It’s tough. It’s definitely going to hurt them, but they’re tough, man,” Robinson said. “They’ll figure out a way to win. They always do.”

They’ll have to do it without the bolt of energy that is the 5-foot-9 Robinson, who produced one of those familiar scoring flurries in Dallas with 17 points, 13 coming in the fourth quarter that included three 3-pointers to help the Nuggets get a 110-96 road win. With Chicago, Robinson averaged 25.4 mpg and played in all 82 games for the injury-riddled squad. He averaged 13.1 ppg and 4.4 apg for the Bulls, and 16.3 ppg during their gritty playoff run into the East semifinals that included an unforgettable 34-point explosion in the triple-overtime Game 4 win in the first round against the Nets.

Robinson started 23 games and was indispensable to Chicago’s success considering Kirk Hinrich, who again takes over as the starting point guard, played in just 60 games last season.

In Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau started Mike Dunleavy alongside Hinrich with regular starter Jimmy Butler (sprained big toe) still injured. Monday night at Utah, Thibodeau gave rookie Tony Snell the start. At the point, Chicago also has veteran journeyman Mike James and second-year point guard Marquis Teague, who played in 48 games last season and had played in just half of the Bulls’ first 12 games.

Considering the circumstance, Robinson, who signed a two-year, $4.1-million free-agent deal with the Nuggets, would likely again be counted on as a big-minute contributor in Chicago. But he’s long gone.

“I don’t know what they need. I don’t know nothing about it,” Robinson said of the Bulls’ predicament. “I know these guys here, I got their backs, my new teammates.”

It hasn’t been instant success start for Robinson, 29, in Denver, which has a glut of backcourt players with Randy Foye starting alongside Ty Lawson, and a bench that includes veteran Andre Miller, who still logs 18.9 mpg, plus second-year swingman Evan Fournier. New coach Brian Shaw is playing Robinson 16.9 mpg. He’s averaging 7.5 ppg and 2.3 apg. He’s shooting 34.4 percent from the floor, although 40.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

After a sluggish start to the season, the up-tempo Nuggets are now 7-6 and on a three-game win streak as they adjust to Shaw’s more inside-out offensive approach. Forward Wilson Chandler recently returned to the lineup and at some point forward Danilo Gallinari will make his return from the ACL injury he sustained last April.

Still, the Nuggets are getting up and down the floor, a quick pace that seems a natural fit for the frenetic Robinson.

“I just like to play basketball,” he said.

Back And Forth With Bones: Nuggets-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 0-7 Utah Jazz try to get off the schneid, hosting the 1-4 Denver Nuggets on NBA TV.

Pre-game

Schuhmann: Hey Bones, tonight we have the Nuggets and Jazz, who are arguably the two worst teams in the league right now. There are better games on League Pass, but this one isn’t without some intrigue.

Denver has obviously undergone a stylistic change under Brian Shaw. After attempting over 45 percent of their shots from the restricted area each of the last two seasons, they’ve attempted just 32 percent of their shots from there this year. They’re down to 10th and 20th in fast break points and offensive rebounding percentage respectively, after leading the league in both of those categories last year.

Their frontcourt rotation has been a mess without Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler (who is supposed to return tonight). I believe Shaw wants to work the offense through their bigs, but I don’t see any bigs on that roster that can function as a focal point offensively.

Meanwhile, I thought the Jazz would be better defensively after seeing their numbers with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor last season, but they rank 27th on that end, unable to get boards or keep their opponents off the line. Offensively, Gordon Hayward has the goods, but this team can’t hit a shot from the outside.

So, questions for you:
1. Are you on board with what Shaw is trying to do? Is it just a matter of time (and health) before the Nuggets get on track, or do they need to get back to running and attacking the basket?
2. Do the Jazz have more ability to be a decent offensive team (maybe the shots will start falling at some point) or a decent defensive team (as the bigs develop)?


VIDEO: Jazz broadcaster David Locke discusses Utah’s tough season

Barry: The Jazz are absolutely horrible at getting ball to go through the hoop, important that you can do that — it is called scoring. Last in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

They’re getting exposed at point guard and can’t put pressure on opposing teams, most of which have pretty good ones, especially in the West.

