HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Only eight teams remain in the playoffs, meaning the fans of 22 other teams have turned much of their attention to the offseason and the free-agent summer of 2013 in particular.
We will encounter a familiar name there, one Dwight David Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers, who along with Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, will be at the center of all things come July 1 (when free agency kicks off in all of its usual craziness).
There are a dozen teams, most notably Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Utah, Cleveland, New Orleans, Detroit, Charlotte and Washington, with the cash to spend and the flexibility to significantly tweak, and, in some cases, totally remake their rosters. All these teams need is a free agent willing to give them a chance to make the proper sales pitch.
For the top-level free agents — and this summer that list it two truly elite players deep, Howard and Paul — the list of potential suitors will be exclusive. Only those franchises with championship potential need bother.
But that’s what makes the summer, the scramble by a large number of teams for the same small group of big-time free agents. We have more than seven weeks to before free agency goes into complete crazy mode, but why wait until then to get the party started?
Status on July 1: Unrestricted free agent What he’s selling: A three-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year and five-time rebounding champ, Howard is a seven-time All-Star and, when healthy, the NBA’s most dominant big man. When your down year sees you lead the league in rebounding and still help power the Lakers to a playoff spot in an absolute train wreck of a season, you’re worth every penny a team throws at you. What he’s not saying: He still a putrid free throw shooter and has been known to struggle with decision-making. What he’s worth: A max contract, worth approximately $118 million over five years. Who might be buying: The Lakers have no choice but to beg him to stay, with Kobe Bryant on the mend from Achilles surgery and no one else on the roster capable of carrying the mantle as face of the franchise. Houston, Atlanta and Dallas will launch all-out assaults to sway him. Likely landing spot(s): Lakers. They can offer $30 million more than anyone else. Howard will have a hard time walking away from that kind of cash.
Status on July 1: Unrestricted free agent What he’s selling: A six-time All-Star and culture-changer (see Clippers before and after his arrival), Paul is the best in the business at his position, a gold medal winner and an All-Star Game MVP. Toss in his work as a pitch man (Cliff Paul comes with the package) and it’s easy to see why he’s one of the most recognizable players in the game today. What he’s not saying: He has to stay healthy. He’s not getting any younger and he has to get to winning in the postseason, the one glaring hole on his so-far sparkling NBA resume. What he’s worth: A max contract, worth approximately $108 million over five years. Who might be buying: The Clippers are desperate to hold on to him. But they have coaching issues to resolve before that can happen. Houston, Atlanta, Dallas will all make pitches in hopes of prying Paul away. Likely landing spots: Clippers … depending on what happens with Vinny Del Negro. Like Howard, Paul would have to walk away from extra cash if he decides to go elsewhere. But he’s hungry for a title, wherever he goes.
Status on July 1: Unrestricted free agent What he’s selling: An absolute game-changer when he’s focused, Smith makes plays only a few players in the league are capable of on a given night. For all the drama and criticism thrown his way, he helped power the Hawks to six straight playoff appearances. What he’s not saying: His shot selection and motor remain issues. After nine years in Atlanta, his next spot needs to be an ideal fit, because this is likely Smith’s last big deal. He has to make sure it’s in a place where he can thrive. What he’s worth: A max contract of approximately $95 million over five years doesn’t fit here, not from the only team (the Hawks) that can offer him that much. But a deal worth approximately $75 million to $85 million over five years is doable. Smith turned down a $47 million extension offer from the Hawks, so he’s obviously looking for a starting salary of $16 million-plus. Who might be buying: The Hawks say they are interested in keeping Smith, at the right price, of course. Houston, Boston, Phoenix, New Orleans, Philadelphia and the Lakers will all investigate this situation. Likely landing spots: Houston is the frontrunner and is the ideal fit and a place Smith would be comfortable. (more…)
Collins has grandchildren he wants to spend more time with in his golden years, he wants to watch his son, Chris Collins, now the coach at Northwestern, thrive in the family business.
After giving the last 40 years of his life to the game he loves and the merciless grind that is the pursuit of a championship ring, Collins wants his next four or five years to be on his terms.
“There’s a lot of things I want to enjoy,” Collins said. “I think it’s every man’s dream to be able to live that life that you work so hard to try to live. And that’s what I want to do.”
He knew it at Christmas, when he had to be away while “the grandkids were opening their presents,” that he was done coaching, that he didn’t have the energy to give to the profession the way he knows great coaches have to if they’re going to do the job the justice it deserves.
It wasn’t about wins and losses, Collins said this morning as he addressed the media in Philadelphia. No amount of either would have changed his mind. The sacrifices had become too great, the benefits, financial and otherwise, that come with a NBA coaching job were outweighed by the important moments a proud father and grandfather had to miss.
“I didn’t get down to a Duke game last year,” Collins said. “My son … I want to see him grow, want to see him coach. That’s important to me.”
If only Jrue Holiday, Even Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the players he coached through a tumultuous season this year in Philadelphia had been just as important. Collins never told them of the exit strategy that had been brewing for months. They were left to the rumblings that grew into rumors the past couple weeks and into full blown hysterics last week.
Collins is a brilliant basketball mind. No one disputes that. And he’s a fine coach, as passionate as he is relentless about teaching the game and as focused and fanatical as they come in his profession. Widely regarded as one of the best analysts around, Collins chose to dive back into coaching three years ago with the franchise he’s always considered home.
He was not pushed out the door. Sixers owner Josh Harris made that clear before Collins said a word this morning.
“Doug is not being pushed out,” Harris said. “I would love to have him back as my coach. This is his decision … I want to make that unequivocally clear.”
Andrew Bynum, the Sixers’ prized summer acquisition from a blockbuster trade that saw Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless traded away for the All-Star center, didn’t play a single second this season.
Instead of contending in the Eastern Conference a season after a surprise run to the conference semifinals, the Sixers finished ninth in the East and four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, despite playing their “best basketball” in the six weeks after his frustrations boiled over.
I don’t care how diplomatic they try to be, the Bynum debacle stained this season for Collins, Harris and the entire organization.
“We spent $84 million and don’t have much to show for it,” said Harris, who was extremely careful when talking about Bynum and what the Sixers’ plans are regarding the soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent big man. “You look at our cost per win, and its pretty low.”
Collins plans to serve as an adviser to Harris the next five years, a time-frame both men referenced, as they work to increase that cost per win number.
His days of, as he put it, “trying to be Frederick Douglas, Dale Carnegie, Dr. Phil and then trying to draw up a play to win the game,” are over. He said he won’t get the coaching itch again.
He’ll leave that to guys like Michael Curry, the only one of his assistants to get a public endorsement for the coaching vacancy in Philadelphia during Monday’s festivities.
“Michael Curry has been a head coach before,” Collins said. “What he’s done here defensively has been remarkable. I think Michael’s ready. The thing about it is, they are going to get a great coach. This is a great city … to me, this is a win-win. They get a great a coach and it gives me a chance to do some of the things I want to do.”
