Posts Tagged ‘Andrei Kirilenko’

Kidd has come a long way in a few months


VIDEO: Jason Kidd talks with Rachel Nichols about his growth process as an NBA coach

BROOKLYN – Jason Kidd‘s coaching career began a little like his playing career ended.

As a player, he missed his last 18 shots. As a coach, he lost 21 of his first 31 games with the most expensive roster in NBA history. He was fined $50,000 for purposely spilling a drink so that his assistant coach could draw up a play. Through December, the Brooklyn Nets were below-average on both ends of the floor and were particularly brutal defensively.

Early in November, ESPN.com’s David Thorpe called Kidd “the worst coach in the NBA.” Later that month, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck quoted an scout who didn’t think much of Kidd, the coach.

A veteran scout, interviewed earlier in the day and speaking on the condition of anonymity, called Kidd’s bench comportment “terrible,” observing that the play-calling has fallen mostly to his top assistants, Lawrence Frank and John Welch.

“He doesn’t do anything,” said the scout, who has watched the Nets several times. “He doesn’t make calls. John Welch does all the offense. Lawrence does all the defense. … I don’t know what Kidd does. I don’t think you can grade him and say he’s bad. You can give him an incomplete.”

Things have changed quite a bit. The Nets are 27-12 (best in the Eastern Conference) since the new year began, with a top-10 defense, despite a two-game slide this week.

The turnaround coincided with a seemingly sudden lineup change that created a new defensive identity. The Nets went from a bad team on Dec. 31 (when they were thumped by the San Antonio Spurs) to a good one two nights later (when they won in Oklahoma City).

But the players will tell you that they just needed time to get healthy and get to know one another. Deron Williams missed 11 of the team’s first 20 games, Andrei Kirilenko missed 26 of the first 30, and Brook Lopez missed nine of the first 24 before being lost for the season on Dec. 20. The Nets’ projected $82 million starting lineup played a total of 90 minutes together.

So, yeah, they needed some time to hit their stride. So did Kidd.

During the Nets’ episode of Real Training Camp in October, Kidd  was barely heard from. He was mostly on the sidelines as his assistants — like Lawrence Frank here – ran practice.

Kidd should have known when he hired Frank that he would look to take charge. That’s who Frank is. And Kidd, in hindsight, probably could have found a way to tone down his fiery assistant. Instead, as the losing mounted, the two knocked heads and in early December, Kidd kicked him off the bench.

It was a key moment in Kidd’s development as a coach.  Once his lead assistant was gone, he had no choice but to find his own voice.

Finding his way


VIDEO: Go inside the huddle with Jason Kidd during the Nets-Spurs game

“Everybody has to know who’s in charge,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said back in January. “And that’s the head coach. He’s the one calling the shots. I’ve never seen any one of the Pips try to lead. That’s Gladys’ role. Let Gladys be Gladys.”

In Brooklyn, Gladys is singing stronger than ever.

“He wasn’t being involved as much [in training camp],” Kirilenko said of Kidd recently. “He was watching more and observing. Now, he’s involved more and he’s talking more.”

Observing Kidd at one recent shootaround, Nets general manager Billy King said to assistant GM Frank Zanin, “From November to now, it’s night and day. It’s been a joy to watch.”

Kidd will tell you that he and the team grew together, that it took “everybody” to get through those first two months. King believes the improvement started with the coach.

“I think he developed the group,” King told NBA.com, “by spending time talking to individual players and the players as a group. I think he molded them to become a group and be one, rather than be individuals. It comes from sharing the basketball, being accountable.

“And that was him from the beginning. He challenged the guys to share the basketball, to sacrifice for each other.”

After a loss in Boston earlier this month, Kidd looked at the box score and didn’t lament that the Nets shot 4-for-30 from 3-point range, but that their shot distribution was unbalanced. Only four times this season has a Net attempted more than 20 shots in a game, and two of those games went to overtime. Only the Jazz (two) have fewer games of a player taking 20 or more shots. Fourteen teams have 20 or more.

Though five guys are getting paid like stars, it’s a team thing in Brooklyn. Ask Kidd about how a particular player impacted a game and he’d rather talk about the group. Ask him about himself and he probably won’t give you an answer at all (though he did say last week that he never regretted his choice to become a coach just days after retiring).

“We had a lot of long coaches meetings,” he said of his team’s early-season struggles. “We had a lot of long conversations with players. But there was never a panic of, like, ‘Maybe I should have kept playing, maybe we should have went on vacation a little bit longer.’ Sometimes you have to face adversity right off the bat and you get to find out who’s really in and who’s out. And those guys in the locker room are truly in and that’s what makes it special.”

Relying on ‘instincts’


VIDEO: The Starters discuss the Nets improved play

When the Nets were looking for a coach last summer, Kidd told ownership, “We need a leader.” They suggested Kidd and, after an interview, King bought in and sought advice from his college coach.

“Don’t put him in a coaching box,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told King. “Let his instincts take over and he’ll be fine.”

Indeed, there’s probably more Jason Kidd in the coach than coach in Kidd. Or maybe he’s been a coach all along. Those who have watched the New York Knicks the last two seasons would certainly make that argument.

As the best point guard of the last 20 years, Kidd has had his teammates’ respect from Day 1. Now, he’s the closest thing the NBA has had to a player-coach since Dave Cowens in 1979.

“I look at him as the head coach,” Joe Johnson said. “But then I still look at him as a good friend. It’s almost like he’s still a player.”

The respect that players have for Kidd can go a long way. He hasn’t been afraid to bench one or more of his high-priced stars for the entire fourth quarter of a close game. Now that his team has found its identity, he has a feel for what is working and what isn’t.

Orchestrating a successful season


VIDEO: Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck explains the Nets’ path to finding their identity

“From my seat [a few feet away from the bench], I get to see him orchestrate, from offense to defense,” King said. “He’s telling guys where to go and changing plays on the fly.”