It’s new territory for the team in terms of bearing heavy minutes, when and how to conserve legs and effort. Bigs worried about picking up scoring takes away rebounding focus. It will be interesting to see if they play confident or embarrassed to open up the game.

For the Nuggets, Shaw is still trying to find rotations that mesh with injuries to key players (Gallo, Kenneth Faried and now JaVale McGee). There’s no way Denver can play through bigs, so it will be interesting to see how Brian is managing the guard play.

Ty Lawson is playing a ton of minutes. Randy Foye next, but top three gunners are Ty (85 FGA), Nate Robinson (45), and Foye (44). They’re losing a bit of a defensive mentality/flexibility with Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala gone.

Karl loved misfits, mismatches and mental games. It’s hard for new coach to get there without a better understanding, but even tougher when the old coach won a bunch too!

1st quarter

The Jazz got off to a strong start, scoring 26 points on a stretch of 16 possessions in the middle of the first quarter. The Nuggets shot just 8-for-21 in the period, but were only down six.

Schuhmann: The Nuggets are trying to post up Faried early on. I don’t get it.

Barry: And apparently are afraid to touch the paint on the defensive end. Some of the possessions are leaving them with bad floor balance and Jazz looking to run with purpose to score to start a game they really need to win.


VIDEO: Derrick Favors gets up to reject J.J. Hickson

They need a release from the winless start and a close game doesn’t do it.

Schuhmann: Turnovers have been an issue for the Jazz – 2nd highest rate in the league – and they don’t have any through 18 possessions. Favors looks more comfortable in the post than any of the Denver bigs.

Barry: Great patience vs. Mozgov. Fatigue moves the last two, but he responds with a block.

Barry: Good first quarter, but guys got a little tired for Jazz. Feels like Denver got away with one.

2nd quarter (UTA leads 26-20)

The Jazz scored on just three of their first 14 possessions and committed seven turnovers in the period after committing none in the first. The Nuggets had turnover issues of their own, but went on a 19-8 run late in the period to take a five point lead. Four points from Hayward made it a one-point game at the half.

Schuhmann: The Denver offense looks best when Lawson is attacking off the dribble. Not sure what else they can rely on.

Barry: They’ve just lost a lot of dynamic play on the wings with Brewer/Iggy gone and utility/tough matchups in Chandler/Gallo. You can see how they bog down.

Barry: But I do see signs of DHO (dribble hand-offs) and use of the pinch post in the Nuggets’ offense.


VIDEO: Andre Miller loses Jamaal Tinsley with a crafty crossover move

Schuhmann: That move by Andre Miller made my night.

Barry: And his.

Barry: Interesting for Utah to try to take advantage of Hayward in the post on Miller when doubles don’t result in anything good, because the Jazz can’t shoot it from distance.

Schuhmann: 10 combined turnovers in first six minutes of the second quarter. I’m starting to understand why these teams are a combined 1-11.


VIDEO: J.J. Hickson posterizes Jazz forward Marvin Williams

Halftime (DEN leads 46-45)


VIDEO: First half highlights from Nuggets-Jazz

Schuhmann: The Nuggets got things going in the second quarter when they – one – took care of the ball and – two – attacked the basket. 19 of their 26 points came in the paint or at the line.

Barry: And there lies the problem. Kanter and Favors will need to learn how to patrol and control the lower defensive box. Tonight, they are not having to deal with stretch bigs. It’s a technique/muscle game that they are struggling with.

Barry: Some worrisome numbers from PG for the Jazz. Lawson’s numbers at the half (eight points and six assists) might end up being more than the Lucas/Tinsley combo for the game. No playmaking to promote flow for the Jazz. All plays on one’s own to score.

3rd quarter

With the Jazz continuing to struggle offensively, the Nugget built a seven-point lead. But Favors scored seven straight points late in the period to keep it close.

Schuhmann: Lots of Favors in the post again. No double-teams = no ball movement. Denver willing to live with single coverage everywhere.

Schuhmann: Jazz had some pick-and-roll success in the third with a couple of nifty big-to-big passes between Favors and Gobert. Gets the defense moving more than straight post-ups.