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Dirk Nowitzki finally shaved off that mangy, disgusting beard last night on the heels of the Mavs reaching the .500 mark 80 games into the season. Cute, but not exactly game-of-the-night material there. The Lakers-Spurs game was a pretty amazing showcase of heart and drive by the crew from L.A. in its first game following Kobe Bryant‘s season-ending injury as the Lakers took care of their old rivals. But we’re going with the Pacers-Knicks gamefrom Madison Square Garden yesterday simply because it showed just how much being in rhythm as the season winds down can be key. When New York’s shooters went into a swoon and the Pacers got hot in February, it looked like Indiana would easily hang on to the No. 2 spot in the East and provide the stiffest challenge for the defending-champion Heat. Instead, the Knicks have found their rhythm late in the season and this game yesterday assured N.Y. of the No. 2 spot and keeps them rolling as the playoffs draw near.
Knicks can’t wait to face Celtics in playoffs — Locking up the No. 2 seed in the East, as we mention above, was nothing to sneeze at in New York. Especially when you consider the last time the Knicks had the No. 2 seed, it was the 1993-94 season … when New York lost to Houston in the NBA Finals. Still, as nice as it was to throttle the Pacers to accomplish that feat, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks are more looking forward to exacting some revenge on the team that ousted them from the playoffs last season: the Boston Celtics. Howard Beck of The New York Times has more on the Knicks’ goals:
The Knicks got everything they wanted, and with a minimum of pain.
With a suspense-free 90-80 victory, they clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference and secured home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs, including a potential second-round meeting with the Pacers. The Knicks will open the playoffs Saturday against the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics — the team that swept them two springs ago, in Carmelo Anthony’s first postseason in New York.
“That’s in the back of our minds,” said Anthony, who scored 25 points. “We want to beat Boston — I mean, let’s be quite frank. This would be a great series for us.”
Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, who is injured, are the only Knicks left from that 2011 series. Yet the memory remains fresh, and for Anthony, painful.
A sweep was hardly the way he wanted to begin his career on Broadway. The Celtics have stood in the Knicks’ way ever since he arrived.
Two years later, the Knicks are deeper, wiser, more seasoned and better built for the challenge, with a veteran cast surrounding Anthony.
“We’re different as a team,” Anthony said. “As an organization, we’re a lot different than we were a year and a half, two years ago. The mind-set is a lot different. My mind-set right now is a lot different.”
Most important, the Knicks (53-27) emerged without a serious injury, although Anthony did bruise his left shoulder in the third quarter. He sat out the final period, but only because the Knicks did not need him.
Coach Mike Woodson twice called Anthony over when the Pacers started to rally down the stretch.
Each time, the Knicks beat back the spurt, and Anthony returned, smiling, to his seat.
“I was just playing with him, messing with him,” Woodson said. “No, his shoulder’s fine. And I was going to put him back. But I decided to pull him and ride the guys that kept the lead for us.”
With the Knicks clinching the No. 2 seed — their highest since finishing second in 1994 — Woodson will now rest his key players for the final two games. Anthony said he would sit out Monday night’s game at Charlotte. Raymond Felton also said he planned to take a rest over the final two games.
“I’ll be fine,” Anthony said. “And I’ll be ready come playoffs.”
Kobe-less Lakers step up against Spurs– Heading into Sunday’s game against the Spurs, the Lakers had plenty of reasons to feel down on themselves — the foremost of which being the season-ending torn Achilles Kobe Bryant suffered on Friday night against Golden State. But in a rare display of heart and teamwork, the Lakers bound together, got a strong performance from their “other” superstar (Dwight Howard), overcame a rough night by another big name (Pau Gasol) and got contributions from surprising places (such as Steve Blake) to edge ever closer to a playoff berth. Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News has more on the Lakers’ big win:
Life without Kobe Bryant, Day 1, was nothing if not unpredictable.
And in a crazy, wonderful, astonishing way, actually quite beautiful.
On a night when Pau Gasol was the 7-foot invisible Spaniard, Steve Blake told him, “I’ve got your back.”
Blake went on to have the performance of his career while standing on one of the biggest stages of his life.
In a game in which the Lakers hovered around 35 percent shooting all night and Gasol clanked 14 of 17 shots, they shook off their notoriously soft-defending ways to harass the San Antonio Spurs into 36.5 percent shooting.
“We can’t look at anybody else for help,” said Howard, who looked more comfortable in his Lakers skin than he has all year, leading the way with 26 points and punishing the Spurs with 17 rebounds and three blocked shots.
And with his team needing him to hit two crucial free throws late in the game, he sank both of them.
“Now we have to go out there and get this next game,” Howard said.
Two days ago no one would have believed they could, not with Bryant withering around in pain after tearing his left Achilles tendon and the big, bad Spurs coming to town to put the Lakers out of their misery.
Now, who knows?
After watching Blake score 23 points and Antawn Jamison come off the bench to score 15 – including two huge 3-pointers – and Gasol shake off one of the worst shooting nights of his career to grab 16 rebounds and block three shots and the Lakers dig in defensively in a way we haven’t seen all year, a trip the playoffs now seems likely.
No one is foolish enough to think the Lakers can mount some miraculous playoff run. That pipe dream is over, falling apart the moment Bryant went crumbling to the floor Friday with a season-ending injury.
Even if the Lakers do sneak through the small playoff crevice available to them, they’ll be a quick one-and-done against either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio in the opening round.
To think anything else is crazy talk.
“I still believe we can win,” Howard said, sternly. “No doubt in my mind.”
McHale, Rockets embrace underdog role — Hardly any seeds in the Western Conference are secure, which is just fine for coach Kevin McHale and the Rockets. Houston is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09 and has its most wins since that season, too. Although it will likely come down to the season’s final night before Houston knows who it will play in the first round, McHale and his crew are ready to play the up-tempo style that led them to the postseason, regardless of whichever foe they face. David Barron of the Houston Chronicle has more:
With their 121-100 win over the Sacramento Kings, the Rockets improved to 45-35 and tied Golden State for the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They hold the tiebreaker over the Warriors and can clinch the sixth spot with wins Monday night at Phoenix and on Wednesday in Los Angeles over the Lakers.
There are scenarios aplenty for playoff series against any of the five teams in front of them — too many for coach Kevin McHale to focus on. Besides, McHale said, he knows how the form chart will read under any circumstances.
“Whoever we play, we will not be favored,” he said. “We’ll be underdogs to whoever we play. That’s fine with us. We want to get in there and get the guys playing well.
“I like our chances against anybody. If we can get defensive stops and get out and run and put pressure on the rim and knock down some shots, we’ll give anybody we play a good go.”
“This year is a year when we’re building a lot of stuff,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff to be proud of. I think James (Harden) has had a tremendous year. Jeremy Lin coming in has played very, very well. Omer Asik for the first time starting.
“It’s been a year. Greg Smith has really come on. Terrence Jones is coming on. Finding Patrick Beverley and bringing him over here … like I said, we’re just building and building. We’ve got two more regular-season games, and then we have the playoffs. I’m looking forward to it.”
Erving sounds off on Bynum — The Sixers’ season has been an unmitigated disaster, thanks most in part to the various injuries and rehab work that have kept Andrew Bynum from playing a single game in a Philly uniform. As reports are spreading that coach Doug Collins will resign soon and the team’s future looks ever-more hazy, a night of good memories might have been just what Philadelphia needed. Before last night’s eventual 91-77 win over the Cavs, the Sixers honored Julius Erving, Moses Malone and the rest of their 1983 championship team before the game. Erving, who serves in a front-office role with the team, sounded off on Bynum’s lack of play and more, writes Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com:
The 76ers haven’t publicly criticized Andrew Bynum during a season in which he was paid $16.5 million and played no games due to knee injuries.