And Kidd’s knowledge of what his team needs goes beyond his in-game decisions. Shaun Livingston was his choice for the back-up point guard spot last summer, a decision that has worked out brilliantly. In February, Kidd believed that his team could handle the addition of Jason Collins, and he was right on that one, too.

“The thing that really has struck me is his attention to detail as a rookie coach,” King said, “like player minutes to rotations to sticking with the bench longer than some other people would as a rookie coach. I think he’s managed players’ minutes to try to keep them as fresh as possible. A lot of times, as a rookie coach, they don’t, because they got to keep their best players out there to win that game.”

As a player, Kidd was usually the smartest guy on the floor. As a coach, he’s allowing his basketball mind to flourish.

“There are several teammates who I’ve played with where you can see that they just think the game, and their basketball IQ is off the charts,” Collins said. “J-Kidd was always that way as a teammate. Now, it’s turned into the Xs and Os.”

Kidd knows he still has a long way to go. Asked how comfortable he’s become as a coach, he replied, “I’m still working at it. There’s no comfort level here.”

The playoffs will be another huge test. Given that the Nets, overall, have fallen short of expectations, there are better Coach of the Year candidates. Kidd is still making questionable decisions, like intentionally fouling with the Nets up four points in the final seconds against Toronto earlier this month.

But considering how quickly he has developed and how well he’s recovered from his early growing pains, it’s clear that the Nets have found themselves a winner.

“He’s not going to do something just to be average at it,” King said. “He wants to be great at whatever he does, whether it’s golf, coaching, playing, he wants to be great at it. That’s the approach he took from Day 1 here.”

Back to that early-season criticism of Kidd: When he was hired, there was a consensus among observers that he would need some time to adjust to his new role. In retrospect, that’s exactly what happened in November and December.

Since then? Well, at this point, it would be nice to hear from Beck’s scout again.

“It’s a marathon,” Kidd said. “That’s the nice thing about the NBA season. You can be judged on the first game, but the ones who know best, you’re not judged until the end.”

He was speaking of his team. But he might well have been talking about himself.


VIDEO:
Rod Boone of Newsday talks about the Nets’ recent surge in play

Nets Keep Looking To Spend, Improve

Brooklyn acquired guard Marcus Thornton from the Kings to increase its offensive production.

Brooklyn picked up guard Marcus Thornton from the Kings to increase its offensive production.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The first trade of deadline week went down Wednesday afternoon, with the Brooklyn Nets acquiring Marcus Thornton from the Sacramento Kings for Reggie Evans and Jason Terry.

The deal adds about $700,000 in salary and $2.7 million in luxury taxes to Brooklyn’s books this season. Next season, when all three guys are still under contract, it adds about the *same amount.

* More salary, less tax, because, at this point, Brooklyn is only in the third of five tax-payment tiers for ’14-15. Give ‘em time, though.

So, it’s a bit of an investment for Mikhail Prokhorov. But in theory, it should help the Nets continue to move up the Eastern Conference standings.

Brooklyn is 14-6 since Jan. 1, a stretch in which they’ve gone from 10th to seventh in the East. They’re just 2 1/2 games out of a top-four seed and need to keep moving up to avoid playing the Pacers or Heat in the first round and have a decent shot at the conference semifinals.

After all the money they spent last summer, anything less than the second round would be a colossal failure. So hey, they might as well spend a few more million if it can make them better.

And as good as the Nets have played in 2014, they still have plenty of room for improvement. They rank 15th offensively and sixth defensively since Jan. 1. Given all their talent, they should be better at putting the ball in the basket.

That’s where Thornton comes in. Since Jan. 1, the Nets have scored 108.3 points per 100 possessions with Deron Williams on the floor (a rate which would rank fifth in the league in that time) and just 100.6 with him on the bench (a rate which would rank 25th). Though Williams hasn’t been at his best, he’s still the most important offensive player on his team.

Shaun Livingston has been one of the Nets’ bright spots and has worked well with Williams in the starting lineup, but the Nets’ second-unit offense could use a boost. Terry has been a disappointment, Alan Anderson‘s production has dropped off and, as brilliant as Andrei Kirilenko has been, he’s made two shots outside of the paint all season.

The problem is that Thornton has been having the worst shooting season of his career, with an effective field goal percentage of just 45.7 percent. That’s worse than Terry was shooting.

So, the hope for Brooklyn is that Thornton can find his shot again. It was less than a month ago that he tied a career high with 42 points (shooting 7-for-15 from 3-point range) against the best defense of the last 37 years.

While he’s been rather inefficient this season, Thornton gives the Nets a higher ceiling and more potency than they had with Terry. If he plays well, he certainly fills a need.

The same could be said about Jordan Hill, if the Nets can get him from the Lakers for their disabled-player exception. In the same way that their offense takes a hit when their Williams sits, their defense falls apart when Kevin Garnett goes to the bench.

But you wonder how Hill would fit in a second-unit frontline that already includes Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic. Each of those guys brings something to the table, the Nets have outscored their opponents by 21.5 points per 100 possessions in 115 minutes with the three of them on the floor together, and at least one of them would see a decrease in minutes if Hill was brought on board.

And then there’s the money. The Nets wouldn’t be sending any salary to L.A. in exchange for Hill, so he would cost them about $1.3 million in salary ($3.5 million prorated for the remainder in the season) and a whopping $16.6 million in luxury tax, bringing their total tax bill to more than $98 million. Add that to their salaries and they’d be a $200-million team.

That’s a lot of dough for a squad that doesn’t stand much of a chance of reaching the conference finals. But you can’t say that the Nets aren’t afraid to make a move or spend some money to address their needs.

Nets Smaller Starters Playing Elite D

BROOKLYN – Typically, teams play faster and are better offensively and worse defensively when they play small. The Brooklyn Nets are different.

Brook Lopez broke his foot and was lost for the season on Dec. 20. And it was on Jan. 2 when the Nets went to a starting frontline of Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on a permanent basis. Since then, the Nets have played slower, and have gone from the third worst defensive team in the league to top 10 on that end of the floor.