Barry: When you can load up elbows and boxes the Jazz have very little room to find offense.

4th quarter (DEN leads 70-68)

The Jazz took a brief lead on an Alec Burks three-point play, but the Nuggets answered with a 10-1 run and scored 13 times in a 15-possession stretch to put the game away.

Barry: Penalty at 10:18 for the Jazz.


VIDEO: Nate Robinson lobs and Kenneth Faried finishes it off

Barry: Great dime by Nate. Pressure mounting on the Jazz, 0-7 and being down at home. Expect some roster change out of this timeout as Ty won’t want to put more pressure on guys to finish it out.

Barry: And there they are…

Barry: Offensive rebounds are crushing the Jazz.

Schuhmann: Yep. Pick-and-rolls are putting their bigs out of position.

Barry: But no reason to be extended that far. Strange injury to Manimal, if he doesn’t come back Utah will have a chance.

Barry: More Dre. Good call by B-Shaw.

Barry: Andre is fantastic… Great drive and shot before Gobert could get feet set to block. And Manimal is back. Not good for the Jazz.

Barry: Utah bigs just seem unaware of how far they are extending. They’re opening up drives and offensive rebounds for Denver. For the last three minutes, Ty can dictate tempo, whereas Utah has no point.

Final: Nuggets 100, Jazz 81


VIDEO: Nuggets pick up road win in Utah

Lawson led Denver with 17 points and 10 assists. Faried added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Miller added another 15 points off the bench for the Nuggets, who had a 48-36 advantage in the paint, a 52-35 advantage on the glass, and a 23-16 edge at the free throw line. Favors finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, but the Jazz shot a brutal 3-for-17 from 3-point range and are shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc through eight games.

Schuhmann: It’s tough to score with no penetration and no shooting. We saw some decent post-ups from Favors, but the bigs don’t demand a double-team down there.

Denver looked good when they went to last year’s formula of dribble penetration from the point guards and crashing the glass, though with Brewer and Iguodala gone, they’ve lost a lot of their potency on the break. I’m not a fan of trying to work through Faried or Hickson in the post, but they went away from that in the second half. Of course, we can’t really evaluate their D from a game against the Jazz.

Barry: No, but the Horns set seemed to open up basic opportunities for Denver. They will look much different when they have a full complement of players.

But the Jazz have reasons for concern, as Trey Burke is not going to come in and take the Western Conference PG position by storm.

One Team, One Stat: Nuggets Own The Restricted Area

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Denver Nuggets, who are moving in a new direction after their best regular season in 37 years.

The basics
DEN Rank
W-L 57-25 4
Pace 97.8 2
OffRtg 107.6 5
DefRtg 102.0 11
NetRtg +5.6 5

The stat

1,412 - Points by which the Nuggets outscored their opponents in the restricted area last season.

The context

No other team in the league outscored their opponents in the restricted area by half that amount. Next on the list were the Houston Rockets, who outscored their opponents by 626 points in the restricted area. And since shot-location data was first charted in 1996, the only team that has come close to the Nuggets’ mark was the 1997-98 Lakers, who outscored their opponents by 1,128 points in the restricted area.

Offensively, the Nuggets relentlessly attacked the basket. It started with their transition game, of course. They were off and running once they got the ball off a turnover, a rebound, or even a made bucket. They led the league in fast break points by a wide margin, and 1,210 (*73 percent) of their 1,652 fast break points came in the restricted area.

*For comparison, league-wide, 57 percent of fast break points came in the restricted area.

When the break was stopped, point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller still looked to get into the paint and make plays. Among guards, they ranked eighth and 19th in restricted area field goal attempts. Almost 60 percent of their assists came in the restricted area, with Miller leading the league with 328 restricted-area assists and Lawson ranking seventh with 260.

And the Nuggets didn’t stop with their first attempt at the basket. They led the league in both offensive rebounding percentage and second-chance points, with 840 (*65 percent) of their 1,295 second-chance points coming in the restricted area.

* For comparison, league-wide, 53 percent of second-chance points came in the restricted area, which is probably less than you would guess.

Of course, the Nuggets *couldn’t shoot very well, so they had little choice but to attack the basket. But for a team that doesn’t shoot very well to rank in the top five in offensive efficiency is pretty amazing.