Hall of Famer Julius Erving, who is the team’s strategic advisor to the Sixers’ ownership group, didn’t hesitate to give his opinion on Bynum.
Prior to the Sixers’ home finale, a 91-77 victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday afternoon, Erving was asked about Bynum, whom the team acquired in a blockbuster Aug. 10 trade.
“I know what the net result is,” said Erving, smiling. “The net result is Robert Parish’s old number — 00. We have not benefited one degree. I guess he has.
“If the Bynum situation is one of total uncertainty for another year, I don’t think the organization should stand for that or the fans should stand for that.”
On the other hand, if the Sixers don’t re-sign Bynum or any of their other impending free agents, they could have about $12 million to spend this summer in free agency.
“I think if he’s not here, you’re going to free up a lot of money,” Erving said. “Washington and Lincoln can’t play the corners for you, but they can get somebody that can play the corners for you. We need somebody to play a corner for us and play the middle for us. It’s going to be costly.”
Collins, 62, has one year left on a four-year deal, but has told management he won’t return in that job. Collins’ possible return to the franchise in another role – perhaps in the front office – hasn’t been ruled out, a source said.
Ownership wanted him to return for the final season of a contract that would’ve paid him $4.5 million, one source said, but Collins informed owner Josh Harris of his decision to leave in recent days.
The news comes just hours after USA Today reported that John Langel, Collins’ agent, said: “[Doug is] the coach, and he’ll continue to be the coach.”
A summer trade for Andrew Bynum forced the Sixers to take apart the team that surprised with last season’s run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Andre Iguodala (Denver), Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless (Orlando) helped form the nucleus of what was expected to be one of the most promising young teams in the Eastern Conference before the blockbuster trade, which also involved the Magic sending Dwight Howard to the Lakers.
But Bynum missed the entire season with knee issues that ultimately required surgery. The Sixers season fizzled as well; they are ninth place in the East, leaving a frustrated Collins to try and pick up the pieces.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Eye contact in a timeout huddle means little to the casual observer.
NBA players do all sorts of things in timeout huddles other than locking into their coach and hanging on every word. Sometimes it means something when they stare off into the distance. And other times it means nothing.
But for a large number of coaches heading into the great (contractual) unknown at season’s end, that connection between coach and player(s) is of immense importance.
It could mean the difference between a contract extension, a new contract or no contract, depending on how certain teams finish the regular season and postseason — provided some of these coaches make it that far.
The list of coaches looking over their shoulders as the regular season winds to a close is long and filled with notable names:
DOUG COLLINS, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
How many coaches of lottery-bound teams get to decide their own fate? Collins might be the only one in the league right now other than Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, who will make his own decision based on things other than basketball. That exhausted look on his face most nights is a reflection of a clearly exasperated coach dealing with a situation that turned a promising, young team last season upside down this season when Andrew Bynum came to town via an offseason trade.
The Sixers hit rock bottom in February and Collins couldn’t contain himself, venting his frustration for all the world to see and hear. But they’ve actually rebounded a bit lately, going 6-4 in their last 10 games and doing whatever they can to finish the season on a somewhat positive note.
His fourth year is already set. The Sixers’ front office wants him back. And they’ll need a steady, veteran coach to guide them out of the mess that the Bynum trade unleashed upon the organization and the fans. Collins is on thin ice only if he wants to be.
TY CORBIN, UTAH JAZZ
Corbin is one of several coaches whose future is tied directly to his team’s finish in the regular season. Make the playoffs, serve as the sacrificial first-round fodder for the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder and there is reason to believe that Corbin can cajole more out of this group next season.
And with just one season left on his contract, playoffs or not, the Jazz might not shake things up in the coaching ranks at a time when the roster is in such flux — Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap‘s pending free agency (among others) and the future of young bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Corbin’s task has always been daunting in following a legend like Jerry Sloan. But Corbin has handled it about as well as you would expect from a guy who was thrust into an impossible situation.
MIKE D’ANTONI, LOS ANGELES LAKERS
The ice beneath D’Antoni’s feet won’t break this season, even if the Lakers miss the playoffs. There has already been too much turmoil, upheaval and loss for one season. But how would you like to work under the extreme pressure that D’Antoni will have to this summer and next season if the Lakers do miss out on that eighth and final spot in the West?
If the Lakers land in the lottery and the blame game kicks off in earnest, D’Antoni will be third or fourth in the firing line, behind Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and Dwight Howard (in whatever order you’d like). Having the unfettered support of the Lakers’ two most important players — Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash — certainly aids D’Antoni’s cause.
Still, if things come apart in Los Angeles this summer, D’Antoni could be one of two NBA coaches in the city walking around on cracked ice.
VINNY DEL NEGRO, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Del Negro has just as many detractors as he does supporters these days. Three different league executives have suggested that he’s done a much better job than he gets credit for, when you consider how raw the Clippers’ frontcourt remains with youngsters Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan still coming into their own.
Del Negro’s critics quickly point out that an All-Star and one of the top 10 centers in the league is a pretty good place to start your frontcourt rotation. Plus, they say, Griffin and Jordan’s rawness has as much with Del Negro (and his staff’s) inability to polish them up as it does anything else.
The Clippers have dealt with health issues and rumored locker room drama all season, but they also kicked off the NBA’s season of win streaks with a 17-gamer early in the season that cranked expectations (on the team and Del Negro) to unattainable proportions. The only thing that might solidify Del Negro’s status is a run to the Western Conference finals … and that might work.
LARRY DREW, ATLANTA HAWKS
How does a guy spend half the season as a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate and the other half on the coaching hot list? Only in Atlanta, where the Hawks coach has been on the proverbial hot seat for the past 10 years (Mike Woodson before him and now, Drew). He’s known since last summer, when new general manager Danny Ferry arrived, that he would spend his final season under contract on a non-stop audition.
To his credit, Drew has never once made an issue of his predicament. In fact, he’s relished the opportunity to show off his coaching chops to the rest of the league. Drew knows there could be (at minimum) a half-dozen coaching openings this summer. And anyone who has presided over playoff teams every year he’s been a coach — as Drew has — has made a compelling case for making the short list of interview candidates for any openings.
Bottom line? Drew was not Ferry’s pick as coach. And if the Hawks are going to remake themselves this summer, it makes sense that Ferry will do so with his own pick as coach.
BYRON SCOTT, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Scott had to fist-fight Brooklyn’s P.J. Carlesimo for the final spot on this list. Carlesimo’s not on thin ice, though, he’s standing in the water. As long as Phil Jackson, Sloan and the Van Gundy brothers (Jeff and Stan) remain options, the coaching seat in Brooklyn is just a temporary perch. Scott is in a much more precarious position because of the belief that the Cavaliers are just a few healthy players (namely Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao) away from turning the corner in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Scott keeps finding himself in coaching situations where he has either overstayed his welcome (New Jersey and New Orleans) or failed to get his team to the next step in time (Cleveland). The Cavaliers showed him some love earlier this season by guaranteeing the final year of his contract next season. But even a financial vote of confidence like that might not stand up to the a coaching free-agent summer that will rival anything the players offer up.
If the aforementioned big names are floating around, you better believe the Cavaliers will be fishing around to see who is interested in helping guide Irving into the prime of his career.