Nets record, pace and efficiency

Timeframe W L Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Through Dec. 31 10 21 94.6 25 101.9 18 106.7 28 -4.8 26
Since Jan. 1 12 4 92.6 28 105.9 13 101.8 9 +4.2 9
Season 22 25 93.9 26 103.2 17 105.0 20 -1.8 19

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

The Nets’ original starting lineup, with Garnett at the four and Lopez at the five, was OK defensively, allowing 101.4 points per 100 possessions. Of 71 lineups that played at least 75 minutes through Dec. 31st, it ranked 34th in DefRtg.

Not great, but not terrible either. And Brooklyn was better defensively, allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions, in the other 167 minutes that Garnett and Lopez were on the floor together. So playing big wasn’t necessarily a big problem.

But that’s not a lot of playing time. The Nets’ issues started with the lack of minutes (just 90 over 10 games before Lopez broke his foot) that their $82 million starting lineup played together. It was their other combinations that were truly awful defensively.

Nets lineups through Dec. 31

Lineup(s) MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett, Lopez 90 96.9 96.5 101.4 -4.9 -14
Other lineups 1,413 94.5 102.2 107.0 -4.8 -160

And here’s the thing. Their bench units are still pretty bad defensively. But since Jan. 1, their starters, with either Deron Williams or Alan Anderson as the third guard, have been ridiculously good on that end of the floor.

Nets lineups since Jan. 1

Lineup(s) MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Livingston, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett + Anderson or Williams 167 88.6 102.7 89.4 +13.3 +39
Other lineups 610 93.8 106.8 105.0 +1.8 +23

Allowing less than 90 points per 100 possessions is elite defense. The Pacers have the best defense of the last 37 years, and they’ve allowed 93.9.

There’s some logic to improved D. Replacing Lopez with an extra guard has allowed the Nets to be more aggressive in defending pick-and-rolls, switch without worrying about mismatches, rotate and recover quicker, and better challenge 3-point shooters.

It helps that their top four guards are 6-foot-3, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-7. Length goes a long way.

Through Dec. 31, the Nets ranked 30th in 3-point defense, allowing their opponents to shoot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. In 2014, they’ve ranked 15th (35.7 percent). And opponents have shot just 31 percent from 3-point range against the two starting groups.

Those two groups have also forced 19.4 turnovers per 100 possessions, a rate that would lead the league. In fact, the Nets do lead the league by forcing 18.6 since Jan. 1. Livingston, Williams, Pierce and Andray Blatche have all averaged more than a steal per game since Jan. 1.

In regard to the how good the Nets’ starters are defensively, we’re looking at just 167 minutes of playing time. But 113 of those 167 have come against above-average offensive teams (and we’re not including the 14 minutes they played against the depleted Spurs on Thursday), so it’s not like the numbers are schedule-aided. They’ve shut down good teams.

And while the starters have played great D, the bench has held its own offensively. The Nets have scored a ridiculous 127.3 points per 100 possessions in 102 minutes with Blatche, Mirza Teletovic and Andrei Kirilenko on the floor together.

Kirilenko’s health has been critical. His passing and off-ball cutting are two elements the Nets were desperately missing for most of the first two months of the season. Even on Thursday, the Nets were going to their typical mismatches (Johnson and Livingston in the post) early, but were rather stagnant offensively until Kirilenko entered the game.

Shooting is so important in this league, but while Kirilenko has shot just 1-for-13 from outside the paint this season, he has the highest on-court OffRtg of anybody in the rotation.

It makes you realize that, even though Lopez is done for the season, the Nets are still one of the deepest teams in the league, so deep that Jason Terry got a DNP on Thursday.

The talent was always there. The healthy bodies were not. Ironically, Lopez’s injury has helped the Nets find an identity that works and start to live up to their lofty expectations.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 4

VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 3 NEWS OF THE MORNING Bulls would like to keep Deng around | No timetable for Kirlenko’s return | Hinkie changing way Philly operates

No. 1: Bulls GM hasn’t ruled out re-signing Deng — A few weeks ago, Bulls GM Gar Forman was quoted by both ESPN.com and Bulls.com as saying he doesn’t plan to tinker with the team’s roster too much in the wake of Derrick Rose‘s season-ending injury. While Forman can’t control if players end up in trade rumors (as has been the case of late with Luol Deng), he can support them as best he can. Deng, who will be a free agent this summer, is part of the Bulls’ future and Forman is hoping he and Deng can come to an agreement on a deal, writes Nick Fridell of ESPNChicago.com:

General manager Gar Forman is still hopeful the Chicago Bulls can work out an extension with Luol Deng.

“We value Luol a lot,” Forman said on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” Tuesday on ESPN Chicago 1000. “And Luol is a big piece of the success we’ve had the last several years though we haven’t gotten to our ultimate goal. We think Luol is going to continue to be a big piece, a big part of what we’re doing. I know a lot was said about that we couldn’t come to an extension last summer but if you guys really study the NBA, especially since this new CBA — going into the CBA and since the new CBA has been in effect, it’s very, very rare that extensions get done so the fact that one didn’t get done was not an indicator of where we’re at with Luol at all.” Deng, who is in the final year of his contract, couldn’t get an extension worked out last summer. He told ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard earlier this year that he would like to retire as a Bull but his name has surfaced as a possible trade target given the fact that the Bulls’ championship aspirations evaporated when Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury. “Lu is valued here and continues to be a big part of what we’re doing,” Forman said. “Obviously once we get into the offseason we’re going to have to sit down with Luol and have to come to terms on another contract, but Luol is a big piece of what we’re doing, and he has been, and our feeling is he’ll continue to be.”

***

No. 2: No timetable for Kirilenko’s return to Nets — Of the 18 games the Nets have played so far, offseason free-agent addition Andrei Kirilenko has played in just five of those games. Back spasms have kept the multifaceted forward out of Brooklyn’s lineup and continue to be a problem for him. Worse yet for the Nets is that neither he nor the team have any idea when he’ll play again, writes Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com:

Two epidurals and three setbacks later, Brooklyn Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko still has no timetable for when he will return to the lineup. Kirilenko has already missed 13 games this season because of back spasms. “I’m afraid of giving a timetable, because in the previous occasions, we’ve given a timetable, but it doesn’t work,” Kirilenko said. Kirilenko said this time he needs to take more time off before returning to full contract practice. “What I’m doing right now is a lot of physical therapy and kind of strengthening the core,” Kirilenko said. “Right now I’m just thinking everyday I’m gradually getting better and better. It’s just frustrating because there’s a lot of games and you want to play but you’re missing so much.”