* They ranked 23rd in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint and famously didn’t hit a shot from outside the paint until the final minute of a December loss in Portland.

The Nuggets took 45.7 percent of their shots from the restricted area, by far the highest rate in the league. And they made 63.1 percent of those shots, a mark which ranked sixth. No other team ranked in the top 10 in both the percentage of shots taken from the restricted area and field goal percentage there.

Highest percentage of shots from the restricted area

Team FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA
Denver 2,016 3,194 63.1% 6 45.7%
Detroit 1,565 2,670 58.6% 24 40.2%
Houston 1,617 2,628 61.5% 11 38.7%
Minnesota 1,421 2,406 59.1% 19 35.9%
Milwaukee 1,432 2,530 56.6% 27 35.2%

Denver wasn’t just strong in the restricted area offensively. To outscore your opponents by 1,412 points, you have to be doing something right on the other end of the floor as well.

The Nuggets didn’t really prevent shots at the basket, but they defended them well, allowing their opponents to shoot just 56.2 percent in the restricted area, the second best mark in the league.

The following are some highlights from a December game in which the Nuggets outscored the Pacers (who ranked No. 1 in restricted-area defense) 48-18 at the basket. Denver shot 24-for-30 in the restricted area, while Indiana shot just 9-for-17.


While the Nuggets’ defense was better overall with Kosta Koufos on the floor, JaVale McGee was the team’s best rim protector. In fact, he was one of the league’s best, with opponents shooting just 52.8 percent in the restricted area with him on the floor.

McGee is back and now starting at center, so Denver opponents will continue to have a tough time converting at the rim. But the Nuggets won’t be as strong there themselves.

Only LeBron James was a better finisher at the rim than Andre Iguodala last season, and Iguodala has taken his dunks and layups to the Bay Area. Maybe more importantly, the architect of the Nuggets’ furious style is gone. And with Brian Shaw replacing George Karl on the bench, we should see a more traditional offensive attack in Denver.

Denver has played at a quick pace in the preseason, but has attempted only 34 percent of their shots from the restricted area. Of course, they actually have have a couple of guys – Randy Foye and Nate Robinson – who can shoot threes pretty well. And that is just as important as getting shots at the basket.

So the Nuggets will likely have more balanced offense in terms of shot selection. And who knows when we’ll see another team outscore its opponents by so many points in the restricted area again.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

2013-14 Milestone Watch

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

The 2013-14 NBA season is less than three months away and excitement levels are already high. LeBron James has his eyes on a third straight championship, Dwight Howard will try to prove doubters wrong, and the Brooklyn Nets aim to make a deep playoff run with their new squad. But for many of the longtime veterans in the league, this upcoming season is a chance for them to further etch their names into the record books.

Here are seven players who have milestones in their sights:

Kobe Bryant – Points, Assists, Free Throws

Kobe Bryant is close to passing Michael Jordan in points.

Kobe Bryant is close to passing Michael Jordan in points.

Bryant will face his biggest challenge this summer as he attempts to successfully rehab from a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered in mid-April. But when he does return, he’ll have multiple milestones in clear sight. The most important milestone for Bryant is points as he needs only 676 points to pass Michael Jordan for third all time. It will take Bryant nearly 300 more games than Jordan played to pass His Airness, but that doesn’t diminish the milestone’s significance.  Bryant also needs 113 assists to become only the 30th player in NBA history to reach 6,000 and 532-free throw attempts to become only the fifth player to attempt at least 10,000 free throws. The other four who’ve done it: Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, and Karl Malone. That’s okay company.

Kevin Garnett – Field Goals, Minutes, Rebounds, Blocks

Kevin Garnett is close to many major milestones.

Kevin Garnett is close to many major milestones.

It’s easy to understand how one of the most dominant players in the league for the past 18 seasons is on the verge of multiple milestones. He needs 363 field goals to pass Moses Malone, George Gervin, Dan Issel, and John Havlicek for 11th all time. After playing 58 minutes next season, he will pass Wilt Chamberlain for sixth all time to join the elite company of Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Then he’ll also need 399 rebounds to reach ninth all time and 30 blocks to reach 2,000 for his career. All four of these milestones are attainable if he stays healthy and soon he’ll be able to add Hall-of-Fame inductee to his list of milestones.