ALSO ON THE RADAR: Mike Dunlap, Charlotte; Lawrence Frank, Detroit; Lionel Hollins, Memphis; Keith Smart, Sacramento; Randy Wittman, Washington.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: There must be something in the way Nuggets coach George Karl teaches the game, because several of his ex-pupils are getting it done for contenders in the Eastern Conference. On the Heat, his former big man Chris Andersen provided some solid minutes in the Heat’s surprising win over the Spurs in San Antonio. Over in New York, though, three ex-Nuggets are getting it done as the Knicks keep on rolling and their game against the Celtics is our one to watch. First, we had Carmelo Anthony doing what he does best — score and score often — as he led New York with 24 points and added 10 rebounds. Then we had J.R. Smith doing his best big man impression with a team-best 12 boards off the bench. And finally, Kenyon Martin provided some solid interior defense and rebounding work as New York picks up its eighth straight win.
Spurs say Ginobili out three-to-four weeks – As it is well known in NBA circles, Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili is bound to miss a few games every season — the Argentine blur has yet to play an entire season in his career. But the timing of Ginobili’s injuries the last few seasons — such as his elbow injury right before the 2011 playoffs — could not have been worse. Now Ginobili has a hamstring issue bothering him that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tells the San Antonio Express-News’ Dan McCartney could keep Ginobili out for a while:
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich puts Manu Ginobili’s timetable to return from a strained right hamstring at weeks rather than days, a significant setback to the team’s pre-playoff preparation.
“It’s a huge blow for us,” he said, “because he’s the guy that allows our second team to do what they’ve been doing all year long.
“It’s a huge loss for that group, and in game situations it’s a tough one because he’s one of two guys, he and Tony (Parker), are the creators who make things happen for everybody else on the court. It’s an unfortunate loss at this point of the season.”
Popovich said it is unknown if Ginobili’s injury will stretch into the postseason, which begins on April 20. Excluding Sunday’s home game against Miami, the Spurs have nine games remaining in the regular season, with the last coming on April 17 against Minnesota.
“We don’t know how his leg is going to react,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can.”
Ginobili, 35, was injured in the first quarter of Friday’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s missed 13 games this season with a variety of ailments, including a strain in his other hamstring. The Spurs are 9-2 without him.
Jennings calls out coach on Twitter — It hasn’t exactly been all sunshine and roses for Brandon Jennings this season in Milwaukee. Before the season began, Jennings hoped for an extension with Milwaukee, but he never got it. Then, coach Scott Skiles — who seemed to chafe at times with Jennings — was fired and Jim Boylan took over and, initially, Jennings had nice things to say about his new boss. Around the trade deadline, reports came out that Jennings had irreconcilable differences with team brass, which Jennings almost immediately refuted. Jennings was benched the entire fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Philadelphia and, apparently, the boil-over point game in a Saturday loss to Oklahoma City. With the Bucks down 109-99, Boylan took a late timeout, which Jennings questioned over Twitter, writes Sean Highkin of USA Today (tweet image available at the USA Today post):
When you’re unhappy with a decision your coach made, there are better ways to handle it than calling him out on Twitter. That didn’t stop Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings from taking to social media to question a late-game timeout called by coach Jim Boylan in the Bucks’ 109-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jennings deleted the tweet shortly after posting.
Jennings has made no secret of his unhappiness with the Bucks in recent months. As far back as last year, he was looking ahead to free agency and expressing a desire to sign in a big market. He did not sign an extension to his rookie contract with the Bucks before the October deadline, and openly talked about being intrigued by the Dallas Mavericks earlier this season. Jennings has even hinted he might do something unprecedented for player as high-profile as he is, and bypass restricted free agency by signing the qualifying offer this summer, essentially killing the Bucks’ leverage to keep or trade him beyond next year.
Boylan isn’t the first coach Jennings has clashed with this season, either. Scott Skiles and the Bucks mutually agreed to part ways in January after Skiles essentially lost control of the locker room. The team has turned its season around since appointing Boylan interim head coach, and are currently on pace for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but Jennings’ own effectiveness has fallen off since the change. Under Skiles, Jennings averaged 18.5 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting with 16.5 attempts per game. Since Boylan took over, Jennings has averaged 16.8 points while shooting 38.2 percent on 15.1 attempts per game.
Martin wants to stick with Knicks — Kenyon Martin, 35, has made his bones in the NBA by employing a physical style and menacing on-court attitude that often rubbed opponents (and some coaches) the wrong way throughout his career. He spent part of the lockout-shortened season in China before joining the Clippers 20 games into the 2011-12 campaign and became a valuable member of L.A.’s bench crew. But talk of disharmony between him and coach Vinny Del Negro soured many teams on signing the former No. 1 overall pick and it wasn’t until Feb. 23 that the Knicks came calling, signing Martin to a pair of 10-day deals and then, eventually for the rest of the season. Martin has once again flourished, providing rebounding and defense for a New York frontline that has been harmed by injuries to Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas and Amar’e Stoudemire. Martin tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe he’s loving life in the Big Apple and would love to stay put, too:
Martin says he has found comfort with the New York Knicks after being a basketball vagabond for months, searching for an opportunity and seething because his reputation for clashing with teammates and coaches preceded him.
Such was the case last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, when Martin clashed at times with coach Vinny Del Negro, and word of those dustups spread to league executives, who were unsure whether they wanted an aging, crabby Martin on their roster.
He says those are misunderstandings. Martin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2000 by the Nets, plays with an attitude but is considered a likeable teammate. He still has a passion for winning, and perhaps that is mistaken for arrogance or bravado.
When asked about the Celtics passing on the opportunity to sign him despite being desperate for forwards, Martin said, “It just wasn’t them. It just wasn’t the Celtics. So everybody get [my wrath]. I’m just here to prove to people that I ain’t never lost it. I’m a better person than I am a basketball player.
“The chip I always play with, it ain’t got no bigger, but I’m here to prove that what I can do, that’s everybody every night. So it just don’t start with the Celtics. Whoever puts that uniform on that’s opposite of us, they’re going to see what they’re missing.”
Martin knows his reputation, and realizes there is little he can do to change perceptions. But his time in New York is gaining him equity around the league, perhaps making him a more marketable free agent this summer.
“It was upsetting before, but I don’t deal with it,” he said. “The people who know me, man, they know what I’m about. I’m about winning. I’m about my teammates. I care about the guys I suit up with. That’s what I’m about.
“So other people, ain’t been around me long, they gonna judge. I can’t help that. Somebody is always going to have something to say — good, bad, or indifferent — so I take it all with a grain of salt.”
Martin is enjoying his experience in New York.
“I would love to stay a Knick,” he said. “I don’t want to go nowhere. I am proving to this organization what I can be and who I am as a person on and off the court, and I think they see that. I’m here now and I’m going to make the best of this opportunity.”