***

N0. 3: GM Hinkie changes mindset in Philly — A look at the standings this morning, like most mornings, finds the Philadelphia 76ers within striking distance of a playoff berth. Despite a front-office and roster overhaul in the offseason, the Sixers continue to stay in the thick of things in the East thanks to a philosophy focused on the science of winning games that has been driven by new GM Sam Hinkie. Tom Sunnergren of ESPN.com has a great piece looking at how Hinkie has worked to set a new groundwork for success in Philly:

When Sixers owner Josh Harris sat behind a podium at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on May 14 and told the world that he’d hired then-Rockets assistant general manager Sam Hinkie to run his franchise, it represented a stunning about-face for the organization. In the course of a month, Doug Collins and the Doug Collins Philosophy of Basketball — the 76ers’ face and animating force the previous three seasons — had been repudiated with breathtaking swiftness. With a single hire, an organization that was as mired in traditional thinking as any in the sport had suddenly and completely devoted itself to a bold new pursuit: mastering the science of winning basketball games. Hinkie, a Daryl Morey acolyte who quietly made a name for himself in league circles as perhaps the most probabilistic thinker in a singularly rational Houston front office, threw down the gauntlet almost immediately. On draft night, in his first meaningful move as general manager, Hinkie traded his best player (or at least the player widely believed to be his best) in exchange for a significantly more valuable asset: a future. In return for Jrue Holiday, the rookie GM landed Nerlens Noel (the consensus No. 1 prospect in the run-up to the 2013 draft), a top-five protected pick in 2014 that’s likely to wind up in the lottery and substantially improved odds of gaining a top selection with his team’s own pick in the same heralded draft. The move was a game-changer. … The stark changes have extended to in-game strategy, as well. The 76ers’ shot charts between this season and last don’t look anything alike. A Philadelphia team that, under Collins, led the NBA in 16- to 23-foot shots in 2012-13 with 24 a game (deepening the self-inflicted wound, the team was only 28th in field goal percentage from this range), now leads the league in attempts from within 5 feet of the basket and places 12th in 3-pointers attempted. When asked how conscious the decision to move away from the midrange game was, Hinkie was blunt. “Conscious,” he said with a smirk. “I don’t have a good scale for degrees of consciousness, but it’s something our coaches have focused on.” And while up-tempo basketball has become something of an analytic shibboleth, the previously sluggish Sixers are leading the NBA in pace of play, using 102 possessions per 48 minutes, almost 10 more per game than they used in 2012-13. … The Sixers were one of the first 15 subscribers to SportVU, the camera systems that capture player movement and turn it into actionable data, and have since been installed in every NBA arena. While the organization has been tight-lipped about how precisely this intel influences its X’s and O’s, Hinkie admits to being an enthusiast, and one of the earliest adopters, of the technology. “We [in Houston] were customer zero,” he told a group of bloggers at an October breakfast. “It’s like a lot of competitive environments,” he said of the NBA. “There’s an advantage, and then it goes away quickly. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t new ones. You have to find new ones.” … The team’s methodical approach to training is complemented by a new and unique emphasis on nutrition. While the players don’t have strictly individualized diets prescribed to them by the team, they are grouped into several nutritional tiers based on their body-mass index and body fat percentage. … Both the emphasis on fitness and nutrition have the full-throated support of the coach Hinkie hired, Brett Brown, and the staff the organization built around him. Everyone in Philadelphia is pulling in the same direction. Brown worked closely with the Australian Institute of Sport during his time as coach of the country’s national team and spoke glowingly of its methods after he was hired to lead the 76ers. “You look at cutting-edge technology that comes out of sports science and the [Australian] Institute of Sport is among the leaders around the world, very globally recognized as cutting edge … My main influence is what went on at the Olympics and at the Institute of Sport and my earlier days [in Australia].” During Brown’s stint in San Antonio, the Spurs became one of the first NBA teams to start using Catapult. Brown’s staff is like-minded, brought in from organizations that are among the most forward thinking in the sport. Chad Iske and Vance Walberg came over from Denver, Lloyd Pierce from the Grizzlies and Billy Lange from a Villanova basketball program that places a premium on science. This isn’t an accident, Hinkie explained. “We’ve come from similar environments,” the GM said. “Our coaches all come from environments where they value [analytic thinking], and that’s why they’re here. … This is natural for a lot of people in our office. Because of where they’ve been. Because of what they’ve been doing.”

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Long-limbed Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo isn‘t done growing and will likely one day be a 7-footer … Former Sixers forward Royce White is optimistic he’ll get another shot in the NBA … Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov has earned minutes and the trust of coach Brian Shaw ICYMI Of The Night: This is what makes NBA players so great: they make shots in games that most of us can’t even make when goofing around at the local court … VIDEO: Boston’s Avery Bradley nails the over-the-backboard shot

Injury List Is Filling Up Fast


VIDEO: Marc Gasol leaves game vs. Spurs with knee injury

Everybody knows about the Monday morning blues.

But how about Friday night despair?

Derrick Rose goes down in Portland. Marc Gasol limps off in Memphis. Andre Iguodala feels a “pop” in his hamstring.

It was a painful start to the weekend for at least three contenders in the first month of a season that is already keeping the MRI machines working overtime and coaches and general managers reaching for the aspirin bottle.

Here’s a rundown of the biggest names currently on the injury list:

Derrick Rose, Bulls — Had to be helped off the floor when his right knee buckled while making a back cut Friday night in Portland. Prognosis: Results of MRI pending.