Steve Nash – Assists, Turnovers

Steve Nash is nearing elite company.

Steve Nash is nearing elite company.

The almost 40-year-old Nash is close to two significant milestones for next season. He is only 86 assists away from passing Mark Jackson for third all time and he needs just 90 turnovers to move into 10th all time. The turnover milestone may seem like a bad thing, but it shows its importance when you look at the nine players who will be in front of him: Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant, Artis Gilmore, Julius Erving, Jason Kidd, John Stockton, Moses Malone, and Karl Malone. It doesn’t get much more elite than that.

Andre Miller – Assists

Andre Miller has quietly neared 8,000 assists.

Andre Miller is quietly near 8,000 assists.

Miller has been one of the best distributors in the league for most of his 14-year career, but his lack of flashiness has caused him to be consistently underrated. However, if he can collect 44 assists next season he will reach 8,000 for his career and join Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd, and John Stockton as the only players to reach the milestone.

Ray Allen – 3-Point

Ray Allen is close to another 3-point milestone.

Ray Allen is close to another 3-point milestone.

Unlike all of the other milestones mentioned, Allen has already reached the top of the statistical category and now he’s just extending his lead. It will take a good season for him to make 143 3-pointers, but if he does he will become the first player in NBA history to reach 3,000 3-pointers and it’ll make his record even more difficult to pass.

Paul Pierce – Points

Paul Pierce is nearing a huge scoring milestone.

Paul Pierce is nearing a huge scoring milestone.

Pierce’s first season outside of Boston could be a historic one if he is able to score 979 points to reach 25,000 for his career. Only 21 players in NBA history have reached this mark and Dirk Nowitzki, Garnett, and Bryant are the only active players to get there. It would an incredible accomplishment for Pierce who has faced and conquered many challenges during his 15-year career.

Jason Terry – 3-Point

Jason Terry is close to a historic 3-point mark.

Jason Terry is close to a historic 3-point mark.

Many people fail to notice how prolific Terry’s 3-point shooting has been throughout his career. But with only 78 3-pointers next season he will pass Jason Kidd to become third all time and join the special company of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen. Consistency has been the key for Terry as his rookie year was the only season during his 14-year career in which he shot below 34 percent from 3-point range.

Projecting The West Playoff Order



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Adding Dwight Howard to a Los Angeles Lakers team that was one of the top teams in the Western Conference was supposed to vault the Lakers into the championship elite last summer.

It never happened. Howard and Steve Nash failed to move the needle for the Lakers, who had to claw their way to a seventh seed in the playoff chase, only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

So please forgive me for not crowning the Houston Rockets prematurely. They’ve got Howard in the fold now, adding the best big man in basketball to an explosive core that includes All-Star James Harden and a solid supporting cast.

Legitimate playoff outfit?

Absolutely.

But contenders … not so fast my friends.

They should be in the mix. And as coach Kevin McHale told NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury, they should be able to “play with anybody.” Playing with the best and beating the best come playoff time, however, are two very different things. Just ask the Los Angeles Clippers, who thought they had arrived last season and were disposed of in the first round of the playoffs.

We’ve already delivered our projections, based on what we know now, for the Eastern Conference playoff-chasers for the 2013-14 season. These are the projections for the Western Conference:

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

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Any suggestions that the Thunder would be better off without Russell Westbrook at the controls were answered in the playoffs. The Inside The NBA crew (above) knows as well as the rest of the NBA-watching masses. OKC was a shell of its regular-season selves without the All-Star point guard, who suffered a knee injury in their first-round series against Houston. Kevin Durant is a behemoth, the second best player in the league behind LeBron James, but no one superstar is going to climb the Western Conference mountain on his own. The Thunder are in a precarious position because all of their competitors seem to be making power moves to catch and surpass them. Without sufficient cap space to deal themselves, they have to rely on a rock-solid core group maintaining their respective positions. That means Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins have to show better than they did in the playoffs. Reggie Jackson has to play a more prominent role this season and appears to be ready for that. And Jeremy Lamb has to move into a regular spot in the rotation as well. Rookie Steven Adams, the 12th pick in the Draft, is more of a project right now. But the Thunder don’t need him to be an impact player. Not if everyone stays healthy and Westbrook returns to form.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