Bynum not expected to give Sixers extra consideration — Other than Jrue Holiday‘s turn from solid, young player into an All-Star, the season has been a major disaster for the Sixers. From the start, the Sixers were without their prized offseason acquisition (Andrew Bynum) and spent the entire season in a will-he or won’t-he return waiting mode (which, ultimately ended with Bynum not returning). Along the way we had a Doug Collins meltdown, the stunted development of Evan Turner and subpar seasons from fellow offseason acquisitions such as DorellWright and Nick Young. Granted, Turner, Young and Wright would have looked better getting wide open perimeter looks playing off Bynum, but the season is what it is. On top of a rough season, the Sixers have to decide whether or not to re-sign Bynum, who will be an unrestricted free agent. John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer says the Sixers shouldn’t count on a hometown discount from Bynum on a future deal:
Trading for Bynum, who may not re-sign with the Sixers (and who may never be healthy enough to warrant the franchise’s taking that risk) could have allowed GM Tony DiLeo to venture into free agency this summer knowing that he had at least the second-best center in the league and a legitimate all-star point guard in Jrue Holiday. Evan Turner – who theoretically was supposed to be vastly improved by Bynum’s presence – would have blossomed and Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Lavoy Allen would have increased their value as a result of playing alongside Bynum.
While it would be wonderful if Bynum – an unrestricted free agent – gave the Sixers special consideration in light of all that they lost in trading for him and the agonizing wait for him to return, a team source with knowledge of the situation said last week that he does not believe that will be the case.
The Sixers ultimately may have nothing to show for this deal – no Bynum, no Nik Vucevic, who looks as if he could be a budding star with the Magic, no Maurice Harkless, blossoming in his own way in Orlando, and one less first-round draft pick.
All once sparkling assets, they now are reminders of a potentially franchise-crippling mistake by the front office.
Ex-NBAer Anderson reflects on college days, NBA life — Kenny Anderson was perhaps one of the greatest point guards in New York prep basketball history, a McDonald’s All-American, a two-time AP All-American at Georgia Tech, the No. 2 overall pick of the 1991 NBA Draft and a one-time All-Star. He also played 17 seasons in the NBA and was an integral part of several exciting teams as a young player and a key veteran voice in the later stages of his career. All that to say that Anderson had quite the body of work in basketball and in a great interview with SBNation.com, Anderson looks back on his college days (including why he picked Georgia Tech over Syracuse), who is peaking in the NBA right now and more. It’s a great listen.
ICYMI of the night: If you’re not watching the Hornets, you’re missing out on the fantastic pick-and-roll combo that is Greivis Vasquez-to-Anthony Davis … :
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: It was pick-a-wild-finish night in the NBA after the thrilling endings to Heat-Cavs, Celtics-Hornets and Thunder-Grizz. We liked the finishes of all three — how could you not like the frantic action in Cleveland? — but our pick goes to the grit-and-grind guys in Memphis. The mostly unappreciated (by non-League Pass fiends) Marc Gasol came up with a big bucket in OT to seal the win (although, if you’re an OKC fan, you might have thought there was a little push-off going on there) after Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seemed to vanquish the Grizz time after time in the fourth quarter. Our guy Zach Randolph struggled (thanks to killer down-the-stretch defense from Nick Collison), but Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless provided some smart guard play to offset Z-Bo’s absence in what was a playoff-type game through and through.
Round of ‘H-O-R-S-E’ gets Lin going — Entering Wednesday night’s showdown with the Jazz in Houston, Jeremy Lin had been hot, averaging 16.7 ppg, 5.2 apg and shooting 52 percent. But he was a bit worn down from the season’s grind and Alicia Keys taking over the Toyota Center, Lin headed to a different court and played a few rounds of H-O-R-S-E with his brother, who was visiting him. The light-hearted game obviously helped as Lin torched Utah for 24 points and six assists (most of which coming out of the pick-and-roll) as Houston got a big win to help its playoff hopes. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has more:
With a day off and orders to clear his mind, Jeremy Lin took the opportunity to head to the gym.
He did change things up a bit. With Alicia Keys taking over Toyota Center, Lin found a different court and a few different teammates. But Lin’s idea of a day off included basketball.
“It’s therapeutic,” he said.
After Sunday’s 30-point loss to Golden State, he and the Rockets needed the therapy, so Lin spent a chunk of Monday launching jumpers and playing HORSE.
When the Rockets reconvened at Toyota Center on Wednesday, Lin spent the night as if still goofing with his brother and buddies far from the cameras and lights. He repeatedly pierced the Utah Jazz defense, helping to drive the Rockets to a 26-point lead. And when the Jazz rallied in the fourth quarter, Lin knifed through them again, with one drive to a layup and another and a pass for a Chandler Parsons dunk that finally closed out the Jazz 100-93.
Lin made eight of nine shots in the paint as the Rockets went from launching 3-pointers to beating the Jazz at the rim, and from a series of slow starts to a rapid bolt from the opening tip that set the tone for the game.
“JLin made them pay,” Parsons said. “He’s a good player, especially in pick-and-roll. He’s fast. … He can get in the paint.”
“Jeremy really attacked the rim well,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I thought that Jeremy made some big hoops coming down the stretch when we needed them. They were really intent on staying with James (Harden) in the second half and really not giving him a lot of room, so Jeremy really broke free. Jeremy kept turning the corner and got in the paint. We needed all of those.”
“Sometimes, when you do that, you get the feel of the joy of the game back in you again,” Lin said of his day off in the gym. “I went and shot. My little brother is in town. My buddy is here. We just went out and messed around, played some HORSE. But we didn’t get to finish because other people started playing. Everyone had S.”
Karl amazed by Nuggets’ revival — Nuggets coach George Karl is the man with whom former Denver star Carmelo Anthony experienced his greatest NBA successes as well as some of his biggest letdowns, particularly in the playoffs. It’s hard to believe, but it has been more than two years since Denver sent Anthony to New York for a package of players that included Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and others. At the time, it looked like the Nuggets were embracing a full-scale rebuild, but Karl has kept Denver competitive and, this season, the Nuggets are one of the Western Conference elite and sport a 13-game win streak. Karl talked with USA Today’s Sam Amick about the Nuggets rise, the post-’Melo era and more in a solid Q&A:
Q. So you having fun yet?
A. You know, in coaching you don’t ever really have that joyful fun, but there’s no question that it’s enjoyable. It’s winning. And when you win and you’ve lost, what, four games in 60 days or something like that, it’s nice not having the headache of that day of losing. In the NBA, you win, and you think you’re going to win tomorrow. But as soon as you lose, you don’t think you’re ever going to win again.
Q. Are you as surprised as most people are with how quickly your franchise recovered from the Anthony deal?
A. I definitely think that the speed that we’ve built ourselves back into being a contender in the Western Conference has surprised me. We have one player on the team that played with Melo. The Melo trade was, what, two years ago in February? And you have to remember that one of those years was a lockout year. So probably the team has only played together less than 100 games … And then you had the Nene trade last year. Nene was another piece that we changed up. That was kind of the final addition that “we’re going to go with young players.” During the year, we played Kosta (Koufos) and Timo (Timofey Mosgov) a lot more than we played Bird (Chris Andersen) and Nene. We turned it over to all the young guys. The team has evolved. It’s worked hard. It has stayed focused … My team even last year always thought they could play with the big boys. Now that they have the consistency to play an 82-game season together and show that they’re good enough, that’s what we’re doing this year.
Q. Has your longevity and success allowed you to have a wall up between you and the fires that coaches are always putting out or is that still always there?