Marc Gasol, Grizzlies — The All-Star center and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year left Friday night’s loss at home to the Spurs with 10:24 left in the second quarter with an injury to his left knee. “Without him, we become a makeshift team,” said Tony Allen. Prognosis: Results of MRI pending.

Andre Iguodala, Warriors — The free agent signing who jumped Golden State from interesting team and tough matchup to true championship contender in the West, was sprinting down court in transition defense when he pulled up holding his left hamstring. Prognosis: Officially called a “strain,” Iguodala will have an MRI performed today.

Stephen Curry, Warriors — It was labeled a “mild concussion” when the sharp-shooting guard had his head bounced off the court in a scramble for the ball with Utah’s Marvin Williams, but he has now missed two straight games. Prognosis: Curry is a game-time decision at home tonight against the Trail Blazers (10:30 ET, League Pass).

Kobe Bryant, Lakers — The most famous Achilles’ tendon since, well, Achilles, has had the Black Mamba on the shelf since April, when any hope of the Lakers as a dark horse contender in the 2013 playoffs went up in smoke. Prognosis: He’s back on the court in practice, looking good, according to teammates. Bryant is proceeding cautiously, but now looks like a good bet to beat the consensus pick of Christmas Day for his return to the Lakers lineup.

Tyson Chandler, Knicks — The Knicks center and second-most important player on the roster behind Carmelo Anthony has been sidelined since suffering a broken right fibula in a game at Madison Square Garden against Charlotte on Nov. 5. The Knicks are 2-6 without him in the lineup. Prognosis: The 2012 Defensive Player of the year did not suffer nerve or ligament damage in his leg and is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Dwyane Wade, Heat — The All-Star guard has been battling balky knees all season. He’s missed three of Miami’s first dozen games, including the last two against Atlanta and at Orlando. Prognosis: Averaging 16.7 points in 33.2 minutes per game,Wade is expected to return at home tonight against the Magic (7:30 ET, League Pass).

Steve Nash, Lakers — Recurring nerve problems in his back have had the 39-year-old point guard out of the lineup since Nov. 10. Since that time, the former two-time MVP has had to push back at reports that he is considering retirement. Prognosis: Reports out of L.A. say Nash will sit for at least four more games, not returning before December at the earliest.

Deron Williams, Nets — He’s played in just two of the Nets’ last five games, leaving both early after re-injuring a bothersome left ankle. Wednesday night against Charlotte he played 13 minutes, making just 1 of 5 shots. He is having the worst season of his nine-year NBA career, averaging 9.3 points and shooting 40.5 percent. Prognosis: Williams sat out Friday night’s loss at Minnesota and is questionable for Sunday at home vs. the Pistons.

Brook Lopez, Nets — The Brooklyn center sprained his left ankle on Nov. 15 at Phoenix and has missed the last four games, all losses for the Nets. Prognosis: It has not yet been determined whether Lopez will be able to play Sunday night against the Pistons.

Andrei Kirilenko, Nets — The free agent forward signee has missed seven consecutive games with back spasms. The New York Daily News reported that he recently received an epidural injection. Prognosis: Kirilenko hopes to be cleared to return to contact and take part in practice starting on Monday.

Nets’ Issues Start In the Second Half


VIDEO: Bobcats edge Nets to send Brooklyn to third straight loss

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Brooklyn Nets are off to a bad start, but bad starts aren’t necessarily the problem.

The Nets have had the lead at the half of five of their 11 games, been tied in one, and been within four points of four of the other five. Yes, given their talent, they should have had leads against teams like the Cavs, Magic, Kings and Bobcats. But the average halftime score of their games is Nets 50, Opponent 49. That’s workable.

The biggest issue is that the Nets have been the worst second-half team in the league thus far, getting outscored by almost 11 points per 100 possessions over the third and fourth quarters. And the problems have come on both ends of the floor.

Nets efficiency by quarter and half

Quarter/half Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
First quarter 96.3 21 108.6 5 105.1 20 +3.5 10
Second quarter 96.9 18 95.3 20 98.3 12 -3.0 19
Third quarter 92.1 28 96.3 26 108.8 24 -12.5 28
Fourth quarter 95.9 12 98.3 21 107.5 21 -9.2 26
First half 96.6 19 101.9 10 101.7 16 +0.2 15
Second half 94.0 23 97.3 25 108.2 28 -10.8 30

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

Offensively, the Nets have had a slightly higher turnover rate in the second half, but it’s been their shooting that has suffered the biggest drop-off.

They actually have taken a greater percentage of their shots from the restricted area and from 3-point range in the second half. Better shots should equal better shooting. And they’ve shot well at the basket and from the corners. But they’ve been terrible on other jump shots, shooting 30.1 percent from mid-range and 25.6 percent on above-the-break threes in the second half.

These second-half struggles point straight to the older guys in the rotation: Kevin Garnett (37), Joe Johnson (32), Paul Pierce (36) and Jason Terry (36). That group has shot 36-for-79 (46 percent) from mid-range in the first half and 13-for-52 (25 percent) in the second half.

Johnson, Pierce and Terry have shot 11-for-30 (37 percent) on above-the-break threes in the first half and 11-for-47 (23 percent) in the second half. Johnson has gone from 6-for-11 to 3-for-16, though he has shot well — 4-for-7 — from the corners in the second half.

Brooklyn’s defense has second-half woes, too

The Nets have seen an even bigger drop-off defensively in the second half, when only the Pistons and Pelicans have been worse on that end of the floor. What’s interesting is that their opponents’ effective field goal percentage has been lower in the second half than in the first. But they’ve forced less turnovers and they’ve been an atrocious rebounding team after halftime.

In the first half, the Nets have been the fourth best defensive rebounding team, grabbing 77 percent of available defensive boards. In the second half, they’ve been the worst defensive rebound team, grabbing just 68 percent.

Again, Garnett’s numbers see a major drop-off, but it’s because he’s been so good in the first half. In fact, he’s the best first-half defensive rebounder in the league, grabbing 38 percent of available defensive boards before halftime. In the second half, he’s merely the fourth best defensive rebounder in the league, grabbing 29 percent of available defensive boards.