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When training camp begins, the Spurs will probably still be answering questions about the championship they let slip away. Two 30-second intervals during Games 6 and 7 of The Finals got away from them and cost Tim Duncan title No. 5 and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili title No. 4. And make no mistake, that trio, and Duncan in particular, is the key to the Spurs getting back to that stage again. If Duncan can crank out another fountain-of-youth, All-NBA-type performance like he did this season, the Spurs have a shot to rule the Western Conference again. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green emerged during the playoffs as more than just young prospects. Leonard could be a legitimate All-Star candidate himself if he picks up where he left off in The Finals. The Spurs always find a way to mine the Draft and free agency for young talent to incorporate into their system. But they won’t need as much assistance with both Ginobili and Tiago Splitter sticking around in free agency. Keeping their biggest stars healthy and rested, something coach Gregg Popovich paid for dearly last season, is of the utmost importance. As long as they do that, a top-four spot in the playoff chase should be a given.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

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With all apologies to Howard and even Chris Paul, the biggest fish of the free-agent summer of 2013 was coach Doc Rivers — not one of the players projected to be the big prize. The fact that Rivers was under contract for three more years in Boston when the summer began makes what the Clippers did even more remarkable. Not only do the Clippers get one of the best coaches in the game, they got a senior vice president of basketball operations who paid immediate dividends by keeping Paul in free agency and helped them add J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley in trades. They had to move backup Eric Bledsoe and veteran swingman Caron Butler to make it happen, but they replaced him with Darren Collison. And they still have the key component from that explosive bench crew in Jamal Crawford, whose role could increase dramatically without Butler, Chauncey Billups or retired veteran Grant Hill in the mix. The one glaring issue they have is their frontcourt tandem of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They weren’t up to the challenge against the Grizzlies and it cost the Clippers in a first-round defeat. Are they willing to accept the challenge Doc will pose to them? He won’t allow them to be outworked on defense and will demand they show the toughness that has eluded them in the past.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

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Welcome to paradise Jeremy Lin. Now you can officially put Linsanity behind you and play the role of facilitator. The real superstars are on the roster now, as both Harden and Howard will be the opposition’s focus every night. Lin, Patrick Beverly and Chandler Parsons have clearly defined roles on this team before they ever hit the floor together in an official capacity. Howard makes life easier on all of the Rockets’ specialists and role players, not to mention his fellow starters. Guys like Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith and even Omer Asik, should he stick around and back off his trade demand, will find out just how different life can be with a healthy, happy and motivated Howard operating in the middle. Despite two straight down seasons (by his own lofty standards), he still led the league in rebounding and looked like he had shaken off the ill effects of his back surgery. McHale has to pull this all together quickly to ensure these young Rockets don’t get swallowed up by the expectations sure to come with their newfound celebrity.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

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Adding Andre Iguodala essentially at the expense of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, two key veterans who gave the Warriors superior bench production and quality locker room leadership, might not seem like a steep price to pay for some. But when you already have Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes on the roster … let’s just say that is a luxury most teams wouldn’t indulge this early in the process of trying to build a contender. The Warriors showed us some serious flashes of being a big-time player in the Western Conference for years to come with the work they did in the playoffs. They had the Spurs plenty nervous in the conference semifinals. But their shortcomings came back to bite them in the end. And they didn’t solve those issues in the Draft or free agency. Andrew Bogut and David Lee will have loads of work to do this season, provided they both make it to training camp. Both of their names surfaced in trade rumors leading up to the Draft and through the first week of free agency. Lee is an All-Star and, when healthy, an absolute force. But Bogut, due to injuries, has only shown glimpses of what he’s capable of. And at this stage of his career, a $14 million spot starter is certainly not a luxury the Warriors can afford.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