A. I don’t think there’s any question that I don’t think young coaches can maybe take the risks that I take. But in the same sense, I think my staff and I work very hard on explaining what we’re doing. And we have no problem with a player wanting to play, and we have no problem answering a question of why you’re not playing — in fact we encourage it, we like it, we want players to want to play, we want them to be angry when they’re not playing, but we don’t want them to degrade the team or negate the team (with) a negative attitude during the game or during practice or in the locker room. Do that one on one with me, do that one on one with (general manager) Masai (Ujiri), do that one on one with my assistants, and let’s talk this through. I try to tell players all the time — I’m 61 years old. It’s not personal man. I mean this is not personal. I’m past the time when I’m making a personal decision. I’m making a basketball decision based on who is playing well, who is playing hard, and who is more focused and more disciplined on that given night.
Q. That record is good enough at this point to have your group be in the discussion about title contention. I know that’s not where your head is at this point, but how do you see this idea that this deep and balanced group can take it to that level?
A. My first step is to get this team to win in the first round. And then, once you win in the first round, there’s confidence. Coach (Tim) Grgurich (formerly a longtime Seattle SuperSonics and Denver assistant) have talked about how this team responds me a little of my first full year in Seattle (in 1992-93). I think we played Utah in the first round, beat them in a Game 5 in the first round. We were down 2-1 in that series, and could’ve lost in Utah in Game 4. But we won Game 4 — that made us grow up. We won Game 5 in a really crazy game. I think it’s actually a record, where in the same game we had the lowest scoring half and the highest scoring half for a SuperSonic basketball team (the Sonics scored 30 points in the first half and 70 in the second half) … And that whole momentum of learning to win in that series, and then we took Houston to a seven-game series and beat them in overtime (in Game 5). It was really one of those weird series, where we won at home easy and they won at home easy and Game 7 was an overtime game. We won that game, and then we play Phoenix and we’re growing up right in front of ourselves (the Sonics lost to the Suns in seven games in the Western Conference Finals). You could see the confidence happen.
Now can we do that this year with this group? I think we can. I hope we can. I really think we can. That’s where I want to put this team. I want to put them in that place, the best chance possible to win a first round (series), and then see where our confidence goes from there.
Teague steps up against Bucks — Milwaukee boasts one of the more explosive backcourt combinations in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, with Ellis hot of late after a 25-point fourth quarter that helped the Bucks to a comeback win over the Magic. Hawks guard Jeff Teague has quietly established himself as one of the more solid guards in the East and took the challenge of playing against Jennings and Ellis to heart on Wednesday night, particularly with playoff positioning between the Hawks and Bucks on the line. Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details just how Teague stepped it up against Milwaukee:
Teague finished with 27 points and 11 assists as the Hawks held off the Bucks 98-90 at Philips Arena in a key Eastern Conference game. It was one point shy of Teague’s season- and career-high point total.
The Hawks (38-30) won for the fourth time in five games and kept hold of the fifth spot in the conference playoff race.
Teague was challenged by Player Development Instructor Nick Van Exel at halftime to pick up his energy and play. The guard responded with 12 points in a decisive third quarter.
“C’mon,” is what Teague said Van Exel simply told him. “Me and him a little way we talk to each other. I knew what he meant.”
The Bucks (34-33) had a two-game win streak snapped. They lost for the ninth time in the past 10 games at Philips Arena. Jennings finished with 21 points but Ellis had just five. Larry Sanders had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucks.
“Not letting them get in a rhythm,” Devin Harris said of the success against the guard combination. “Obviously, Jennings did that a little in the third and the fourth (quarters). We try to take away easy baskets. Don’t let them getting any open looks. They run a lot of stuff off each other and (Teague and I) are able to switch and keep them in front of us.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the early going with the game tied 18-18 after the first quarter. The Hawks shot 30 percent (6 of 20) and the Bucks shot 25 percent (8 of 32). The Hawks made 12 of 19 shots in the second quarter to push to the lead at intermission.
Ellis and Jennings combined to make just 2 of 14 shots for four points in the first two quarters.
“I don’t get caught up in that,” Teague said of the challenge of the Bucks’ duo. “I just go out and play. They are talented players. They do what they are supposed to do for their team. I just try to help my team.”
Shumpert scared by knee pop – The good news for the Knicks last night? Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup and New York romped past a downtrodden Magic squad. The (possible) bad news for the Knicks? Iman Shumpert heard a pop in his knee — the same knee he had surgery on and that caused him to miss much of the early part of the season. Howard Beck of The New York Times has more on Shumpert’s injury, which doesn’t sound serious and hopefully isn’t for a Knicks team that counts Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomasamong its wounded:
The Knicks are still awaiting the return of Chandler, who is dealing with a bulging disk in his neck, and they are moving on without Kurt Thomas, who was lost this week to a broken foot that might end his season.
But the Knicks could not escape the night without another injury, this time to their youngest player. Iman Shumpert tweaked his left knee — the same one that was surgically repaired last spring — late in the first half. He was held out of the second half as a precaution.
Shumpert said he felt a pop in the knee while pushing off toward the rim. The medical staff later told him it was probably scar tissue.
“Last time I felt it pop, I was out eight months, so I was just a little nervous,” Shumpert said, referring to the torn ligaments he sustained last spring. “It scared me more than anything.”
Doctors will re-evaluate Shumpert on Thursday, but no tests are planned.
Kurt Thomas sounded much less optimistic than team officials about his potential return this season. Thomas has a stress reaction surrounding a stress fracture in his right foot. The Knicks are projecting a recovery of two to four weeks. But when Thomas was asked if he would play again, he said simply, “We’re going to see.” Asked if the chances were 50-50, he said, “I think that’s a good number.” Thomas confirmed that he initially sustained the stress fracture in 2006-7, when he played for the Phoenix Suns, and that it never completely healed. The injury was aggravated last Thursday in Portland.
Bynum has surgery, starts rehab soon — Andrew Bynum is done for the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his gimpy knees and our crew on the weekly Blogtable chimed in on exactly where Bynum would fit in best for 2013-14. While we all sit back and wonder where the former All-Star big man will end up and, if he’ll ever be an elite-level center again, Jason Wolfof The (Wilmington) News-Journal reports that Bynum is starting rehab work on his injury this Friday:
One-time All-Star center Andrew Bynum had arthroscopic knee surgeries Tuesday to remove debris from both joints and will begin physical therapy Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers announced.
The 7-foot, 300-pounder, who did not appear in a game this season because of bone and cartilage damage in his knees, will refrain from any weight-bearing activities for about three weeks and will spend an additional three weeks on crutches, according to the team.
Bynum’s longtime orthopedist, Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the operations. The primary focus of the procedures was to clean out loose bodies from his knees in an attempt to alleviate pain and swelling.
Bynum, 25, was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right knee in September, a month after the Sixers acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster four-team trade in August. The Sixers nevertheless expected Bynum to be ready to play in the season opener, but as the season progressed, the team and player repeatedly delayed the date of his expected debut. Bynum was diagnosed with a “mirror issue” in his left knee in November, when a piece of cartilage broke loose and his joint swelled after going bowling.
Philly fans went wild for Andrew Bynum back in August. But now? (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
So, who wants Andrew Bynum now?
Steve Aschburner: Bynum has “New York Knicks” written all over him, doesn’t he? Except maybe for being too young. My guess is that some team feeling pressure to spend money or make a splash – Atlanta, Brooklyn, maybe Philadelphia (throwing good money after bad) – will look past his history and temperament and mess up its salary cap for years to come. Look at what Detroit did a few years ago, overpaying Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Bynum, as is, probably has a higher risk/reward potential than that sort of move.