Is it age? Well, rookie Mason Plumlee has seen an even bigger drop-off. Plumlee has been a pleasant surprise overall and hasn’t played that many minutes, but he has grabbed just 7 percent of available defensive rebounds in the second half, compared to 24 percent in the first half.

Still, Garnett seems to be the face of the Nets’ second-half regression. Between his poor shooting, decreased rebounding, increased turnovers and increased fouls, the difference between his first-half production and second-half production is staggering.

PIE is a statistic that measures overall production as a percentage of all the stats accumulated while that player is in the game. Among 210 players who have logged at least 100 minutes in the first half of games, Garnett ranks 15th with a PIE of 16.4 percent. Among 208 players who have logged at least 100 minutes in the second half, Garnett ranks dead last (0.8 percent).

Bonus stat: Kevin Love leads the league with a first-half PIE of 20.6 percent. Paul George leads the league with a second-half PIE of 24.8 percent.

No other player has suffered nearly the drop-off that Garnett has after halftime.

Biggest PIE drop-off

Player 1st half 2nd half Diff.
Kevin Garnett 16.4% 0.8% -15.7%
Taj Gibson 16.1% 4.6% -11.5%
Joakim Noah 16.7% 6.8% -9.8%
Roy Hibbert 17.4% 8.0% -9.4%
David Lee 17.8% 9.0% -8.9%

Bonus stat: Chicago’s Mike Dunleavy has seen the biggest increase (+14.1 percent) in PIE, going from 5.1 percent in the first half to 19.2 percent in the second half.

More important than Garnett’s individual production is how efficiently the Nets are scoring and how well they’re defending. And they do neither well in the second half with him on the floor. The defensive numbers are most alarming, because that’s the end of the floor where he was supposed to help most.

Nets efficiency with Garnett on the floor

Half MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
1st half 115 93.2 101.3 94.7 +6.6 +20
2nd half 107 97.4 85.4 110.1 -24.7 -64
Total 221 95.7 93.6 102.4 -8.8 -44

Does KG stiffen up at halftime? And should the Nets play him fewer minutes after the break? Last season, his PIE was 15.8 percent, both before and after halftime. The season before that, it was higher in the second half (17.6 percent) than it was in the first half (16.4 percent). So maybe this is just a fluky first 11 games.

Still, it would help if Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms), Brook Lopez (ankle) and Deron Williams (ankle) were healthy. Kirilenko could certainly take some of the minutes if KG doesn’t have it after halftime, while Lopez and Williams could carry the offense late in games. Lopez is also a defensive difference-maker.

The Nets have other issues, but first and foremost, they must figure out how to figure out their second-half problems.

Nets Show Off Their Depth Versus Heat


VIDEO: Nets edge out Heat in thrilling Brooklyn home opener

NEW YORK – The Brooklyn Nets don’t just have five former All-Stars in their starting lineup. They go much deeper than that, as evidenced by the minutes played in Friday’s 101-100 win over the Miami Heat.

Paul Pierce‘s 31 minutes were the most by a Nets player. Nobody else played more than 27 and the Brooklyn starting lineup played just eight minutes together all night. Kevin Garnett‘s 26 minutes were the fewest he has played against the Heat since they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

The Heat did not play well. Three games into the season, they’ve yet to find a rhythm. And it’s clear that James — one of three Heat players to log more minutes than any Net — doesn’t quite have his full explosiveness at this stage.

But the Nets aren’t exactly clicking on all cylinders, either. Deron Williams is just getting back into basketball shape after sitting out most of the preseason. Andrei Kirilenko made his Nets debut on Friday, but had his minutes limited. And Brook Lopez spent most of the night on the bench with foul trouble.

No worries, because this team basically goes 10-deep with guys who can put the ball in the basket. Ten of the 11 Nets who played on Friday scored at least six points and none of them took more than 11 shots.

“I think we have probably more depth than anybody in the league,” Pierce said. “The bench is going to be huge for us all season long.”

One of the biggest plays of a game was a Williams/Garnett pick-and-roll that forced James to sag off of Joe Johnson, who drained a 3 from the strong-side wing. With those three guys on one side of the floor, it was a difficult play to defend. And then you realize that Pierce was standing in the opposite corner, while Lopez, Kirilenko and Jason Terry were all sitting on the bench.

Scary.

And that was just a one-pass possession. Most of the night, there were multiple passes until the ball found the open man. Ball reversal is critical against Miami, and Brooklyn made sure they made the defense move. This team isn’t just deep in terms of minutes played, but also in regard to how many different guys can beat you every time down the floor. And it doesn’t matter to them who takes the shot.

“Our strength is sharing the ball,” Garnett said afterward. “You can’t play defense on everybody. We’ve got a lot of first-option guys who scored a bunch of points on different teams. We got a lot of talent on this squad. We know our strength is in numbers.”

The questions with this team begin with the health and durability of Garnett and Pierce. But while keeping their minutes down is a priority, it shouldn’t be a problem. And the Nets’ depth comes with versatility, and ability to play big or small.

“One of things we noticed right away was the big-ticket moves,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “But then they continued to fill in their roster.”

This game was just one of 1,230 and these two teams will probably look much different the next time they meet (Jan. 10). But it was made clear on Friday just how much Brooklyn’s depth could be a problem for the champs, and for the rest of the league.

“I think it’s the beauty of it, right now,” Williams said. “Nobody has to play too many minutes, and nobody cares. You’re not seeing anybody pouting. Everybody’s up cheering. Everybody’s having fun. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

One Team, One Stat: Bad D In Brooklyn

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 Brooklyn Nets, who spent a lot of money to upgrade their roster this summer.

The basics
BKN Rank
W-L 49-33 9
Pace 91.2 28
OffRtg 105.0 9
DefRtg 103.6 18
NetRtg +1.4 12

The stat

107.1 - Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Nets’ defense in 42 regular season games against other playoff teams.

The context

That’s the worst mark among the 16 playoff teams in games played against each other. The Nets also had the worst point differential (-6.3 points per 100 possessions) in those games, because they weren’t very good offensively against good teams either.