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How important was Lionel Hollins to the Grizzlies during their run to the Western Conference finals? We’re going to find out this season. Because for all of the promise Dave Joerger brings to the position, there is no denying the impact Hollins made on Zach Randolph and reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. And even Hollins couldn’t get them in a comfortable groove against the Spurs. The Thunder proved that nothing is guaranteed from one season to the next, not with injuries and the race for the top spot being as competitive as it has ever been in the rugged Western Conference. Bringing this group — Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince, too — back intact might not be sufficient for returning to the Larry O’Brien final four tournament. The Grizzlies didn’t have the flexibility to tinker with the roster in free agency. The one change they could have made that could shake things up was to replace Hollins. By doing so with a guy who is familiar with this roster gives them some advantage that a completely fresh face would not have recognized. It won’t take long to see if Joerger has a handle on those intangibles. And if he does, the Grizzlies will climb this list.

DENVER NUGGETS

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The Nuggets will survive a tumultuous offseason that struck three significant blows to a team that seemed to be on the rise before yet another first-round playoff exit. The NBA’s Executive of the Year, Masai Ujiri, bolted for Toronto. The league’s Coach of the Year, George Karl, was relieved of his duties. And Iguodala is set to be signed and traded after agreeing to terms on that deal with the Warriors. That would normally be enough to knock a top team all the way back down to the lottery. The best move they’ve made so far this summer was hiring Brian Shaw to replace Karl. He’ll bring a steady hand to what was a shaky situation. The Nuggets will have an active and talented frontocurt rotation to work with in Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Darrell Arthur and free-agent pickup J.J. Hickson. Wilson Chandler will step in for Danilo Gallinari, who continues his recovery from knee surgery, and Evan Fournier, Corey Brewer and Randy Foye will provide depth on the wing. Ty Lawson and Andre Miller combined to form one of the league’s best 1-2 punches at point guard and they should be allowed plenty of freedom to operate in the system Shaw will employ. The Nuggets will continue to play at a tempo that suits their talent and home environment. They shouldn’t lose anything defensively either. Shaw isn’t the wild card that some of these other new coaches (Jason Kidd, Brad Stevens) could be in other situations. So don’t expect the Nuggets to crumble just because they’ve lost a few familiar faces.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

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No team endured more maddening injury issues this season than the Timberwolves. A healthy Kevin Love, however, changes their playoff outlook dramatically for the 2013-14 season. With their talent and dept, a legitimate run for the final playoff spot is not as far-fetched as it might seem. Ricky Rubio should be full healthy this season and the Timberwolves retained Chase Budinger, added Kevin Martin and have to do whatever it takes to keep restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic in the fold. Sure, it’s been a professional sports eternity since the Timberwolves last breathed playoff air (Kevin Garnett was still wearing the uniform in 2004). But coach Rick Adelman finally has the horses to make some serious noise. The franchise’s new head man, Flip Saunders, was the coach of that 2004 team that made the Western Conference finals, so he knows exactly what it takes for a Minnesota crew to cash in on its promise. It starts with Love and Rubio, their two biggest stars, staying healthy and playing up to their immense potential, both individually and as a dynamic duo.

JUST MISSED THE CUT: Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers

Hit And Miss: The Cavaliers’ 40-Year Draft History Has A Bit Of Everything!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Teams use all sorts of information to guide them during the Draft process.

Everything from analytics to eye-witness accounts to brain waves (in Boston) to studying a guy’s tattoos is used as a way to gain insight into what sort of projection a team can make on a particular player.

It wasn’t always this complicated. There was a time when the recommendation of the right scout or college coach, along with a standout career in the college ranks, was enough to convince a team that they’d found their man.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a 40-year history of hit-and-miss first-round picks that span the entire spectrum of the Draft process, dating back to 1970 and then 1971 with their selection of Austin Carr as the No. 1 overall pick. Nearly every uptick in their franchise history is tied to the work they did well in the Draft,  from Brad Daughtery in 1986 to LeBron James in 2003 to Kyrie Irving in 2011 and whatever they do with the No. 1 overall pick tonight.

The Cavaliers have a chance to change the course of their franchise history once again, provided they do the right thing with the pick tonight and that player they get turns out to be like Daughtery or James and not one of their many lottery misses over the years (apologies to Trajan LangdonLuke Jackson, DaJuan Wagner, DeSagana Diop and several others who, for various reasons, never lived up to their Draft hype).