Fran Blinebury: Bakersfield Jam? Rio Grande Valley Vipers? Maine Red Claws? Texas Legends? If anybody steps forward to offer him anything close to max money next summer, they should have their franchise charter revoked and immediately assigned to the loser of the Sacramento-Seattle squabble. He belongs in the NBA D-League to prove himself.
Jeff Caplan: I think Philly owes it to itself to get this guy on the floor in a Sixers uniform. Now, it has to be at the right (read: low) price and for one year, but at this point with double arthroscopic surgery upcoming on his two ailing knees, no team is going to risk a major financial investment on Bynum, not in this new CBA era. Now, who else might take a stab at Bynum? He might be priced just right for the Heat, who have interest inGreg Oden. So why not Bynum? The Mavs are desperate for a big man and you know Mark Cuban is a risk-taker, or an opportunist, as he prefers. How about Toronto? And, of course, the team that collects burned-out big men, Charlotte.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Someone who is (a)very desperate, or (b) loves to gamble. Or – oh, yeah – someone who gave up a lot of talent and prospects to get him. The 76ers will try to keep him, that’s for sure. The only question is what that means in tangible terms: Will their offer be in line with what Bynum expects and whether another team will be on that desperate side. But if you want one team, I’d say Philly.
John Schuhmann:Charlotte has got to be the most desperate for an impact player, especially on the interior. Other candidates with cap space are the Hawks and Mavs. But while both the Hawks and Josh Smith have seemingly reached the end of the line, swapping Smith for Bynum is obviously a huge risk. And with the way Mark Cuban has talked about fiscal responsibility under the new CBA, it would be pretty surprising to see him splurge on a guy that didn’t play this season. So Charlotte is my guess. And the more interesting question is how much money Bynum is going to get.
Sekou Smith: A GM who is either desperate to make a splash or trying to get himself fired. Seriously. You can’t trust Bynum’s long-view anymore than he can trust his busted knees to hold up for a few weeks, let alone an entire four or five years under a new contract. This isn’t about Bynum’s heart or desire. This is about the fact that Bynum cannot trust his body to deliver him out of this mess. He had cover in Los Angeles when his body betrayed him. Kobe Bryant was always the face of the franchise and Bynum’s health issues were always an intriguing side story but never the main topic of discussion. Without Kobe as a cloak, Bynum’s stuck in the spotlight in Philly. And it’s buyer beware from this point on with the big fella, because everyone knows his history.
Bynum’s fate was sealed months ago, during training camp, when we all learned that the knee issues that have plagued him throughout his career were flaring up again after that blockbuster summer trade that sent the Los Angeles Lakers’ big man problem to Philadelphia for the Sixers to deal with.
The jaw-dropping part of this whole mess is anyone being shocked that it’s come to this: Bynum’s tenure with the Sixers consisting of not one single second of actual game action in Philly.
“After many months of rehabilitation and consulting with numerous doctors, Andrew and the doctors treating him determined that this is the best course of action at this point,” Sixers General Manager Tony DiLeo said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor and evaluate his status moving forward.”
Bynum is an unrestricted free agent this summer. That’s a Bynum-filled headache the Sixers don’t need after paying him $16.9 million this season to model his wardrobe and throwback hair styles on the bench while his teammates suffered through a brutal season that was supposed to be filled with so much more.
DiLeo and the Sixers would be wise to let someone else take the next multi-million dollar risk on Bynum’s shaky knees. They’ve already poured more than enough money down that drain.
That offseason trade, a blockbuster 12-player deal involving four teams that had Sixers fans dreaming about being contenders, wound up being productive for everyone but the Sixers. Dwight Howard‘s season with the Lakers has been rough, but they are in playoff position right now and at least have hope for the future. Andre Iguodala has adjusted well in Denver, playing a similar role to the one he played for the Sixers, helping the Nuggets to a playoff spot and a 12-game win streak. And Orlando has made good use of Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Arron Afflalo.
The Sixers got a wanna-be dominant big man with bilateral knee bone bruises that have bothered him all season, a one-time All-Star with knees that might never support a bid for a second, third, fourth or fifth All-Star nod. A September trip to Germany for the Orthokine therapy injections that worked wonders for Kobe Bryant, and more recently Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, did absolutely nothing for Bynum.
A Sixers team that was supposed to be primed for a climb up the ladder in the Eastern Conference playoff chase after a surprise run to the conference semifinals last season has suddenly turned into the poster child for thinking and long and hard before you act on the next so-called “blockbuster” deal.
“The team that we tried to put together we’ve never seen,” Collins said after that Orlando loss. “And so I think, when you take a huge piece away from it, your warts show.”
Direct shots at Bynum and the summer deal gone wrong were included in his 10-minute rant.
“We made a huge deal. And we have nobody playing as part of that deal,” Collins continued. “How many teams can give up Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nik Vucevic, and have nothing in return playing? That’s tough to overcome, right? That’s just the facts. I’m not looking for any out. But that’s the facts. Nik Vucevic had 19 rebounds tonight. Spencer [Hawes] had one. I think Lavoy [Allen] had two.”
Promising young point guard Jrue Holiday has done his part. He became an All-Star this season and kept the Sixers afloat for a while, when everyone still believed that Bynum would actually hit the floor at some point.
But like everyone else in Philly, Holiday got burned by the Bynum deal.
And the ashes will blow through the franchise for a while, kicking up every time someone mentions Bynum’s name or the blockbuster that went up in smoke on the Sixers.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: A lot of blowouts across the board last night, but there were three close ones: Miami rallying to win its 20th straight in Philly, the Hawks edging the Lakers in a controversial finish and our choice of the day, the Grizzlies doing their grit-and-grind act in Clipperland. Don’t look now, but the team once known as the “Hang Time Grizzlies” has taken hold of the No. 3 spot in the West and is only three games back of mighty OKC for No. 2. Gotta love the work Marc Gasol put in last night (21 points on 10-for-14 shooting). A nice contribution from Tayshuan Prince (18 points, six rebounds) is nothing to sneeze at, either.
Garnett, Pierce reach milestones in win — The Celtics’ win over the Raptors last night moved Boston into a three-way tie with Chicago and Atlanta for the No. 5 seed in the East (tiebreakers would put the Celts at No. 6). But bigger than playoff positioning was that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce both moved a little higher in the all-time scoring record book — Garnett into 15th place, Pierce into 20th. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has a great story not only looking at that milestone for the Boston duo, but also at the friendship the two have forged over the years:
Kevin Garnett was not exaggerating about his relationship with Paul Pierce. Despite Garnett being 17 months older than Pierce, they were part of the high school class of 1995 and the two often played ball together during summers while participating in basketball camps.
A long way from when Garnett donned the cover of Sports Illustrated with “Ready or Not” next to his smiling face as he became the first of the new generation of prep-to-pro prospects. A long way from when doubts about Pierce’s athletic ability and ability to score in the NBA dropped him below Raef LaFrentz, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Jason Williams, and Larry Hughes in the 1998 NBA draft.
What’s more, that quartet – all of whom are retired or in Traylor’s case, deceased – have just 2,520 more points combined than Pierce himself.
Neither Pierce nor Garnett will reflect fully on their accomplishments until they are done. They are consumed with the Celtics’ effort to finish the season strong, their quest to win at least one more title before they depart Boston, their desire to remain relevant and productive in a young man’s game.