They did a good job of taking care of business against the riff raff, going 33-7 against non-playoff teams. And there’s definitely value in that. It helped them earn a top-four seed an home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They also went an impressive 3-0 against the Pacers and 3-1 against the Celtics.

But the Nets mostly came up small in big games, and their defense was just a mess. All you have to know is that they allowed 61 points in the first half of Game 7 in their own building to a Bulls team that ranked 24th offensively in the regular season and was missing Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. So much for home-court advantage.

Best point differential, games played among playoff teams

Team W L Win% OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Oklahoma City 24 17 .585 108.8 1 102.5 7 +6.3 1
Miami 30 12 .714 106.7 4 100.5 4 +6.2 2
San Antonio 27 16 .628 105.1 6 100.2 2 +4.9 3
Denver 30 13 .698 107.3 2 103.2 8 +4.1 4
L.A. Clippers 24 17 .585 106.7 3 103.6 10 +3.1 5
New York 23 19 .548 105.3 5 104.9 13 +0.4 6
Indiana 18 22 .450 100.3 11 100.0 1 +0.3 7
Memphis 24 17 .585 99.9 14 100.3 3 -0.4 8
Houston 19 23 .452 104.6 7 105.2 14 -0.6 9
Golden State 17 26 .395 101.7 9 104.0 12 -2.2 10
Boston 17 25 .405 100.0 13 102.3 6 -2.3 11
L.A. Lakers 17 25 .405 103.5 8 106.1 15 -2.6 12
Chicago 19 24 .442 98.1 16 100.8 5 -2.8 13
Atlanta 16 26 .381 100.2 12 103.6 9 -3.3 14
Milwaukee 15 28 .349 99.0 15 103.7 11 -4.7 15
Brooklyn 16 26 .381 100.8 10 107.1 16 -6.3 16

In those 42 games, the Nets rebounded fine and kept their opponents off the free throw line, but they didn’t force many turnovers and their shooting defense was pretty terrible, with their opponents registering an effective field goal percentage of 52.7 percent.

In particular, they didn’t defend the 3-point line well, allowing their playoff opponents to shoot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc. Overall, Brooklyn ranked 21st in 3-point defense at 36.6 percent. With 3-point shooting becoming a bigger part of successful offenses every season, preventing and contesting threes become more important for defenses.

On Feb. 22, the Nets allowed the Rockets to shoot 16-for-30 from 3-point range. Now, Houston was the second most prolific 3-point shooting team in NBA history, but the Nets basically rolled out the red carpet for their shooters.

Those 16 threes were more about the Brooklyn defense than the Houston offense. Here’s some of the carnage…


As you see from the video, the Nets’ defense was just disorganized. If Brook Lopez is sagging on his pick-and-roll coverage (which he should be doing), then the other defender shouldn’t be going under the screen, especially against a good 3-point shooter like James Harden or Chandler Parsons. And if Lopez is within arm’s reach of the rolling big man, he doesn’t need anyone overhelping, especially from the strong-side corner.

Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko will make the Nets’ defense better. Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd will help with the big-game toughness.

But if this team is going to rise to the level of championship contender, they have to do more than just add a couple of good defenders. They have to defend as a unit, with better communication, less mistakes, and more of a priority on defending the 3-point line.

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

One Team, One Stat: Jump Shots A Problem For Timberwolves

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 Minnesota Timberwolves, who dealt with a myriad of injuries last season.

The basics
MIN Rank
W-L 31-51 22
Pace 95.2 11
OffRtg 100.1 25
DefRtg 102.9 14
NetRtg -2.8 21

The stat

42.3 percent - The Wolves’ effective field goal percentage from outside the paint, worst in the league.

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
League average from outside the paint: 46.0 percent

The context

Basically, the Wolves were the worst jump-shooting team in the league. The Pistons and Nuggets each had a lower raw field goal percentage from outside the paint, but shot better on threes. Minnesota ranked 13th in mid-range shooting percentage, but 27th on corner threes and 30th on above-the-break threes, the only team that shot less than 30 percent on those.

Thanks to Nikola Pekovic (303 buckets in the restricted area) and Andrei Kirilenko (207), the Wolves were strong at the basket. But they just couldn’t space the floor or make defenses pay for double-teaming Big Pek.

Lowest EFG%, outside paint

Team FGM FGA FG% EFG%
Minnesota 1,262 3,513 35.9% 42.3%
Chicago 1,293 3,570 36.2% 42.5%
Orlando 1,303 3,629 35.9% 42.9%
Charlotte 1,240 3,427 36.2% 43.0%
Phoenix 1,403 3,796 37.0% 43.3%

Here are some of the gory details:

  • Alexey Shved led the team with 288 3-point attempts and made just 29.5 percent of them. Among qualified players, he was the second-worst 3-point shooter in the league, ahead of only Monta Ellis.
  • 15 different Wolves attempted 3-pointers last season and not one of them shot them at the league average (35.9 percent) or better. The best of the group was J.J. Barea (34.6 percent).
  • Ricky Rubio ranked last in the league, by far, in EFG% (38.6%) among players with 500-plus FGA. Part of that comes from being a poor finisher at the rim (44.3 percent in the restricted area), but he struggled from the outside as well.

On Feb. 24, the Wolves outscored the Warriors 62-36 in the paint, but lost by a point because they shot a brutal 6-for-35 from outside it. Rubio was 0-for-6 from outside the paint, Kirilenko was 0-for-5, and Luke Ridnour was 4-for-12.

Here’s video of some of the brickage …


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A healthy Kevin Love will make things better. After registering an effective field goal percentage from outside the paint of 47.9 percent over his previous two seasons, he dropped down to 35.7 percent last season, dealing with an injury to his shooting hand.

Kevin Martin will obviously help, too. Of 150 players who attempted at least 300 shots from outside the paint, Martin ranked 12th in effective field goal percentage at 55.4 percent. Not only will he shoot better than anyone on last year’s Wolves, but he’ll take some minutes from the poor-shooting Shved.

Of course, the Wolves also added Corey Brewer, who was just barely above Shved on the 3-point shooting list at 29.6 percent. Coach Rick Adelman might want to give Brewer a little less freedom to shoot than George Karl did.

Love and Martin will make the Wolves a better offensive team. The bigger question may be on defense, where they’ve lost Kirilenko and Greg Stiemsma.

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

Nets Look To Keep KG Fresh

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – New Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd told the New York Daily News last month that he might not play Kevin Garnett in both ends of back-to-back sets this season.

“We’ve talked about it that there’s going to be (minutes restrictions). When you look at KG, probably no back-to-backs for him,” Kidd said Friday following press conference to announce the renovation of Nassau Coliseum. “Those are just topics we’re talking about, throwing around to keep these guy’s minutes down because we are deep. …you want to be fresh going into the playoffs.”

Most minutes played, NBA history
Player Seasons GP MIN MPG
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 20 1,560 57,446 36.8
Karl Malone 19 1,476 54,852 37.2
Jason Kidd 19 1,391 50,110 36.0
Elvin Hayes 16 1,303 50,000 38.4
Wilt Chamberlain 14 1,045 47,859 45.8
Kevin Garnett 18 1,323 47,801 36.1
John Stockton 19 1,504 47,764 31.8
Reggie Miller 18 1,389 47,619 34.3
Gary Payton 17 1,335 47,117 35.3
John Havlicek 16 1,270 46,471 36.6

KG is 37 years old, will be playing his 19th season, and ranks sixth all-time in minutes played. That makes this a logical plan, and it’s also easy to understand why Kidd, in particular, is concerned about the minutes of his oldest vet.

Just last season, Kidd — who ranks third all-time in minutes — was playing his 19th season, appeared in 88 of the Knicks’ 94 games. He clearly ran out of gas in the playoffs, missing the final 18 shots of his career. His 3-point shooting helped the Knicks win 18 of their first 23 games and his leadership was critical throughout, but his team needed him to make a shot or two in the conference semifinals and he came up empty.

The Nets would rather win 50 games and have Garnett fresh for the playoffs than win 57 and have him running on fumes when they face the Heat, Pacers or Bulls in a series. The Nets’ best chance at a championship is probably this season, so extra precautions should certainly be taken.

That’s why the addition of Andrei Kirilenko — who gives the Nets a quality starter when Garnett gets a night off — was so important. Though Garnett will be the most critical component to the Nets’ defense, this team is much deeper than the Celtics of the last couple of seasons, who suffered a huge defensive drop-off whenever KG rested.

Garnett’s mobility and athleticism has declined over the last few years. But his numbers from last season make it clear that he had no problem handling back-to-backs.

Over the last two seasons, KG played both ends of 35 back-to-backs (18 in ’11-12 and 17 last season). And in those 70 games, he shot better and got to the line more often in the second night. And he was only a slightly better rebounder on the first night.

Garnett in back-to-backs, last two seasons

Total MPG FGM FGA FG% PPG TS% FTA Rate OREB% DREB% REB%
First game 30.5 218 462 47.2% 14.6 50.8% 0.206 4.2% 26.1% 15.4%
Second game 29.5 231 440 52.5% 16.1 57.1% 0.275 4.9% 24.0% 15.2%

TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44*FTA)))
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
REB% = Percentage of available rebounds obtained

KG doesn’t seem to have a problem with playing two straight nights. But this is about the long term and how he plays in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, not how he plays in Toronto on Jan. 11.

In playing those 17 back-to-backs last season, Garnett suffered a drop-off after the All-Star break. But he played pretty well in last season’s playoffs. In fact, he averaged almost 14 rebounds per game in the Celtics’ first-round series against the Knicks, grabbing more than a third of the available defensive rebounds when he was on the floor.

Garnett, 2012-13

Timeframe GP MPG FGM FGA FG% PPG TS% FTA Rate OREB% DREB% REB%
Pre All-Star 52 30.3 327 650 50.3% 15.1 54.4% .258 4.5% 25.0% 15.1%
Post All-Star 16 28.1 95 200 47.5% 13.6 50.6% .165 5.2% 28.9% 17.6%
Playoffs 6 35.3 30 60 50.0% 12.7 56.3% .283 5.5% 36.5% 22.6%

Garnett’s usage rate was down in that series, and although he’s still a great defender, there were times when the Knicks made him look his age …


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KG is absolutely going to help the Nets defensively. You will find more examples of him playing great pick-and-roll defense than you will of him getting beat. And it should be noted that all the above plays took place toward the end of the first half in which he played the most minutes all season. Garnett averaged just over 14 first-half minutes in his 74 (total) games last season, but played 21:29 in the first half of Game 5.

In addition to giving Garnett nights off, Kidd will also have to manage his minutes in-game. Though his free throw rate and rebounding improved, KG’s shooting declined after he played 20 minutes last season.

Garnett, 2012-13

Min. played in game MIN FGM FGA FG% PTS/48 TS% FTA Rate OREB% DREB% REB%
0-20 1,411 310 600 51.7% 24.4 54.8% .207 4.9% 24.5% 15.1%
21+ 611 112 250 44.8% 22.5 50.4% .308 4.0% 28.7% 16.9%

It will be a interesting balancing act for Kidd.

Though the regular season isn’t the priority, seeding is often critical. Brooklyn got beat in a Game 7 at home in May, but home teams have still won about 80 percent of all Game 7s. With how good each of the best teams in the Eastern Conference could be, we could certainly see more Game 7s next Spring. And a few games in the standings might be the difference between finishing first and finishing fifth.

More than anything, the Nets need to get better defensively and Garnett is the best defensive player of the last decade. But as we saw in Boston the last few seasons, he needs to be on the floor to make an impact. While the Celtics’ defense suffered when he stepped off the floor, it didn’t if he was on the floor and had logged big minutes. In fact, their DefRtg (points allowed per 100 possessions) was better when KG was on the floor and had played at least 20 minutes (95.7) than when he had yet to play 20 (96.4).