With that said, the Cavaliers have had more hits than misses if you grade out their Draft history since 1971, as The Plain Dealer‘s Mike Peticca did this morning.

In addition to those overall No. 1 picks they hit on, the Cavaliers can boast of drafting the likes of John Johnson (sixth overall) in 1970, Campy Russell (eighth) in 1974, Ron Harper (eighth) in 1986, Kevin Johnson (seventh) in 1987, Terrell Brandon (11th) in 1991,  Zydrunas Ilgauskas (20th) in 1996 and Andre Miller (eighth) in 1999.

For every miss the Cavaliers have at least one hit, which is a pretty solid track record for a franchise with decades of Draft history. We can only speculate how different things might have been if the focus and attention to detail on the Draft was as meticulous 40 years ago as it is now (not that combing through every bit of minutiae prevents a team from making a Draft night blunder or two) …

Big Win For Nuggets Is Historic For Miller


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DENVER – Never.

Not once in 36 years, one month and however many hours had Andre Miller ever hit a game-winner. He insisted. Not in 14 NBA seasons, not at the University of Utah, not at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles.

“Never,” Miller said Saturday evening inside Pepsi Center, now that he had. “I’ve taken a couple and missed or turned the ball over.”

Not once in stops with the Cavaliers, Clippers, 76ers, Trail Blazers and two stints with the Nuggets had he been part of a team that won a playoff series. He didn’t have to insist. It was easy to check.

“Never,” Miller said anyway. “Never won a playoff series.”

He did not cross that off the list. But he did single-handedly move Denver a step closer, and it didn’t matter that Miller was smaller and older and likely slower than two defenders between the rim and a Nuggets victory. Andre Miller against the Warriors.

Andre Miller against all odds.

With the ball out of a Denver timeout with 14.5 seconds left in the first-round opener, point guard Miller first faced Golden State rookie Draymond Green, a player Warriors coach Mark Jackson called “an elite defender” and said, “I feel extremely comfortable putting him on anybody one through five.”

Thirty-six-year-old Miller beat the elite defender off the dribble. Heading to the basket with seconds remaining before overtime at 95-95, he saw another good defender, Andrew Bogut, coming to help. Just not quick enough.

Miller finished the driving layup with 1.2 seconds remaining to will, carry and lead the Nuggets to the 97-95 victory with the clutch score, a game-high 28 points in all, 11-for-16 shooting on a day when both teams struggled to find a rhythm on offense and never came close to the up-tempo matchup most envisioned. And, finally, the game-winner. Can’t forget the first game-winner.

That it took this long to break through is no more strange, though, than Miller being in position at all. He is a slow-lane guy on a team that loves to push the ball. He is the third guard in the backcourt that starts, now that Andre Igoudala has moved to small forward to replace the injured Danilo Gallinari, fourth-year man Ty Lawson and rookie Evan Fournier.

He is exactly the guy the Warriors should have wanted to see trying to out-quick them to the basket. Except they couldn’t counter his composure, the experience at using his body to get past the first wave of defense. That made it more than Miller’s first game-winner.

That made it Miller’s latest statement.

“His passing and his winning,” Nuggets coach George Karl said when asked why he has consistently stood behind Miller. “He’s an incredible play-maker. He loves to make people better, he loves to make his team better. When the game is in that guts-and-glory situation, Andre is pretty damn great. I see things you all never see in practice, even training camp and before the season. He has such a veteran savvy or mental savvy that makes your team connect, makes your team feel good about one another, makes your team team. We don’t have many veterans on this team, but Andre is one big-time veteran.”

The Warriors, with a slower pace in their favor, missed a chance to steal Game 1 and may have lost a lot more when All-Star power forward David Lee went out early in the fourth quarter with a strained right hip flexor, an injury apparently suffered on a hard fall under the basket. X-rays taken during the game were negative, which was encouraging, but Golden State was holding off on a prognosis for the rest of the series until after an MRI on Sunday.

Miller wouldn’t let the Nuggets lose, making seven of 10 shots and scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter. He got the win. He got the memory no one can take away from him.

Never.