But it’s been nearly 18 years since Garnett decided to enter the draft and about 20 since he and Pierce formed a bond, and that wasn’t lost on the reflective leader.
“You guys have no idea what I was like as a kid,” said Garnett, who seemed to understand this moment required more than a few low-key ‘aw shucks’ statements. “I didn’t have all the magazines but for some reason I had all the pictures in the magazines. I don’t how I was able to acquire that but that’s another story. I just fantasized, mimicked, appreciated, all the things that a young kid does when he’s creating heroes and he’s creating stories in his head.”
Garnett couldn’t help but reminisce, when as a country kid from South Carolina, he visited Los Angeles and played on various all-star teams, bonding with Pierce, then a high-level Division 1 recruit from Inglewood High School.
Pierce embraced him, and if the two weren’t busy trying to improve their national basketball reputation, they were bonding.
“What you all don’t know is that Paul and I have history and it’s only right that we come in here and we make history together,” he said. “Thirteen, 14 [years old], tearing up his mom’s living room, breaking vases, almost getting our [butts] whupped. First time I ever experienced Crenshaw [Boulevard] on a Sunday, Paul taking me out being 15, 16 years old. Then finally being able to follow our dreams . . . having some duration together, trying to go to the same school then obviously going different paths then finally meeting up here in Boston, winning a championship, doing the things we’ve been doing since we’ve been here.”
Lin’s pep talk helps fire up Rockets — With the taste of Saturday’s 107-105 loss in Phoenix still in their mouths, the Houston Rockets got out of the gates slowly against the Suns at home. By the second quarter, Phoenix had opened up a five-point lead and the Rockets called timeout to try to get back on track. While coach Kevin McHale had something to say about the rough start, it was point guard Jeremy Lin’s words that helped get Houston out of an early funk and inspire the Rockets to an eventual 30-point rout of the Suns, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Midway through the second quarter at Toyota Center, the Rockets were sinking, the Phoenix Suns were leading, and Saturday’s confounding and deflating Rockets loss seemed to be repeating itself.
James Harden had missed a 3-pointer and then failed to get back defensively, leaving Jared Dudley open for a corner 3 and a five-point Phoenix lead. As cranky as coach Kevin McHale had been since Saturday’s two-point loss, the message during the timeout must have been at full blast.
The point was clearly made, but this time McHale didn’t have to make it. The Rockets heard all they needed from each other, returning to the floor transformed. The game was never the same, either.
The Rockets went from that timeout to 18 dominant minutes and from Saturday’s loss in Phoenix to a 111-81 blowout of the Suns on Wednesday night to open a seven-game homestand with their biggest rout of the Suns in franchise history.
It all began with those few minutes recharging their batteries on the bench.
“It was J. Lin,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said of the message Jeremy Lin led during the timeout. “We said something like, ‘C’mon, this game is way bigger for us than it is for them. We have to win this game with defense.’
“I think all five guys bought in and really played hard. Guys were all over the place. Guys were really physical defensively. We were getting on the floor. We were taking charges. We were doing all those tough, nitty-gritty things that we didn’t do when we played them in Phoenix.”
They nearly matched the Suns’ 16-0 run on Saturday with a 15-0 run of their own coming out of the timeout Wednesday.
From the timeout to the end of the half, the Rockets bolted through a 20-2 burst to take control. They kept pouring it on, making 19 of 30 shots over an 18-minute span and outscoring the Suns 52-19.
The Knicks’ immediate need is in the frontcourt, but here’s the problem: There are no good big men to sign. As one seasoned agent put it, “It’s pretty much desolate.” The dismal field includes Tony Battie, Josh Boone, Brian Cook, Dan Gadzuric, Troy Murphy, Ben Wallace, Hassan Whiteside and Sean Williams.
The most intriguing free agent is Henry Sims, who was recently released by the Hornets on a 10-day contract after playing for the D-League’s Erie BayHawks. But a source close to the Knicks said that if the team released or bought out a player — possibly James White as Woodson is too committed to Rasheed Wallace — they would likely not sign a big. That’s especially because the Knicks don’t want to spend time this season developing the rookie Sims. They’re in veteran mode.
Instead, the source said, the Knicks would be interested in a younger, but experienced, backup point guard. That player would build on Raymond Felton’s aggressive play in transition and half-court sets to start games. While Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni are wise floor generals, they simply don’t have the consistent speed and quickness to get into the paint and make plays.
The Knicks sometimes lack offensive balance from their first to second unit, and without Amar’e Stoudemire for the long haul, they’re going to need more perimeter penetration to create more shot opportunities. Not to mention, Carmelo Anthony‘s right knee is still bothering him, so his teammates need to make things easier on the Knicks’ star. The number of his routine isolation grind-outs must diminish.
The source said that point guard Delonte West makes the most sense for the Knicks. Also available is Sundiata Gaines, 26, who averaged 5.1 points, 2.2 assists and one steal in 14 minutes per game last season for the Nets, but he’s not regarded as highly in NBA circles. Another option could’ve been Jannero Pargo, but he’s signing a 10-day deal with the Bobcats.
Thorn calls Bynum’s knee injury ‘bizarre’ — The saga of Andrew Bynum and the Sixers has been well documented. So we won’t get into all the painful past details of how the Bynum-Philadelphia 76ers marriage has gone off the tracks due to the big man’s recurring knee woes. The newest piece of info, though, is that Sixers president Rod Thorn is chiming in on the state of Bynum, the Sixers and more in an interview with John Wolfeof The News Journal (via USA Today):
Sixers president Rod Thorn called Andrew Bynum’s injury situation “bizarre” and confirmed that insurance would reimburse the organization for at least a portion of the one-time All-Star center’s $16.9 million salary this season.
“There is a league-wide insurance that he’s under that gives you some relief along those lines,” Thorn said before the Sixers played the Miami Heat on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center. “It’s the same league-wide program that every player’s under. Unless you have a pre-existing condition — and he didn’t — so he’s on the same one as everybody else.”
That Bynum’s salary is at least partially insured lends credence to the team’s assertion that four doctors reviewed his medical history and approved the trade. Sixers co-owner and CEO Adam Aron has said that six doctors have actively treated Bynum throughout the season.
Bynum was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right knee in September and with a “mirror issue” in his left knee in November, when a piece of cartilage broke loose and his joint swelled after going bowling. The Sixers expected Bynum to be ready to play in the season opener, but as the season progressed, the team and player repeatedly delayed the date of his expected debut.
“It’s a little bizarre, there’s no doubt about it,” Thorn said about Bynum’s inability to get on the court. “He’s had problems. He’s worked very hard. As you can see when you see him, he’s huge. His upper body, he works in the weight room, he works hard, he just hasn’t been able to play. It’s been very tough for him and obviously it’s been very tough for us.”
Earlier this week, a Sixers spokesperson said that Bynum is still visiting with doctors and considering how to best attempt to resolve his knee troubles.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” Thorn said about whether Bynum will opt for surgery. “I think Andrew is very attuned to himself physically. He’s obviously seen a lot of doctors, so I think he’ll be able to make that decision when the time comes.”
ICYMI of the night: Big men sharing the ball is always fun to watch. Big men sharing the ball WITH FLAIR, as Donatas Motiejunas does with Omer Asik, is even better: